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U.S. House votes to avert government shutdown

Congress approved a funding stopgap Thursday to keep the US government operating through September, while the House backed a Republican blueprint that lays out budget austerity for the next decade. The two votes came in rapid-fire succession in the House of Representatives ahead of a two-week congressional holiday recess. The…

Thailand to distribute 1.7 million tablets to schools

Thailand plans to distribute about 1.7 million tablet computers to students and teachers this year in the world’s largest handout of the devices for education, officials said Thursday. Nine firms from countries including China, India, Germany and the Netherlands are set to join an online tender in April to supply…

Britain comes in second on TV exports thanks to ‘Downton Abbey’

Britain in 2012 held on to its position as the world’s second biggest exporter of television programmes after the US on the back of hit dramas such as Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife, a report said on Thursday. Talent shows such as the Dutch-originated The Voice, meanwhile, illustrated the…

European Union delays carbon tax for one year

The EU will put its controversial carbon tax on intercontinental airline flights on hold for a year to give time for international talks to reach a compromise on the issue, a European source said Thursday. EU environment ministers reached agreement with lawmakers from the European Parliament to put the tax…

U.S. tuberculosis cases hit record low

Cases of tuberculosis reached an all-time low in the United States last year, but the disease continued to affect minorities at much higher rates than whites, health authorities said Thursday. There were fewer than 10,000 US cases of TB for the first time since records began being compiled in 1953,…

Hundreds of Haitian farmers demand ‘food sovereignty’

Hundreds of small farmers have converged on the central Haitian city of Hinche to demand more space to grow their own crops in a country that imports more than half of its food. “Yes to land reform. Yes to environmentally-friendly agriculture,” chanted the 300-some farmers gathered for the 40th anniversary…

Millions of prawns stranded on Chilean beach

Millions of small prawns became stranded on a beach in southern Chile this week, carpeting a three-kilometer (two-mile) strand in red, local fishermen and police said. The fishermen in the Coronel area, some 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of Santiago, began noticing something out of the ordinary at the beginning…

Spain’s banks post profits after ‘horrific’ 2012

Spain’s battered banks predicted Thursday they will turn a profit this year after a “horrific” 2012 in which the overall industry recorded losses for the first time in its history. The Spanish Banking Association, which groups almost all significant deposit banks operating in the country, said its members reported a…

Cyprus cabinet meets to form ‘Plan B’ for bailout deal

The Cyprus cabinet was meeting in crisis session Thursday to approve a “Plan B” bailout deal with the EU and IMF, as a nervous crowd gathered outside parliament expecting the plan to be put to a vote. The island’s politicians have until Monday to clinch a deal with the lenders…

Study: Ancient megavolcanoes killed half the world’s species

New rock dating techniques have helped narrow the timeframe of a chain of massive volcanic eruptions that wiped out half the world’s species 200 million years ago, a study said Thursday. The result is the most precise date yet — 201,564,000 years ago — for the event known as the…

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