Ex-footballer Weah wins landmark Liberia presidential vote

Football icon and candidate for the president election for the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), George Weah casts his ballot for the second round of presidential elections at a polling station in Monrovia, in a vote that will mark the country’s first democratic transition since 1944 (AFP)
Updated 28 December 2017
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Ex-footballer Weah wins landmark Liberia presidential vote

MONROVIA: Ex-football superstar George Weah was announced the winner on Thursday of Liberia’s presidential run-off, beating Vice President Joseph Boakai in the first democratic transfer of power in decades following two devastating civil wars.
Weah is set to replace incumbent Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who took over at the helm of Africa’s oldest republic in 2006.
The National Election Commission (NEC) said Weah had won an insurmountable 61.5 percent of Tuesday’s vote, which was delayed several weeks after a legal challenge from Boakai.
The NEC said that with 98.1 percent of all votes counted, Boakai had only secured 38.5 percent support.
Ahead of Thursday’s results, armed and helmeted police deployed outside the poll body’s headquarters and some of Weah’s supporters were already rejoicing.
“The Liberian people clearly made their choice... and all together we are very confident in the result of the electoral process,” tweeted Weah before the official results were announced.
Weah topped the first round of voting in October with 38.4 percent of ballots but failed to win the 50 percent necessary to avoid a run-off. Boakai came second with 28.8 percent.
Weah is the only African ever to have won FIFA’s World Player of the Year and the coveted Ballon D’Or. The 51-year-old starred at top-flight European football clubs Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan in the 1990s before playing briefly in England for Chelsea and Manchester City later in his career.
Chelsea icon Didier Drogba from neighboring Ivory Coast already sent Weah a congratulatory message.
“Is it President Weah?” said the New Dawn newspaper on Thursday, referring to a man who has the backing of heavyweights including former warlord Prince Johnson and apparently the covert support of outgoing president Sirleaf.
Her office said it had set up a team “for the proper management and orderly transfer of executive power from one democratically elected president to another,” adding that it included several ministers.
Sirleaf’s predecessor Charles Taylor fled the country in 2003, hoping to avoid prosecution for funding rebel groups in neighboring Sierra Leone. Two presidents who served prior to Taylor were assassinated.
The tumultuous events of the past seven decades in Liberia, where an estimated 250,000 people died during back-to-back civil wars between 1989-2003, have prevented a democratic handover from taking place since 1944.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed the “peaceful conduct” of the vote, praising “the government, political parties and the people of Liberia for the orderly poll.”
The EU’s chief observer, Maria Arena, congratulated the candidates and the Liberian people on a peaceful vote that “generally respected constitutional rules.”
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc also hailed the peaceful nature of the vote.
The election passed without a single major incident of violence despite weeks of delays caused by legal challenges and Liberians said they were looking forward to a peaceful handover after 12 years under Sirleaf.
“Since years of civil war this is the first time we see the transition of power from one person to another,” voter Oscar Sorbah told AFP.
The Sirleaf administration, elected in 2005, guided the nation out of the ruins of war and through the horrors of the 2014-16 Ebola crisis, but is accused of failing to combat poverty and corruption.
Weah’s CDC party watched their icon miss out on the presidency in a 2005 bid. He was similarly frustrated when he ran for vice president in 2011, but has repeatedly urged its young and exuberant supporters to keep cool.
“No matter what the provocation will be, CDC will not respond with violence,” Jefferson Kotchie, head of the youth wing of the CDC, earlier told supporters assembled at the party’s headquarters.
The run-off was delayed for seven weeks due to legal challenges lodged by Boakai’s Unity Party against the electoral commission over the conduct of the first round, but many of the complaints appeared to have been addressed in the second round.


Brooklyn Diocese to pay $27.5M to settle 4 sex abuse claims

In this May 15, 2018, file photo, acting New York state Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood speaks in Albany, N.Y. (AP)
Updated 19 September 2018
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Brooklyn Diocese to pay $27.5M to settle 4 sex abuse claims

  • These were boys who were abused in second grade through sixth grade, for years for some of them

NEW YORK: Four men who said they were sexually abused as boys by a teacher at a Catholic church have reached a $27.5 million settlement with the Diocese of Brooklyn.
The New York Times reports Tuesday that the agreement is one of the largest settlements ever awarded to sexual abuse victims within the Catholic Church. The men will each receive about $6.8 million.
The settlement comes just two weeks after the New York attorney general subpoenaed all eight Roman Catholic dioceses in the state as part of an investigation into the handling of sex abuse allegations. A grand jury report this summer found rampant sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children by about 300 priests in Pennsylvania.
“These were boys who were abused in second grade through sixth grade, for years for some of them,” said Ben Rubinowitz, one of the lawyers for the victims. “The egregious nature of the conduct is the reason that the church paid what they did.”
Lawyers for the victims say 67-year-old Angelo Serrano, a lay teacher of religion at St. Lucy’s-St. Patrick’s Church in Brooklyn, repeatedly abused the victims between 2003 and 2009. Serrano is serving a 15-year sentence after pleading guilty in 2011 to inappropriate course of sexual conduct with a child.
“We hope this is another step forward in the healing process for these claimants,” the Diocese of Brooklyn said in a statement. “The Diocese remains committed to ensuring that its parishes, schools and youth programs remain safe and secure for the young people who are entrusted to our care.”
The statement added that Serrano was a “volunteer worker” at a local parish and “was not clergy or an employee of the Diocese or parish.”
Since June 2017, 414 victims have applied for settlements through the Independent Reconciliation Compensation Program in Brooklyn. Other dioceses in the state run similar programs.
The latest settlement comes just two weeks after New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood subpoenaed all eight Roman Catholic dioceses in the state as part of an investigation into the handling of sex abuse allegations.