The World Around Us Top new stories from Christmas 2014 Hongkong Protests End On December 14, police cleared most of the main pro-democracy site that blocked the city of Hong Kong for more than two months, signifying the end of protests. The Chinese government made no concessions, but protesters proved that they could challenge the government - “We achieved international notice”, said student and protestor Teresa Liu, “China has no excuse to hide anymore.” These were the largest protests since the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. Sydney Siege On December 15, an armed man held 17 employees and customers hostage at the Lindt Café in Martin Place, Sydney, Australia. The armed man was identified as Man Haron Monis - a 50-year-old, Iranian-born Australian citizen with a 154 | drinks yearbook criminal record. After being held for almost sixteen hours, six hostages escaped from the café. In response, Monis fired gunshots inside the café, which caused police to storm the building. Three people died, including hostages Tori Johnson, who was killed by Monis, and Katrina Dawson, who was tragically caught in police crossfire. Taliban Attack Army-Ran School On December 16, the Taliban attacked the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, northwest Pakistan. At least 145 people were killed in the siege, including 132 children, 10 school staff members and 3 soldiers. A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, stating it was in retaliation to the military’s offensive against militant hideouts in North Waziristan. It has been described as “The Taliban’s deadliest attack in Pakistan” and has been widely condemned. Cuba Releases American Prisoner On December 17, Cuba released U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross, who had been sentenced 15 years in prison in 2011 for bringing telecommunication devices into Cuba while working as a subcontractor for the U.S Agency for International Development. The Cuban government claims to have released Gross on humanitarian grounds, allowing him to return to the U.S on a U.S government plane. In response to Gross’ freedom, President Barack Obama announced that he would be taking historic steps to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time since 1961.
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