US Congress meets briefly, takes no steps to end shutdown
Both chambers of the US Congress convened for only a few minutes late on Thursday, but took no steps to end a partial federal government shutdown before adjourning until next week.
Showing little sense of urgency over the shutdown, now in its sixth day, the Senate and the House of Representatives did nothing to restore funding for the roughly 20 per cent of the government affected.
The shutdown was on track to continue into next week and possibly drag on well into January.
The shutdown was triggered by Republican President Donald Trump's demand, largely opposed by Democrats and some lawmakers within his own party, that US taxpayers provide US$5 billion (S$6.8 billion) for a wall he wants to build along the US-Mexico border.
UAE reopens Syria embassy, a boost for Assad
The United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus on Thursday, marking a big diplomatic boost for President Bashar al-Assad from a U.S.-allied Arab state that once backed rebels fighting him.
The UAE said the move aimed to normalise ties and to curb risks of regional interference in "Arab, Syrian affairs" - an apparent reference to non-Arab Iran, whose support for Assad has been critical to his war effort.
The reopening of the embassy is a step towards Syria's rehabilitation by its Arab peers.
Michelle Obama tops Hillary Clinton as America's most admired woman
Former First Lady Hillary Clinton's 17-year run as the woman Americans admire most is over.
Another former First Lady, Michelle Obama, has deposed Clinton as America's most admired woman, according to a Gallup poll published on Thursday.
Former president Barack Obama was named the man Americans admire most for the 11th year in a row, Gallup said.
Bodies of two US kids found in garden of father, who worked as Santa
Police in the southern United States have discovered the bodies of two teenagers buried in the garden of their father, who worked as a Santa Claus in a local supermarket.
Elwyn Crocker, 49, and three other family members were arrested and charged with "concealing the death of another and cruelty to children in the first degree," according to a statement by the Effingham County sheriff's office near Savannah, Georgia.
Forensic tests were being carried out on the two bodies, believed to be 14-year-old Mary Crocker and her brother Elwyn Crocker Jr, who would have been 16.
Puppy rescued after getting stuck in ice on frozen Turkish lake
A police diver braved a frozen lake to save a puppy stuck in the ice in the eastern province of Van in Turkey.
The municipality of Van released footage showing diver Burak Okten trying to break the ice carousel with his arm to rescue the dog.
The dog was taken to a veterinary clinic after receiving emergency cardiopulmonary resuscitation.