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AP Top News at 4:55 a.m. EST

Obama says North Korea hacked Sony, vows response
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama declared that Sony "made a mistake" in shelving a satirical film about a plot to assassinate North Korea's leader, and 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. Speaking of executives at Sony Pictures Entertainment, Obama said Friday at a year-end news conference, "I wish they had spoken to me first. ... We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship."


Human rights in spotlight after US-Cuba deal
HAVANA (AP) - To many exiles and their allies, President Raul Castro is a brutal dictator who locks up dissenters in gulag-like jails, snuffs out political discourse and condemns his people to socialist poverty. Cuba's supporters see the government as heroic, its sins justified by the behavior of its giant enemy to the north, and offset by the fact it provides health care and education that most developing countries could only dream of.


No word yet from Fidel amid historic US-Cuba shift
HAVANA (AP) - Everyone in Cuba is talking about the startling turn in relations with the United States, with one notable exception: Fidel Castro. So far, the larger-than-life retired Cuban leader has made no public comment on the biggest news in years - that the U.S. and his island nation will restore diplomatic relations after more than 50 years of hostility.


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2016 hopeful Ben Carson pledges support for Israel
JERUSALEM (AP) - In his first visit to Israel, prospective Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said he is in awe of the Jewish state, inspired by its ancient holy sites, impressed by the resilience of people living in a perpetual conflict zone - and deeply disappointed in President Barack Obama. "I do not believe that Obama has been one to cultivate the relationship," said Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who has emerged as a favorite of some conservatives in the early field of possible GOP candidates.


Iraq's Shiite fighters desert over shortages
BAGHDAD (AP) - Abu Murtada al-Moussawi answered the call last summer from Iraq's top Shiite cleric to help save the country from the Islamic State group, but after less than three months on the front lines he and several friends returned home because they had run out of food. "Sometimes, we didn't have enough money to buy mobile scratch cards to call our families," al-Moussawi, a Shiite from the southern city of Basra, said. "Everybody felt like we were being forgotten by the government."


Tour agents: North Korea may soon lift Ebola restrictions
TOKYO (AP) - North Korea, never a country to take the threat of foreign invasion lightly, has been under virtual lockdown since October to keep the Ebola virus from crossing its borders. But two leading travel agencies that specialize in the small but growing North Korea market say they have confirmed the North may be ready to open up its doors again soon. The country has taken some of the strictest Ebola measures outside of west Africa despite having very little contact with any of the countries that have been impacted and being - by any reasonable standard - at a very low risk. Some reports by the state media have insinuated Ebola was created by the U.S. military.


5 things to know about year-end tax breaks
WASHINGTON (AP) - In an almost annual ritual, Congress has passed a last-minute package of temporary tax breaks, sparing millions of businesses and individuals from unwanted tax increases just weeks before start of filing season. Congress extends these tax breaks every year or two, usually at the last minute, drawing complaints from business leaders tired of the uncertainty. This year's package will add nearly $42 billion to federal budget deficit, according to congressional estimates.


Egypt's gays go deeper underground, fearing crackdown
CAIRO (AP) - Just before midnight, the police navigated down the narrow alleys of an old downtown Cairo district and descended on a rundown bathhouse. They dragged out dozens of nearly naked men, who covered their faces as they struggled to hold up towels, and loaded them into police trucks. There to film it all was an Egyptian television presenter, who claims she actually triggered the raid by tipping off police about alleged homosexual activity in the bathhouse. Days later, she aired what she boasted was an expose of "a den of mass perversion" spreading AIDS in Egypt.


Protesters in contempt of court for anti-whaling campaign
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers were found in contempt of court for continuing their relentless campaign to disrupt the annual whale hunt off the waters of Antarctica. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Friday ordered a commissioner to determine how much Paul Watson and members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society he founded owe Japanese whalers for lawyer fees, damage to their ships and for violating the court order to stop their dangerous protests.


Tick-tock: Tips for last-minute shoppers
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The clock is ticking, and your holiday shopping list isn't complete. Don't fret - you aren't alone.

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