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China counts down to launch of space module

China will take its first step towards building a space station on Thursday when it launches an experimental module ahead of National Day celebrations. The Asian nation sees its ambitious space programme as a symbol of its global stature and state media said the launch of Tiangong-1, or “Heavenly Palace”,…

Pakistan says U.S. pressure on militants must end

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – The United States must stop blaming Islamabad for regional instability, Pakistan’s prime minister told a gathering of the country’s political leaders on Thursday, as Washington stepped up pressure on the South Asian nation to tackle militancy. “The blame game should end, and Pakistan’s sensitive national interests should…

Japan donor anonymously leaves 10 million yen in public restroom

An anonymous donor has left a wad of cash worth $131,000 in a public toilet in Japan, with instructions it be used to help victims of the March earthquake and tsunami, an official said Thursday. A plastic shopping bag, containing 10 million yen, was found on September 22 in a…

Shell shuts most of Singapore refinery as fire rages

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Royal Dutch Shell Plc has shut most of its half-a-million barrels-per-day Singapore refinery, sources said, as firefighters struggle to contain a blaze that has been burning for more than a day. The plant is the largest Shell owns and makes up more than a third of Singapore’s…

Merkel wins key euro vote, Greece gets audit

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Thursday won a crucial vote on boosting the EU’s rescue fund that was seen as a perilous test of her authority as debt-mired Greece braced for an international audit. The news came as a relief to Merkel, but jittery markets took the result in their stride,…

Cuban convict executed in Florida

MIAMI — A 61-year-old Cuban man convicted of the 1978 murder of a US cop was executed in Florida by lethal injection Wednesday, after the Supreme Court rejected his petitions for a stay, prison authorities said. The execution of Manuel Valle came just one week after the highly controversial high-profile…

Israel says newly approved homes ‘not settlement’

Israel on Wednesday rejected an international outcry over its plans to build 1,100 new homes in Gilo in annexed east Jerusalem, insisting the neighbourhood was “not a settlement.” “Gilo is not a settlement, nor is it an outpost,” Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told AFP. “Gilo is a neighbourhood in the…

Afghan war violence up nearly 40 percent: UN

Violent incidents in the Afghan war have increased by nearly 40 percent over last year, according to UN figures released Wednesday. But in an unusual step, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force issued a statement in response saying it found the figures “inconsistent with the data that we have collected”. ISAF is…

Global warming: New study challenges carbon benchmark

The ability of forests, plants and soil to suck carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air has been under-estimated, according to a study on Wednesday that challenges a benchmark for calculating the greenhouse-gas problem. Like the sea, the land is a carbon “sink”, or sponge, helping to absorb heat-trapping CO2 disgorged by the…

Hungary toxic levels ‘lower than expected’ after spill

A year after Hungary’s worst chemicals spill released vast amounts of poisonous red mud, levels of toxic substances are lower than feared but still above average, Greenpeace said on Wednesday. “All in all the levels of toxic contamination, particularly in maize and in the soil, are lower than feared,” said Herwig Schuster from the environmental pressure…

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