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Gene turns heart cells into pacemaker: lab study

A gene inserted into ordinary heart cells transformed them into rare “pacemaker” cells that regulate cardiac rhythm, according to experiments carried out on lab rodents. The research is a step toward the goal of a biological fix for irregular heartbeat, which at present is tackled by drugs or electronic pacemakers,…

Syria air strike targets Palestinian refugee camp

Warplanes bombarded a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Damascus on Sunday for the first time in Syria’s uprising, as the army escalated its bid to suppress the rebellion in the capital. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the air strike killed at least eight civilians at Yarmuk camp, which…

Julian Assange to make public speech on Thursday

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will mark six months holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London next Thursday with a public speech, the whistle-blowing website announced on Sunday. WikiLeaks released a Twitter message reading: “London, Thursday December 20, 7PM: Julian Assange to address the crowd in front of the Ecuadorian…

Mennonites find prosperity in Paraguay outback

With Bible in hand as a shield against adversity, Paraguay’s Mennonites have celebrated their bounty 85 years after settling in the inhospitable plains known as El Chaco. Established in 1927 by Mennonites fleeing Germany and the Soviet Union under Stalin, the deeply pacifist Protestant community has survived and flourished to…

Crisis threatens historic Harry’s Bar in Venice

One of Ernest Hemingway’s favourite watering holes, the legendary Harry’s Bar in Venice, is being forced to slash costs due to rising debts and a sharp drop in visitors. The canalside bar opened in 1931 in a narrow alley next to the city’s famous St Mark’s Square and quickly became…

Egypt opposition alleges referendum rigging as Muslim Brotherhood claims victory

Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing says 56.5% voted for draft constitution but opposition warns of violations in first round poll Recriminations have broken out over Egypt’s constitutional referendum even before the two-stage vote has been completed, with the Muslim Brotherhood claiming victory and the opposition complaining of rigging and insisting the…

Actor Gerard Depardieu ‘giving up French passport’ in tax controversy

France’s leading actor Gerard Depardieu said on Sunday he was giving up his French passport after being “insulted” by the prime minister calling him “pathetic” for becoming a tax exile in Belgium. In an open letter to Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, the 63-year-old “Cyrano de Bergerac” and “Green Card” star…

Japan moves to the right as conservatives win big in polls

Japan’s conservative opposition swept to victory in national polls Sunday, giving former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a second chance to promote his hawkish security agenda and reflate the economy. Voters decisively abandoned Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda three years after his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) promised a change from more…

Rebel Anglican clergy ‘to bless gay marriages’

Rebel Church of England clergy will bless gay marriages carried out in other churches if Anglicans are exempted from a new law on same-sex marriage, some 150 vicars and campaigners said in a letter published on Sunday. Anglicans including ex-Bishop of Oxford Richard Harries and dozens of clergy wrote to…

Fears of ‘catastrophic damage’ as cyclone nears Fiji

Fijian authorities scrambled to evacuate residents from low-lying areas Sunday as a monster cyclone threatened the Pacific nation with “catastrophic damage” after causing widespread devastation in Samoa. At least four people were killed when Cyclone Evan slammed into Samoa and the toll was expected to rise as a search was…

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