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Obama signs sweeping U.S. defense spending bill

President Barack Obama has signed into law a $633 billion US defense spending bill that funds the war in Afghanistan and boosts security at US missions worldwide. “I have approved this annual defense authorization legislation, as I have in previous years, because it authorizes essential support for service members and…

Scientists mapping Great Barrier Reef discover corals at depths never before thought possible

Australian scientists mapping the Great Barrier Reef have discovered corals at depths never before thought possible, with a deep-sea robot finding specimens in waters nearly as dark as night. A team from the University of Queensland’s Seaview Survey announced the unprecedented discovery 125 metres (410 feet) below the surface at…

Supreme Court: Drug trials in India ‘causing havoc to human life’

India’s Supreme Court said on Thursday that unregulated clinical trials of new drugs were causing “havoc” in the country as it ordered the health ministry to monitor any new applications for tests. The comments were made during a hearing on a petition detailing deaths and health problems caused by clinical…

Nation’s first female rapper Soosan Feroz says ‘If rap singing is a way to tell your miseries, Afghans have a lot to say’

Sporting a long leather coat and western jeans under a headscarf, Soosan Feroz looks like many modern women in Kabul. But she is a surprising new phenomenon in this conservative country – the nation’s first female rapper. Her lyrics though are not unfamiliar for many of her fellow countrywomen –…

Natural catastrophes caused $160 billion in damages in 2012

Natural catastrophes including US hurricane Sandy caused $160 billion (122 billion euros’) worth of damage in 2012, the world’s leading reinsurer, Munich Re, estimated on Thursday. “Last year, natural catastrophes caused $160 billion in overall losses and $65 billion in insured losses worldwide,” Munich Re said in a statement. About…

Activists express outrage over Hong Kong’s ‘shark fin rooftop’

Hong Kong conservationists expressed outrage on Thursday after images of a factory rooftop covered in thousands of freshly sliced shark fins emerged, as they called for curbs on the “barbaric” trade. The southern Chinese city is one of the world’s biggest markets for shark fins, which are used to make…

South Korea confirms Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s North Korea visit

South Korea’s foreign ministry confirmed Thursday that Google chairman Eric Schmidt was planning a visit to North Korea, but was unable to comment on the reason for the trip. “We are aware that he is planning a personal visit,” ministry spokesman Cho Tai-Young told a regular press briefing. Cho said…

Fiscal Cliff: Obama signs American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 into law

President Barack Obama has signed into law the contentious compromise bill hammered out in Congress, narrowly averting the US ‘fiscal cliff’ of tax hikes and drastic, immediate cuts in spending, the White House said early Thursday. In a statement, the White House said that Obama late on Wednesday signed the…

One million workers get pay boost as 10 states adjust minimum wage

From Washington State to Florida, the new year is bringing a boost in the minimum wage for an estimated 1 million low-wage workers. The changes are coming in nine states that adjust their base wages annually for inflation, and in Rhode Island, where legislation last year set a higher minimum.…

Cantor’s revolt exposes Republican rift in fight for party’s future

A Republican civil war, which has simmered under the surface since the party’s defeat in last November’s presidential election, has now burst firmly into the open and pitted party leaders against each other. Majority leader Eric Cantor’s extraordinary vote against House speaker John Boehner in Tuesday’s late-night vote in the…

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