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Houston PD gets $10,000 cash from "Secret Santa" to give to people in need; instead of tickets for traffic violations, police officers have been handing out $100 bills to locals.Anna Stoehr, 114, died in her sleep: her story went viral when she couldn't pick her actual birth on Facebook (year before 1905 not offered). The company sent her 114 flowers on her last birthday.At LaGuardia, two planes collide on tarmac, clipping the first's wing off; no-one injured.CCTV footage of black teen near Ferguson pointing gun at officer who then shot him.Sony rolls out "The Interview" (reason for hack) in 200 movie theaters across the US.In Illinois, kids will get access to medical marijuana (under 18 with parent approval).FDA: one-year-abstinent gay men may be able to give blood, overturning 1983 ban.Swedish-born C. Conrad Johnson, oldest man in the US, dies at 110 in Rockford, Il.Gitmo detainees releases accelerate, as Obama tries to keep campaign promise to close the base before leaving office.Insight into Jeb Bush's hands-on style as governor, from emails released: a meticulous and exec who can be both terse or casual.Following the murder of two NYPD officers, Colorado man arrested for advocating killing police; Google reported the YouTube video.After 18 years in jail, NY man wrongfully accused of murder gets freedom and a check for $4.75 million from the state.Former president George H. W. Bush, 90,  rushed to Houston Methodist Hospital for shortness of breath - held for observation.USAID contractor jailed in 2009 for giving internet equipment to Jewish Cubans, and just freed by Cuba, will get a $3.2 million settlement from the US government.Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY 11th) pleads guilty to tax fraud, but says he won't resign.2 miles from Ferguson, MO, white officer kills armed black teen pointing gun at him.Tornadoes from US Gulf Coast kill two people and cause damage in Mississippi.Christmas gift: Hawaii lava's creep stops just 700 yards from Big Island shopping center.FDA approves type-2 diabetes drug Saxenda (liraglutide) as treatment for obesity.Silicon Valley group turns to India to hunt for next-generation tech companies.

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Construction costs increase as economy improves, but don't hamper growth because they don't rise as fast as real estate prices.Behind-the-scenes: why the Motion Picture Association of America cares about Google search results on illicit drugs and pharma.1,400 Walmart stores located in states that passed minimum wage hikes for January 1. Company says it welcomes it, since many of its shoppers are minimum-wage earners.T-Mobile tech company of the year: fastest growth in industry, 7% market share increase in 2014, pushing all carriers to cut prices.At Japanese airbag marker Takata, involved in worldwide vehicle recalls, exec reshuffle, pay cuts, and apologies close the year.Safeway pulled caramel apples from shelves after a woman, whose family is suing the company, died from a listeria infection.Wells Fargo sued by National Credit Union Admin board for failing to review or find irregularities in mortgage-backed securities.While Russia seriously suffers from falling crude oil prices, China and Japan, 2nd and 3rd largest economies, ramp up imports.Thanks to mild weather and large supply, US price of natural gas (most common heating fuel), dropped 29% in a single month.Important lessons for small businesses from the Sony hack (e.g., buy cyber insurance!) US unemployment benefits applications fall to 7-week low, a 16% decrease in 2014.US mortgage applications up by 0.9%, rates decrease to lowest level since May 2013.

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South Korean blind students get a 3D-printed yearbook to remember what their friends' faces "look" like! (only 8 students).What's the internet like in North Korea? A giant intranet called "Kwangmyong", gov-controlled cell phones, and propaganda.UK: Manchester U researchers discover potential of graphene for batteries, using filters that generate electricity from air! Samsung closes its flagship London store, keeps other UK-based store open, and will collaborate with retailers for outlets.Surprisingly, Ireland says it would be "pleased to consider" US DOJ requests for Microsoft emails stored domestically.Strong profits at American Airlines (falling oil prices), pay increases to union employees.China to simplify foreign investment rules to tame domestic factories' excess capacity.Russia: sovereign credit rating near junk status despite strong countermeasures.India: PM Narendra Modi uses rare exec order towards joint insurance and coal industry privatization - politically risky.Consortium led by Apple and Microsoft just sold 4,000 tech patents to RPX Corp for $900 million (Google was outbid in 2011, when purchased bankrupt Nortel Networks).Microsoft's Windows App Studio integrates with "TouchDevelop", programming language designed to easily create apps directly on a target device (still in beta).As Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba expands beyond its borders, it just spent $160 million tackling counterfeits.Tech in clothing: the ski gear that adapts to light, to your body moisture, and safety.

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Turkey: Santa (aka 4th century bishop Saint Nicholas), praised as national hero. Journey from ancient Lycia to a Coke ad campaign.France hits highest unemployment rate ever, a 5.8% increase in 2014; socialist president Francois Hollande gets lowest ratings ever recorded in French history; GDP growth revised down, from 1% to 0.4%.Tanzania: $180 million corruption as senior officials diverted public funds to personal accounts; 12 international donors withhold $500m as a result; officials sacked.Zimbabwe: locals ignore country's new coin, fearing a repeat of the last local currency's collapse; country has been trading in US dollars and South African rands since 2009.Australia: barely a week after the Sidney siege, counter-terrorism operation yields arrests of two Muslim men.India, Assam state: despite curfew orders, Bodo militants (Muslim separatists from Bangladesh) shoot villagers point-blank.Israel: dozens of politicians investigated for corruption (nepotism and embezzlement), potentially affecting upcoming elections.Formerly energy-independent Ukraine forced to cut power; pro-Russian uprising disrupts coal supply to power plants (from which country gets 40% of its power).Syria and Iraq: US-led forces launch 17 new airstrikes against ISIS targets (including Syria-Turkey border town of Kobani).Somalia: new PM Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke vows to end infighting.China: demolition workers threaten residents with AIDS infection unless they move out.Baghdad: suicide bomber dressed as government soldier kills 33, wounds 55.Turkey keeps interest rates steady at 8.25% for 4th straight month, battling 9% inflation.ISIS shoots down Jordanian fighter jet over Syria, captures and parades pilot.China: third case of self-immolation this week, all Tibetans protesting Chinese rule.Pakistan: week after school massacre, government to raise 5,000 strong counter-terrorism force to fight Islamists.Ukraine parliament drops "nonaligned status", possibly paving the way for entry into NATO, and definitely angering Russia.China: plastic surgery is more expensive in South Korea, but viewed as safer than at home; increasing numbers of Chinese visit the country to get all kinds of operations.China and Thailand to cooperate in fighting illegal immigration and terrorism, specifically targeting Uighurs (Muslims) and the far-western Chinese region of Xinjiang.In cabinet reshuffle, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff surrounds herself with allies, and avoids anyone linked to Petrobas.China: regulators crackdown doubles the number of environmental crime cases referred to police - pressure from locals.Syrian president increasingly open to negotiated peace settlement as army faces multi-front pressures from ISIS forces .Iraq: Yazidi women and girls enslaved by ISIS last summer endured horrors, according to Amnesty International interviews.India imposes curfew on Assam region after tribal guerillas kill 48 people -civilians, including children- in retaliatory attacks.Russia: major pipeline oil spill near Tuapse, Black Sea; weather hampers intervention.

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