Australia ushers in the new year

A pulsing heart of red lights shone out from Sydney's Harbor Bridge as tens of thousands of people gathered to watch fireworks marking the start of the new year, while revelers throughout the world partied, visited places of worship and gathered with families to welcome 2006. Families in Sydney jostled for vantage points around the harbor to watch a spectacular fireworks show at midnight. A huge police presence aimed at preventing a repeat of two nights of racial violence in the city's southern beachside suburbs earlier this month, failed to dampen spirits. More than 1,700 police officers were on duty for the night and police helicopters and boats buzzed across the harbor. The generally jubilant celebrations were in sharp contrast with last year, when the devastation of the Indian Ocean tsunami led many countries and individuals to cancel festivities.