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World

    Pakistani police say a roadside bomb in the southern port city of Karachi has killed at least two people and wounded five others. Senior police official Ameer Sheikh says Friday's blast took place in city's congested Quaidabad area. He said some vendors at a makeshift market were selling fruit and other items of daily use when the bomb went off nearby. Dozens of people were present there at the time. Sheikh says the dead and wounded have been transported to a hospital and officers were still investigating. There was no immediate claim of responsibility from any group. Karachi is the capital of Pakistan's southern Sindh province where outlawed Islamic militant groups maintain a presence.
  • Kids across the world expressed concerns about global warming by joining forces to create what organizers say is the world's biggest postcard on a glacier in the Swiss Alps. Bearing messages of hope and commitment, more than 125,000 colorful and hand-written postcards from kids around the world have emblazoned a glacier in Switzerland to create one giant one, half the size of a football field. It's a cry of help — from New Orleans to Hong Kong, from sub-Saharan Africa to India — ahead of an upcoming U.N.-backed climate conference in Poland next month. The Swiss development and cooperation agency and partners unfurled Friday a 'compound postcard,' on top of the threatened Aletsch glacier, the longest and deepest in the Alps and which is on track to melt to nonexistence by the end of this century if global warming trends continue. Organizers say the individual postcards delivered to the 3,400-meter height near Switzerland's famed Jungfraujoch, aimed to set a Guinness World Record for the 'postcard with the most contributions.' Guinness, though, said the attempt has not been registered. The current record is only 16,000. Pinned down with clamps and nets, and laminated in long glued-together strips to protect them from the ice and snow, the postcards bore messages of efforts to fight climate change and help the environment: limiting water use, promises to use public transportation, or recycling old goods before buying new ones among them. 'They are asking us and their leaders to take action to preserve the planet Earth for them to have a future on it,' said Oceane Dayer, founder of Swiss Youth for Climate. Ever mindful of the impact, organizers are calculating the CO2 footprint caused by sending so many postcards — often through Swiss diplomatic posts — and preparing to double the offset, or compensation. Drones equipped with cameras buzzed overhead as bright sunshine bounced off the white mountainside. Overhead, cards spelled out 'Stop global warming' and '#1.5C' — an allusion to the goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). Organizers want to launch a 'Global Climate Change Youth Movement' to play into the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Katowice, Poland, known as COP24, next month. And organizers plan to use a snapshot of the giant compound postcard to make, well, a postcard.
  • A prominent Holocaust researcher said Friday that he is suing a Polish organization for libel after it waged a public campaign last year accusing him of slandering Poland's good name with his work exploring Polish violence against Jews during World War II. Historian Jan Grabowski, of the University of Ottawa in Canada, told The Associated Press he brought a lawsuit on Thursday against the Polish League Against Defamation, an organization allied with Poland's conservative ruling party. The head of the organization, Maciej Swirski, said he had not received formal notification of the suit yet and would only comment after he does. Last year, the league said Grabowski 'falsifies the history of Poland, proclaiming the thesis that Poles are complicit in the extermination of Jews.' 'During World War II, due to the demoralizing circumstances and German actions, it is true that vile-acting individuals could be found among Poles and Jews alike,' the group wrote in a statement signed by dozens of Polish academics. 'Yet, we should remember that the objective of the Germans was also to 'eradicate the Polish nation' and 'completely destroy Poland.'' The anti-defamation organization has been part of a broader effort under the government of the populist Law and Justice party to challenge research on Polish participation in the killing of Jews by Nazi Germany. Poland was under German occupation during World War II. 'What is important, from my point of view, is that the militant nationalists who nowadays hold sway in Poland be warned that they will be held to account, that they are wrong if they think that their outrageous statements and slanders will go unnoticed,' Grabowski, who was born and attended university in Warsaw, told the AP. Official efforts under the Law and Justice government have included promoting the memory of the Polish gentiles who sheltered Jews during the war. Scholars who research Polish violence against Jews have faced censure and prosecution. The issue came under international scrutiny earlier this year when Polish lawmakers voted to make it illegal to blame the nation for Holocaust crimes. The law has since been amended to remove prison as a possible punishment for violators, though individuals can still be tried and fined. The measure created a rift with Israel and was also condemned by the U.S. Also Friday, the Polish ambassador to Germany, Andrzej Przylebski, accused Germans of frequently reducing World War II to the Holocaust 'as if Adolf Hitler was primarily or exclusively concerned with the murder of European Jews.' At a Berlin conference attended by the German foreign minister, Przylebski said Polish victims 'are almost completely forgotten or downplayed,' according to a report from the Wirtualna Polska news portal. Grabowski's 'Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland' documents the involvement of Poles in one rural area in finding and killing Jews who had escaped from ghettos and were trying to survive by hiding among gentiles. It was awarded the 2014 Yad Vashem International Book Prize for Holocaust Research. The book also sparked heated debates, and the scholar says he received death threats after its publication. After a German newspaper reviewed the book favorably, a far-right Polish website ran an article with a photograph of the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. The headline was 'Sieg Heil, Herr Grabowski, Three Times Sieg Heil.' Grabowski successfully sued for libel.
  • In a historic vote, more than 50 nations unanimously approved an overhaul of the international measurement system that underpins global trade and other human endeavors, uniting Friday behind new definitions for the kilogram and other units in a way they fail to do on many other issues. Scientists, for whom the update represented decades of work, clapped, cheered and even wept as delegates gathered in Versailles one by one said 'yes' or 'oui' to the change, hailed as a revolution in how humanity measures and quantifies its world. The redefinition of the kilogram, the globally approved unit of mass, was the mostly hotly anticipated change. For more than a century, the kilogram has been defined as the mass of a cylinder of platinum-iridium alloy kept in a high-security vault in France. That artefact, nicknamed 'Le Grand K,' has been the world's sole true kilogram since 1889 . Now, with the vote, the kilogram and all of the other main measurement units will be defined using numerical values that fit handily onto a wallet card. Those numbers were read to the national delegates before they voted. The update will take effect May 20. Scientists at the meeting were giddy with excitement: some even sported tattoos on their forearms that celebrated the science. Nobel prize winner William Phillips called the update 'the greatest revolution in measurement since the French revolution,' which ushered in the metric system of meters and kilograms. The Grand K and its six official copies, kept together in the same safe on the outskirts of Paris and collectively known as the 'heir and the spares,' will be retired but not forgotten. Scientists want to keep studying them to see whether their masses change over time. The update will have no discernable impact for most people. Bathroom scales won't suddenly get kinder and kilos and grams won't change in supermarkets. But the new formula-based definition for the kilogram will have multiple advantages over the precision-crafted metal lump that set the standard from the 19th century to the 21st, through periods of stunning human achievement and stunning follies, including two world wars. Unlike a physical object, the formula for the kilo, now also known as 'the electric kilo,' cannot pick up particles of dust, decay with time or be dropped and damaged, but will be easier to share. 'If we stay where we are, and someone did accidentally drop the kilogram or if there was a contamination that we couldn't control, then the whole system has got no head. We're in chaos,' said Barry Inglis, a scientist from Australia. 'That's the thing that's really been worrying us, I think, for maybe 15 years or more is just how vulnerable the system is, by depending just on that one little piece of platinum-iridium.' The redefined kilo is expected to allow for more accurate measurements of very, very small or very, very large masses and help usher in innovations in science, industry, climate study and other fields. In humankind's efforts to quantify and understand the world, stretching back centuries to when ancient Babylonians measured mass with stones, the vote marked a major milestone, scientists agreed. 'Those units, those constants chosen now, include everything we know, everything we have always known and provide that springboard for us to go pursue those things that we don't know,' said Jon Pratt of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. He said Friday's gathering 'was just leaving me in a puddle of tears.' Updated definitions for the ampere, kelvin and mole also were approved Friday. Humanity uses seven main measurements units: the meter for length, the kilogram for mass, the second for time, the ampere for electric current, the kelvin for temperature, the mole for the amount of a substance and the candela for luminous intensity. Of the seven, the kilo was the last still based on a physical artefact, Le Grand K. With time, as the science behind the new kilo definition becomes more accessible and affordable, the update should also mean that countries won't have to send their own kilograms back to France to be checked occasionally against Le Grand K, as they have done until now, to see whether their mass was still accurate. 'We future-proofed the system,' said Martin Milton, director of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. The bureau is the guardian of the system, as well as of Le Grand K and its copies, which are stored in a vault that requires three keys, kept by three different people, to unlock. Very rarely have they seen the light of day. 'We put in place a system that doesn't depend on something that is 140 years old,' Milton said.
  • A Russian Soyuz rocket sent a cargo ship on its way to the International Space Station on Friday, a successful launch that cleared the way for the next crew to travel to the space outpost. The launch of the Russian Progress MS-10 resupply ship from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan marked the fourth successful liftoff of a Soyuz since a launch with crew members had to be aborted last month. A Soyuz-FG rocket carrying NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos' Alexei Ovchinin failed two minutes into its flight on Oct. 11, activating an automatic rescue system that allowed their capsule to land safely. A Russian investigation attributed the failure to a sensor that was damaged during the rocket's final assembly. The accident was the first aborted crew launch for the Russian space program since 1983, when two Soviet cosmonauts jettisoned after a launch pad explosion and also had a safe landing. The Russian Soyuz spacecraft is currently the only vehicle that can ferry crews to the space station. Since the October mishap, two Soyuz rockets were launched successfully from Plesetsk in northwestern Russia, while a third lifted off from French Guiana carrying satellites into orbit. They were of a different subtype than the rocket that failed in October, but the one that lifted off Friday was the same version. The Progress ship is set to dock at the space station Sunday, delivering almost three tons of food, fuel, water and other supplies to the crew — NASA's Serena Aunon-Chancellor, Russian Sergei Prokopyev and German Alexander Gerst. In a separate supply mission, Northrop Grumman's Antares rocket with Cygnus cargo spacecraft is scheduled to lift off Saturday and dock at the station Monday. The current crew is scheduled to return to Earth next month after the arrival of their replacements. American astronaut Anne McClain, Canadian David Saint-Jacques and Russian Oleg Kononenko are set to go up on Dec. 3. Speaking Thursday at the Star City space training center outside Moscow, McClain voiced confidence in the Soyuz despite October's aborted launch. 'We trust our rocket. We're ready to fly,' she said. 'I think what we learned from the inside in October was how safe this rocket was. A lot of people called it an accident or an incident, or maybe want to use it as an example of not being safe. But for us it's exactly the opposite because our friends came home, the systems worked and they worked exactly as they were designed.
  • A judge in southern Italy has ordered that former three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi go on trial over a case involving women procured for his summer villas. Prosecutors have alleged that Berlusconi gave a businessman hundreds of thousands of euros to induce him to lie about engaging young women for the politician's villas a decade ago. Lawyers for Berlusconi, a billionaire media mogul, weren't immediately available for comment. Italian news agency ANSA quoted them as saying they'd prove his innocence. The judge on Friday set the trial to open Feb. 4. Berlusconi, 82, leads the center-right Forza Italia party he founded, but is currently barred from public office due to a tax fraud conviction. In a separate case, Berlusconi was acquitted on appeal of paying for sex with an underage woman.
  • As Dutch children anticipate the arrival of their country's version of Santa Claus this weekend, critics and fans of his helper, Black Pete, are gearing up for protests that have become another fixture of the festive season in the Netherlands. White people often daub their faces with black paint when they dress up to play the character. Opponents say the annual recreations of Black Pete promote racist stereotypes. Supporters defend the sidekick of Sinterklaas, the white-bearded, red-robed Dutch version of St. Nicholas, as a traditional children's character. A nationally televised arrival parade takes place Saturday in the picturesque village of Zaandijk, north of Amsterdam. Sinterklaas and his helpers are set to arrive on a boat and then tour the village. One group unsuccessfully tried in court to keep Pete from the party. Geralt Lammers, a spokesman for Zaandam municipality, which includes Zaandijk, said four groups, two in favor and two against Black Pete, have said they plan demonstrations. The municipality has assigned specific areas for the protests to avoid possible confrontations between the pro- and anti-Pete camps. The most prominent group, Kick Out Black Pete, said on its Facebook page that it is organizing weekend demonstrations in 18 Dutch municipalities, but not in Zaandijk. The far-right Netherlands People's Union is one of the groups planning to demonstrate in support of the Christmas character. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte entered the debate Friday, calling on all protesters not to spoil the festivities for children. 'I think society agrees on one thing: we grant children the magic of the Sinterklaas party,' Rutte said at his weekly press conference. NTR, the public broadcaster responsible for the televised event, said the Black Petes in this year's parade will have faces made up in various shades. In recent years, the color of the character's face has been attributed to smudges of soot from going up and down chimneys to deliver gifts. 'The more often a Pete has been through a chimney, the more soot he or she has on their face,' NTR said in a statement earlier this year. Anti-Pete protesters took their arguments to court this week, arguing the character was racist and discriminatory. Afro-style wigs are part of some costumes as well as blackface makeup, though fewer than in past years. But a judge refused the request to keep Black Pete out of the parade. 'Black Pete is undoubtedly changing,' judge Antoon Schotman said. 'Some think that the process is moving too slowly and that's fine. Others believe the process is moving too quickly. There is no objective way of measuring it. What is important is that the conversation continues.
  • The Russian military said nearly 270,000 Syrian refugees have returned home in recent months, a fraction of the estimated 5.6 million Syrians who have fanned out across the world fleeing the seven-year conflict. Moscow and the government in Damascus have been encouraging refugees to repatriate, arguing that the violence has subsided. Russia launched military operations to help Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2015, changing the tide of the war in his favor. Western governments have, however, argued that it's too early to encourage return. Rights groups and the U.N. fear refugees would face persecution returning to government-controlled areas in the absence of a comprehensive political agreement. Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev of the Russian Defense Ministry told reporters Friday that nearly 6,000 people have returned to Syria in the last week alone, according to data collected by Russia. He said they are seeing large waves of refugees returning home. The conflict has caused nearly half of Syria's population to be displaced, with an estimated 6 million internally displaced and 5.6 million fleeing to neighboring countries and Europe, and registering with the United Nations Refugee Agency. Russia has negotiated local cease-fires that have greatly reduced the fighting, but the causes of the conflict have not been addressed. The Syrian government has regained control of nearly 60 percent of Syrian territory. But armed opposition, some backed by Turkey, and Islamic State militants remain holed up in areas in the north and south of the country. The violence has not completely stopped. On Friday, the U.N. Children agency UNICEF said the first nine months of 2018 saw the highest number of children killed since the conflict began in 2011, putting it at 870 till September. 'These are only verified cases, with actual numbers likely to be much higher,' UNICEF said in a statement Friday. The agency said it is alarmed by recent reports of the killing of up to 30 children in the last IS-held pocket in eastern Syria where the U.S-led coalition and its local allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces, have been waging an offensive for over two months. UNICEF didn't say how the children were killed, but reports by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights — the Britain-based group monitoring the war — said more than 30 children were killed last weekend in coalition airstrikes on Shafaa village held by the extremists. The coalition says it checks reports of civilian casualties, describing its airstrikes mostly as targeting IS installations or posts.
  • A court in Istanbul convicted six people and sentenced them to life in prison for involvement in an extremist attack at Istanbul's main airport that killed 45 people and was blamed on the Islamic State group, Turkey's state-run news agency reported Friday. The six were convicted of premediated homicide and contravening the Turkish Constitution in the 2016 attack that also injured 163, the Anadolu Agency said. Twenty-six other defendants were acquitted of all charges. On June 28, 2016, three suspected militants armed with automatic weapons stormed Ataturk International Airport and opened fire. They eventually detonated suicide vests that killed them as well as more airport visitors. The attack was one of several in Turkey blamed on IS extremists. The attackers were identified as Vadim Osmanav and Rakhim Bulgarov, while the third man's name remains unknown. A total of 46 defendants were on trial for the attack, including Russian, Algerian, Tunisian, Egyptian, Syrian and Turkish citizens. Six were sentenced to prison terms ranging from six to 12 years for membership in a terror group, Anadolu said. Others were convicted of aiding a terror group or fraud. Four defendants remain at large. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but Turkish authorities blamed it on the Islamic State group.
  • As Cabinet ministers quit and lawmakers demanded her resignation, cricket-loving British Prime Minister Theresa May summoned the spirit of one of her sports heroes. Asked by a reporter 'how many wickets need to fall' before she was out, May spoke of her admiration for Geoffrey Boycott, a cricketer who was famous for his dull but effective batting style. 'Geoffrey Boycott stuck to it and he got the runs in the end,' she said. Commentators writing about May often use adjectives like dogged, diligent and robotic — as they were with Boycott during a controversial and highly successful career that lasted over two decades to the mid-1980s. In politics, those qualities are often considered weaknesses, but they may turn out to be assets as Britain's prime minister fights for her political life and the future of the Brexit deal she has struck with the European Union. May, 62, became prime minister because of Brexit, after Britain's shock June 2016 vote to leave the EU toppled Prime Minister David Cameron, who had argued for remaining in the bloc. And she has spent her entire premiership trying to deliver on the voters' decision. Before the referendum, May had backed remaining in the bloc, but she has become one of the staunchest advocates of Brexit. 'Brexit means Brexit,' became her mantra — a meaningless one, according to her detractors. For a time, May was able to unite the warring factions of her party. But her authority was severely dented when she gambled in April 2017 by calling a snap election in hopes of strengthening her hand in divorce negotiations with the EU — only to lose her majority in Parliament. May kept her government going by cobbling together a deal with the small Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland. It is now threatening to withdraw its support because of opposition to her Brexit deal. Much of May's Conservative Party also hates the agreement, struck after a year and a half of tough negotiations between Britain and the EU. The pro-Brexit wing of the party says it gives too much away and will leave Britain bound to EU rules after it leaves. Pro-EU Conservatives criticize May for ruling out a softer Brexit in which Britain remains in the EU's single market and customs union. May vowed this week that she would 'see this through' and secure Parliament's backing for her deal. Few doubt her fortitude and commitment to an idea of public service instilled in her upbringing as the daughter of an Anglican vicar. May was first elected to Parliament in 1997, and soon established a reputation for unflashy competence and a knack for vanquishing her rivals. She served for six years in the notoriously thankless job of home secretary, responsible for borders, immigration and law and order. In 2016 she beat flashier and better-known politicians, including flamboyant Brexit-backer Boris Johnson, to the post of prime minister. But stubbornness alone may not be enough. As Britain's second female prime minister, May is inevitably compared to the first, Margaret Thatcher, whose steely determination May admires. In November 1990, Thatcher faced a leadership challenge from Conservative rivals. She won the ballot, but not by enough to avoid a second-round vote. 'I shall fight on,' Thatcher said defiantly. 'I fight to win.' Within a week, she had been replaced.