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GENEVA (Reuters) - China dismissed a U.N. report alleging North Korea has committed crimes against humanity on Monday, effectively confirming the fears of human rights advocates that Beijing will shield its ally Pyongyang from international prosecution.

The report, published in February, accused the reclusive country of killings and torture comparable to Nazi-era atrocities and said officials, possibly even Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un himself, should face the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Chen Chuandong, a counselor at China's mission in Geneva, told the U.N. Human Rights Council that the independent commission of inquiry had made unfounded accusations and made recommendations that were "divorced from reality".

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A recent case of a German-born teenage girl traveling to Syria to fight on the side of Islamists has created alarm. Some speculate about a possible increase in such cases and the associated terror threat on home soil.

Women in headscarves and face veils with automatic rifles in their hands: images such as these attract public attention and increase online article views and newspaper sales. "There's always great interest in these female jihadists," said Islam expert Guido Steinberg from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP).

The phenomenon of female jihadists has been observed on several occasions in recent years, in places such as Palestine, Iraq and Chechnya. According to Rita Breuer from Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), these women are seen as a tool for promoting the jihadist cause in the media.

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The organization cut ties with ISIS extremists, and now Al Qaeda's slightly less militant wing, Jabhat Al-Nusra, is fighting fiercely for Syrian hearts and minds

 

Over three years, the conflict in Syria has transformed from simple anti-government protests into a bloody sectarian civil war. But it’s not just a conflict fought with guns, tanks and bombs. It’s a full-on hearts-and-minds propaganda battle being waged on YouTube and other social media platforms.

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The billionaire CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, criticised US government surveillance in a Facebook post on Thursday, saying it was a “threat” to the internet – and revealed he had called Barack Obama personally to air his concerns.

 

Zuckerberg made his remarks a day after the The Intercept website reported that the NSA has been using automated systems to spread malware over the internet, sometimes using “fake” Facebook servers.

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The personal details of thousands of Morrisons staff including salaries, bank account details and addresses have been stolen and published online.

 

Police are investigating the serious security breach which occurred on Thursday night and is believed to have been the result of an internal leak, with data copied onto a portable storage device and taken out of Morrisons' Bradford headquarters.

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BP is closer to restoring its operations and reputation in the US after agreeing a deal with environmental protection authorities that it will enable the oil firm to bid for new drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

The British-based group had started legal proceedings against the US environmental protection agency (EPA) which had banned BP from new contracts on the grounds that it had failed to correct problems properly since the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010.

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A Guantánamo Bay detainee who is fighting a legal battle against US authorities over force-feeding at the detention centre has been released after being held for more than a decade without charge, the American government has announced.

 

Ahmed Belbacha was first cleared for release in 2007 by the Bush administration after five years behind bars. He has, however, had to wait a further seven years before being transferred to the custody of the government in his homeland Algeria.

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The US came under sharp criticism at the UN human rights committee in Geneva on Thursday for a long list of human rights abuses that included everything from detention without charge at Guantánamo, drone strikes and NSA surveillance, to the death penalty, rampant gun violence and endemic racial inequality.

At the start of a two-day grilling of the US delegation, the committee’s 18 experts made clear their deep concerns about the US record across a raft of human rights issues. Many related to faultlines as old as America itself, such as guns and race.

Other issues were relative newcomers. The experts raised questions about the National Security Agency’s surveillance of digital communications in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations. It also intervened in this week’s dispute between the CIA and US senators by calling for declassification and release of the 6,300-page report into the Bush administration’s use of torture techniques and rendition that lay behind the current CIA-Senate dispute.

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The search was continuing on Thursday for victims of a gas explosion in the East Harlem neighbourhood of New York that killed at least eight people and left more than 70 injured.

Minutes before the explosion, utility company Con Edison received a call from a nearby building warning about a gas smell. As Con Edison employees headed to the scene, the explosion caused the collapse of two buildings and resulted in a fierce fire.

The explosion has raised questions about the age and condition of infrastructure in New York City and around the United States. A report published this week showed many gas pipes in the city are more than 50 years old.

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Chinese authorities have detained the director of a human rights website and three citizen journalists, one of them 17 years old, for reporting two recent "incidents" in Tiananmen Square, including an apparent self-immolation.

Police detained Huang Qi, the founder of the rights website 64 Tianwang, at about 3pm on Thursday in the south-western metropolis Chengdu, his mother Pu Wenqing said in a phone interview. Tianwang had posted many of the detained journalists' reports.

"Seven police officers came directly to our home, some of them Beijing police," Pu said. "They said they wanted to understand a situation," without giving further details. The officers confiscated Huang's computer, mobile phone and USB thumb drives, she said. Huang is being held incommunicado at a local police station.

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Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and the US secretary of state, John Kerry, are meeting in London on Friday for talks on Ukraine before Sunday's planned referendum in Crimea.

The meeting is taking place at the US ambassador's residence in central London as Kerry attempts to head off a vote that could lead to Crimea – now under the control of Russian troops – deciding to become part of Russia.

Both the US and the EU say that if the referendum – which they have declared illegal – goes ahead, Moscow will face the prospect of fresh sanctions being imposed.

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Colorado's new Corrections Department director is promising to reform solitary confinement policies after spending the night in an isolated cell, an experiment he said left him "feeling twitchy and paranoid."

In an opinion letter to the New York Times (http://nyti.ms/1mhtymN ) published Thursday, Executive Director Rick Raemisch said he suffered mental anguish after spending only 20 hours in solitary confinement on Jan. 23 to see what it was like. The average time spent in solitary in Colorado is 23 months, and some prisoners spend 20 years with limited contact with prison officers or other prisoners.

 

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United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power ripped into Russia's government during an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Monday on the Ukrainian crisis.

 

Power accused Russia of an act of aggression, not a humanitarian mission. She said there was nothing to justify its conduct in escalating military operations in the Crimea region of Ukraine after the ouster of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of the Russian government of President Vladimir Putin.

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Few Americans had ever heard of al Shabaab before the fall of 2013. That changed on Sept. 21, when gunmen armed with AK-47s entered the Westgate Mall, a suburban-style shopping center in an upscale neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya, and began calmly, methodically hunting down and murdering shoppers, one by one. As seen on surveillance cameras, the killers are remarkably calm and unhurried, betraying not a hint of anxiety as they go about their grim work.

 

Meanwhile, the organization boasted about the attack on its Twitter feed, announcing, “The Mujahideen entered #Westgate Mall today at around noon and are still inside the mall, fighting the #Kenyan Kuffar [infidels] inside their own turf.”

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Republicans have a large, 8-point advantage among voters in states with Senate races, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday.

 

Democrats hold a slight edge in the overall generic congressional ballot. But in the key battle for the Senate, Republicans lead the generic ballot by a 50-42 margin in states with a 2014 Senate race.

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford claims he was 'set up' by late night television host Jimmy Kimmel.

 

Ford traveled to Los Angeles to appear on Kimmel's show Monday night where he was mocked for his crack smoking scandal and videos showing his drunken behavior and public pratfalls.

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Another Bitcoin site disappears.

 

This time Flexcoin — which called itself a bitcoin bank — has announced that it's going out of business after a huge theft that has wiped it clean.

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According to the court that sentenced him to 12 years in prison, Lee Seok-ki is a dangerous subversive, guilty of plotting an armed rebellion in support of his country's sworn enemy across the border that separates the Korean peninsula.

 

It sounds like the rumblings of a typical North Korean purge. Only Lee is an elected representative in the democratic, economically powerful South.

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Once a rising star among the US army’s top battle commanders, brigadier general Jeffrey A Sinclair is now fighting sexual assault charges that could land him life in a military prison if convicted.

 

Sinclair, who was the deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne, was set to appear Tuesday in a Fort Bragg courtroom to face court martial on criminal charges that include physically forcing a female captain under his command to perform oral sex.

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Many types of aircraft are vulnerable to bird strikes, estimated to cost the aviation industry $1.2 billion worldwide per year. A new study of strikes to military rotary-wing aircraft found that there were 2,511 strikes to U.S. military aircraft. Each strike costs the military between $12,184 and $337,281. While strikes were recorded in almost all states, Florida, New Mexico, and Georgia had the highest number of incidents.

Rotary-wing aircraft, such as Apache and Chinook helicopters, play vital combat and logistical roles across the U.S. military services, but new research in the Wildlife Society Bulletin reveals how vulnerable these aircraft are to wildlife strikes.

Many types of aircraft are vulnerable to strikes, estimated to cost the aviation industry $1.2 billion worldwide per year; however, to date no assessment of strikes to military rotary-wing aircraft has been conducted.

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