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Pope Prays for the Families after U.S. School Massacre

Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday prayed for families of the victims in the Newtown school massacre in the United States during his traditional weekly address to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square.

"I was deeply saddened by Friday's senseless violence in Newtown, Connecticut. I assure the families of the victims, especially those who lost a child, of my closeness in prayer," the pope told thousands of pilgrims.

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Connecticut School Shooter Blasted His Way in

The gunman in the Connecticut school massacre that left 20 small children dead blasted his way through a locked glass door, climbed through and proceeded with his killing spree, the state governor said Sunday.

"He shot his way into the school. The school was locked. He used a weapon to open up the glass, and then walked in," Governor Dan Malloy said on the ABC program "This Week."

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Assange to Mark Six Months at Ecuador Embassy with Speech

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will mark six months holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London next Thursday with a public speech, the whistle-blowing website announced on Sunday.

WikiLeaks released a Twitter message reading: "London, Thursday December 20, 7PM: Julian Assange to address the crowd in front of the Ecuadorian Embassy, marking six months of his asylum."

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Japan Moves Right as Conservatives Win Big in Polls

Japan's conservative opposition swept to victory in national polls on Sunday, giving former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a second chance to push his hawkish security agenda and reflate the economy.

Voters dumped Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda three years after his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) promised a change from more than half a century of almost unbroken rule by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

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Sudanese Opposition Chief Says Government Scared

The head of Sudan's opposition political alliance, freed after two days in detention, said on Sunday that the government fears rising popular discontent in the crisis-hit nation.

Farouk Abu Issa, who represents more than 20 opposition parties, told Agence France Presse he was released on Saturday by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).

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Russia Frees Protesters after Anti-Putin Rally

Russian police said Sunday they had released some 40 people detained during a banned protest against Vladimir Putin, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Braving freezing cold and the threat of heavy fines, hundreds of people defied the authorities Saturday to gather at Moscow's Lubyanka Square, the seat of the FSB security services, to mark one year since the start of unprecedented anti-Putin protests triggered by fraud-tainted parliamentary polls last December.

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Venezuela State Elections Held under Shadow of Chavez Cancer

Venezuelans voted Sunday in state elections overshadowed by President Hugo Chavez's latest and seemingly toughest battle against cancer.

The vote for the 23 state governors of the country with the world's largest proven oil reserves will be a test for Henrique Capriles, the opposition leader Chavez beat in presidential elections in October.

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Friends Recall Gunman from U.S. Massacre as Quiet, Odd

On leafy Yogananda Street, home to Nancy Lanza and her son Adam Lanza, the accused U.S. school gunman, former school mates Saturday remembered him as an intelligent but strange young man.

"He was a weird kid as a child, but he was just quiet. We never knew his real personality. He was just himself," said Megan, aged 20, who went to primary school with the presumed shooter, and declined to give her last name.

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At Least 6 Indian Troops Killed in Avalanche on Siachen Glacier

An avalanche on the high-altitude Siachen glacier that is disputed between India and Pakistan killed at least six Indian soldiers on Sunday when their outpost was swept away before dawn.

Thousands of soldiers from both nations endure bitter conditions on the glacier, which is dubbed "The world's highest battleground,” due to the long-running territorial dispute.

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Police Search for Leads after Ukraine Judge, Kin Beheaded

The beheaded bodies of a Ukrainian judge and three members of his family have been found in their apartment in the eastern city of Kharkiv, police said Sunday as they searched for those responsible for the killings.

The gruesome crime scene was uncovered a day earlier by a relative, who found the bodies of Judge Vladimir Trofimov, his wife Irina, their son Sergei, and the son's girlfriend, Marina Zoueva.

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