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Trump tells Vietnam prime minister he hopes ties will grow stronger

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In a telephone call, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump told Vietnam’s prime minister he wanted to further strengthen fast-warming ties between the two countries, the government of the Southeast Asian nation said on Thursday.

Vietnam has advanced ties with the United States to a new level under the Obama administration as it faces down communist neighbor China’s challenge to its territorial claims in the busy waterway of the South China Sea.

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During Wednesday’s conversation, Vietnamese premier Nguyen Xuan Phuc congratulated Trump on his election win and stressed the importance of maintaining friendship and cooperation.

“President-elect Trump spoke highly of the achievements of Vietnam, as well as the positive developments in bilateral ties,” Vietnam’s government said on its news website.

“He also asserted his wish to cooperate with Vietnam to accelerate the relationship between the two countries.”

Trump has had conversations with several leaders of countries locked in maritime disputes with China, among them Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan.

His trade platform runs counter to Vietnam’s interests, however, with his opposition to a Trans-Pacific Partnership proving a major setback for Southeast Asia’s biggest exporter to the United States.

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Trump and Phuc discussed ways to promote economic ties, trade and investment, the government added.

In a statement, Trump’s transition team confirmed the conversation, saying the two men “discussed a range of shared interests and agreed to work together to continue strengthening the relationship between the two nations”.

Just days after Trump’s win, Phuc told parliament that ratification of the TPP would be shelved because of political changes in the United States, but Vietnam still wanted good relations with Washington.

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In a separate development, a U.S. guided-missile destroyer, the Mustin, visited Cam Ranh international port on Thursday in a routine technical stop, the U.S. embassy said.

The ship’s visit was “an example of the depth of our comprehensive partnership and the importance of strengthening our civilian and military ties,” said U.S. Ambassador Ted Osius.

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Vietnam has expressed support for the United States to maintain its security presence in Asia. Washington fully lifted a U.S. lethal arms embargo on Vietnam in May, allowing closer defense links and some joint military exercises.

(Reporting by My Pham in HANOI; Additional reporting by Steve Holland in WASHINGTON; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)


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West Virginia mail carrier busted for helping GOP by tampering with absentee ballot requests

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A mail carrier in West Virginia is facing jail time after he was caught tampering with absentee ballot requests in a way that suppressed turnout in local Democratic primary elections.

BuzzFeed News reports that 47-year-old Thomas Cooper pleaded guilty this week to attempting to defraud the residents of West Virginia of a fair election when he switched West Virginia residents' ballot requests from Democratic to Republican ballots.

Cooper altered a total of eight different ballot requests, although he told investigators that he did it "as a joke" and didn't mean to cause any harm. Cooper's attorney, Scott Curnutte, similarly told BuzzFeed News that Cooper's actions had just been a "silly lark."

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France investigates report of bodies ‘left to rot’ at Paris research centre

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French investigating magistrates will probe claims that human corpses donated for science were left to rot and be eaten by rats at a university research facility, the Paris prosecutor's office said Thursday.

A probe into "violations of the integrity of a corpse" was handed over to the magistrates by prosecutors who handled the initial phase of the investigation after l'Express magazine reported the scandal last November.

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Dutch ‘golden age’ statue stirs ghosts of colonial past

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The statue of a Dutch 17th century colonialist has become a flashpoint for the debate in the Netherlands on its past of slavery and colonization in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests.

For some, the sculpture of Jan Pieterszoon Coen, a key official in the Dutch East India Company considered a national hero for colonising what is now Indonesia, is a memorial to the Dutch "Golden Age".

Traditionalists, like populist eurosceptic leader Thierry Baudet, have laid flowers at the foot of the statue in the port town of Hoorn to show support after several statues of historical figures were damaged in the Netherlands.

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