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French prison garden program found to contain pot

Warders in a French jail where prisoners are allowed to grow their own produce have been left red-faced after the discovery of cannabis plants among the flowers and vegetables. The plants, which had reached a height of around 80cm (two and a half feet) before being spotted at the weekend,…

Kiss rockers back ‘pretty’ Pussy Riot’s rights, but not their music

Members of veteran rock band Kiss said Tuesday they back Russia’s punk rockers Pussy Riot even if they don’t think much of their music. “They’re very pretty girls. It is not a good band, but they have the right to do whatever they want to do,” Kiss bassist and singer-songwriter…

Ikea to build entire district in German city

Swedish furniture giant Ikea announced plans on Wednesday to build a brand-new district with shops, flats and office space for thousands of people in the northern German city of Hamburg. “We want to build a new city district for the benefit of Hamburg,” Harald Mueller, head of the firm’s property…

Forbes names Merkel and Clinton world’s most powerful women

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are the world’s most powerful women, according to Forbes magazine’s annual survey. Following the two stateswomen in the 2012 rankings was Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff. The list covers women in fields as diverse as politics, business, media, entertainment and…

Human rights group holds summit in repressive Equatorial Guinea

Its president is known as one of the most despotic in Africa, his heir stands accused of squandering millions of public funds on Michael Jackson memorabilia and the majority of its people live on less than $1 per day. Yet Equatorial Guinea this week finds itself in the unlikely position…

Ecuador president: Assange’s crimes in Sweden aren’t crimes in Ecuador

Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, has said Julian Assange should respond to the sexual assault allegations made against him by two Swedish women, even though the case would not in his view constitute criminal behaviour in Latin America. His remarks are likely to add to the controversy surrounding the WikiLeaks founder…

Russia joins World Trade Organization

Russia on Wednesday crowned a tortuous 18-year campaign by becoming the largest country outside the World Trade Organization (WTO) to formally join the world’s premier free trade club. The Geneva-based institution’s 156th member had spent years harboring deep suspicions about what a flood of better Western products and services might…

Body of Ethiopia’s late leader Meles returns home

Thousands of mourning Ethiopians turned out Wednesday as Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s body arrived at Addis Ababa airport following his death in a Brussels hospital at the age of 57. A military band played as the coffin, draped in an Ethiopian flag, was taken from the Ethiopian Airlines flight…

Syria reportedly ‘ready to discuss’ Assad’s exit

Syria said it is ready to discuss the departure of President Bashar al-Assad as part of a negotiated settlement to the increasingly ferocious conflict but the US reacted with skepticism. The surprise comments Tuesday by a Syrian envoy visiting Moscow emerged after Russia bluntly told the West not to meddle…

Indian public sector banks launch two-day strike

Up to one million Indian public sector bank employees started a two-day nationwide strike on Wednesday, protesting against reforms that they fear could lead to mergers and job losses. Nearly 87,000 branches were expected to remain closed, but the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) said most private and foreign banks would…

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