Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is said to be in better health after undergoing cancer surgery in Cuba, VP Nicolas Maduro said on Saturday. Earlier Chavez was described as being in a stable condition. Chavez underwent surgery to remove cancer from his body on December 11 suffering complications in the process. Chavez suffered "bleeding that required the use of corrective measures" during the operation, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said earlier, adding that the recovery process will require “a prudent period of time as a consequence of the complexity of the surgery performed.”
Eleven people have been gunned down near the Iranian border as they tried to flee the country illegally, officials announced on Saturday. Authorities said that six unknown gunmen on three motorcycles attacked a convoy of “illegal immigrants”, presumed to be Pakistanis and Afghans who were attempting to leave the country. the assault took place in the Suntsar Dasht area in Gwadar district. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Philippines has introduced legislation intended to prevent the abduction of civilians alleged to be involved in anti-government actions by law enforcement agencies. Now such kidnappings will be punishable by life in prison. It also holds superior officers responsible for captures by those under their command. Political kidnappings by security forces in the Philippines is a legacy of martial law introduced in the 1970s under the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.
A petition has been started in the US to try to force the Obama administration to add the Russian law makers responsible for a law banning US citizens from adopting Russian children to the black list, known as the Magnitsky Act. This bans certain Russian officials suspected of involvement in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky while he was in prison in Moscow from travelling to the U.S. It also freezes their U.S.-based assets. The Russian adoption laws is viewed by many campaigners in Russia and abroad as a kneejerk act of revenge against the Magnitsky Act, which was signed into law by President Obama on Friday.
Russian activists have been bringing toys and flowers to State Duma entrance all day Saturday as a way to protest a new law prohibiting American citizens from adopting Russian children. Security guards have been taking "the offerings" away, but new activists would come by and contribute to the silent protest. On Friday the State Duma adopted a bill that, if approved by the Upper House and the President, will end all American adoption in Russia, a law has fueled a divisive debate in Russian society.
Authorities in Nigeria have blamed a radical Islamic sect for twin suicide car bombings which targeted two major mobile phone companies in the northern commercial hub city of Kano. At about 8 am local time a suicide bomber drove a car laden with explosives into the Nigerian subsidiary of Indian company Airtel damaging the switch station. At about the same time, another bomber struck a subsidiary of the South African based MTL group, but the attack was thwarted by security officers who shot the bomber. Authorities suspect the Boko Haram sect of Islamic rebels is behind the attacks.
A German aid worker who was kidnapped in Pakistan 11 months ago has been seen begging authorities to meet his captors’ demands and warns that otherwise he will be killed within days. The video, which was undated, was broadcast by Pakistan’s Dunya TV on Saturday. The aid worker identified himself as 59-year-old Bernd Muehlenbeck and said he was being held by the Mujahedeen, but didn’t specify any of their demands. Germany’s foreign ministry said it was aware of the case but didn’t confirm whether this was one of its workers who were abducted in Pakistan in January.
Luxurious and expensive goods owned by the former Tunisian president, Zine El Abinde Ben Ali, have been put up for auction by the government. Ben Ali, who had been president since 1987, fled to Saudi Arabia after a revolution in Tunisia in late 2010 early 2011. In June 2012 he was given a life sentence for inciting violence and murder and in late 2011 was given a 35 year sentence for the embezzlement of state funds.
The president of Italy Giorgio Napolitano has dissolved the national parliament in connection with the government crisis, the official statement said. The decision follows Premier Mario Monti's resignation on Friday and sets the stage for general elections in February. Monti is expected to announce whether he will run for office in news conference on Sunday.
At least five people have been killed and dozens wounded on Saturday after a car bomb exploded in the Qabourn district of Damascus, the capital of Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Another activist group gave no figures for the bombing, but said that bodies were still being recovered from the wreckage. The Qabourn district is near the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk, which was seized by rebel forces this week.
Pope Benedict XVI has pardoned his former butler charged with leaking papal document to the press, the so-called 'Vatileaks' scandal, the Vatican officials said during a press briefing Saturday. Paolo Gabriele was also freed from the police barracks in the Vatican, where he had been serving an 18-month jail sentence. The Pope communicated the pardon to the ex-butler personally. Gabriele, who was taken into custody in May and convicted of aggravated theft by a Vatican tribunal in October, will not be able to resume his butler duties and will have to seek employment elsewhere.
A Finnish couple and an Australian man have been kidnapped in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, officials said. One report alleged that gunmen seized the hostages at a shop in the city's center. The demands and the identity of the gunmen are not yet known, but kidnappings of foreigners are common in Yemen and are usually resolved peacefully. Al-Qaeda militants groups, which are very active in Yemen, sometimes claim responsibility; tribes have also been known to kidnap people as leverage to force the government to address a local grievance.
Russia and the European Union have called for Palestinians and Israelis to begin direct peace negotiations with no preconditions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton said in a statement adopted at the Russia-EU summit in Brussels. The statement urged both sides of the conflict to refrain from any steps that would undermine a two-state solution, and said they should undertake “clear and resolute steps towards peace between Palestinians and Israelis.” Russia and the EU also said they are ready to cooperate with their international partners and revitalize the mediation work of the Quartet on the Middle East in order to reach “peace, stability and prosperity” in the region.
Russia's Foreign Ministry has urged South Sudan to fully investigate the shooting down of a UN mission helicopter that led to deaths of the deaths of the four Russians and one Sudanese national on board. The African country earlier said its army had mistakenly targeted the Russian MI-8 helicopter, which was working with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Moscow has demanded that Sudan prosecute those found guilty of the Thursday incident, and prevent future such accidents.
Newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to improve ties with neighboring China upon assuming office next week.. His pledge followed reports that Japan would send Masahiko Komura, the vice president of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, to deliver a letter to Chinese authorities next month. The move comes a day after China sent naval ships into the territorial waters of disputed islands in the South China Sea.
Egyptians are making their way to polling stations to vote on a Shari-based constitution that has effectively polarized the nation. The first round of voting last week saw the new charter approved by a narrow 57 percent. The opposition has condemned the new document as too routed in Islamist doctrine and discriminatory to Egypt’s minority groups.
Four South Korean employees of Hyundai Heavy Industries have been freed after being kidnapped in Nigeria on December 17, officials in Seoul said. The four hostages were handed over to South Korean officials in the African country late Friday, local media reported. No information was available on the fate of the two Nigerians abducted along with the Hyundai employees. Foreign companies’ workers are often a target for kidnappers in oil-rich Nigeria, as companies are expected to pay large ransoms to secure their release.
Argentina has issued an official summons to the UK ambassador to explain why part of Antarctica has been renamed for Queen Elizabeth II. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague announced the name change to ‘Queen Elizabeth Land’ on Tuesday, inciting Argentine ire and provoking a “strong rejection” to Britain's claim to the territory. Both Chile and Argentina have claimed the 169,000-square-mile section of Antarctica.
Entertainment magazine Spin has become the latest major publication to seize its print edition, after 27 years in business. The periodical, owned by Buzzmedia, will now only be available online. After Buzzmedia took over Spin in July, the company laid off a third of the magazine's staff and announced that the October and December print issues would be dropped. Spin's decision follows Newsweek's announcement that it would end print operations beginning in 2013.
Mexico has seen a 51 percent hike in the kidnapping rate with 72 people being abducted on average per day, the Council for Law and Human Rights NGO reported. The numbers vary drastically from the government’s figures. If the figures are accurate, it makes Mexico the abduction capital of the world. Federal Police suggest there were 4,671 kidnapping over the past six years, an average of about two per day.
The US leader has called on Congress to pass the fiscal cliff agreement after Christmas so it can come into force before New Year. President Barack Obama says he's willing to look at a fiscal deal in stages or all at once to avoid dropping off the cliff and to prevent tax hikes on middle class Americans and an expiration of unemployment benefits. “Nobody can get 100% of what they want” the president states. He has also spoken with House Speaker John Boehner and the architect of the failed House bill Majority Leader Harry Reid, to enact the necessary compromise.