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Executions in United States at 20-year low: report
By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Amid growing concerns about how executions are carried out in the United States, the number of prison inmates being put to death fell to a 20-year low in 2014, the Death Penalty Information Center said in a report issued on Thursday. The 35 executions this year was the lowest since 1994, said the Washington-based nonprofit, which does not take a position on whether the death penalty should be abolished, in its annual survey of national data. ...
AP investigation finds that 786 children died in plain view of abuse-and-neglect authorities
BUTTE, Montana (AP) ? AP investigation finds that 786 children died in plain view of abuse-and-neglect authorities.
Cubans hope for better future with US-Havana deal
HAVANA (AP) ? Cubans cheered the surprise announcement that their country will restore relations with the United States, hopeful they'll soon see expanded trade and new economic vibrancy even though the 53-year-old economic embargo remains in place for the time being.
Grizzlies outlast Spurs 117-116 in 3 overtimes
SAN ANTONIO (AP) ? Marc Gasol scored 26 points, including a banked-in 3-pointer as regulation expired, and the Memphis Grizzlies overcame blowing a 23-point lead for a 117-116 triple-overtime victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.
Executions, new death sentences continue to fall
WASHINGTON (AP) ? Executions and new death sentences dropped to their lowest numbers in decades in 2014, an anti-death penalty group said in a new report.
Poll: 80 percent back Putin even as ruble falls
MOSCOW (AP) ? From a Western perspective, Vladimir Putin's days as president of Russia should be numbered: The ruble has lost more than half its value, the economy is in crisis and his aggression in Ukraine has turned the country into an international pariah.
Today in History
Today is Thursday, Dec. 18, the 352nd day of 2014. There are 13 days left in the year.
Mack leads surging Hawks to blowout in Cleveland
CLEVELAND (AP) ? The Cavaliers' largest loss of the season didn't sit well with coach David Blatt.
Amid scrutiny, Uber vows bigger focus on safety
LOS ANGELES (AP) ? Uber promises to focus on rider safety amid increasing concerns that its drivers are not adequately screened for past criminal convictions.
Nightlife king faces queries from gaming regulator
LAS VEGAS (AP) ? A Los Angeles nightlife entrepreneur who revamped Las Vegas' Sahara Hotel and Casino into a hipper, sleeker destination is getting ready to defend his past again so he can obtain a Nevada gambling license after admitting recent cocaine use and explaining his curious business dealings with felons.
AP source: US probe links NKorea to Sony hacking
WASHINGTON (AP) ? Federal investigators have now connected the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. to North Korea, a U.S. official said Wednesday, though it remained unclear how the federal government would respond to a break-in that exposed sensitive documents and ultimately led to terrorist threats against moviegoers.
N Korea-linked Sony hack may be costliest ever
NEW YORK (AP) ? A U.S. official says 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 film at the heart of the hack, "The Interview."
California gets more rain, 1 big mudslide
LOS ANGELES (AP) ? The latest in a string of storms noisily marched across Southern California on Wednesday, hurling lightning bolts, coating mountains with snow and unleashing downpours that triggered a freeway-blocking mudslide before mostly moving on.
10 Things to Know for Thursday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday:
Castro survived odd, often inept, US schemes
WASHINGTON (AP) ? For over half a century, the U.S. government's schemes to overthrow the Castro government were, if not successful, always creative: the poisonous cigars, the exploding seashell, the secret Twitter-like service in Cuba.
Avon beauty firm pays $138 mln to settle China bribe probe
US authorities fined the international cosmetics seller Avon Products $135 million to settle a corruption probe in China. The SEC said Avon had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by failing to stop bribes to Chinese officials. "The SEC alleges that Avon's subsidiary in China made $8 million worth of payments in cash, gifts, travel, and entertainment to gain access to Chinese officials implementing and overseeing direct selling regulations in China," the SEC said.
Fed rate wording boosts Asian stock markets
Asian stock markets powered higher Thursday, sweeping aside worries about a flagging global economy after the U.S. Federal Reserve said it would to remain "patient" in its approach to raising interest rates.
Thaw in relations with Cuba positive for U.S. agriculture: USDA
By Karl Plume CHICAGO (Reuters) - Exports of U.S. agricultural products such as wheat, rice, soybeans and meat products stand to gain from a surprise U.S. move toward repairing relations with Cuba, agriculture industry officials said on Wednesday. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the move an "important opportunity" that will make exports of U.S. farm goods cheaper, easier and less time-consuming for shippers. President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday that the United States would restore diplomatic relations with Cuba more than 50 years after they were severed. U. ...
Chattanooga women stun No. 7 Stanford 54-46
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) ? The star power of the opponent doesn't concern Chattanooga. As long as the Mocs are playing at home, they believe they are going to win.
White House says FBI leading probe of cyber attack on Sony Pictures
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House National Security Council said on Wednesday the FBI was leading the investigation on a cyber attack on Sony Pictures and that the U.S. government had offered the company support and assistance. "The United States is investigating attribution and will provide an update at the appropriate time," the NSC said in a statement. A source said earlier that the United States may officially announce in the near future that the North Korean government was behind the attack. ...
U.S. determines North Korea behind Sony attack as studio pulls movie
By Eric Kelsey, Lisa Richwine and Piya Sinha-Roy LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A U.S. government source said investigators had determined North Korea was behind a cyberattack on Sony Pictures as the studio pulled all plans to release its comedy, "The Interview," about an assassination attempt on the North Korean leader. Hackers who said they were incensed by the film attacked Sony Corp last month, leaking documents that drew global headlines, and now they have forced an apparently unprecedented change of plans for a major movie release. ...
Sony cancels parody film as NKorea suspected over hack
Sony Pictures cancelled the release of a madcap comedy about North Korea that triggered chilling threats from hackers, as US investigators reportedly blamed Pyongyang for a damaging cyber-raid on the movie giant. The dramatic action came as several US media outlets reported that investigators now believe North Korea was behind the devastating cyber-attack that saw hackers gain access to a trove of internal Sony documents and unreleased movies. "In light of the decision by the majority of our (theater) exhibitors not to show the film 'The Interview,' we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release," Sony said in a statement. "Sony Pictures has no further release plans for the film," a spokesman added to AFP, suggesting -- though not confirming -- the film will not even be released on DVD or in other formats.
Factbox: Who is Alan Gross and what did he do?
HAVANA (Reuters) - Alan Gross, a 65-year-old U.S. foreign aid worker freed from a Cuban prison on Wednesday, was arrested in Cuba in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years for importing banned technology and trying to establish clandestine Internet service for Cuban Jews. Here are some facts about Gross: Gross was a longtime supporter of Jewish causes and a career development consultant who traveled the world on private contracts before taking his Cuba assignment. He had only once previously visited Cuba and spoke very limited Spanish. ...
Australian leader: Siege may have been preventable
SYDNEY (AP) ? Australia's prime minister said Thursday that a deadly siege in a Sydney cafe may have been preventable, as the chorus of critics demanding to know why the gunman was out on bail despite facing a string of violent charges grew louder.
Obama on Hanukkah says small acts can make miracles
WASHINGTON (AP) ? President Barack Obama says Hanukkah teaches that one act of faith can make a miracle.
AP source: Cuba releases US prisoner Alan Gross
WASHINGTON (AP) ? A senior Obama administration official says Cuba has released American Alan Gross, who has been imprisoned for five years.
Sony cancels 'The Interview' amid terror hack threats
NEW YORK (AP) ? Under the threat of terrorist attacks from hackers and with the nation's largest multiplex chains pulling the film from their screens, Sony Pictures Entertainment took the unprecedented step of canceling the Dec. 25 release of the Seth Rogen comedy "The Interview."
A look at 'Cuban 5' agents who were jailed in US
HAVANA (AP) ? The "Cuban Five" refers to intelligence agents whose so-called "Wasp Network" operated in Florida in the 1990s. They were arrested in 1998 and later convicted on charges including conspiracy and failing to register as foreign agents.
Cubans in Miami slam 'betrayal' after historic move
Cubans in Miami's Little Havana reacted with anger -- and a sprinkling of hope -- to President Barack Obama's dramatic bid Wednesday to end a half-decade Cold War with the communist-ruled island. "It is a betrayal. The talks are only going to benefit Cuba," said Carlos Munoz Fontanil in Calle Ocho, the historic heart of an exile community that has long pined for the fall of the Castro regime in Havana. He spoke as dozens of people gathered outside Cafe Versailles, a Little Havana landmark, to protest the rapprochement announced almost simultaneously in Washington and Havana by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, 83.
Wisconsin brings Pitt's Chryst home as coach
MADISON, Wis. (AP) ? Paul Chryst is back at Wisconsin, settling into familiar surroundings in his hometown.
APNewsBreak: Judge rejects NCAA concussions deal
CHICAGO (AP) ? A federal judge in Chicago rejected a proposed $75 million class-action head injury settlement with the NCAA on Wednesday, portraying the deal as too unwieldy and potentially underfunded and urging both sides to go back to the drawing board.
$10 million in stolen Los Angeles art recovered
LOS ANGELES (AP) ? Authorities have recovered $10 million worth of art ? including paintings by Chagall and Diego Rivera ? that were stolen in one of Los Angeles' largest art heists.
14 charged in deadly 2012 meningitis outbreak
BOSTON (AP) ? Mold and bacteria were in the air and on workers' gloved fingertips. Pharmacists used expired ingredients, didn't properly sterilize them and failed to test drugs for purity before sending them to hospitals and pain clinics. Employees falsified logs to make it look as if the so-called clean rooms had been disinfected.
U.S., Cuba restore ties after 50 years
By Daniel Trotta and Steve Holland HAVANA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and Cuba agreed on Wednesday to restore diplomatic ties that Washington severed more than 50 years ago, and President Barack Obama called for an end to the long economic embargo against its old Cold War enemy. After 18 months of secret talks, Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed in a phone call on Tuesday on a breakthrough prisoner exchange, the opening of embassies in each other's countries, and an easing of some restrictions on commerce. ...
Liverpool advances in League Cup; Brooks scores in Germany
Liverpool will play Chelsea in the League Cup semifinals after Raheem Sterling scored twice in a 3-1 victory over second-tier Bournemouth on Wednesday night, and Tottenham advanced with a 4-0 rout of Newcastle.
For MLB, changes in Cuba will take time to sort out
NEW YORK (AP) ? Fred Claire can see the day when Major League Baseball teams open academies for prospects in Cuba.
Many Americans open to better ties with Cuba: Reuters/Ipsos poll
By Jeff Mason WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Though lawmakers from both political parties lambasted President Barack Obama on Wednesday for shifting U.S. policy on Cuba, Americans by and large are open to stronger ties with the communist-governed island, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. Fewer than 20 percent of Americans oppose establishing U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba, the poll of 31,000 adults showed. More than 40 percent of the respondents were in favor of rapprochement. Some 39 percent said they were not sure. ...
Effort to draft Warren into '16 race lands in Iowa
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) ? Liberal activists eager to draft Sen. Elizabeth Warren into a run for president are working the ground in Iowa, the pivotal early-voting state where an organizing effort is already in place ? for Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Man gets life sentence in Vermont teacher's death
ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (AP) ? A man accused with his wife of kidnapping and killing a teacher was sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison, with the judge saying they hunted their victim like prey.
Avon Products settles bribery charges for $135M
NEW YORK (AP) ? The world's largest direct seller of cosmetics, Avon Products Inc., will pay $135 million to settle criminal and civil charges after its China unit pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by bribing officials there.