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World

    Moscow's International Kremlin Cadet Ball is a picture of discipline, pomp and splendor. Girls in billowing dresses twirl across the dance floor, immaculately dressed young men line the hall in orderly rows, and teachers bark out orders, trying to get their students to keep time.Backstage, however, chaos reigns. As lipstick is applied and hair frantically braided, girls jostle for position in front of floor-length mirrors, trying to capture the perfect selfie.'Red lipstick is absolutely forbidden!' shouts a teacher, causing the room to go silent. 'Cadet girls should be girly, not womanly!'For many at Tuesday's ball, it's a fairytale chance to experience the grandeur of Russia's czarist traditions. With its string quartets, traditional dance routines and patriotic speeches, the event harks back to a bygone era.'I'm a bit scared, to be honest,' said 13-year-old Masha Pavlenkova, one of a family of six. 'I don't want to make a mistake.'More than 1,000 students, from both general and military schools, travelled to Moscow from 42 different regions for the ball, including the Sakha Republic in Russia's Arctic North and the Crimea annexed from Ukraine in 2014.'The main thing is to do your best, to study well and to believe in yourself,' said 13-year-old Andrei Amurskov.Patriotic pride underpinned the evening. Lyudmila Vanina, one of the ball's organizers, says the event offers children an opportunity to meet and talk with war veterans and heroes of the Soviet Union.Contrary to its image, the ball is not the preserve of the rich — many children come from poor family backgrounds or orphanages.'There are lots of people from different family backgrounds, anyone can be a cadet and that's really shown here,' said Leonid Dontsov, 16.For a group of orphans from Krasnoyarsk in eastern Siberia and a cadet school from Yakutia in the Far North, the event offered students their first chance to visit the Russian capital.Natalya Miroshkina, a teacher from Samara, noted the 'huge diversity' of children from different schools, regions and backgrounds.'For us, this was a unique opportunity to represent Samara at this wonderful event,' she said. 'We have to teach our children the importance of patriotism. They need to value their history, love their past and protect their future.
  • Poland 'fits the European puzzle' and should be allowed to protect its national interests and character even while being a member of the European Union, the country's new prime minister said Tuesday.Mateusz Morawiecki outlined his policies both foreign and domestic in a speech to parliament a day after he was sworn in and tasked with boosting the economy and Poland's image abroad.A 49-year-old former international banker, Morawiecki succeeds Beata Szydlo at the helm of the same ruling Law and Justice party team.Poland has developed a number of recent conflicts with EU leaders who have threatened punitive actions to curb Polish moves seen as going against EU values.'Dear Europe, Poland's piece perfectly fits into the European puzzle for sure, but it mustn't be placed the wrong way or by force,' Morawiecki said.He also said Poland was against leaving some EU members behind and against 'dividing Europe into those better and those worse' where stronger nations are favored.'That's not right,' he said.The bones of contention include Poland's refusal to accept migrants within a sharing program, its reorganization of the judiciary that is seen as a threat to the rule of law and the country's logging in a pristine forest.Morawiecki said Poland will abide by the ruling of a top EU court, expected within months, on the forest issue.A confidence vote for the government is scheduled after midnight and is expected to pass.Ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland's most powerful politician, said Tuesday that a 'deep' reshuffling of the government will probably take place in January.A few hundred anti-government protesters demonstrated Tuesday outside parliament against the ruling party's policies.
  • Pope Francis urged Latin American and Caribbean Catholics to celebrate and defend their diversity, saying Tuesday the face of the Catholic Church is indigenous, mestizo and black.Francis celebrated a special Mass to celebrate the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the dark-skinned virgin who appeared to an Indian peasant in the 1500s and is particularly important to Latin American Catholics, the Argentine pope included.In his homily, Francis said indigenous peoples, women, peasants, migrants and the unemployed often aren't treated with the dignity they deserve. He urged the region's faithful to not only cultivate their diverse cultures but 'valiantly defend them' against homogenization.'Our fertility compels us to defend our people against an ideological colonization that cancels out the richest of them, be they indigenous, Afro-American, mestizo, peasant or suburban,' he said, speaking in his native Spanish.'We want to learn to be a church with a mestizo, indigenous, Afro-American face,' he said. 'A face that is poor, unemployed, of children, old and young so that no one feels sterile or shameful or worthless.'The first pope from the Americas has continued a tradition started by Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate a special Mass for the Guadalupe feast day, recognizing that Latin America has accounted for about 40 percent of the world's Catholics and that Mexico (and Brazil) remain the countries with the most Catholics.The most memorable Guadalupe Mass was the Francis' 2014 edition, which featured the 'Misa Criolla' folk Mass with hymns composed by Argentina's Ariel Ramirez. Tuesday's Mass was a more traditional affair, although Francis — who usually doesn't sing — mouthed the words to the final 'La Guadalupana' hymn.According to tradition, the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared before the Indian peasant Juan Diego in 1531 at Tepeyac, a hillside near Mexico City where Aztecs worshipped a mother-goddess, and her image was miraculously imprinted on his cloak.The image helped priests inculcate Catholicism among indigenous Mexicans during Spanish colonial rule, and the church later made Guadalupe patron of all the Americas. Juan Diego was canonized as the hemisphere's first Indian saint in 2002 during the papacy of St. John Paul II.The basilica dedicated to the virgin in Mexico City draws millions of pilgrims each year and is the most-visited Marian shrine in the world. Francis prayed before the image of the virgin during his 2016 visit to Mexico.
  • Part of a monster fatberg that clogged one of London's sewers is destined for fame in a museum.The Museum of London says it will put the only remaining chunk of the 130-metric-ton (143-U.S.-ton) mass of oil, fat, diapers and baby wipes on display early next year.Workers for utility company Thames Water spent weeks this year dislodging the smelly 250-meter-long (820-foot-long) blob by breaking it up with high-powered hoses.The museum's shoebox-sized chunk is all that remains. The rest has been converted to biofuel.Curator Vyki Sparkes said Tuesday that it will be 'one of the most fascinating and disgusting objects we have ever had on display.'It has been air-dried to reduce the smell and will be displayed in a sealed unit.
  • A top Russian official says most of the fake bomb calls that have plagued cities across Russia have come from Syria.Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov said Tuesday in remarks carried by Russian news agencies that most of the anonymous calls came from areas controlled by 'terrorists' in Syria.Russia has waged a military campaign in Syria since September 2015, allowing Syrian President Bashar Assad's government to win back control over most of the country.Zubov said fake bomb threats have also come from Turkey, Ukraine, the U.S. and Canada, and a few calls came from the ex-Soviet nations of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.Russian officials say a slew of fake bomb calls have targeted 3,500 buildings in 190 Russian cities and led to the evacuation of more than 2.5 million people since September.
  • An explosion Tuesday at a major natural gas facility near Austria's border with Slovakia killed one person and left 21 others injured, and caused some gas flow disruptions to other countries, authorities said.One person was seriously injured and 20 others were slightly hurt in the morning blast at the plant in Baumgarten an der March, east of Vienna, police said. No one was in a life-threatening condition. The facility's operator initially said all the casualties were Austrian, but later said the one with less severe injuries include employees of contractors from six other countries.The explosion set off a fire, which operator Gas Connect said was completely extinguished by mid-afternoon. The facility was 'shut down in a controlled state and is offline,' the company said.Police wrote on Twitter that the explosion was triggered by a 'technical cause,' but didn't elaborate and said that local authorities are investigating. Gas Connect said it also suspects an unspecified technical fault.Gas Connect describes the Baumgarten plant, where pipelines bringing gas from Russia, Norway and other countries connect and gas is compressed and cooled, as one of Europe's most important gas supply hubs.Officials and company experts are analyzing the situation at the facility and discussing the next steps, it said. The explosion affected a 100-meter by 100-meter (328-foot by 328-foot) area.'Austria's natural gas supply can be covered for the foreseeable future,' the company said on its website. However, 'transit through Austria to the south and southeast regions is currently negatively impacted,' it added.Neighboring Italy's Economic Development Ministry declared an emergency after the explosion interrupted the flow of natural gas to the country, but said Italy's supply of gas would be ensured by existing stockpiles.Claudio Descalzi, the CEO of Italian oil and gas company Eni, said that industry operators can compensate even if the interruption continues for weeks and aren't alarmed, although he said that if it continues for a prolonged period there could be an impact on prices.
  • Leaders and high-ranking officials of Muslim countries will meet Wednesday in Istanbul for an extraordinary summit to discuss 'repercussions' from the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.The Organization of Islamic Cooperation session aims to produce a 'unified Islamic position.' The umbrella organization of 57-members called U.S. President Donald Trump's statement last week an 'illegal decision' and a 'serious escalation.'Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan_OIC's term president_has been vehemently critical of the U.S. move and said Monday the leaders would relay a 'strong message.'Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Lebanon's President Michel Aoun, Jordanian King Abdullah II and top ministers of numerous nations will be attending the session.The holy city's status is at the heart of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict and significant for Palestinians and Muslims worldwide.Most countries around the world have not recognized Israel's 1967 annexation of east Jerusalem. Under a long-standing international consensus, the fate of the city is to be determined in negotiations.Trump's announcement, which includes a pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, was widely seen as siding with Israel.Protests in Gaza and the West Bank turned violent last week. Demonstrations across the Muslim world displayed an outpour of anger against the U.S. and Israel.The United Nations and numerous states have warned the U.S. decision could further escalate tensions. Even small crises over Jerusalem's status and its holy sites have sparked deadly violence in the past.The OIC convened another extraordinary meeting in Istanbul this August after Israel installed additional security measures at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The move led to protests and clashes until it was reversed.Erdogan was meeting Abbas Tuesday evening in Istanbul ahead of the summit.
  • Russia's top domestic security agency says it has detained three suspected members of a sleeper cell of the Islamic State group who have been preparing suicide bombings in Moscow.The Federal Security Service, or FSB, said Tuesday that the suspects were plotting a series of suicide attacks in the Russian capital during the New Year's holidays and the presidential election campaign.The FSB said the suspects, who came from ex-Soviet nations in Central Asia, were manufacturing self-made explosive devices. Monday's search in their rented apartment outside Moscow found explosives along with assault rifles and hand grenades.FSB director Alexander Bortnikov said another IS cell was uncovered in the southern Stavropol region.In April, a suicide bombing in St. Petersburg's subway left 16 dead and wounded more than 50.
  • A German military officer has been indicted on allegations he plotted to kill prominent political figures and blame the attack on refugees, prosecutors said Tuesday, in a case that raised concerns about extremism in the country's military.Federal prosecutors said they charged the 28-year-old, identified only as 1st Lt. Franco Hans A. in line with German privacy rules, with planning an act of violence as well as violating weapons and explosives laws.The soldier, stationed with a Franco-German brigade in Illkirch, just across the border from Kehl in France, also is charged with theft and fraud in the Dec. 4 indictment.Prosecutors allege the suspect, whom they described as a 'right-wing nationalist,' managed to pose as a Syrian asylum-seeker and planned to carry out his attack under that identity so that refugees would be blamed.They say his targets included Justice Minister Heiko Maas and that he had stockpiled four firearms including an assault rifle, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and more than 50 explosive devices, some stolen from military stores.He came to the attention of authorities after he was arrested in February while going to retrieve a pistol he'd stashed in a Vienna airport bathroom. He was freed, but Austrian authorities informed Germany. When the soldier's fingerprint matched the one he'd given when he registered as a refugee, it triggered the current investigation.Two other soldiers, identified only as Maximilian T. and Mathias F., were also investigated in connection the scheme but have since been released for lack of evidence.The German military, called the Bundeswehr, has been also looking into the case internally and more broadly at the issue of extremism in its ranks at the urging of Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen.Among other things she brought up when the case broke in April, von der Leyen said A. came to the attention of his superiors for expressing 'clearly racist and far-right extremist' views in a 2014 dissertation for his officer's training, but was let off with a warning._____Geir Moulson contributed to this story.
  • The European Union is planning to link together its border, visa and fingerprint databases to plug information gaps and better combat terrorism and international crime.The European Commission proposed Tuesday to upgrade the 28-nation bloc's information systems so that border officers or the Europol police agency can have fast access to more reliable data.EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos says the plan aims 'to close gaps and remove blind spots in our information systems.'It would allow visa, police, customs or justice authorities to use one search portal with access to all various databases they currently have permission to use.The European Commission says the move wouldn't compromise data protection safeguards while making it easier to cross-check information or catch criminals using multiple or fake identities.