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Pence shrugs off questions on Taiwan call...Putin calls Trump a 'smart man'...Castro's ashes interred


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WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President-elect Mike Pence says Donald Trump's phone conversation with Taiwan's leader was a "courtesy call" and doesn't necessarily reflect a shift in U.S. policy. The breach of diplomatic tradition drew an irritated response from China, but Pence is shrugging it off. He tells NBC's "Meet the Press" that the call from Tsai Ing-wen (tsy ying-WEN') was one of about 50 phone conversations Trump has had with world leaders since his election.

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin says he is confident that President-elect Donald Trump will soon realize the level of responsibility his job entails. Putin said in an interview with the NTV channel to be broadcast later today that he is confident Trump will make responsible choices. Putin said in remarks released by NTV that Trump's business accomplishments show him to be a "smart man."

SANTIAGO, Cuba (AP) — Fidel Castro's ashes have been interred in a Santiago cemetery, ending nine days of mourning for the man who ruled Cuba for nearly half a century. The public and international media were barred from the private ceremony. But when it was over, Cubans were allowed briefly inside the cemetery to see the tomb.

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Authorities in Oakland, California, say the city started investigating nearly three weeks ago whether people were illegally living in the warehouse that was destroyed by a fire Friday night. The city had received complaints from neighbors. Former residents describe the building as a death trap, with few exits, a rickety makeshift staircase, piles of driftwood and a labyrinth of electrical cords. At least nine people died in the fire and the search is continuing for more victims.

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Ohio officials say no smoke detectors were found in a house where a fire killed four people early yesterday. Officials say the fire in Akron killed a man and the two girls, ages 8 and 9. A 12-year-old girl was rescued and a woman escaped by jumping from an attic window in the three-story house.

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