National Briefs / Care sign-ups pass 1 million

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HONOLULU -- A December surge propelled health care sign-ups through the government's rehabilitated website past the 1 million mark, the Obama administration said Sunday, reflecting new vigor for the problem-plagued federal insurance market.

Combined with numbers for state-run markets due in January, that should put total enrollment in the new private insurance plans under President Barack Obama's health law at about 2 million people through the end of the year, independent experts said.

That would be about two-thirds of the administration's original goal of signing up 3.3 million by Tuesday, a significant improvement given the technical problems that crippled the federal market during much of the fall. The overall goal remains to enroll 7 million people by March 31.

The administration said that of the more than 1.1 million people now enrolled in the federal insurance exchange, nearly 1 million signed up in December. The majority came days before a pre-Christmas deadline for coverage to start in January. Compare that with a paltry 27,000 in October, the federal website's first, error-prone month.

The federal website serves 36 states. Yet to be reported are December results from the 14 states running their own sites.

NSA intercepts deliveries?

LONDON -- A German magazine lifted the lid on the operations of the National Security Agency's hacking unit Sunday, reporting that American spies intercept computer deliveries, exploit hardware vulnerabilities, and even hijack Microsoft's internal reporting system to spy on their targets.

Der Spiegel's revelations relate to a division of the NSA known as Tailored Access Operations, which is painted as an elite team of hackers specializing in stealing data from the toughest of targets.

One of the most striking reported revelations concerned the NSA's alleged ability to spy on Microsoft Corp.'s crash reports.

Microsoft is one of several U.S. firms that have demanded more transparency from the NSA in the wake of the revelations of former intelligence worker Edward Snowden.

Sotomayor pushing button

NEW YORK -- Justice Sonia Sotomayor will return to her hometown for New Year's Eve to help lead one of New York City's most well-known rituals: the ball drop in Times Square. She will press the crystal button Tuesday night to lower the ball and lead the 60-second countdown to midnight, organizers of the event said Sunday. She will be the first U.S. Supreme Court justice to perform the task.

Justice Sotomayor was selected because of her inspirational story of rising from a humble background to become the first Hispanic justice on the court, said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance. She has encouraged others to dream big, a nice message for a new year, he said.

Killing suspect captured

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A monthlong nationwide manhunt for Harry Carl Mapps, 59 -- accused of killing three people and burning down their home in Colorado -- ended Saturday night when he was arrested at a motel in Oklahoma, officials said.

On Nov. 27, a resident in Rye, Colo., called 911 after seeing smoke coming out of a home. Reginald Tuttle, 51; Kim Tuttle, 55; and their daughter, 33-year-old Dawn Roderick, were found inside their Rye, Colo., home. Mr. Mapps had been working for the Tuttles as a trucker, police said.


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