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Catalonia Independence Threat Could Benefit PM in Polls

Catalonia may have voted to kick off a process towards independence but the wealthy region is far from breaking up with Spain, and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy could actually benefit in upcoming elections, experts say.

Lawmakers in Catalonia officially started a process Monday to secede from Spain by 2017 in an unprecedented showdown with Madrid, after a parliamentary majority voted for a pro-independence resolution.

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Left-Wing Bloc Seeks to Topple Portugal Pro-Austerity Govt.

Portugal's left-wing opposition alliance looks set to topple the country's center-right minority government Tuesday in a crucial parliamentary vote barely 10 days after it was sworn in.

The vote comes as European fears mount over the prospect of a left-wing coalition taking power in a country still recovering after receiving a 78-billion-euro ($87-billion) bailout in exchange for strict austerity measures, and with investors concerned over the political crisis.

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Historic Ma-Xi Summit Heavy on Rhetoric but Schism Remains

The summit between the presidents of China and Taiwan promised warmer ties and was loaded with historic symbolism as both men sought to secure their legacy -- but there were few concrete results in their bid to mend decades of estrangement.

China's Xi Jinping and Taiwan's Ma Ying-jeou shook hands for more than a minute to herald the start of a meeting once unthinkable due to the enmity between the two sides.

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Q&A: Britain Eyes Treaty Change for EU Demands

Prime Minister David Cameron unveils Britain's EU reform demands next week, firing the starting gun for tough negotiations that London insists will mean changes to the bloc's treaties.

But can Cameron really expect to rewrite the rulebook ahead of a referendum on Britain's European Union membership to be held by the end of 2017?

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Analysts: Egypt Crash Shows Mass Surveillance Can be Crucial

Intelligence that first suggested an attack may have brought down a Russian passenger jet over Egypt last week largely justifies the mass surveillance carried out by U.S. and British spies, experts said Friday.

While accumulating massive amounts of intercepted telephone and electronic communications and satellite imagery can hardly ever prevent an attack, it can help to shed light afterwards on what happened, they said.

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One Year Out, Tumult Dominates Wide Open U.S. 2016 Race

Americans elect a new president one year from Sunday, with the names Clinton, Trump, Carson and Bush at the fore. The race is wide open, with Democrats seeking a historic treble and Republicans suffering an identity crisis.

As the country gears up for a 12-month campaign slog -- starting with a dash to the first statewide primary contests in February -- concern has risen over Mideast violence and police-citizen tensions at home, and debate swirls over immigration, guns and income inequality.

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Landmark China Meet Could Alienate Taiwanese

A historic China-Taiwan summit this weekend is likely an attempt to boost Beijing's image ahead of elections on the island, but one that could alienate voters wary of mainland meddling, say analysts.

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will meet in Singapore on Saturday, in what will be the first face-to-face between leaders since the end of a civil war in 1949.

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Syria Regime Fears Diaspora Vote could Tip the Balance

An international bid to ensure Syrians abroad are allowed to vote in potential future elections is being seen by the regime in Damascus as an attempt to ensure it loses.

At issue is a clause in the final communique produced by international talks in Vienna last week that included 17 countries -- among them key regime backers Russia and Iran.

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'Spying' on the Pope: Vatican Leaks Reveal Dirty Dealings

The pope's private conversations allegedly wiretapped by a racy social climber and a Spanish prelate -- the latest scandal to hit the Vatican has unearthed claims of theft, debauchery and betrayal within the Catholic Church.

Leaked documents set to be published in two books on Wednesday purportedly reveal how charity money was allegedly spent on refurbishing the houses of powerful cardinals, while claiming the murky Vatican bank continues to shelter suspected criminals.

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Spotlight on IS after Claim it Downed Russian Jet

Despite a lack of evidence for the claim, the Islamic State group has stepped into the spotlight by saying it downed a Russian airliner that crashed in Egypt killing 224 people.

Experts say the jihadist group, whose local affiliate is waging an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, has managed to instil doubt about the cause of the crash in the rugged desert terrain.

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