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Japan’s population logs record drop of 244,000 in 2013

Japan’s population fell by a record 244,000 in 2013, according to health ministry estimates released on Wednesday, highlighting concerns over an ever-dwindling workforce supporting a growing number of pensioners. An estimated 1,031,000 babies were born in 2013, down about 6,000 from a year earlier, the ministry said. On the other…

No-show for Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf in treason case

Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf failed to show up for a hearing in the treason case against him on Wednesday, with his lawyers citing security threats. The 70-year-old stands accused over his imposition of emergency rule in November 2007, but he and his legal team have dismissed the charge…

Pope calls for global solidarity in New Year blessing: ‘We have to stop on this road of violence!’

Pope Francis on Wednesday called for greater solidarity in the world in his first New Year blessing as pontiff in front of crowds of pilgrims on St Peter’s Square. “We all have a responsibility to act so that the world may be a community of brothers who respect each other,…

Global fireworks party welcomes in 2014

Times Square erupted in joy and a shower of multi-colored confetti as New York City’s famed crystal ball eased down to mark the year’s final seconds and usher in 2014 on Wednesday. A wave of spectacular firework displays boomed and glittered around the globe to ring in the New Year,…

44,000 Dutch take traditional New Year’s plunge in North Sea’s icy waters

Tens of thousands of revellers across the Netherlands braved the chilly winter weather on Wednesday to take a traditional New Year’s plunge in the North Sea’s icy waters. Around 10,000 swimmers — most dressed only in shorts and bikinis — stormed the waves at The Hague’s historic Scheveningen beach, while…

Shimon Peres receives petition from Israeli MPs demanding U.S. release imprisoned spy Jonathan Pollard

Israeli MPs on Wednesday handed President Shimon Peres a petition urging the United States to release imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, after reports Washington spied on its own allies. “Pollard has served 29 years in prison for the severe offences he committed,” reads the petition, which was signed by 106…

Hundreds monitored in Taiwan after H7N9 strain of bird flu after infected tourist discovered

Taiwanese authorities are monitoring hundreds of people who may have had contact with a mainland Chinese tourist infected with the H7N9 strain of bird flu, officials said Wednesday. The 86-year-old man from the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu is in stable condition in hospital in Taiwan, where he was on…

Former First Lady Barbara Bush in hospital

Former First Lady Barbara Bush has been hospitalized in Texas with a “respiratory related,” problem. The office of former president George H.W. Bush said the 88-year-old was taken into hospital on Monday but was in “great spirits.” “Former First Lady Barbara Bush was admitted to Methodist Hospital in Houston’s Texas…

NASA criticizes Beyoncé over using audio sample from Challenger shuttle disaster

NASA says dangers of space exploration should not be trivialised, after Beyoncé uses clip from shuttle disaster in XO Beyoncé has been rebuked by Nasa for using an audio clip from the Challenger shuttle disaster in a new song. The space agency said the tragedy “should never be trivialised”. XO,…

Kim Jong-Un hails uncle’s execution, claims the ‘purge of scum elements’ creates unity

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on Wednesday hailed the recent execution of his powerful uncle Jang Song-Thaek, saying the removal of “scum elements” had helped cement unity among his people. Kim, in his New Year message broadcast on state TV, described the purge of a “faction” within the ruling party…

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