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U.S. says Syrian referendum plan is ‘laughable’

WASHINGTON — The United States Wednesday dismissed Syria’s call for a referendum on a new constitution, which critics see as a move designed to ease global outrage over the government’s bloody crackdown. “It’s actually quite laughable — it makes a mockery of the Syrian revolution,” White House spokesman Jay Carney…

U.S. lawmakers question Apple over privacy

ASHINGTON — Two US lawmakers asked Apple on Wednesday about reports that applications running on the company’s popular devices may access private data without permission. Representatives Henry Waxman and G.K. Butterfield sent a letter to Apple chief executive Tim Cook following reports that social networking app Path collected stored address…

France probes Nazi-themed party attended by Tory lawmaker

GRENOBLE, France — French prosecutors said Wednesday they had opened a formal probe into a Nazi-themed party attended by a British Conservative MP that led to him losing his post as a parliamentary aide. The MP, Aidan Burley, has repeatedly apologised for the incidents during a drunken night out by…

European Union, U.S. sign organic food deal

NUREMBERG, Germany — Food products classified as organic in the European Union or the United States can be sold as such in either region after a deal struck on Wednesday between the two major trading blocs. The agreement, signed in the southern city of Nuremberg between top officials from both…

Anti-abortion ‘personhood’ bill advances in Virginia

PORTSMOUTH, Virginia (Reuters) – Virginia lawmakers took a step toward outlawing abortion on Tuesday by approving “personhood” legislation that grants individual rights to an embryo from the moment of conception. The Republican-controlled House of Delegates voted 66-32 in favor of defining the word person under state law to include unborn…

Assad sets Syria vote to end Baath rule

DAMASCUS — Syria’s president decreed a vote this month on a new constitution that would effectively end nearly 50 years of single party rule, state media said, as troops reportedly stormed centres of dissent. A day after flatly rejecting UN allegations of crimes against humanity, Bashar al-Assad called the ballot…

Ban of iPad exports hard to impose, says expert

HONG KONG/TAIPEI (Reuters) – A debt-laden Chinese technology firm seeking to ban all shipments of Apple’s popular iPad tablet into and out of the country has been told that China’s customs authorities are unlikely to intervene in the trademark battle. Proview Technology, the Chinese company embroiled in a legal battle with Apple Inc over the…

Featherweight songbird is a long-distance champ

A tiny songbird weighing just two tablespoons of sugar migrates from the Arctic to Africa and back, a distance of up to 29,000 kilometres (18,000 miles), scientists reported on Wednesday. The size of an undernourished sparrow, the northern wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) tips the scales at just 25 grammes (0.9 of an ounces).…

U.S. lawmakers to meet China VP

China’s heir apparent Xi Jinping will meet US lawmakers critical ofBeijing on Wednesday before heading to the heartland state of Iowa for a reunion with ordinary Americans he met on a 1985 exchange. US concerns over trade policy and human rights could come to the fore as Xi meets top US legislators in an election…

Uganda raids gay rights workshop

A Ugandan minister Tuesday raided and shut down a workshop run by homosexual rights activists in Entebbe, the minister and Amnesty International said, days after a draconian anti-gay bill was reintroduced. The London-based rights watchdog said in a statement that Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo, who is also a priest, raided the…

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