TOP STORIES FOR MONDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2014
BARI, Italy -- Helicopters defied high winds, stormy seas and darkness Monday to pluck hundreds of passengers from a Greek ferry that caught fire off Albania, as survivors told of a frantic rush to escape the flames and pelting rain. Five people died and dozens remained trapped on board a day after the fire broke out. Exhausted and cold from their ordeal, 49 passengers reached land Monday in the southern Italian port of Bari, more than 24 hours after fire broke out on a car deck of the ferry making a journey from the Greek port of Patras to Ancona in Italy. SENT: 920 words, photos, video. UPCOMING: will be updated as rescued is completed. By Andrea Rosa and Nicole Winfield.
ATHENS, Greece -- Greece will hold early national elections on Jan. 25, stoking concerns over the future of the country's financial bailout, after lawmakers failed to elect a new president in a third and final round of voting Monday. The conservative-led coalition government's candidate for the presidential post, 73-year-old former European commissioner Stavros Dimas, garnered 168 votes from parliament's 300 seats -- short of the 180 votes needed to win. SENT: 420 words, photos. By Elena Becatoros and Nicholas Paphitis.
MOSCOW -- The Russian currency extended its losses on Monday after a report showed the economy has started shrinking in annual terms for the first time since 2009 as the country is buffeted by falling oil prices and Western sanctions. Meanwhile, the government, which has been scrambling to support the ruble and the economy, announced fresh steps to keep the banks afloat. SENT: 390 words, photos. By Nataliya Vasilyeva.