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U.S. fines Transocean $1.4 billion over Gulf oil spill disaster

The United States hit drilling rig operator Transocean with $1.4 billion in criminal and civil fines Thursday for its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Nearly two months after oil giant BP was fined $4.5 billion for its leading role in the disaster, Transocean…

New Congress faces more budget battles

The 113th US Congress, featuring dozens of new faces in the House and Senate, convened Thursday fresh from the year-end “fiscal cliff” fiasco, as lawmakers cast a wary eye towards the tough budget battles ahead. Twelve freshman senators and 82 newly-elected congressmen took the oath of office, with President Barack…

Tehran governor shuts down city over pollution

Schools, universities and government offices in the Iranian capital will be closed on Saturday for the second time in a month because of high air pollution, Tehran governor Morteza Tamadon said Thursday. Emergency services also advised residents to avoid unnecessary travel in the city, the ISNA news agency reported. Tamadon…

German lawmakers push organ donor reforms after scandal

The head of the German doctors’ lobby and politicians called Thursday for swift action to root out corruption following a scandal over preferential treatment for organ transplants. The president of the German Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, said physicians taking bribes in life-or-death cases would shatter the hard-earned faith that…

Researchers cast doubt on long-held theory of how bacteria become drug-resistant

Researchers have disproved a long-held theory about how some bacteria survive antibiotics and opened the door to new treatments to fight drug-resistant bugs, a study released Thursday said. Using a technique called microfluidics, scientists revealed that — contrary to the explanation that has held for more than 50 years —…

Industry: Google’s Android smartphones make up 53.7 percent of U.S. market share

Apple and Google extended their dominance in the US smartphone market as 2012 neared its close, industry tracker comScore said on Thursday. The share of smartphone service subscribers relying on Google’s Android software inched up to 53.7 percent in the three months leading up to December, while Apple’s portion grew…

Mass shootings historically do little to change state gun laws

By Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica Following the mass shooting in Connecticut, the Obama administration and lawmakers around the country have promised to re-examine gun control in America. ProPublica decided to take a look at what’s happened legislatively in states where some of the worst shootings in recent U.S. history have occurred…

State Department criticizes Google CEO’s North Korea visit

WASHINGTON — The US State Department criticized Thursday a trip by Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Internet giant Google, and senior colleagues to visit North Korea’s isolated totalitarian regime. “Frankly we don’t think the timing of this is particularly helpful,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, stressing the executives were traveling…

Tunisian dean accused of attacking veiled student said trial undermines democracy

A Tunisian university dean accused of assaulting a veiled student said on Thursday his trial was aimed at undermining democracy after the judge set a January 17 date for the verdict. “I am confident that justice will be done for the university,” Habib Kazdoghli, dean of the humanities faculty at…

London Zoo conducts census of animals

Keepers at London Zoo conducted an annual count of all its animals Thursday, from meerkats to penguins and owls. Last year’s stock-take found the zoo had 17,519 residents but some of the world’s most endangered species including Sumatran tigers and a white-naped mangabey have joined since then. This year’s numbers…

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