Dec 31, 2019 - Have a Happy (safe) New Year

REUTERS

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that Phase 1 of an American trade deal with China would be signed on Jan. 15 at the White House.

President Trump blamed Iran on Tuesday for "orchestrating" an attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and said he will hold Tehran responsible.

President Trump on Dec. 19 became the third U.S. president to be impeached. The Republican-controlled Senate is due to weigh these charges in a trial in January.

Protesters and militia fighters enraged by U.S. air strikes on Iraq staged a violent demonstration outside the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday, torching a security post and hurling stones as security forces and embassy guards hit back with stun grenades and tear gas.

Thousands of protesters briefly blocked one of Hong Kong's main roads on New Year's Eve after forming human chains across the city and marching through shopping malls, urging people not to give up the fight for democracy in 2020.

Hong Kong's protest movement is supported by 59% of city residents polled in a survey conducted for Reuters by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, with more than a third of respondents saying they had attended an anti-government demonstration.

Thousands swarmed to beaches on Australia's east coast on Tuesday to escape fierce wildfires bearing down on several seaside towns, as the government readied naval vessels and military helicopters to aid firefighting and evacuations.

Large crowds thronged Sydney harbor on Tuesday to watch Australia's famous New Year's Eve fireworks, even as smoke from deadly wildfires turned skies in nearby coastal towns blood-red.

AP Top Stories

China has sentenced Pastor Wang Yi, founder of the Early Rain Covenant Church and a critic of Chinese president Xi Jinping, to nine years in prison, according to a government statement released on Monday.

The bushfires in Australia are now so big that they are generating their own weather, in the form of giant thunderstorms that start more fires, according to the Bureau of Meteorology in Victoria.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Monday condemned U.S. air strikes on bases of Iranian-backed Iraqi militia, a move that could plunge Iraq further into the heart of a proxy conflict between the United States and Iran.

Indonesia said on Monday it had protested to Beijing over the presence of a Chinese coastguard vessel in its territorial waters near the disputed South China Sea, saying it marked a "violation of sovereignty".

Mexican authorities have arrested seven suspects in connection with last month's massacre of nine Mormon women and children in the country's north, the attorney general's office said. A local police chief suspected of links to organized crime was among those taken into custody.

The number of people killed by a powerful storm that pummeled the central Philippines over Christmas has risen to 50 making it the nation's deadliest storm of 2019.

China's foreign minister has decried international "bullying practices" while meeting with his Iranian counterpart Tuesday, in the country's latest criticism of American foreign policy under the Trump administration.

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine have spoken by telephone to express satisfaction with a newly signed contract on natural gas transit and the recent exchange of prisoners between Ukraine and Russia-backed rebels in Ukraine's east.

Ride-share company Uber and on-demand meal delivery service Postmates sued Monday to block a broad new California law aimed at giving wage and benefit protections to people who work as independent contractors. The lawsuit filed in U.S. court in Los Angeles argues that the law set to take effect Wednesday violates federal and state constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.

Panama on Tuesday marks two decades of control over the vital interoceanic Canal following its return by the United States, but worries over weak traffic and climate change loom.

More than a million Russians have been caught up in the worst wave of bomb threats in years, sending people to social media for information about events largely ignored by Kremlin-controlled national television. While all of the threats to date have been hoaxes, bomb squads have descended upon schools, airports and shopping malls to investigate the calls, according to news reports from around Russia.

BBC

Sydney has welcomed in 2020 with a bang, despite calls for it to cancel its fireworks display as Australia's bushfire crisis continues. Earlier, Auckland in New Zealand became the world's first major city to celebrate the start of the new decade.

The national living wage is to rise by 6.2% in what the government says is "the biggest cash increase ever". The rise is more than four times the rate of inflation.

One of the first mixed-sex couples to become civil partners hailed it as a "unique, special and personal moment". Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who won a legal battle for the right to heterosexual civil partnerships, celebrated at Kensington and Chelsea Register Office in west London. Previously, the law only allowed same-sex couples to be civil partners. About 84,000 mixed-sex couples could form civil partnerships next year, the government said.

WND

Virginia activists attempting to make killing unborn children a constitutional right are the target of an investigation by the American Center for Law and Justice.

School officials at Wappingers Central School district in New York State have reversing their decision to ban a faith-based club for students.

On December 13 & 14, 2009, professor, prophet, and soothsayer Al Gore predicted the North Polar Ice Cap could be completely ice free within the next five to seven years.

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