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‘Brexit’ threatens to undermine U.S.-Britain special relationship

Britain’s decision to quit the European Union could send damaging shockwaves through the bedrock Anglo-American “special relationship,” raising questions about London’s willingness and ability to back U.S.-led efforts in global crises ranging from the Middle East to Ukraine. The loss of the strongest pro-U.S. voice within the 28-nation bloc, as a result of the “Brexit” referendum, threatens to weaken Washington’s influence in European policymaking and embolden Russian President Vladimir Putin to further challenge the West, analysts and former diplomats say. The break-up of the United Kingdom would raise questions whether it should retain its veto in the United Nations Security Council, where it has been a mostly reliable supporter of U.S. initiatives. The British referendum on Thursday, widely seen as reflecting an increasingly nationalistic and inward-looking public, also risks the splintering of the …

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Washington hopes to wrap up anti-missile deal with SKorea

The United States wants to wrap up discussions with South Korea on the deployment of a sophisticated defense system, the Pentagon said Friday, two days after North Korea's latest missile tests. Seoul and Washington have for weeks been in talks about deploying the advanced US THAAD missile system in South Korea to protect against the potential threat from Pyongyang -- a move vehemently opposed by China. "We would like to see these conversations, as I think the South Koreans would, wrapped up in an as efficient and timely fashion as possible," Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said. He said discussions had "progressed well," but there were still "some details to work out." North Korea tested two Musudan medium-range missiles just hours apart on Wednesday. The first was seen as a failure, but leader Kim Jong-Un …

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After Obama decision, first US airstrikes hit Afghan Taliban

KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S. military has launched its first airstrikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan since President Barack Obama's decision earlier this month to expand America's involvement against the insurgents, U.S. officials said Friday. Officials said the strikes began in the last week and were against Taliban targets in the southern part of the country. But Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook declined to provide any details, citing "operational security." One senior U.S. official said there have been "a couple" of airstrikes, but the U.S. does not want to provide more information because there may be more strikes in that area, including missions with Afghan forces who could be accompanied by U.S. advisers. The official was not authorized to discuss the operations publicly, so spoke on condition of anonymity. The U.S. military spokesman in …

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Letter from JFK to purported lover sells for almost $89,000

BOSTON - A letter written by President John F. Kennedy to a purported lover in an attempt to set up a liaison has sold at auction for almost $89,000, about triple what it was expected to fetch. Boston-based RR Auction says the four-page letter thought to have been written in October 1963 was sold Thursday to a buyer who wished to remain anonymous. The letter on White House stationery was intended for longtime Kennedy family friend Mary Pinchot Meyer, an artist and former wife of a CIA agent. It's signed "J.'' The note was never sent but remained in the collection of Kennedy's longtime personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln. Pinchot Meyer died nearly a year after Kennedy's assassination. Several other Kennedy-related items were also sold, including a rocking chair for about $75,000.

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Britain votes to leave EU; Cameron quits

London – Britain has voted to leave the European Union (EU), forcing the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and dealing the biggest blow to the European project of greater unity since World War Two. Global financial markets plunged as results from Thursday’s referendum showed a near 52-48 percent split for leaving. The pound fell more than 10 percent against the dollar to levels last seen in 1985, its biggest one-day fall in history, on fears the decision could hit investment in the world’s fifth-largest economy, threaten London’s role as a global financial capital and usher in months of political uncertainty. European shares plummeted more than 8 percent, headed for their biggest ever one-day fall. Billions of dollars were wiped off European banks’ market value, with Britain’s Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and …

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British PM David Cameron resigns

London, United Kingdom | Friday 6/24/2016 Prime Minister David Cameron announced Friday he will resign after Britons voted to leave the European Union despite his campaign to keep it in the bloc. Cameron promised to try to "steady the ship" over the next months and did not give a precise timetable for his departure but said a new leader should be installed by early October. "I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination," the British leader said outside his Downing Street residence in London. He said his successor should trigger the formal process for Britain to leave the European Union. "I think it's right that this new prime minister takes the decision about when to trigger Article 50," Cameron said. "I would also reassure Brits living in European countries …

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Savage storm pummels eastern China, killing 98

Beijing — A violent storm in eastern China that packed gale-force winds and hail killed 98 people and injured hundreds as it flattened power lines, overturned cars and ripped roofs off houses in Jiangsu province. The storm, which included a tornado, struck mid-afternoon on Thursday near Yancheng city, a few hours' drive north of China's commercial capital Shanghai, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said. Winds reached 125 kph (78 mph) and battered several townships in Funing county, the official Xinhua news agency said. "I heard the gales and ran upstairs to shut the windows," Funing resident Xie Litian, 62, told Xinhua. "I had hardly reached the top of the stairs when I heard a boom and saw the entire wall with the windows on it torn away." When the storm subsided and Xie escaped, …

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UN: World drug abuse, deaths pretty stable over recent years

Vienna — An estimated quarter of a billion people between the ages of 15 and 64 years, abused at least one drug in 2014 but that figure and the number of drug-related deaths have remained relatively steady over recent years, according to a UN report published Thursday. At the same time, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime report said that the number of heroin users in the United States in 2014 was nearly triple that of 2003 with five times as many deaths related to the drug than in 2000. UNODC put all drug-related fatalities at an estimated 207,400 worldwide in the 15-64 age group while recording a significant drop of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, the key provider of opium base. Overall opium production last year fell by 38 per cent from …

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IS losses could spark more attacks, boost Al-Qaeda

Paris — As the Islamic State (IS) group sees city after city slip from its grasp, analysts warn of retaliatory terror attacks in the West and a potential boost for jihadi rival Al-Qaeda. Iraq forces have already set their sights on Mosul, IS's de facto capital in Iraq, even as they hunt down holdout jihadist fighters in Fallujah, which was declared liberated last week. The loss of Fallujah – two years after a military juggernaut that saw IS sweep up territory and proclaim an Islamic caliphate – comes after months of defeats in Iraq and Syria. ''If they lose their territory they will be weakened but they will be far from finished,'' said Matthew Henman, the head of IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre. He said IS was already engaged in damage control among …

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California fire destroys 80 buildings, closes highways

A fast-spreading fire in central California has destroyed at least 80 buildings and is threatening 1,500 more, prompting the evacuation of 10 neighborhoods, the authorities said Thursday night. The fire three hours north of Los Angeles -- dubbed the Erskine fire -- had spread to an estimated 5,000 acres (20 square kilometers), prompting the mobilization of hundreds of firefighters, the news website Inciweb said. The authorities closed several highways and evacuated two schools and a retirement home in the agricultural and oil region after the blaze started Thursday afternoon due to unknown causes. The blaze is "extremely dangerous, extremely volatile," Kern County Fire Captain Tyler Townsend told the Los Angeles Times. "It's one of the most devastating I've ever seen." California is experiencing a record five-year drought. Trees and brush are at risk of …

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