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Tropical Storm Bonnie formed over the Caribbean and is closing in on the coast of Nicaragua. Bonnie is expected to pass quickly across Central America and may develop into a hurricane after reemerging in the Pacific. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Bonnie is expected to cause significant flooding. It had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph early Friday evening and was centered about 80 miles south-southeast of Bluefields on Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast, while moving to the west at 17 mph.

Friday, July 01, 2022

Authorities in Mexico's Gulf coast Hustaeca region say the bound bodies of four people have been found in the burned-out wreckage of a helicopter, along with signs indicating they were killed by a drug gang. The killings Friday were the second act of grisly violence in a month in the region, once popular among tourists. Prosecutors in the northern state of San Luis Potosi say the private helicopter was normally used to transport tourists. They say the craft does not appear to have crashed, but rather may have been intentionally set afire. In early June, authorities in San Luis Potosi found the bodies of seven men dumped on a road in a nearby part of the Huasteca region.

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Canadian rock legend Randy Bachman’s long search has ended after he was reunited in Tokyo with a cherished guitar 45 years after it was stolen from a Toronto hotel. Seventy-eight-year-old Bachman, a former member of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, received the guitar from a Japanese musician who had bought it at a Tokyo store in 2014 without knowing its history. Bachman says all guitars are special, but the 1957 Gretsch, which he bought as a teenager and used to write “American Woman” and other hits, was exceptional. A Canadian fan who heard the story of the stolen guitar launched an internet search and located it in Tokyo within two weeks.

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Summer travel is underway across the globe, but a full recovery from two years of coronavirus could last as long as the pandemic itself. Interviews by The Associated Press in 11 countries this month show that the most passionate travelers are thronging to locales like the French Riviera, Amsterdam and the American Midwest. But even as safety restrictions fall, places like Israel, India and Rome are reporting only fractions of the record-setting tourism of 2019. For them, a full recovery isn't forecast until at least 2024. China, once the world's biggest source of tourists, remains closed per its “zero-COVID” policy. That's holding down the rebound in many countries.

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Ukrainian authorities say Russian missile attacks on residential buildings in a coastal town near the port city of Odesa have killed at least 21 people, including an 11-year-old boy, his mother and a soccer coach. Video of the pre-dawn attack Friday showed the charred remains of buildings in the small town of Serhiivka. The Ukrainian president’s office said three X-22 missiles fired by Russian bombers struck an apartment building and a campsite. The assault came after Russian forces withdrew from a nearby Black Sea island on Thursday. Despite the withdrawal, Ukraine's military reported Friday that Russian warplanes bombed Snake Island.

The daughter of a Mexican reporter slain earlier this week in the northern Mexico border state of Tamaulipas has died of wounds suffered in the attack that killed her father. Antonio de la Cruz became the 12th journalist killed so far this year in Mexico, when a man on a motorcycle fired at him in his car outside his home. His 23-year-old daughter Cinthya de la Cruz Martínez was with him in the vehicle and was also shot. On Friday, the newspaper De la Cruz worked for, Expreso, reported that the daughter had died of her injuries at a hospital in Ciudad Victoria, where the attack occurred.

The U.N. General Assembly’s first high-level meeting on road safety is calling for global action to cut the annual toll of nearly 1.3 million deaths and estimated 50 million injuries by at least half by decade's end. The political declaration adopted Friday by consensus says traffic deaths and injuries not only lead to widespread suffering but cost countries an average of 3% to 5% of their annual gross domestic product. The delegates urged all countries to commit to scaling up efforts and setting national targets to reduce fatalities and serious injuries.

Protesters in the Libyan city of Tobruk have broken into the eastern Libya-based parliament and set fire to parts of it amid protests over months of failed efforts to set the divided country on a path toward elections. Protests demanding elections also were held in other Libyan cities Friday. After more than a decade of war, the country is split between competing administrations, one in the east and one in the west. The unrest comes a day after representatives of Libya’s rival powers failed at U.N.-mediated talks in Geneva to reach agreement on a constitutional framework for national elections.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's office says the new Gulf coast refinery is “a dream come true” for the country. On Friday, López Obrador “inaugurated” the partially finished Olmeca refinery in Dos Bocas, which is a city in his home state of Tabasco. The project, when finished, is expected to cost as much as $12 billion, well above original estimates of $9 billion. In 2021, Mexico agreed to buy Shell’s 50% share in the jointly owned Deer Park refinery near Houston, Texas for about $600 million. The two refineries would have similar capacities, leading to questions about the much larger investment in building a new refinery. López Obrador says he wants to make Mexico self-sufficient in gasoline, which it has long imported.

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Thousands of people in several Spanish cities are protesting the deaths of at least 23 migrants last week at the frontier between the Spanish enclave of Melilla in Africa and Morocco. There are growing calls for an independent, cross-border investigation. Friday's demonstrations are being held under the moniker “Las Vidas Negras Importan” in Spanish or “Black Lives Matter” in English. The deaths occurred on June 24 during repeated attempts by sub-Saharan migrants and asylum seekers to scale the border fence separating both territories. In Madrid, demonstrators filled the Callao Square and held signs that read “Borders Kill” and “No human being is illegal.” In Barcelona, participants, including many from the African diaspora, chanted against racism and colonialism.

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Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva says that he's likely to serve only one term if he wins back the presidency in October’s election. He told Metropole Radio on Friday that he wouldn't be thinking about reelection, but governing for four years and handing over the presidency while leaving Brazil “looking great.” Da Silva would turn 77 before taking office if elected. He served two terms from 2003 to 2010 and leads the far-right incumbent, Jair Bolsonaro in polls. Some indicate he might gain a first-round victory, avoiding the need for a runoff between the top two finishers.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is pressing on with with his campaign to obtain support from Latin America. He made phone calls Friday to the presidents of Argentina and Chile. The conversations with the Argentine and Chilean leaders came a little more than two weeks after Zelenskyy spoke with his counterparts in Ecuador and Guatemala. At the time, Zelenskyy said the conversations marked “the beginning of our new policy of restoring relations with Latin America.”

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A United Nations conference has warned that measures needed to protect the world’s oceans are lagging and has urged countries to accelerate their implementation. Senior officials, scientists and activists from more than 120 countries attended a five-day U.N. Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal. A declaration published on the final day Friday said delegates were “deeply alarmed by the global emergency facing the ocean.” They say ocean sustainability is “critical” for the planet. The declaration said that “action is not advancing at the speed or scale required to meet our goals.” It concluded that “greater ambition is required.”

One of the most trusted advisers to former Cuban President Raul Castro and head of the country’s military business division has died at age 62. The Communist Party and official news media say Gen. Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja died Friday of cardiopulmonary arrest. López-Calleja was also a former son-in-law of Raul Castro and member of the powerful Communist Party Political Bureau, as well as being executive president of the armed forces branch that oversees an extensive array of hotels, shops, tourist agencies and construction firms. He had earlier served in Cuba’s African military mission to Angola and in military counterintelligence.

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U.S. financial analyst Peter Schiff says he will fight to be able to sell a bank he established in Puerto Rico even though authorities have suspended its operations as part of an investigation. Euro Pacific International Bank obtained a license in 2017 to operate in the U.S. territory and built up some 15,000 accounts, but its deposits have dropped to $150 million following a probe by a multi-government group fighting tax crimes and money laundering. Schiff said Friday that officials had told him customers of the bank were being investigated — not the bank itself.

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The World Health Organization’s Europe chief has warned that monkeypox cases across the region have tripled in the last two weeks and called on countries to take stronger measures to ensure the previously rare disease does not become entrenched on the continent. In a statement on Friday, Dr. Hans Kluge said increased efforts were needed despite the U.N. health agency’s decision not to declare the escalating outbreak a global health emergency last week. To date, more than 5,000 monkeypox cases have been reported from 51 countries worldwide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kluge said the number of infections in Europe represents about 90% of the global total.

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Starting in January, Venice will oblige day-trippers to make reservations and pay a fee to visit the historic lagoon city. On many days, the heart of Venice is overwhelmed by visitors, who often far outnumber residents. Venice officials on Friday unveiled new rules for day-trippers, which go into effect on Jan. 16, 2023. Tourists who choose not to stay overnight in hotels or other lodgings will have to sign up online for the day they plan to come and pay a fee. Fees range from 3 to 10 euros ($3.15 to $10.50) depending on advance booking and whether they are visiting in peak season. Transgressors face fines as high as 300 euros ($315).

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The wait for news has been agonizing for families from Mexico to Honduras whose relatives were being smuggled through south Texas this week. Now they hope for what before would have been dreaded -- capture by the Border Patrol, even hospitalization -- anything but confirmation that their loved ones were among the 53 migrants who died inside a sweltering trailer in Texas. Then again, at least they would know. For now parents re-read last messages, swipe through photos, wait for a phone call and pray.

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Thousands have taken to the streets in Sudan's capital of Khartoum, a day after nine people were killed in anti-military demonstrations. The United States and others have condemned the violence in this east African country which has been rocked by near-weekly protests since an Oct. 25 coup upended its fragile transition to democracy. The rallies on Thursday were the largest seen in months. Authorities have met the protests with a deadly crackdown, which has been repeatedly condemned by the United Nations and other international bodies. The deaths on Thursday brought the tally of those killed since the coup to 113 people, including 18 children.

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South African former track star Oscar Pistorius has met with the father of Reeva Steenkamp, the woman he shot to death in 2013, as part of his parole process. Steenkamp family lawyer Tania Koen says in a text message to the AP that Pistorius and Barry Steenkamp met face-to-face on June 22 as part of what’s known in South Africa as a victim-offender dialogue. It gives victims of crimes or their relatives a chance to meet with the offenders if they choose to before the offender can be eligible for parole. Koen on Friday confirmed the meeting but declined to give any more details. Pistorius is now eligible for parole having served more than half his sentence.

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Tunisian President Kais Saied has unveiled a new draft constitution that would bestow broad powers on the president and limit the powers of the prime minister and parliament. Saied made the presentation on Friday. The referendum is scheduled for Jul 25, exactly a year after Saied suspended parliament and seized power. He said the move was necessary to “save the country” from political and economic crisis. That prompted strong criticism from the opposition, which accuses him of a slide toward totalitarianism. Several organizations have deplored the absence of a public dialogue in preparing the new constitution.

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The federal control board that oversees the finances of Puerto Rico’s government has approved a $12.4 billion general fund budget for the U.S. territory after legislators failed to approve one amid bickering. The board’s version of the budget approved Thursday had been rejected last month by Gov. Pedro Pierluisi because it reduced government spending by $100 million. He said then that legislators would submit their own version, but the presidents of the island’s Senate and House of Representatives clashed and failed to approve anything before the July 1 deadline. The board says the general fund budget includes $5.5 billion for public health, $4.6 billion for education and $1.3 billion “to protect future government pensions from economic uncertainty.”

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Germany and Nigeria have signed an agreement paving the way for the return of hundreds of artifacts known as the Benin Bronzes that were taken from Africa more than 120 years ago. Nigerian officials said Friday they hope the accord will prompt other countries to follow suit. Governments and museums in Europe and North America have increasingly sought to resolve ownership disputes over objects that were looted during colonial times. A British colonial expedition looted vast quantities of treasures from the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin in 1897, including numerous bas-reliefs and sculptures. The artifacts ended up spread far and wide. Hundreds were sold to collections such as the Ethnological Museum in Berlin.

The European Union’s executive arm has pledged to draft an emergency plan aimed at helping member countries do without Russian energy in the wake of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says the initiative would build on EU moves to ditch Russian coal, oil and natural gas and would complement a bloc-wide push to accelerate the development of renewable energy such as wind and solar power.  Von der Leyen spoke Friday in the Czech town of Litomysl, where she marked the start of the country’s six-month stint as holder of the rotating EU presidency.

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WNBA star Brittney Griner has gone on trial in a Russian court on charges of possessing cannabis oil. Griner was arrested in February at a Moscow airport while traveling to play for a Russian team. The Phoenix Mercury center and two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. The next session was set for July 7. A U.S. Embassy official who was in court said she spoke with Griner, who “is doing as well as can be expected in these difficult circumstances.” Her case comes at an extraordinarily low point in Moscow-Washington relations. Griner was arrested less than a week before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, which aggravated already high tensions.

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The International Criminal Court is marking the 20th anniversary of its establishment, as its prosecutors probe war crimes in countries around the world including what one expert called a “make or break” investigation in Ukraine. The court was long criticized for tackling only crimes in Africa and failed prosecutions of senior leaders in Kenya and Ivory Coast. But as on Friday it has investigations underway in 17 countries around the world, from Afghanistan to Ukraine, although the majority remain in Africa. David Crane, the founding Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone that convicted war criminals including former Liberian President Charles Taylor, said that despite some criticism of its work the Hague-based ICC is a crucial legal institution.

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is dealing with another boozy scandal after the deputy chief whip resigned and then was suspended by the Conservative Party after a drunken incident in which he reportedly groped two men at an event. Chris Pincher's role was to maintain discipline among Tory members of Parliament. He submitted a letter of resignation to Johnson on Thursday. But he said in his letter that he would remain as a Conservative lawmaker and continue to support Johnson from the back benches of Parliament. Johnson at first resisted calls to suspend Pincher from the party before bowing to the pressure by Friday evening after a formal complaint was made to an independent investigative body.

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German state officials say they want advertisers and social media influencers to label any photos that have used so-called beauty filters. Critics argue that the filters, which offer easy ways to touch up images and remove supposed blemishes, promote unrealistic standards of beauty particularly among women and girls. The dpa news agency on Friday quoted Hamburg’s state minister for equality, Katharina Fegebank, saying that digital tools should not determine what is considered beautiful or not. A majority of officials from Germany’s 16 states want the federal government to come up with legislation that would require the labeling of images and videos where beauty filters were used to enhance a person’s face, skin or hair.

Bulgaria’s president has handed the mandate to try and form a new government to the country’s finance minister, four days after pro-Western reformist Kiril Petkov resigned following a no-confidence vote in Parliament. Asen Vassilev, from Petkov’s We Continue the Change party, now has seven days to try to end the European Union and NATO member’s latest political crisis amid soaring tensions with Russia. Before handing over the mandate Friday, President Roumen Radev warned that Bulgaria “is in a political, economic and social crisis.” The Harvard-educated Vassilev muss submit his proposed cabinet for approval to President Radev, and would then face a confidence vote in the 240-seat Parliament. It's unclear if he can gather a parliamentary majority.

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The death toll from a mudslide in northeastern India has risen to 19, with over 50 people missing. Continuous rainfall over the past three weeks has wreaked havoc in the region. Rescuers found five more bodies Friday as they resumed clearing operations after an overnight halt. An official said 13 soldiers and five civilians have been rescued from the debris. Around 200 people have been killed in heavy downpours and mudslides in India’s northeast in recent weeks, while 42 people have died in neighboring Bangladesh.

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has appealed against the British’s government decision last month to order his extradition to the U.S. The appeal was filed Friday at the High Court. It's the latest twist in a decade-long legal saga sparked by his website’s publication of classified U.S. documents. No further details about the appeal were immediately available. Assange’s supporters staged protests before his 51st birthday on Saturday. His wife Stella Assange was among people who gathered outside the Home Office on Friday to call for his release from prison. Julian Assange has battled in British courts for years to avoid being sent to the U.S., where he faces 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse.

Some 2,000 migrants, most Venezuelans, have walked out of the southern Mexico city of Tapachula en masse to pressure authorities into allowing them to continue to the United States border at a time attention is focused on immigration. The latest large public exit of migrants from Tapachula follows the discovery of an abandoned semi-trailer in San Antonio with more than 60 migrants inside. Fifty-three of them died in the failed smuggling attempt. It also comes a day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Biden administration did not err in ending the controversial Trump-era policy that forced some asylum seekers to wait out their cases in Mexico.

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Health authorities in Africa say they are treating the expanding monkeypox outbreak here as an emergency and call on rich countries to share the world's limited supply of vaccines. Monkeypox has been sickening people in parts of central and west Africa for decades, but the lack of laboratory diagnosis and weak surveillance means many cases are going undetected across the continent. To date, countries in Africa have reported more than 1,800 suspected cases including more than 70 deaths, but only 109 have been lab-confirmed. Globally, more than 5,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 51 countries. Within Africa, WHO said monkeypox has spread to countries where it hasn’t previously been seen, including South Africa, Ghana and Morocco.

Lesbian and gay couples can now legally tie the knot in Switzerland as the rich Alpine nation has joined many other western European countries allowing same-sex marriage. Friday's first same-sex marriages came about nine months after 64.1% of voters backed the “Marriage for All” law in a national referendum. It puts same-sex partners on an equal legal footing with heterosexual couples, including allowing them to adopt children together and to sponsor a spouse for citizenship. Switzerland had authorized same-sex civil partnerships since 2007.

The Vatican has finalized the sale of a London property that is the focus of a criminal trial in the Vatican courts. The Holy See has offloaded the former Harrods warehouse for 186 million pounds (215 million euros, US$223 million). The Vatican secretariat of state had poured some 350 million euros into the building and related fees and commissions paid to brokers — losses that are at the heart of the accusations of fraud, embezzlement and extortion against 10 people on trial. The Vatican said it sold the warehouse on 60 Sloane Ave. in Chelsea to Bain Capital, the Boston-based private investment firm co-founded by Republican U.S. Senator Mitt Romney.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has handed full control over a major oil and natural gas project partly owned by Shell and two Japanese companies to a newly created Russian firm. It's a bold move amid spiraling tensions with the West over Moscow’s military action in Ukraine. Putin’s decree late Thursday orders the creation of a new firm that would take over ownership of Sakhalin Energy Investment Co. It's nearly 50% controlled by British energy giant Shell and Japan-based Mitsui and Mitsubishi. Russia's Gazprom had a controlling stake in the Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project that accounts for about 4% of the world’s liquefied natural gas market. Japan, South Korea and China are the main customers for its exports.

The chief of the Dutch central bank has apologized for the institution’s involvement in the 19th-century slave trade, the latest expression of contrition in the Netherlands linked to the country’s historic role in the trade in enslaved people. The apology Friday came at the national day marking the abolishment of slavery and followed similar moves in recent years from municipal authorities in the major Dutch cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht. The central bank has acknowledged that it was involved in the transatlantic slave trade between 1814 and 1863 and even paid compensation to plantation owners when the Netherlands abolished slavery, including to members of the central bank’s board.

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Turkey’s media watchdog has banned access to the Turkish services of U.S. public service broadcaster Voice of America and German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. The Supreme Board of Radio and Television enforced a February warning to the two companies that air television content in Turkish online to apply for a broadcast license or be blocked. An Ankara court ruled to restrict access to their websites late Thursday. In a statement Friday, Deutsche Welle said it didn't comply with the licensing requirement because it “would have allowed the Turkish government to censor editorial content.” The German government said it “took note with regret” of the reports.

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The number of new coronavirus cases across Britain has surged by more than 30% in the last week, with cases largely driven by the super infectious omicron variants. Data released by Britain’s Office for National Statistics on Friday showed that more than 3 million people in the U.K. had COVID-19 last week, although there has not been an equivalent spike in hospitalizations. The number of COVID-19 deaths also fell slightly in the last week. Globally, the World Health Organization said this week that COVID-19 is increasing in more than 100 countries worldwide.

Opposition leaders have asked new Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to restore the country’s membership in the International Criminal Court to strengthen defenses against human rights abuses. Former President Rodrigo Duterte, whose six-year term ended on Thursday, withdrew the country’s ratification of the treaty which created the court after it launched a preliminary examination into thousands of killings in his anti-drug campaign. Opposition leaders say restoring membership in the court would improve the country's image and protect people from crimes against humanity committed by government officials.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made her first visit to the U.K. since both countries signed a free trade agreement. She met with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday to boost bilateral ties and discuss Russia’s war in Ukraine. The trip came after both leaders attended the NATO summit in Madrid. They will also discuss security challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region. It was Ardern’s first visit to the U.K. since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. New Zealand had enacted a strict border policy at the outset of the pandemic and only recently reopened its borders to international visitors.

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China’s leader Xi Jinping has marked the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return with a speech that emphasized Beijing’s control over the former British colony under its vision of “one country, two systems." He countered criticism that the political and civic freedoms promised for the next quarter-century have been largely erased under Chinese rule. Xi also praised Hong Kong for overcoming “violent social unrest” – a reference to massive pro-democracy protests in 2019 that were followed by a Beijing-driven crackdown that has snuffed out dissent and shut down independent media. The shift has shocked many in the city of 7.4 million people that Britain returned to China in 1997, after running it as a colony for more than a century.

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The Ng brothers, fishermen living in the remote Hong Kong village of Tai O, have carried on with their lives since moving from the Chinese mainland in the 1950s, untouched by political campaigns and even Britain's handover of the city to Chinese control in 1997. Many in Hong Kong worry that communist-ruled China is exerting ever more control over semi-autonomous Hong Kong. Critics of Beijing's policies say it is contrary to its promises to respect Hong Kong’s civil liberties and its semi-autonomous status for 50 years. But Ng Koon Yau, the elder brother, says he's fine with Hong Kong being China and hopes Beijing will help make it a better place.

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A former employee of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has accused her then-manager of trying to rape her on a business trip last year as she pushes police to review a case that has cast a rare spotlight on workplace harassment in the Asian nation. The woman wants police to reopen what appears to be a dormant investigation into his actions. In an online post this week, she also pointed out what she said were inconsistencies in a police statement about the case. She says that led to online victim blaming against her. The accusations have sparked a national discussion over workplace harassment, highlighting how difficult it can be for women to come forward with accusations of sexual violence.

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A European military task force fighting extremists in Mali has formally withdrawn from the West African country amid tensions with its ruling military junta. The French military spearheaded the Takuba task force, and announced Friday that it officially ended its work. The move was tied to France’s decision earlier this year to withdraw troops from Mali. The Takuba force was composed of several hundred special forces troops from 10 countries. It aimed at training and protecting Malian combat forces. The U.N. Security Council this week approved an extension of its peacekeeping force in Mali, and expressed concern about the junta's use of mercenaries who commit human rights violations.

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Inflation in countries using the euro set another eye-watering record, pushed higher by a huge increase in energy costs fueled partly by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Annual inflation in the eurozone’s 19 countries hit 8.6% in June, surging past the 8.1% recorded in May. That's according to the latest numbers published Friday by the European Union statistics agency, Eurostat. Inflation is at its highest level since recordkeeping for the euro began in 1997. Energy prices rocketed 41.9% and food prices were up 8.9%, both faster than the increases recorded in the previous month. Rising consumer prices are a problem worldwide, with the U.S. and Britain seeing inflation at 40-year highs.

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Flights from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and other French airports are facing disruptions as workers hold a strike and protests to demand salary hikes to keep up with record inflation. France’s civil aviation authority said 17% of scheduled flights out of Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris were canceled between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday, primarily short-haul routes. Protests were planned at both airports. The Paris airports authority warned of potential delays in getting into terminals and at check-in, passport control and security stations. Friday is the first big day of France's domestic summer travel season.

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India banned some single-use or disposable plastic products Friday as a part of a federal plan to phase out the ubiquitous material in the nation of nearly 1.4 billion people. Officials said that making, importing, stocking, or selling these banned items will lead to fines and, in some cases, jail time. It's part of a long-term effort by India to cut down on plastic waste. Reducing the manufacture and consequent waste of plastic is crucial for India to meet its goal for reducing carbon emissions. The first step targets plastic items that aren’t very useful but have a high potential to become litter.

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The Taliban's supreme leader has offered prayers for Afghanistan's earthquake victims during a speech to Islamic clerics in Kabul. The tremor in June killed more than 1,000 people. State radio aired Haibatullah Akhundzada's speech live Friday from the gathering in Kabul, where thousands of Islamic clerics and tribal elders are together for the first time since seizing power in Afghanistan in August. Women were not allowed to attend. Akhundzada's appearance added symbolic heft to the meeting and the decisions the group is considering about Afghanistan's future. The Taliban are under international pressure to be more inclusive as they struggle with Afghanistan's humanitarian crises.