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State Dept. says Afghanistan made progress in fighting drugs

The Afghan government has made progress in the last year in fighting drugs trafficking and cultivation, although the “gains remain fragile,” a US State Department report said Thursday. “The overall counternarcotics effort this year was positive” in Afghanistan, which grows about 90 percent of the world’s opium, according to the…

Army suicides rose 80% after start of Iraq War: study

The number of suicides in the US Army rose by 80 percent after the United States launched the war on Iraq, American military doctors reported on Thursday. From 1977 to 2003, the tally of army suicides had trended slightly downwards, and was far below civilian rates. But it started to…

Justice Dept. threatens Apple, book publishers with collusion lawsuit: WSJ

The Justice Department is threatening to sue Apple and five major US publishers for allegedly colluding to raise the price of digital books, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. The newspaper, citing people familiar with the matter, said several of the parties have held talks to head off an…

Team Obama mocks Romney ‘death march’

Mitt Romney’s campaign has said he is almost certain to be the US Republican presidential candidate, as his Democratic opponents mock his long “death march” to secure the nomination. Despite collecting six victories in the 10-state bonanza known as Super Tuesday, including in crucial Ohio, the flawed favorite failed to…

Scientists survey seabed fractured by Japan quake

Scientists on Thursday launched a mission to the seabed off Japan where a massive quake triggered last year’s devastating tsunami, to get their first proper look at the buckled ocean floor. Researchers from Germany and Japan are sending high-tech vehicles to probe the seabed up to 7,000 metres (23,000 feet)…

China backs down on secret detentions

China has abandoned controversial plans to make it legal to “disappear” criminal suspects following a huge public outcry, in a move hailed as a victory for judicial reformers. Proposed changes to China’s criminal law being debated this week by parliament originally included a clause that allowed police to hold people…

Cuban sculptor uses tobacco to immortalize stars

Fidel Castro, Winston Churchill, Jack Nicholson, Groucho Marx and Arnold Schwarzenegger — meet the cast of notables Janio Nunez has sculpted entirely out of Cuba’s famed tobacco. The Cuban sculptor uses the same sticky leaves and time-honored rolling techniques that go into the famed cigars enjoyed by his subjects, and…

Syrian deputy oil minister joins rebel ranks

Syria’s deputy oil minister resigned on Thursday, becoming the most senior official to join the rebel ranks, as Washington revealed it is mulling non-lethal aid to the insurgency. Abdo Hussameddin announced his resignation in a video posted by activists on YouTube, saying he was joining the revolt. “I, the engineer…

Palestinians to submit 20 sites for UNESCO World Heritage listing

The Palestinians are poised to submit the names of 20 sites in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza for addition to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites, an official said on Thursday. “Within the next few days, we will submit a tentative list of 20 sites to be added to…

German Internet users cry foul over law requiring Google to pay news providers

Germany’s Internet community, gathered at the world’s biggest high-tech fair, was up in arms Thursday at a draft law forcing Google and other similar sites to pay media firms for content. “This draft is completely backward,” fumed Bernhard Rohleder, director general of Bitkom, the German federation representing high-tech industries. “We…

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