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Growing number of Afghan families turn to growing cannabis

High crop prices fuel increase in number of growers, adding to drug-control problems in world leader for opium production The number of Afghan families growing cannabis as a cash crop leapt by more than a third last year, the UN has said. The increase adds to the drug-control problem in…

Afghan government could collapse, new report says

The Afghan government could fall apart after NATO troops pull out in 2014, particularly if presidential elections that year are fraudulent, a report by the International Crisis Group said Monday. “There is a real risk that the regime in Kabul could collapse upon NATO’s withdrawal,” said Candace Rondeaux, the ICG’s…

6.0 earthquake strikes in Gulf of California

An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.0 struck off the Mexican Pacific coast late Sunday, US researchers said, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. The epicenter of the quake, which occurred at 11:26 pm Sunday (0626 GMT Monday), was located in the Gulf of California 73…

Finance ministers meets to launch 500-billion-euro rescue fund

The eurozone launches its much-awaited 500-billion-euro rescue fund on Monday, a positive backdrop for finance ministers trying to settle Greece’s tortuous debt bailout and as Spain agonises over seeking a rescue. Finance ministers of the 17-nation euro bloc gather just 10 days before the EU’s 27 leaders meet in Brussels,…

Hugo Chavez wins another six-year term in Venezuela

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shrugged off cancer and a unified opposition to triumph yet again at the ballot box and claim another six-year mandate to pursue his oil-funded socialist revolution. Sunday proved a sterner test than previous elections in Chavez’s 14-year tenure, but the bombastic anti-American leftist emerged victorious again…

Buddhist nun stops Sotheby’s sale of $1.6 million Chinese painting

Sotheby’s said on Monday it has cancelled the sale of a Chinese painting by a top-selling artist at its auction in Hong Kong, after its ownership was challenged by a Taiwanese Buddhist nun. The 1950 painting, “Riding in the Autumn Countryside” by Zhang Daqian, was expected to fetch up to…

A gender-neutral pronoun makes waves in Sweden

Sweden’s tradition of gender equality has famously put more mums in the workplace while rising numbers of dads stay at home. Now advocates have a new frontier: they’re pushing for a gender-neutral pronoun, “hen”, to be added to “han” (he) and “hon” (she). “There’s almost nothing left to do in…

Potential capital gains tax increase scares wealthy French into abandoning Paris, lowering prices

A flood of top-end properties are hitting the market as businessmen seek to leave France before stiff tax hikes hit, real estate agents and financial advisors say. “It’s nearly a general panic. Some 400 to 500 residences worth more than one million euros ($1.3 million) have come onto the Paris…

Workers to petition for murder charges against police after strike-related shooting

Representatives of 12,000 fired Anglo American Platinum workers in South Africa will lay murder charges after a colleague was killed in clashes with police, a leader said. “What we want to do tomorrow (Monday) is to open a case against the SAPS (South African Police Service),” said George Tyobela, a…

Former Assad aide: Syrian president plans secret flight to Russia

Abdullah al-Omar, a former propaganda aide to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, said on an Al Jazeera English broadcast Sunday that Assad knows the end of his rule is drawing closer, and has already prepared plans to escape into Russia. “I know the escorts of Bashar al-Assad, we used to sit…

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