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Saturday, Apr 19th

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Syria Misses Another Chemical Weapon Deadline

Syrian chemical weaponsSyria has failed to meet another key deadline for turning over its chemical weapons stockpile as part of an internationally brokered agreement.

Under a February 5 deadline set by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Syria was to have given up its complete stockpile. Syria has so far sent only two shipments of chemicals to be destroyed, amounting to less than five percent of its stockpile.

The OPCW says Damascus is not doing everything it can to meet that timetable.

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Israel cuts seminary funds, angers ultra-Orthodox Jews

ultra orthodox israelIsrael's Finance Ministry said on Wednesday it was cutting funds to seminary students exempt from compulsory military service, in the latest battle between the Jewish state's secular majority and an ultra-Orthodox minority.

Seminary students, many of whom rely on state stipends, have for decades been excused from army service under blanket exemptions that have long stoked resentment in a country whose other Jewish citizens are called to duty at the age of 18.

The issue is at the heart of an emotional national debate.

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UN Committee Blasts Vatican on Sex Abuse, Abortion

Vatican blastedThe Vatican "systematically" adopted policies that allowed priests to rape and molest tens of thousands of children over decades, a U.N. human rights committee said Wednesday, urging the Holy See to open its files on pedophiles and bishops who concealed their crimes.

In a devastating report hailed by abuse victims, the U.N. committee severely criticized the Holy See for its attitudes toward homosexuality, contraception and abortion and said it should change its own canon law to ensure children's rights and their access to health care are guaranteed.

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Afghanistan's Karzai in secret talks with Taliban

KarzaiAfghan President Hamid Karzai has been holding secret talks with Taliban officials in the hope of persuading them to make peace with his government, his spokesman told Reuters on Tuesday, confirming a New York Times report.

"I can confirm that ... Taliban are willing more than ever to join the peace process," Aimal Faizi said. "Contacts have been made and we are also in touch with them."

A member of Afghanistan's High Peace Council also confirmed that talks had taken place, but was measured in his assessment of their success.

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Activists: Syrian forces kill 83 people in barrel bomb attacks

Barrel bombs in SyriaSyrian military helicopters dropped more improvised "barrel bombs" on the northern city of Aleppo Sunday, a monitoring group said, bringing the death toll to at least 83 people in the latest episode of a campaign many consider a war crime.

Most of the victims killed since Friday have been civilians from the city's eastern districts, including women and children, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a broad network of sources across Syria.

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Israel's finance minister halts funds to West Bank settlements

israeli settlementsIsrael's finance minister halted the transfer of government funds to West Bank Jewish settlements on Saturday and ordered a probe into allegations that money meant to support municipalities had been funneled to a pro-settler political group.

The money in question had been earmarked to cover security and building maintenance fees that were incurred when Israel froze settlement building for 10 months during 2009 and 2010, the Finance Ministry said in a statement.

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Indonesia volcano erupts again; kills at least 14

Indonesia volcanoAn Indonesian volcano that has been rumbling for months unleased a major eruption Saturday, killing 14 people just a day after authorities allowed thousands of villagers who had been evacuated to return to its slopes, saying that activity was decreasing, officials said.

Among the dead on Mount Sinabung were a local television journalist and four high-school students and their teacher who were visiting the mountain to see the eruptions up close, said National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. At least three other people were injured, and authorities feared the death toll would rise.

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