Venezuela is heading toward a constitutional crisis as the inauguration of President Hugo Chavez gets delayed over his health condition. Barring a formal request for postponement, say a group of constitutional law professors, an extension of his term of office is unlawful: “Chavez must either take the oath or demonstrate that he is still capable of governing by formally asking for a temporary delay. If Chavez is permanently incapacitated, the president of the National Assembly must assume power temporarily and call a new presidential election.”
Iraq today closed its border with Jordan as protests widen against the government of Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki and become a tense test of Sunni-Shiite relations.
In Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile provinces, 80 percent of families are living on one meal a day. Most are surviving on ‘‘trees and leaves,’’ said a UN worker, as fighting and atrocities in the border areas continue. The Khartoum government has refused humanitarian access to the area. This is a sad repeat of a story WORLD witnessed in Blue Nile in 2000.
Youcef Nadarkhani, the Iranian pastor, was rereleased after being rearrested over Christmas.
North Korea for the 11th straight year topped Open Doors International’s World Watch List of countries that persecuted Christians in 2012. The new trends are growing oppression in countries that have experienced the “Arab Spring,” and the rise of persecution in Mali, which jumped from unranked last year to No. 7—one of 11 countries where Open Doors reports “extreme persecution”—as fighting in the North African country has intensified between al-Qaeda-linked militants and the government.
Egypt’s Coptic Christians, the largest Christian population remaining in the Middle East, are fleeing Egypt for—no surprise—the United States in record numbers. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has reshuffled his Cabinet (again), cementing Islamist control with the appointment of three economic ministers likely to favor putting in place an Islamic banking system.
Important backstory to watch on the formal release of prisoners from Syrian jails: “The release of the 48 Iranian prisoners—mostly officers of the Revolutionary Guards Corps—was an Iranian condition for moving forward in the secret talks with the United States.”
Justin Welby is set to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury when the College of Canons of the Anglican Church meets in Canterbury Cathedral tomorrow. His public confirmation will take place in London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral on Feb. 4.
The implications of the (drastically moderate) Republican Chuck Hagel as the Democratic President Barack Obama’s choice to head the Pentagon are far-reaching, and David Brooks has written by far the best synopsis: “As the federal government becomes a healthcare state, there will have to be a generation of defense cuts that overwhelm anything in recent history.”