Nation and World briefs for March 13

Australian cardinal sentenced to prison for child sex abuse

MELBOURNE, Australia — The most senior Catholic to be convicted of child sex abuse was sentenced in an Australian court on Wednesday to 6 years in prison for molesting two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral more than 20 years ago.

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Victoria state County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd ordered Cardinal George Pell to serve a minimum of 3 years and 8 months before he is eligible for parole. The five convictions against Pell carried a maximum possible sentence of 10 years each.

“In my view, your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance,” Kidd said in handing down the sentence.

Pope Francis’ former finance minister was convicted by a unanimous jury verdict in December of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and indecently dealing with the boy and the boy’s 13-year-old friend in the late 1990s, months after Pell became archbishop of Melbourne. A court order had suppressed media reporting the news until last month.

The 77-year-old denies the allegations and will appeal his convictions in the Victoria Court of Appeal on June 5.

May Day: UK Parliament rejects prime minister’s Brexit deal

LONDON — With just 17 days to go, Britain’s departure from the European Union was thrown into chaos and doubt Tuesday as Parliament delivered a crushing double blow to Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit divorce deal and to her authority as leader.

Lawmakers rejected the deal 391-242, ignoring May’s entreaties to back the agreement and end the political chaos and economic uncertainty that Brexit has unleashed. It was a narrower outcome than the historic 230-vote margin of defeat for the agreement in January, before May secured changes from the bloc — but not by much.

Top EU officials warned that the defeat had increased the chances of a chaotic “no-deal” British exit, which could mean major disruption for businesses and people in the U.K. and many of the 27 remaining EU countries.

The stinging 149-vote defeat stripped away May’s control over the course of Brexit and handed it to Parliament, which is divided about what to do next.

A drawn and hoarse May admitted defeat — again — and confirmed that Parliament will vote Wednesday on whether to leave the EU on March 29 without an agreement. If that is defeated — the likely outcome — lawmakers will vote Thursday on whether to delay Brexit, something that needs to be approved by the EU nations too.

Venezuelans turn highway off ramp into cellphone hotspot

CARACAS, Venezuela — A highway shoulder in Venezuela’s capital has turned into one of the city’s most sought-after destinations. It’s one of the few places residents could find the slightest cellphone signal strong enough to reach loved ones around the world during the country’s worst blackout.

“My siblings who live abroad are so worried about me,” said Ana Maria Suarez Napolitano, a 48-year-old attorney who had pulled over to the side of the major highway running through Caracas. “They ask if I have enough food, enough water.”

Much of Venezuela went dark last Thursday, forcing residents to struggle since then through long periods in the dark without consistent electricity, running water, cellphone service and internet connection. After years of economic decay, shortages and hyperinflation that led to the mass migration of millions and separated families, those left behind said they felt more cut off than ever.

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Residents with cars gravitated to a few stretches of highway and off ramps around the capital, Caracas. They were guided by the sight of bars on their cellphones and the dozens of other cars clogging up traffic as drivers squeezed to the roadside while holding their phones in one hand.

“We’re looking for a signal — like everybody else,” said Valeria Mendoza, a 20-year-old communications student, who acknowledged she felt lost without her phone constantly pinging messages. “There’s no light, no water, no nothing.”

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