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International

US Christmas spending shows weakest growth in four years

By DPA

Washington : Credit card usage and other data showed a disappointing shopping season for US retailers after consumer spending rose 3.6 percent over the holiday spending period, the slowest growth rate in four years, media reports said Wednesday.

The figure, calculated from Nov 23 to Dec 24, rose 6.6 percent in 2006 and 8.7 percent in 2005, according to MasterCard's SpendingPulse data.

The report was cited by The New York Times and Washington Post in their online editions.

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Wider scope for dissent in Cuba: Raul Castro

By IANS

Havana : Cuba will continue with a single party system with wider scope to accommodate dissent and differences of opinion, acting President Raul Castro has said even as rights groups point out scores of dissidents are still in jail.

"If we have a single party and that represents the interests of all the people, it's good," Castro was quoted as saying Tuesday by Spain's EFE news agency Wednesday.

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Nepal government orders probe into deadly bridge collapse

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

Kathmandu : The Nepal government Wednesday announced an investigation into the bridge collapse in a remote village a day earlier in which at least 15 people were killed and scores remained missing as rescuers continued work braving sharp chill.

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Bolivia floods leave eight dead, thousands homeless

By IANS

La Paz : Floods have killed at least eight people and left thousands of families homeless over the last fortnight, Bolivia's Civil Defence chief said Wednesday.

Johnny Patzi told Spain's EFE news agency that since Dec 15, five people have been killed in the central province of Cochabamba, two more in the southern Andean province of Potosi and another in Viacha, a town near La Paz.

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Over 80 Argentines in hospital after Christmas celebrations

By IANS

Buenos Aires : At least 82 people were hospitalised between Monday night and Tuesday morning here for treatment of burns from fireworks and other holiday-related injuries, doctors said Wednesday.

The number of accidents reported this year, however, was below the figure registered during last year's Christmas Eve and Christmas celebrations.

Most of the injured were treated at Pedro Lagleyze Eye Hospital, Santa Lucia Hospital and the burn hospital, where doctors said the majority of the patients were minors.

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Russian FM Sergei Lavrov arrives in Kursk

By IRNA

Kursk, Central Russia : Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived for a working visit in Kursk, Central Russia, on Tuesday, Itar Tass reported.

The Governor of the Kursk region Alexander Mikhailov met Lavrov at the airport. On Wednesday, December 26, the governor will chair a meeting of the heads of Russia's border regions. They will discuss prospects for expanding border and inter-regional economic ties taking the so- called euro-regions model as an example. One such European region is called Yaroslavna.

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One killed, three injured in plane explosion in Kazakhstan

By RIA Novosti

Astana : One person was killed and three injured when a private German airplane veered off the runway and exploded at Almaty International Airport in Kazakhstan, rescuers said on Wednesday.

The Gulf Stream plane was midway through a flight from Hannover to Hong-Kong and was making a refueling stop in Almaty, the former Kazakh capital, an airport spokeswoman said.

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Another 14 bodies found under collapsed Egyptian building

By RIA Novosti

Cairo : Egyptian rescuers have pulled out another 14 bodies from underneath the rubble of a residential building that collapsed in the port city of Alexandria on Monday, national media said on Wednesday.

At least ten people remain trapped in the debris of the 12-storey building, which caved in on Monday morning after the majority of residents had left for work.

On Tuesday, Egyptian rescuers pulled out a 24-year-old woman who had been buried beneath the rubble for about 24 hours, bringing the number of survivors to three.

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Prevent extremist tendencies from taking root - Abdullah

By IRNA

Kuala Lumpur : Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Tuesday reminded Malaysians not to allow extremist tendencies to take root and undermine interracial harmony in the country.

The prime minister said the moderates should play a role in ensuring that members of the public were not swayed by extremist propaganda which played on people's emotions by raising sensitive religious and racial issues, Bernama reported.

"I'm really concerned when issues involving religion are brought up from time to time and the attendant problems that all of us would need to address.

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Woman jailed for taking singer R. Kelly's picture

By IANS

London : A 49-year-old woman, Jean Johnson, was sent to five days in jail for taking a picture of singer R. Kelly during his child porn trial in court on her cell phone camera.

Kelly has been charged with child porn charges for the past five years, tmz.com reports. Johnson, who snapped the pictures at Kelly's recent hearing, pleaded guilty to contempt of court and was sent to five days in jail but was released for time served.

Johnson claimed she is Kelly's "biggest fan".

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