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Recently in International News Category

The White House said Thursday in a letter addressed to John McCain and other lawmakers that it believed the Syrian government has used chemical weapons on a small scale in its civil war, reported multiple news sources.

President Obama is forced with a decision after stating many times that if the Syrian government crossed "the red line" the U.S. would step in, reported The New York Times.

The White House said it would need more conclusive evidence, alluding to the faulty intelligence that lead to the Iraq War, reported The New York Times.

In Jerusalem last week, President Obama said it would be a "game changer" in U.S. involvement if such weapons had been used, reported The New York Times.

The U.S. conclusions followed those of Britain, France and Israel, which have suggested in recent days that forces loyal to Assad have probably used sarin, reported The Washington Post.

A 7.0-magnitude earthquake shook China's Sichuan province early Saturday, which lies on the Longmenshan fault line, at least 155 people were killed and thousands injured, reported multiple news sources.

The earthquake hit at 8:02 a.m., and its epicenter was in Lushan County within the Ya'an jurisdiction, reported The New York Times.

The Longmenshan fault line was also responsible for a devastating earthquake in 2008 in Chengdu, about 70 miles from Lushan, reported The Washington Post. The quake left 87,000 people dead or missing and was seen by those affected as a lackluster rescue effort from the government.

In the town of Longmen, another hard-hit area within Ya'an's jurisdiction, a resident said 90 percent of the buildings had collapsed, reported The New York Times.

China's new bird flue sickens 38, kills 10

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In repsonse to the new avian influenza, H7N9, Chinese government officials have closed poultry wholesale markets in Shanghai and several nearby cities, and sent guards with nets to euthanize pigeons in Shanghai parks, reported The New York Times.

The flue strain was publicly announced on March 31, but the first known human case was in eastern China on Feb. 19, reported The New York Times. The announcement came two weeks after the closing of the National People's Congress, an event during which the Communist Party traditionally avoids acknowledging problems.

H7N9 appears to be a virulent flu that kills at least 26 percent of those who get it; however, the number of cases could be artificially low because Chinese health authorities are testing only people who are severely ill, reported USA Today.

There have been no reported cases of the flu passing from human to human, only from bird to human, reported the USA Today.

The CDC activated its emergency center to test the virus, reported The New York Times.

Taliban storms government compound killing dozens

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A provincial courthouse in western Afghanistan was stormed Wednesday by Taliban insurgents, killing 44 people and leaving more than 100 wounded, reported multiple news sources.

The strategic attack began around 9 a.m., when two suicide attackers detonated explosives inside two army trucks at the entrance gate of the provincial government compound in Farah, reported The New York Times.

After the blast, which tore through multiple government buildings, insurgents rushed the courthouse taking a handful of civilians and employees hostage, reported The New York Times. Afghan security forces surrounded the building and began firing at the insurgents.

At some point during the nearly seven-hour standoff, the insurgents took the hostages to the basement and shot them, reported The Washington Post.

In text messages sent to news media organizations, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks and asserted that insurgents facing trial were freed in the assault, reported The New York Times.

All nine insurgents were killed, said Afghan police officials, who also expressed doubt that any insurgents had been freed, reported The New York Times.

Spam blocking group subject to cyberattack

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The spam-fighting organization Spamhaus says it is fending off a massive cyberattack, apparently waged by groups that were blacklisted by Spamhaus, reported multiple news sources.

In an interview, Spamhaus' Vincent Hanna said his website was hit by a barrage of distributed denial-of-service attacks, also known as DDoS, reported The Washington Post. "It is a small-miracle that were still online."

Patrick Gilmore of Akamai Technologies said the cyber attack was so large that other online bystanders were affected as well, reported The New York Times. The attacks work by flooding the server with traffic requests until the sever is unreachable.

Hanna said his group had been receiving the attacks since mid-March, reported The Washington Post.

White smoke trailed from atop the Sistine Chapel Wednesday signalling to the crowd outside that Catholic cardinals had picked a new pope--choosing the Jesuit cardinal from Argentina, the first South American to lead the church--reported multiple news sources.

The new pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is the first non-European pope in 1,200 years, and the first pope ever to hail from Latin America, reported The New York Times.

The choice was made on the second-day of deliberation at the Sistine Chapel with many hopefuls surprised by the decision, reported The New York Times.

As the 266th pope, Bergoglio is seen by many as an austere, unpretentious leader, and advocate for the poor, reported The Washington Post.

Bergoglio's predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, was the first pope to resign in 600 years, reported The Washington Post.

In picking Bergoglio, the Catholic papacy hopes to involve South America, which has 40 percent of the world's Catholics, reported The Washington Post.

Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan president, dead at 58

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Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, died of cancer Tuesday, leaving a country sharply divided and in the midst of a political crises, reported The New York Times.

Mr. Chavez's departure from a country he dominated for 14 years casts into doubt the future of his socialist revolution. It transforms the political balance not only in Venezuela, the fourth-largest supplier of foreign oil to the United States, but also in Latin America, where Mr. Chavez led a group of nations intent on reducing American influence in the region, reported The New York Times.

Chavez came to power in 1999, and held it through controlling the media and through populist elections and referenda, one of which allowed him to seek a limitless number of terms, reported ABC News.

The Venezuelan Constitution requires, since Mr. Chávez was at the start of a term, that the nation proceed to a new election within 30 days, and that Mr. Maduro, the vice president, would take the helm in the meantime, reported The New York Times.

Swiss residents voted Sunday to pass some of the world's most strict limits on executive compensation, despite a warning from the business lobby that such curbs would undermine the country's investor-friendly image, reported multiple news sources.

According to the proposed law, executives of Swiss companies who failed to abide by the new rules could face up to three years in jail and fines amounting to up to six years' salary, reported the Guardian.

If the law passed all compensation packages to board members and company heads would need the stockholders' approval, reported The New York Times.

"The people have decided to send a strong signal to boards, the federal council [Swiss government] and the parliament," said Thomas Minder, the businessman and Swiss senator behind the measure, reported the Guardian.

Mr. Minder received an unexpected impetus last month when Novartis, the pharmaceutical company, agreed to a $78 million severance payout for its departing chairman, Daniel Vasella. That set off a political whirlwind and intense censure from some investors, forcing Mr. Vasella to tell shareholders last week that his payout had been a mistake, reported The New York Times.

"It's a great advantage for investors," Minder said, suggesting that instead of chasing companies away, such a law would entice investors to set up firms in Switzerland, reported the Guardian.

The spokesman for the state prosecutor in the trial of Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee Olympian sprinter accused of shooting his girlfriend, says there is an error in a detective's testimony when he identified a substance found in the athlete's bedroom as testosterone, reported CBS News.

Pistorius' lawyer says the substance was an herbal supplement that meets the standard of prohibited drugs for athletes, reported The New York Times.

The prosecution did not accuse Mr. Pistorius of directly using or abusing the substance. Testosterone in multiple forms is among banned substances on the 2013 list of prohibited drugs for athletes issued by the World Anti-Doping Agency, reported The New York Times.

Barry Roux, Mr. Pistorius' defense lawyer, said the substance found at his client's home was not deemed a banned drug. It was "not a steroid and it is not a banned substance," Mr. Roux said, accusing the police of taking "every piece of evidence and try to extract the most possibly negative connotation and present it to the court," reported The New York Times.

The International Paralympic Committee in Bonn, Germany, said on Wednesday that Mr. Pistorius passed drug tests on Aug. 25 and Sept. 8 last year, reported The New York Times.

Meteor vaporizes in Earth's atmosphere over Russia

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A meteor hurtling towards Earth burned up in the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia, injuring 1,200 people, reported The New York Times.

The large meteor burned up in Earth's lower atmosphere dropping meteorites around Chelyabinsk, Russia, officials told BBC News.

The shock wave from the meteor's blazing path burst windows and rattled citizens, reported The New York Times.

President Vladimir Putin said he thanked god no big fragments had fallen on populated areas, reported BBC News.

The meteor's immense speed sent loud bursts through the area as the fireball ripped through Earth's atmosphere, reported multiple news sources.

The majority of those hurt, in the Chelyabinsk region where meteorites fell, suffered cuts and bruises but at least 46 remain in hospital, reported BBC News.

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