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North Korea fired a pair of medium-range ballistic missiles from its east coast into the Sea of Japan at about 6 a.m. local time, according to South Korea's military. The first missile flew about 500 miles.

This follows the launch of two short-range missiles last week. A senior defense department official says neither missile was a threat to the U.S. or regional allies, but that the launches violate multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin just made another shrewd and decisive move with his surprising decision to start withdrawing forces from Syria. Or, the Russian leader was overextended abroad and short of cash at home and was looking for a quick exit.

Putin wants everyone to believe the former, claiming the Russian airstrikes and the Syrian government army have achieved a "fundamental turnaround in the fight against international terrorism."

The fifth year of the Syrian conflict was the worst yet for civilians — and Russia, the U.S., France and Britain are partly to blame. That's according to a new report from 30 aid and human rights groups, including Oxfam and Care International.

For his part in an operation that rescued an American civilian who was being held hostage in Afghanistan, U.S. Navy SEAL Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers was presented with the Medal of Honor at the White House on Monday.

You can watch the event via White House video.

U.S. operation of the Guantanamo Bay military detention center in Cuba is "contrary to our values" and is seen as "a stain on our broader record" of upholding the highest rules of law, President Obama said Tuesday as he announced plans to close the facility.

"Raise your hand if you have ever determined your location on the planet using the stars," Lt. Daniel Stayton tells his class at the U.S. Naval Academy.

A young officer halfheartedly puts up her hand. Another wavers. The rest of the class of 20 midshipmen sits stone-faced.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced late Thursday that they had agreed to push for a "nationwide cessation of hostilities" in Syria within one week.

The communiqué backed by major world powers also vowed to work toward getting humanitarian aid into hard-to-reach areas such as the city of Aleppo.

Rep. Esty's office

Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty says progress is being made in Afghanistan. She recently returned from a visit there and to Kuwait as part of a bipartisan delegation. 

Harold Shapiro

Members of the United States Coast Guard Band, based in New London, Connecticut, are scheduled to march up the red carpet Monday for the premiere of Disney's film, "The Finest Hours."

Less than 24 hours after reports of their detention emerged, 10 U.S. Navy personnel have been freed by Iran. The sailors left an Iranian naval base on Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf on Wednesday morning, along with the boats they were operating when they were taken into custody.

"There are no indications that the sailors were harmed during their brief detention," the Department of Defense says, confirming the release of nine men and one woman.

Iraq's military has launched an offensive to wrest control of the city of Ramadi from Islamic State militants.

NPR's Alison Meuse told our Newscast unit that the operation is backed by U.S.-led airstrikes. Here's more from Alison:

"A 72-hour government deadline for civilians to leave Ramadi is over. Now, U.S. airstrikes are targeting ISIS positions, and Iraqi troops are pushing into the city center from three sides. The troops are working alongside Sunni tribal fighters and militiamen — against the Sunni extremists of Islamic State.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held by the Taliban for five years after he left his base in Afghanistan in 2009, could receive life in prison.

Overriding the recommended punishment by an Army officer, head of Army Forces Command Gen. Robert B. Abrams ordered that Bergdahl, now the subject of the Serial podcast, face a court-martial for desertion.

Lucy Nalpathanchil / WNPR

Naval Submarine Base New London has a new leader. U.S. Navy Captain Paul Whitescarver, formerly of Norfolk, Virginia, is the SUBASE's new commanding officer.

Saying America's military must draw from "the broadest possible pool of talent," Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Thursday that women in the U.S. military — including the Army and Marines — can now serve in combat posts.

The formal process to open combat jobs to women began in January of 2013; in finishing that process, Carter acknowledged that in recent years, U.S. women have fought — and sometimes given their lives — in combat posts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cameroon's military says it has killed more than 100 members of Boko Haram and freed more than 900 people who had been held hostage by the militant Islamists.

The news, which is difficult to independently verify, came in a statement from Cameroon's defense minister, Joseph Beti Assomo.

"The statement says during the sweep last week, from Nov. 26 to 28, Cameroonian troops also ... recovered a large stock of weaponry and black and white Islamic State flags," NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton tells our Newscast unit. "Few details were forthcoming about those reportedly freed."

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