-- Defense Secretary Ash Carter says the United States is expanding its special operations forces in Iraq and Syria to help fight Islamic State militants.
--A couple who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State open fire at a holiday banquet for public employees in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people and wounding 21 others before they die in a shootout with police.
-- A South African appeals court decides that Oscar Pistorius got away with murder when he stood trial for killing his girlfriend, a ruling that almost certainly will send the disgraced Olympian back to prison.
-- Germany steps up its contribution to the fight against the Islamic State group, with lawmakers voting in favor of sending reconnaissance jets, a tanker plane and a frigate to provide broad noncombat support to the U.S.-led coalition.
-- In the wake of a commando-style shooting rampage by a Muslim extremist couple in Southern California that left 14 people dead, The New York Times calls for more gun regulation in its first Page 1 editorial in 95 years.
-- France-'s far-right National Front wins more support than any other party in the first round of regional elections in a new boost for Marine Le Pen's anti-immigration strategy,leaving the two mainstream parties scrambling for a response.
-- Venezuela's opposition rejoices after its shock triumph in legislative elections against the ruling socialists, eventually gaining the two-thirds majority needed to pass major economic and judicial reforms.
-- China declares its first ever red smog alert as poisonous air quality forces the government to close schools, force motorists off the road and shut down factories in and around Beijing.
-- Hundreds of Syrian civilians and rebels begin pulling out of the lost opposition-held neighborhood of Homs as part of a deal with the government that would return the entire city to government control.
-- Geneva police hunt for at least four suspects allegedly linked to the radical Islamic State group and believed to be plotting an attack in the city.
-- A car bomb explosion that was claimed by the Taliban hits a diplomatic area of central Kabul, killing a Spanish policeman and wounding seven civilians.
-- Nearly 200 nations meeting in Paris adopt the first global pact to fight climate change, which calls on the world to collectively cut and then eliminate greenhouse gas pollution but imposes no sanctions on countries that don't.
-- Saudi voters elect 20 women to local government seats, a day after women voted and ran in elections for the first time in the country's history.
-- France's far-right National Front fails to gain the leadership of any of the country's regions despite going into the second round of elections as the front-runner, but picks up more votes than ever before, leaving opponents scrambling for a strategy to contain it.
-- Saudi Arabia announces formation of a vaguely defined Islamic military alliance to fight global terrorism in a bid to project its leadership of the Sunni world.
-- U.S. Federal Reserve raises interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade.
-- Representatives of Libya's s two rival factions sign a U.N.-brokered deal to form a unity government that is meant to bring about peace and fend off Islamic State extremists.
-- Security Council members unanimously approve a U.N. resolution endorsing a peace process for Syria, including a cease-fire and talks between the Damascus government and the opposition but making no mention of the future role of President Bashar Assad.
-- U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter says an American airstrike a day earlier that may have killed a number of Iraqi soldiers near the city of Fallujah seems to be "a mistake" that involved both U.S. and Iraqi forces.
-- A strong showing by a pair of upstart parties in Spain's general election upends the country's traditional two-party system, with the ruling center-right Popular Party winning the most votes but falling far short of a parliamentary majority, putting it at risk of being booted from power.
-- A Taliban attacker rams a bomb-laden motorcycle into a joint NATO and Afghan patrol near the Bagram Airfield, killing six Americans in the deadliest attack on foreign troops since August
-- Migration experts say more than a million people driven out of their countries by war, poverty and persecution have entered Europe in this record-breaking year.
-- The Afghan military rushes reinforcements to a besieged southern district threatened for days with takeover by the Taliban, the country's defense minister says as he appealed for stepped-up NATO assistance and military support.
-- Christian faithful from around the world descend on the biblical city of Bethlehem for Christmas Eve celebrations as an outburst of Israeli-Palestinian violence dampens the typically festive mood.
-- Pope Francis, in his Christmas Day greeting from the loggia of St. Peter's Basilica, encourages U.N.-backed peace deals for Syria, Libya, praises those who welcome migrants.
--The assassination of Zahran Alloush, a top Syrian rebel commander who led one of the most powerful groups battling President Bashar Assad's forces, deals a significant setback to the opposition that could reshuffle the lineup of key players on the ground ahead of planned peace talks in Geneva next month.
-- British Prime Minister David Cameron sends hundreds more troops into northern England to help exhausted residents and emergency workers fight back rising river waters that have inundated towns and cities after weeks of heavy rain.
-- Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led airstrikes drive Islamic State militants out of the center of Ramadi and seize the main government complex there, according to military officials, who say insurgents are still dug into pockets of the city west of Baghdad.
-- Belgian authorities say they have arrested two men and seized military-type uniforms and Islamic State group propaganda in connection with a suspected plot to unleash holiday season attacks against police and celebrated locations in Brussels.
-- Bill Cosby is charged with drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home in 2004 -- the first criminal case brought against the comedian out of the torrent of allegations that destroyed his good-guy image as America's Dad.
-- Belgian authorities announce the arrest of a 10th person in connection with the November bloodbath in Paris and said six others have been detained for questioning over a suspected plot to stage new attacks in Brussels during the holidays.