Britain's unemployment rate fell to 6.5 percent in the quarter to the end of May, hitting the lowest level for more than five years, official data showed on Wednesday. The rate for the March-May period compares with 6.6 percent for the three months to the end of April, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.
Chinese growth accelerated to a forecast-beating 7.5 percent in the second quarter, official data showed Wednesday, as government stimulus provided a much-needed boost to the world's second-largest economy. The April-June figure from the National Bureau of Statistics compared with 7.4 percent in the previous three months and exceeded the median forecast of 7.4 percent in a survey of 17 economists by AFP. "Generally speaking, China's economy showed good momentum of stable and moderate growth in the first half-year," NBS spokesman Sheng Laiyun told reporters. "However we should keep in mind that the domestic and international economic environment is still complicated and the national economy still faces many challenges."
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is to be sworn in Wednesday for a new term in a war-ravaged country, as other conflicts in the turbulent region hog the international community's attention. Assad will be sworn in for another seven-year term at his palace overlooking the capital, more than three years into a war that has killed more than 170,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes. Unfortunately for Syrians, the instability has distracted the international community's attention," sighed Samir Nashar, a veteran Syrian dissident and member of the opposition National Coalition. The world, he added, cannot make up its mind whether it should focus primarily "on the Islamic State, Iraq or Egypt".
An unmanned cargo ship that was rocketed into space this weekend by Orbital Sciences Corporation is nearing the International Space Station where it plans to dock on Wednesday. Loaded with meals for astronauts, equipment and science experiments, the Cygnus cargo carrier is scheduled to be grabbed with the space station's robotic arm at 6:39 am (1039 GMT). American astronaut Steve Swanson will be operating the orbiting lab's robotic arm to pull the cargo ship closer, in preparation for berthing about two hours later, NASA said. The spacecraft is packed with 3,653 pounds (1,657 kilograms) of gear for the space station, including a new flock of satellites, experiments for growing arugula in space, and a pump for the Japanese module to replace one that failed.
EU leaders get down to serious haggling Wednesday over top jobs in the bloc, particularly on who will lead the high-profile foreign affairs arm as the bloc faces deepening crises in Ukraine and the Middle East. With Jean-Claude Juncker confirmed Tuesday by the European Parliament as the next head of the Commission, the specially called summit will also focus on the leadership of the European Council, which represents the bloc's 28 political leaders and sets overall policy direction. It is also possible they will look at the Eurogroup, currently headed by Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, amid speculation some countries want to have a permanent executive at the helm who will be better placed to ensure policy coordination for the single currency. The summit is expected to review developments in Ukraine as Washington presses for tougher sanctions against Russia while the EU is divided over how far to go given some member states, such as Italy and Germany, have major economic ties with Moscow.
David Cameron has dramatically hardened his government's eurosceptic stance for a battle with Brussels, but may have weakened his hand while increasing the risk that Britain could crash out of the EU, analysts said. In a major purge of his cabinet on Tuesday, the British prime minister named Philip Hammond as his new foreign secretary, picking a man who has said he would vote for Britain to exit the bloc in its current state. Cameron then puzzled commentators by overlooking several big-hitters and picking a largely unknown ex-public relations man, Jonathan Hill, to be Britain's next European Commissioner.
The United States signaled it could go it alone on toughening sanctions on Russia if Europe does not agree to increase pain for Moscow over its "destabilizing" policies in Ukraine. A raft of unilateral measures have been prepared that President Barack Obama could use to land new blows on the Russian economy, if European leaders meeting in Brussels on Wednesday do not decide to take similar steps, a senior US official told AFP.
Back before campaign promises needed to be cashed, Barack Obama told 200,000 Berliners that allies must "trust each other" and vowed to repair bonds torn by George W. Bush's go-it-alone diplomacy. Sectarian chaos remaking the Middle East, Edward Snowden's bombshells on US spying in Europe and political choices made in turbulent times, have again put US alliances under pressure. A European swoon spurred by Obama's Berlin speech as a presidential candidate in 2008 peaked with a premature Nobel peace prize a year later. "Europe had such extraordinary expectations of President Obama and what he could do.
By David Morgan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A congressional panel probing the mishandling of dangerous pathogens at federal laboratories will try to determine if U.S. officials sought to cover up an incident involving deadly avian flu, its Republican chairman said on Tuesday. Representative Tim Murphy said lawmakers will also look at whether lab workers face adequate "consequences" for failing to follow rules, and consider new legislation if penalties are lacking when actions endanger the public. The panel is due to hear testimony on Wednesday from several witnesses, including Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC has been engulfed in controversy since last month when officials revealed that 84 lab workers had potentially been exposed to live anthrax bacteria at its Atlanta campus.
The BRICS group of emerging powers created a Shanghai-based development bank and a reserve fund seen as alternatives to Western-led institutions. The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa agreed to launch the institutions to finance infrastructure projects and head off future economic crises. "We took the historic decision to create the BRICS bank and the reserve agreement -- an important contribution to reconfigure the system of international economic governance," Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said at a summit in the northeastern seaside city of Fortaleza.
By Sharon Bernstein SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) - The billionaire backer of a long-shot effort to break California into six separate states submitted signatures to state officials on Tuesday aimed at putting his proposal before voters in 2016. Timothy Draper, a founder of a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm that has invested in Twitter, Skype and Tesla, among other companies, has been agitating for months for a ballot initiative to chop the most populous U.S. state into smaller entities. "Today, we turn in 1.3 million signatures that say we are ready to make a change," Draper said. “The proposed ballot measure to divide California into six new states needs to be called out for what it is - a craven attempt to divide California along strict socioeconomic lines," said Paul Song, executive chairman of the progressive activist group Courage Campaign.
Israeli warplanes bombed the home of a senior Hamas leader early Wednesday, as the death toll in Gaza rose to 200. Some of the first morning raids targeted homes of senior Hamas officials, including Mahmud al-Zahar, but there were no reports of casualties in those strikes, although medics reported three deaths elsewhere. Israel had resumed Tuesday its punishing air campaign against the Palestinian territory, which has killed 197 people, as international efforts towards a ceasefire collapsed. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tuesday the army would "expand and intensify" its operation after Hamas snubbed an Egyptian ceasefire proposal.