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National and world news in brief

Boy in a Bubble?
A boy creates giant soap bubbles in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jan. 11. Though the boy’s head looks to be encased in a bubble, it is most likely an optical illusion.

Boy in a Bubble? A boy creates giant soap bubbles in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jan. 11. Though the boy’s head looks to be encased in a bubble, it is most likely an optical illusion. AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin

Russia nabs five terror suspects

MOSCOW (AP) — Five terror suspects were detained Saturday in one of Russia’s North Caucasus provinces as the country’s security agencies were scrambling to uproot any potential threat to the Sochi Games.

The bust in the city of Nalchik, located about 300 kilometers (about 185 miles) east of Sochi, comes less than a month before the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The National Anti-Terrorism Committee said the suspects belonged to an international terror group and were in possession of grenades, ammunition and a self-made explosive device. The agency didn’t name the group the suspects allegedly belonged to or give further details.

The arrests follow back-to-back suicide bombings in the city of Volgograd in southern Russia, which killed 34 and wounded 100 others, on Dec. 29-30.

Medicare change causes worries

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a move that some fear could compromise care for Medicare recipients, the Obama administration is proposing to remove special protections that guarantee seniors access to a wide selection of three types of drugs.

The three classes of drugs — widely used antidepressants, antipsychotics and drugs that suppress the immune system to prevent the rejection of a transplanted organ — have enjoyed special “protected” status since the launch of the Medicare prescription benefit in 2006.

That has meant that the private insurance plans that deliver prescription benefits to seniors and disabled beneficiaries must cover “all or substantially all” medications in the class, allowing the broadest possible access. The plans can charge more for costlier drugs, but they can’t just close their lists of approved drugs, or formularies, to protected medications.

Feds side with gay marriage

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Gay couples in Utah have experienced a helter-skelter wave of emotions over the last three weeks: They were suddenly allowed to marry, then saw the weddings stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court and were told the state wouldn’t recognize the unions.

Now, the federal government has intervened and said it will recognize their weddings.

Target breach: lasting effects

NEW YORK (AP) — Fallout from Target’s pre-Christmas security breach is likely to affect the company’s sales and profits well into the new year.

The company disclosed on Friday that the massive data theft was significantly more extensive and affected millions more shoppers than the company reported in December.

As a result of the breach, millions of Target customers have become vulnerable to identity theft, experts say.

The nation’s second largest discounter said hackers stole personal information — including names, phone numbers as well as email and mailing addresses — from as many as 70 million customers as part of a data breach it discovered last month.

Political bridge closing may have violated federal law

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The September lane closings near the George Washington Bridge that caused huge traffic jams and now appear to have been politically orchestrated by a member of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration and key allies violated federal law, a chief official said in an email ordering the lanes reopened.

The Sept. 13 email was among thousands of pages released Friday by a New Jersey legislative committee investigating the scandal, which could haunt Christie’s expected run for president in 2016. The documents mostly involve the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that runs the bridge.

The documents show the traffic mess created tension between New York and New Jersey appointees at the Port Authority, with the New York side angrily countermanding the lane closings after repeated questions from the media over the closings went unanswered.

“I believe this hasty and ill-advised decision violates federal law,” Patrick Foye, authority executive director, said in the email. An appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Foye called the decision to close the lanes “abusive” and ordered them reopened.

Bill Baroni, a Christie-appointed deputy director for the authority who has since resigned, forwarded a copy of the email to Christie’s scheduling secretary.

Later that morning, Baroni emailed Foye: “I am on my way to office to discuss. There can be no public discourse.”

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