CALIFORNIANS sharply reduce SMOKING rate
Californians are smoking less than most other Americans. According to a study released this month by the Department of Public Health, just 13.1 percent of residents reported smoking last year, compared with 20.6 percent nationally. The state now has the second-lowest smoking rate in the country, trailing only Utah. The declining rate reflects a culture that is conscious of health and the environment, and it was hailed by state officials as evidence of the success of a strategy to target smoking that began in 1988, when the smoking rate was 22.7 percent.
Obama in surprise visit with Marines
President Barack Obama capped a quiet Christmas on Saturday with a surprise visit to a Marine base to thank U.S. troops for the sacrifices they've made, including being away from their families at the holidays. Obama, along with his wife, Michelle, spent more than half an hour shaking hands and hugging service members who had arrived for Christmas dinner at the mess hall at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. He and the first lady visited the same base last Christmas. The Obama family expects to vacation in Hawaii through Jan. 2.
Man, 5-year-old die in ski collision
Authorities said two people were killed and one injured after a man on a snowboard collided with a woman and her daughter on skis at a Wyoming ski area. The Casper Star-Tribune reported that the 22-year-old man and the 5-year-old girl were pronounced dead at a hospital after the collision Friday at the Hogadon Ski Area. The mother was hospitalized, but her condition and injuries weren't available.
Ex-President Carlos Andres Perez dies
Carlos Andres Perez, 88, a former president of Venezuela, died of a heart attack Saturday in a hospital in Miami, his family said. He lived in Miami while the Venezuelan government demanded he be turned over to stand trial for his role in putting down riots in 1989. The former president — who governed from 1974 to 1979 and again from 1989 to 1993 — denied wrongdoing.
Kurdish area will resume oil exports
Iraq's newly appointed oil minister, Abdul-Karim Elaibi, said on Saturday that oil exports from the country's northern self-ruled Kurdish region would soon resume as part of the country's national oil export policy. The Kurds have sought greater control over oil in their crude-rich region while Baghdad has argued that the oil is a national resource, under the central government's control.
India: A rocket carrying an Indian communication satellite exploded just after liftoff Saturday in the second launch failure for India's space agency this year.