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In brief: Uganda enacts harsh anti-gay law

ENTEBBE, Uganda – Uganda’s president on Monday signed an anti-gay bill that punishes gay sex with up to life in prison.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said the bill, which goes into effect immediately, was needed because the West is promoting homosexuality in Africa.

Museveni may have defied Western pressure to shelve the bill, four years and many versions after it was introduced, but his move – likely to galvanize support ahead of presidential elections – pleased many Ugandans who repeatedly urged him to sign the legislation. Nigeria’s president similarly signed an anti-gay bill into law just over a month ago, sparking increased violence against gays who already were persecuted in mob attacks.

“Experience from other jurisdictions with similarly draconian laws, such as Nigeria or Russia, indicates that their implementation is often followed by a surge in violence against individuals thought to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said in a statement Monday.

The Ugandan law calls for first-time offenders to be sentenced to 14 years in jail. It sets life imprisonment as the maximum penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as repeated gay sex between consenting adults and acts involving a minor, a disabled person or where one partner is infected with HIV.

Pope overhauls Vatican bureaucracy

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis on Monday announced the first major overhaul of the Vatican’s outdated and inefficient bureaucracy in a quarter-century, creating an economics secretariat to control all economic, administrative, personnel and procurement functions of the Holy See.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, one of Francis’ core eight cardinal advisers, was named prefect of the new office. He reports to a new 15-member economy council made up of eight cardinals reflecting various parts of the world and seven lay experts.

Francis was elected pope a year ago on a mandate to reform the Vatican after documents stolen by Pope Benedict XVI’s butler revealed the Holy See bureaucracy to be a dysfunctional, Machiavellian world of petty turf battles, corruption and political intrigue.

The new structure, the Vatican said, is intended to simplify and consolidate existing management structures and improve oversight, internal controls and transparency – and provide more support for the Vatican’s works for the poor.

Italy’s new premier wins crucial vote

ROME – Italian Premier Matteo Renzi won a crucial confidence vote in parliament on his brand new government early today, managing at least for now to tamp down anger from among his own Democrats over his brash, quick rise to power.

The vote in the Senate came hours after he argued that he could get his country back to work while the last three premiers failed.

Renzi, at 39 Italy’s youngest premier, was sworn into office on Saturday along with an unusually young Cabinet, with many of the ministers newcomers to national government.

The Senate voted 169-139 to confirm Renzi’s broad coalition, which ranges from his center-left Democrats to center-right forces formerly loyal to ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi. Renzi needed at least 155 votes to clinch the victory, one of two mandatory confidence votes.

The second vote, in the Chamber of Deputies, was expected later today.

Chile helping Korean ship in Antarctica

SANTIAGO, Chile – A Korean-flagged fishing ship is stranded in Antarctica with 90 passengers aboard.

Chile’s navy said Monday that the Kwang Ja Ho struck the ocean floor about 1,500 feet from the coast while cruising through Antarctic waters.

The maritime governor for Chile’s portion of Antarctica said a rescue mission was launched. Officials have confirmed that everyone on board is safe and that there currently is no risk of a fuel spill.

The 305-foot trawler was coming from a Peruvian port and carried 817 tons of krill.


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