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Australia winemakers celebrate best vintage in two decades

After years of heatwaves, bush fires and heavy rain, Australia’s wine industry is about to benefit from the best growing conditions for grapes in two decades, experts say. James Halliday, one of the country’s top wine writers, says the weather has been “nigh-on perfect” in South Australia, Victoria and Western…

Judge: U.S. must present evidence against Kim Dotcom before extradition

A New Zealand judge on Thursday upheld a lower court’s decision to give MegaUpload creator Kim Dotcom access to the U.S. government’s evidence against him, enabling the man accused of running the largest criminal copyright operation in history to mount a proper defense at an extradition hearing set for March.…

Hong Kong sex workers complain that police officers push for free services

In a Hong Kong tower block prostitutes in one-room brothels sell themselves for as little as US $40 a time and are often exploited by triad gangsters and abusive clients. But an increasing number of sex workers, particularly migrants from mainland China, are complaining about the behaviour of the police supposed to enforce…

Global demand for gold falls to lowest level in two years

Global demand for gold has fallen to its lowest level in two years owing to less buying in the main markets of India and China, despite rising demand from central banks, the World Gold Council said Thursday. Worldwide demand fell 7.0 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2012, down…

Pussy Riot judge put under state protection

Russia on Thursday placed the judge who will decide the fate of the three Pussy Riot singers under state protection as support mounted for the singers who insulted Vladimir Putin. Judge Marina Syrova is presiding over the highly-publicised trial of the young female punk rockers, who face three years in…

NATO Black Hawk helicopter downed in Southern Afghanistan

A NATO Black Hawk helicopter came down in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing seven American soldiers and four Afghans, the military said, as Taliban insurgents claimed to have shot it down. The four Afghans included three members of the Afghan security forces and a civilian interpreter, NATO’s US-led International Security…

British court rules against ‘right to die’ case

A locked-in syndrome sufferer has lost a legal bid for the right to end his life of “pure torture” after High Court judges unanimously agreed that it would be wrong to depart from a precedent that equates voluntary euthanasia with murder. Tony Nicklinson, 58, was left paralysed by a catastrophic…

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange granted asylum in Ecuador

Update (below): British Foreign Secretary William Hague says Assange will not be allowed to leave Ecuador’s embassy Julian Assange, the embattled founder of anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, has been granted asylum in Ecuador. Problem is, there’s a good chance he’ll never get there. Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño said Thursday morning…

Israel ‘will disappear,’ Iran says ahead of rallies

Israel is an artificial “outgrowth” in the Middle East that “will disappear,” Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said ahead of rallies on Friday against the Jewish state and supporting the Palestinians. The annual Quds Day marches were started in 1979 after the founding of the Islamic republic. The protests…

Two African boat migrants dead, 160 rescued off Malta

Malta’s navy recovered two bodies and rescued around 160 African migrants from two boats which got into trouble on the Mediterranean Sea, an armed forces spokesman said Thursday. Two more migrants were missing after they fell overboard. The first group of around 60 people was rescued around 70 nautical miles…

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