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Protests against regime lead to 150 arrests

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian police arrested about 150 people, including two prominent opposition figures, who were trying to take part in unauthorized anti-government protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg on Thursday.

In Moscow, police arrested 54 people in connection with a demonstration at Triumfalnaya Square in the city center, police spokesman Viktor Biryukov told the state news agency RIA Novosti. Eduard Limonov, a leader of the Other Russia movement, was among those taken into custody. He is frequently detained at unsanctioned protests.

In St. Petersburg, police said they arrested about 100 people, including Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister who has become one of the country's most visible opposition figures.

Demonstrators in Moscow unfurled an anti-government banner and also chanted "Russia without Putin," referring to Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin.

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Population grows to more than 1.2 billion

NEW DELHI -- India's population is now more than 1.2 billion, an increase of 181 million in a decade, putting it on course to surpass China as the world's most populous nation sometime after 2030, according to preliminary census results released Thursday.

While India's population growth rate slowed significantly to 17.6 percent over the past decade -- putting it on target to double in size in about 50 years -- India still added nearly enough people to match the biggest country in South America.

"We have added almost one Brazil to our population in (the) last one decade," C. Chandramouli, India's census commissioner, told reporters Thursday.

The combined populations of just two of its states, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, exceed that of the United States.

-- Los Angeles Times

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Sarkozy's party called the 'plague of Muslims'

PARIS (AP) -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy's ousted adviser on diversity called the president's conservative party the "plague of Muslims" amid a growing furor over its plans to debate Islam's role in France.

Many of the debate's critics fear it could lead to the stigmatization of French Muslims. Its backers say it is needed to reaffirm France's secular traditions and address evolutions in French society -- such as a growing demand for mosques and Islamic butchers -- in a country with western Europe's largest Muslim population.

Sarkozy fired his diversity adviser Abderrahmane Dahmane last month after Dahmane criticized the debate.

In an interview Thursday, Dahmane told the Associated Press that he wants to rally Muslims against the conservative UMP party and its leader, Jean-Francois Cope, in charge of the debate. "We are going to engage the whole (Muslim) community against Jean-Francois Cope and against his party. Cope's UMP is the plague of Muslims," he said.

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Attorney general quits; successor nominated

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- President Felipe Calderon announced the resignation of his attorney general Thursday and nominated the assistant in charge of organized crime as his successor, the first woman to hold the post if she is approved.

Calderon gave no reason for the departure of Arturo Chavez Chavez, the second attorney general to resign since Calderon was elected president in 2006. He nominated Marisela Morales, who heads the organized crime unit of the Attorney General's Office, to replace Chavez. She must be approved by the Mexican Senate.

Chavez was appointed in 2009 after the departure of Eduardo Medina Mora, one of the main architects of Calderon's crackdown on drug trafficking and organized crime. More than 34,600 people have been killed since Calderon's administration launched the campaign shortly after he became president.

While Medina Mora was constantly in the public eye, Chavez had maintained a low profile as the country's chief prosecutor.

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