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Chatter: Chavez is back

Hugo Chavez makes a surprise return to Venezuela, Ecuador gets four more years of President Rafael Correa, we go inside Bashar al-Assad's prisons, and NASA wises up to the meteor menace.
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Graphic. (Antler Agency/GlobalPost)
           

                      

   

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NEED TO KNOW

He's back. Hugo Chavez has returned to Venezuela, after a long and somewhat mysterious spell in a Cuban cancer ward. The president this morning announced on Twitter, in his own inimitable style, that he had arrived "back in the land of Venezuela! Thank you God!! Thank you beloved people!!"

Chavez, who underwent surgery to remove tumors two months ago and had remained in hospital ever since, said that he would continue his treatment at home. His unexpected return follows protests in Caracas demanding to know just what state the head of state was in. That, we still don't know; nor whether Chavez plans to pick up the reins again, or hand them over for good.

Four more years for Rafael Correa. Ecuador's socialist president has won a third term in power, and how. Preliminary results from Sunday's election gave him over 50 percent of the vote, more than double the total managed by his closest challenger.

Buoyed by booming oil sales, Correa's Ecuador has seen poverty rates plummet and access to healthcare and education soar. But is the self-proclaimed revolutionary amassing too much power? GlobalPost's John Otis investigates.

It isn't often a prisoner's mother pleads for him to remain behind bars. But it isn't often that you have a prisoner like Marc Dutroux. Authorities in Belgium will decide today whether to grant the notorious child rapist and killer parole, and his own mother is asking them to say no.

Jeannine Dutroux says she's certain her son "is a repeat offender in his soul" and will, given the chance, strike again – just like he did last time he was released, only to kidnap the six girls for whose abduction, rape and in four cases, death, he is currently in jail. The court's decision is due this afternoon.

WANT TO KNOW

What's it like inside one of the Syrian government's prisons? As GlobalPost's Tracey Shelton saw first-hand at one recently captured prison, it's grim. The complex is now under rebel control, but still tells dark tales of what government forces used it for: ropes hang above an execution platform. Heavy chains lie inside large metal cages. Traces of blood are still present on cell walls.

Through access to the jail and conversations with people freed from it, Shelton presents a rare inside look at how Bashar al-Assad's regime treats its prisoners.

RIP, Mindy McCready. The American country music singer, known for hits including 'Guys Do It All The Time' and 'Ten Thousand Angels,' has been found shot dead at her home in Arkansas. She was 37.

Her death comes one month after her partner, record producer David Wilson, apparently shot himself. Police believe that McCready, too, committed suicide.

STRANGE BUT TRUE

Hear this, meteors: NASA is watching you. Days after a vast, uninvited meteorite exploded over Russia to general terror, the US space agency has pledged to invest $5 million in a system to detect any space objects that might be, you know, hurtling dangerously toward Earth.

The ATLAS monitoring project will use eight high-power telescopes to monitor the skies. It won't be operational, however, until 2015 – which means we're in for some sleepless nights before then.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/chatter-chavez-back

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