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A Chinese company launched work Monday on a $50 billion canal across Nicaragua, an ambitious rival to the Panama Canal that skeptics dismiss as a pipe dream and protesters say will wreck the environment. The Chinese telecoms magnate behind the canal, Wang Jing, inaugurated the project at a ceremony in the southern town of Rivas that was moved forward by several hours after anti-canal activists called protests. "Today we are going to begin initial work on the Nicaragua canal with the support of the government, the understanding and strong support of the Nicaraguan people," Wang said in Rivas, the epicenter of three months of demonstrations against the canal. In Managua, where President Daniel Ortega was due to hold a separate ceremony in the evening, environmentalists called for the release of the project's feasibility studies.
Pope Francis lambasted the Vatican's bureaucracy on Monday, saying some within the Church lusted for power and suffered from "spiritual Alzheimer's" in comments likely to outrage his adversaries. The Argentine used a Christmas speech to cardinals, bishops and priests to list a catalogue of ailments plaguing the the very top of the Church. He said the Vatican was riven with "existential schizophrenia", "social exhibitionism", "spiritual Alzheimer's" and a lust for power, all of which made for an "orchestra that plays out of tune".