12.22.14:  NKorea refuses to attend Security Council mtg


UNITED NATIONS (AP) —North Korea is angry again, refusing to participate in today’s United Nations Security Council discussion about the reclusive nation’s human rights record.

The discussion is to be the first of its kind concerning North Korea, which is also on the defensive now over a U.S. accusation of hacking Sony.

A sprawling U.N.-backed inquiry of alleged crimes against humanity warns that young leader Kim Jong Un could be held accountable. North Korea calls people who aided the commission of inquiry “human scum.”

Now the 15-member Security Council is being urged to refer North Korea’s human rights situation to the International Criminal Court in the boldest effort yet to confront Pyongyang over the issue it has openly disdained in the past.

North Korea accuses the United States and its allies of using the human rights issue as a weapon to overthrow the leadership.


12.18.14:  UN seeks $8.4 billion to help Syria refugees


BERLIN (AP) — The United Nations wants more than $8.4 billion for next year to help nearly 18 million people affected by the war in Syria.

The U.N. high commissioner for refugees, Antonio Guterres, says people who have been displaced within Syria “have exhausted their savings and resources” while nearby countries faced with a refugee influx “are at breaking point.”


12.18.14:  Havana residents celebrate new deal between US & Cuba


In Cuba, bells pealed and school children interrupted lessons to mark the historic news.  Havana residents gathered around television sets in homes, schools, and businesses to hear the historic national broadcast in with President Raul Castro announced that Cuba was restoring relations with the United States.


Castro said, “We should learn the art of living together in a civilized manner in spite of our differences.”  In his address, he called on Washington to end its embargo against Cuba, saying it had caused “enormous human and economic damage.”


Some Cuban exiles in Miami are outraged.  Others are ecstatic that President Obama secretly arranged prisoner exchanges with Cuba as part of an effort to normalize relations.  Some say they are happy that former U-S AID subcontractor Alan Gross is out of a Cuban prison, but are dismayed that 3 convicted Cuban spies were being released in exchange.

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.