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CARACAS: Venezuela’s top court endorsed the postponement of Hugo Chavez’s inauguration this week and ruled yesterday that the cancer-stricken president remained the South American nation’s leader. The 58-year-old socialist has not been seen in public nor heard from in almost a month following surgery in Cuba. The government says he is in a delicate condition and cannot attend today’s scheduled swearing-in for a new six-year term.“Right now we cannot say when, how or where the president will be sworn in,” Supreme Court Chief Judge Luisa Morales said. “As president re-elect there is no interruption of performance of duties ... The inauguration can be carried out at a later date before the Supreme Court.” Both Chavez and his heir apparent, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, would remain in the roles after January 10, she added in a judgement quashing opposition appeals for a caretaker president to be named.
German Catholic bishops sack
sex abuse study head
PARIS: Germany’s Roman Catholic bishops sacked a criminologist studying sexual abuse of minors by their priests yesterday, prompting him to accuse them of trying to censor what was to be a major report on the scandals. The independent study, examining church files sometimes dating back to 1945, was meant to shed light on undiscovered cases of abuse after about 600 people filed claims against molesting priests in 2010 following a wave of revelations there. The German scandals were part of a series of abuse scandals that also shook the Catholic Church in Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands and forced Pope Benedict to issue a public apology. Bishop Stephan Ackermann, spokesman on abuse issues for the German Bishops Conference, said the hierarchy had lost confidence in the researcher, criminologist Christian Pfeiffer, and would look for another specialist to take up the study.
Russian dies in ‘zorbing’ accident
MOSCOW: Russia yesterday investigated the death of a 27-year-old man in a giant “zorb” ball that tumbled down a mountainside in a horrific accident that was caught on video. Denis Burakov, 27, died of his injuries after he and a friend, Vladimir Shcherbov, 33, paid to roll together in the zorb down an unfenced snow slope at a ski resort in the Karachayevo-Cherkessia region of the North Caucasus. “We have launched a criminal case into causing death through providing unsafe services,” said Sergei Shuvayev, spokesman for the regional investigative committee. The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of six years. Investigators detained a 25-year-old local man, Ravil Chekunov, who was one of the ride’s organisers, Shuvayev said. Zorbing is an extreme adventure sport invented in New Zealand in the 1990s in which participants roll down slopes strapped inside large transparent plastic balls.Deaths from zorbing accidents are very rare.
Clinton coy over ‘retirement’
WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that she was looking forward to stepping off “the very fast track” for a while, but wouldn’t necessarily call it retirement. Appearing at her first public engagement before the cameras after being taken ill more than a month ago, Clinton said she was “thrilled to be back”. “I have to say, I really missed you all. I wouldn’t say that under normal circumstances,” she said. She was taking part in a retirement ceremony for US ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney, on only her third day back at work in the State Department since she caught a stomach virus, which then led to a concussion and blood clot. But when it came to her own plans as she prepares to step down in several weeks and hand over the baton, most likely to Senator John Kerry, Clinton was a little more coy when asked if she was heading towards retirement. “I don’t know if that is a word I would use, but (I’m) certainly stepping off the very fast track for a little while,” she said. Agencies