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Friday, March 8, 2013

Cardinals Pick March 12 as Conclave Date

The cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church voted on Friday on a date for the beginning of the conclave to elect the new pontiff, to begin on March 12. The Vatican expected to announce the date early in the evening, with spokesman Father Federico Lombardi admitting that the earliest date possible was next Monday, March 11, but Italian media outlets broke the news shortly before 5 GMT. Under church regulations the latest the conclave could begin would be on March 20. The new pope will be among the 115 cardinals gathered in the Vatican, already holding pre-conclave meetings known as “general congregations” through the past week. The last meetings held in 2005 lasted three days and the greater number of meetings before the next conclave reflect the number of issues facing the church at the present time. Despite the vows of secrecy made by all involved, the BBC reports that some of the more heated subjects of debate among the electors are a reform of the Vatican’s bureaucracy and of the Vatican bank, the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR).

Leaders Gather in Caracas for the Funeral of Chávez

Over 50 international delegations and 33 heads of state gathered in Caracas on Friday for the funeral of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. His body will lie in state for seven days to allow members of the public to see it, dressed in military uniform and his characteristic red beret. It will then be submitted to an enbalment process and placed on display in a crystal urn in the Museum of the Revolution in Caracas. The museum itself is yet to be built, but Vice-President Nicolás Maduro compared the structure to those holding former leaders “like Ho Chi Minh, like Lenin”. Maduro was sworn in as acting president today and will remain in the post until new presidential elections are held in 30 days. Maduro is widely expected to face Henrique Capriles, the governor of the state of Miranda and the leader of the opposition movement who lost to Chávez in the last elections held in October.

China Urges North Korean Restraint

China has called for “calm and restraint” on Friday after North Korea threatened to begin a nuclear war over new UN sanctions. “China calls on relevant parties to exercise calm and restraint, and avoid actions that might further escalate tensions. The current situation on the peninsula is highly complex and sensitive”, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. Beijing is North Korea’s only major ally, its biggest trading partner and main energy supplier, but voted for the new UN sanctions against the country. “We believe the resolution is a balanced one. China is objective and fair on this matter and has played a constructive role throughout the discussion at the Security Council”, said Hua. The resolution adopted by the Security Council added new names to the UN sanctions blacklist and tightened restrictions on North Korea’s financial transactions, notably its suspect “bulk cash” transfers. China wants the new sanctions to be implemented in full, but is also working to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table in an attempt to defuse tensions in the Korean peninsula.

British Women Suffering Greater Pay Inequality

A report published by consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers has found that British women suffer greater pay inequality and have lower job security than those in comparable developed countries. They are also less likely to be in work than their counterparts. The Women in Work Index ranked the UK 18th out of 27 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in what the report terms areas of “female economic empowerment”. The consultancy compared 2011 figures with those from 2007 and found that British women had slipped down the table in most areas, particularly in pay inequality. The same was experienced in France, Italy and Portugal. The wage gap narrowed in the Nordic countries, with Norway now showing the highest rate of female participation in the workplace. “It is worrying that the UK’s progress in encouraging more women into work and closing the gender pay gap has all but ground to a halt since the recession hit. While most other OECD countries have continued to move ahead, our progress appears to have stalled”, said Yong Jing Teow, one of the authors of the report.

Weekend Read: Chávez to Eternity

At root, the changes Chávez established in Venezuela were not of systems but of personnel; those who were poor, mestizo or excluded have entered power, but in the process have not managed to change the way power works, nor the circuits of patronage and dependence it relies upon. In openDemocracy.

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