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SummaryWith its purchase of left-leaning Current TV, the Pan-Arab news channel Al-Jazeera has fulfilled a long-held quest to reach tens of millions of US homes.

Pan-Arab Al-Jazeera buys Current TV from Al Gore

With its purchase of left-leaning Current TV, the Pan-Arab news channel Al-Jazeera has fulfilled a long-held quest to reach tens of millions of US homes. But its new audience immediately got a little smaller. The nation’s second-largest TV operator, Time Warner Cable, dropped Current after the deal was confirmed on Wednesday, a sign that the channel will have an uphill climb to expand its reach. “Our agreement with Current has been terminated and we will no longer be carrying the service. We are removing the service as quickly as possible,’’ the company said in a statement. Still, the acquisition of Current, the news network that was co-founded by former vice-president Al Gore, boosts Al-Jazeera’s reach in the US beyond a few large US metropolitan areas, including New York and Washington, nearly nine fold to about 40 million homes.

Superstorm Sandy tops 2012 insurance claims

Natural disasters cost insurers $65 billion last year, with the US accounting for nine-tenths of the bill and Superstorm Sandy prompting payouts of $25 billion, a leading insurance company said on Thursday. However, Munich Re said the total insured losses worldwide were down from a record $119 billion in 2011, when devastating earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand cost the industry dear. The company said total economic costs in 2012 from natural disasters worldwide — including uninsured losses — amounted to $160 billion, compared with the previous year’s $400 billion.

Obama signs $633-bn defense bill for 2013

President Barack Obama has signed a $633-billion defense bill for next year that tightens penalties on Iran and bolsters security at diplomatic missions worldwide after the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya. Obama had threatened to veto the measure because of a number of concerns, including limits on his authority to transfer terrorist suspects from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for one year. But Obama said although he continued to oppose certain sections of the bill, “the need to renew critical defense authorities and funding was too great to ignore”.

German unemployment rate rises to 6.7%

Germany’s unemployment rate crept up to 6.7% in December due to seasonal factors and a more sluggish economy, but the labour market remained robust and the average number of people out of work last year was the lowest in more than two decades. The unadjusted jobless rate rose from 6.5% in November, the Federal Labour Agency said on Thursday. Some 2.84 million people were registered unemployed in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy — 80,000 more than the previous month and 60,000 higher than a year earlier.

Subaru recalls nearly 634,000 vehicles in US

Subaru is recalling nearly 634,000 vehicles in the US for potential lighting problems that could lead to smoke or fire, according to US safety regulators. Subaru, owned by Fuji Heavy Industries, is recalling some Forester vehicles from model years 2009 through 2012, all Legacy and Outback vehicles from model years 2010 through 2012, and some Tribeca vehicles from model years 2006 through 2012, according to documents filed with the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The 633,842 vehicles potentially affected by the recall may are equipped with accessory puddle lights that when lit brighten the areas under the doors, according to NHTSA documents.

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