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Obama administration defends phone record collection

By Mark Hosenball and Susan Heavey WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration on Thursday acknowledged that it is collecting a massive amount of telephone records from at least one carrier, reopening the debate over privacy even as it defended the practice as necessary to protect Americans against attack. The admission…

IRS official in Star Trek spoof apologizes for lavish conference

By Kim Dixon and Patrick Temple-West WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A top official at the U.S. Internal Revenue Service on Thursday acknowledged that it was “embarrassing” how much the tax agency spent on training videos, including a Star Trek spoof, and other lavish expenses during a 2010 conference in California. Faris…

Republican Mike Rogers to introduce bill to defund, deport hackers backed by foreign governments

WASHINGTON – A day before Chinese President Xi Jinping visits the United States, three U.S. lawmakers plan to propose a new law that would punish hackers backed by China, Russia or other foreign governments for cyber spying and theft. The new bill, to be introduced on Thursday, would freeze U.S.…

German court rules same sex civil unions get same tax benefits as married couples

Germany’s top court ruled Thursday that same-sex partners in civil unions are entitled to the generous tax benefits granted to married couples, in another landmark step for gay rights in Europe. The Federal Constitutional Court in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe said denying gays and lesbians in so-called registered partnerships…

UN food agency warns global agricultural production is expected to slow in coming decade

Growth in global agricultural production is expected to slow in the coming decade, the UN food agency and the OECD said in a joint report Thursday, warning threats to food security remain. The world’s agricultural output is projected to grow at an average 1.5 percent annually from 2013 to 2022,…

Leftist activist ‘brain dead’ after fight with skinheads in Paris

A young far left activist has been left brain dead after a fight with skinheads in central Paris, sending shockwaves through the French capital amid concern over the rise of small extreme-right groups. Politicians from either side of the spectrum condemned the incident, with some calling for the government to…

Russia puts 12 on trial over anti-Putin rally

Twelve Russians went on trial in Moscow on Thursday accused of violence at a rally on the eve of President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration last year, in a process condemned by critics as a show trial aimed at suffocating dissent. Ten defendants were participating in the hearing from inside a glass-walled…

Israel plans new road in sensitive West Bank area

A plan to build a new interchange between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim was expected to be approved by an Israeli planning committee on Thursday, Haaretz newspaper reported. It is the latest phase of construction in the contentious E1 zone east of Jerusalem, which has drawn…

U.S. teacher arrested in Shanghai for school sex abuse

An American teacher at an elite French school in Shanghai has been arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting at least seven children, school officials and parents told AFP on Thursday. The news comes after a former instructor at the school, also an American, was extradited to the US on similar…

Murdoch’s eldest son denies return to News Corp fold

News Corporation tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s eldest son Lachlan says he has no intention of rejoining his father’s global media empire, telling Australian newspapers he has “moved on”. The tycoon’s plans, approved last month, to split his sprawling worldwide firm into separate media and entertainment entities fuelled speculation Lachlan, 41, would…

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