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Irish actor Peter O’Toole ‘chucks in the sponge’

Colorful veteran Irish actor Peter O’Toole, famous for films including “Lawrence of Arabia”, has announced his retirement, saying it was time to “chuck in the sponge” aged 79. The acclaimed stage and screen star said he was taking his last bow “dry-eyed and profoundly grateful” for his half-century long career.…

Taiwan to stage first same-sex Buddhist wedding

Two women plan to tie the knot next month in Taiwan’s first same-sex Buddhist wedding, as gay and lesbian groups push to make the island the first society in Asia to legalise gay marriage Fish Huang and her partner You Ya-ting, both 30, will receive their blessings from Master Shih…

Afghans protest woman’s public execution

Dozens of Afghan women’s rights activists took to the streets Wednesday to protest against the recent public execution of a young woman for alleged adultery, which was captured in a horrific video. The 22-year-old victim was shot dead as dozens of men cheered in a village about 100 kilometres (60…

Thai pardon for U.S. citizen jailed for royal insult

Thailand on Wednesday said a Thai-born US citizen jailed for insulting the kingdom’s revered monarch had been granted a royal pardon, in a move welcomed by the United States. Joe Wichai Commart Gordon, a car salesman from Colorado, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in December under the kingdom’s strict lese…

Amazon testing new smartphone: report

The online retail giant Amazon is testing a new smartphone and may launch production later this year or early next year, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The story, datelined Taipei, said the company is working with Asian component suppliers to test the new device, which would enter a crowded…

Baby giant panda’s death in Tokyo sparks grief

The death of a baby panda in Japan stopped regular television programming and brought a Tokyo zoo director to tears on Wednesday, a week after its birth sent ripples of excitement across the nation. Newscasts had dedicated a nightly segment to the male cub’s daily activities since his birth on…

Russian parliament to vote on ‘web censorship’ bill

The Russian parliament was Wednesday set to vote into law a contentious bill that activists fear will introduce Internet censorship by blacklisting sites deemed as undesirable. The amendments to an existing information law are being promoted as a crackdown on child pornography, creating a federal register that would rule out…

Warlords enslave huge armies of child soldiers

UNITED NATIONS — More than 11,000 child soldiers were freed from military slavery last year, but the United Nations believes hundreds of thousands around the world remain at the mercy of warlords like Thomas Lubanga. The 14-year jail term ordered against Lubanga by the International Criminal Court on Tuesday is…

Mexico arrests two alleged Sinaloa drug cartel members

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — Two alleged senior members of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel who are wanted by the US Drug Enforcement Agency were arrested in Mexico’s crime capital Ciudad Juarez, officials said. The two suspects, identified as Fernando Arellano Romero and Daniel Franco Lopez, were arrested by a special Chihuahua…

Democracy still ‘preferable’ in Muslim nations, survey says

WASHINGTON — Democracy is still popular in six Muslim-majority countries, over a year after the Arab Spring, and the majority in some countries favors laws based on the Koran, according to a poll published Tuesday. The first two Muslim-majority nations to overthrow a dictator still “desire” democracy, with some 67…

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