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U.S. gives ‘full backing’ to Israel while urging de-escalation of Gaza violence

The Israeli ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, says the US has given his government a free hand in its assault on Gaza as the Israeli cabinet ordered a large call up of military reserves, prompting fears of a ground invasion. The Palestinian delegation to Washington condemned the US response to…

Protester slaps Nepal’s Maoist leader in the face

KATHMANDU — The leader of Nepal’s 10-year Maoist insurgency was left shaken on Friday when a former supporter slapped the ex-guerilla across the face, smashing his glasses. Police dragged away 25-year-old Padam Kunwar during the angry confrontation with Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal — better known as Prachanda, or the…

Gaza, an impoverished and besieged sliver of land

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories — The Gaza Strip, under fire from Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defence campaign unleashed on Wednesday, is an impoverished and overpopulated enclave ruled by the Islamist group Hamas. Some 1.6 million Palestinians live in the cramped territory spread over 362 square kilometres (140 square miles) along…

UN: At least 750,000 preterm babies die unnecessarily every year

The lives of at least 750,000 premature babies could be saved every year by taking simple and inexpensive steps to limit preterm birth, the world’s largest killer of newborns, UN health experts said Friday. “There are many interventions that can save lives and improve the quality of these babies’ lives…

Hundreds of Irish women sought abortions in Britain in past three years

Amid pro-choice rally at Savita Halappanavar’s death, activists reveal the rapes and illness forcing women to seek abortions Hundreds of Irish women, including dozens who had been raped, have life-threatening illnesses or are under the age of 16, have been forced to seek abortions in Britain in the past three…

Indian textbook says meat-eating makes you lie, steal and fight

The pros and cons of meat-eating may be the subject of debate for nutritionists, but one Indian school textbook is clear: a fleshy diet will make you lie, steal and even commit sex crimes. The unusual moral guidance appeared in a school book for 11-year-olds, purporting to offer education on…

France denies access to refuge for Mayan end-of-the-world believers

France on Friday dashed the hopes of those who had planned to take refuge in one of the few places on Earth some believe will be spared when the world ends on December 21. Local officials banned access to the Pic de Bugarach, a mountain in the southwest where rumour…

IKEA ‘regrets’ use of forced labor in Cold War-era east Germany

Swedish furniture giant Ikea on Friday admitted that some of its suppliers used forced labour in former Communist East Germany and expressed “deep regret” that its controls were less strict at the time. Releasing a report into the use of forced labour in East Germany that came under fire even…

UN report: China lagging in sex ed

By Frederika Whitehead Awareness among China’s 161 million 15-24-year-olds is poor, while sex education and services are said to be inadequate.  China has a lot of work to do if it wants to provide adequate sexual health services for its 161 million 15- to 24-year-olds. A recent report funded by the…

Spain reports third eviction-linked suicide in less than a month

The man in Cordoba, southern Spain, threw himself from a window just one day after the government announced an emergency halt to mortgage-related expulsions. The apartment was owned by the man’s family who wanted to expel him, a government official for the Andalusia region said. It was unclear whether his…

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