While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Dec 22 edition

Iraq Kurd chief Massud Barzani hails advances in battle against ISIS

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani hailed advances by peshmerga fighters against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group on Sunday as they battled the extremists for a northern town with the backing of US-led strikes.

Thousands of the autonomous Kurdish region's peshmerga launched a major operation on Wednesday which broke the second ISIS siege this year of Mount Sinjar.

The Kurdish offensive could cut the links between the city of Mosul, the main ISIS stronghold in Iraq, and territory the militants control in neighbouring Syria.

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Gulf oil producers vow not to cut OPEC output despite slumping prices

Oil-rich Arab Gulf countries stood firm against non-OPEC crude producers on Sunday, vowing they will not cut output nor hold an emergency cartel meeting to support slumping prices.

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia and Kuwait said they would not cut production even if non-OPEC members reduce their output, while the United Arab Emirates and Iraq shrugged off calls for an emergency meeting of the group.

"If they (non-OPEC countries) want to cut production they are welcome. We are not going to cut, certainly Saudi Arabia is not going to cut," Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi told reporters on the sidelines of an energy conference in the United Arab Emirates. Kuwaiti Oil Minister Ali al-Omair agreed.

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Captive orangutan has human right to freedom, Argentine court rules

An orangutan held in an Argentine zoo can be freed and transferred to a sanctuary after a court recognised the ape as a "non-human person" unlawfully deprived of its freedom, local media reported on Sunday.

Animal rights campaigners filed a habeas corpus petition - a document more typically used to challenge the legality of a person's detention or imprisonment - in November on behalf of Sandra, a 29-year-old Sumatran orangutan at the Buenos Aires zoo.

In a landmark ruling that could pave the way for more lawsuits, the Association of Officials and Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) argued the ape had sufficient cognitive functions and should not be treated as an object.

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Final Hobbit film draws holiday season crowds; tops US-Canada box office

The last movie of Peter Jackson's three Hobbit films rode to the top of US and Canadian weekend box office charts, selling an estimated US$56.2 million (S$73.91 million) worth of tickets and boosting the holiday movie season that is crucial to Hollywood.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies grabbed another US$34.4 million from Wednesday and Thursday screenings for a combined debut of US$90.6 million over its first five days, distributor Warner Bros. said on Sunday.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, featuring the final on-screen performance by the late Robin Williams, finished second at domestic theatres with US$17.3 million from Friday through Sunday, according to estimates from tracking firm Rentrak.

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Football: Martin Skrtel scores in stoppage time to lift Liverpool to draw with Arsenal

A stoppage time goal by a bleeding and heavily-bandaged Martin Skrtel spared Liverpool another deflating defeat as they drew 2-2 at home to Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday.

Inferior for most of the match, Arsenal had led with goals from French duo Mathieu Debuchy and Olivier Giroud after Philippe Coutinho had put the hosts deservedly ahead.

However, Skrtel, who required six minutes of treatment on a head wound, thundered in a late header from Steven Gerrard's corner to deny Arsenal.

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