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'Make your mind up time ' for Northern Ireland politicians

Credit: Niall Carson/PA Archive

Northern Ireland's leaders face a "deal or no deal" ultimatum as they enter what the Government has warned is the final day of negotiations on outstanding disputes threatening the future of devolved government.

Talks to find consensus end today, with or without agreement, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers warned last night.

Discussions between Ms Villiers, the Irish Government and the five Executive parties at Stormont resume at Stormont House this morning.

"It's 'make your mind up' time for Northern Ireland's political leaders," the Secretary of State said last night.

"These talks finish tomorrow, even if it takes all night. It there's no agreement tomorrow, there isn't going to be one, and the process ends in failure."

The Government is set to respond later to their request for £2 billion-plus of extra funding and loan access over the next decade.

The plan essentially addresses long-standing nationalist concerns over introducing the Government's welfare policies in Northern Ireland by establishing a significant "cushion" fund, drawn from the Executive's budget, to support those hardest-hit by the changes to the benefits system.

North Korea warns of strikes on US over Sony hack claims

Credit: Reuters

North Korea has threatened strikes against the White House and the United States mainland, calling the country a "cesspool of terrorism" and accusing Barack Obama of spreading "reckless" rumours about its involvement in a cyber-attack on Sony Pictures.

Such rhetoric is not unusual from Pyongyang's massive propaganda machine during times of tension with Washington.

But the long statement from the powerful National Defence Commission also underscores Pyongyang's sensitivity at a movie whose plot focuses on the assassination of its leader Kim Jong Un, the beneficiary of a decades-long cult of personality built around his family dynasty.

"Our toughest counter-action will be boldly taken against the White House, the Pentagon and the whole US mainland, the cesspool of terrorism, by far surpassing the 'symmetric counter-action' declared by Obama," said the commission's policy department, in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

The US blames North Korea for the cyber-attack that escalated to threats of terror strikes against American cinemas and caused Sony to cancel The Interview's release.

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China condemns 'all forms of cyber terrorism'

China has said it opposes all forms of cyber attacks and "cyber terrorism" in the wake of the massive Sony Pictures security breach.

Beijing's Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the denouncement to US Secretary of State John Kerry via a phone call, Reuters have reported.

"China opposes any country or person using other nations' internal facilities to conduct cyber attacks on third-party countries." Wang Yi reportedly told Kerry.

Last week, the US concluded that North Korea, one of China's global allies, was responsible for the attack on Sony Pictures.

New detective takes over Madeleine McCann case

Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Archive

A new detective has taken over the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

Detective Chief Inspector Nicola Wall has replaced Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, who is retiring.

Mr Redwood has led Operation Grange since it was launched in 2011, while Ms Wall was with the homicide and major crime command, the Metropolitan Police said.

Street light switch off leaves 'significant' areas in darkness

Three-quarters of English councils are switching off or dimming some street lights at night, a survey has revealed, leading to claims that significant areas have been "plunged into darkness" since the Government took office.

Labour claimed the squeeze on budgets coupled with high electricity prices were leading councils to turn off or dim almost a quarter of all lights, compared with under 3% in May 2010.

A total of 1.36 million lights are either off or dimmed at night, compared with 148,000 in May 2010, out of a total of 5.7 million in the areas surveyed.

Labour obtained information from 141 of 150 councils responsible for street lights, with just 35 saying they were neither switching off nor dimming lights.

The figures showed 106 are either dimming or switching off lights, with 42 doing both.

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Australian mother court plea rejected

An Australian magistrate has rejected a plea by lawyers for a woman charged with murdering eight children to hold the next hearing in a mental health court.

Mersane Warria, charged under her full name of Raina Mersane Ina Thaiday, is accused of killing seven of her children and her niece, whose bodies were found inside her home in Manoora, a suburb of Cairns, on Friday.

Police were called to the home in the morning after receiving a report of a woman with serious injuries. When they got to the house, they found the bodies, along with Warria, who had stab wounds to her chest.

Warria, 37, did not attend today's brief hearing at Cairns Magistrates Court as she is in hospital.

Magistrate Alan Comans rejected a request from Warria's lawyer to hold the case's next hearing in a mental health court.

Criminal cases are sometimes referred to such courts if the defendant is believed to be mentally ill or has an intellectual disability. The court then decides what the defendant's mental state was when they committed the offence.

The case was adjourned until January 30.

'High value' raid on Christie's auction house

Credit: Yui Mok/PA Archive/

Several "high value" items have been stolen from renowned auction house Christie's.

Jewellery, antiques and valuable works of art, including rare pieces by the famed house of Faberge, were taken from the auctioneer's headquarters in King Street, central London, the Mail on Sunday has reported.

The burglary, which was reportedly captured on CCTV, is said to have occurred two weeks ago but no arrests have been made.

Scotland Yard did not name Christie's but said: "We can confirm that officers from Westminster are currently investigating a burglary at business premises which is believed to have occurred between 6pm on Sunday, December 7 and 8am on Monday, December 8.

"A number of high value items were taken. Inquiries continue. No arrests have been made."

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