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Thursday, Dec 18th

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Zimbabwe: Britain, U.S. Caused Cholera, Says Govt

A Zimbabwean cabinet minister has accused Britain, helped by the United States, of masterminding the country's cholera outbreak in a "biological chemical war, a genocidal onslaught" against the country.

The accusation was published in the government-controlled Herald newspaper by Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, the information minister in President Robert Mugabe's government

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Russia scraps right to jury trial

The country's parliament voted to back a bill backed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's dominant United Russia party giving three judges the right to rule on cases involving terrorism, hostage-taking, armed insurrection, sabotage and civil disturbances.

The bill will go before Russia's upper house, the Federation Council where approval is expected to be a formality, before it becomes law.

The move came 15 years to the day since the adoption of Russia's first post-Soviet Constitution which reintroduced jury trials abolished by the Bolsheviks in 1917.

Critics said the move raised the spectre of a return to Soviet-style trials controlled solely by judges.

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Israeli drug smugglers hit Australia

ISRAELI drug lords are increasingly targeting Australia for ecstasy smuggling, according to confidential Israel Police intelligence that shows crime syndicates view it as a booming market for the party drug.

Israeli crime syndicates control a significant share of the global ecstasy trade and have a long history of supplying the Australian market.

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Nations sign cluster bomb treaty

The first of more than 100 countries have begun signing a treaty to ban current designs of cluster bombs, at a conference in Oslo, Norway. Campaigners are hailing the treaty as a major breakthrough.

But some of the biggest stockpilers, including the US, Russia and China, are not among the signatories.

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TVNL Comment: The strongest military powers in the world, including Israel, refuse to sign.  How is this a 'major breakthrough' rather than a 'major failure'?

Raul Castro to Sean Penn: he'd meet Obama at Gitmo

Cuban President Raul Castro said in an interview released Wednesday that he would like to meet President-elect Barack Obama on "neutral ground" - and he suggested the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

Penn asked if Castro would meet with Obama in Washington. The Cuban president said he "would have to think about it," but that it would not be fair for either leader to go to the other's territory. Instead he suggested the base at Guantanamo.

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UBS clients seek amnesty on U.S. taxes: report

Some wealthy clients of UBS AG are coming forward to make amends with U.S. tax authorities after a former UBS private banker was indicted, a sign that U.S. efforts to battle offshore tax evasion are having the desired effect.

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TVNL Comment: Hey, can the rest of get in on this?  Can us ordinary folks avoid taxes and than ask for amnesty?  Just asking.

Germany drops attempt to ban Scientology

Germany is dropping its pursuit of a ban on Scientology after finding insufficient evidence of illegal activity, security officials said Friday. Domestic intelligence services will continue to monitor the group, officials said. The German branch of the Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology has been under observation by domestic intelligence services for more than a decade.

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