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AP Top News at 6:22 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.


After turbulent year, Obama aims for quiet Hawaii getaway
KAILUA, Hawaii (AP) - A tumultuous year all but behind him, President Barack Obama set off for his annual winter getaway in Hawaii hoping for one thing: Quiet. Air Force One touched down late in the evening at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, with the president, first lady Michelle Obama, their daughters and two dogs on board. On Saturday, the family was to begin their roughly two-week retreat from the hubbub in Washington on the lush island of Oahu.


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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."


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.


Tour agents: N. 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 that 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 state media have insinuated Ebola was created by the U.S. military.


Falling oil prices worry Algeria
ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) - With oil prices at their lowest in five years and showing few signs of hitting bottom, Algeria is feeling the pinch. Though its problems are dwarfed by the impact on Russia for example, Algeria may have to rein back many of the policies it has held dear over many years. Generous subsidies, for one, may have to be scaled back despite the potential risk of social unrest in the North African country.


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.


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.


Christmas 1914: The day even WWI showed humanity
PLOEGSTEERT, Belgium (AP) - With British and German forces separated only by a no-man's land littered with fallen comrades, sounds of a German Christmas carol suddenly drifted across the frigid air: "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht" ("Silent Night, Holy Night"). Then, during that first Christmas Day in World War I, something magical happened.


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