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U.S. think-tank says N.Korea is nuclear test-ready

North Korea has repaired extensive rain damage at its nuclear test facility and could conduct a detonation on two weeks notice, a US think-tank said on Friday, citing satellite imagery analysis. With the UN Security Council debating possible sanctions against the North following the launch earlier this month of a…

Egypt’s Mubarak has cracked ribs, fluid in lungs

Ousted president Hosni Mubarak has a build-up of fluid in his lungs and cracked ribs, Egypt’s official news agency MENA reported after he was transferred from prison to military hospital for treatment. The state prosecutor ordered Mubarak’s transfer on Thursday after his health deteriorated, a prosecution source had said, more…

Belgium claims ownership of French fries

Fries, crunchy, salty, tasty fried sticks of potato are claimed both by Belgium and France as the product of their national gastronomic genius but the true origins are shrouded in popular folklore. “Fries, they are the orphan of street cooking, of low birth. That is why it’s hard to establish…

Pope launches media campaign to re-invigorate the Church

Pope Benedict XVI has galvanised Catholics at the close of 2012 to go on the offensive over key faith issues, forging new alliances and fighting secularism in the West with a media campaign. Damaging sex abuse scandals and growing opposition to the Church’s attitude toward gay marriage and women priests…

Dinosaur ‘thief’ pleads guilty to smuggling

A man accused of smuggling 70-million-year-old dinosaur skeletons, including a Tyrannosaur, into the United States pleaded guilty in court Thursday. Eric Prokopi, 38, who is to be sentenced on April 25, faces up to 17 years in jail and a $250,000 fine on charges of conspiring to smuggle illegal goods,…

U.S. General ‘Stormin Norman’ Schwarzkopf dead at 78

Norman Schwarzkopf, the US general who led 1991 Operation Desert Storm, which liberated Kuwait from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, has died at the age of 78, a US official said Thursday. Schwarzkopf, an American hero known popularly as “Stormin Norman,” died in Tampa, where he retired after his last military…

Obama calls leaders for Friday talks in effort to reach fiscal cliff breakthrough

Barack Obama will meet congressional leaders on Friday as members of the House of Representatives prepare to return to Washington for a last-ditch attempt to head off the year-end fiscal cliff budget crisis. Republican speaker John Boehner said the House will reconvene on Sunday evening, with less than 30 hours…

U.S. drone strikes intensify in Yemen

US drone strikes against Islamist militants decreased in Pakistan’s tribal regions for the second year in a row but intensified in Yemen, according to figures compiled by a Washington think tank. In Pakistan, 46 strikes were carried out in 2012, compared to 72 in 2011 and 122 in 2010, the…

World’s smelliest and largest flower blooms in Brazil

Hundreds of visitors are flocking daily to a botanical garden in southeastern Brazil to watch the rare blooming of the Titan arum, the world’s smelliest and largest tropical flower. Also known as the “corpse flower” because of a smell likened to rotting flesh, it began blooming on Christmas Day and…

Putin vows to sign contentious U.S. adoption ban

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin vowed on Thursday to sign a bill banning Americans from adopting Russian children that has added new strains to the uneasy relations between the former Cold War foes An aide separately raised the spectre of the Kremlin eliminating all foreign adoptions as part of a patriotic…

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