Rescued Antarctic passengers resume journey home
CANBERRA, Australia | An Australian icebreaker carrying 52 passengers who were retrieved from an icebound ship in the Antarctic resumed its journey home on Saturday, leaving behind another two icebreakers trapped in pack ice.
The Aurora Australis will continue its interrupted resupply mission to Australia's Antarctic base Casey Station before returning to the Australian island state of Tasmania in mid-January with the rescued scientists, journalists and tourists.
It had been slowly cracking through thick ice toward open water after a Chinese ship's helicopter on Thursday plucked the passengers from their stranded Russian research ship Akademik Shokalskiy and carried them to an ice floe near the Australian ship. But on Friday afternoon, the crew of the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long, or Snow Dragon, that had provided the helicopter said they were worried about their own ship's ability to move through the ice.
Iraq city falls fully into hands of al-Qaida group
BAGHDAD | The city center of Iraq's Fallujah has fallen completely into the hands of fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, police said Saturday, yet another victory for the hardline group that has made waves across the region in recent days.
ISIL is also one of the strongest rebel units in Syria, where it has imposed a strict version of Islamic law in territories it holds and kidnapped and killed anyone it deems critical of its rule. Also on Saturday, it claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing in a Shiite-dominated neighborhood in Lebanon.
Hadi Razeij, head of the Anbar province police force, said police had left the city center entirely and had positioned themselves on the edge of town.
Kerry cites some progress in Mideast diplomacy
RAMALLAH, West Bank | U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday cited progress on the Mideast peace process, yet acknowledged that some of the most intractable disputes between Israelis and Palestinians were unsolved after more than 20 rounds of negotiations.
"This is hard work," he told reporters after a two and half hour meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, their second in two days.
Afterward, Kerry resumed his shuttle diplomacy by heading back to Jerusalem for his third set of discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in as many days.
Kerry is trying to nudge Abbas and Netanyahu closer to a peace pact that would establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Pope to nuns: Why aren't you answering the phone?
VATICAN CITY | Pope Francis has made another one of his cold calls to wish a group of nuns in a Spanish convent Happy New Year. Only he got their answering machine, instead.
"What are the nuns doing that they can't answer the phone?" Francis asked in the message he left, the recording of which was obtained by Spain's El Mundo newspaper and broadcast on Italian media Saturday.
"This is Pope Francis. I wanted to offer you greetings for the end of the year. Maybe I'll try to call again later. May God bless you," he said.
Francis has made a habit out of calling people out of the blue, often checking in with ordinary folk who have written him about their hardships. He places the calls himself, as evidenced by the message.