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Asia shares gain ahead of US Fed chief's speech

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An elderly investor looks at stock prices at a securities exchange in Shanghai on August 22, 2014Hong Kong (AFP) - Asian shares mostly rose Friday after the S&P 500 index notched up a record high, as traders awaited a keynote speech by the Federal Reserve chief for clues on the timing of interest rate hikes.


Iraqi cleric urges leaders not to delay government

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Iraqi premier-designate Haider al-Abadi meets with Pastor Farouk Yousuf in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. Al-Abadi has until Sept. 11 to submit a list of Cabinet members to parliament for approval. Religious and ethnic minorities have called upon him to assemble an all-inclusive government. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim, Pool)BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric has called on the country's leaders to settle their differences in a "realistic and doable" manner and swiftly form a new government, badly needed in the face of a growing Sunni insurgency.


Philippines makes arrests in online extortion ring

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine police have arrested eight suspected members of an online syndicate accused of blackmailing more than 1,000 Hong Kong and Singapore residents after luring them into exposing themselves in front of webcam, an official said Friday.

Rosberg pips Hamilton in Spa opening practice

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Mercedes's German driver Nico Rosberg holds a press conference at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Spa on August 21, 2014 ahead of the Belgium Formula One Grand PrixWorld championship leader Nico Rosberg topped the times just ahead of his Mercedes team-mate and nearest rival Lewis Hamilton in Friday's opening free practice for Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix. Rosberg, who leads Hamilton by 11 points in the title race, clocked a best lap of one minute and 51.577 seconds around the spectacular and sprawling 7.004-km circuit set in the Belgian Ardennes. This gave him an advantage of just 0.097 seconds and confirmed the ferocity of the close contest between the two as they rejoin battle a month after their controversial disagreement at the Hungarian Grand Prix where Hamilton ignored team instructions to allow Rosberg to pass him. Two time former champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was third fastest ahead of Jenson Button of McLaren and Kimi Raikkonen, who has won four times in Belgium, in the second Ferrari.


Ukraine says Russian truck movement represents 'direct invasion' by Russia

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Ukrainian authorities said on Friday that 90 trucks from a Russian aid convoy had crossed into Ukraine without permission and Ukraine's state security chief said this amounted to a "direct invasion" by Russia. "They passed into Ukraine without clearance or participation of the International Red Cross or (Ukrainian) border guards," military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told journalists. "We consider this a direct invasion by Russia of Ukraine," Ukrainian state security chief Valentyn Nalivaychenko said in a separate statement to journalists.

Hamas kills 11 suspected informers for Israel

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Palestinians gather around the rubble of a destroyed house following Israeli strikes in the Rafah refugee camp, Southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas said it shot dead 11 suspected informants for Israel on Friday, a day after an Israeli airstrike on a house in southern Gaza Strip killed three top Hamas military commanders.


Russia, in sanctions retaliation, bars entry to some Japanese citizens

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Russia's foreign ministry said on Friday it had handed Japan's ambassador in Moscow a list of Japanese citizens barred from entering Russia. The ministry said in a statement that the list was a response to visa restrictions that Japan had imposed on a number of Russian citizens. The ministry did not say which Japanese citizens are on the barred list.

Mine collapse in Central African Republic kills 25

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Prospectors work at an open-pit at Ndassima gold mine, near Djoubissi north of BambariAt least 25 people have died in a collapse at a gold mine 60 km (40 miles) north of the Central African Republic town of Bambari, Ahmat Negat, spokesman for the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels, said on Friday. The mine at Ndassima is carved deep into a forested hilltop north of Seleka's military headquarters in Bambari.


Germany says regrets any offense caused by Qatar-IS link comments

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The German government has no evidence that Qatar is financing Islamic State and regrets any offense caused by a minister who suggested there was such a link, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said on Friday. The spokesman said the German government had been in contact with Qatar following the comments by Development Minister Gerd Mueller in a television interview on Wednesday. "If there were misunderstandings, we regret these," Martin Schaefer said at a government news conference. He described Qatar as a partner and "important regional player" but said the two countries had differences of opinion on some issues.

Sistani calls on Iraqis to confront Islamic State insurgents

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(Reuters) - Iraq's most influential cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said on Friday that all sides agreed on the need to form a "proper" government in Baghdad and repeated his call on compatriots to fight Islamic State insurgents. Speaking through an aide after Friday prayer sermons in the sacred Shi'ite Muslim city of Kerbala, Sistani expressed concern over the plight of about 18,000 Shi'ites in the town of Amerli who are surrounded by Islamic State militants. (Reporting by Raheem Salman; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

US casual-wear giant Gap to launch 40 stores in India

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Gap clothing is displayed at a Gap store on February 20, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Gap Inc. announced that they will raise their minimum wage for U.S. employees to nine dollars in June of 2014 and to $10 by June of 2015US casual-wear retail giant Gap Inc says it will open 40 stores in India, calling the expansion "an important next step" in its global growth strategy. The San Francisco-based company, known for its relaxed-style denim and other attire, is the latest foreign company to enter India to tap its increasingly brand-conscious and expanding middle-class. "India is an emerging, vibrant market and an important next step in our global expansion strategy," Gap global president Steve Sunnucks said in a statement late Thursday. It expects to have 110 Gap stores in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan by the end of 2014, while the Gap brand is already present in nearly 50 countries.


Ireland testing dead person recently in Africa for Ebola

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A laboratory technican of the company Icon Genetics prepares proteines from Tobacco plants (Nicotiana benthamiana) for weighing in a laboratory in HalleIreland is testing a dead person who recently returned from Africa for the Ebola virus, the Health Service Executive (HSE) of Ireland said on Thursday. Appropriate infection control procedures are being put in place in the community and at the mortuary in the north-west county of Donegal where the person's remains lie, pending the outcome of laboratory tests, the HSE said. "The public health department was made aware earlier today of the remains of an individual, discovered early this morning, who had recently travelled to one of the areas in Africa affected by the current Ebola virus disease outbreak," it said.


The day Ernest Hemingway took the Ritz bar

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The entrance of the Ritz hotel in Paris, seen on October 18, 2011The liberation of the bar of the Ritz Hotel in Paris by the writer Ernest Hemingway 70 years ago, as the French capital was freed from its Nazi occupiers, is the stuff of legend. Hemingway, a war correspondent for the American "Collier's" magazine who went on to win the Nobel prize for literature in 1954, was embedded with US 4th Division troops that landed on the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944. Over the next two months he stuck with the foot soldiers as they marched towards Paris in support of the French 2nd Armoured Division, which entered the capital on August 25. Hemingway had a special attachment to the luxurious Ritz hotel, and its bar, where he had spent a great deal of time before the war.


Documented death toll in Syria war at least 191,369 through April 2014: U.N.

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A Syrian army soldier loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad chats with fellow fighters sitting on a balcony of a damaged building in Mleiha, which lies on the edge of the eastern Ghouta region near Damascus airport, after taking control of the area frBy Stephanie Nebehay GENEVA (Reuters) - At least 191,369 people have been killed in Syria's conflict through April, more than double the figure documented a year ago and probably still an under-estimate, the United Nations human rights office said on Friday. The U.N. report, based on data from four groups and the government that were cross-checked, reflects a reality of killing and torture while the civil war has "dropped off the international radar", U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said.


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