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GM scraps Opel-Peugeot Citroen merger plans: report

PARIS — General Motors has scrapped plans to merge its troubled German unit Opel with PSA Peugeot Citroen because of the French carmaker’s financial woes, a news report said Wednesday. “GM gave up in early November on the merger plan between Opel and PSA Peugeot Citroen’s auto division,” French financial…

UN report: Contraception access could save $57 billion worldwide

The world economy would be boosted by billions of dollars if all women had access to contraception, the United Nations said on Wednesday in its annual State of World Population report. The report said inadequate family planning in developing countries contributed significantly to poverty and ill health, and that $5.7…

Lebanese man swallowed 220 diamonds in smuggling scheme

South African police on Wednesday said they had caught a Lebanese man who swallowed 220 polished diamonds in an audacious bid to smuggle them from Johannesburg to Dubai. Officers arrested the 25-year-old at Johannesburg’s international airport carrying the gems, worth an estimated $2.3 million. “We nabbed him just before he…

Prime minister: Putin not suffering from ‘serious’ medical problems

President Vladimir Putin is not suffering from “serious” medical issues, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday, amid speculation that health problems had forced the Russian strongman to cancel foreign trips. According to Russian media reports, Putin has postponed a number of foreign trips and largely stayed at his suburban Moscow…

Israeli company pushes bomb-sniffing mice at airports

An Israeli company is aiming to revolutionise the way explosives, narcotics and even money are detected at airports, docks and border crossings with the help of specially trained covert agents. These agents, however, aren’t just any regular agents. They are mice, which are being used as sniffer animals for the…

Scandal in Ireland as woman dies in Galway ‘after being denied abortion’

Health authorities investigating septicaemia death of 31-year-old dentist Savita Halappanavar Health authorities in Ireland are investigating the death of a pregnant woman whose husband says she was denied an abortion following severe complications. Savita Halappanavar, who was 17 weeks pregnant, died of septicaemia a week after presenting with back pain…

Anti-austerity anger stirs strikes in Europe

Protesters bristling over austerity cuts launch a Europe-wide string of rallies and strikes Wednesday, pouring into streets, refusing to work and grounding more than 700 flights. General strikes in Spain and Portugal will spearhead the day of action called by European unions and joined by activists as anger over governments’…

Prince Charles marks birthday with ‘Hobbit tour’

Tolkien fan Prince Charles marked his 64th birthday with a tour of Middle Earth on Wednesday, at the New Zealand studio behind Peter Jackson’s latest Hobbit movie. Jackson gave the British heir to the throne a personal tour of his Weta Workshop special effects studio in Wellington, which will host…

Toyota recalls 2.77 million vehicles worldwide

Toyota has announced a global recall of 2.77 million vehicles over water pump or steering problems in the latest blow to the firm’s reputation. Japan’s biggest automaker said there were no reported injuries or accidents, but it had received about 400 complaints in Japan over the pump issue and a…

South African government backs striking farmworkers

South Africa’s ANC government stepped in to cool down a hot-tempered agricultural strike on Wednesday, backing demands by striking farmworkers for higher pay. Describing current pay for farmworkers as “not enough” the agriculture ministry moved to freeze the crisis, which some warn could have “severe” consequences for the country’s vital…

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