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Environmentalists plan massive rally to spur action on climate change

Activists are stepping up pressure on US President Barack Obama to issue concrete plans to battle climate change, with a major rally planned in Washington following his annual address to Congress. More than 100 groups are planning what they hope will be the largest rally in the United States on…

Kerry seeks to unblock $700 million in aid for Palestinians

Secretary of State John Kerry is working to try to free up almost $700 million in aid for the Palestinians which has been held up in Congress, a top US official said Monday. “The secretary feels extremely strongly that it is time now to get this support to the Palestinian…

Sex abuse victims on Benedict’s abdication: ‘We won’t miss this pope’

For the legions of people whose childhoods and adult lives were wrecked by sexual and physical abuse at the hands of the Roman Catholic clergy, Pope Benedict XVI is an unloved pontiff who will not be missed. Victims of the epidemic of sex- and child-abuse scandals that erupted under Benedict’s papacy…

U.S. ‘very disappointed’ by Russian ban on U.S. meat

Washington sharply criticized Moscow Monday for banning imports of US meat, saying the Russians had ignored scientific proof that an additive in US animal feed is safe. Top US officials said that global food-safety experts had cleared the additive, ractopamine, as safe at levels used in the United States. But…

White House blasts Sen. Graham for threatening to block key nominees

The White House said Monday a top Republican was harming national security by delaying confirmation of new Pentagon and CIA chiefs in a row over the US consulate attack in Benghazi. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham warned Sunday he would block Chuck Hagel’s Senate confirmation as defense secretary and John Brennan’s…

Members of Congress invite victims of gun violence to State of the Union address

Joining the White House in its demand for tougher gun laws, two dozen US lawmakers will host gun violence victims and relatives Tuesday at President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech. First Lady Michelle Obama will help lead the way, with aides confirming that the parents of Chicago shooting…

Bangladesh approves law to execute convicted war criminals

Bangladesh’s cabinet approved on Monday changes to war crime laws to ensure opposition leaders on trial for alleged atrocities during the nation’s 1971 independence war can be swiftly executed if convicted. The move came amid huge demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of people in Dhaka for the past seven days…

IBM tasks supercomputer Watson with fighting cancer

IBM is putting its Watson supercomputer to work fighting cancer, in what is described as the first commercial program of its kind to use “big data” to help patients with the disease. The US computing giant last week unveiled its initiative with health insurer WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center…

President’s AIDS council calls on feds and states to repeal HIV criminalization laws

By Todd Heywood The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) passed a resolution last week that calls for an end to federal and state HIV-specific criminal laws and prosecutions. While the resolution is only advisory, it recommends that the departments of Justice and Health and Human Services issue guidance and offer incentives to…

Italian journalist gets pope scoop because she knew Latin

An Italian journalist who beat the world’s media on Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign got the scoop on the utterly unexpected news thanks to her knowledge of Latin. “Our Vatican expert Giovanna Chirri was listening to the pope’s speech,” the ANSA news agency’s head of information Luigi Contu told…

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