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Trump endorses Romney niece Ronna Romney McDaniel for RNC chair
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Trump endorses Romney niece Ronna Romney McDaniel for RNC chair | Reuters

By Steve Holland | NEW YORK NEW YORK U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday endorsed a niece of former critic Mitt Romney to be the next chair of the Republican National Committee as he moved to put his stamp on the party leadership.The RNC named Michigan Republican Party chair Ronna Romney McDaniel as its deputy chair, and Trump said he looked forward to her taking over the party leadership.Trump's incoming White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, will leave the RNC chairmanship when Trump takes office on Jan. 20.“I’m excited to have a highly effective leader in Ronna McDaniel as RNC deputy chair and I look forward to her serving as the party’s chairman in 2017,” Trump said in a statement.

Rebel officials say Aleppo evacuation plan back on track
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Rebel officials say Aleppo evacuation plan back on track | Reuters

By Laila Bassam, Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Tom Perry | ALEPPO, Syria/BEIRUT ALEPPO, Syria/BEIRUT Syrian opposition groups said an evacuation of rebel-held areas of Aleppo was back on track and expected to begin early on Thursday, but uncertainty persisted as a media outlet run by Lebanon's Hezbollah said truce talks faced "big complications".Such an exodus would end years of fighting for the city and mark a major victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. An initial deal stalled on Wednesday, the planned evacuation failed to materialise and renewed fighting raged in the city

New oversight for Voice of America, Radio Free Europe raises concerns
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World

New oversight for Voice of America, Radio Free Europe raises concerns | Reuters

By Patricia Zengerle | WASHINGTON WASHINGTON A defence policy bill that President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law this month will give President-elect Donald Trump greater influence over U.S. foreign broadcasting entities.The National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress last week includes a provision abolishing the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent body that oversees government-backed media outlets such as the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, and replaces it with a chief executive nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.The election victory of Republican businessman Trump, who has had a stormy relationship with some media outlets he accuses of being biased against him, has raised concerns among some officials about whether the media outlets can maintain their editorial independence under a Trump-appointed CEO.It is not clear, however, if the change is intended to give the president greater influence over news, information and fact-checking that U.S.

Aleppo evacuation plan back on track to end years of fighting
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World

Aleppo evacuation plan back on track to end years of fighting | Reuters

By Laila Bassam, Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Tom Perry | ALEPPO, Syria/BEIRUT ALEPPO, Syria/BEIRUT An evacuation of rebel-held districts of Aleppo is back on track and expected to begin within hours, officials on both sides of the war said late on Wednesday, a retreat that would mark a major victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and end years of fighting.An initial deal that would have seen thousands of civilians and opposition fighters granted safe passage out of the city stalled on Wednesday and the planned exodus failed to materialise. Iran, one of Assad's main backers, had imposed new conditions, saying it wanted the simultaneous evacuation of wounded from two villages besieged by rebels, according to rebel and U.N.

U.S. Northeast braces for arctic air after N.Y. boy dies in snowbank
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U.S. Northeast braces for arctic air after N.Y. boy dies in snowbank | Reuters

By Timothy Mclaughlin | CHICAGO CHICAGO Arctic air sweeping through the U.S. Midwest on Wednesday is expected to bring the Northeast the freezing conditions that contributed to the death on Tuesday of an upstate New York boy who became trapped in a snowbank

Bomber in Istanbul attack came from Syria - Turkish foreign minister
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World

Bomber in Istanbul attack came from Syria - Turkish foreign minister | Reuters

ANKARA One of the two suicide bombers in an attack on an Istanbul soccer stadium last weekend had come from Syria, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.The twin attacks in Istanbul on Saturday - involving a suicide bomber on foot and another in a car - killed 44 people, mostly policemen, outside Besiktas soccer stadium, and injured more than 150.Earlier this week, Turkish police carried out a series of raids and detained 568 people over alleged links to Kurdish militants, intensifying a crackdown after the bombings.An offshoot of the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) claimed responsibility for the attacks on Saturday night. "We are always telling our counterparts that we are receiving this threat. And now, we see that the Besiktas bomber also came from Syria," Cavusoglu told TGRT TV in an interview

Bomber in Saturday's Istanbul attack came from Syria - Turkish foreign minister
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Bomber in Saturday's Istanbul attack came from Syria - Turkish foreign minister | Reuters

ANKARA One of the bombers in an attack on an Istanbul soccer stadium last weekend had come from Syria, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.The twin attacks in Istanbul on Saturday - involving a car bomb and a separate suicide bomber - killed 44 people, mostly policemen, outside Besiktas soccer stadium, and injured more than 150.

Had a war like Syria's started in Europe, refugees would be treated better - Jordan's Prince Ali
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Had a war like Syria's started in Europe, refugees would be treated better - Jordan's Prince Ali | Reuters

By Nita Bhalla NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - If the war in Syria had taken place in Europe, the world would have reacted more quickly to foster peace and treated millions of refugees fleeing the protracted conflict more humanely, said Jordan's Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein. Jordan has been overwhelmed by the influx of refugees since the conflict in neighbouring Syria began almost six years ago

Aleppo assault likely a war crime, says U.N. as evacuation stalls
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Aleppo assault likely a war crime, says U.N. as evacuation stalls | Reuters

By Laila Bassam, Lisa Barrington and John Davison | ALEPPO, Syria/BEIRUT ALEPPO, Syria/BEIRUT Plans to evacuate besieged rebel districts of Aleppo were under threat on Wednesday as renewed air strikes and shelling rocked the Syrian city in a bombardment the United Nations said "most likely constitutes war crimes".Iran, one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main backers, imposed new conditions, saying it wanted the simultaneous evacuation of wounded from two villages besieged by rebel fighters, according to rebel and U.N.

Italian PM wins Senate confidence vote as new referendum looms
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Italian PM wins Senate confidence vote as new referendum looms | Reuters

By Crispian Balmer and Giselda Vagnoni | ROME ROME Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni won the backing of the fragmented Senate on Wednesday, allowing his government to formally take office as a new threat emerged to the legacy of predecessor Matteo Renzi.Renzi resigned last week when he lost a referendum on his proposed reform of the constitution. Looking to stave off political turmoil, the head of state asked Gentiloni, the outgoing foreign minister, to form a new cabinet.After winning an initial vote of confidence in the lower chamber of parliament on Tuesday, Gentiloni secured victory in the upper house Senate and promised to push ahead with Renzi's reform agenda.But the reform drive, once heralded by investors as a sign that Italy was finally facing up to myriad problems such as chronic economic underperformance and rampant graft, looks increasingly ragged.With the constitutional reform already shot down by a referendum, another of Renzi's flagship projects, a shake-up of the labour market, risks suffering the same fate with Italy's main union demanding a plebiscite on the law.Italy's Constitutional Court said on Wednesday it would review the request on Jan

Swiss high court slaps down effort to ban university's Islamic centre
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Swiss high court slaps down effort to ban university's Islamic centre | Reuters

By John Miller | ZURICH ZURICH Switzerland's highest court on Wednesday blocked efforts to ban a state-funded Islamic-focused academic centre at a Swiss university, ruling that an anti-immigration political party's proposed local referendum on it was discriminatory.

Syrian rebel official says rebels launch counter attack in Aleppo
| Reuters
World

Syrian rebel official says rebels launch counter attack in Aleppo | Reuters

BEIRUT A Syrian rebel official said on Wednesday that insurgents had launched counter-attacks against government forces in the city of Aleppo as fighting raged on after a truce deal appeared to collapse.Zakaria Malahifji of the Fastaqim group told Reuters that his men "have begun a military action" from their last remaining areas of control in the city. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group and a witness reported that insurgents had staged a car bomb attack southwest of the historic Old City

Italian PM wins Senate confidence vote - count by ruling PD party
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World

Italian PM wins Senate confidence vote - count by ruling PD party | Reuters

ROME Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni won a confidence vote in the upper house Senate on Wednesday, allowing his coalition government to take office.Former premier Matteo Renzi resigned last week after losing a referendum on his proposed reform of the constitution. Looking to stave off political turmoil, the head of state asked Gentiloni, the outgoing foreign minister, to form a new cabinet.Gentiloni re-appointed virtually all of Renzi's old ministers and easily won an initial confidence vote in the lower house of parliament on Tuesday. His administration might only last a few months, with many party leaders pushing for elections in the first half of 2017, a year ahead of schedule.

British PM May's Brexit plan: secret strategy or muddle?
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World

British PM May's Brexit plan: secret strategy or muddle? | Reuters

By Guy Faulconbridge | LONDON LONDON If Prime Minister Theresa May has a detailed Brexit plan, it is very secret.Since the June 23 referendum, May has been clear only that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union and that she will formally trigger exit talks by the end of March 2017.May says it would be foolish to reveal her cards before one of the most complicated negotiations in post-World War Two European history that could decide the fate of both her premiership and the world's fifth largest economy."It is absolutely right that we do not set out at this stage every single detail of our proposed negotiating strategy, because that would be the best way to get the worst possible deal for Britain," May told parliament when asked whether she had a coherent plan.May attends an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday but she has not been invited to a dinner where leaders of the other 27 EU member states will discuss their approach to Brexit.Britons' vote to leave the bloc has opened a huge number of questions including whether exporters will keep tariff-free access to the single European market and British-based banks will still be able to serve continental clients, not to mention immigration and the future rights of the many EU citizens already living in the United Kingdom.The absence of a specific government stand on these and many other issues has confused May's allies and perturbed company bosses, while investors try to work out what Brexit might mean for the future of their businesses and for London, the only financial centre to rival New York.Brexiteers say there is little point laying out detailed demands as, with France and Germany due to hold elections next year and the future of a new Italian government uncertain, it is still unclear who will be in power in Paris, Berlin and Rome.Another unknown is how Donald Trump, who once said Brexit was wonderful, could affect the divorce proceedings after he becomes U.S. president next month.Behind the secrecy, though, there are signs of muddle.When May pushed for informal negotiations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a Nov.

Syria's Assad: Trump can be our natural ally
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World

Syria's Assad: Trump can be our natural ally | Reuters

MOSCOW Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview with Russian state television that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump could become a natural ally to Damascus if he shows he is sincere about fighting terrorism."If Trump can genuinely fight against terrorism, he can be our natural ally," Assad, speaking through an interpreter, said in the interview which was broadcast on Wednesday

Exclusive - China installs weapons systems on artificial islands: U.S. think tank
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World

Exclusive - China installs weapons systems on artificial islands: U.S. think tank | Reuters

By David Brunnstrom | WASHINGTON WASHINGTON China appears to have installed weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on all seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, a U.S.

Aleppo hit by air strikes and shelling as evacuation stalls
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World

Aleppo hit by air strikes and shelling as evacuation stalls | Reuters

By Laila Bassam, Tom Perry and Lisa Barrington | ALEPPO, Syria/BEIRUT ALEPPO, Syria/BEIRUT The planned evacuation of rebel districts of Aleppo stalled on Wednesday as air strikes and heavy shelling hit the city and Iran was said to have imposed new conditions on the deal.Iran, one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main backers in the battle that has all but ended four years of rebel resistance in the city, wanted a simultaneous evacuation of wounded from two villages, Foua and Kefraya, that are besieged by rebel fighters, according to rebel and U.N. sources.Rebel groups said that was just an excuse to hold up the evacuation from a shrunken insurgent enclave shattered by a powerful government offensive.

Syrian rebels prepare to withdraw from Aleppo as truce begins
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Syrian rebels prepare to withdraw from Aleppo as truce begins | Reuters

By Laila Bassam and Angus McDowall | ALEPPO, Syria/BEIRUT ALEPPO, Syria/BEIRUT Syrian rebels prepared to withdraw from Aleppo on Wednesday after a ceasefire agreement that ended years of fighting in the city and gave President Bashar al-Assad his biggest victory yet after more than five years of war.The agreement was a result of talks between Russia, Assad's main ally, and Turkey, a leading backer of the rebels, a Turkish government official said. The guns fell silent late on Tuesday in Aleppo

Islamic State made weapons in Mosul up to military standards, report says
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Islamic State made weapons in Mosul up to military standards, report says | Reuters

ERBIL, Iraq Islamic State militants have been producing weapons on a scale and sophistication which matches national military forces and have standardised production across their self-styled caliphate, an arms monitoring group said on Wednesday.Conflict Armament Research (CAR) said the jihadist group had a "robust supply chain" of raw materials from Turkey, and the technical precision of its work meant that it could not be described as "improvised" weapons production."Although production facilities employ a range of non-standard materials and chemical explosive precursors, the degree of organisation, quality control, and inventory management indicates a complex, centrally controlled industrial production system," it said in a report following visits last month to six facilities once operated by Islamic State in eastern Mosul.Iraq's military launched a sweeping operation on Oct. 17 to retake the northern city, the jihadists' last major stronghold in the country, more than two years after government forces dropped their weapons and fled.Elite army troops have retaken a quarter of the city in a gruelling U.S.-backed campaign, but their advance has been slow and punishing.

U.S. urges Taiwan to increase defence spending given China threat
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World

U.S. urges Taiwan to increase defence spending given China threat | Reuters

By David Brunnstrom | WASHINGTON WASHINGTON Defence spending in Taiwan has not kept pace with the threat posed by China and should be increased, a senior U.S. defence official said on Tuesday, days after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump touched off a storm by questioning American policy over the island.Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Abraham Denmark said the Obama administration's "One China" policy remained unchanged, but he could not predict Trump's intentions when he takes office on Jan