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China must modernize before boosting global role, official tells Davos

China’s new leadership will focus on modernising the country before it increases Beijing’s role in international affairs, a top official told the Davos forum on Saturday. Senior Chinese planning official Zhang Xiaoqiang told economic and business leaders gathered in the Swiss ski resort that the whole world would benefit if…

U.S. sees signs that China is tiring of North Korea’s antics

US sees signs that China is tiring of North Korea's antics US officials are taking heart in mounting evidence that China, while still worried about the repercussions of a North Korean collapse, is tiring of protecting its troublesome ally. Though wary of each other on other international issues, the United…

George Soros tells Davos that we don’t have a ‘proper understanding of how financial markets operate’

Billionaire financier George Soros told the Davos forum on Saturday that financial markets were still poorly understood despite moves to limit more complex products after the crisis. Soros told a packed audience of the world’s business and political elite in the Swiss ski resort that the established theory of how…

Bolivians stage miniature festival in tribute to god of abundance

Bolivia is throwing a little party. Literally. It’s a yearly festival in which street vendors hawk everything miniature — from houses to clothes to passports — for small bills of fake money. The old month-long fair that started Thursday is called ‘Alasita,’ which means ‘buy me’ in the indigenous Aymara…

‘Islamophobic’ Lego toy angers Austrian Turks

Austria’s Turkish community has threatened to sue Lego because it thinks the firm’s “Star Wars: Jabba’s Palace” box set might teach children to associate Islam with violence and terrorism. One of the buildings is a “one-to-one copy” of the Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul, while the figure with an axe…

Polish lawmakers vote down civil unions bill

Polish lawmakers on Friday voted down three bills on civil unions for unmarried couples, a move backed by gay rights activists but fiercely opposed by conservatives in the deeply Catholic country. None of the drafts included provisions that would legalise gay marriage and adoption, similar to proposals by the French…

Russians fear ex-governor will ruin iconic island

Russians protested Friday after the government appointed an unpopular former governor to run one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kizhi complex of wooden churches. Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky on Thursday set off a wave of protest by dismissing the current director and appointing the…

South Africa launches massive operation to capture thousands of escaped crocodiles

A massive operation to round up thousands of escaped crocodiles intensified in flood-soaked South Africa on Friday, as the authorities attempted to reassure the public everything was under control. “A large number” of 15,000 reptiles at the Rakwena Crocodile Farm in the far north of the country had escaped last…

U.S. backs adding teeth to global shark protection

The United States said Friday it would support proposals to curb the trade of five shark species and manta rays, whose numbers are declining because of demand for fins and gills. “For several decades, we have been increasingly concerned about the over harvest of sharks and manta rays,” US Fish…

Foreign visitors flock back to post-disaster Japan

The number of foreign visitors to Japan in 2012 surged 34.6 percent from the previous year as the tourism sector rebounded after the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster, the government said Friday. Overseas arrivals totaled more than 8.3 million, just short of the record 8.6 million seen in 2010, the…

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