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Inside the complex health care case

WASHINGTON — In deciding to uphold the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s health care reforms, the US Supreme Court had to decide on four issues: 1. Is the individual mandate a “tax” or a “penalty”? At the heart of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, dubbed “Obamacare” by critics,…

Oldest known pottery is found in China

WASHINGTON — Bits of the oldest known pottery, some 2,000 years older than previously found pieces, have been uncovered in China, researchers said in the US journal Science on Thursday. The fragments were believed to belong to a community of roving hunter-gatherers some 20,000 years ago and apparent scorch marks…

U.S. exempts China, Singapore from Iran sanctions

WASHINGTON — The United States on Thursday exempted China and Singapore from sanctions over purchases of oil from Iran hours before a deadline, saying that major economies were united in pressuring Tehran. The United States, however, did not grant exemptions to smaller-scale importers such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, meaning that…

Suit seeks Chevron assets in Brazil over Ecuador claims

QUITO — Plaintiffs have filed suit in Brazil to seize Chevron assets to pay off $18 billion in damages awarded by an Ecuadoran court for damage to the Amazon rain forest, the parties said Thursday. The claim was filed by Brazilian lawyer Sergio Bermudes on behalf of Ecuadoran Indians in…

Obama thrown by false reports on health decision

WASHINGTON — For a few puzzling moments Thursday, US President Barack Obama believed inaccurate media reports that his proudest political achievement — health care reform — had been shot down. Obama was standing in the outer Oval Office watching a split screen of four cable news channels when reports flashed…

Libya seeks release of detainees in Iraq

TRIPOLI — A Libyan delegation is in Baghdad to negotiate the release of countrymen detained in Iraqi prisons, senior officials said on Thursday, adding that eight prisoners have been pardoned. “We will receive some of the (Libyan) prisoners that are in Iraq,” Justice Minister Hmeida Ashur told AFP. “The order…

‘Holiday’ for sick U.S. child after healthcare ruling

WASHINGTON — When three-year-old Violet, who suffers from a rare and severe form of epilepsy, saw her parents cheering in front of the TV news on healthcare reform Thursday, she joined in and cried, “Happy holidays!” Her mother, Julie Walters, laughed and said yes, it was indeed a holiday, for…

Local Japanese government seeks to preserve ‘miracle pine’ tree

A local government in northern Japan is seeking funds to preserve a so-called “miracle pine” tree that survived last year’s tsunami, officials said Thursday. The city of Rikuzentakata will open a Facebook page on July 5 to ask for donations for the tree — the sole survivor among some 70,000…

Researchers develop spray-on battery

A cutting-edge battery that can be spray-painted on just about any surface was unveiled Thursday by a research team that tested it on everything from bathroom tiles to a beer mug. The design could revolutionise the design of lithium-ion batteries that power our laptops, cellphones and electric cars — leading…

British recession worse than previously thought

Britain’s recession is deeper than thought as official data on Thursday shows the economy shrank 0.3 percent in the first quarter following a higher-than-expected 0.4-percent contraction in late 2011. The Office for National Statistics said in a statement that British gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 0.3 percent between January and…

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