US, Cuba to normalize relations  The United States and Cuba have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations and open economic and travel ties, marking a historic shift in U.S. policy toward the communist island after a half-century of enmity dating back to the Cold War, American officials said Wednesday.


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2014 welcomed across the world

BERLIN (AP) - Hundreds of thousands of people have started to assemble at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate for what organizers say is one of the world's biggest outdoor New Year's parties.

It's a traditional German gathering featuring jelly doughnuts and sparkling wine.

At midnight in Hong Kong, fireworks were launched from the tops of seven skyscrapers. But one city in central China called off its fireworks show to avoid worsening the city's smog.

In Tokyo, five priests at a temple used ropes to swing a wooden pole against a large bell. That sounded the first of 108 gongs to mark the new year. At the same time, the number 2014 lit up in white lights on the modern Tokyo Tower in the background.

In New York City, outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg is sitting out this year's festivities to spend time with family and friends. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio will be sworn into office at a minute past midnight at his home in Brooklyn.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a New York City native, will lead the final 60-second countdown and push the ceremonial button to signal the descent of the Times Square New Year's Eve ball in front of an estimated 1 million celebrants.