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Exploding hydrogen balloons at Armenian political rally injure many

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YEREVAN — More than 140 people were injured on Friday when gas-filled balloons exploded at a governing party campaign concert in the Armenian capital ahead of parliamentary polls on Sunday, officials said.

The emergencies ministry said 144 people suffered burns when scores of promotional balloons burst into flames at a concert staged by President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican party in Yerevan’s central Republic Square.

Armenian Internet sites showed a fireball rising into the air and chaotic images of people screaming in confusion and anger.

“The balloons exploded and caught fire after people holding the bunches released them from their hands into the air,” a witness told AFP.

It was not immediately clear what caused the explosions although police said they were looking into various potential reasons including the “improper storage of flammable substances”.

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“All the victims had either medium or light injuries. Now doctors are trying to revive them from shock,” Health Minister Harutiun Kushkian told reporters.

The promotional balloons were decorated with the governing party’s election slogan “Let’s believe in change”.

The incident marred a largely calm election campaign and President Sarkisian promised a full investigation.

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“I urge everyone to keep calm. Let us pray for all the victims and wish them a quick recovery,” he said in a statement.

Sarkisian’s party has been tipped by opinion polls to triumph in Sunday’s election ahead of its ruling coalition rival, the Prosperous Armenia party led by a wealthy former arm wrestling champion.

The vote is the biggest test of the ex-Soviet state’s democratic credentials since disputed presidential elections in 2008, when mass rallies ended in bloody clashes between riot police and opposition supporters that left 10 people dead, casting a shadow over Sarkisian’s administration.

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The authorities in the mountainous country of 3.3 million people have promised an unprecedentedly clean contest for the 131-seat National Assembly in the hope of avoiding further political turmoil.

Opposition parties however have questioned the validity of the opinion polls and threatened demonstrations if there are mass falsifications.

Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved.

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Photo PANARMENIAN, Tigran Mehrabyan via AFP


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White supremacists accounted for majority of terror-related arrests in last year: FBI director

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FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers on Tuesday that his agency has so far made roughly 100 terrorism-related arrests so far this fiscal year -- and the majority of them are related in some way to the white supremacist movement.

As Washington Post reporter Matt Zapotosky reports, Wray made his remarks about white supremacist terrorists while being questioned by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) during an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Despite the fact that white supremacists accounted for a majority of terror-related arrests in the first three quarters of this fiscal year, however, Wray also said that the FBI still considers jihadi-inspired terrorism to be the greater overall threat.

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Florida cop runs down joy-riding black teen on bicycle — then officers shock him with a Taser

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Florida police chased down a joy-riding black teenager, struck the bicycle he was riding and then violently arrested him after he fled in terror.

Jaydon Stubbs and four friends were riding July 17 on their way to Hollywood Beach when an officer spotted the teens in an area where there had been a string of recent burglaries, reported WPLG-TV.

The officer saw the boys popping wheelies and ignoring traffic laws, so she tried to stop them for questioning -- but they split up and rode away from her.

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Here’s how Boris Johnson is already shaping up to be Britain’s Trump

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On Tuesday, Boris Johnson, former British Foreign Secretary and leader of the Conservative Party, secured the votes in Parliament to become the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

It is an outcome that was long considered likely — and it creates parallels with the 2016 election of President Donald Trump in the United States, as there are a great many similarities between the politics and styles of these two men, notes NPR.

First, and most obviously, both men are brusque right-wing populists who have made controlling immigration their core issue on the political stage — in Trump's case it is building the wall, while in Johnson's case it is implementing Brexit.

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