12.17.14:  Toll in Pakistan now over 145


PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Authorities in Pakistan have raised the death toll from yesterday’s school massacre to 148.

They say some critically wounded members of the school staff died overnight, including the school principal, who had lock locked herself in a bathroom, but couldn’t escape militants, who threw a grenade through the bathroom vent.

Army commandos killed all 7 attackers in the day long battle Tuesday.

More than 130 of those killed at the military-run school were children and a three-day mourning period began today.

Most of the dead are expected to be buried today and the funerals have already begun.

12.16.14:  Stories of heroism in Sydney


SYDNEY (AP) — Australians are hearing stories of heroism as they mourn the two hostages killed in a Sydney chocolate shop.

Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher said at an emotional memorial service that the manager of the Lindt Chocolat Cafe, 34-year-old Tori Johnson, was killed as he grabbed the hostage taker’s gun and it went off.

That prompted police too storm the cafe, killing the gunman.

There also are reports that 38-year-old Katrina Dawson, who also was killed, shielded her pregnant friend from gunfire.

 Australians have been laying flowers at the site where two of 17 hostages were killed earlier today when police stormed into a cafe to rescue them from a gunman. The gunman, a 50-year-old an Iranian-born self-styled cleric, also was killed. Officials describe Man Haron Monis as a deeply disturbed man carrying out a “sick fantasy.”



12.16.14:  Dozens killed in Taliban school attack in Pakistan


PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Officials in northwest Pakistan says the battle against Taliban gunmen inside a military-run school in Peshawar is winding down.

Militants stormed the school this morning. At least 126 people have been killed, the overwhelming majority children and teenagers. Local hospitals have been flooded with wounded, as terrified parents search for their children.

The Taliban say the attack is revenge for the deaths of Taliban members at the hands of Pakistani authorities.

One parent whose 14-year-old was killed says, “My son was in uniform in the morning. He is in a casket now.”


12.15.14:   Saudi woman arrested after attending soccer game


RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — A Saudi newspaper says a woman arrested after attending a soccer game claims she did not know women were prohibited from going to the stadium.

The state-linked Okaz newspaper reported on Monday that police in the city of Jiddah have questioned the woman, who claims she bought a ticket online without any problems and went to the Friday night game between Jiddah’s al-Ittihad and Riyadh’s al-Shabab in the kingdom’s new al-Jawhara stadium, where she was arrested.

Okaz did not identify the woman. The paper says she was questioned by police for “impersonating” a man by wearing pants, a long-sleeve top, a hat and sunglasses. No charges have been raised so far.

Saudi Arabia enforces a strict segregation of the sexes. There are no designated areas for women at soccer stadiums.

12.15.14:  Hostage situation in Sydney


 — Police in Australia say they are trying to do “nothing that could in any way jeopardize” the hostages being held by a gunman in a Sydney cafe. Police are negotiating with the gunman but have not revealed details such as his motives, his demands and whether five hostages who managed to flee the cafe escaped or were released. Television images have shown several people with their arms in the air and two people holding up a black flag with the Islamic declaration of faith written on it.





12.11.14:  New scientific study estimates nearly 270,000 tons of plastic floating in world’s oceans


HONOLULU (AP) — A new study estimates nearly 270,000 tons of plastic is floating in the world’s oceans.

The study in the scientific journal PLOS ONE says the plastic is broken up into more than 5 trillion pieces. Together, it enough to fill more than 38,500 garbage trucks.

And that’s just the plastic floating on the surface. Plastic that’s sunk to the ocean floor wasn’t included.

Studying the amount of plastic in the ocean will help scientists understand how the material is affecting fish, seabirds and the larger marine ecosystem.

Kara Lavender Law of the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, who wasn’t involved in the study, says little is known right now about how plastic ingested by creatures at lower levels of the food chain might be passed along. But she says studies like this might eventually help answer the question: “Am I being poisoned by eating the fish on my plate?”

12.10.14:   Malala, Satyarthi receive Nobel Peace Prize


OSLO, Norway (AP) — Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India have received the Nobel Peace Prize for risking their lives to fight for children’s rights.

The 17-year-old Malala, the youngest ever Nobel winner, and Satyarthi, age 60, collected the award at a ceremony in the Norwegian capital to a standing ovation.

Saying that all children have a right to childhood and education instead of forced labor, Nobel committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland said “this world conscience can find no better expression than through” this year’s winners.

The Nobel awards in medicine, physics, chemistry and literature are set to be presented in Stockholm later Wednesday.

The award ceremonies are always held on Dec. 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.

12.9.14:  Hagel: Iraq must end sectarian division


BAGHDAD (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says America wants to help Iraq regain the territory it lost to Islamic State militants earlier this year, but in the end, only Iraq has the ability to create a lasting solution.

Hagel is in Baghdad to consult with Iraqi government officials and confer with U.S. commanders about the campaign. He says Iraq’s government must put disastrous years of sectarian division behind it and find a way to bring the country together. Hagel, in Iraq for meetings with officials to discuss the Islamic State group militancy, says the old divisions undermined much of what the U.S. did to train Iraqi security forces.

The U.S. is committed to helping Iraq roll back the territorial gains the Islamic State militants made earlier this year, but President Barack Obama has ruled out sending American ground combat forces.

Hagel is on what is expected to be his last overseas trip as defense secretary.

12.8.14:  US, NATO ceremonially end Afghan combat mission


KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. and NATO have ceremonially ended their combat mission in Afghanistan, 13 years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks sparked their invasion of the country to topple the Taliban-led government.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, which was in charge of combat operations, lowered its flag Monday, formally ending its deployment.

U.S. Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of NATO and U.S. forces, says the mission is transitioning to a training and support role. He says from Jan. 1, the coalition will maintain a force of 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak around 140,000 in 2011.

The mission ends as the Taliban is increasing its attacks. U.S. President Barack Obama recently allowed U.S. forces to launch operations against both Taliban and al-Qaida militants amid the training mission.

12.8.14:  Philippine typhoon weakens into a tropical storm after leaving 21 dead


LEGAZPI, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine Red Cross is reporting that Typhoon Hagupit has killed at least 21 people, including 16 villagers who drowned in Easter Samar province, where the storm made its first landfall.

Hagupit has been downgraded to tropical storm status but officials say it still poses dangers as it heads for the Philippine capital, Manila.

Forecasters say the storm still has maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour with gusts up to 84 and could whip storm surges that could overwhelm coastal villages. Hagupit is moving slowly, and its heavy rain also could trigger landslides and flash floods.

Like villagers in the central Philippines, Manila’s mayor says residents are readily moving to safety because of haunting memories of Typhoon Haiyan  last year. Its tsunami-like storm surges, leveled entire villages and left more than 7,300 people dead or missing.