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Laughter Really is The Best Medicine

A rattling good laugh with friends will help you deal with pain thanks to opiate-like chemicals that flood the brain, according to a British study released on Wednesday.

Researchers carried out lab experiments in which volunteers watched either comedy clips from "Mr. Bean" or "Friends," or non-humorous items such as golf or wildlife programs, while their resistance to mild pain was monitored.

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Huge Military Sweep Launched in Northwest Syria

Syrian security forces on Wednesday launched a massive military operation in the northwest of the country, activists said, while calling for demonstrations Thursday to mark six months of revolt against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

"Six months. More than ever determined to (continue) the March 15 uprising," the activists wrote on their Facebook page, "Syrian Revolution 2011", despite the crackdown on protests which according to the United Nations has left 2,600 people dead, mostly civilians.

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U.S., EU Slam Pyongyang at U.N. Atomic Agency

The United States and the European Union sharply criticized North Korea on Wednesday as the board of the U.N. atomic agency was briefed on Pyongyang's nuclear activities.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s latest report "is testimony to the long history of the DPRK (North Korea)'s lack of cooperation with the agency," a U.S. statement to the meeting in Vienna said.

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Israel Warns of 'Harsh' Consequences of Palestinian U.N. Bid

Hardline Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned Wednesday there will be "harsh and grave consequences" if the Palestinians persist with their plan to seek U.N. membership as a state.

Speaking shortly before a scheduled meeting with EU foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton, Lieberman did not elaborate on the threatened consequences.

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9 Killed in Fighting North of Yemen Capital

Nine people were killed in two days of clashes between tribal fighters who are opposed to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and an elite military unit loyal to him, a tribal official said Wednesday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said violent clashes were ongoing in the town of Arhab, 40 kilometers north of the capital Sanaa, between Republican Guard troops commanded by Saleh's son Ahmed, and fighters from the Bakil tribe, the most influential tribe in the country.

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Iran Judiciary Denies Decision Taken on Freeing U.S. Hikers

Iran's judiciary said on Wednesday that no decision has been taken on releasing two U.S. hikers convicted of spying; a day after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the duo would be released soon.

"While denying ... release of two Americans accused of espionage, the public relations of the judiciary announces that the request of the lawyer to post bail and free them is being studied by the case's judge," a statement posted on the judiciary website said.

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Israel Hopes 'Common Sense Will Prevail' in Turkey Row

Israel's public diplomacy minister said on Wednesday that he hoped "common sense would prevail" in former friend and ally Turkey in the diplomatic crisis the two governments are now embroiled in.

"Despite the attempts on the Turkish side to provoke an escalation, we are acting with restraint," Yuli Edelstein told public radio. "We are not pouring oil on the fire, in the hope that common sense will prevail."

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French Court Acquits Sarkozy Rival over Smear Scandal

A French appeals court on Wednesday confirmed the acquittal of former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin over a political scandal in which he was accused of smearing President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The public prosecutor had called for the suave potential candidate in next year's presidential election and bitter Sarkozy rival to be given a 15-month suspended sentence in the so-called Clear stream scandal.

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17 Killed in Attacks against Iraq Security Forces

A spate of attacks appearing to target security forces in central and west Iraq on Wednesday killed at least 17 people, including five policemen and two soldiers, officials said.

The violence, which also left around 50 wounded, comes with just months to go before U.S. forces are set to withdraw from the country completely, with questions over the capabilities of their domestic counterparts.

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Driver Blamed for Indian Train Crash, 9 Killed

Indian railway officials on Wednesday blamed driver error for a late-night collision between two packed passenger trains that killed nine people and injured more than 80.

Tuesday's crash saw a speeding train ram into a stationary one at a station near Arakkonam, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) from Chennai, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

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