ICMYI: What’s happening in world news

Rodman apologizes for comments on jailed American

Dennis Rodman apologized Thursday for comments he made in North Korea about a detained American missionary, saying he had been drinking and was under pressure as he organized a game with former NBA players.

The former basketball star issued the apology through publicist Jules Feiler in an email message to the Associated Press, a day after he sang “Happy Birthday” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the start of the friendly game.

Rodman has been slammed for not using his influence with Kim to help free Kenneth Bae, the missionary in poor health who is being confined in North Korea for “anti-state” crimes. In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Rodman implied Bae was at fault.

“I want to apologize,” Rodman said Thursday. “I take full responsibility for my actions. It had been a very stressful day. Some of my teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates. My dreams of basketball diplomacy was quickly falling apart. I had been drinking. It’s not an excuse but by the time the interview happened I was upset. I was overwhelmed. It’s not an excuse, it’s just the truth.”

Rodman said he wanted to apologize first to Bae’s family. “I’m very sorry. At this point I should know better than to make political statements. I’m truly sorry.”

Rodman dedicated the game to his “best friend” Kim, who along with his wife and other senior officials and their wives watched from a special seating area. The capacity crowd of about 14,000 at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium clapped loudly as Rodman sang a verse from the birthday song and then bowed deeply to Kim, seated above him in the stands.

Rodman said he was honored to be able to play the game in the North Korean capital and called the event “historic.” Some members of the U.S. Congress, the NBA and human rights groups, however, say he has become a public relations tool for North Korea’s government.

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Feds recognize same-sex couples in Utah

The Obama administration extended federal recognition to the marriages of more than 1,000 same-sex couples in Utah that took place before the Supreme Court put those unions in the state on hold.

The action will enable the government to extend eligibility for federal benefits to these couples. That means gay and lesbian couples can file federal taxes jointly, get Social Security benefits for spouses and request legal immigration status for partners.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their benefits while courts decide the issue of same-sex marriage in Utah.

The decision came days after Utah officials said they would not recognize the marriages. The office of Gov. Gary Herbert told state agencies this week to put a freeze on proceeding with any new benefits for the newly married gay and lesbian couples until the courts sort out the matter.

Herbert’s office issued a statement Friday afternoon that said Holder’s announcement was unsurprising, but state officers should comply with federal law if they’re providing federal services.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes did not have an immediate comment on Holder’s announcement.

More than 1,000 gay and lesbian couples took home marriage licenses from local clerks after a federal judge overturned Utah’s same-sex marriage ban on Dec. 20. Utah voters approved the ban in 2004.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court put a halt to same-sex marriages in Utah while the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considers the long-term question of whether gay couples have a right to marry in Utah.

Holder’s declaration marked the latest chapter in the legal battle over same-sex marriage in Utah that has sent couples and state officials on a helter-skelter wave of emotions over the last three weeks. 

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Massive Target breach could have lasting effects

Fallout from Target’s pre-Christmas security breach is likely to affect the company’s sales and profits well into the new year.

The company disclosed Friday that the massive data theft was significantly more extensive and affected millions more shoppers than the company reported in December. As a result of the breach, millions of Target customers have become vulnerable to identity theft, experts say.

The nation’s second largest discounter said hackers stole personal information – including names, phone numbers as well as email and mailing addresses – from as many as 70 million customers as part of a data breach it discovered last month.

Target announced on Dec. 19 that some 40 million credit and debit card accounts had been affected by a data breach that happened between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 – just as the holiday shopping season was getting into gear.

As part of that announcement, the company said customers’ names, credit and debit card numbers, card expiration dates, debit-card PINs and the embedded code on the magnetic strip on the back of cards had been stolen.

According to new information gleaned from its investigation with the Secret Service and the Department of Justice, Target said Friday that criminals also took non-credit card related data for some 70 million individuals.

This is information Target obtained from customers who, among other things, used a call center and offered their phone number or shopped online and provided an email address.

Some overlap exists between the 70 million individuals and the 40 million compromised credit and debit accounts, the company said. The revelations mean more than 70 million people may have had their data stolen.

And when the company releases a final tally, the theft could become the largest data breach on record for a retailer, surpassing an incident uncovered in 2007 that saw more than 90 million records pilfered from TJX Cos. Inc.