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Hostages held in Sydney cafe ... UN says death toll rises in eastern Ukraine ... Not so much the Christmas spirit at ME tree farm

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SYDNEY (AP) — One news reporter in Sydney says that a gunman holding people hostage in a downtown cafe appeared to become very agitated when five of the hostages escaped. Authorities aren't saying how many people are still being held in the Lindt Chocolat Cafe or what the hostages who escaped have told them. But some of the hostages are being forced to hold up a black flag in the cafe window with the Islamic declaration of faith written on it.

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. human rights office says more than 4,700 people have been killed and more than 10,300 wounded in the conflict-affected areas of eastern Ukraine. It says more than 5 million people are living in those areas where they face rising hardships and some struggle to stay alive. The latest findings from the Geneva office are based on reports from a 34-member U.N. monitoring mission through Dec. 12.

BERLIN (AP) — The German government says it wants a debate about immigration but adds there's no place in the country for those who incite hatred against religious or ethnic minorities. Anti-Islam rallies in German cities have been growing in recent weeks, and more than 10,000 people are expected to attend such a protest today in Dresden. A government spokesman says in light of a sharp increase in asylum requests this year, especially by Syrian refugees, the issue of immigration "is so important that there needs to be a serious and open and also very nuanced debate."

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new study says the hotter it is the less productive Americans are on the job. The study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that days that averaged about 77 degrees ended up reducing a person's income by about $5 a day when compared with days that were about 20 degrees cooler. And a county's average economic productivity decreased by nearly 1 percent for every degree that the average daily temperature was above 59.

NORRIDGEWOCK, Maine (AP) — The owner of a Christmas tree farm in Maine says customers are taking advantage of his business' honor system by stealing trees and wreaths. Todd Murphy, of Trees to Please in Norridgewock, says about $2,000 worth of merchandise has been stolen this season, including about a dozen trees. Murphy says he stocked the cut trees at about 5 p.m. Saturday, and when he got in on Sunday morning, they were gone. He tells the Kennebec Journal that hundreds of people visit the farm each weekend around the holidays.

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