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Friday, Apr 18th

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Israel cancels Palestinian prisoner release

Palestinian prisonersIsrael will not free an expected fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners because of the Palestinians' push for recognition at the United Nations, Israel's chief negotiator said Thursday.

A statement from negotiator Tzipi Livni sent to The Associated Press described the Palestinians' decision to seek accessions to 15 international conventions through the U.N. violated the terms set for the prisoners' release. That comes as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described their U.N. move as a response to Israel's failure to release prisoners as promised at the end of March.

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US secretly created 'Cuban Twitter' to stir unrest

Cuban twitter created by USIn July 2010, Joe McSpedon, a U.S. government official, flew to Barcelona to put the final touches on a secret plan to build a social media project aimed at undermining Cuba's communist government.

McSpedon and his team of high-tech contractors had come in from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Washington and Denver. Their mission: to launch a messaging network that could reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans. To hide the network from the Cuban government, they would set up a byzantine system of front companies using a Cayman Islands bank account, and recruit unsuspecting executives who would not be told of the company's ties to the U.S. government.

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Israel: radical settlers spray hate graffiti on monastery

Jerusalem vandalsVandals scrawled hate graffiti on a Catholic monastery in central Israel and slashed the tires of nearby cars weeks before Pope Francis visits the Holy land, Israeli police said Tuesday.

Slogans against Mideast peace talks with the Palestinians as well as graffiti disparaging Jesus and Mary were found on the outer walls of the Deir Rafat monastery close to Jerusalem.

Israeli police are investigating and searching for suspects, spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

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Huge Earthquake Strikes Off Coast of Chile

chile earthquakeA magnitude-8.2 earthquake off the coast of Chile has sparked tsunami warnings and watches in countries throughout the Pacific, including Peru and Ecuador. Potential threats to Hawaii are currently being evaluated

A magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck off the coast of Chile Tuesday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says a tsunami has been generated as a result of the earthquake, but it remains uncertain if a tsunami will reach land.

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Japan Ends Half-Century Ban on Weapons Exports

Shinzo AbeTaking his nation another step away from its postwar pacifism, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discarded a half-century ban on the export of weapons and military hardware on Tuesday, a move aimed at helping Japan assume a larger regional security role to offset China’s growing military might.

The decision, which had been under consideration for years before Mr. Abe took office, replaced the self-imposed ban dating back to the late 1960s with new, still-restrictive guidelines that permit the export of weapons only to allies and partners that agree not to sell them to third nations without Japanese approval. The new guidelines will also make it easier for Japan to join multinational development projects for expensive new weapons systems, like the American-led effort to build the F-35 stealth fighter jet.

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Yemenis affected by U.S. drone strikes to launch victims' union

Yemeni dron victimsFriends and family members of victims of U.S. drone strikes in Yemen are launching a national drone victims’ organization Tuesday to support affected communities and lobby for a change in Yemeni government policy regarding the covert program.

The National Organization for Drone Victims (NODV), with the assistance of UK-based legal charity Reprieve, will conduct investigations of drone strikes and highlight the civilian impact of the U.S.’ controversial drone program in Yemen.

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Israeli court convicts ex-PM Olmert of bribery

EHUD OlmertAn Israeli court on Monday convicted former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in a wide-ranging bribery case, a verdict that could send him to prison and that is likely to rule out any immediate hopes for a political comeback.

The development seals the most serious legal battle the 68-year-old Olmert has been waging since he was forced to step down as prime minister in 2009 amid a flurry of corruption allegations.

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