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Egypt divided by religion and politics votes on new constitution

Egyptians vote Saturday on a new constitution supported by the ruling Islamists but bitterly contested by a secular-leaning opposition that failed to scupper the referendum with mass protests. Polls open at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) in Cairo, Alexandria and eight other provinces and are scheduled to close at 7:00 pm…

Obama signs Russian human rights law, angers Putin

President Barack Obama Friday signed legislation that sanctions alleged Russian human rights abuses, which outraged Moscow after being coupled with a bill granting it normal trade relations. Obama signed the measure into law a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the so-called Magnitsky Act, which blacklists Russian officials allegedly…

U.N. warns radioactive waste in unsecured sites in Tajikistan

The United Nations warned Friday that nearly 55 million tonnes of radioactive waste from old Soviet-era uranian mines remain in unsecured sites in northern Tajikistan. The former Soviet republic, where Stalin’s empire once mined uranium to create its first nuclear bomb, is still stuck with about 54.8 million tonnes of…

Dutch animal rescuers abandon hope of saving stranded whale

Dutch animal rescuers have given up hope of saving a stranded 12-metre (32-foot) humpback whale on a northern Frisian island after a final attempt to pull it to sea failed, a rescue spokeswoman said Friday. “We decided late last night after consultations that we will not try to save the…

8-child family defies China’s one-child policy

China’s one-child rule has numerous critics, but perhaps none have so emphatically defied the policy as a couple who have accumulated four boys and four girls — some born to two surrogate mothers. Authorities are calculating how high a fine to impose on the family, described as “rich merchants” in…

French climber Maurice Herzog dies at 93

Maurice Herzog, the French climber who conquered Annapurna in the first recorded ascent of a peak above 8,000 metres, has died at the age of 93, the French Climbing Federation said Friday. Herzog led the ascent of Annapurna in 1950, reaching the Himalayan peak’s summit without oxygen along with compatriot…

Circus elephants survive fire on Serbian highway in freezing temperatures

Russian rescuers saved two circus elephants on a Siberian highway when their wooden van caught fire amid freezing temperatures, police said Friday. The elephants’ wooden truck caught fire on Thursday evening in Siberia’s Novosibirsk region. A petrol-powered heater in the van most likely set fire to their straw, police said,…

Sock thief still at large in Japan

A Japanese high school girl who was tackled by a sock-stealing thief is the latest victim in a series of similar attacks against teenage targets, police said Friday. The 16-year-old was walking in an eastern Tokyo suburb on Thursday when she was wrestled to the ground by a man who…

Second Japanese nuclear plant faces earthquake risk

A second nuclear plant in Japan sits atop a possibly active seismic fault, government-appointed experts said Friday, days after the first facility was said to be at risk. A panel appointed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said fractured strips of earth beneath the Higashidori plant’s compound in northern Japan…

Russia wavers as U.S. deploys troops near Syria border

Moscow backtracked Friday on comments made by a top diplomat admitting that Syrian rebels might defeat its long-time ally Damascus even as Washington ordered 400 troops to near the border with Turkey. A foreign ministry spokesman insisted that Moscow’s controversial support for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was unchanged and that…

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