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Morning Briefing: Speculation grows over Chavez’s health

People walk a mural depicting Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez past in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. The ailing president's health crisis has raised contentious questions ahead of the swearing-in set for Jan. 10, including whether the inauguration could legally be postponed. Officials have raised the possibility that Chavez might not be well enough to take the oath of office, without saying what will happen if he can't. The constitution says that if a president or president-elect dies or is declared unable to continue in office, presidential powers should be held temporarily by the president of the National Assembly and that a new presidential vote should be held within 30 days.

Ariana Cubillos/AP

A summary of what you need to know today, compiled by The Globe's news desk on Jan. 4, 2013.

Rumours swirl as Chavez battles lung infection

Hugo Chavez is battling a severe lung infection, fuelling intense speculation about the ailing President's health. Mr. Chavez, 58, has had a series of setbacks since renewing treatment last month for cancer first diagnosed in 2011. Rumours that Chavez is in a coma, or is breathing with the aid of a machine, have prompted the Venezuelan government to accuse the international media of a "campaign of psychological warfare" to destabilize the country.

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Pakistani activist leaves hospital

Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani girl shot by extremists for pushing for girls' education, has left the U.K. hospital where she has been treated since the October attack. The 15-year-old activist will live in the U.K. with her parents and two brothers and is scheduled to undergo another operation next month to rebuild her skull. Malala was shot in the head while returning home from school on Oct. 9.

Jobs reports gives year-end snapshot of U.S., Canadian economies

We got another glimpse into the health of the U.S. and Canadian economies this morning with jobs reports for December. Employers added 155,000 new jobs in the U.S. and the unemployment rate held steady at 7.8 per cent. In Canada, a surprising 40,000 jobs were created last month and the unemployment rate fell slightly to 7.1 per cent.

Congress to vote on Sandy bailout

U.S. lawmakers are expected to approve $9.7-billion in funding to settle flood claims from Superstorm Sandy. The House of Representatives is expected to pass the measure, after a vote was delayed by Speaker John Bohener earlier this week. The delay, which came as Congress grappled with the fiscal cliff crisis, outraged Republicans from the eastern seaboard which the brunt of the storm. Despite the controversy, Mr. Boehner easily won a second mandate Thursday as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Ottawa revives auto fund

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Ottawa is back in the subsidy business with the auto industry. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is travelling to the Oakville Ford plant today to announce that Ottawa is renewing the Automotive Innovation Fund it established in 2008, making available $250-million to car makers and their suppliers. The news, coming just weeks after GM announced it was moving production of the Camaro from Oshawa to Michigan, is a signal the Harper government is willing to offer cash to protect the industry that provides employment for an estimated 500,000 Canadians.

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