The terrorist group Boko Haram continues to be a presence in the region. Since July 2015, the group has carried out at least 14 suicide bombings in the north, the State Department reported. The northeastern Nigerian Islamist group has been even more deadly than Islamic State this year.
Boko Haram extremists struck the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri for the first time in months last week with rocket-propelled grenades and multiple suicide bombers, witnesses said.
U.S. officials remain concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks overseas. Authorities believe there is an increased likelihood of reprisal attacks against U.S., Western and coalition partner interests throughout the world, especially in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Asia.
Italian cities battling heavy smog
Bicyclists had free rein of Milan, Italy's streets last week during a six-hour ban on private cars in a bid to alleviate persistent smog. Pollution levels in Italy's business capital have exceeded levels considered healthful for more than 30 days straight, prompting officials to ban private cars during work hours for three days.
Officials said private motorists, who risked steep fines, widely respected the ban.
Rome, which is also battling smog, has been enforcing alternate-day driving based on odd and even license-plate numbers, while Florence has limited automobile access to the historic center.
De Klerk assails Oxford statue campaign
Nobel Peace Prize winner and South Africa's last apartheid President F.W. de Klerk criticized as "folly" a campaign to remove from Oxford University a statue of British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes.
"It is regrettable that the 'Rhodes Must Fall' folly has spread from South Africa to Oriel College," De Klerk wrote in a letter to the British newspaper the Times.
Oriel College at Oxford University is reviewing whether to leave the statue in place after receiving a petition from the Rhodes Must Fall movement, the college said in a statement last month. Rhodes attended Oriel College and left 2% of his estate to the school on his death in 1902.
"We do not commemorate historic figures for their ability to measure up to current conceptions of political correctness, but because of their actual impact on history," wrote De Klerk. "Rhodes, for better or for worse, certainly had an impact on history."
Justin Bieber defers top spot to a charity song
The National Health Service Choir has beaten Justin Bieber to capture Britain's official Christmas No. 1 song — and he's OK with that.
The Canadian pop star's "Love Yourself" was ahead until Bieber tweeted that he wanted fans to "do the right thing" and boost the charity version of the single to the coveted spot. The NHS, founded in 1948, is a source of national pride for many Britons.
The choir said, "It's a brilliant celebration for the NHS across the country, so well done and thank you everyone."
Proceeds will go to several health-related charities.
Sources: U.S. State Department, staff reports, Associated Press.