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Retail sales up...Infiltrating Cuban hip-hop...Allies condemn tactics, praise release of Senate report

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Retail sales have perked up with the start of the holiday shopping season, led by online buying and purchases of autos, clothing and electronics. The Commerce Department says retail sales rose a seasonally-adjusted 0.7 percent in November. In a separate report, the Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell by 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 294,000.

HAVANA (AP) — An Associated Press investigation has found that the U.S. Agency for International Development spent two years secretly infiltrating Cuba's underground hip-hop movement. USAID contractors recruited unwitting Cuban rappers to try to spark a youth movement against the government. But documents obtained by AP show USAID repeatedly put the Cubans and its own operatives in jeopardy despite warning signs. On at least six occasions, Cuban authorities detained or interrogated people involved in the program. Artists that USAID contractors tried to promote have since left the country or stopped performing.

ISTANBUL (AP) — Two important NATO allies are condemning the CIA's harsh treatment of terrorist suspects detailed in the new released Senate report this week. At a meeting in Ankara, the foreign ministers of Turkey and Slovakia described the harsh interrogation tactics as "inhumane" and "unacceptable," though they praised the decision to make the Senate investigation public. Meanwhile, the CIA and several of its past leaders are stepping up a campaign to discredit the investigation, calling it "one-sided" and "marred by errors of fact and interpretation."

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Israeli and Palestinian pathologists who performed an autopsy on a Palestinian Cabinet member have reached contradictory conclusions. Ziad Abu Ain (ZEE'-ahd AH'-boo ayn) died after scuffling with Israeli troops during a West Bank protest yesterday. The Palestinian doctor says Abu Ain's death was a result of a blow to his body, not natural causes. The Israeli doctor says the 55-year-old's death was caused by the blockage of a coronary artery. The incident has inflamed tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

HONG KONG (AP) — Police in Hong Kong have been carrying away dozens of pro-democracy demonstrators from the street where they set up a protest camp some two and a-half months ago. The demonstrators included not only students and lawmakers, but middle-aged and elderly supporters too. They chanted "I want true democracy" and "We will be back" but offered no resistance as police took them away one by one.

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