The besieged town near the Lebanese border has become the latest flashpoint of international attention to the humanitarian situation inside Syria and a start and painful reminder that hunger is being used as a weapon of war. “A UN aid convoy for the besieged Syrian village Madaya which was due to arrive on Sunday has been delayed to Monday by last minute complications. The World Food Program (WFP) planned to deliver shipments of food and medicine to the area, where 40,000 people have been trapped for six months, on Sunday, after the government agreed Thursday to allow in aid. The convoy however was delayed and is now due to arrive Monday. The reason behind the delay remains unknown.” (ARA News http://bit.ly/1kZ1EQz)

Not a movie plot…A secretive meeting that Hollywood star Sean Penn orchestrated with Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman in a jungle hideout late last year helped Mexico’s government catch the world’s most wanted drug lord, sources said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1TOe2Pw)

Iran’s Foreign Minister in the New York Times…Mohammad Zarif has an op-ed in the times that will be all the talk of the foreign policy chattering class today. Nut graf: “Following the signing of the interim nuclear deal in November 2013, Saudi Arabia began devoting its resources to defeating the deal, driven by fear that its contrived Iranophobia was crumbling. Today, some in Riyadh not only continue to impede normalization but are determined to drag the entire region into confrontation.”  (NYT http://nyti.ms/1kZ0rZu)

Another MSF Hospital Bombed…This is the third such incident in three months in Yemen. “A “projectile” struck a clinic supported by international medical group Medecins Sans Frontieres in north Yemen on Sunday, killing four people, MSF said, another in a series of attacks on its facilities in the war-torn country. MSF said it was not clear who was behind the attack that also wounded 10 other people in Shiara Hospital in the Razeh district, where the group has worked since November last year. In a statement on its Twitter account, MSF did not identify who was killed in the attack but said that three of the wounded were staff members, of whom two were in critical condition” (Reuters http://reut.rs/1kZ119S)

Africa

South African health officials say 11 people have died of heatstroke after a weeklong heat wave across the country. (AP http://yhoo.it/1OJ2tcz)

Hundreds of peacekeepers from Democratic Republic of Congo on a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic will withdraw, a spokesman said on Saturday, after they failed an internal assessment. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1OJ2H3e)

Thousands of South Sudanese have fled fighting and extreme hunger in recent weeks, the United Nations says in a report, as leaders struggle to honour a peace deal on the ground. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1TOdjhi)

Senekal, a small town in South Africa’s rural Free State province, is one of the four regions declared disaster areas as a drought dries up South Africa’s heartland – along with much of eastern and southern Africa – bringing with it failed crops and acute water shortages. (VOA http://bit.ly/1K7y9Tp)

The party of Madagascar’s president has won an overwhelming victory in last month’s senatorial elections, held six years after the upper house of parliament was dissolved because of a coup, the electoral commission said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1TOdjOv)

Sierra Leone has been Ebola-free for two months. While the situation has improved in some ways, many Ebola survivors say they are not getting enough help to rebuild their lives. (VOA http://bit.ly/1SIaPma)

MENA

Saudi Arabia and Iran said on Sunday that an escalating dispute between the two countries would not affect international efforts to end the war in Syria, even as a large Syrian rebel group cast doubt on the United Nations-led peace process. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1SIa6kW)

Human Rights Watch on Sunday accused Yemen’s Huthi rebels of arbitrarily detaining dozens of opponents in the capital Sanaa, where they have ruled for more than 15 months. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1TOdjhp)

The Saudi-led coalition bombing rebels in Yemen denied Sunday renewed accusations of dropping cluster munitions in the country after UN chief Ban Ki-moon said their use may be a “war crime”. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1TOdfy4)

Asia

Two people died and hundreds were injured during a huge religious festival in the Philippines, where barefoot crowds hurled themselves at a statue of Jesus believed to have healing powers, authorities said Sunday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1P0OLgF)

Afghan forces are struggling to man the front lines against a resurgent Taliban, in part because of untold numbers of “ghost” troops who are paid salaries but only exist on paper. (AP http://yhoo.it/1SIa9gG)

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry his country is swiftly investigating who was behind last week’s attack on an Indian air force base, and that it would “bring out the truth”. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1TOdfOJ)

The Americas

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is condemning the pepper spraying of a group of Syrian refugees in Vancouver, which police are treating as a hate crime. (AP http://yhoo.it/1P0QJhj)

With her job on the line, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is spending January developing an economic plan she hopes will restore faith in her leadership and weaken looming impeachment proceedings against her. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Ol97SD)

A Syrian scientist stricken with cancer and seeking a new start for his family in the United States will represent Syrian refugees as a guest of first lady Michelle Obama for the president’s final State of the Union address. (AP http://yhoo.it/1P0OElu)

Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley used a liberal forum in Iowa on Saturday to criticize holiday-season raids seeking Central American immigrants for deportation. (AP http://yhoo.it/1P0QJOl)

…and the rest

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been forced to modify her liberal stance toward refugees, after a spate of assaults during New Year’s Eve celebrations blamed on asylum seekers. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1TOdnhc)

Thousands of demonstrators blocked roads on the outskirts of the French city of Nantes to protest a controversial airport development that has been at the centre of a years-long battle. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1P0ODOc)

Opinion/Blogs

We can’t blame El Niño for all the world’s weather problems (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1P0O1Iq)

Starving in Syria (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1SId09n)

If you really want to make a difference Mark Zuckerberg, let go of your power (Guardian http://bit.ly/22UjgQ2)

Bitcoin, Blockchain, and Land Reform: Can an “Incorruptible” Technology Cure Corruption? (Global Anticorruption Blog http://bit.ly/1SIcRmw)

Empowering partnerships to tackle modern slavery (Devex http://bit.ly/1TOgeqg)

The massacre Nigeria forgot: a year after Boko Haram’s attack on Baga (Guardian http://bit.ly/1P0SYRF)

Here’s What You Shouldn’t Do When Trying To Revive A Newborn (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/1OJ5NnW)

What should we learn from knowing the UN Library’s most checked-out book? (Africanist Perspective http://bit.ly/22UiZwi)

A lot of people think field experiments make scholars ask small questions, but I think they’ll push us to answer the big ones (Chris Blattman http://bit.ly/1RElM7x)
Strings attached (The Economist http://econ.st/1K7Aiyg ungated http://bit.ly/1K7Aii3)

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