Chatter: Chavez is dead




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Comandante no more. The opposition rumored it, the government denied it, the believers prayed it wouldn't happen – but yesterday, Venezuela's vice president was forced to announce that it had. Hugo Chavez is dead.

What happens next? First, there'll be seven days of official mourning. A funeral on Friday. Weeping. Diplomatic and not-so-diplomatic eulogies from world leaders who watched Chavez with admiration, astonishment or alarm. Then, within 30 days, Venezuela must elect a new president.

There's VP Nicolas Maduro, of course, the man anointed successor by Chavez himself. But there's also Henrique Capriles Radonski, the opposition leader who came closer than anyone else to toppling Chavez while he lived. Observers are already speculating that the polarizing president's death could signal a fresh start for Venezuela, Latin America and relations with the US.

"Long live Chavez," his supporters cried even as Maduro announced he was gone. The revolutionary is dead; what about the revolution?


One million. That's the number of Syrians believed to have fled their country since its civil war began, almost two years ago. The United Nations says more than 400,000 people have become refugees in the past two months alone, a breakneck increase that indicates the exodus is only growing.

What's worse, the UN says that half of all those displaced are children, most of them younger than 11. Here's what they're running away from.

Kenya will have to wait. Vote-counting is being held up by technical hitches with the country's new electronic ballot system, which means that Kenyans still don't know who their next president will be. Election officials have been ordered to resort to good old-fashioned paper records, which they will have to deliver in person to a central counting center in Nairobi.

The result is an agonizingly slow trickle: so far officials from less than a quarter of the constituencies concerned have made it to the capital.

Washington is snow-questered. A hefty snowstorm has shut down federal government offices in the US capital today, along with schools and airports in at least three states. Parts of the Midwest are covered in up to 12 inches of snow; the mid-Atlantic region is next.

Wrap up warm, y'hear?


Now, we love cats as much as the next internet user. Possibly even more. But there's a fondness for felines and there's homicidal rage, and we'd like to draw a line between the two. These things need stating sometimes, as the story of the Russian woman who killed her husband over her pet pussycat reminds us.

The woman's husband was allegedly threatening the kitty with a metal poker when she grabbed a knife and stabbed him three times in the chest. She now faces up to 15 years in jail. And is the cat is grateful? I think we all know the answer to that.