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Thursday, Dec 18th

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Gunman, 2 hostages die in fiery end to Sydney siege

Sydney hostage situation endsA tense, 16-hour Australian hostage standoff ended with an eruption of gunfire and death when heavily armed police stormed a cafe in the heart of Sydney's financial center.

New South Wales state police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said the gunman and two hostages died in the fiery end to the crisis. Scipione, speaking at a press conference early Tuesday Australian time, said four of the 17 hostages and one police officer were injured. He lauded the hostages and police for their courage as the horror unfolded.

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Pennsylvania county poised to make all public schools for-profit charters

PA county to go all charter schoolsYork County, Pennsylvania, could become the second school district in the country to offer only charter schools to the area’s residents if a court ruling likely to come this week turns over control of public schools to the state.

In what appears to be a last-ditch effort to carry out a two-year-old plan to turn all of York’s schools over to for-profit charter corporation Charter Schools USA, Pennsylvania’s Department of Education filed a petition in a York County court earlier this month to take away almost all local control from the school board, and put the district in the “receivership” of state-appointed York education official David Meckley.

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Justices reject Arizona bid over abortion drugs

Planned parenthoodThe Supreme Court is refusing to allow Arizona to enforce stringent restrictions on medical abortions while a challenge to those rules plays out in lower courts.

The justices on Monday left in place a lower court ruling that blocked rules that regulate where and how women can take drugs that induce abortion. The rules also would prohibit the use of the abortion medications after the seventh week of pregnancy instead of the ninth.

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Gun-friendly Texas prepares to roll back ban on open carry of firearms

Texas to roll back open carry banLong depicted as the capital of American gun culture, Texas is actually one of the few states to ban outright the open carrying of handguns. That could change in 2015, when the Republican-dominated state legislature and governor-elect Greg Abbott are expected to push for expanded gun rights.

“If open carry is good enough for Massachusetts, it’s good enough for the state of Texas,” Abbott said the day after his election, last month.

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North Texas Fracking Zone Sees Growing Health Worries

barnett shale drillPropped up on a hospital bed, Taylor Ishee listened as his mother shared a conviction that choked her up. His rare cancer had a cause, she believes, and it wasn’t genetics.

Others in Texas have drawn the same conclusions about their confounding illnesses. Jana DeGrand, who suffered a heart attack and needed both her gallbladder and her appendix removed. Rebecca Williams, fighting off unexplained rashes, sharp headaches and repeated bouts of pneumonia. Maile Bush, who needed surgery for a sinus infection four rounds of antibiotics couldn’t heal. Annette Wilkes, whose own severe sinus infections were followed by two autoimmune diseases.

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Hostages Held Inside Australian Cafe, Islamic Flag Seen In Window

Australian hostages held in cafeHostages were being held inside a central Sydney cafe where a black flag with white Arabic writing could be seen in the window, local television showed on Monday, raising fears of an attack linked to Islamic militants.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was convening a meeting of the cabinet's national security committee for a briefing on what he called a hostage situation in Australia's commercial capital.

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The Strange Case of the Christian Zionist Terrorist

LivvixAdam Everett Livvix may or may not be a Christian Zionist from Texas, or he may be a fugitive from Illinois, or both. He also has claimed he was a U.S. Navy SEAL. And he was indicted in Israel last week on charges he plotted to blow up sites holy to Islam.

Livvix, 30, is now in solitary confinement in the maximum-security Ayalon prison in Ramla, a city near Tel Aviv.

According to the prosecutor’s submission to the court outlining reasons for the indictment, which was obtained by The Daily Beast, there would seem to be ample incriminating evidence, but there also remain quite a few mysteries.

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Gulf markets plunge as OPEC says 'no set price' for oil

Gul markets plungeThe head of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Abdalla Salem el-Badri, said Sunday that OPEC has no set price target for oil, according to the Wall Street Journal.

His comment, made at an event in Dubai, is likely to add further uncertainty to the turbulent oil market. The price of a barrel of light, sweet crude fell to $57.49, down from $98.17 at the end of 2013 -- a 41% decline.

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Washington undecided on U.N. resolution for Israel-Palestine

Wahington undecided on UN Israel-Palestine resolutionIsrael said it hoped the United States would veto any moves at the United Nations to set a time frame for its withdrawal from territory Palestinians seek for state, but a senior U.S. official said it was too early to say.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome on Monday to discuss various proposals for a Palestinian state that are circulating at the United Nations.

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