Saudis promise $3B grant to bolster army
Saudi Arabia has pledged $3 billion to Lebanon to help strengthen the country's armed forces and purchase weapons from France, Lebanon's president said Sunday, calling it the biggest grant ever for the nation's military. Michel Sleiman, who made the surprise announcement in a televised national address, did not provide any further details. The Lebanese army has struggled to contain a rising tide of violence linked to the civil war in neighboring Syria, a conflict that has inflamed sectarian tensions in Lebanon and threatened the country's stability.
Smoking in public barred for officials
China has banned its officials from smoking in public to set an example to the rest of the country that has the world's largest number of smokers. The official Xinhua News Agency reported Sunday that officials are not allowed to smoke in schools, hospitals, sports venues, on public transport or any other places where smoking is banned. Smoking, which is linked to an average annual death toll of 1.4 million people in China in recent years, is one of the greatest health threats the country faces, government statistics show.
Icebreaker nears stranded ship
An Australian icebreaker worked its way through thick ice off Antarctica early today in the latest attempt to rescue about 70 people aboard a stranded research ship. The ship, the Akademik Shokalskiy, became stuck in the ice on Tuesday. It is carrying the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, scientists and tourists who are studying changes to the environment of Antarctica.
New York: Justice Sonia Sotomayor will return to her hometown for New Year's Eve to help lead one of New York City's best-known rituals: the ball drop in Times Square. She will press the button to lower the ball.