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Times Square's crystal ball gets gleaming new skin
Written by DAVID B. CARUSO, Associated Press   
Saturday, 28 December 2013 09:39
NYE-Ball_rotator
The New Year's Eve Ball is photographed on the roof of One Times Square in New New York during a media event where several of the Waterford Crystal triangles were installed on the ball on Friday Dec. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
NEW YORK (AP) — Electricians working atop a New York City skyscraper on Friday installed the last of the 2,688 crystal triangles that give the Times Square New Year's Eve Ball its shimmer, including a panel dreamt up by a 12-year-old former cancer patient.

Each year, the intricate Waterford crystals that make up the skin of the huge orb are replaced with new pieces of glass.

This year's design features a kaleidoscopic pattern that will refract light in a splash of 16 million colors as the ball drops down a flagpole at the stroke of midnight. The ball is lit from within by 32,256 powerful diodes.

One crystal panel stands out from the rest. It was crafted from a drawing submitted by Coraliz Martinez, who was treated for bone cancer at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., in 2011.
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Fire on express train in India kills at least 23
Written by NIRMALA GEORGE, Associated Press   
Saturday, 28 December 2013 06:53

NEW DELHI (AP) — A fire engulfed two coaches of an express train in southern India early Saturday, killing at least 23 passengers, many of whom became trapped and suffocated after the doors failed to open, officials said.

As the inferno and thick black smoke raced through the two cars at 3:45 a.m., panicked passengers broke the windows and many saved themselves by jumping from the train.

A spokesman for the railways, C.S. Gupta, said 67 passengers were in the two cars when the fire broke out about two kilometers (1 mile) from the small town of Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh state.

Gupta said the train was brought to a halt and the two coaches were delinked from the rest of the train to prevent the fire from spreading.

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Libya releases 4 U.S. military personnel
Written by LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press   
Saturday, 28 December 2013 06:36

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four U.S. military personnel investigating potential evacuation routes in Libya were taken into custody at a checkpoint and then detained briefly by the Libyan government before being released, U.S. officials said Friday night.

These four military personnel were operating in an area near Sabratha as part of security preparedness efforts when they were taken into custody, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

No one was injured. The military personnel were taken to the U.S. Embassy after their release, a Defense Department official said. The official was not authorized to discuss the incident by name and requested anonymity.

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Rescue of icebound Antarctic ship faces setback
Written by KRISTEN GELINEAU, Associated Press   
Saturday, 28 December 2013 06:38

SYDNEY (AP) — A Chinese icebreaker that was en route to rescue a ship trapped in Antarctic ice was forced to turn back on Saturday after being unable to push its way through the heavy sea ice.

The Snow Dragon icebreaker came within 7 miles (11 kilometers) of the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been stuck since Christmas Eve, but had to retreat after the ice became too thick, said expedition spokesman Alvin Stone.

The Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been on a research expedition to Antarctica, got stuck Tuesday after a blizzard's whipping winds pushed the sea ice around the ship, freezing it in place. The ship wasn't in danger of sinking, and there are weeks' worth of supplies for the 74 scientists, tourists and crew on board, but the vessel cannot move.

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A&E reverses decision on 'Duck Dynasty' patriarch
Written by LYNN ELBER, AP Television Writer   
Saturday, 28 December 2013 06:35

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A&E landed in the middle of America's culture wars when "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson sounded off on gays and the Bible. The channel quickly found there was no safe ground.

It was pilloried for allowing a man who equated gays with hell-bound sinners like adulterers to have a national TV stage. Then it was excoriated for giving him the hook.

With A&E's decision Friday to bring Robertson back to its most-watched show, it remains to be seen if it can mend fences with both sides — or at least with those viewers who hold opposing views.

The channel's interest is in ratings and revenue, not refereeing social discord.

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