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Tories table aboriginal education bill amid criticism from some First Nations

OTTAWA - The federal government has tabled its First Nations education bill despite complaints from some aboriginal organizations that it skimps on funding and fails to give natives direct control of their education systems. Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt defended Bill C-33, dubbed the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, saying it meets the five conditions outlined by the Assembly of First Nations and chiefs during a meeting in December.

Nova Scotia government to create industry-led apprenticeship agency

HALIFAX - A proposed private sector-led agency in Nova Scotia would help steer policy to ensure apprentices can get jobs, the province's labour minister said Thursday. Labour Minister Kelly Regan said changes to the Apprenticeship and Trades Qualifications Act would give the private sector more influence in apprenticeship programs. "We want industry and employers to direct the future of apprenticeship in this province," said Regan. "We want the apprenticeship system to be more responsive to our trades and our workforce so Nova Scotia businesses will flourish."

Council of Europe assembly suspends Russian members

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - Russia was suspended from the parliamentary assembly of European human rights watchdog the Council of Europe on Thursday in protest at Moscow's behavior towards Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. The 18 Russian parliamentarians who were suspended will not be able to vote in the 318-head assembly, have representation in its main committees or take part in its election observation missions.

U.S. accuses Russia after Putin warning on gas supplies to Europe

By Alexei Anishchuk and Bill Trott MOSCOW/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin warned on Thursday that Russian gas supplies to Europe could be disrupted if Moscow cuts the flow to Ukraine over unpaid bills, drawing a U.S. accusation that it is using energy "as a tool of coercion". In a letter to the leaders of 18 European countries, Putin made clear that his patience would run out over Kiev's $2.2 billion gas debt to Russia unless a solution could be brokered urgently.

French plan to push copycat biotech drugs worries Big Pharma

By Natalie Huet and Noëlle Mennella PARIS (Reuters) - France is going out on a limb with a plan to push the use of cheap copies of biotech drugs, triggering alarm among companies in Europe's second-biggest pharmaceutical market behind Germany. The government quietly introduced the measure allowing pharmacists to substitute prescribed brand-name biotech drugs with cheaper, similar versions in its 2014 healthcare budget.

Pro-Russia separatists reject amnesty offer in Ukraine standoff

By Thomas Grove LUHANSK, Ukraine (Reuters) - Armed pro-Russia separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk rejected Kiev's offer of amnesty for those who seized government buildings this week and called on others to defy the pro-European government in Kiev. Protesters wearing bullet-proof vests and armed with Kalashnikov rifles, pistols and other guns inside the security building, a former KGB headquarters, said they would only lay down their weapons if Kiev agreed to hold a referendum on the future of the region.

Lviv 2022 to meet IOC on Ukraine bid's future

By Karolos Grohmann (Reuters) - The Lviv 2022 Winter Olympics bid team will meet the International Olympic Committee (IOC) "as soon as possible" to decide whether the troubled Ukrainian candidacy can meet its commitments as the country faces turmoil. In a statement sent to Reuters, Lviv officials said the bid had essentially been put on hold ahead of the presidential elections in May as Russia moved to occupy parts of the country, including Crimea.

Separatists in east Ukraine call on Putin for help, Kiev warns of force

By Thomas Grove LUHANSK, Ukraine (Reuters) - Pro-Russian separatists reinforced barricades around the state security building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk on Wednesday and called on President Vladimir Putin for help after the government warned it could use force to restore order. Protesters were also engaged in talks to ease the standoff, which Kiev has said could provide a pretext for a Russian invasion, and lawmakers from eastern Ukraine proposed an amnesty for protesters to defuse tension.

EU rules out sanctions over fraud claims at Turkish agency

The European Commission has no plans to suspend education programmes in Turkey after allegations that a government agency misused EU funds, an official said on Thursday. "The European Commission has analysed the preliminary results of the audit carried out at the Centre for EU Education and Youth programmes in Ankara," the Commission's education spokesman Dennis Abbott told AFP in an emailed statement.

Taiwan's Ma hopes for summit with China

Taiwan's president said Wednesday he hopes to hold a historic summit with China's leader, but acknowledged that conditions are not yet right, amid domestic opposition to his pro-Beijing policies. President Ma Ying-jeou said the November gathering in Beijing of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum -- one of the few international groups in which Taiwan is a member -- would be an ideal time for him to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping as the setting would "greatly minimize the sensitivity."
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