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Vietnam veteran is Queen's new envoy in Australia

Former military chief Peter Cosgrove became Australia's governor-general Friday, vowing to uphold the values of equity and compassion as British Queen Elizabeth II's representative in the country. Cosgrove, now Sir Peter after Prime Minister Tony Abbott this week revived the honours system, said he would be bipartisan and attend to matters which sat within Australian values. "Values that respect, and uphold equity, compassion, generosity, tolerance and energetic ambition," he said.

Vietnam veteran is Queen's new envoy in Australia

Former military chief Peter Cosgrove became Australia's governor-general Friday, vowing to uphold the values of equity and compassion as British Queen Elizabeth II's representative in the country. Cosgrove, now Sir Peter after Prime Minister Tony Abbott this week revived the honours system, said he would be bipartisan and attend to matters which sat within Australian values. "Values that respect, and uphold equity, compassion, generosity, tolerance and energetic ambition," he said.

New Cuban foreign investment law to provide 8-year tax break

A new Cuban foreign investment law to be passed this week will let companies keep earnings tax-free for eight years, state media reported Wednesday. "Companies that partner with the state in mixed enterprises will be exempted from taxes for the first eight years after they are set up" and the Council of Ministers can consider extending the privilege, the daily Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) said. The text of the bill, to be passed by the National Assembly Saturday, has not been released or published.

Czech Communist hardliner jailed for abuse of power dies in Prague

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech Communist hardliner Miroslav Stepan, one of the few top Communist leaders convicted for abuse of power after the Soviet-backed regimes in Eastern Europe collapsed in 1989, died on Sunday aged 68, local media reported. Stepan, former head of the Communist Party chapter in Prague, went to prison in 1990 for ordering the brutal suppression of two pro-democracy demonstrations leading up to the Velvet Revolution that toppled Communist power in late 1989.

Mandela ends up launching and undoing Alison Redford's political career

EDMONTON - When she came to power as Alberta's 14th premier in 2011, Alison Redford credited Nelson Mandela with giving her her political chops. Two and a half years later, it was the former South African leader's memorial service that may have triggered the beginning of her political undoing. Redford announced her resignation Wednesday amid caucus unrest over her leadership style and the $45,000 she spent to attend the Mandela funeral in South Africa last year.

Mandela family launches wine collection in Netherlands

Nelson Mandela's oldest daughter Makaziwe and a granddaughter on Wednesday launched their wine collection in the Netherlands, hoping the world-famous branding will help them conquer the European market. Called the "Thembu Collection" after Mandela's tribe of Xhosa-speaking people, the House of Mandela winery's products mark the Mandela family's first commercial venture, Makaziwe Mandela told journalists at a launch in Amsterdam.

To cheers and tears, defiant Putin sets out conservative agenda

By Timothy Heritage MOSCOW (Reuters) - To thunderous applause, cheers and even tears, Vladimir Putin delivered a fiercely patriotic speech on Tuesday that laid claim to Crimea and set out a vision of a Greater Russia that could define his third term as president. In a 47-minute address to his loyal political and business elite that was interrupted by clapping at least 30 times, Putin described a deeply conservative world view in which Russia hankered after land lost when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Russian upper house speaker calls U.S. sanctions 'political blackmail'

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament on Monday denounced as "political blackmail" U.S. sanctions imposed by the White House on her and 10 other Russian and Ukrainian officials over Moscow's takeover of Crimea. "This is an unprecedented decision. Such a thing was unheard of even during the Cold War," Valentina Matviyenko, 64, Russia's leading female politician and its third highest-ranking figure, told the Interfax news agency.

Azerbaijan opposition leaders jailed five, seven years

A court in Azerbaijan on Monday sentenced two leading opponents of strongman President Ilham Aliyev to seven and five years in jail in a decision US officials slammed as "politically motivated". Opposition Republican Alternative (REAL) movement leader Ilgar Mammadov was sentenced to seven years imprisonment and Tofig Yagublu, deputy chairman of the anti-government Musavat party, was handed a five-year term over allegations they incited anti-government riots last year, a REAL spokesperson told AFP.

Russian cultural stars back Putin on Crimea

More than 100 of Russia's leading arts figures, including conductor Valery Gergiev, have signed an open letter in support of President Vladimir Putin's policy on Ukraine and Crimea, the culture ministry said Wednesday. In the letter published on the ministry's website, they say they "cannot be indifferent observers with cold hearts" and that they "firmly state support for the position of the president of the Russian Federation on Ukraine and Crimea."
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