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Morning Briefing: July set to be royal baby (not babies) month

Prince William stands next to his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge as she leaves the King Edward VII hospital in central London, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Prince William and his wife Kate are expecting their first child, and the Duchess of Cambridge was admitted to hospital suffering from a severe form of morning sickness in the early stages of her pregnancy.

Alastair Grant/AP

Rebels mount counter-offensive in Mali

Al-Qaeda-linked militants launched a counter-offensive today in the widening conflict in Mali. The offensive in the north part of the west African country comes as French jets continue to pound rebel positions. French forces made a surprise intervention in the long-running conflict last week, amidst growing international alarm over the prospect that the Islamist forces might topple the Mali government. Today, a spokesperson for the rebels vowed France would pay for its involvement in the conflict. Canada, which has resisted calls to join the campaign, is helping to train soldiers in neighbouring Niger, who may join the fight along with troops from other African countries.

Ex-Italian PM makes unsuccessful bid to shut down sex trial

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A court in Milan has rejected a bid by Silvio Berlusconi to shut down the former Italian prime minister's sex trial until after the elections in February. The request came on the final day of testimony as the Moroccan woman at the heart of the case – Arima el-Mahrough, known as Ruby – arrived in court as a defence witness. Ms. El-Mahrough was ordered to appear after twice failing to show up at the trial. However, the judges also said they didn't need to hear testimony from Ms. el-Mahrough. Mr. Berlusconi is accused of paying Ms El-Mahrough for sex, which they both deny.

Royal couple due in July

Set your calendar – July will be royal baby month. Buckingham Palace confirmed today that Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are " expecting a baby in July " – note the use of the singular form – who will be third in line for the throne. Palace officials also said that duchess's health is improving, after being hospitalized in December for an extreme form of morning sickness.

Nortel verdicts in today

Nearly a year after the beginning of one of Canada's largest corporate fraud cases, a court is set to rule on the fate of three former Nortel networks executives. The executives – ex-CEO Frank Dunn, former CFO Douglas Beatty and ex-controller Michael Gollogly – were charged with fraud over allegations they manipulated financial statements of Nortel, once a high-flying technology company that filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

Pupatello takes lead in Ontario Liberal leadership race

Former cabinet minister Sandra Pupatello has emerged as the frontrunner in the race to replace Dalton McGuinty as Liberal leader later this month. Ms. Pupatello has 27 per cent of delegates, compared to Kathleen Wynne's 25 per cent, reports The Globe's Adam Radwanski.

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Ashley Smith inquest set to begin

After long delays, an inquest is set to begin today into the death of troubled teen Ashley Smith. The coroner's inquest in Toronto will begin hearing evidence more than five years after the 19-year-old choked herself to death in a cell at a Kitchener institution while guards looked on. It is the second inquest into the teen's death death; the first attempt collapsed when the coroner resigned.

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