Illinois

Court negates plan to fix pension crisis

The Illinois Supreme Court forced the state to find another way to fix the nation's worst government-employee pension crisis, ruling lawmakers "overstepped" by enacting a law that slashed retirement benefits to confront a massive budget deficit. In a unanimous decision that frequently scolded state policymakers, the seven justices declared that the measure former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed 18 months ago violates the state constitution because it would leave pension promises "diminished or impaired."

California

Quake standards set for cell towers

Los Angeles became the first city in the nation to enact seismic standards for new cellphone towers, part of a new effort to strengthen communications infrastructure. The proposal passed by the City Council requires new free-standing cellphone towers to be built to the same seismic standards as public safety facilities.

New York

Seven more church closures are set

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York announced the closure of seven more churches as part of the biggest reorganization in its history, a process of parish consolidations that will leave the archdiocese 20 percent smaller than it was last year. More than two dozen church closings were announced in November. This time, 31 parishes are being consolidated into 14 new ones.

Georgia

Small plane crashes on interstate

Four people died when their small plane crashed on Interstate 285 near Atlanta. Drivers reported hearing a loud boom and seeing a ball of fire when the plane, a single-engine Piper Cherokee 6 out of Asheville, N.C., slammed into the busy interstate. Three men and one woman, who have not been identified, were killed.

Russia

Ties with China are strengthened

The presidents of Russia and China signed 32 bilateral agreements designed to highlight the warming of relations between the countries. President Vladimir Putin and President Xi Jinping of China presided over a signing ceremony that balanced their regional interests in Central Asia, secured more than $6 billion in Chinese investment in a Russian intercity rail line and established a "nonaggression pact" between the countries in cyberspace.

Nigeria

Extremist group attacks college

Boko Haram extremists attacked a business school with gunfire and two bomb blasts before being overcome by security forces. A suicide bomber died when he blew himself up in the parking lot in Potiskum. A second bomb exploded in the dormitory. At least 50 people were injured.

News services