Top news: Pointing to an ailing "mind and body," Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign, the first leader of the Roman Catholic Church to do so since 1415.
“In today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of St. Peter and proclaim the gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me,” the pope said. “For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom, I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter.”
Appointed in 2005, at the age of 78, Benedict XVI -- born Joseph Ratzinger in Bavaria, Germany -- was the oldest pope appointed since the 18th century, and the last few years of his tenure have been marked by declining health and increasing frailty. But during his tenure, Benedict guided the church through an ever-widening sexual abuse scandal, and though his response to the crisis has been criticized, he met with victims and apologized for the abuse.
Benedict's resignation sets the table for a papal conclave in mid-March that is likely to see a heated argument over the church's future. The church has seen its power wane in Europe, but is on the rise in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, and the appointment of a non-European pope would represent a watershed moment in the church's history as it seeks to maintain its position into the 21st century.
United States: A National Intelligence Estimate -- a report summarizing the consensus views of U.S. spy agencies -- has concluded that the United States faces a sustained cyber-espionage effort undertaken largely by China and aimed at stealing commercial secrets. Much of the Chinese effort has been directed at U.S. companies -- including finance, information technology, and aerospace firms -- and the report concludes that the hacking constitutes a threat to U.S. competitiveness.
- Members of the Tunisian president's party threatened to resign their cabinet posts -- then withdrew the threat -- amid an ongoing political crisis.
- Talks aimed at ending the nearly two-year long protest movement in Bahrain began between the government and opposition factions.
- A leader of the Syrian opposition said that the failure of the government to accept his offer to enter talks sends a "very negative" message.
- General Joseph Dunford took command of American and international forces in Afghanistan, making him the 15th and likely last general of the decade-plus long war.
- On the heels of a life sentence for Abdul Kader Mullah on war crimes charges, hundreds of thousands are protesters massed in the streets of Dhaka demanding the death penalty.
- Amid accusations he did not receive a fair trial, a Kashmiri charged with carrying out a 2001 attack on India's parliament was hanged.
- Russian authorities placed Sergei Udaltsov, a prominent opposition leader, under house arrest and banned him from using the internet.
- Germany's education minister resigned Saturday after her university withdrew part of her thesis after it was discovered she had plagiarized parts of it.
- A scandal over the use of horsemeat as a substitute for beef widened to 16 countries.
- Malian troops carried out house-to-house searches in search of rebel fighters in the northern town of Gao.
- Rebels carried out the second suicide attack in two days against French and Malian force in Gao.
- More than 100 people were killed in South Sudan after one tribe attacked another that was moving cattle.
- U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to argue during his State of the Union address in favor of reducing his country's nuclear arsenal, and White House officials are likely to reduce the number of deployed warheads to just over 1,000.
- Mexican authorities said they had captured the head of security for Joaquin Guzman, Mexico's most wanted drug lord better known as "El Chapo."
- Venezuela devalued its currency in a move aimed at shoring up the country's import reliant economy.