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WW2 Medal of Honor recipient Walter Ehlers dies
Written by JOHN ROGERS, Associated Press   
Tuesday, 25 February 2014 07:16

LOS ANGELES (AP) — During the historic D-Day invasion of World War II, Walter D. Ehlers accomplished some of the most awe-inspiring acts of bravery imaginable, earning a Medal of Honor for knocking out two German machine-gun nests and saving countless Allied soldiers' lives.

The 23-year-old staff sergeant charged through enemy gunfire to kill seven enemy soldiers, chase away several others, put a halt to mortar fire and carry a wounded comrade to safety, even after he been shot in the back.

Yet for years, Ehlers rarely talked about those accomplishments; not until word got around that it was his Medal of Honor heroics that were getting him invited to every presidential inauguration since Dwight D. Eisenhower's.

Ehlers died Thursday at a Long Beach hospital of kidney failure, his wife, Dorothy, told The Associated Press on Monday. He was 92, and his passing leaves only seven surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipients.

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Foes of California transgender rights law fail to force vote
Written by LISA LEFF, Associated Press   
Tuesday, 25 February 2014 07:12

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Opponents of a new California law that provides transgender students certain rights in public schools have failed to gather enough voter signatures to place a referendum to repeal the law on the November ballot.

At least 504,760 signatures were required to force a public vote on the statute approved by the California Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year. The law's opponents submitted 619,387, but county election officers determined that just 487,484 of them were valid, according to a final count posted on the secretary of state's website Monday.

The law took effect Jan. 1. It guarantees students in grades K-12 the right to use the school restrooms and to participate in the sex-segregated activities that correspond with their expressed genders instead of their school records.

The coalition of religious conservative groups behind the repeal effort said it violates the privacy of youngsters who may be uncomfortable sharing facilities with classmates of the opposite biological sex. The law's supporters said it is needed to provide statewide consistency and to improve the school experiences of young people who decide to live by a gender different from the one they had at birth.

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Hagel proposes big cuts in Army in 2015 budget
Written by ROBERT BURNS, AP National Security Writer   
Monday, 24 February 2014 15:47

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday proposed shrinking the Army to its smallest size in 74 years, closing military bases and making other military-wide savings as part of a broad reshaping after more than a decade of war.

Hagel outlined his vision in a speech at the Pentagon, a week before President Barack Obama is to submit his 2015 budget plan to Congress.

Hagel said that U.S. forces must adjust to the reality of smaller budgets, even as he asserted that the United States faces a more volatile, more unpredictable world that requires a more nimble military.

"We are repositioning to focus on the strategic challenges and opportunities that will define our future: new technologies, new centers of power and a world that is growing more volatile, more unpredictable and in some instances more threatening to the United States," he said.

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Polio-like disease appears in dozen California children
Written by MARTHA MENDOZA, AP National Writer   
Tuesday, 25 February 2014 07:11

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — An extremely rare, polio-like disease has appeared in more than a dozen California children within the past year, and each of them suffered paralysis to one or more arms or legs, Stanford University researchers say. But public health officials haven't identified any common causes connecting the cases.

The illness is still being investigated and appears to be very unusual, but Dr. Keith Van Haren at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University warned Monday that any child showing a sudden onset of weakness in their limbs or symptoms of paralysis should be immediately seen by a doctor.

"The disease resembles but is not the same as polio," he said. "But this is serious. Most of the children we've seen so far have not recovered use of their arm or their leg."

But doctors are not sure if it's a virus or something else, he said. Van Haren said he has studied five cases from Monterey up through the San Francisco Bay Area, including two that were identified as the disease enterovirus-68, which is from the same family as the polio viruses. He said there have been about 20 cases statewide.

"We want to temper the concern, because at the moment, it does not appear to represent a major epidemic but only a very rare phenomenon," he said, noting similar outbreaks in Asia and Australia.

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Supreme Court seems divided in climate case
Written by MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press   
Monday, 24 February 2014 15:45

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court appeared divided on Monday over the sole Obama administration program already in place to limit power plant and factory emissions of gases blamed for global warming.

The justices took on a small and complicated piece of the politically charged issue of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in an extended argument that included references to Dunkin' Donuts stores, football games and light bulbs. The examples were meant to illustrate the vast potential reach of the program, in its critics' view, or its limited nature, as the administration argued.

The court's liberal justices seemed comfortable with the scope of an Environmental Protection Agency permitting program that applies to companies that want to expand facilities or build new ones that would increase overall pollution. Under the program, the companies must evaluate ways to reduce the carbon they release. Carbon dioxide is the chief greenhouse gas.

However, conservative members of the bench indicated they're skeptical of the EPA's authority, with Justice Anthony Kennedy as the probable decisive vote.

Last Updated on Monday, 24 February 2014 15:47
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