Italy: The Italian Government and Venice officials have agreed on a plan to block giant cruise ships from steaming past the lagoon city's iconic St Mark's Square and instead re-route them to a nearby industrial port. The agreement - the latest in a years-long debate and still subject to final details - seeks to balance the environmental concerns of Venice's delicate ecosystem with tourism and maritime jobs. Transport Minister Graziano Delrio said the plan, to be phased in over three to five years, calls for cruise ships over 55,000 tonnes to dock at the mainland's Marghera port and avoid transiting through the Giudecca canal. Environmental groups rejected it since it still allows polluting cruise ships to enter Venice's lagoon.

United States: A driverless shuttle bus has crashed less than two hours after it was launched in Las Vegas. Police say no injuries were reported in the crash between the self-operating vehicle and a semi-truck. It's not yet clear what caused the accident. Officials had hosted an unveiling ceremony to promote what they described as America's first self-driving shuttle pilot project geared toward the public. The oval-shaped shuttle that can transport up to 12 passengers has an attendant and computer monitor, but no steering wheel and no brake pedals. It uses GPS, electronic curb sensors and other technology to make its way. Before it crashed, dozens of people had lined up in downtown Las Vegas to get a free ride.

Austria: Government officials say that police and customs officials have found 400,000 ecstasy tablets worth millions of euros in a truck headed to Istanbul from Amsterdam and the driver is in custody. Andrea Doczy of the Finance Ministry says the street value of the haul is €4 million. She said the drugs were found at a truck terminal near the city of Wels, in Upper Austria province. The Turkish driver says he was paid €10,000 to transport the drugs to Turkey.

Australia: A 4-year-old girl's stolen puppy has been dumped in her backyard, days after going missing during a burglary in Melbourne. The labrador puppy, Sasha, was found in the family's Croydon Hills yard, three days after she was stolen alongside a laptop, iPad and jewellery, police say. The little girl's father, Ryan, told the Nine Network both his daughter and the dog were "ecstatic" and "both frantic, running around".

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United States: Police say a New Hampshire woman burned her roommate's pet ferret to death by placing it in a hot oven. According to a police affidavit, Ivana Clifford told investigators that she did it because the roommate stole her clothes. Manchester police also say the 26-year-old told them she is pregnant and didn't think her roommate should have a ferret because of that. The Manchester resident faces arraignment on a felony animal cruelty count.

Romania's former King Michael. Photo / AP file
Romania's former King Michael. Photo / AP file

Romania: Romania's royal house said it has filed a complaint with Swiss police alleging that the estranged grandson of the ailing ex-King Michael I tried to force his way into his grandfather's home. The royal house said that Nicholas Medforth-Mills attempted "to violate the home of His Majesty" in Switzerland. It alleged in a statement that Medforth-Mills "physically and verbally aggressed" three staff members. Medforth-Mills, 32, accused his relatives of doing their "utmost to stop me seeing my grandfather and discredit my name". The former monarch is suffering from leukemia and a form of skin cancer. The 96-year-old Michael was Romania's last king and is one of the few leaders from the years of World War II still living. He stripped Medforth-Mills of his royal title in 2015. Stunned Romanians speculated a jealous relative wanted to edge the grandson out of the prestigious family. The popular Medforth-Mills was third in the line of succession. In real terms, the title means little, as Romania became a republic when Michael abdicated.

United States: A Pennsylvania State Police trooper who was shot several times during a traffic stop likely saved his own life by applying a tourniquet to his leg before help arrived, authorities said. Corporal Seth Kelly, 39, remained hospitalised in critical condition after suffering gunshot wounds to his neck and shoulder area and to his leg in the close-quarters gunfight. The 13-year veteran was set to undergo another surgery to remove a bullet.

Yemen: Hundreds of cars lined the main roads of Yemen's capital after the rebels who control the city ordered fuel stations to close, accusing merchants of taking advantage of a Saudi blockade to hike prices. A Saudi-led military coalition tightened its blockade in Yemen this week after a ballistic missile fired by Houthi rebels was intercepted near the Saudi capital. Aid groups say the measures will exacerbate an already severe humanitarian crisis in the impoverished, war-torn country. Fuel prices have spiked by 50 per cent since Tuesday. Hassan al-Zaydi, a spokesman for the Houthi-run Oil Ministry, said merchants had refused orders to keep prices fixed, prompting authorities to shut the fuel stations down.

A man shovels snow to clear a driveway near 5pointz graffiti art gallery. Photo / AP file
A man shovels snow to clear a driveway near 5pointz graffiti art gallery. Photo / AP file

United States: A federal jury has sided with a group of New York graffiti artists who sued over the destruction of their work. A judge will now decide whether the artists must be compensated for the loss of their whitewashed murals. The jury's advisory ruling came in the lawsuit over a site in Queens known as 5Pointz. Owner Jerry Wolkoff allowed the spray-paint artists to use his buildings for decades but said they always knew the buildings would be torn down someday. The graffiti was painted over in 2013, and the buildings were torn down in 2014. The artists sued Wolkoff under the Visual Artists Rights Act, a 1990 federal law that protects artists' rights even if someone else owns the physical artwork.

Syria: Syria's army and its allies, including Lebanon's Hizbollah, have captured the last major Isis-held town in Syria, a commander in the military alliance supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says. "The last stronghold of Daesh (Islamic State), Albu Kamal, is free of the Daesh organisation," the commander said. The commander added that Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces also took part in the capture of Albu Kamal, located in Syria near the Iraqi border on the Euphrates River.

Spain: A general strike called by pro-independence campaigners in Catalonia has closed shops and severed transport links in Barcelona. Spain's Constitutional Court today officially annulled the independence declaration, which it had suspended, a widely expected ruling. Ex-leader Carles Puigdemont faces an uphill task to maintain influence after he missed a deadline to agree to a pro-secessionist pact for a regional election with his former vice-president Oriol Junqueras.

- agencies

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