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Party as Samoa Loses Friday in Time Zone Jump

Samoans celebrated in the streets at midnight Thursday when, with a song, a prayer and the ringing of bells, they wiped Friday off the calendar this week in a historic leap across the dateline.

The midnight switch from Thursday, December 29 to Saturday, December 31 brought the Pacific island nation in line with its main trading partners Australia and New Zealand who had been a day ahead.

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Iran to Tow Dummy Targets into Sea ahead of Missile Test-Fire

Iran's navy is about to test-fire a variety of missiles in war games in the Strait of Hormuz, a spokesman said Saturday, underlining Tehran's threat to close the strategic oil waterway if new Western sanctions are applied.

Commodore Mahmoud Mousavi told the state television network IRIB: "In the next days, we will test-fire all kinds of surface-to-sea, sea-to-sea and surface-to-air as well as shoulder-launched missiles."

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China Says Man Dies of Bird Flu

A bus driver in southern China who contracted the bird flu virus died Saturday, health authorities said, in the nation's first reported human case of the deadly disease in 18 months.

China had reported its first human case of bird flu in 18 months, after a bus driver in the massive southern boomtown of Shenzhen tested positive for the deadly virus.

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Dutch Giraffes to Chill to The Soothing Sounds of Pop

Keepers at a Dutch zoo have found an unorthodox solution to calm down skittish giraffes spooked by the sound of thousands of end-of-year fireworks going off: playing them pop music.

"We have tried a few things to calm the giraffes down over the years," Amersfoort Animal Park spokeswoman Josien van Eijk told Agence France Presse.

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Italian Fisherman Recovers Lost Boat after 700-Km Journey

An Italian fisherman has recovered his boat after it escaped from its moorings and drifted 700 kilometers (435 miles) to the coast of southern France, the French coast guard said on Friday.

The Dany, a 4.6-meter (15-foot) fishing boat, went missing in bad weather in October from Vernazza in northwestern Italy.

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U.N. Calls for 'Unhindered' Observer Access in Syria

The United Nations said Friday it expects Syrian authorities to grant unfettered access and complete cooperation to Arab observers as bloodshed continues amid a crackdown on protesters.

"It is critical that the observer mission be given unhindered access and full cooperation by the government of Syria, and that its independence and impartiality be fully preserved," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

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2 Pakistani Soldiers Killed as Death Toll in Car Bomb Rises to 15

A bomb ripped through a military vehicle Saturday killing two Pakistani soldiers in a village in the restive northwestern tribal area bordering Afghanistan, a security official said.

The remote-controlled bomb planted on a roadside hit a patrol party leading a convoy of security forces at Boya village, some 20 kilometers west of Miranshah, the main town of troubled North Waziristan tribal district.

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12 Mourners Killed in Thai Road Accident

Twelve mourners were killed when their packed pickup truck collided with a passenger bus as they travelled to the funeral of a relative in northeastern Thailand, police said Saturday.

Ten women and two men, many of whom were sitting in the open-top rear of the truck, were killed instantly in the smash in Buriram province. Four other people were injured.

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Controversial 'All-American Muslim' Has its 9/11 Moment

A controversial reality TV show about Arab Americans tackles 9/11 in its penultimate episode this weekend, with its stars seething anger at Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda for upending their lives.

Since it premiered on the TLC cable channel, "All-American Muslim" -- the first series of its kind on U.S. television -- has lifted a veil on the lives of five middle-class families of Middle Eastern heritage in the Detroit area.

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Anonymous Releases More Stratfor Data

Online "hacktivist" group Anonymous has released a trove of email addresses and credit card numbers stolen from the website of intelligence analysis firm Stratfor and promised further attacks.

In a statement on late Thursday, members of Anonymous calling themselves "AntiSec" posted links to what the group said were 75,000 names, addresses, credit card numbers and passwords for Stratfor customers.

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