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Business CEOs call for raising retirement age

– An influential group of business CEOs is pushing a plan to gradually increase the full retirement age to 70 for both Social Security and Medicare and to partially privatize the health insurance program for older Americans.

The Business Roundtable’s plan would protect those 55 and older from cuts but younger workers would face significant changes. The plan unveiled Wednesday would result in smaller annual benefit increases for all Social Security recipients. Initial benefits for wealthy retirees would also be smaller.

Medicare recipients would be able to enroll in the traditional program or in private plans that could adjust premiums based on age and health status.

“America can preserve the health and retirement safety net and rein in long-term spending growth by modernizing Medicare and Social Security in a way that addresses America’s new fiscal and demographic realities,” said Gary Loveman, chairman, president and chief executive of casino giant Caesars Entertainment Corp.

Marine punished for urinating on corpse

A Marine who pleaded guilty Wednesday to urinating on the corpse of a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan will likely be demoted one rank under a plea agreement, although a military judge called for a much harsher sentence.

Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola pleaded guilty to multiple charges at court-martial, including that of violating orders by desecrating remains and posing for photographs with the corpses; and dereliction of duty by failing to properly supervise junior Marines.

The judge, Lt. Col. Nicole Hudspeth, said she would have sentenced him to six months confinement, a $5,000 fine, demotion to private and a bad-conduct discharge. But she is bound by terms of the plea agreement the sergeant reached with military prosecutors. A general will review the sentence and could choose to lower it.

Clinton to testify on Benghazi next week

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will testify before a Senate panel Wednesday on the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the committee will hold a confirmation hearing on her successor the next day.

Senate aides said the Foreign Relations Committee notified senators Wednesday night of the day that Clinton would testify. The panel’s hearing on the nomination of Sen. John Kerry to be secretary of state will be Jan. 24.

Interior secretary will step down

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who oversaw a moratorium on offshore drilling after the BP oil spill and promoted alternative energy sources throughout the nation, will step down in March.

A former U.S. senator from Colorado, Salazar ran the Interior Department throughout President Obama’s first term.

Americans among hostages in Algeria

An al-Qaida-linked group is holding American, Norwegian and British hostages after a pre-dawn attack on a gas facility in southern Algeria partly operated by BP Plc, as French troops attacked Islamist insurgents in neighboring Mali.

The attackers had more than 20 foreign hostages after releasing Algerian citizens, according to the Algerian Press Service.

Americans are among the hostages, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in Washington, while not specifying a number because of what she said were security considerations.

Mauritania’s private ANI news agency said the hostages included seven U.S. citizens.

Suicide bomber kills at least 33 in Iraq

A suicide bomber driving a vehicle packed with explosives blew himself up in northern Iraq early Wednesday, the deadliest in a wave of morning attacks that killed at least 33 people across the country.

Ground battle nears for French in Mali

French troops surrounded the desert village of Diabaly in central Mali on Wednesday, the first direct engagement since France launched a military assault last week to oust radical Islamists who have advanced to within 250 miles of the capital.

The escalation set the stage for a perilous ground conflict. In waging ground combat, France is entering the comfort zone of the rebels, who know the desert terrain and are veterans of guerrilla warfare.

They have melded into the local population, occupied houses and are hiding in mango groves to stage ambushes, residents said in telephone interviews.

Helicopter crash on London street kills 2

A helicopter crashed into a crane and fell on a crowded street in central London during rush hour Wednesday. The pilot and one person on the ground were killed and 13 others were injured, officials said.

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