Rudd ousts Gillard in party leadership vote

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was ousted as Labor Party leader Wednesday by her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, in a vote of party lawmakers hoping to avoid a huge defeat in upcoming elections.

The ballot took place three years and two days after Gillard ousted Rudd in a similar internal government showdown to become the country’s first female prime minister. Although many Labor lawmakers preferred her style, her deepening unpopularity among voters compelled a majority to seek a change ahead of elections that are set for Sept. 14 but could be held in August.

The 57 to 45 vote Wednesday makes Rudd leader of the party. Governor-General Quentin Bryce could make him prime minister as early as Thursday, but Rudd will probably have to demonstrate that he can command a majority of lawmakers in the House of Representatives.

The Labor Party relies on independents and a minor party for its fragile ruling coalition, but two independent lawmakers who did not back Gillard’s government said they would support Rudd’s.

“In 2007, the Australian people elected me to be their prime minister, and that is a task I resume today with humility,” Rudd said in a statement in which he also paid tribute to Gillard, calling her a “remarkable reformer.”

— Associated Press

Pope names panelto investigate bank

Pope Francis took a key step Wednesday toward reforming the troubled Vatican bank, naming a commission of inquiry to investigate its legal structure and activities amid a new money-laundering probe and continued questions about the nature of the secretive financial institution.

It was the second time in as many weeks that Francis has intervened to get information out of the Institute for Religious Works. On June 15, he filled a key vacancy in the bank’s governing structure, tapping a trusted prelate to be his eyes inside the bank.

The five people named to the commission include two Americans: Monsignor Peter Wells, a top official in the Vatican secretariat of state, and Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard law professor, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and current president of a pontifical academy.

— Associated Press

Independent election monitor shuttered

Russia’s Justice Ministry said Wednesday that it has suspended the country’s main independent election monitoring group for six months for failing to register as a “foreign agent” under a controversial Kremlin law.

The monitor, Golos, played a prominent role in documenting vote fraud in a parliamentary election that helped fuel massive protests against President Vladimir Putin’s reelection last year. After being sworn in for a third term, Putin responded with a series of repressive bills, one of which required nongovernmental organizations receiving international funding to register as “foreign agents.”

Golos and other rights groups have refused to comply with the law, saying it was intended to destroy their credibility by casting them as spies.

— Associated Press

27 die in violence in western China: Assailants attacked police and others with knives and set fire to police cars in China’s restive far-western Xinjiang region Wednesday in violence that killed 27 people, including nine police or security officials and 10 of the attackers, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The early-­morning attacks in the Turkic-­speaking region’s remote Lukqun township targeted police stations, a government building and a construction site and were the deadliest since unrest in the regional capital killed nearly 200 people in 2009.

Protesters, police clash near Brazilian stadium: Thousands of protesters clashed with police outside a stadium hosting a Confederations Cup football match in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte. Elsewhere, the country was mostly calm, in part because its congress shelved legislation that had been a target of recent nationwide protests. The lower house voted 403 to 9 late Tuesday to drop a measure that would have limited the investigative powers of federal prosecutors, potentially making it more difficult to prosecute official corruption.

Carlos the Jackal loses appeal: The man known as Carlos the Jackal has lost an appeal of his conviction in four bombings in France three decades ago that killed 11 people and wounded about 140. A panel of judges in a special anti-terrorism court in Paris upheld his life sentence Wednesday.

— From news services