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In brief: Islamic militants attack Chechnya capital

From Wire Reports

GROZNY, Russia – Police waged hours-long gunbattles with Islamic militants who attacked Chechnya’s capital Thursday, leaving at least 20 people dead and underscoring Russia’s vulnerability.

The clashes in Grozny, the city’s biggest in years, dented a carefully nurtured image of stability created by Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed strongman after two separatist conflicts. The new violence raised fears of more attacks in Chechnya and widening unrest in the rest of Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region.

The insurgents in Chechnya and other Caucasus regions want to create an independent state governed by their strict interpretation of Islamic law.

The fighting in Grozny began about 1 a.m., when roughly 10 gunmen riding in three cars fired on traffic police who had stopped them for a check, killing three officers. Some of the militants then holed up in a nearby office building and exchanged gunfire with police who quickly cordoned the area.

The battle left the 10-story Press House, which housed local media offices, gutted by a blazing fire that also spread to a nearby street market. Some gunmen fled to an empty school nearby. It took police more than 12 hours to kill 10 militants, according to Russian authorities, who also reported that 10 officers were killed and 28 wounded.

Philippines on edge as typhoon nears

MANILA, Philippines – A wide swath of the Philippines braced today for a dangerously erratic and powerful typhoon approaching from the Pacific, about a year after the country was lashed by Typhoon Haiyan that left more than 7,300 people dead.

Typhoon Hagupit – Filipino for “smash” – strengthened overnight with its sustained winds intensifying to 134 miles per hour and gusts of 155 mph. The local weather agency PAGASA’s forecasts show the typhoon may hit Eastern Samar province late Saturday or early Sunday.

But a forecast by the U.S. military’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii said Hagupit may veer northward after making landfall and possibly threaten Manila, which has a population of more than 12 million people.

If the first forecast holds, Hagupit’s path will send it barreling into the central Philippines along the same route where Typhoon Haiyan leveled villages in November last year.

Bill to halt benefits for Nazis passes

WASHINGTON – A bill that would block suspected Nazi war criminals from receiving Social Security benefits is heading to President Barack Obama for his signature.

By voice vote late Thursday, the Senate gave final congressional approval to a measure that would shut a loophole that allowed suspected Nazis to be paid millions of dollars in benefits. Under the bill, benefits would be terminated for Nazi suspects who have lost their American citizenship, a step called denaturalization. U.S. law currently requires a higher threshold – a final order of deportation – before Social Security benefits can be stopped.

CBS, Dish continue intense negotiations

Television giants CBS Corp. and Dish Network are continuing their high-stakes negotiations to hammer out a new carriage contract.

The two media companies have been haggling nearly around the clock since earlier this week when CBS said it would not grant Dish any further contract extensions for their pact that expired Nov. 20.

CBS had established a deadline of 4 p.m. Pacific time Thursday to reach a new deal.

But the deadline came and went, and CBS programming remained on Dish’s systems, which serve millions of viewers in 14 metropolitan markets where CBS owns a TV station.

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