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Friday, Oct 31st

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Hong Kong pro-democracy protests expand in defiance of government

Hong Kong protestsAs Hong Kong opened for business Monday, pro-democracy protesters wearing masks and wielding umbrellas to protect against pepper spray and tear gas erected barricades to block security forces and expanded their reach amid chaotic scenes unfolding in one of the world's major financial centers.

Riot police withdrew from the extraordinary scene of clashes that erupted the evening before, and the government asked the student-led protesters to disperse peacefully.

But the protesters — whose use of umbrellas, plastic wrap and other improvised defenses against tear gas has led some to dub their movement the Umbrella Revolution — remained camped on a normally busy highway near Hong Kong government headquarters.

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Ashraf Ghani sworn in as Afghanistan's new president

Ashraf GhaniAfter an exhausting and contentious election process, Ashraf Ghani, a US-educated anthropologist turned reformist politician, has finally been sworn in as president of Afghanistan in the first peaceful transfer of power since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

“I am no better than you,” Ghani told an audience of 1,400 guests, including approximately 200 foreign dignitaries at the Arg, the presidential palace. “If I do something the proper way, support me. If I do something wrong, guide me,” he continued, quoting Abu Bakr, Sunni Islam’s first caliph.

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Trial of 46 alleged jihadists begins in Belgium

Jhadist trial in BelgiumThe Antwerp, Belgium, trial of 46 alleged jihadists who traveled to Syria to fight for the Islamic State begins Monday.

The trial is an indication of the number of people from European countries joining Islamist militant organizations in Syria and Iraq, as well as an exposure of Belgium as a recruiting hub.

The trial of eight arrested in Belgium and 38 still believed to be in Syria is an example of Europe's clampdown strategy, with increased prosecutions and tougher legislation against involvement in uprising such as that of the IS, which is attempting to create a self-described caliphate in the Middle East.

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Pro-Democracy Protesters Swarm Hong Kong, Violent Clashes With Police

Hong Kong riotsPolice used tear gas, batons and pepper spray against pro-democracy demonstrators in central Hong Kong Sunday, as tens of thousands joined a civil disobedience movement that seeks unfettered elections for the city’s top job.

The demonstrations, which were originally supposed to be confined to the Central district, continued into Monday morning and spread to various neighborhoods, including across the iconic harbor in Kowloon. Tear gas even billowed into the city’s famously efficient subway system.

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Questions linger over Hamas’ role in West Bank kidnapping that led to Gaza war

abdicted israeli teensAfter the killing Sept. 23 of two Palestinians suspected of kidnapping and fatally shooting three Jewish teenagers in the West Bank in June, Israeli officials declared the closure of a case that shook Israel and triggered a series of events that culminated in a 50-day war with Hamas in Gaza.

What remains unclear, however, is what role, if any, the militant Islamist group Hamas played in the abductions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hamas of responsibility for the kidnapping, then began a harsh crackdown that led to the worst eruption of Palestinian-Israeli violence in years.

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Volcano erupts in Japan; 7 missing, 40 injured

volcano erupts in JapanA volcano in central Japan erupted in spectacular fashion on Saturday, catching mountain climbers by surprise and stranding at least 40 injured people in areas that rescue workers have been unable to reach. Another seven people were missing.

The injured, unable to descend 3,067-meter (10,062-foot) Mount Ontake on their own, are staying in mountain lodges, said Sohei Hanamura, a crisis management official in Nagano prefecture. Thirty-two people had serious injuries, including at least seven who lost consciousness.

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Afghanistan: Taliban Behead 15 People After Seizing Ajrestan District

Taliban attack on villageHundreds of Taliban fighters have stormed and seized a key district in the Afghani Ghazni province, beheading 15 people suspected of collaborating with authorities, including women.

Islamist insurgents attacked the restive Ajrestan district, in a strategic position southwest of Kabul, in an attempt to advance towards the capital. Following a four-day battle, the militants overrun three villages, setting fire to houses and killing a total of 70 villagers.

Ajrestan, a small town surrounded by about 100 villages in a rural area, may allow the Taliban to launch attacks into nearby provinces in the east of the country. Deputy provincial police chief Asadullah Ensafi said militants beheaded 15 people, including local police officers and their family members.

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