Assange has deal for autobiography

LONDON - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he's being forced to write an autobiography to keep his organization from going under.

New York publishing house Alfred A. Knopf confirmed Monday that it had struck a deal with Assange to bring out his autobiography, whose publication date has yet to be determined.

Assange, 39, told the Sunday Times the deal would bring in more than $1 million, with $800,000 from Knopf and 325,000 pounds, or about $500,000, from U.K. publisher Canongate. But he said he agreed to it only because he was under financial pressure.

"I have already spent 200,000 pounds for legal costs, and I need to defend myself and to keep WikiLeaks afloat," he said.

Assange shot to worldwide prominence on the back of a series of spectacular leaks of classified U.S. material, including the ongoing publication of some 250,000 classified State Department cables.

But he is now in England fighting extradition to Sweden, where he faces sex-crimes allegations, and has said he fears moves to indict him in the United States on espionage charges. - AP

U.S. alters policy on Cuban money

HAVANA - Cubans who rely on remittances from abroad are hailing a U.S. policy change that means they can now receive transfers in the island's convertible currency instead of dollars, sidestepping a 10 percent exchange surcharge.

Western Union said an arm of the U.S. Treasury Department authorized it to pay remittances in Cuba's convertible peso, or CUC, starting Dec. 20. Previously, Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control required dollar transfers to Cuba to be paid out there in dollars, forcing recipients to pay the 10 percent fee that the Cuban government imposes on cash dollar-to-CUC exchanges.

Some clients said it was the first time in years their families had sent money through an official channel like Western Union - which has 150 branches in Cuba. In a bid to avoid the surcharge, many have resorted to intermediaries to deliver remittances directly in CUCs. - AP

Many stranded at Moscow airports

MOSCOW - Thousands were stranded in Moscow airports Monday after icy rains caused blackouts and food shortages. The freezing rain in the Russian capital over the weekend grounded planes and damaged power lines.

The Russian Tourism Association said Monday that flights were delayed for about 20,000 passengers. Airport authorities said the number was in the low thousands.

The Gazeta.ru daily said that in the Domodedovo airport, several thousand passengers were spending the night in halls darkened by low power and filled with cigarette smoke. Restaurants raised the prices of food and beverages, it said, and passengers were complaining about food shortages. - AP

Elsewhere:

Police in Nigeria arrested six people in connection with deadly unrest after a series of bombings that killed 32 people in the central Nigerian region's worst violence in months, authorities said.