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Iran sentences U.S. pastor to eight years in prison

A Tehran court on Sunday sentenced an Iranian-American pastor to eight years in prison over his role in underground churches in the Islamic nation, a US group supporting him said. Saeed Abedini, a naturalized US citizen who converted to Christianity, was convicted of threatening Iran’s national security over underground church…

Syrian civil war leaves ghost towns in Kurdish region

In this green, mountainous part of northwest Syria, the boom of shells vibrates every few hours through dozens of villages abandoned by their terrified Kurdish inhabitants. Small groups of rebel fighters have now taken up position in some of the empty homes, patrolling the rocket-scarred streets in vehicles with markings…

Experts warn obesity will soon reach pandemic proportions

Obesity has become a global pandemic that could leave more than half of all adults worldwide overweight within two decades, experts said, calling for urgent action beyond just blaming people for lacking willpower. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, health, nutrition and fitness experts said the world’s increasingly…

Japan launches new satellites to boost surveillance

Japan on Sunday launched two satellites to strengthen its surveillance capabilities, including keeping a closer eye on North Korea which has vowed to stage another nuclear test. One of them was a radar-equipped unit to complete a system of surveillance satellites that will allow Tokyo to monitor any place in…

Thousands march in Washington for gun control

Thousands of people marched in Washington to demand stronger gun control legislation, in a solemn rally six weeks after the shock massacre of young children at a Connecticut school. Protesters, backed by senior officials, marched in silence for around 30 minutes along the National Mall near the US Capitol and…

George Lucas hails new ‘Star Wars’ film director J.J. Abrams

Sci-fi and action filmmaker J.J. Abrams will direct the next “Star Wars” film, the franchise’s creators and owners confirmed Saturday, saying its “legacy couldn’t be in better hands.” George Lucas’s Lucasfilm, bought by entertainment giant Disney for $4 billion in October, said Oscar-winning writer Michael Arndt will write the screenplay…

Malaysian biologist named head of U.N. biodiversity panel

A prominent Malaysian biologist on Saturday was named first chief of a UN scientific panel which aims to turn the world’s spotlight on species loss, as a Nobel-winning counterpart has done for climate change. In their first plenary meeting, members of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, or…

Rare trees turned into firewood as Syrian civilians struggle for warmth

Beset by a freezing winter and stifling fuel and electricity shortages, Syrian civilians desperate to stay warm in a northern forest have no choice but to cut down trees for firewood. Once a tourist destination for Syrians and other Arabs across the Middle East, the formerly pristine national park to…

Peaceful rally in Azerbaijan broken up brutally by police

Azerbaijan police on Saturday brutally dispersed an unauthorised rally in central Baku, beating up and arresting scores of people, an AFP correspondent witnessed. Several dozen protesters briefly gathered in Baku’s central Sahil square to protest against the police using excessive force against peaceful protests. But police halted the rally within…

Namibia offers model for taking on poachers

Faced with poachers who are ravaging elephant and rhino populations, African nations could do worse than look to Namibia for a game plan to combat the scourge. Wildlife poaching is on the rise across Africa’s vast savannahs and in the jungles and outmanned and outgunned governments have struggled to keep…

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