December 21, 2014 / 7:18 PM / 3 years ago




Top stories as of 2:15 p.m. on Sunday.

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Obama says Putin presiding over economic contraction

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama rejected the idea he has been outmaneuvered by Russian president Vladimir Putin, saying in a CNN interview on Sunday that Putin was watching “a huge economic contraction” due to the Ukraine crisis. “Right now, he’s presiding over the collapse of his currency, a major financial crisis and a huge economic contraction,” Obama said in the interview taped on Friday. “That doesn’t sound like somebody who has rolled me or the United States of America.” (UKRAINE-CRISIS/OBAMA (PIX), moved at 8:08 a.m., 60 words) See also: Obama vows “do everything I can” to close Guantanamo (USA-GUANTANAMO/OBAMA, moved at 8 a.m., 80 words)

Elton John marries gay partner under new law

LONDON - British musician Elton John on Sunday married his long-term partner David Furnish, converting their civil partnership after laws allowing gay marriage in Britain came into force this year. (ELTONJOHN-MARRIAGE/ (PIX), moved at 1:03 p.m., 300 words)


Two N.Y. police officers slain in apparent retribution attack

NEW YORK - A gunman shot dead two New York City police officers in what officials called an “assassination” hours after warning on social media that he planned an attack in retribution for recent U.S. police killings of unarmed black men. Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday ordered flags flown at half staff while the city’s police union harshly criticized the mayor (USA-NEW YORK/POLICE (UPDATE 3, PIX, TV), expect by 3 p.m., 600 words) See also: Obama condemns fatal shootings of New York police officers (USA-NEWYORK/POLICE-PRESIDENT, moved at 12:32 a.m., 50 words)

Florida police officer killed, suspect in custody

TAMPA, Fla. - Officer Charles Kondek, 45, was gunned down in Tarpon Springs, about 30 miles northwest of Tampa, after responding to a call for service around 2 a.m. A suspect was taken into custody after fleeing the shooting scene and crashing into a pole and another vehicle, police said without providing any details on the suspect. (USA-FLORIDA/POLICE (UPDATE 2), moved at 1:13 p.m., by Letitia Stein, 150 words)

Obama does not deem Sony hack an act of war

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Barack Obama says he does not consider the cyber attack on Sony Corp to be an act of war, remarks apparently aimed at preventing U.S. anger at North Korea over the incident from spiraling out of control. (SONY-CYBERSECURITY/ (WRAPUP 2, PIX), moved at 12:42 p.m., by Steve Holland, 780 words)

House GOP law maker calls for strong U.S. response to Sony hack

WASHINGTON - Mike Rogers, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee chairman, on Sunday called for a “very serious” U.S. reaction, including sanctions, to a North Korean cyber attack on Sony Pictures, saying it was not enough for the United States to restrict that country’s cyber capability. (SONY-CYBERSECURITY/USA-ROGERS (UPDATE 1), moved at 10:36 a.m., 300 words)

Seoul prosecutors investigate data leak at nuclear operator

SEOUL - Seoul prosecutors have begun investigating a leak of non-critical data at South Korea’s nuclear power operator as worries mount about nuclear safety and potential cyber attacks from North Korea. (SOUTHKOREA/NUCLEAR (UPDATE 1), moved, 360 words)

Young Cuban-American groups emerge as Obama allies

MIAMI - For a handful of Cuban Americans President Barack Obama’s new Cuba policy wasn’t much of a shocker. For months, they quietly advised the White House in hopes of shaping a new policy towards the communist-run nation. Their mission: closer contact with the island to build mutual understanding - a point of view that’s often at odds with their parents and grandparents. But they offer much more than policy advice. (CUBA-USA/MIAMI (ANALYSIS, PIX), moved at 1:58 p.m., by David Adams, 1,224 words)

Four militants hanged in Pakistan as execution drive widens

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan hangs four Islamist militants in the second set of executions since the government lifted a moratorium after the Taliban massacred 132 children and nine others at a school last week. (PAKISTAN-SECURITY/EXECUTION, moved at 10:06 a.m., 349 words)

Jordan hangs 11 after ending eight-year moratorium on death penalty

AMMAN - Jordan executed 11 citizens on Sunday, ending an eight-year moratorium on capital punishment, judicial sources said. Jordan halted executions in 2006 but a recent rise in violent crime produced calls to re-impose capital punishment. (JORDAN-EXECUTION/, moved at 1:07 p.m., 150 words)


U.S.-led forces launch 13 air strikes in Iraq, three in Syria

WASHINGTON - U.S.-led forces attacked Islamic State targets on Sunday with 13 air strikes in Iraq and three in Syria, using fighter, bomber and other aircraft, the U.S. military said. (MIDEAST-CRISIS/AIRSTRIKES (UPDATE 1), moved at 10:40 a.m., 90 words)


U.S. gas prices fall to lowest since May 2009 - Lundberg survey

NEW YORK - The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States fell 25 cents in the past two weeks, tumbling to its lowest level in more than five-and-a-half years, according to the Lundberg survey released Sunday. Prices for regular-grade gasoline fell to $2.47 a gallon in the survey dated Dec. 19. The highest price within the survey area in 48 states was recorded in Long Island at $2.82 per gallon with the lowest in Tulsa at $2.06 per gallon. (USA-GASPRICES, moving shortly, 150 words)

Boxing great Muhammad Ali hospitalized with pneumonia

LOUISVILLE - Boxing legend Muhammad Ali has been hospitalized with pneumonia and is expected to recover because the illness was caught early, a spokesman said on Saturday. (PEOPLE-ALI (PIX), moved at 11:56 p.m., 230 words)

Protesters shut down part of Mall of America in Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS - More than 1,500 protesters against police violence shut down part of the Mall of America in Minnesota on Saturday, resulting in about 25 arrests as shoppers scrambled to buy gifts at one of the nation’s largest shopping centers, officials said. (USA-POLICE/PROTESTS (UPDATE 1), moved at 10 p.m., 382 words.

Health minister named as Haiti’s new interim prime minister

PORT-AU-PRINCE - Haitian Health Minister Florence Duperval Guillaume was named interim prime minister on Sunday to replace Laurent Lamothe, who resigned a week ago following several weeks of protests. The United States and the United Nations are warning that the impoverished Caribbean nation was on the brink of political chaos again. (HAITI-PRIME MINISTER/ (UPDATE 2), moved at 12:21 p.m., 240 words)


Final ‘Hobbit’ film draws holiday season crowds at box office

LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK - The final movie of Peter Jackson’s three “Hobbit” films rode to the top of U.S. and Canadian box office charts, selling an estimated $56.2 million worth of tickets. “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb,” featuring the final on-screen performance by late actor Robin Williams, finished second at domestic theaters with $17.3 million from Friday through Sunday. (USA-BOXOFFICE/ (UPDATE 1, PIX), moving shortly, 420 words. See also BOXOFFICE/CHART, moved at 12:48 p.m.

Cuba’s famed cigars get a foot in door of huge American market

HAVANA - Milagros Diaz has been rolling cigars for 48 years, so long she cannot even smell tobacco anymore, and she is thrilled the U.S. market is finally opening up for her handmade Cuban “habanos.” (CUBA-USA/CIGARS (PIX), moved at 8 a.m., by Daniel Trotta, 1,000 words)

TV talent show winner Ben Haenow lands Britain’s Christmas No. 1

LONDON - The winner of Britain’s “X-factor” TV talent show, 29-year-old Ben Haenow, claimed the coveted Christmas number one spot in the British singles chart on Sunday, the Official Charts Company said. Haenow’s “Something I Need” became the second fastest-selling single of the year, shifting 214,000 copies to knock last week’s chart topper “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars into second place. (BRITAIN-CHARTS/, expect by 3 p.m., 220 words)


Ten years on, tsunami warning stumbles at the “last mile”

BANGKOK - As the 10th anniversary of Asia’s devastating Dec. 26 tsunami approaches, experts and officials say that weaknesses linger across the region in a system designed to warn people and get them to safety. (TSUNAMI-ANNIVERSARY/WARNING (GRAPHIC), moved, 800 words)


Ebola response in rural Sierra Leone not yet rapid enough

KOIDU, Sierra Leone - The rapid response team has arrived and the chaos is easing but medics in a remote Sierra Leonean district are struggling to control a local Ebola outbreak when it’s too late to nip it in the bud. (HEALTH-EBOLA/LEONE (TV, PIX), moved at 10:10 a.m., by Emma Farge, 400 words)


Sudan rights group says raided after opposition unity deal

KHARTOUM - Security forces raided the Sudanese Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday, just weeks after jailing its former leader, the monitoring group’s leader said, in what activists fear is a widening crackdown ahead of a presidential election in April. (SUDAN-RIGHTS/RAID, moved at 9:25 a.m., 240 words)

Lebanon says it needs French helicopters quickly to fight jihadis

PARIS - Lebanon hopes France will deliver helicopters to its army faster than planned so it can fight jihadis encroaching from neighboring Syria, Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam said in an interview on Sunday. (MIDEAST-CRISIS/LEBANON-FRANCE, moved at 7:32 a.m., 250 words) see also: Egypt allows in travellers from Gaza for first time since October (MIDEAST-GAZA/EGYPT (TV, PIX), moved, 300 words)

Iran nuclear diplomat gets key post as head of foreign oil deals

DUBAI - Iran has appointed a backstage strategist in nuclear talks with world powers as chief of foreign petroleum contracts, a job that will hinge largely on any settlement of its atomic dispute with the West. Amir-Hossein Zamaninia is a veteran diplomat who was sidelined under hard-line former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (IRAN-OIL/APPOINTMENT, moved at 9:02 a.m., 240 words)

Tunisia’s Essebsi campaign claims vote victory

(TUNISIA-ELECTION/ (UPDATE 3, PIX, TV), moved at 1:15 p.m., 600 words)

Greek PM offers 2015 election once bailout talks complete

(GREECE-VOTE (UPDATE 2), moved at 10:30 a.m., 400 words)

Uzbeks vote in elections expected to reinforce Karimov’s grip on power

(UZBEKISTAN-ELECTION/, moved at 9:14 a.m., 90 words)

Australian PM Abbott reshuffles cabinet to focus on jobs, families

(AUSTRALIA-POLITICS/ (UPDATE 1), moved, 400 words)


New leadership seeks to rebuild EU self-confidence

BRUSSELS - Short, snappy and focused on two priorities - reviving sagging investment in Europe and standing firm towards Russia, the first European Union summit under new leadership was a demonstrative break with the past. (EU-LEADERSHIP (ANALYSIS), moved, by Paul Taylor, 854 words)

Economic issues whip up Israelis in chocolate pudding vote

JERUSALEM - Israel’s high cost of living is expected to dominate a March 17 election that could shake up Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition, with voter anger symbolized by an overpriced dessert. (ISRAEL-ELECTION/ECONOMY (ANALYSIS, PIX), moved at 8:04 a.m., 962 words)


South Korea halts U.S. poultry imports due to bird flu in U.S.

SEOUL - South Korea has suspended imports of U.S. poultry and poultry products because of an outbreak of bird flu in the United States, the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement on Sunday. The suspension, effective on Saturday, comes as South Korea is struggling to contain its own outbreak of bird flu in birds. (SOUTHKOREA-POULTRY/USA (UPDATE 1), moved at 10:41 p.m., 150 words)

Wall St Week Ahead - Oil, stocks look to go their separate ways

NEW YORK - Investors have wrung their hands over the last several weeks over the effect of lower oil prices on the broader S&P 500 but the relationship between the two is actually starting to break down. That seemed to change on Thursday. The S&P 500 surged while oil fell, a potential change in sentiment among investors looking to focus on sectors that may benefit from an accelerating U.S. economy. (MARKETS-STOCKS/USA-WEEKAHEAD (SCHEDULED COLUMN, REPEAT), moved at 1 p.m., 500 words)

Southwest’s oil swap trade waiver raising questions about regulator

WASHINGTON - Last month’s move by the U.S. commodities regulator to let Southwest Airlines keep its multibillion-dollar oil trades secret for 15 days offered the world’s biggest low-cost carrier a break it had sought for three years. But the exemption from rules calling for greater derivatives transparency raised concerns about its market impact and sparked a debate among regulators. (SOUTHWEST-REGULATION/ (EXCLUSIVE), moved at 12:27 p.m., by Douwe Miedema, 500 words)

Russia growls across border as Lithuania readies for euro

KYBARTAI, Lithuania - Geopolitics plague Lithuanians at this frozen Russian border post, where a return trip by car can mean 48 hours of queuing. It is a reminder for some of why the former Soviet republic will cement its move to the West by joining the euro zone next month. (LITHUANIA-EURO/ (PIX, TV), moved, 834 words)


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