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The Vatican blocked U.S. bishops from taking measures to address the clergy sex abuse scandal because U.S. church leaders didn’t discuss the legally problematic proposals with the Holy See enough beforehand, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

The Nov. 11 letter from the Vatican’s Cardinal Marc Ouellet provides the primary reason that Rome balked at the measures that were to be voted on by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at its Nov. 12-14 meeting. The blocked vote stunned abuse survivors and other Catholics who were demanding action from U.S. bishops to address clergy sex abuse and cover-up.

Ouellet’s letter undermines the version of events provided by the conference president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. It could also provide fodder for questions during a spiritual retreat of U.S. bishops, dedicated to the abuse crisis, that opens Wednesday in Chicago.

They may want to know why, as Ouellet noted in the letter, the draft proposals only arrived at the Vatican on Nov. 8, four days before the U.S. bishops’ meeting began. While the Vatican is known for its slow pace, even the speediest bureaucracy would have found it difficult to review and sign off on sensitive legal documents in that time.

“Considering the nature and scope of the documents being proposed by the (conference), I believe it would have been beneficial to have allowed for more time to consult with this and other congregations with competence over the ministry and discipline of bishops,” Ouellet wrote to DiNardo.

Such back-and-forth, he wrote, would have allowed the documents to “properly mature.”

The main goal of the U.S. bishops’ fall meeting had been to approve a code of conduct for bishops and create a lay-led commission to receive complaints against them. The measures were a crisis response to the scandal over ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a once-senior American cleric who is now accused of molesting minors and adults, and new revelations of old sex abuse cases in Pennsylvania.

DiNardo stunned the bishops when he opened the assembly Nov. 12 by announcing that “at the insistence of the Holy See” the bishops would not be voting on the measures after all. He said the Vatican wanted them to delay a vote until after Pope Francis hosts a global summit in February on preventing sex abuse by priests.

While DiNardo blamed the Vatican, the letter from Ouellet suggests that the Vatican thought DiNardo had tried to pull a fast one by intentionally withholding legally problematic texts until the last minute.

It is not surprising that Rome wanted a say in crafting the text, given the Holy See has exclusive authority to investigate and discipline problem bishops.

“While fully aware that a bishops’ conference enjoys a rightful autonomy … to discuss and eventually approve measures that are within the conference’s powers, the conference’s work must always be integrated within the hierarchical structure and universal law of the church,” Ouellet wrote.

In a statement Tuesday to AP, DiNardo characterized the dispute as a misunderstanding. He said he assumed the Vatican would have had a chance to “review and offer adjustments” to the measures after the U.S. bishops approved them, not before. He insisted that U.S. bishops were not trying to appropriate Vatican powers for themselves.

“It is now clear there were different expectations on the bishops conference’s part and Rome’s part that may have affected the understanding of these proposals,” DiNardo said in a statement. “From our perspective, they were designed to stop short of where the authority of the Holy See began.”

The U.S. strategy, it seems, was to avoid drawn-out negotiations before the vote so the U.S. bishops could present the Vatican with documents after the fact.

Legally speaking, the U.S. bishops didn’t need Vatican approval prior to the vote. But since the Holy See would have to approve the proposals afterward for them to become binding, consultation on the text was necessary and strategically wise to do so beforehand, said Nicholas Cafardi, a U.S. canon lawyer.

DiNardo, in his statement to the AP, said he had shared the “content and direction” of the proposals with multiple Vatican offices in October and drafted the final text after encountering no opposition.

“We had not planned, nor had the Holy See made a request, to share the texts prior to the body of bishops having had an opportunity to amend them,” he said.

During a Nov. 12 press conference, DiNardo was asked when the Vatican was actually consulted about the measures. He replied the texts were finalized Oct. 30 and that the delay in finishing them might have been a problem.

“So it’s not surprising, on one level, that people would be catching their breath, perhaps even in Rome,” he told reporters. DiNardo also acknowledged, when pressed by a reporter, that the texts themselves had some legal problems, though he downplayed the severity of them.

In his statement to AP, DiNardo said he had told Ouellet that failing to vote on the texts “would prove a great disappointment to the faithful, who were expecting their bishops to take just action. Though there were canonical precisions mentioned, the emphasis seemed to be on delaying votes and not wanting to get ahead of the (pope’s) February meeting of episcopal conference presidents,” he said.

Ouellet did indeed cite the February meeting in his letter, saying any document “should incorporate the input and fruits of the college of bishops’ work of common discernment.”

But the February summit was announced Sept. 13. If that were the primary reason for Ouellet’s demand to scrap the U.S. vote, he could have communicated that to DiNardo a lot sooner.

Instead, as the Nov. 12 deadline loomed for the start of the U.S. meeting and still no text proposals had arrived in Rome, Ouellet wrote DiNardo an initial warning on Nov. 6 not to vote. Five days later, in his Nov. 11 letter, Ouellet reaffirmed that decision after having finally read the text.

That also undermined DiNardo’s claim to have only received the request to delay the vote the night before the meeting began.

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World

Bill Gates turns $10 billion into $200 billion worth of economic benefit

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Investing in global health organizations aimed at increasing access to vaccines created a 20-to-1 return in economic benefit, billionaire Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates told CNBC on Wednesday.

Over the past two decades, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated “a bit more than $10 billion” into mainly three groups: the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

“We feel there’s been over a 20-to-1 return,” yielding $200 billion over those 20 or so years, Gates told CNBC’s Becky Quick on “Squawk Box” from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “Helping young children live, get the right nutrition, contribute to their countries — that has a payback that goes beyond any typical financial return.”

As a comparison, Gates echoed what he wrote in an essay in The Wall Street Journal last week under the banner “The Best Investment I’ve Ever Made,” saying that same $10 billion put into the S&P 500 would have grown only to $17 billion over 18 years, factoring in reinvested dividends.

On vaccines, Gates also had a message for parents who fear side effects as a reason not to get their kids their shots. “It is wild that just because you get misinformation, thinking you’re protecting your kid, you’re actually putting your kid at risk, as well as all the other kids around them.”

Using measles as an example of a once-dangerous disease that’s easily preventable by a vaccine, Gates warned against complacency.

“As you get a disease down to small numbers, people forget. So they back off. They think, ‘Gosh, I heard from rumor. Maybe I’ll just avoid doing it,'” he said. “As you accumulate more and more people saying that for whatever reason, eventually measles does show up. Kids get sick. And sometimes they die.”

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Hedge fund manager Einhorn explains why he lost more than 30% last year: ‘Nothing went right’

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“Nothing went right for the entire year,” Einhorn said in the letter to investors. “In 2018, the losses were a mile wide and a yard deep. It’s much easier to explain results when they are driven by large moves in a few names. It’s much harder when the answer is a lot of everything. But today, it feels more like a combination of a few where we were wrong, a difficult environment for value investing, and a lot of adverse variance.”

Einhorn’s collapse came in a dismal year when stocks and other risk assets took a hit from the ongoing trade battles and slowing global growth. However, Einhorn’s hedge funds underperformed the market drastically — the S&P 500 ended 2018 down just 6 percent. His funds have been lackluster since 2015 when they lost more than 20 percent. They returned 7 percent in 2016 and 1.5 percent in 2017.

The underperformance in 2018 has inevitably led to “substantial redemptions,” which forced Einhorn to reopen the funds to gain additional capital. Einhorn had not allowed new investments in four years.

“At this point, we no longer believe there is risk of our assets growing too quickly (other than through improved performance), so for those interested in investing, the answer will now be yes,” Einhorn said.

The downturn sharply contrasted Einhorn’s early years, when he scored some of Wall Street’s best returns including 24 percent in 2006 and 32 percent in 2009. Einhorn also made the most prescient call of the entire financial crisis — the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

In the letter, Einhorn also reviewed his current positions that are 5 percent or larger, saying “they should all do better in 2019.”

Greenlight’s current long positions include General Motors, insurer Brighthouse Financial and homebuilder Green Brick Partners, which all struggled in 2018, bleeding as much as 47 percent. Einhorn is also shorting Tesla, saying the electric car maker is in “such a bizarre situation,” and its estimates are optimistic.

The hedge fund manager is also using gold as a hedge against “imprudent” global fiscal and monetary policies as the national debt ballooned to over $2 trillion under the current administration.

“When the economy eventually slows, the deficit is sure to expand rapidly, possibly catastrophically. The politicians say deficits don’t matter. History says otherwise,” Einhorn said.

His firm also has “a bit of a macro hedge in case the politicians and central bankers continue to act irresponsibly — which seems like a safe bet,” he added. He did not disclose what the hedge was.

— With reporting by CNBC’s
Scott Wapner

WATCH: Greelight’s David Einhorn compares Tesla to Lehman Brothers

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Stop portraying Arab women as victims

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Saudi Arabian independent filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour delivers a speech during a ceremony at the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2019 meeting, on January 21, 2019 in Davos, eastern Switzerland.

FABRICE COFFRINI | AFP | Getty Images

Saudi Arabian independent filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour delivers a speech during a ceremony at the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2019 meeting, on January 21, 2019 in Davos, eastern Switzerland.

“In all the scripts I get, Muslim and Arab women are all victims and sad, and things are happening to them — and it’s like no, we’re very sassy. We’re very strong. Don’t take us for granted.”

She opposed the stereotype that “Arab women are not in control of their destiny,” while adding that “sometimes they are not, because of family … but that does not take their soul, and that does not take who they are as people, as fighters, with a strong will to survive and to succeed. So that is a huge misconception, we are way more than who they think we are as women.”

Al-Mansour is Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker and the country’s most well-known. Coming from a country known for its highly conservative interpretation of Islam and austere rules surrounding women’s lives, her work, which shines a light on the lives of women in the Gulf, was hailed as groundbreaking. Her feature debut, Wadjda, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2012, was the first to be fully shot in Saudi Arabia as a feature-length film and the only one filmed in the country by a female Saudi national.

Al-Mansour this week was honored with the WEF’s Crystal Award, along with conductor Marin Alsop and naturalist Sir David Attenborough, as an “exceptional cultural leader” and a force for positive change.

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