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Dec. 11, 2012 at 10:04 PM
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Report: N. Korea fires long-range rocket

SEOUL, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- North Korea, defying international warnings and a U.N. resolution, Wednesday fired a long-range rocket, South Korean news reports said.

Yonhap News Agency, quoting the South Korean Defense Ministry, said North Korea launch the rocket at 9:51 a.m. local time.

The report quoted the Japanese government that some debris from the rocket fell into waters off the Philippines at 10:05 a.m. after passing over Okinawa.

The isolated Communist country had earlier extended the launch window until Dec. 29 from its earlier Dec. 10-22 period. The North has maintained the launch was designed to put an Earth satellite in space, but critics, including the United States, suspect it was designed to test a ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

A similar test in April failed, earning North Korea strong condemnation from the United Nations.

A South Korean military official had told Yonhap Tuesday the North had removed its UNH-3 rocket from the launch pad in Dongchang-Ri because of a "technical deficiency."

Min Kyung-joo, the chief of South Korea's Naro Space Center, had said it was clearly a major problem. An official told Yonhap the problem appeared to have been in the direction control system.

Oregon mall shooter kills 2, self

PORTLAND, Ore., Dec. 11 (UPI) -- A gunman who opened fire at a mall in Oregon Tuesday was "neutralized," said police, who confirmed two other people were dead and at least one other injured.

Lt. James Rhodes of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office said the unidentified gunman fatally shot two people and wounded a third at the Clackamas Town Center before he died, NBC News reported. Rhodes did not say how the gunman died.

Rhodes told The (Portland) Oregonian the shooter had been "neutralized." He declined to define what that meant, though the newspaper said there were unconfirmed reports the shooter took his own life.

Rhodes said he believed the gunman acted alone.

Police were clearing employees and shoppers who had hidden inside the mall.

Taylor Gibson, 20, an employee at Build-A-Bear workshop on the mall's lower level near Macy's, told the newspaper she was walking toward the front of her children's store about 4 p.m. when she heard shots.

"Me and the others raced to the back of the store and got our customers in the back room," she said.

Mario Collaco, 20, who works in a kiosk at the mall, said he heard about five bangs in succession coming from the second level of the food court. He said the shopping center wasn't particularly crowded, but some people "were freaking out quite a bit."

Gas line blast melts I-77 in W.Va.

SISSONVILLE, W.Va., Dec. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. officials said they have launched an investigation into a gas line explosion in West Virginia that caused a huge fire and melted part of Interstate 77.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday a go-ahead team has been assigned to investigate the natural gas transmission pipeline rupture and subsequent fire in Sissonville, about 10 miles from Charleston.

Officials evacuated nearby residents because of fears of another explosion, The Charleston Gazette reported.

Kanawha County Fire Coordinator C.W. Sigman said a 20-inch transmission line ruptured, causing the massive fire, and several homes were burned. Emergency officials said there had been no fatalities or serious fatalities, the Gazette said.

"In all my years of experience, this is the biggest fire I've ever seen," Sigman said.

Robin Fields of Charleston told the Gazette she was worried for her best friend's husband who lives in a trailer near the explosion, which other friends said was destroyed. At least four families live in trailers near the blast, the report said.

Emily McComas, a Gazette copy editor, said she was sitting inside her home at Jenna Landing Apartments when lights began flickering before 1 p.m., the report said.

"That's when I heard something that sounded like a jet was directly overhead. I thought it was a tornado," McComas said.

The blast occurred just before 1 p.m. Crews had shut off one side of the gas pipe by 1:30 p.m., the report said. State officials said one lane of the interstate might be reopened.

Same-sex marriage bill proposed in Britain

LONDON, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- A bill allowing same-sex marriage will be introduced in Parliament, Britain's culture secretary said, with the first gay weddings likely in 2014.

Maria Miller, culture secretary and minister for Equalities, said religious institutions that object will be given "watertight" protections and a "quadruple lock" of legal measures against being forced to conduct same-sex weddings.

"Our proposals mean that marriage would be available to everyone. I feel strongly that, if a couple wish to show their love and commitment to each other, the state should not stand in their way," Miller said, adding, "I am absolutely clear that no religious organization will ever be forced to conduct marriages for same-sex couples, and I would not bring a bill [to Parliament] which allowed that."

Although Conservative Party members of the House of Commons voiced their objection to the proposed reform, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has given his personal backing to the plan, and has promised his party members in Parliament an opportunity to vote according to their consciences when the bill is debated in the new year, The Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday.

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