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At least 80 dead in Bangladesh building collapse

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A building near Bangladesh's capital that housed several garment factories collapsed Wednesday morning, killing at least 80 people and injuring hundreds more, USA Today reports.

The collapse draws attention to the unsafe conditions of Bangladesh's garment industry, and comes just months after a fire at another factory killed 112 people. Workers report being nervous to enter the building after multiple cracks were discovered yesterday, even after managers assured workers there was no problem. During a visit to the collapse site, Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir said that those responsible for the violation of buildings codes would be found and punished.

Health Minister A.F.M. Ruhal Haque said that at least 80 people died in the collapse, and that at least 600 more were injured, the New York Times reports. Crews worked with machinery and bare hands to move the rubble, and see if any survivors remained buried.

The collapse is another tragedy in the Bangladesh garment industry, which supplies clothes for retails giants like Walmart, H&M, Tommy Hilfiger, and Gap. Many have criticized the working conditions in Bangladesh, where labor costs are the lowest in the world. The fire in November brought to light to terrible working conditions of these factories, after managers told workers the fire alarm was just a drill. Companies like Walmart that outsource their labor to Bangladesh have denied any knowledge of the working conditions in the country, placing the blame on subcontractors within the industry.

Post-election violence in Venezuela leaves 7 dead

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At least 7 people were killed and dozens more injured across Venezuela in post-presidential election violence Monday, CNN reports.

Violence erupted Monday night after officials announced Hugo Chavez's chosen successor Nicolas Maduro as the winner of the election, despite demands from supporters of challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski for a recount. Maduro won 50.8 percent of the votes, with Radonski winning 49 percent, Venezuela's National Electoral Council said. Authorities say the close results incited the violence, despite the candidate's urging for their supporters to remain calm.

Protests continued across the country Tuesday, as Chavez-Maduro supporters lighting firecrackers and students clashing with soldiers armed with tear gas and plastic bullets, Fox News reports.

Supporters of Radonski claim the election was rigged in Maduro's favor with malfunctioning voting machines, inconsistencies in tallies reported by voting centers and opposition witnesses being forced out of hundreds of polls. Maduro said he will crack down on the opposition, and "use an iron fist" on anyone attempting to unseat him from the presidency.

Britain's "Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher dead at 87

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Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first female prime minister known for guiding her country through economic difficulties and the end of the Cold War died Monday of a stroke at the age of 87, PBS Newshour reports.

Thatcher, or the "Iron Lady" as she nicknamed, was elected in 1979 as the first woman leader of a Western democracy. She earned a reputation for her tough conservative stance, that eventually revived the British economy in the 1980s. Thatcher held the position of prime minister for three consecutive terms, from 1979 to 1990. She was the only British prime minister in the 20th century to serve three terms.

Thatcher was born in 1925 in the the town of Grantham, 100 miles north of London. Her father, a local politician, instilled in her a love of politics from an early age, the New York Times reports. Thatcher attended Sommerville College at the University of Oxford, where she studied chemistry. She often spoke not of her accomplishment as the first female prime minister, but as the first scientist to be elected to the office, her biographer said in an interview with NPR.

Queen Elizabeth II authorized a ceremonial funeral for Thatcher, to be held in St. Paul's cathedral with military honors. Current Prime Minister David Cameron said Thatcher's death brings the loss of "a great leader, a great prime minister, and a great Briton."

"Margaret Thatcher loved this country, and she served it with all she had," Cameron said.

Taliban attack Afghan courhouse, leaving 53 dead

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A Taliban attack that resulted in a gunfight at an Afghan courthouse Wednesday has left 53 dead, including nine attackers, USA Today reports.

An area governor in the Farah province, where the attack took place, said that the attack began when suicide bombers disguised as soldiers entered the courthouse in an effort to free 15 Taliban members awaiting trial. Two bombers detonated their bombs within the vehicles they used to reach the center of the capital city. The remaining bombers stormed the courthouse and prosecutor's office, where guards opened fire and the gunfight began.

This attack is the most deadly single attack in Afghanistan since a Shiite Muslim shrine was bombed in Kabul in 2011, Al Jazeera reports. Official report that the causalities include 34 civilians, 10 security guards, and nine of the Taliban attackers. More than 100 additional people were injured in the attack, including two court judges and one prisoner.

These types of attacks have recently spread out from main Taliban outposts in the East and South of Afghanistan, where NATO forces are stationed. Many fear that attacks will increase in 2014, when NATO troops are set to pull out from Afghanistan and leave security responsibilities to the Afghan government.

Riots between Muslims and Buddhists continue in Myanmar

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A dispute last week between a Muslin store owner and a Buddhist couple trying to sell him a piece of gold sparked riots in the Myanmar town of Meiktila, Myanmar's Eleven News reports.

Witnesses say that the store owner beat up the couple, who then called for help and drew a crowd of onlookers that erupted into violence. As violence spread to the area around the town propaganda, fake photos of dead bodies and hate speech spread on the Internet, Reuters reports. As the violence continues, many fear that it will reach Yangon, the country's commercial capital.

In the past week, at least 40 people have died in the violence, CNN reports. Thousands have had to evacuate their homes as rioters set fire to houses, schools and mosques in Meiktila. Myanmar declared a state of emergency in the country Friday, giving the military permission to help reinstate order. Things had appeared to calm down until this weekend, when Buddhist groups carried out a series of arson attacks in towns across the region.

The U.S. Embassy in Myanmar has issued a warning to any Americans in the country to avoid the violent areas, but said no specific threats against Americans had been made.


Cardinal Bergolglio from Argentina elected as new pope

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In a surprise choice that rocked the Catholic world Wednesday, Cardinal Jorge Bergolglio from Argentina was elected as pope, the New York Times reports.

Bergolglio, who chose the papal name Francis, is the first pope to hail from South America and the first cardinal of the Jesuit order to hold the title. The election of a non-European pope recognizes the fact that the bulk of the Catholic population now reside in the Southern Hemisphere, especially in South America.

Pope Francis' first act as pope was to ask the faithful gathered at the Vatican to pray for his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict. A Vatican official said that the two spoke by phone Wednesday evening. Francis, who is known for his humility and devotion to the poor, chose to pass on the official limousine offered to him, choosing to ride the shuttle bus with the other cardinals back to their temporary residences Wednesday night.

Many Catholics hope that Francis will serve as a turning point at a troubled time for the church, which is mired by sex abuse scandals and power struggles within the Vatican. Although different from his predecessor in his humility, Francis is known for his traditional conservative views, including opposing abortion, same-sex marriage, and ordaining female priests, Reuters reports.

The election of Pope Francis was a relative surprise, as he was not included in lists of frontrunners for the papacy, and at 76 years old, was one of the oldest possible candidates.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dies

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died Tuesday after a two-year battle with cancer, CNBC reports.

Chavez governed the oil-rich country for 14 years, staying in office through months of declining health and chemotherapy treatments in Cuba. He was reelected in 2012, but missed his own inauguration due to treatment.

Chavez first rose to prominence in the early 90s as a military officer behind a failed overthrow of then-president Carlos Andres Perez. He was elected into office in 1999. During his rule over the country, the populist Chavez became known as fiercely anti-American and a champion for the poor.

Chavez's death was announced Tuesday by Venezuela's vice president Nicolas Maduro in a speech delivered on the country's state-run television station. In a speech just hours earlier announcing Chavez's health taking a turn for the worse, Maduro placed the blame for Chavez's cancer on "historic enemies" like the United States, ABC News reports.

In a statement, President Obama acknowledged the challenges facing Venezuela in the absence of its long-time leader, CBS reports.

"As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history," Obama said, "the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights."

Hot air balloon crash kills 19 in Egypt

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A hot air balloon carrying mostly European and Asian tourists crashed Tuesday, killing 19 people near the Egyptian city of Luxor, Al Jazeera reports. The balloon caught fire and crashed after a gas explosion occurred in mid-air, authorities say. An employee of the tour company that owned the balloon said the pilot and one tourist were able to survive by jumping out of the basket before it hit the ground.

Witnesses report hearing a large boom and seeing smoke around the time of the incident. Some residents of the area report that the force of the explosion made their houses shake. This is the second hot air balloon crash in the region since 2009, when a balloon crash injured 13 tourists.

Ezzat Saad, the governor of the Luxor province, issued a ban on all hot air balloon flights as authorities investigate the incident. The crash comes during a time of struggle for the once--strong Egyptian tourism industry, Reuters reports. The number of tourists to the country dropped from 14.7 million in 2010 to just 9.8 million in 2011, in the wake of the uprising that deposed President Hosni Mubarak.

Thieves steal $50 million in diamonds at Brussels airport

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In a heist worthy of a blockbuster movie, thieves stole $50 million worth of diamonds and other precious gems Monday night from a plane preparing for departure from a Brussels airport, the New York Times reports.

The thieves – armed with semi-automatic weapons, police uniforms, and two cars outfitted with flashing lights – struck just minutes before a plane loaded with the precious cargo was set to depart for Switzerland, calmly ordering the pilot and flight crew to stand back while they unloaded the gems from the plane into their vehicles. Officials say that the well-executed nature of the crime indicates that the thieves knew about the flight.

The Washington Post reports that the 29 passengers on the plane – all boarded before the theft took place – report seeing nothing suspicious occur. Authorities say this is most likely due to the fact that the thieves, although armed with weapons, never fired a shot.

The only evidence found so far in the investigation is the charred remains of the van believed to been used in the heist has been found, authorities said. Airport officials suspect the thieves had help from an inside source, due to the well-organized and quiet nature of the theft.

Pope unexpectedly resigns, shocks Catholic church

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Pope Benedict XVI shocked the Catholic world by resigning Monday, claiming his advanced age and failing health make fulfilling his duties difficult, the Washington Post reports.

Speaking in Latin to a private group of church officials, Pope Benedict explained his failing physical and mental health prevent him from adequately serving his office. His resignation – the first by a pope in over 600 years – will become effective on Feb. 28.

Pope Benedict has been criticized over the course of his eight-year reign by many for his opposition of homosexuality, remarks comparing Islam to violence, and failure by the Church to address child abuse by priests. Whether or not his successor will carry on his conservative agenda, or be more flexible to modern views, is still unknown Reuters reports.

Church insiders speculate new pope could be elected as soon as Palm Sunday, in order to preside over Holy Week festivities. Many in the church community have expressed wishes for the next pope to be from a developing country where Catholicism is growing. The secret conclave to elect the next pope is expected to begin in mid-March.

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