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Sunday, Apr 20th

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Drought declared in nearly 80 percent of Queensland, Australia

Queensland droughtNearly 80 percent of Australia's Queensland state has been declared drought-stricken -- the largest area the state has ever that parched, officials said.

Thirty-eight of the state's shires have full drought conditions, including large sections of the Queensland coast, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Friday.

"It's really only that coastal strip of Queensland of roughly Rockhampton through to Cape that is not in drought, bar[ing] some other small locations around the state, so that does confirm that this is a more significant drought event than Queensland has ever seen before," said Queensland Agriculture Minister John McVeigh.

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France's Nicolas Sarkozy 'had phone tapped by judges'

sarkozyFormer French President Nicolas Sarkozy has had his phone tapped for the past year on the orders of judges investigating alleged campaign donations from Libya, it is claimed.

And Le Monde newspaper says the phone taps have revealed evidence of tampering with the justice system.  It says a senior prosecutor in the country's highest court was feeding Mr Sarkozy confidential information.

Mr Sarkozy's lawyer denies the claims and says the phone taps were illegal.

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Why do we need an International Women's Day?

International Women's dayWhat does it mean in today's world to take an established tradition and make it your own? We are young women of the millennial generation, with more than 100 International Women's Days (IWD) gone by. We live in an era of increasing inequalities of wealth and resources and continue to witness a frightening backlash against women's rights gained to date.

IWD remains meaningful to us because we see young feminist activists claiming this day as their own, gathering at the forefront of today's most heated disputes, demanding access to abortion, amplifying voices of sex workers, or seeking justice for the disappearances of women human rights defenders. They are casting off the taboo of feminism, applying new social media technologies and drawing on the arts to make these celebrations relevant and expressive of multiple realities, identities, and movements.

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US imposes visa restrictions on Russian officials as Obama signs sanctions order

Angela MerkelBarack Obama ramped up pressure on Russian president Vladimir Putin on Thursday by imposing visa restrictions on officials for “threatening the sovereignty of Ukraine” and signing an executive order enabling further sanctions against Moscow.

The White House said the measures were a response to Russia’s “ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, a reference to its intervention in the southern peninsula of Crimea.

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Crimea parliament asks to join Russia

Teirgaliev: Crimea is now RussiaMPs in Crimea have asked Moscow to allow the southern Ukrainian region to become part of the Russian Federation.  The parliament said if its request was granted, Crimean citizens could give their view in a referendum on 16 March.

Ukraine's interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said the move had no legal grounds.  Crimea, a region whose population is mostly ethnic Russian, has been at the centre of tensions following the fall of Ukraine's pro-Moscow president.

Pro-Russian and Russian forces have been in de facto control of the peninsula for several days.

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Putin: military force would be 'last resort' in Ukraine

Putin softens stancePresident Vladimir Putin delivered a robust defense of Russia's actions in Crimea on Tuesday and reserved the right to use force in Ukraine as a last resort, but he sought to ease East-West tension over fears of war in the former Soviet republic.

Russia could use all options to protect compatriots who were living in "terror" in Ukraine, Putin told his first news conference since the crisis began, but force was not needed for now. His comments lifted Russian bond markets after a panic sell-off on Monday.

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Karzai says Afghan war not fought in his country's interest: report

KarzaiExpressing "extreme anger" toward the U.S. government, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in an interview with the Washington Post that the war in Afghanistan was not fought with his country's interests in mind.

"Afghans died in a war that's not ours,' Karzai said in the interview published on Sunday, just a month before an election to pick his successor.

He was quoted as saying he was certain the 12-year-old war, America's longest and launched after the attacks of September 11, 2001, was "for the U.S. security and for the Western interest."

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