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Syrian Army Quits Hama after 10-Day Raid

Dozens of Syrian army vehicles packed with soldiers left the flashpoint protest hub of Hama on Wednesday 10 days after storming the central city to fight "armed groups," an Agence France Presse correspondent saw.

Forty personnel carriers decked with Syrian flags rolled out of Hama with soldiers chanting slogans praising embattled President Bashar Assad, said the journalist who visited the city on a tour organized by the authorities.

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Russian Prison Chief Fired Over Toga Party

Russian authorities fired a prison governor Tuesday after scandalous photographs revealed prisoners holding a toga party with caviar and even taking a delivery of McDonald's takeaway.

The governor of Prison Number 3 in the town of Serpukhov outside Moscow and two of his deputies were fired after an investigation found "blatant breaches" at the jail, the prosecutor-general's office said Tuesday.

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Brazil Pushers Use Winehouse Pic to Sell Cocaine

A gang of drug traffickers is inserting pictures of late British singer Amy Winehouse in their bags of cocaine to improve sales, Brazilian police have said.

The clear plastic bags carry a paper insert with a picture of the troubled 27-year-old singer, who died at her north London home on July 23. She is described in the insert as "Amy House."

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Gaza Cut Off after Phone Cable Severed

An Israeli army bulldozer has damaged a communications cable and cut all phone and Internet networks in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials said on Wednesday.

The blackout was caused late on Tuesday by a military bulldozer operating in Nahal Oz, close to the Palestinian enclave, Hamas telecommunications officials told AFP.

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DNA Blood Tests Can Tell Baby's Sex at 7 Weeks

Tests that measure DNA in a pregnant woman's blood work well for telling the sex of a baby after seven weeks' gestation without posing danger to the fetus, a U.S. study said Tuesday.

The meta-analysis of previous studies on the topic suggests that using cell-free fetal DNA from the mother's blood is more accurate than a urine test or sonogram and is safer than amniocentesis.

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Call for Saturday Protests in Israel

Israel's social protest movement on Wednesday called for demonstrations to be held across the Jewish state on Saturday except in Tel Aviv which saw mass rallies last week.

"We decided not to stage demonstrations in Tel Aviv but to call for rallies across the country," protest leader Stav Shafir told Agence France Presse.

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U.S. Launches Anti-Gadhafi Offensive in Africa

The United States has launched a diplomatic offensive against Libya among African nations as Tripoli accused NATO of a "massacre" of 85 villagers in air strikes in support of rebels.

American diplomats are visiting several African countries as part of efforts to urge leaders to press Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi to leave power immediately, officials in Washington said on Tuesday.

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China's First Aircraft Carrier Begins Sea Trials

China's first aircraft carrier swept through fog-shrouded waters Wednesday to open sea trials that underscore concerns about the country's growing military strength and its increasingly assertive claims over disputed territory.

The mission by the refurbished former Soviet carrier marks a first step in readying the craft for full deployment. China says the ship is intended for research and training, pointing to longer-term plans to build up to three additional clones of the carrier in China's own shipyards.

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Afghan Commander Accuses Foreign Troops of Killing Local Police

An Afghan police commander on Wednesday accused international troops of killing two policemen by accident in one of the most potent Taliban strongholds in the south.

Kandahar provincial police chief Abdul Raziq said the victims were members of the Afghan Local Police (ALP), an anti-Taliban initiative in which local people are recruited to protect their own villages.

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Sarkozy Breaks off Holiday for Emergency Debt Crisis Meeting

President Nicolas Sarkozy interrupted his vacation on the French Riviera Wednesday to hold an emergency government meeting on the debt crisis rattling global markets.

Sarkozy, who was at the seaside home of his pregnant pop star wife Carla Bruni, and other European leaders had come under fire for staying on their summer holidays as turmoil engulfed the financial markets.

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