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Athletics center-stage as Phelps chases more gold

The first track and field medals go up for grabs at the Olympics Friday as American swimming superstar Michael Phelps chases his third gold of the Games. With swimming due to complete its programme on Saturday, the transition to athletics begins at the 80,000-capacity Olympic Stadium with the women’s 10,000m…

Saudi woman’s historic bow over in 82 seconds

Judoka Wojdan Shaherkani became the first ever female Saudi athlete to compete at the Olympic Games on Friday, but her historic debut lasted just 82 seconds. Looking nervous and wearing a swimming cap-style head covering, she was beaten by Melissa Mojica of Puerto Rico in the first round of the…

Hague pledges more ‘non-lethal’ help for Syria rebels

Foreign Secretary William Hague pledged greater support for Syria’s rebel fighters on Friday, as the battle for the country’s commercial capital Aleppo intensified. “Given the scale of death and suffering and the failure so far of the diplomatic process we will, over the coming weeks, increase our practical but non-lethal…

Quebec vintner turns tomatoes into wine

Canadian wine lovers have been raising a glass to an increasingly popular but unusual vintage crafted from a secret Belgian family recipe four generations old using … tomatoes. Pascal Miche, a former pork butcher in his 40s, says his is the first tomato wine to be successfully commercialized — with…

Investigations of Shell’s Nigeria spills a ‘fiasco’: Amnesty

LAGOS — Rights group Amnesty International said Friday investigations into Shell oil spills in Nigeria were a “fiasco,” alleging the company repeatedly blamed sabotage in an effort to avoid responsibility. “No matter what evidence is presented to Shell about oil spills, they constantly hide behind the ‘sabotage’ excuse and dodge…

Putin suggests leniency for Pussy Riot punk band protesters

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday he did not favour a tough punishment in the trial of an all-girl punk band which performed a song against his rule in Moscow’s biggest church. “There is nothing good in what they did,” news agencies quoted Putin as saying about the…

British police charge former News of the World editor with hacking

LONDON — British police on Thursday formally charged former tabloid editor Rebekah Brooks with phone hacking in a long-running press scandal which has struck at the heart of the country’s institutions. Police last week charged Prime Minister David Cameron’s ex-media chief Andy Coulson and six other current or former employees…

‘Several hundred’ police patrol Jerusalem gay pride parade

Thousands marched in central Jerusalem on Thursday for a milestone 10th anniversary Gay Pride parade, passing by the spot where an ultra-Orthodox Jew stabbed three participants in 2005. Some carried rainbow banners and others had signs proclaiming: “A decade of marching in Jerusalem,” and: “Love thy neighbour.” Opposition to such…

Kofi Annan quits Syrian special peace envoy

Kofi Annan is quitting as UN-Arab League envoy for Syria after battling to persuade President Bashar al-Assad to accept a peace plan, the UN said Thursday. UN leader Ban Ki-moon announced “with deep regret,” that Annan had tendered his resignation, as the Syrian civil war spiraled further out of control.…

Hong Kong officials warn residents of toxic air pollution

Hong Kong choked under the worst smog ever recorded in the city Thursday, with residents warned to stay indoors, away from the blanket of toxic haze, officials said. Air pollutant readings broke records going back to 1999, except for levels reached when a natural dust storm hit the southern Chinese…

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