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Pentagon chief laments Koran burning, U.S. shooting

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday called the Koranburning and killing of 16 Afghans “deeply troubling” incidents that had challenged the war effort in Afghanistan. Visiting Afghanistan just days after a shooting spree by a US soldier, he insisted that NATO and Afghan forces were making progress and had to stay focused on…

Indian guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar wants the Taliban to de-stress

An Indian Hindu guru may be the last emissary the Taliban expect, but Sri Sri Ravi Shankar would love to teach inner peace to the world’s most notorious Islamist insurgents. Visiting Pakistan for the first time in eight years, he basks in the diplomatic rapprochement that made the trip possible…

U.N. nuclear body says aging reactors create safety concerns

VIENNA — Eighty percent of nuclear power plants are more than 20 years old, raising safety concerns, the UN atomic agency warned in a draft report seen by AFP on Tuesday, a year after Japan’s Fukushima disaster. This “could impact safety and their ability to meet member states’ energy requirements…

Briton, two U.S. citizens charged in Iraq kickback scheme

WASHINGTON — Three men, including a British citizen, have been charged with conspiring to defraud the US government over a kickback scheme involving contracts for ammunition disposal in Iraq, according to the US Justice Department. Briton Ahmed Sarchil Kazzaz and his business, Leadstay Company, were charged in federal court in…

George Clooney says Sudan commits ‘war crimes’

NEW YORK — Hollywood heart throb and activist George Clooney on Tuesday said Sudanese government forces are committing war crimes with attacks on civilians — including a rocket strike that he narrowly escaped. “There’s a difference between two armies fighting and what the Geneva Convention calls war crimes,” Clooney told…

Mexico group banned for playing drug songs

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — Authorities in the capital of Mexico’s most violent state, Chihuahua, have indefinitely banned popular music group Los Tigres del Norte for playing drug ballads at a concert. Songs glorifying drug traffickers, known as narcocorridos, have attracted a growing following in recent years from Mexico City to…

China to vote on controversial criminal law changes

BEIJING — Chinese lawmakers are due to vote Wednesday on changes to the criminal law that would give police powers to detain some suspects for up to six months in unofficial locations known as “black jails”. Secret detentions in China are well-documented. Many people — from renowned artist Ai Weiwei…

Tablet computers added to British measure of inflation

Tablet computers like Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab have been added into the basket of goods used to measure official British inflation, the Office for National Statistics said Tuesday. Inflation is measured each month by a notional “shopping basket” filled with typical goods and services bought by the average…

Street lights turned off as Italian town fails to pay bills

Street lights have been turned off in a Sicilian town after local authorities failed to pay a million-euro bill for power supplies, Italian news websites reported on Tuesday. Local residents of Monreale near Palermo — a popular tourist destination because of its famous Norman cathedral — have been forced to…

Kony 2012 maker defends ‘thoughtful’ campaign

By Lizzy Davies Charity chief behind controversial Ugandan film releases video hitting back at criticisms of its strategy and spending The chief executive of a group that produced the controversial video about the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony has hit back at criticisms of its strategy and spending decisions, insisting the…

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