Venezuela holds military drills after U.S. sanctions

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Rolling out tanks, missiles and 100,000 men, Venezuela launched 10 days of military exercises, amid sky-high tensions over US sanctions slapped on officials accused of an opposition crackdown. […]

Rare fighting between militias and ISIS breaks out in Libya

Fighters from Fajr Libya drive at a military camp in Ajaylat 80 kms west of the Libyan capital Tripoli on March 12, 2015 (AFP Photo/Mahmud Turkia)

Fighters from Fajr Libya drive at a military camp in Ajaylat 80 kms west of the Libyan capital Tripoli on March 12, 2015 (AFP Photo/Mahmud Turkia)

Rare clashes between fighters from the Islamic State group and the Fajr Libya militia coalition erupted Saturday in the central city of Sirte, security and militia officials said. […]

John Kerry reiterates Obama’s ‘commitment’ to two-state solution for Israel, Palestine

US President Barack Obama (centre) looks on as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) shakes hands with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas before a 2009 meeting in New York

US President Barack Obama (centre) looks on as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) shakes hands with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas before a 2009 meeting in New York

US President Barack Obama is “committed” to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestinians, Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday on the stalled Middle East peace process.

“The position of the United States with respect to our long expressed hope, the Republicans and the Democrats alike (and) many presidents of the last 50 years or more, has always been for peace and President Obama remains committed to a two-state solution,” Kerry said at a news conference in Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Kerry said that Obama was “hopeful that whatever choice people of Israel make… (they) will be able to move forward on those efforts”.

The top US diplomat said he would not like to comment more on the issue only a few days before an Israeli general election.

Final opinion polls have put Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud party four seats behind its centre-left rival the Zionist Union for Tuesday’s vote.

Palestinians are keen for a change from Netanyahu, hoping for a more suitable partner for future peace talks.

On Friday, Kerry held talks on the peace process with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

The four discussed creating an environment to “push forward the peace process to reach a comprehensive and just peace in the region,” Sisi’s office said after they met.

Kerry led a bid last year to try to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, but his efforts collapsed amid bitter recriminations by both sides.

Last month the United States voiced fears the Palestinian Authority may be teetering on the brink of collapse because of a lack of funding, as Israel withholds taxes and donor aid stalls.

SOURCE: AFP

Ex-Stripper Takes On Sex Traffickers in N. Dakota’s Seedy Oil Patch

Windie Lazenko

In this Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014 photo, Windie Lazenko, with the anti-trafficking group 4her North Dakota, stands for a photo in Williston, N.D. Though her past gives her credibility with trafficked women, Lazenko says getting them to walk away is difficult. “We’re often working against years of abuse,” she says. “When these girls buy into their lives, their minds are made up. The rescue mentality really doesn’t work. They don’t even consider themselves victims.” (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

When she first arrived in town, Windie Lazenko headed to the neon-lit strip clubs and bars catering to lonely oil field workers with extra cash and time on their hands. She knew these were likely gathering spots for the sex trade — the life she’d given up long ago.

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10 Killed, Over 50 Wounded In Twin Pakistan Church Blasts

Pakistan's large Christian minority suffers discrimination as well as militant attacks

Pakistan’s large Christian minority suffers discrimination as well as militant attacks

Two bomb blasts have killed at least 10 people near two churches in a Christian neighborhood of the Pakistani city of Lahore, local officials say.

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Pope Francis Declares a Jubilee Year in Powerful Sign of Commitment to Reform the Catholic Church

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Pope Francis on Friday marked the second anniversary of his election by declaring a jubilee year that will be interpreted as a powerful signal of his commitment to reforming the Church. […]

Police say Man Who Attacked U.S. Ambassador in S. Korea Intended to Kill him Over Military Exercises

Mark Lippert

An anti-U.S. activist arrested last week for allegedly stabbing U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert had intended to kill the envoy to highlight his protest against ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills, police said Friday.

The suspect, Kim Ki-jong, could face charges of attempted murder, assaulting a foreign envoy and obstruction as his case has been sent to prosecutors for possible indictment, senior Seoul police officer Kim Chul-jun said in a televised briefing.

Police say Kim Ki-jong attacked Lippert with a knife during a breakfast forum last Thursday that left deep gashes on the envoy’s face and arm. Lippert left a South Korean hospital Tuesday where doctors closed an 11-centimeter (4-inch) wound on his face and operated on his left arm to repair damaged tendons and nerves.

Kim Ki-jong has told investigators he had no intention of killing Lippert and only tried to hurt him, according to police. But police believe Kim attempted to kill the ambassador because he knifed Lippert more than twice with a force that was enough to penetrate the envoy’s arm as he tried to block the attack, police officer Kim Chul-jun said.

Police believe Kim’s anti-U.S., pro-North Korea views are believed to have led him to taken an “extreme action” on the U.S. ambassador, Kim Chul-jun said.

During questioning, Kim Ki-jong said South Korea is a semi-colony of the U.S. and North Korea has an independent, self-reliant government, Kim Chul-jun said. Shortly after his arrest, Kim Ki-jong shouted that the U.S.-South Korea war games are an obstacle against a Korean unification, he said.

The South Korean-U.S. springtime training is a source of tension, with North Korea describing it as a rehearsal for an invasion. Seoul and Washington say their annual exercises are defensive in nature. Earlier this month, the North’s army threatened to launch unspecified “merciless strikes” against the allies in protest of the drills.

Kim chose Lippert as a target because he considered him “a symbolic figure who represents the U.S.” and his computer records show that he searched Lippert’s blog, articles on the military drills and South Korean criminal law, according to police.

Police said they were investigating whether Kim Ki-jong violated an anti-Pyongyang security law after finding that some of the books found at his home supported North Korea. Police said Kim visited North Korea seven times on South Korean government-approved trips between 1999 and 2007, during a previous era of inter-Korean reconciliation.

Kim has said during questioning he acted alone but police said they are looking into whether there were any accomplices.

The U.S., which fought alongside South Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War, stations about 28,500 troops as deterrence against potential aggression from North Korea.

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Associated Press writer Hyung-jin Kim contributed to this report.

SOURCE: KIM TONG-HYUNG
AP

U.S. carries out air raids in Syria following request from Kurdish forces

Marxist-Leninist communist party (MLKP) members stand next to the coffin, March 11, 2015, of a woman the Kurdish People's Protection Units said was a German female fighter, killed fighting Islamic State group jihadists in Tal Tamr in Syria (AFP Photo/Delil Souleiman)

Marxist-Leninist communist party (MLKP) members stand next to the coffin, March 11, 2015, of a woman the Kurdish People’s Protection Units said was a German female fighter, killed fighting Islamic State group jihadists in Tal Tamr in Syria (AFP Photo/Delil Souleiman)

The US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group launched air strikes against the jihadists in a key Syrian village overnight after Kurdish forces appealed for action, a monitor said Saturday. […]

‘Cinderella’ Has A Ball At The Box Office

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Saturday AM Update: Scroll below for studio-reported Friday estimates. There’s no need for Disney studio execs to phone the fairy godmother this weekend: Cinderella is lookin’ fine, and with a smoldering A CinemaScore, her ball at the box office shows no signs of an abrupt midnight ending any time soon. The Kenneth Branagh-directed adaptation is still on track for an opening day of $23M with a revised industry estimated three-day of $70.5M. Among all Disney films opening in March, Cinderella will rank as the third highest behind Alice in Wonderland ($116.1M) and Oz The Great and Powerful ($79.1M).

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Severe Spike in Sex Offenders Crossing U.S. Border

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The Border Patrol is reporting a severe spike in sex offenders sneaking into the U.S.

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Alabama Teacher Indicted on Charges of Sexual Activity, Sexting with Students

A Blount County grand jury has indicted a teacher accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with three high school boys last year.

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Families of Newtown Victims Seek Money from Estate of Killer’s Mother

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The families of nine Newtown victims have filed lawsuits against Nancy Lanza’s estate, arguing she failed to properly lock up the Bushmaster rifle her troubled son used in his violent killing spree. […]