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The most senior Vatican official ever charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis is expected to make his first court appearance in Australia on Wednesday, as he vows to clear his name in a scandal that has rattled Rome.

Cardinal George Pell, Australia's highest-ranking Catholic and Pope Francis' top financial adviser, was charged last month with sexually abusing multiple people years ago in his Australian home state of Victoria. The details of the allegations against the 76-year-old cardinal have yet to be released to the public, though police have described the charges as "historical" sexual assault offenses - meaning crimes that occurred years ago.

Pell is to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court for a hearing that will likely last just minutes and deal largely with administrative matters, such as setting future court dates. Despite the routine nature of the hearing, it is expected to draw hordes of journalists, abuse survivors and spectators.

Pell took a leave of absence from his duties in Rome to return to Australia to fight the charges. He has vehemently denied the allegations, saying last month, "The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me."

The pope has said he will wait for Australian justice to run its course before making a judgment of Pell himself.

For years, Pell has faced allegations that he mishandled cases of clergy abuse when he served as archbishop of Melbourne and, later, Sydney. But more recently, Pell became the focus of a clergy sex abuse investigation, with Victoria detectives flying to the Vatican to interview him last year.



A federal judge says Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has demonstrated a pattern of misleading the court about the facts and record in a voting rights case.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson refused Tuesday to reconsider a $1,000 fine and order requiring Kobach to submit to a deposition by the American Civil Liberties Union.

A magistrate judge had fined Kobach for misrepresenting the contents of documents he took into a November meeting with then President-elect Donald Trump and a separate draft amendment to the National Voter Registration Act.

Robinson cited three earlier instances where Kobach mischaracterized the record or exhibits. She says sanctions are necessary to deter him from misleading the court in the future.

Kobach is vice chairman of President Donald Trump's Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.



Former Wabash County Superior Court Judge Christopher Goff was sworn in Monday as Indiana's newest state Supreme Court justice, joining a high court that's been completely remade since 2010 following a series of retirements.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush administered the oath of office for Goff during the swearing-in at the court's Statehouse offices.

Goff, 45, is now the court's youngest member. He succeeds Justice Robert Rucker, who retired in May after 18 years on the court. Rucker retired five years before reaching the court's mandatory retirement age of 75. In 1999, he became only Indiana's second black justice when Democratic Gov. Frank O'Bannon named him to the high court.

All five justices are now white and all have been appointed since 2010 by Republican governors to replace justices who retired.

Goff joins Rush and justices Steven David, Mark Massa and Geoffrey Slaughter on the court.

Gov. Eric Holcomb will preside over a ceremonial oath and public robing ceremony on Sept. 1 for Goff, who is expected to hear his first oral arguments with the court on Sept. 7.

Holcomb chose Goff in June to fill the court's vacancy from among three finalists selected by Indiana's Judicial Nominating Commission.



Vietnamese activist sentenced to 9 years in prison

•  Ethics     updated  2017/07/22 16:30


A Vietnamese court on Tuesday sentenced an activist to nine years in prison on charges of producing videos that defamed the country’s leadership, in the latest crackdown on dissent.

Tran Thi Nga was convicted of spreading propaganda against the state in the one-day trial at the People’s Court in Ha Nam province in northern Vietnam, her lawyer said.

Nga, 40, campaigned against environmental pollution, police brutality and illegal land confiscation, and called for a tougher stance toward China’s assertive territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The court also imposed five years of house arrest following her prison term, lawyer Ha Huy Son said.

“I think this is an unjust verdict,” Son said. “She did not commit the crime for which she was convicted by the court.”




North Carolina's highest court is speeding up a final decision on whether Republican legislators could strip down the election oversight powers of the state's new Democratic governor.

The state Supreme Court said Wednesday it will take up Gov. Roy Cooper's lawsuit against state legislative leaders. The decision bypasses an intermediate appeals court and schedules a Supreme Court hearing on Aug. 28.

GOP lawmakers have sought to dilute Cooper's powers since he narrowly beat incumbent GOP Gov. Pat McCrory last year.

The contested law takes away Cooper's ability to appoint a majority of the state elections board and make every county's elections board a Democratic majority. The law would make a Republican head of the decision-making state board in presidential election years when most people vote and ballot disputes are hottest.




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