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10 things you need to know today: December 31, 2013
Three prisoners are freed from Guantanamo, Russia boosts counterterrorism security, and more
 
Russia has ramped up security in the wake of the Volgograd attacks.
Russia has ramped up security in the wake of the Volgograd attacks. (REUTERS/Sergei Karpov)

1. U.S. releases last of Uighur detainees from Guantanamo
The Defense Department on Tuesday announced that it had freed three ethnic Uighur detainees who had been captured in 2001 and held at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They were transferred to Slovakia. The three were the last of 22 Uighurs, a minority Muslim group that hails from China, who had been imprisoned at Guantanamo despite the fact that the U.S. had determined they had no ties to al Qaeda or the Taliban. [New York Times]
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2. Ten states slated for drone testing
The Federal Aviation Administration has identified 10 states where drones can be tested, in a bid to integrate them into American airspace. New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Oregon were among the states chosen to host the tests, which are expected to begin in six months to determine safety standards for these aircraft. [New York Times]
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3. Train derailment causes explosions in North Dakota
A train carrying crude oil and grain derailed in eastern North Dakota, setting off a series of high-powered explosions. Investigators are still examining what caused several cars of the mile-long train to jump the track, but it appears as though another train struck the freighter. Thick black smoke from the accident could be seen for miles. [USA Today]
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4. Russia increases security in wake of bombings
After two bombings in the central Russian city of Volgograd, President Vladimir Putin ordered law enforcement officials to step up security across the country. The twin attacks have sparked fears Russia may be vulnerable to terrorism in advance of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. [Reuters]
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5. U.S. population growth slows
Population growth in the United States slowed to .71 percent in 2013, according to the Census Bureau. That's the lowest rate since 1937, amounting to just 2.2 million new people in a 12-month period. Slower immigration is partly to blame for the decline. On Jan. 1, 2014, the Census Bureau estimates the total U.S. population will be 317,297,938. [USA Today]
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6. Robin Roberts comes out
After a difficult few years battling a host of health issues, Good Morning America star Robin Roberts thanked her family and friends for their support in a Facebook post that included a shout-out to her longtime girlfriend Amber Laign. This was the first time Roberts had publicly acknowledged that she's gay. Introduced by mutual friends, the pair has been together for a decade. [CNN]
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7. Cholesterol levels linked to Alzheimer's
New research suggests that having high levels of "good" cholesterol and low levels of "bad" cholesterol isn't just good for your heart; it may also help ward off Alzheimer's disease. The study found a link between unhealthy levels of cholesterol and amyloid protein deposits in the brain that are associated with the onset of Alzheimer's. Researchers are hoping the findings could lead to earlier interventions to keep patients from developing the degenerative brain disease. [NBC]
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8. ESPN hires Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow says he's still pursuing his football dreams, but that hasn't stopped him from inking a deal with ESPN as an analyst for college football games. He will appear on SEC Nation, a Saturday morning pregame show, which will launch on Aug. 28. Tebow, who will make his debut Jan. 6 during the BCS title game, will also appear on SportsCenter and ESPN Radio. [Sports Illustrated]
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9. Life support deadline extended for Jahi McMath
The teenager declared brain-dead after a tonsillectomy can remain on life support until Jan. 7, a judge has ordered. The family of Jahi McMath has been trying to transfer her to a long-term care facility, but the hospital has refused to perform the necessary procedure to insert a feeding tube, saying it can't ethically operate on a dead body. A judge had ruled that McMath could be taken off life support on Monday, but the deadline was extended to give McMath's loved ones more time to find a place that would take her. [Fox]
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10. Soil pollution threatens Chinese agriculture
Chinese officials have announced that roughly eight million acres of farmland, a mass roughly the size of Maryland, should not be planted with crops because of pollution. Industrial toxins have contaminated the soil, leading many to fear that the food chain is being compromised. The government has conducted widespread soil tests in recent years, but has so far refused to reveal the results. [New York Times]
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Laura Colarusso
Laura Colarusso is a freelance journalist based in Boston. She has previously written for Newsweek, The Boston Globe, the Washington Monthly and The Daily Beast.

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