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US News: Detained Vet Back Home; Wind Farms Allowed to Kill Eagles; Calif Health Exchange Sharing Unauthorized Personal Data

By: ap
By: ap
Detained US vet Merrill Newman, 85, home from North Korea... Hagel given assurances on Afghan security deal... Gov

American Bald Eagle - under government guidelines, commercial wind farms will be allowed to kill bald and golden eagles while operating their wind turbines.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A tired but smiling 85-year-old U.S. veteran detained in North Korea for several weeks has returned home.
He was greeted today by applause from supporters, yellow ribbons tied to pillars outside his home and the warm embrace of his family.
Earlier, Merrill Newman arrived at the San Francisco airport after turning down a ride aboard Vice President Joe Biden's Air Force Two in favor of a direct flight from Beijing. He emerged into the international terminal smiling, accompanied by his son and holding the hand of his wife amid applause from supporters. He spoke briefly to the assembled media, declining to answer any questions or discuss his ordeal.
He did say, however, he was "delighted to be home."
He thanked the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, North Korea, and U.S. Embassy in Beijing for helping to secure his release.
Newman was detained in late October at the end of a 10-day trip to North Korea, a visit that came six decades after he oversaw a group of South Korean wartime guerrillas during the 1950-53 war.
Last month, Newman read from an awkwardly worded alleged confession that apologized for, among other things, killing North Koreans during the war. Analysts questioned whether the statement was coerced, and former South Korean guerrillas who had worked with Newman and fought behind enemy lines during the war disputed some of the details.
North Korea cited Newman's age and medical condition in allowing him to leave the country.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel says Afghan's defense minister has reassured him that a security agreement with the U.S. will be signed in a timely manner.
Hagel met with Bismillah Khan Mohammadi during a visit Saturday to Kabul, the Afghan capital.
Hagel also tells reporters that he doesn't think that more U.S. pressure would be helpful in trying to persuade Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign the agreement.
Karzai has tentatively endorsed the agreement and a council of tribal elders has said it should be signed by the end of the year, as the U.S. has demanded.
Karzai says he wants his successor to decide after Afghanistan's April elections.
The deal would allow U.S. troops to stay in the country after 2014 to do training and some counterterrorism missions.
Without a signed agreement, all U.S. troops would leave at the end of next year, along with all foreign forces.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration is letting companies seek authorization to kill and harm bald and golden eagles over 30 years without penalty.
The reason is to aid in renewable energy development.
The wind energy industry asked for the change. It will provide legal protection for wind farms and other projects that get a permit and do everything possible to avoid killing eagles.
Companies already can apply for 5-year permits to injure, harass, or kill bald and golden eagles.
But despite an AP investigation and federal studies documenting eagle deaths, not a single wind energy company has obtained a permit as required by law.
Conservation groups are aligned with the wind industry on other issues.
They say the decision sanctions the killing of an American symbol.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A magnitude-4.5 earthquake recoded in central Oklahoma by the U.S. Geological Survey has been followed by two smaller earthquakes.
No injuries or damage are reported.
The USGS says the magnitude-4.5 quake was recorded at 12:10 p.m. Saturday near Arcadia, about 14 miles northeast of Oklahoma City. The agency reports that temblor was followed by a 2.8-magnitude earthquake at 1:26 p.m. about 10 miles northeast of Oklahoma City and a magnitude-3.1 tremor at 5:58 p.m. about 6 miles northeast of the city.
Marty Doepke (DEP'-kee), the general manager of Pops Restaurant in Arcadia, says there was no damage at the restaurant from the magnitude-4.5 quake -- but that customers and employees were initially surprised, then went back to watching the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State football game.
The strongest earthquake on record in Oklahoma is a magnitude-5.6 on Nov. 5, 2011.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Doctors are reporting a major advance against leukemia and other blood cancers.
They say an experimental treatment, gene therapy, is giving strikingly high success rates in tests on more than 120 patients with various types of leukemia, lymphoma and other blood and bone marrow cancers.
The treatment involves removing certain white blood cells from a patient, altering them in a lab to contain a gene that attacks cancer, and returning them to the patient.
In one study, all five adults and 19 of 22 children with one type of leukemia had a complete remission, meaning no cancer could be found after treatment, although a few have relapsed since then.
Doctors will describe the studies at an American Society of Hematology conference that began Saturday in New Orleans.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The California health exchange is giving the names of tens of thousands of consumers to insurance agents without their knowledge.
The Los Angeles Times reported Saturday that the state provided names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses to insurance agents.
Those consumers had researched coverage online but didn't complete an application and didn't ask to be contacted.
Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, says the information was shared to ease the process for consumers. The exchange was set up in response to the federal Affordable Care Act.
It has been struggling with a surge in applications ahead of a Dec. 23 deadline to have insurance in place by Jan. 1.
Nearly 80,000 people have signed up in private health plans and an additional 140,000 people qualified for the state's Medicaid program through Covered California.

WASHINGTON (AP) --President Barack Obama says he believes the chances for a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran are 50-50 or worse but he says the recent nuclear deal is the best strategy for preventing Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
At a Washington think tank forum Saturday, Obama said the deal prevents Iran from advancing its nuclear program for six months. He said that over that time, the world will test Iran to see if the crisis can be resolved diplomatically.
Obama said the agreement halts and rolls back central elements of Iran's program. It compels Iran to eliminate higher-enriched uranium stockpiles, stop adding new centrifuges and cease work at a heavy water reactor that potentially could produce plutonium.
The president also acknowledged some tactical differences with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But Obama said U.S. and Israeli bottom-line goals are the same.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House says President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will attend a Tuesday memorial service in South Africa honoring Nelson Mandela.
The service will take place at a stadium in Johannesburg.
The Obamas will be accompanied on Air Force One by former President George W. Bush and wife Laura Bush. Former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, along with former President Jimmy Carter, will also attend memorials for Mandela in South Africa.
A state funeral for Mandela will take place Dec. 15 in the anti-apartheid leader's hometown.
Mandela died Thursday. He was 95.

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) -- Americans are remembering those killed in the 1941 Japanese attack that launched the U.S. into World War II.
Several thousand people who gathered Saturday at Pearl Harbor observed a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the minute the bombing began 72 years ago. They were joined by about 50 survivors of the attack.
The Navy and National Park Service co-hosted of the public ceremony.
The current U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., said the U.S. remembers Pearl Harbor and is vigilant.
Former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia, choking back tears at times, spoke of his father who served in the Navy during the war. In his keynote address, Cleland called him "my hero."
Cleland also specifically addressed the Pearl Harbor veterans who returned. He said " thank you for teaching us all how to survive."
Cleland, who lost both legs and his right arm fighting in the Vietnam War, is currently secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission. The commission is responsible for managing overseas cemeteries for fallen American troops.


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