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Cuba auctions cigars to raise money for health system

An auction of luxury cigar humidors in Cuba fetched $1.1 million, which will go toward the public health system, the state news agency said Sunday. The sale came at an international cigar festival attended by celebrities such as American actor Danny Glover and German tennis great Boris Becker, Prensa Latina…

Gunmen attack coptic Christian church in Libya’s Benghazi: ministry

Gunmen have attacked an Egyptian Coptic church in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi, assaulting two priests, the foreign ministry said Sunday, days after dozens of Egyptian Christians suspected of proselytising were arrested. The foreign ministry said it “strongly condemned Thursday’s attack on the Egyptian church… and the aggression towards Father…

Sec. Kerry heads to Saudi Arabia for talks on Iran and Syria

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the Saudi capital on Sunday for talks with the Gulf monarchies on Iran and the deadly conflict roiling Syria. Kerry, on his first trip to the region since taking over as the top US diplomat, was to dine with foreign ministers of…

‘Junk’ DNA clue boosts hope for Parkinson’s treatment

AFP – A flawed gene implicated in Parkinson’s disease lets proteins build up dangerously in key brain cells, according to a study on Sunday that throws open new paths for tackling the tragic disorder. Parkinson’s patients suffer from progressive stiffness, slowing of movement and problems in coordination resulting from the…

China enlists Jackie Chan to kick off political meeting

Film star Jackie Chan joined other celebrities Sunday at a meeting of China’s highest-profile advisory body, a move seen by analysts as an attempt by the ruling Communist Party to cultivate “soft power”. Nobel literature prizewinner Mo Yan and basketball star Yao Ming also attended the annual meeting of the…

Thousands celebrate at Australia’s gay Mardi Gras

Drag queens and scantily-dressed dancers joined with politicians and military personnel for Sydney’s colourful gay and lesbian Mardi Gras, and to call for acceptance and equality. Gloomy weather failed to dampen the celebration Saturday night, which exploded in a profusion of lights, dancing and music for its 35th anniversary event…

Struggling Gulf Air sacks staff as unions reject revamp

Bahrain’s loss-making flag carrier Gulf Air, struggling against competition from other regional carriers, has embarked on a sweeping restructuring plan that has annoyed unions over heavy job cuts. The company said this week it had sacked 15 percent of its staff and closed four more routes in January as it…

Six people die as blizzards hit northern Japan

At least six people died in a spate of snow-related incidents as blizzards swept across the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido over the weekend, police and news reports said Sunday. A 40-year-old woman and her three teenaged children were found dead late Saturday in a car buried under snow in…

Caller ID inventor struggles to collect royalties

Fifteen years after he patented caller ID technology, Brazilian inventor Nelio Jose Nicolai is no millionaire. Quite the opposite: out of work since 1984, the co-inventor of the ubiquitous tool is still fighting to collect royalties. “This revolutionized cellular telephony,” Nicolai proudly told AFP of his BIMA technology, recalling the…

Obama appoints new coordinator for Middle East and other regions

President Barack Obama has appointed a new coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf, the White House announced Saturday. Philip Gordon, a veteran foreign policy expert, will take up his post on March 11. The appointment came two weeks before Obama is set to visit Israel, Ramallah…

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