SOUTH SUDAN: The United Nations estimates 500 people have been killed and 800 wounded in clashes that began in Juba, the capital, earlier this week. Eric Reeves is providing ongoing analysis on the internal conflict as African leaders try to bring President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar, who has called for Kiir to step down, to the negotiating table.
IRAN: A bipartisan majority in the Senate introduced a bill yesterday to impose new sanctions on Iran if it fails to conclude a nuclear agreement. President Obama says he will veto such a measure.
ITALY: European Union members have threatened sanctions against Italy after a video made on a cellphone showed refugee arrivals at the island of Lampedusa being stripped and sprayed for scabies. Over 37,000 undocumented migrants, triple the number from the year before, have arrived on the Italian island from Africa and Syria, and a shipwreck in October off the coast that killed 367 people brought global attention to the migration. As the EU takes up the issue today, The Wall Street Journal has a must-read piece on how the migration route is used by smugglers and how despots in the region have blackmailed European countries into paying aid to reduce forced migrations.
LIBYA: Benghazi has become “a regional hub for Islamic extremists,” and every week about a dozen Syrians arrive at their airport for insurgent training. When they leave, they’re carrying fake Libyan passports as they make their way back to fighting in Syria.
COLOMBIA: Anti-coca spraying in Colombia has been halted after two planes were shot down and a U.S. pilot killed. The crashes in September and October were reported, but only this week did authorities acknowledge that FARC guerrillas shot down the planes.
VENEZUELA: Under Hugo Chávez’s successor Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela is becoming the next Zimbabwe.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: The cause of international religious freedom has “no better friend in Congress than Frank Wolf,” human rights lawyer Nina Shea said after Wolf announced earlier this week he will not run for election again in his northern Virginia district. I spoke with Wolf shortly after the announcement, and he said he intends to continue advocacy work on behalf of persecuted religious minorities around the world, including Christians, but would not elaborate.
PERSECUTION: Multitudes of Christians will be suffering severe persecution and hardship this Christmas. Elizabeth Kendal has this post on how to pray for them with the hope and joy of Christmas.
BOOKS: My Christmas book stash includes The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh by David Damrosch, and overdue readings on North Korea, including Nothing To Envy by Barbara Demick and Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden. Happy Christmas, all.