US, Europe hope the new year brings better times - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

US, Europe hope the new year brings better times

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People gather to celebrate the New Year at Imjingak in Paju near the border village of the Panmunjom, South Korea, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) People gather to celebrate the New Year at Imjingak in Paju near the border village of the Panmunjom, South Korea, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A boy prays around a fire believed to invoke divine help during their first visit of the year to the Zojoji Buddhist temple in Tokyo, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012.(AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye) A boy prays around a fire believed to invoke divine help during their first visit of the year to the Zojoji Buddhist temple in Tokyo, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012.(AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
Fireworks explode at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre over the Victoria Harbor to celebrate the 2013 New Year in Hong Kong Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 (AP Photo/Kin Cheung) Fireworks explode at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre over the Victoria Harbor to celebrate the 2013 New Year in Hong Kong Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Fireworks explode behind the Opera House during the New Year celebrations in Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013.(AP Photo/Rob Griffith) Fireworks explode behind the Opera House during the New Year celebrations in Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013.(AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
A firework display explodes off Taiwan's tallest skyscraper Taipei101 to usher in the New Year in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying) A firework display explodes off Taiwan's tallest skyscraper Taipei101 to usher in the New Year in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

NEW YORK (AP) -- From teeming Times Square to an Asian capital hosting its first public New Year's Eve countdown in decades, the world looked to the start of 2013 with hope for renewal after a year of economic turmoil, searing violence and natural disasters.

Fireworks, concerts and celebrations unfolded around the globe to ring in the new year and, for some, to wring out the old.

"With all the sadness in the country, we're looking for some good changes in 2013," Laura Concannon, of Hingham, Mass., said as she, her husband, Kevin, and his parents took in the scene in bustling Times Square on Monday.

A blocks-long line of bundled-up revelers with New Year's hats and sunglasses boasting "2013" formed hours before the first ball drop in decades without Dick Clark, who died in April and was to be honored with a tribute concert and his name printed on pieces of confetti.

Security in Times Square was tight, with a mass of uniformed police and plainclothes officers assigned to blend into the crowd. With police Commissioner Raymond Kelly proclaiming that Times Square would be the "safest place in the world on New Year's Eve," officers used barriers to prevent overcrowding and checkpoints to inspect vehicles, enforce a ban on alcohol and check handbags.

Syracuse University student Taylor Nanz, 18, said she and a friend had been standing in Times Square since 1:20 p.m. Monday. They hadn't moved from their spot "because there's a bathroom a block and a half away, but if you leave, you lose your place," she said, shivering behind an iron barricade with a clear view of One Times Square, the building where the crystal ball hovered.

"It's the first time - and the last time," she said.

Elsewhere hours earlier, lavish fireworks displays lit up skylines in Sydney, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai where multicolored fireworks danced up and down the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. In Russia, spectators filled Moscow's iconic Red Square as fireworks exploded near the Kremlin.

Organizers said about 90,000 people gathered in a large field Yangon, Myanmar, for their first chance to do what much of the world does every Dec. 31 - watch a countdown. The reformist government that took office in 2011 in the country, long under military rule, threw its first public New Year's celebration in decades.

"We feel like we are in a different world," said Yu Thawda, a university student who went with three of her friends.

Parts of Europe held scaled-back festivities and street parties, the mood a bit restrained - if hopeful - for a 2013 that is projected to be a sixth straight year of recession amid Greece's worst economic crisis since World War II. About 22,000 revelers in the Madrid square celebrated the arrival of the new year under umbrellas as rain fell steadily.

London, the often soggy British capital, was dry and clear, though, as the familiar chimes of the clock inside the Big Ben tower counted down the final seconds of 2012 and a dazzling display of fireworks lit the skies above Parliament Square. People cheered as the landmarks were bathed in the light of the display, which included streamers shot out of the London Eye wheel and blazing rockets launched from the banks of the River Thames.

There were impromptu fireworks displays throughout much of London as people remembered a year that saw Olympics glory, the queen's diamond jubilee and the announcement that Prince William and the former Kate Middleton are expecting their first child - welcome news that offset some of the economic gloom.

To the north in Scotland, 85,000 people gathered near the base of Edinburgh Castle for the wild Hogmaney celebration, helped by five soundstages featuring a number of top bands.

Elsewhere, the atmosphere of celebration was muted with concern.

Hotels, clubs and other sites in New Delhi, the Indian capital, canceled festivities after the death of a rape victim on Saturday touched off days of mourning and reflection about women's safety. In the Philippines, where many are recovering from devastation from a recent typhoon, a health official danced to South Korean rapper Psy's "Gangnam Style" video in an effort to stop revelers from setting off huge illegal firecrackers, which maim and injure hundreds of Filipinos each year.

And even in Times Square, some revelers checked their cellphones to keep up with news of lawmakers' efforts to skirt the fiscal cliff combination of expiring tax cuts and across-the-board spending cuts that threatened to reverberate globally. And the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., and Superstorm Sandy mingled into the memories of 2012.

"This has been a very eventful year, on many levels," Denise Norris said as she and her husband, the Rev. Urie Norris, surveyed the crowd seeking to jam Times Square for a countdown show with Ryan Seacrest as host and musical acts including Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen, Neon Trees, Flo Rida and Pitbull.

About a block away, Army Sgt. Clint Evanoff waited in a black suit, red vest and red tie to get into Times Square with a couple of his friends from his unit at Fort Drum, N.Y. Evanoff, 20, is scheduled to leave for Afghanistan, his first deployment, in about two weeks.

Looking ahead to the new year, "I'm just hoping to make it back," he said.

Elsewhere, too, hopes for 2013 were a mix of personal and political. In Boston, communications writer and editor Colin O'Brien, 25, said he was optimistic that the nation had realized it was time to make tough decisions about its finances and policy and that there might be "more common ground than people are willing to admit or accept." In Harrisburg, Pa., warehouse worker Adam Gassner, 43, had more internal goals: "hoping to continue to get myself back on my feet."

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Associated Press writers Colleen Long in New York; Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pa.; Jay Lindsay in Boston; Aye Aye Win in Yangon, Myanmar; Rod McGuirk in Sydney; Silvia Hui in London; Ashok Sharma in New Delhi; and Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

THIS IS A STORY UPDATE. THE PREVIOUS VERSION IS BELOW.

LONDON (AP) — Lavish fireworks displays ushered in 2013 across the Asia-Pacific region on Tuesday, and Europe was holding scaled-back festivities and street parties in the hope of beginning a new year that will be kinder to its battered economies.

Asian cities kicked off New Year's celebrations in style and an atmosphere of renewed optimism, despite the "fiscal cliff" impasse of spending cuts and tax increases threatening to reverberate globally from the United States.

Huge fireworks lit up skylines in Sydney, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and even the once-isolated country of Myanmar joined the countdown party for the first time in decades.

Celebrations were planned around the world, including the traditional crystal ball drop in New York City's Times Square, where 1 million people were expected to cram into the surrounding streets.

In Russia, Moscow's iconic Red Square was filled with spectators as fireworks exploded near the Kremlin to welcome in the new year. Earlier in the day, about 25 people were reportedly arrested in Moscow for trying to hold an unsanctioned demonstration. But President Vladimir Putin gave an optimistic New Year's Eve address, making no reference to the anti-government protests that have occurred in his country in the past year.

"We believe that we can change the life around us and become better ourselves, that we can become more heedful, compassionate, gracious," Putin said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

In Australia, a balmy summer night was split by 7 tons of fireworks fired from rooftops and barges in Sydney, many cascading from the city's Harbor Bridge, in a $6.9 million pyrotechnic extravaganza billed by organizers as the world's largest.

In Myanmar, after nearly five decades under military regimes that discouraged or banned big public gatherings, about 90,000 people experienced the country's first New Year's Eve countdown in a field in the largest city of Yangon.

"We feel like we are in a different world," said Yu Thawda, a university student who came with three of her friends.

Tens of thousands of people lined Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor to view a $1.6 million fireworks display, said to be the biggest ever in the southern Chinese city.

In North Korea, cannons boomed at midnight in Pyongyang as people crowded the streets of the capital to watch a fireworks show over the Taedong River. After being in mourning a year ago regarding leader Kim Jong Il's death, North Koreans celebrated the end of a big year that included the rise of new leader Kim Jong Un and the recent launch of a satellite into space.

Hotels, clubs and other sites in New Delhi, the Indian capital, canceled festivities after the death Saturday of a young rape victim touched off days of mourning and reflection about women's safety. People were asked to light candles to express their solidarity with the victim.

In Indonesia, Jakarta's street party centered on a 7-kilometer (4-mile) thoroughfare closed to traffic from nightfall until after midnight. Workers erected 16 large stages along the normally clogged, eight-lane highway through the heart of the city. Indonesia's booming economy is a rare bright spot amid global gloom and is bringing prosperity — or the hope of it — to its people.

In the Philippines, where many are recovering from devastation from a recent typhoon, health officials have hit upon a successful way to stop revelers from setting off huge illegal firecrackers that maim and injure hundreds of Filipinos each year.

A health official, Eric Tayag, donned the splashy outfit of South Korean star PSY and danced to his YouTube hit "Gangnam Style" video while preaching against the use of illegal firecrackers on TV, in schools and in public arenas.

"The campaign has become viral," Tayag said.

In austerity-hit Europe, the mood was more restrained — if hopeful. The year 2013 is projected to be a sixth straight one of recession amid Greece's worst economic crisis since World War II. In fact, the new year was starting with a 24-hour strike by subway and train workers in Athens to protest salary cuts that are part of the government's austerity measures.

Still, in his televised New Year's Eve message, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras promised Greeks that the worst of the crisis is past, and declared 2013 a "year of hope" that will see the beginning of the country's rebirth.

Celebrating New Year's Eve with a vespers service in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI said that despite all the injustice in the world, goodness prevails. In his homily, Benedict said it's tough to remember that goodness can win when bad news — death, violence and injustice — "makes more noise than good." He said taking time to meditate in prolonged reflection and prayer can help "find healing from the inevitable wounds of daily life."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's New Year's message warned her country to prepare for difficult economic times ahead. Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, decided to cancel celebrations in light of the economic crisis. Nicosia said 16,000 euros ($21,000) saved from the canceled event will be given to some 320 needy schoolchildren.

In Spain, where a recession has left unemployment at a staggering 25 percent, people are hoping for a better new year.

"It's been tough, but some celebrations are too deeply-ingrained to let go," said Olga Camino, 25. She said she would be celebrating in the streets of Madrid in fancy dress with a large group of friends. Camino said they would all eat 12 grapes as the clock in Madrid's central Puerta del Sol struck midnight, a tradition observed throughout Spain.

Scotland's Edinburgh, which traditionally hosts one of the biggest New Year's Eve parties in Europe, also planned good cheer. Festivities for the three-day Hogmanay —or year-end — celebrations began Sunday with a torchlight procession in the Scottish capital, and organizers said about 75,000 people are expected to line the streets for Tuesday's fireworks.

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McGuirk reported from Sydney. Associated Press writers Aye Aye Win in Yangon, Myanmar; Jean Lee in Pyongyang, North Korea; Chris Brummitt in Jakarta, Indonesia; Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong; Ashok Sharma in New Delhi; Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines; Nicholas Paphitis in Athens; Raphael Satter in London; Harold Heckle in Madrid, Spain; and Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia, Cyprus, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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