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US sends 4 Afghans back home from Guantanamo

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** FILE ** In this Oct. 10, 2007 file photo, reviewed by the U.S. Military, an American flag flies behind the barbed and razor-wire at the Camp Delta detention facility, at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba. The Pentagon said Saturday that four Afghans from the Guantanamo Bay detention center have been returned to their home country in what U.S. officials are citing as a sign of their confidence in new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon said Saturday that four Afghans from the Guantanamo Bay detention center have been returned to their home country in what U.S. officials are citing as a sign of their confidence in new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.


Four Afghan Guantanamo detainees repatriated, says Pentagon

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A Guantanamo detainee wears an orange jump suit at the Guantanamo Naval Base on January 17, 2002Four Afghans held for more than a decade at Guantanamo Bay have been sent home, the Pentagon said Saturday, edging President Barack Obama closer towards his goal of closing the controversial US military jail. The Department of Defense said the men -- Shawali Khan, Khi Ali Gul, Abdul Ghani, and Mohammed Zahir -- had been moved from the prison after a comprehensive review of their case. "As a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including security issues, these men were unanimously approved for transfer by the six departments and agencies comprising the task force," a Pentagon statement said. The releases come hard on the heels of the transfer of six Guantanamo detainees to start new lives in Uruguay earlier this month.


Cuba says U.S. must respect its communist system

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Cuba's President Castro speaks with his first vice-president Diaz Canel during a session of the National Assembly in HavanaHAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban President Raul Castro on Saturday demanded that the United States respect Cuba's communist rule as the two countries work toward normalizing diplomatic ties. U.S. President Barack Obama this week reset Washington's Cold War-era policy on Cuba and the two countries swapped prisoners in a historic deal after 18 months of secret talks. U.S. officials will visit Havana in January to start talks on normalization, and Obama has said his government will push Cuba on issues of human and political rights as they negotiate over the coming months. ...


Sierra Leone peacekeepers to leave Somalia mission

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FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — A Sierra Leone military official says the country is withdrawing from the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia after being blocked from rotating its soldiers over concerns about the spread of Ebola.

Why the Sony hack isn't big news in Japan

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FILE - An exterior of the Sony Pictures Plaza building is seen in Culver City, Calif., Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. While Sony Pictures is technically part of the Sony empire, it has long been run as an entirely separate U.S. company. So far, the Japanese media seems to view the hack as an American problem rather than a domestic one. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)Japan's biggest newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, featured a story about Sony Corp. on its website Friday. It wasn't about hacking. It was about the company's struggling tablet business.


CIA unlikely to punish staff over Senate computer search: NYT

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People pose with laptops in front of projection of binary code and CIA emblem in this picture illustration taken in ZenicaWASHINGTON (Reuters) - A panel investigating the CIA's search of a computer network used by U.S. Senate staff will not recommend disciplining the agency officials involved in the incident, according to the New York Times. The review panel is looking into the search by agency officials of staffers from the Senate Intelligence Committee who were investigating the CIA's use of torture in interrogations of detainees after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. ...


Liberia holds Senate vote amid Ebola fears

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MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Health workers manned polling stations across Liberia on Saturday as voters cast their ballots in a twice-delayed Senate election that has been criticized for its potential to spread the deadly Ebola disease.

Russia brands new sanctions roadblock to Ukraine peace

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Ukrainian soldiers fire a missile with a man-portable air-defense system during exercices near the city of Shchastya, north of Lugansk, on December 1, 2014Russia accused the West on Saturday of stoking unrest in Ukraine by adopting anti-Kremlin sanctions that further erode the prospect of peace talks to end the separatist war. The sudden glimmer of hope that the end of Europe's worst violence since the 1990s Balkans conflicts was approaching has seen Western allies step up their pressure on Russia, already reeling from its worst economic crisis of Vladimir Putin's 15-year rule. The United States matched a similar measure by the European Union by slapping a trade ban on Kremlin-controlled Crimea. Canada went a step further by also targeting Russia's vital oil and gas industry.


Putin says Russia won't be intimidated over Crimea

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Russian President Putin attends his annual end-of-year news conference in MoscowBy Vladimir Soldatkin MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will not be intimidated over its actions in Ukraine and Crimea, President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday as his foreign ministry warned that it was preparing to retaliate against fresh Western sanctions. Both the European Union and United States adopted tighter restrictions on investments in Crimea this week, while Canada rachetted up its own sanctions directed at Moscow. ...


Madonna releases new songs after leaks

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Madonna she decided to put out her new songs immediately after in-studio versions of her tracks dripped onto the InternetMadonna on Saturday suddenly released six new songs months ahead of schedule, upset that early versions had leaked online. The pop icon's new songs, available immediately for sale and streaming online, will be part of her first album in three years, "Rebel Heart," which comes out in March. Please consider these six songs as an early Christmas gift," Madonna said in a statement. The new songs include "Living for Love," which is driven by a house beat that harks back to some of Madonna's earlier anthems.


Texas ranchers seeking alternative incomes

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Cowboys on the Muleshoe Ranch in Borden County work to get some cattle into a truck on Dec. 3, 2014. The ranch and others across the state suffered through the state's driest year ever in 2011, forcing some to sell off many if not all of their animals or sending their cattle to other states to graze. Many ranchers have since worked to diversify their incomes with other enterprises including leasing water and hunting acres for deer, antelope and quail. (AP Photo/Betsy Blaney)GAIL, Texas (AP) — The Muleshoe Ranch's profits were chopped in half when the drought withered pastures, dried up stock tanks and forced the owner to move most of his cattle out of state.


U.S. sends four Guantanamo prisoners home to Afghanistan

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The frontier road parallels the security fence leading to the Northeast gate at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval BaseBy Matt Spetalnick WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Four Afghans held for over a decade at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been sent home to Afghanistan, the Pentagon said on Saturday, the latest step in a slow-moving push by the Obama administration to close the facility. The men were flown to Kabul overnight aboard a U.S. military plane and released to Afghan authorities, the first such transfer of its kind to the war-torn country since 2009, according to a U.S. official. ...


Lindsey Vonn claims 61st World Cup win in Val d'Isere

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Lindsey Vonn takes a selfie with a calf on the podium after winning the World Cup Women's Downhill on December 20, 2014 in Val d'Isere, French AlpsVal-d'Isère (France) (AFP) - Lindsey Vonn notched up her 61st World Cup win with success in the women's downhill at Val d'Isere on Saturday. The four-time overall World Cup champion claimed her latest race by clocking a time of 1min 44.47 sec to edge Germany's Viktoria Rebensburg and Austria's Elisabeth Goergl, who shared second at 19 hundredths of a second behind the American. This was 30-year-old Vonn's second downhill win of the season after this month's win in Lake Louise, her first victory since a high speed crash in early 2013. It put the girlfriend of 14-time golf major champion Tiger Woods just one win behind the all-time World Cup record of 62 held by Austria's Annemarie Moser-Proell.


N. Korea proposes joint probe over Sony hacking

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An exterior view of the Sony Pictures Plaza building is seen in Culver City, Calif., Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. President Barack Obama declared Friday that Sony "made a mistake" in shelving the satirical film, "The Interview," about a plot to assassinate North Korea's leader. He pledged the U.S. would respond "in a place and manner and time that we choose" to the hacking attack on Sony that led to the withdrawal. The FBI blamed the hack on the communist government. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Saturday proposed a joint investigation with the U.S. into the hacking attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, warning of "serious" consequences if Washington rejects a probe that it believes would prove Pyongyang had nothing to do with the cyberattack.


WHO: Recorded Ebola deaths top 7,000

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, centre, inspects the honor guard upon arrival at the Roberts international airport in Monrovia, Liberia, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised health workers battling Ebola in Sierra Leone and Liberia on Friday, saying they have shown "the most noble face of humankind" amid an epidemic that has killed more than 6,900 people in West Africa. Ban, who made stops in both countries on Friday, travels Saturday to Guinea where the Ebola virus first emerged a year ago. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) — The worst Ebola outbreak on record has now killed more than 7,000 people, with many of the latest deaths reported in Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization said as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon continued his tour of Ebola-affected countries in West Africa on Saturday.


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