Almost a year after suffering a major stroke, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., returned to the Senate Jan. 3. Kirk, 53, was welcomed up the Capitol steps by a crowd of onlookers and lawmakers, including Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Kirk won election in 2010 to fill President Obama’s old Senate seat.
President Obama nominated two Vietnam War Purple Heart recipients to lead national security and foreign policy in his second term. Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska will be grilled by lawmakers for his statements on Israel and lack of support for Iran sanctions, yet the moderate Republican is perhaps a likely pick to oversee deep cuts in Pentagon spending proposed by Obama. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., nominated as secretary of state, will face questions on U.S. interests and security in the wake of last year’s attack that killed four Americans at a U.S. consulate in Libya.
Authorities in Iran have arrested an Iranian-American pastor, Saeed Abedini, 32, and are holding him on unknown charges. Abedini converted from Islam to Christianity in 2000 and became a U.S. citizen in 2010. The American Center for Law and Justice, on behalf of Saeed‘s wife and two children, is working to get the pastor released.
An angry crowd stripped and beat Bikram Singh Brahma, a member of the Congress Party in Assam, India, after he was accused of rape on Jan. 3. The party suspended Brahma pending an investigation. India has been in an uproar over its lack of legal protection for women since Dec. 16, when five men gang raped a 23-year-old student, who later died from injuries she sustained in the attack.
The first openly gay Anglican bishop, Gene Robinson, 65, retired Jan. 5. Robinson, whose election sparked a split in the Anglican Church, worked in the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire for 27 years. He said he would have remained until the mandatory retirement age of 72 if not for the election of the first openly gay woman bishop, Mary Glasspool, in 2009.
A British hospital released Malala Yousafzai, 15, on Jan. 3, three months after she was shot in the head in Pakistan for saying girls should be allowed to go to school. Islamic militants targeted Yousafzai because of her outspoken advocacy for girls’ education. She will live in Britain with her parents and siblings before undergoing surgery to rebuild her skull in February.
The longest-serving and oldest-surviving British prisoner of war during World War II, Alfie Fripp, died Jan. 3 at 98. After Fripp’s plane was shot down in 1939, he survived 12 POW camps and the notorious winter march of 1945 to Nazi camps in occupied Poland before being freed. He was the last remaining “39er”—prisoners taken captive in the first year of the war.