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Syria talks at risk as rival sides fail to agree terms

Syria talks at risk of failureThe main Syrian opposition bloc has said it will not attend peace talks scheduled to begin in Geneva on Friday, in another setback to diplomatic efforts to end the five-year-long war.

The High Negotiations Committee (HNC), an opposition platform created in Saudi Arabia last month, said its delegation would not attend the talks because they had not received convincing answers from the UN to a set of demands for their participation.


Shinzo Abe: Japan won't fight Islamic State

Japan PM AbeJapan does not plan to join the international coalition against the Islamic State, the armed group also known as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday Japan's Self-Defense Forces would not be joining others in combat in the Middle East, TIME reported.

Tokyo's assistance would be limited to humanitarian needs instead, according to the Mainichi Shimbun.


UN chief calls on Israel to freeze settlement-building

UN Sec. generalProgress toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians requires that Israel freeze its settlement-building in the West Bank, the U.N. secretary-general said Tuesday, calling the settlement activities "an affront to the Palestinian people and to the international community."

Addressing the U.N. Security Council's periodic Middle East debate, Ban Ki-moon also urged both sides to act now "to prevent the two-state solution from slipping away forever." He condemned rocket fire from militant groups in Gaza into Israel but focused his strongest comments on Israel's settlement-building.


25,000 North Korean children starving amid drought

N. Korean children starvingA drought that slashed food production by 20 percent has resulted in malnutrition for nearly 25,000 North Korean children.

UNICEF, the United Nations' children's fund, said the children need emergency care and has asked donors for $18 million for North Korea, The Guardian reported Tuesday.

While UNICEF's request for funds is rising, donations are falling, according to the organization.  Sources say that whenever Pyongyang tests a nuclear weapon, international pledges fall precipitously.


Danish lawmakers OK seizing valuables from migrants

Danes approve seizing vluables from immigrantsDanish lawmakers voted Tuesday to let police seize valuables worth more than $1,500 from asylum-seekers to help cover their housing and food costs while their cases were being processed.

After more than three hours of debate, the minority Liberal Party government's bill was adopted in a 81-27 vote, with the support of the opposition Social Democrats and the anti-immigration Danish People's Party — Denmark's two largest parties. One lawmaker abstained and 70 others were absent.


Recap of Davos 2016

Economic Forum: Davos, 2016Are we on the cusp of a Fourth Industrial Revolution? Most participants in Davos think so. And it’s unlike anything we’ve ever experienced: “As a society, we are entering uncharted territory,” Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff told participants on the last day of this year’s Annual Meeting.

Less clear, however, is the impact this revolution will have on entire industries, regions and societies around the world. Will it be a force for good or evil? Will it provide new opportunities for all, or will it exacerbate inequalities?


Leading atheist's Jerusalem home vandalized

Home of leading Atheist vandalized in JerusalemA private home in the German Colony neighborhood of Jerusalem was found vandalized with a Star of David and allusions to Old Testament verses on its door and wall Thursday morning.

"Destruction of Amalek" was scrawled on the fence surrounding the house as was "Psalms 139: 21-22."

The full verses were not spray-painted as part of the graffiti, but the ones from Psalms read as follows:


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