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Prince Charles marks birthday with ‘Hobbit tour’

Tolkien fan Prince Charles marked his 64th birthday with a tour of Middle Earth on Wednesday, at the New Zealand studio behind Peter Jackson’s latest Hobbit movie. Jackson gave the British heir to the throne a personal tour of his Weta Workshop special effects studio in Wellington, which will host…

Toyota recalls 2.77 million vehicles worldwide

Toyota has announced a global recall of 2.77 million vehicles over water pump or steering problems in the latest blow to the firm’s reputation. Japan’s biggest automaker said there were no reported injuries or accidents, but it had received about 400 complaints in Japan over the pump issue and a…

South African government backs striking farmworkers

South Africa’s ANC government stepped in to cool down a hot-tempered agricultural strike on Wednesday, backing demands by striking farmworkers for higher pay. Describing current pay for farmworkers as “not enough” the agriculture ministry moved to freeze the crisis, which some warn could have “severe” consequences for the country’s vital…

Afghan women learn literacy through mobile phones

Afghanistan has launched a new literacy programme that enables Afghan women deprived of a basic education during decades of war to learn to read and write using a mobile phone. The phone is called Ustad Mobile (Mobile Teacher) and provides national curriculum courses in both national languages, Dari and Pashto,…

U.S. and Australia ready to bolster military ties

US and Australian ministers sought to bolster security ties at annual talks Wednesday, as the American military seeks greater access to the country’s bases in a strategic tilt to the Pacific. Anxious over China’s growing military might and territorial tensions with its neighbours, US officials are pushing for a more…

South Korea postpones rocket launch

South Korea has postponed a key satellite launch until the last week of November because of delays in the arrival of rocket parts from Russia, a senior official said Wednesday. “We plan to inform international agencies of a new launch period of between November 23 and 30,” the science ministry’s…

Samsung plans no settlement with Apple: executive

A top Samsung executive said that the South Korean electronics giant had no plans to follow Taiwanese firm HTC in seeking a settlement over its patent disputes with arch-rival Apple. Samsung and Apple are currently embroiled in patent lawsuits in 10 nations including the United States and Germany, accusing each…

Sen. Levin: ‘Astounding’ number of emails in General Allen probe

WASHINGTON — The volume of emails uncovered between a top US general and the woman who triggered a probe that ended the career of CIA director David Petraeus is “astounding,” a top senator said Tuesday. “The number of emails between the two was sort of an astounding number of emails,…

Judge nixes ‘possum drop’ New Year’s party in North Carolina

WASHINGTON — A popular New Year’s celebration that draws thousands of tourists to the tiny North Carolina town of Brasstown for a party that ends in a “possum drop” may no longer be held there, a judge ruled. The 18-year tradition in the town of 240 consisted of lowering the…

Want to build your dream home next door to Obama?

CHICAGO — Have you got a cool million or two and a burning desire to live next door to President Barack Obama? You may be in luck. The empty lot next to Obama’s Chicago home is for sale. “We reached out to the Obamas through his curator and the Secret…

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