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Benedict will head to Italian villa immediately following papal retirement

Once he steps down on Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI will begin his retirement in the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, a sumptuous villa outside Rome with ornamental gardens, breathtaking views and its own farm. Benedict will spend around two months in the palace, which is perched high on a…

Kerry wows Parisian reporters by speaking French

On a visit to Paris Wednesday, new US Secretary of State John Kerry wowed reporters by speaking in French, the language of his childhood summers in Brittany. “We just finished one of those wonderful French lunches that have been drawing Americans to Paris for centuries,” Kerry said en francais at…

Unfilled presidential appointments outpace those of Bush or Clinton years

By Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services haven’t had a Senate-confirmed administrator since 2006. The Federal Labor Relations Authority has had only a single member since January and can’t issue decisions. And the Election Assistance Commission hasn’t had any commissioners at all since 2011. All presidential…

Argentina argues it cannot repay $1.3 billion to U.S. bondholders in appeals court

Argentina on Wednesday faced a key appeals court hearing in New York in its battle not to pay $1.3 billion to holdout bondholders in a struggle rooted in the country’s 2001 debt default — and which is raising fears of a new crisis. In a sign of the importance of…

Manning prosecution may call Bin Laden Navy Seal to testify about WikiLeaks damage

Government to call ‘John Doe’ American who may have been involved in Bin Laden raid to prove Manning ‘aided the enemy’ The US government is planning to call an American, possibly one of the 22 Navy Seals involved in the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden, to give evidence at…

British explorer evacuated from Antarctica

The evacuation of injured British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes from Antarctica got under way Wednesday after the veteran adventurer was forced to pull out of a marathon expedition because of frostbite. Fiennes was picked up from base camp in the early morning and on his way to a Belgian station…

Supreme Court hears challenge to Voting Rights Act protections in southern states

Case could end requirement for states with history of discriminatory policies to get federal approval for election laws An Alabama county goes to the US supreme court on Wednesday in an attempt to overturn a historic piece of national civil rights legislation protecting the voting rights of African Americans and other minorities. The challenge…

Swedish transgender people seek damages for forced sterilizations

Sweden is often hailed as a forward-thinking society promoting equality for all, but transsexuals who had to accept to be sterilised to complete their sex changes are pushing for compensation after a change in the law. Nova Colliander, a 31-year-old who completed her transformation from man to woman in 2010,…

Mobile phone makers eye Africa as world’s fastest-growing market

Africa’s mobile phone market, the fastest-growing in the world, is the last frontier for the industry with the promise of unlocked riches luring global interest including from Chinese handset makers. But there are two significant challenges in Africa, according to industry leaders and analysts at the world’s biggest mobile fair…

Muslims fail to prevent ‘Harlem Shake’ parody filming in Tunisia

Salafist Muslims tried to prevent the filming of current Internet craze the “Harlem Shake” at a Tunis school on Wednesday, but were driven off after coming to blows with students, an AFP correspondent said. When the dozen or so ultra-conservative Muslims, some of them women in veils, showed up at…

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