1 | Pakistan
Assassination Intensifies Crisis
The assassination of Salman Taseer, Punjab's progressive governor and an ally of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, compounded the nation's already deep divisions. Thousands attended the funeral of Taseer, a member of the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) who had spoken out against religious extremism. He was killed by one of his security guards, reportedly because of his denunciation of Islamic blasphemy laws. Taseer's murder came just days after a prominent political party withdrew from the governing coalition, ending its parliamentary majority and emboldening the opposition. The developments cast doubt on the stability of the current government, which is considered to be weak, ineffectual and beholden to the goodwill of foreign allies like the U.S. as well as the strict oversight of the International Monetary Fund.
2 | Washington
Officer Sacked for Lewd Videos
On Jan. 4, the U.S. Navy permanently relieved Captain Owen Honors of his duty as top officer of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise. The discipline came as the result of a series of leaked videos created by Honors aboard the Enterprise in 2006-07, when he was the ship's second in command. Profanity laced, sexually explicit and containing gay slurs, the raunchy skits--which were regularly aired over the ship's closed-circuit television system--have been defended as morale boosters by some sailors online.
3 | China
Piping Oil from Russia
A crude-oil pipeline from the Siberian city of Skovorodino, Russia, to Daqing in northeastern China officially started running on Jan. 1 and is expected to transport 15 million metric tons of oil into China each year between now and 2030. The pipeline, partially financed by a Chinese loan, is an offshoot of a route that Russia is building to the Pacific Ocean. It links the world's largest oil producer (Russia overtook Saudi Arabia in 2009) with the biggest energy consumer (China surpassed the U.S. in 2010). Previously, China had been importing Russian oil by rail.
4 | Gulf of Mexico
Deepwater Drilling to Resume
The Obama Administration will allow 13 companies to resume deepwater-drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico on 16 projects that had been approved before a May moratorium halted all such work following last year's colossal oil spill. Though the moratorium was terminated in October, drilling had yet to restart. The projects will be subject to tighter safety standards but no new environmental assessments. Analysts hope the move will help ease the economic burden suffered by the Gulf region and its once profitable oil industry.
5 | Iran
A Loaded Invitation
Iran is asking select nations to visit nuclear facilities ahead of international talks on its nuclear program. The move was considered an attempt to ease pressure on Tehran. The U.S. State Department deemed it a "ploy" that was no substitute for full cooperation with the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency. While China and Russia were among those invited, the U.S., which has pronounced suspicions about Iran's nuclear program, was not.
6 | Ivory Coast
Opposition Under Siege