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Chatter: Morsi scraps decree, but gives Egypt's army new powers

The Egyptian president gets rid of his new powers - but gives some to the army instead, North Korea delays its rocket launch, and Brazil gives diners with gastric bands a break.
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Need to know:
What's a president to do? The Egyptian opposition has called for mass protests in Cairo today, even after President Mohamed Morsi rescinded the controversial decree that first triggered the backlash against him.

The focus of his opponents' anger now is the referendum on Egypt's draft constitution, which is now less than a week away. Morsi is still insistent that the vote go ahead on Dec. 15, to the fury of liberals, secularists, Christians and other factions who complain that they were given no say in deciding what the draft contains.

As the opposition vows to escalate protests until the referendum is called off, Morsi too is digging his heels in. Sure, he canceled the new powers he awarded himself – but shortly after he gave extra authority to Egypt's armed forces, who, from now until the referendum results are in, have the right to arrest civilians in order to "preserve security."

And if there's anything protesters might like less than the proposed constitution, it's the specter of military rule. Expect a turbulent week ahead.

Want to know:
North Korea would like you to know that its controversial rocket launch is still very much going ahead, despite a few, ahem, technical hitches.

The North Korean space agency – which maintains that it's simply trying to put a weather satellite in orbit – has announced that the launch will now take place sometime before Dec. 29. It was originally scheduled between Dec. 10 and 22, but has been held up due to "a technical deficiency in the first-stage control engine module."

Pyongyang is presumably keen to avoid a repeat of the last attempt, which ended with the rocket crashing ignominiously shortly after take-off. But if you're tempted to imagine that Kim Jong Un is having second thoughts about the internationally condemned launch, you might want to hear what Kim Jong Il's former sushi chef had to say to us on the matter (no, really).

Dull but important:
President Hugo Chavez has left Venezuela for another bout of cancer surgery – and this time, he's talking about a possible successor.

Shortly before departing for his operation in Cuba early this morning, Chavez instructed his supporters to elect his vice president, foreign minister and longtime ally, Nicolas Maduro, should Venezuela suddenly find itself without a fit president.

"There are risks. Who can deny it?" said Chavez, who has been in and out of treatment since June 2011, but until now has barely acknowledged the possibility that he might have to be replaced.

Nothing else has put him out of office so far – and, as GlobalPost's Girish Gupta writes from Caracas, Chavez's ill health could be the best shot his opponents have at claiming power.

Just because:
In the Philippines, everyone knows provincial politics are violent. But it was once assumed that campaigns could at least deter hired killers by traveling with women and journalists.

That assumption was proved wrong on Nov. 23, 2009, when gunmen in the province of Maguindinao blitzed the convoy of a campaign that dared to challenge the Ampatuan family, a powerful political clan. A full 58 people were killed, including 32 journalists and a local mayor's wife, in one of the worst political massacres Asia has ever seen.

Three years later, at least six witnesses have been slain, several members of the Ampatuan clan remain in office, and even those accused of plotting the murders have seen their trial grind to a crawl. GlobalPost's Patrick Winn investigates whether there's no crime money and power can't absolve in the Philippines.

Strange but true:
Good news for gastric band patients (finally!): in one region of Brazil, anyone who's undergone gastric bypass surgery is now eligible for half-price food.

The local government in Campinas, São Paulo state, has made it compulsory for restaurants to offer gastric bandees a 50 percent discount, or face fines. It's not so they can eat more, but rather less: the band means patients can manage only small portions each mealtime, and therefore are – or at least should be – leaving more than half their order untouched.

In case you're wondering, the discount doesn't apply in buffet restaurants.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/chatter-morsi-scraps-decree-egypt-still-angry