Stocks at high point…Movie release is closely watched…Warning on drones

NEW YORK (AP) — As the stock market takes a breather for the Christmas holiday, the Dow is at its highest level of the year — and, in fact, its highest level ever. A sixth straight gain yesterday, in a holiday-shortened session, left the index over the 18,000 mark for a second day. One strategist says investors are “still giddy” over Tuesday’s report estimating that the economy grew in the third quarter of the year at the fastest pace in 11 years.

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia is offering sympathy to North Korea amid the Sony hacking scandal, saying the movie that sparked the dispute was so scandalous that Pyongyang’s anger was “quite understandable.” A Foreign Ministry spokesman also says Washington failed to offer any proof to back its claims of North Korean involvement in the hacking attack on Sony Pictures, which produced “The Interview.” It’s a comedy depicting an assassination plot against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Sony initially decided not to release the film because of threats against U.S. cinemas, but released the movie online Wednesday and in theaters today.

ATLANTA (AP) — Unless they’re going straight to video, movies always open first in theaters to maximize the box office revenue — and then they’re made available in other stages of home video, streaming and television. But not this time. Today’s release of “The Interview” in theaters comes a day after it was made available for purchase and for one-time streaming online. Experts say the release will be closely watched within the industry, to see how moviegoers and theater chains react to the simultaneous debut — in theaters and online.

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin has scrapped New Year’s holidays for government ministers because of the unfolding economic crisis. Putin told a televised government session that Cabinet ministers “cannot afford” to go on holiday. Russian company employees throughout the country are entitled to holiday from Jan. 1 to Jan. 12 when Russians celebrate the New Year. Russia’s economy, battered by low oil prices and Western sanctions, is set to enter recession next year for the first time in six years,

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s civil aviation authority has issued a warning about a certain type of popular Christmas gift. It says people who fly their drones recklessly face prosecution and a hefty fine. Officials say the remote-controlled flyers cannot be used over congested areas or close to people or buildings without official permission. The warning follows a number of incidents and near-misses involving drones, including one that came close to a commercial plane landing at London Heathrow Airport.

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