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U.S.-led air strikes focus on Islamic State Kobani in Syria

An explosion following an air strike is seen in western Kobani neighbourhoodWASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S.-led air strikes in Syria focused on the contested city of Kobani near the Turkish border on Thursday, with six air strikes that destroyed seven Islamic State fighting positions, a building and a tactical unit, the U.S. military said. U.S. and partner nations also conducted five air strikes in Iraq on Thursday, targeting Islamic State militants in Tal Afar, Mosul and Ramadi, the U.S. Central Command said in a statement. (Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Trott)

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:53:30 -0500
Putin says Russia economy will be cured, offers no remedy

Russian President Putin attends his annual end-of-year news conference in MoscowBy Timothy Heritage and Alexei Anishchuk MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin assured Russians on Thursday that the economy would rebound after the ruble's dramatic slide this year but offered no remedy for a deepening financial crisis. Defiant and confident at a three-hour news conference, Putin blamed the economic problems on external factors and said the crisis over Ukraine was caused by the West, which he accused of building a "virtual" Berlin Wall to contain Russia. ...

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:07:26 -0500
Despite billions in aid, U.S. unable to get Pakistan to confront militants

Man holds a placard as he attends a candlelight vigil in Islamabad across the Red Mosque for students killed in Peshawar School attackBy David Rohde WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Since 2001 the United States has tried virtually every strategy available to persuade Pakistan's army to take the threat of militancy more seriously, but 12 years and $28 billion in aid later, all the American approaches are widely viewed as having failed. First, the Bush administration heaped praise on former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, agreed to reimburse the Pakistani army for anti-Taliban military operations and launched drone strikes that killed al Qaeda leaders and militants wanted by the Pakistani government. ...

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:47:29 -0500
Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnap 172 women, children in Nigeria
By Lanre Ola MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped 172 women and children and killed 35 other people on Sunday during a raid on the northeast Nigerian village of Gumsuri, residents said on Thursday. Although no one has claimed responsibility, the attack bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram, which abducted more than 200 women in April from a secondary school in Chibok, only 24 km (15 miles) from this latest attack. ...
Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:33:04 -0500
New broom ends EU summit a day early

(L-R) Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy Brey, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, French President Francois Hollande and Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho meet European Union leaders summit in BrusselsBRUSSELS (Reuters) - In a striking symbol of changed leadership, European Union leaders wrapped up their last summit of the year a day early after agreeing to launch an investment fund and maintain sanctions on Russia over Ukraine. New European Council President Donald Tusk, chairing his first summit, made a point of keeping the meeting short and political, without the customary wrangling over the wording of a rambling final statement, known in EU jargon as "conclusions". "European Council finished. ...

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:54:44 -0500
EU needs united approach to Russia for a solution to Ukraine conflict

EU foreign policy chief Mogherini listens to EU Council President Tusk during a EU leaders summit in BrusselsBRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union must be united in its approach toward Russia if it wants to find a solution to the conflict in Ukraine, the chairman of EU leaders Donald Tusk said on Thursday. "Obviously we won't find a satisfactory solution for Ukraine without a common strategy toward Russia," Tusk told a news conference after a meeting of the leaders at which the conflict was discussed. (Reporting By Jan Strupczewski)

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:31:46 -0500
US women rout Argentina 7-0 in Brasilia Tournament
BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Christen Press scored four goals and Carli Lloyd had a hat trick as the United States women's soccer team routed Argentina 7-0 in the International Tournament of Brasilia on Thursday, keeping alive its hopes of reaching the final of the four-team competition.
Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:26:18 -0500
UN Experts: Taliban radicals against peace gain prominence
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Radical splinter groups within the Taliban movement that oppose any negotiation with Afghanistan's new government are gaining prominence, U.N. experts said in a report circulated Thursday.
Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:20:36 -0500
EU cannot just be reactive in response to Russia: EU's Tusk
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union's response to Moscow after Russia's annexation of Crimea cannot solely be driven by events, European Council President Donald Tusk said. "It is obvious we will not find a long-term perspective for Ukraine without an adequate, consistent and united European strategy toward Russia," Tusk told a news conference at the end of a summit of EU leaders in Brussels. Tusk, the former Polish prime minister chairing his first EU summit, said a modern, safe and independent Ukraine was the most important element of such a strategy. ...
Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:20:19 -0500
Russia is a strategic problem for the EU: Tusk
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Russia's approach to Ukraine and to the European Union is a challenge to the 28-nation bloc, which does not make European leaders too optimistic, but rather realistic, the new president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said on Thursday. "In fact Russia is today our strategic problem, not Ukraine," the former Polish prime minister told a news conference after chairing a summit at which EU leaders discussed Russia and its involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. ...
Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:18:38 -0500
Latin America cheers US-Cuba rapprochement

Cuba's President Raul Castro, left, shakes hands with Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, before the ALBA summit at Revolution Palace in Havana, Sunday, Dec 14, 2014. The left-leaning regional economic and diplomatic bloc known as ALBA marked its 10th anniversary Sunday amid pressures by tumbling oil prices on petroleum-producing countries such as top ALBA member Venezuela. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco, Cubadebate)CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Latin America is welcoming the renewal of ties between Cuba and the United States, but the rapprochement may complicate matters for Havana's chief ally, Venezuela, which has been moving in the opposite direction, becoming more stridently anti-American.

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:17:01 -0500
EU leaders agree to fund for jumpstarting growth

European Council President Donald Tusk waves as he arrives for an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. European Union leaders met Thursday to seek solutions to two major challenges, how to jumpstart sluggish economic growth at home, and how to deal long-term with Russia. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union leaders agreed Thursday to create a strategic investment fund that could generate up to 315 billion euros ($386 billion) in private- and public-sector money to upgrade infrastructure, jumpstart the EU's sluggish economies and ignite job growth.

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:16:44 -0500
Plea hearing set for ex-manager in halal food case
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A former manager at an Iowa-based halal food supplier is expected to plead guilty as part of a federal criminal investigation into the company's exporting and marketing practices, according to court documents filed Thursday.
Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:11:11 -0500
Atletico sets up Copa del Rey clash with Real

Atletico's Saul duels for the ball with Hospitalet’s Jose, right, during a King's Cup soccer match between Atletico de Madrid and Hospitalet, at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014 . (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Atletico Madrid set up a crosstown Copa del Rey clash with Real Madrid despite drawing 2-2 with third-division Hospitalet on Thursday, advancing 5-2 on aggregate.

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:04:39 -0500
Sony hacking fallout puts all companies on alert

Cars enter and depart from Sony Pictures Entertainment studio lot in Culver City, Calif., Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. Companies across the globe are on high alert to tighten up network security to avoid being the next company brought to its knees by hackers like those that executed the dramatic cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment. The hack, which a U.S. official has said investigators believe is linked to North Korea, culminated in the cancellation of a Sony film, "The Interview," and ultimately could cost the movie studio hundreds of millions of dollars. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)ATLANTA (AP) — Companies across the globe are on high alert to tighten up network security to avoid being the next company brought to its knees by hackers like those that executed the dramatic cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:03:16 -0500
Top Asian News at 11:00 p.m. GMT
TOKYO (AP) — How do you say "damage control" in Japanese? Sony Corp. is sealed within a hermetic cone of silence as executives try to prevent the slow motion train wreck at Sony Pictures from damaging the rest of the sprawling business empire. Sony's miseries with its television and smartphone businesses were bad enough. Now its American movie division, a trophy asset, is facing tens of millions of dollars in losses from leaks by hackers that attacked the company over a movie that spoofs an assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:02:56 -0500
Hope and some fear in Cuba amid thaw with US

A man washes a classic American car that's used as a taxi by tourists in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. After a half-century of Cold War acrimony, the United States and Cuba abruptly moved on Wednesday to restore diplomatic relations _ a historic shift that could revitalize the flow of money and people across the narrow waters that separate the two nations. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)HAVANA (AP) — The restoration of diplomatic ties between Cuba and the United States unleashed expectations Thursday of even more momentous changes on an island that often seems frozen in a past of classic cars and crumbling Art Deco buildings.

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:56:42 -0500
Bolivia settles oil deal with Pan American
LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Bolivia's government says it will pay $357 million to Argentina-based Pan American Energy for the nationalization of one of its subsidiaries over five years ago.
Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:55:20 -0500
Dow industrials have their best day in three years

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. The market is opening sharply higher, building on gains from the day before after the Federal Reserve indicated it was in no rush to raise interest rates. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)NEW YORK (AP) — The Dow Jones industrial average had its biggest surge in three years Thursday, its second straight triple-digit gain following the Federal Reserve's reassurance that it was in no hurry to raise interest rates.

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:46:07 -0500
Boston suspect makes rare court appearance

This undated image released by the FBI shows Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who denies 30 chargesShaggy-haired, bearded and attentive, accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev made his first public appearance in 17 months Thursday, at a brief court hearing before his trial next month. Tension was high at the US federal court in the northeastern city where the April 15, 2013 attack killed three people and wounded 264 -- the worst such incident in the United States since 9/11. On the way into court, one of the victims angrily showed his artificial leg to demonstrators proclaiming the suspect's innocence. Tsarnaev is accused of carrying out the attacks with his brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police, and faces the death penalty.

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:43:03 -0500
Obama tells Sisi of US concern over Egypt mass trials

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on November 26, 2014, in ParisUS President Barack Obama spoke to his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday and expressed concern over mass trials and the continued detention of journalists and peaceful activists. "President Obama also expressed concern about mass trials, the status of NGOs, and the continued imprisonment of journalists and peaceful activists in Egypt," the statement said. In early December, an Egyptian court sentenced 188 people to death for the murder of 13 police officers -- the latest in a series of mass trials launched by authorities amid a crackdown on supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:39:08 -0500
Contractors ill-equipped for secret Cuba programs

In this April 1, 2014 file photo, students stand outside a building to find an Internet signal for their phones in Havana, Cuba. In programs revealed by the Associated Press in 2014, USAID secretly created a primitive social media program called ZunZuneo, staged a health workshop to recruit activists and infiltrated Cuba’s hip-hop community. Those programs were part of a grassroots campaign aimed at undermining the Castro government through the citizenry, rather than directly targeting political leaders. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — When the U.S. government's global-aid agency launched secret plans to undermine Cuba's communist government, it didn't turn to the CIA for help. Instead, it used little-known contractors to carry out the operations — leading to multiple detentions and the high-profile arrest of American Alan Gross.

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:38:37 -0500
EU must work with Russia to push Russia out of Ukraine: Italy's Renzi
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union must work with Russia to make it withdraw from Ukraine, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who holds the rotating presidency of the 28-nation bloc, said on Thursday. "We have to work with Russia to push Russia out of Ukraine and come back to the table," Renzi told a news conference after a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels. (Reporting By Jan Strupczewski and Paul Taylor)
Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:38:25 -0500
UN mission to bring peace to DR Congo 'has stalled'

A photo taken on November 5, 2013 shows a UN mission in DR Congo armoured personnel carrier patrolling on Chanzu hill, in the eastern North Kivu regionThe multinational effort to bring peace to the war-torn east of Democratic Republic of Congo is in danger of failing, the International Crisis Group (ICG) warned Thursday. The east of the vast mineral-rich DRC was the scene of two major wars between 1996 and 2003, with neighbouring countries including Uganda and Rwanda intervening directly or using militias to do their bidding. In spite of the presence of 20,000 UN peacekeepers, around 50 Congolese and foreign armed groups are still active in the region.

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:36:37 -0500
Despite rifts, US and Cuba share baseball ties

FILE - In this Feb. 5, 1946 file photo, Dick Sisler watches his hit during a winter baseball league game in Havana, Cuba. Sisler, the son of the all time great first baseman George Sisler, was the new batting sensation who was headed for his first major league with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014 announcement that the U.S. plans to restore diplomatic ties with the Caribbean nation could usher in a new era in U.S.-Cuba baseball relations, which were strained after the Castro revolution and the U.S.-led economic embargo. (AP Photo, File)Despite deep political and ideological differences over the years, Cuba and the United States always have shared a love of baseball.

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:31:55 -0500
US brands movie studio hack a national security breach

Workers remove the poster for "The Interview" from a billboard in Hollywood, California on December 18, 2014White House spokesman Josh Earnest declined to confirm reports that North Korea had attacked the movie giant, which pulled the the film after hackers invoked 9/11 in threatening attacks on cinemas.

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:29:40 -0500
Top Islamic militants killed; more US troops going to Iraq

Iraqi Kurdish forces gather to see bodies of Islamic State militants killed during fighting on Wednesday, when Kurdish forces push towards Sinjar Mountain, as they inspect the area in Kobani, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces battling Islamic State militants managed on Thursday to open up a corridor to the mountain so that thousands of people from the country's Yazidi minority who have been trapped there can flee, said a senior Kurdish official. (AP Photo/Dalton Bennett)WASHINGTON (AP) — Two senior Islamic State group leaders were killed in U.S. and coalition airstrikes in northern Iraq over the last week, U.S. officials said Thursday, as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved new orders for several hundred troops to deploy to Iraq to train Iraqi forces.

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:26:24 -0500
Advantage David as Massaro slumps to defeat

Malaysia's Nicol Ann David competes in the women's individual squash finals during the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon on September 23, 2014World champion Laura Massaro’s title defence was ended in bitter-sweet fashion by her friend and team mate when she lost in four up-and-down games to a Alison Waters in the quarter-finals. Massaro's defeat means that Nicol David is odds on for her eighth world title after the Malaysian star beat Camille Serme, the sixth-seeded Frenchwoman, 11-9, 11-7, 13-11.

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:26:01 -0500
EU leaders press Russia, urge new investment

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives for his annual press conference in Moscow on December 18, 2014European Union leaders urged Vladimir Putin to make a "radical change" in his stance on Ukraine Thursday as they boosted sanctions against Crimea despite fears of economic blowback from Russia's spiralling financial crisis. The leaders at a summit in Brussels also called for the urgent launch of a huge 315-billion-euro ($380-billion) investment plan aimed at kickstarting Europe's moribund economy, although there were no pledges of hard cash. Foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that while the collapse of the ruble was "not good news" for Russia, the EU or the world, sanctions would continue until Moscow stopped backing rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:20:25 -0500
Peru destroys over 31,000 hectares of coca in 2014
LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peruvian officials have announced that they destroyed 31,205 hectares (about 77,000 acres) of coca crops this year, the highest since the government eradication program began in 1983.
Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:19:47 -0500
Obama raises concerns over crackdown with el-Sissi
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says President Barack Obama has voiced concern to Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi over mass trials and the imprisonment of journalists and peaceful activists in Egypt.
Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:14:39 -0500
Rocket in French Guiana launches 4 satellites
KOUROU, French Guiana (AP) — Arianespace has launched a rocket from French Guiana carrying four satellites that will expand telecommunications and Internet services in several continents.
Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:14:34 -0500
Timeline of the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack

This photo provided by Columbia Pictures - Sony shows, Randall Park, center, as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Columbia Pictures' "The Interview." North Korea has been linked to the unprecedented act of cyberwarfare against Sony Pictures that exposed tens of thousands of sensitive documents and escalated to threats of terrorist attacks that ultimately drove the studio to cancel all release plans for "The Interview." (AP Photo/Columbia Pictures - Sony, Ed Araquel)It's been four weeks since hackers calling themselves Guardians of Peace began their cyberterrorism campaign against Sony Pictures Entertainment. In that time thousands of executive emails and other documents have been posted online, employees and their families were threatened, and unreleased films were stolen and made available for illegal download. The hackers then escalated this week to threatening 9/11-like attacks against movie theaters scheduled to show the Sony film "The Interview." That fanned security fears nationwide and resulted in the four top U.S. theater chains pulling the film from their screens, ultimately driving Sony to cancel the film's release.

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:09:22 -0500
Next steps on Cuba: Normalizing could take awhile

People line up to take the bus outside the Capitolio in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. How does one end almost 54 years of hostility toward a next-door neighbor? That’s about to become clear as the Obama administration and the communist government of Raul Castro move to normalize more than a half-century of bitter animosity between the United States and Cuba. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)WASHINGTON (AP) — How does one end almost 54 years of hostility toward a next-door neighbor?

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:03:10 -0500
US air strikes kill several IS leaders in Iraq: Pentagon

This US Air Forces Central Command photo released by the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System shows a US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle flying over northern Iraq on September 23, 2014 after conducting airstrikes in SyriaSeveral leaders of the Islamic State group in Iraq have been killed in US air strikes in recent weeks, dealing a blow to the jihadist forces, the Pentagon said Thursday. "I can confirm that since mid-November, targeted coalition airstrikes successfully killed multiple senior and mid-level leaders" in the IS, spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement. "We believe that the loss of these key leaders degrades ISIL's ability to command and control current operations against Iraqi Security Forces, including Kurdish and other local forces in Iraq," said Kirby, using an alternative acronym for the jihadists. The bombing raids were carried out mostly in northern Iraq, defense officials said, but they did not say where each leader was killed.

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:01:28 -0500
Judge to rule on FBI ruse in case against Malaysians

FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2014 file photo, Wei Seng Phua walks into federal court in Las Vegas. Phua, his son Darren Wai Kit Phua, and four others were arrested in July after federal agents raided three high-roller villas at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Defense attorneys will ask U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen on Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, to throw out the evidence that was collected as the tainted result of an illegal FBI ruse. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)LAS VEGAS (AP) — A federal judge said Thursday she'll rule soon on whether the FBI improperly entered suites at a Las Vegas Strip casino without a warrant during a probe of what prosecutors say was illegal gambling involving a Malaysian businessman and his son.

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:01:12 -0500
Juventus beats Cagliari to end year top of Serie A

Juventus' Carlos Tevez, second from right, celebrates after scoring during an Italian Serie A soccer match between Cagliari and Juventus, at the Sant' Elia stadium in Cagliari, Italy, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Daniela Santoni)MILAN (AP) — Juventus eased to a 3-1 win at relegation-threatened Cagliari on Thursday to ensure it ended the year at the top of the Serie A standings.

Date Posted : Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:59:15 -0500

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