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Cuba's Raul Castro steps out of brother's shadow with U.S. deal, support surges

Man walks near a sign with an image of Cuban President Raul Castro in HavanaBy Daniel Trotta and Rosa Tania Valdés HAVANA (Reuters) - Stepping out of his legendary brother's shadow, President Raul Castro has scored a diplomatic triumph and a surge in popular support with the deal that ends decades of open hostility with the United States. For many Cubans, the restoration of diplomatic relations and President Barack Obama's promise to dismantle economic sanctions against the communist-run island have raised hopes of a more prosperous future. ...

Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:23:31 -0500
China arrests U.S. missionary near North Korea border
By Megha Rajagopalan BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Friday arrested Korean American missionary who was being held near the country's border with North Korea, signaling a toughening crackdown on Christian activists in the sensitive region. Peter Hahn, 74, is being charged with embezzlement and counterfeiting receipts, his lawyer, Zhang Peihong, told Reuters. Zhang said he believed authorities were targeting Hahn because of his Christian faith and because he ran a non-governmental organization. "The charges leveled against him are just excuses," Zhang said. ...
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:50:49 -0500
Israel bombs Gaza militant base after rocket hits southern Israel
GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli aircraft bombed a Hamas militant base in the Gaza Strip on Friday for the first time since the end of a war in the territory, in response to a rocket that militants launched earlier in the day, the army said. The bombs struck in the Khan Younis area in the southern Gaza Strip. Local hospital officials said there were no casualties. The militant rocket fired earlier landed in a field in southern Israel and did not cause casualties. "The IDF (military) will not permit any attempt to undermine the security and jeopardize the well being of the civilians of Israel. ...
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:44:18 -0500
Fifteen U.S.-led air strikes target Islamic State militants: task force

Turkish soldiers watch as thick smoke billows following an air-strike in eastern Kobani as trails of fighter aircrafts are seen over the Syrian townWASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S.-led coalition conducted 15 air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria on Friday, the Combined Joint Task Force said in a statement. Eleven strikes in Iraq hit several groups of Islamic State militants as well as other vehicles and a building, among other targets, according to the statement In Syrian, four air strikes hit two units of militant fighters and an Islamic State training compound, among other targets, the task force said. (Reporting by Washington Newsroom; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 11:09:39 -0500
Cuba not returning to capitalism despite U.S. deal: Castro's daughter

Mariela Castro, director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education, National Assembly member and daughter of Cuba's President Raul Castro talks to the media in HavanaBy Rosa Tania Valdés HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba will defend its socialist principles and will not return to capitalism just because it has agreed a detente with the United States, the daughter of President Raul Castro said, dispelling any notion that U.S. companies would be free to roll into Cuba. "The people of Cuba don't want to return to capitalism," Mariela Castro, a member of parliament, told Reuters on Friday. Cuba and the United States on Wednesday agreed to end more than five decades of animosity and re-establish full diplomatic relations. U.S. ...

Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:46:59 -0500
Obama to block exports of goods, technology, services to Crimea

U.S. President Obama answers a question about the cyberattack on Sony Pictures after his end of the year press conference in the briefing room of the White House in WashingtonWASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Friday said he would ban exports of goods, technology or services to Ukraine's Crimea region, and called on Russia to end its annexation of the region. In a statement, Obama said his order "is intended to provide clarity to U.S. corporations doing business in the region and reaffirm that the United States will not accept Russia's occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea." The measures followed similar moves by the European Union this week. Canada also announced such measures on Friday. ...

Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:25:09 -0500
No more charges for American Samoa man in ruckus
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (AP) — A man accused of causing a ruckus on a flight from Honolulu to American Samoa last week won't face additional charges.
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:10:48 -0500
No word yet from Fidel amid historic US-Cuba shift

In this July 11, 2014 file photo, Cuba's Fidel Castro speaks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Havana, Cuba. Amid the excitement over the thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations, one person has been conspicuously absent: Fidel Castro. The former Cuban president hasn’t made any public comment about the announcement that the U.S. and Cuba will restore diplomatic relations after more than 50 years of hostility.(AP Photo/Alex Castro, File)HAVANA (AP) — Everyone in Cuba is talking about the startling turn in relations with the United States, with one notable exception: Fidel Castro.

Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:04:17 -0500
Obama's Cuba switch forces exile groups to adapt

Franciso "Pepe" Hernandez, right, President of the Cuban American National Foundation, talks to a group of Ladies in White in Miami, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. “I think now everybody is going to be, and should be, more open about the activities they do with the opposition in Cuba,” the foundation’s president, Pepe Hernandez, told The Associated Press in an interview. Hernandez’s own more violent attempts to overthrow the Castro brothers still make it impossible for him to set foot in Cuba. But he now says the kind of peaceful, people-to-people contacts Obama spoke of Wednesday will be more effective.(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)MIAMI (AP) — Hours before President Barack Obama announced an end to a half-century of U.S. efforts to isolate Cuba's communist government, the Cuban American National Foundation opened the doors to its inviting new headquarters, with a modern glass and concrete lobby in the heart of Miami's Cuban exile community.

Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:03:05 -0500
Top Asian News at 1:00 a.m. GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama declared Friday that Sony "made a mistake" in shelving a satirical film about a plot to assassinate North Korea's leader and pledged the U.S. would respond "in a place and manner and time that we choose" to the hack attack on Sony that the FBI blamed on the communist government. Speaking of executives at Sony Pictures Entertainment, Obama said at a year-end news conference, "I wish they had spoken to me first. ... We cannot have a society in which some dictatorship someplace can start imposing censorship."
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:03:03 -0500
Shea signs with Orlando City Soccer
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Former U.S. national team star Brek Shea has signed with the Orlando City Soccer Club.
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:59:43 -0500
UN asks Israel to pay Lebanon $850 M for oil spill
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution Friday asking Israel to pay Lebanon over $850 million in damages for an oil spill caused by an Israeli air force attack on oil storage tanks during its war with Hezbollah in July 2006.
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:56:17 -0500
Celebrities react to latest Sony hack developments

An exterior of the Sony Pictures Plaza building is seen in Culver City, Calif., Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. President Barack Obama declared Friday that Sony "made a mistake" in shelving the satirical film, "The Interview," about a plot to assassinate North Korea's leader. He pledged the U.S. would respond "in a place and manner and time that we choose" to the hacking attack on Sony that led to the withdrawal. The FBI blamed the hack on the communist government. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)Latest reaction from Hollywood and beyond to the Sony hacking scandal and President Obama's remarks Friday that the studio "made a mistake" in not releasing its embattled film "The Interview":

Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:51:57 -0500
Cuban cigar boom? Not yet, stores and customers say

In this Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014 photo, Roberto Ramos, president of the Cubaocho Art and Research Center in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, lights up a cigar. The Cuban cigar is set to make its first legal appearance in the United States in years, with relaxed guidelines allowing travelers to return with a few of the once-forbidden items in their suitcases. But the cigars won’t roll into stores just yet, and owners say they aren’t worried about business. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)MIAMI (AP) — The coveted Cuban cigar is set to make its first legal appearance in the U.S. in years, with relaxed guidelines allowing American travelers to return with a few of the once-forbidden items in their suitcases. But the cigars won't roll into stores just yet, and owners say they aren't worried about any dip in business.

Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:48:46 -0500
State Dept. warns US travelers to be extra careful
WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department is warning Americans traveling abroad to be extra cautious over the holidays.
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:45:45 -0500
Dhawan hurt in practice ahead of day 4, 2nd test
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — India opener Shikhar Dhawan retired hurt ahead of the resumption of play on day four of the second test against Australia after being hit on the forearm during a practice session on Saturday morning.
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:43:42 -0500
Court finds anti-whaling protesters in contempt
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers were found in contempt of court Friday for continuing their relentless campaign to disrupt the annual whale hunt off the waters of Antarctica.
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:42:32 -0500
Israeli air planes strike in Gaza Strip after rocket

Palestinian protesters take cover from tear gas thrown by Israeli security forces during clashes following a demonstration against Israeli settlements in the West Bank village of Turmus Aya, north of Ramallah on December 19, 2014Israeli air planes struck targets in the southern Gaza Strip, witnesses and the army said early Saturday, hours after a rocket from the Palestinian enclave hit the Jewish state. A spokesman for Gaza's health ministry said there were no casualties in the attack, the first air strike by Israel on the Palestinian enclave since the summer truce that ended the deadly 50-day war between the sides. The Israeli army confirmed the strike, which it said "targeted a Hamas terror infrastructure site". On Friday, a rocket fired from Gaza hit an open field in southern Israel, Israeli police said, causing no casualties or damage.

Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:39:28 -0500
China arrests US aid worker near N. Korean border
BEIJING (AP) — A Korean-American aid worker running a school in a Chinese city near North Korea has been arrested on charges of embezzlement and possession of fake invoices, his lawyer said Friday, in a sign that authorities are increasingly sensitive about activities by foreigners in the border region.
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:30:33 -0500
AP Interview: Coelho says Sony hack threatens all

Brazilian author Paulo Coelho gestures during an interview with The Associate Press, at his apartment, in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. Coelho says the Sony hack threatens us all if society doesn't enforce important values against anonymous terrorists. The best-selling author says he was prepared to make himself an example — even if it meant inviting criticism and threats — if Sony Pictures had taken him up on his $100,000 offer for the rights to its cancelled film. (AP Photo/Boris Heger)GENEVA (AP) — Brazilian author Paulo Coelho says the Sony hack threatens us all if society doesn't enforce important values: our individual and collective freedom of expression and an unwavering refusal to negotiate with anonymous terrorists.

Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:28:07 -0500
Franciscan religious order in 'grave' financial crisis
ROME (AP) — The main Franciscan religious order in the Roman Catholic Church is in a financial crisis because of alleged wrongdoing from within and outside its ranks, the head of the order said.
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:04:29 -0500
Coal ash is not hazardous waste under U.S. agency rules

File photo of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy announcing steps to cut carbon pollution in WashingtonBy Jonathan Kaminsky (Reuters) - In a disappointment to environmentalists, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued rules on Friday labeling coal ash, a byproduct of coal-based power production containing toxic materials such as arsenic and lead, as non-hazardous waste. The label means that states and environmental groups taking legal action, and not the EPA, will be the primary enforcers of the first-ever federal rules targeting coal ash, which will require the closure of some coal ash holding ponds leaking contaminants into surrounding water but will not cover others. ...

Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:02:18 -0500
Mother arrested over deaths of eight children in Australia

Flowers and stuffed toys are laid opposite the scene where eight children ranging from babies to teenagers were found dead in a house in the northern Australian city of Cairns early on December 20, 2014The mother of most of the eight children reportedly found stabbed to death in a house in the Australian city of Cairns has been arrested for murder, police said Saturday. "The 37-year-old mother of several of the children involved in this incident has been arrested for murder overnight and is currently under police guard at the Cairns Base Hospital," detective inspector Bruno Asnicar told reporters. The woman, who police said was believed to be the mother of seven of the children and the aunt of the eighth, has not been charged.

Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:00:40 -0500
Obama vows U.S. response to North Korea over Sony cyber attack

U.S. President Obama responds to a question after his end of the year press conference in the briefing room of the White House in WashingtonBy Steve Holland and Matt Spetalnick WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama vowed on Friday to respond to a devastating cyber attack on Sony Pictures that he blamed on North Korea, and scolded the Hollywood studio for caving in to what he described as a foreign dictator imposing censorship in America. Obama said the cyber attack caused a lot of damage to Sony but that the company should not have let itself be intimidated into halting the public release of "The Interview," a lampoon portraying the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. ...

Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:52:11 -0500
China's wealth finds home in Washington state

Debbie Lin, right, of Windermere Real Estate, speaks Manderin as she shows a home for sale to Amy Hsu, left, a real estate broker who was looking at homes on behalf of a client from China, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, in Bellevue, Wash., as fellow broker Josh Avery, center, walks behind them. Seattle-area real estate agents are taking note of growing connections linking China and Washington state, which ranks second to California in real estate sales to Chinese buyers. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)MEDINA, Washington (AP) — Savvy Seattle-area real estate agents have gained an advantage by paying attention to the growing connections between China and Washington state.

Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:51:51 -0500
US imposes new Russia sanctions ahead of Ukraine peace talks

A Ukrainian soldier fires a missile with a portable air-defense system during exercises near the city of Shchastya, north of Lugansk in eastern Ukraine on December 1, 2014The United States imposed sanctions Friday on Russian-controlled Crimea as Ukraine announced the loss of five soldiers ahead of peace talks meant to end a war against Russian-backed insurgents. President Barack Obama prohibited American exports of goods or services to Crimea, a strategic peninsula and vacation destination that Russian seized from Ukraine last March. "The United States will not accept Russia's occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea," Obama said in a statement.

Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:48:35 -0500
UN urging Taliban to reduce Afghan civilian casualties
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. said Friday it's been talking to the Taliban about reducing civilian casualties in Afghanistan but hasn't seen any change on the ground, where it attributes 75 percent of deaths and injuries this year to the insurgent group that used to rule the country.
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:38:51 -0500
Israel carries out airstrike on Hamas site in Gaza

Israeli border police detain a Palestinian protester following a prayer for Palestinian Cabinet minister Ziad Abu Ain, who collapsed shortly after a protest on Dec. 10 in the West Bank village of Turmus Aya, as they clash with the troops near the village outside of Ramallah, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. Clashes erupted between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces at a West Bank military checkpoint near Turmus Aya, where Abu Ain collapsed and later died en route to hospital. Palestinian and Israeli pathologists subsequently disagreed over the cause of Abu Ain's death. The Palestinian expert said the cause of death was a "blow," while his Israeli colleague said Abu Ain died of a heart attack. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's military struck a Hamas site in the Gaza Strip early Saturday in its first airstrike on the Palestinian territory since this summer's war.

Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:30:42 -0500
Obama signs massive defense spending bill
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law a massive U.S. defense policy bill that endorses his plan to fight Islamic State militants, including air strikes and training Iraqis and moderate Syrian rebels.
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:10:17 -0500
Shipulin wins biathlon sprint in Slovenia
POKLJUKA, Slovenia (AP) — Anton Shipulin of Russia shot clean to win a men's 10-kilometer sprint on Friday for his first biathlon World Cup victory of the season.
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:04:31 -0500
Federal court finds protesters in contempt for ignoring order to halt anti-whaling campaign
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Federal court finds protesters in contempt for ignoring order to halt anti-whaling campaign.
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:02:12 -0500
Israeli army says it has carried out an airstrike in Gaza targeting a Hamas site
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli army says it has carried out an airstrike in Gaza targeting a Hamas site.
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:58:06 -0500
Obama warns N. Korea over Sony hack: 'We will respond'

US President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference on December 19, 2014 in WashingtonUS President Barack Obama on Friday warned North Korea it would face retaliation for a crippling cyber attack on Sony Pictures over an irreverent film comedy that infuriated Pyongyang. Obama said the movie giant had "made a mistake" in canceling the Christmas Day release of "The Interview," a madcap romp about a CIA plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Sony defended its decision, made after anonymous hackers invoked the 9/11 attacks in threatening cinemas screening the film, prompting theater chains to say they would not risk showing it. An envoy for Pyongyang denied the secretive state was behind the hacking, which led to the release of a trove of embarrassing emails, scripts and other internal communications, including information about salaries and employee health records.

Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:54:25 -0500
Sony on shelving 'The Interview': 'We had no choice'
NEW YORK (AP) — Following pointed criticism from President Barack Obama for shelving "The Interview," Sony Pictures Entertainment on Friday defended its decision, claiming it had no choice but to cancel the film's Christmas Day theatrical release.
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:51:48 -0500
Obama signs bill deepening US-Israeli cooperation
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has signed a bill deepening U.S.-Israeli cooperation and says the legislation reinforces "critical defense and security programs."
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:46:22 -0500
How Syria policy stalled under the 'analyst in chief'
By David Rohde and Warren Strobel WASHINGTON (Reuters) - (In Oct. 9 story, corrects paragraph 12 to clarify that size of Obama's National Security Council staff has continued to grow, rather than "has nearly doubled", after the White House clarified numbers it had provided to Reuters. ) Throughout 2012, as signs mounted that militants in Syria were growing stronger, the debate in the White House followed a pattern. ...
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:45:53 -0500
Suspected Honduran drug kingpins extradited to US
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (AP) — Two Honduran brothers suspected of running one of the world's largest drug-trafficking rings have been extradited to the U.S. and charged in federal court.
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:41:45 -0500
Obama imposes sanctions on Crimea, echoes EU
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama banned new investments in Crimea on Friday, slapping sanctions on the peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine earlier this year.
Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:37:22 -0500
Kenyan leader signs controversial anti-terror bill into law

Policemen arrest a man protesting the passing of a controversial new security legislation that would crack down on terror suspects and curtail journalists' freedoms if they're deemed to "undermine" investigations, on December 18, 2014 in NairobiKenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday signed into law a controversial anti-terrorism bill that sparked brawls in parliament and provoked charges that it violates basic freedoms. Kenyatta said he was satisfied that the text adopted by the National Assembly on Thursday did not breach the country's bill of rights. The controversial measures extend the time police can hold terror suspects from the current 90 days to nearly a year and increase the sentences they face. The opposition and rights groups, however, dismissed the amendments as sugercoating and said the law risked turning Kenya into a police state.

Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:34:39 -0500
London 'garden bridge' gets official approval

A handout computer generated image made available on December 3, 2014 shows the design for "Garden Bridge" across the River Thames in LondonLondon (AFP) - The project to create a garden bridge over the River Thames between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars got the final go-ahead on Friday, with the office of the London mayor announcing construction could start in 2015.

Date Posted : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:30:27 -0500
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