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World’s smelliest and largest flower blooms in Brazil

Hundreds of visitors are flocking daily to a botanical garden in southeastern Brazil to watch the rare blooming of the Titan arum, the world’s smelliest and largest tropical flower. Also known as the “corpse flower” because of a smell likened to rotting flesh, it began blooming on Christmas Day and…

Putin vows to sign contentious U.S. adoption ban

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin vowed on Thursday to sign a bill banning Americans from adopting Russian children that has added new strains to the uneasy relations between the former Cold War foes An aide separately raised the spectre of the Kremlin eliminating all foreign adoptions as part of a patriotic…

Human Rights Watch: Kuwait using ‘excessive force’ against protesters

Human Rights Watch on Thursday accused Kuwaiti police of using “excessive force” against opposition protesters and called on the Gulf state’s rulers to respect the right to peaceful assembly. The New York-based group said riot police had on several occasions used “what appears to be excessive force to disperse largely…

Travel chaos as deadly winter storm hits northeast U.S.

Heavy snow and strong winds battered the northeastern United States Thursday, intensifying post-Christmas travel woes, after violent weather left at least nine people dead and many without power. More than 2,750 flights have been cancelled since Tuesday as the huge storm wreaked havoc from the Gulf of Mexico to the…

Clinton still recuperating from illness at home, says aide

Outgoing US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who fell ill in early December and hasn’t been seen in public since, continues to rest at home, her closest aide said Thursday. “She’s recuperating at home,” was all Philippe Reines wrote in email to AFP when asked about the health of Washington’s…

What is the fiscal cliff? Facts on the looming U.S. budget changes

The “fiscal cliff” is a combination of dramatic spending cuts and tax increases mandated to take effect beginning in January if President Barack Obama and Republicans cannot bridge their differences on how best to reduce the nation’s budget deficit and debt. To add to a drama that could reverse the…

Former ATF agent: Law ‘really does not provide the mechanism to regulate gun commerce’

On The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell on Wednesday, the host interviewed a former agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, who discusses the ways in which he claims the agency is blocked from taking almost any action to regulate guns. On Dec. 19, President Obama noted that…

Endangered beached whale dies in New York City

An endangered whale that beached in New York City died on Thursday despite a day-long effort to keep the emaciated 18-meter (60-foot) finback alive by spraying it with water. “We are on the scene and the whale has passed,” Robert DiGiovanni, director of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and…

Possible Chuck Hagel nomination for secretary of defense losing steam

Chuck Hagel: Why his candidacy for Defense post is losing altitude (via The Christian Science Monitor) President Obama’s potential nomination of Chuck Hagel, a former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska, to be his next secretary of Defense is now being dubbed “flailing” before it was even confirmed. Much of the…

6 die in Poland from drinking tainted alcohol

Six people in Poland have died after drinking alcohol that was probably tainted with methanol, and six others remain hospitalised, police said Thursday. Three men aged between 38 and 53 and a 47-year-old woman died in Stargard Szczecinski in northwest Poland after consuming alcohol probably containing methanol purchased at a…

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