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At Least 39 Killed in Syria despite Observer Mission

Regime forces fired on protesters at a protest hub near Damascus and killed at least 39 people around Syria on Thursday, even as peace monitors spread out across the country, activists said.

Fourteen people were shot dead in several restive Damascus suburbs, 10 in the central flashpoint province of Homs, 13 in the central province of Hama and two in the northwestern province of Idlib, the Local Coordination Committees, the main activist group spurring protests on the ground, said.

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Genetic Test for Plavix Use May be Unneeded

A new study published Wednesday cast doubt on the usefulness of a genetic test for patients taking the anti-coagulant drug Plavix, calling into question last year's FDA warning about the blood thinner.

The study, a new review of 32 previous clinical studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said the genetic test may not help identify those patients more at risk of a heart attack or other cardiac event.

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Tablets, E-Readers Closing Book on Ink-and-Paper Era

Tablet computers and electronic readers promise to close the book on the ink-and-paper era as they transform the way people browse magazines, check news or lose themselves in novels.

"It is only a matter of time before we stop killing trees and all publications become digital," Creative Strategies president and principal analyst Tim Bajarin told Agence France Presse.

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Mossad Chief: Iran May not be 'Existential Threat' to Israel

The head of Israel's Mossad spy agency has said a nuclear Iran might not pose an "existential threat" to the Jewish state, in remarks reported Thursday by Haaretz newspaper.

"Does Iran pose a threat to Israel? Absolutely," the daily quoted Mossad chief Tamir Pardo as telling a group of Israeli ambassadors.

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Chinese Traders Hit by Death of N. Korea's Kim

Truck drivers and traders in China's border city of Dandong said Thursday trade with North Korea had slowed to a trickle following the death of leader Kim Jong-Il earlier this month.

Kim died on December 17 from a heart attack at the age of 69, and North Korea has imposed an official mourning period that culminated Thursday with a massive memorial service.

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Italy Business Confidence Index Falls in December

Italy's business confidence index fell this month following a tough Christmas season for retailers, the official data agency Istat said in a statement on Thursday.

The index was at 92.5 points compared to 94 points last month, Istat said, adding that the declines was due to concern among business owners on the forecasts for production and future orders.

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Asian Markets, Euro Slip as Europe Fears Weigh

Asian markets mostly fell on Thursday and the euro slipped as concerns over the Eurozone debt crisis refused to abate, ahead of an auction of long-term Italian debt later in the day.

With trading light due to the Christmas holidays, Asia also had little cue for direction from Wall Street and Europe despite Rome enjoying a successful sale of short-term bonds on Wednesday.

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Central Bank Says Spain Economy Shrinks in Final Quarter of 2011

Spain's economy shrank in the final quarter of 2011, battered by financial market tensions and a deteriorating global economic outlook, the Bank of Spain said Thursday.

The grim report fed widespread fears that Spain has already slumped into a recession after the economy, dragged down by a 21.5-percent jobless rate, posted zero growth in the third quarter of 2011.

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NYTimes Floods Inboxes with Subscription Email

The New York Times accidentally flooded email inboxes on Wednesday when a message destined for a few readers who had canceled their subscriptions ended up going out to millions.

The newspaper said the email inviting Times readers to renew their current subscription "at an exclusive rate of 50 percent off for 16 weeks" had ended up reaching 8.6 million readers by mistake.

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Swiss Acknowledge Those Who Helped Jews Flee Nazis

Switzerland said Wednesday it had finally finished the process of rehabilitating more than a hundred people punished during WWII for having helped Jews escape Nazi persecution.

But only one of the 137 people vindicated by the report actually lived to see their name cleared.

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