At least 35 die in Shanghai stampede
Thirty-five people died in a stampede during New Year's celebrations in downtown Shanghai, city officials said Thursday — the worst disaster to hit one of China's showcase cities in recent years. A Shanghai government statement said another 43 people were injured amid the chaos about a half-hour before midnight. The official Xinhua News Agency quoted an unnamed witness as saying people had scrambled for coupons that looked like dollar bills that were being thrown out of a third-floor window. It said the cause of the stampede was still under investigation. The deaths and injuries occurred at Shanghai's popular riverfront Bund area, which is often jammed with spectators for major events.
Putin calls Crimea grab a milestone
Russian President Vladimir Putin used his New Year's address to hail the March annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region as "the most important milestone in the country's history." The Kremlin leader's appeal to his countrymen's patriotic sentiments over the Black Sea peninsula made clear that he has no intention of backing down from the land grab that brought Western sanctions and international scorn on Moscow in 2014. "Love for the motherland is one of the most powerful, uplifting feelings. It manifested to the full extent in the brotherly support of Crimea and Sevastopol residents, when they firmly decided to return home," Putin said. He alluded only vaguely to the forecast of recession in the new year, which economists expect will cut Russia's gross domestic product by 4.5 percent. He praised fellow citizens for their unity and solidarity "both in days of triumph and at times of trial."
Terrorism-related arrests rose in 2014
The number of arrests in British terrorism probes soared by 40 percent in 2014 as police grappled with growing numbers of British citizens traveling to war-torn Syria to work on behalf of Islamic militants. Police throughout Britain arrested 312 people for a range of terrorist-related offenses as of Dec. 16, compared with 222 in 2013, according to data provided by the Metropolitan Police and the British Home Office. In London, police said they detained about 35 percent more people than three years ago.
King Abdullah hospitalized for tests
King Abdullah was taken to a hospital for medical checks, stoking concern about the health of the 90-year-old monarch and triggering a decline in the nation's stocks. It's the first time Abdullah's office has announced his admission for tests since he underwent back surgery in 2012. Speculation about the health of the king, who took the throne in 2005, comes at a time of turmoil both at home and among neighboring Arab states. Saudi Arabia plans to open its stock market to foreign investors in 2015.
Gay marriages will begin on Jan. 6
A Florida judge cleared the way for Orange County to issue marriage licenses next week to same-sex couples. That ruling, by Circuit Judge Tim Shea, appears to mean that gay and lesbian couples will be able to get married at the Orange County courthouse in Orlando on Jan. 6, the first day that becomes legal under a landmark federal ruling in Tallahassee. A county clerk had filed suit Tuesday in the courthouse where she works, asking a judge to give her instructions on what to do.
Missing toddler's body found in creek
The body of a missing 14-month-old Maryland boy was found in an Ohio creek as his mother was ordered held in lieu of $150,000 bail in her first court appearance. Searchers found Cameron Beckford in Big Walnut Creek, said Sgt. Rich Weiner, a Columbus police spokesman. Dainesha Stevens is charged with endangering children and tampering with evidence. Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Michael Brandt also ordered her not to have any contact with children.