Chavez photos — The world got its first glimpse of Hugo Chavez since he underwent a fourth cancer-related surgery in Cuba more than two months ago, with photos released Friday showing the Venezuelan leader alongside his daughters in Havana. Along with images of the puffy-faced Chavez came a government explanation for why no one has heard from the longtime president since his surgery: He’s breathing through a tracheal tube that makes speech difficult.
Obama in Chicago — Pressing his case in the town that launched his political career, President Barack Obama called Friday for the government to take an active, wide-ranging role in ensuring every American has a “ladder of opportunity" into the middle class. Speaking at Hyde Park Academy in Chicago, Obama sought support for proposals, unveiled this week in his State of the Union address, to increase the federal minimum wage and ensure every child can attend preschool. He also pitched plans to pair businesses with recession-battered communities to help them rebuild and provide job training.
Legion of Christ documents — Documents detailing the dubious fundraising practices of a disgraced Roman Catholic religious order called the Legion of Christ were released to the public Friday, showing how the organization took control of an elderly woman’s finances and persuaded her to bequeath it $60 million. The records include the first-ever depositions of high-ranking Legion officials. They shed light on the inner workings of a secretive congregation placed under Vatican receivership after the Holy See determined that its founder was a spiritual fraud who sexually abused his seminarians and fathered three children with two women.
Pension reform in France — President Francois Hollande is preparing to take on a French sacred cow: pensions. Facing European Union pressure to reach budget targets, the Socialist president is risking the wrath of his core supporters to shrink the pension system, which had a deficit of 14 billion euros ($19 billion) in 2011. Hollande may propose separating pension increases from inflation, government officials said.
Kenya election — Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding president who’s due to go on trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, has been cleared to run for the presidency by the country’s High Court. The court “lacks jurisdiction" to rule whether Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto are eligible to stand for office next month, Judge Hellen Omondi, reading the ruling of a five-member bench, said Friday in the capital, Nairobi. It’s the “exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court."
Israel spy agency flap — In the space of three days, a two-year-old mystery about an unidentified prisoner who hanged himself in a high-security Israeli prison has become a scandal for Israel’s vaunted Mossad spy agency. Many here are predicting that it will cost some top officials their jobs. The Israeli government now acknowledges that Prisoner X was an Australian citizen named Ben Zygier who was held in solitary confinement for eight months in this country’s notorious Ayalon prison before he hanged himself.
Congressional recess — Military readiness will be threatened. So will food inspections, teaching jobs, mental health services and more, all because of the automatic spending cuts due to take effect March 1. Congress, though, has left the building. Lawmakers are off until Feb. 25 for their Presidents Day recess. That leaves four days to find a way to avoid automatic spending reductions, called a sequester, that the White House warns will “threaten thousands of jobs and the economic security of the middle class."