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Friday Disappears in Samoa's Great Leap Forward

Samoans go to bed Thursday and will wake up on Saturday in an historic time zone switch which the Pacific island state's prime minister says will take the country forward to a more prosperous future.

Samoa currently sits to the east of the International Date Line -- which runs through the middle of the Pacific -- meaning that it is 11 hours behind GMT and is one of the last places on Earth to see the dawn.

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China Reveals its Space Plans up to 2016

China plans to launch space labs and manned ships and prepare to build space stations over the next five years, according to a plan released Thursday that shows the country's space program is gathering momentum.

China has already said its eventual goals are to have a space station and put an astronaut on the moon. It has made methodical progress with its ambitious lunar and human spaceflight programs, but its latest five-year plan beginning next year signals an acceleration.

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Worst Year in Decades for Endangered Elephants

Large seizures of elephant tusks make this year the worst on record since ivory sales were banned in 1989, with recent estimates suggesting as many as 3,000 elephants were killed by poachers, experts said.

"2011 has truly been a horrible year for elephants," said Tom Milliken, elephant and rhino expert for the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, on Thursday.

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Huge Waves Damage Anti-Whaling Boat

Anti-whaling activists chasing the Japanese harpoon fleet suffered a major setback Thursday when the hull of one of their ships cracked in massive seas, forcing a second to divert to its rescue.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said the Brigitte Bardot's hull split when it was struck by a "rogue wave" as it tailed the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru in six meter (20-foot) swells some 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) southwest of Australia.

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Chavez: Could U.S. Have Technology to Cause Cancer?

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is questioning the rash of cancer cases among Latin American leaders and asking if somehow the U.S. might have a way to induce the illness.

Chavez has long questioned whether the U.S. government could be plotting to oust him, but his latest remarks went far beyond any such theories.

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NASA Probes to Arrive at The Moon Over New Year's

The New Year's countdown to the moon has begun.

NASA said Wednesday that its twin spacecraft were on course to arrive back-to-back at the moon after a 3½-month journey.

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Farming Practices Threaten Widely Grown Corn Crop

One of America's most widely planted crops — a genetically engineered corn plant that makes its own insecticide — may be losing its effectiveness because a major pest appears to be developing resistance more quickly than scientists expected.

The U.S. food supply is not in any immediate danger because the problem remains isolated. But scientists fear potentially risky farming practices could be blunting the hybrid's sophisticated weaponry.

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Japan Scientists Hope Slime Holds Intelligence Key

A brainless, primeval organism able to navigate a maze might help Japanese scientists devise the ideal transport network design. Not bad for a mono-cellular being that lives on rotting leaves.

Amoeboid yellow slime mold has been on Earth for thousands of years, living a distinctly un-hi-tech life, but, say scientists, it could provide the key to designing bio-computers capable of solving complex problems.

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France Has Had Hottest Year Since 1900

This year was the hottest in France since the start of the 20th century, Meteo France said Tuesday, with average national temperatures 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than the norm.

The average national temperature in 2011 was 13.6 degrees Celsius (56 degrees Fahrenheit), Meteo France's Francois Gourand told AFP, 0.2 degrees Celsius warmer than the previous hottest year, 2003.

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Twin Probes to Circle Moon to Study Gravity Field

The moon has come a long way since Galileo first peered at it through a telescope. Unmanned probes have circled around it and landed on its surface. Twelve American astronauts have walked on it. And lunar rocks and soil have been hauled back from it.

Despite being well studied, Earth's closest neighbor remains an enigma.

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