Holiday procrastinators packed stores Friday morning, grabbing those last few presents, gift cards and the finishing touches for Christmas dinner. For stores, this 11th-hour dash caps the best holiday season since 2007, and possibly the best ever. With Christmas falling on a Saturday this year, Friday is a holiday for most workers. That allowed shoppers to hit the stores first thing in the morning.
MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's lower house of parliament gave preliminary approval Friday to a U.S.-Russian arms treaty, but decided to delay the final vote until next month. The Kremlin-controlled State Duma voted 350-58 to approve the New START treaty in the first of three readings. The legislators said they would proceed further after returning from the New Year's vacation that lasts until Jan. 11.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Stymied in Congress, the Obama administration is moving unilaterally to clamp down on power plant and oil refinery greenhouse emissions, announcing plans for developing new standards over the next year. In a statement posted on the agency's website late Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson said the aim was to better cope with pollution contributing to climate change.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Christmas Eve snow storm that blanketed parts of the Midwest was headed southeast, expected to bring rare Christmas Day snowfall to Kentucky, Tennessee and even Georgia. After dumping 9 inches of snow in Iowa by Friday morning, the storm was likely to dip south into Tennessee and Georgia on Saturday, then perhaps move north Sunday. Winter weather advisories were in effect from Kansas east to Kentucky and from Minnesota south to Arkansas on Friday.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden predicted Friday the evolution in thinking that will permit gays to soon serve openly in the military eventually will bring about a national consensus for same-sex marriage. Changes in attitudes by military leaders, those in the service and the public allowed the repeal by Congress of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, Biden noted in a nationally broadcast interview on Christmas eve.
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Masked gunmen with rocket launchers are blocking access to what officials believe may be a mass grave site in Ivory Coast, the United Nations said, as concerns grow that the West African nation that suffered a 2002-2003 civil war could return to conflict. The U.N. reported that heavily armed forces allied with Laurent Gbagbo and joined by masked men, were preventing people from getting to the village of N'Dotre, where the global body said "allegations point to the existence of a mass grave."
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — The traditional birthplace of Jesus is celebrating its merriest Christmas in years, as tens of thousands of tourists thronged Bethlehem on Friday for the annual holiday festivities in this biblical West Bank town. Officials said the turnout was shaping up to be the largest since 2000. Unseasonably mild weather, a virtual halt in Israeli-Palestinian violence and a burgeoning economic revival in the West Bank all added to the holiday cheer.
AMSTELVEEN, Netherlands (AP) — Monique van der Vorst's competitive spirit thrived even after she lost the use of her legs as a teenager. She won two silver medals at the Beijing Paralympics and hoped to win gold in London in 2012. Those dreams are gone now, because another was fulfilled: She began regaining feeling in her legs over the summer, and now she can walk again.
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AP) — Lots of military secrets are hidden behind the gleaming walls of NORAD'S headquarters building, including this one: Just how do they get Santa's flight path onto their computer screens every Christmas Eve? Tracking Santa's travels is a celebrated tradition at the North American Aerospace Command, and it unfolds Friday for the 55th year.
MARICOPA, Ariz. (AP) — Bristol Palin has bought a five-bedroom home in Pinal County south of Phoenix. Paperwork shows the recent "Dancing With the Stars" diva and daughter of Sarah Palin is the sole purchaser of the house in the town of Maricopa. She bought it for $172,000 from a North Dakota couple.