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APEC backpedals on climate change

SINGAPORE, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- World leaders in Singapore backed off Saturday from a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by roughly half by 2050.

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Instead, leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting approved a preliminary climate-change document that eliminated targets for emissions cuts.

A first draft of the document had called for a 50 percent drop from 1990 levels of greenhouse emissions by 2050, The Times of London said.

But that language was removed and the document was revised to say "we believe that global emissions will need to peak over the next few years, and be substantially reduced by 2050, recognizing that the time frame for peaking will be longer in developing economies."

The APEC meeting is the last major gathering of world leaders before the Copenhagen climate-change summit in December.

President Obama flew to Singapore from Japan, where he and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama agreed that their countries would seek to reduce emissions 80 percent by 2050.

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APEC's members include countries on the Pacific coasts of Asia and North and South America as well as Australia and Pacific island nations.

China pushed for the dropping of specific goals, The Wall Street Journal said.

Yi Xianliang, an official with the Foreign Ministry's Treaty and Law Department, told reporters APEC is not the right forum for goals on emissions cuts.

"To take the target out is a decision by all the members," Yi said.

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Report: Reform would cut senior healthcare

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- More than $500 billion in cuts from Medicare spending under a U.S. healthcare plan would slash some seniors' benefits and limit access to care, a report says.

The government report revealed the Medicare cuts, part of the healthcare reform bill approved Nov. 7 by the House, could be so costly for some hospitals and nursing homes that they would stop accepting Medicare, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

The report, released Saturday by the nonpartisan Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also said the reform bill would increase the costs of healthcare by $289 billion in the next decade.

The report casts doubt on whether doctors and hospitals could handle the expected 32 million people who would become insured under the bill, many through Medicaid.

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Healthcare providers likely would charge more or take patients with better-paying private insurance over Medicaid recipients, the report said.

"It is reasonable to expect that a significant portion of the increased demand for Medicaid would not be realized," Richard Foster, the chief actuary at CMMS, wrote in the report.

Republicans, who had requested the report, said it disproves claims of the bill's supporters, who said the measure would reduce costs while improving care.

"This report once again discredits Democrats' assertions that their $1.3 trillion government takeover of healthcare will lower costs, and it confirms that this bill violates President Obama's promise to 'bend the cost curve,'" Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the House minority leader, said in a statement. "It's now beyond dispute that their bill will raise costs, which is exactly what the American people don't want."

But Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the report shows the bill would extend the life of the Medicare trust fund by five years and result in 10 percent more of the population being insured through a 1.3 percent increase in national healthcare expenditures.

"That illustrates a bending of the cost curve," Elshami said.

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Guantanamo closing faces big obstacles

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama almost certainly will miss a self-imposed January deadline for closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, authorities said.

U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. acknowledged Friday it would be difficult to close Guantanamo by Jan. 22, the date Obama initially set.

The administration plans to try five terror suspects in federal court in New York and dozens of other detainees have been approved for transfer to other countries.

The fate of the remaining some 200 detainees has yet to be determined and the administration has concluded some will be held long-term without trial, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

"Best of luck trying to finding an American (town) that would be comfortable with the idea" of holding the detainees, said Jena Baker McNeill, analyst with the conservative Heritage Foundation. "There are a lot of people on both sides, not just Republicans, very uncomfortable (about) bringing detainees to the United States."

Current law bans the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to the United States and congressional lawmakers have said that they will not lift the ban until the Obama administration presents them with a new site.

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Obama weighs cost of Afghan war

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama is insisting that military options for the costly war in Afghanistan include the quickest possible exit strategy, officials said.

Obama, in deliberations on the war, is acutely aware of the soaring U.S. budget deficit, the weak economy and the costly health care plan he is trying to get passed, a senior administration official told The New York Times in a story published Sunday.

"The president focused a lot on ensuring that we were asking the difficult questions about getting to an end game here," said the official, who requested anonymity because of the confidential deliberations.

Adding 40,000 U.S. troops and expanding Afghan security forces, as proposed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the allied commander in Afghanistan, would cost $40 billion to $54 billion a year, The Times reported.

Even if fewer troops are sent, the cost of the war could erase the projected $26 billion expected to be saved next year from withdrawing troops from Iraq, officials said.

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