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Lowell Steward, one of the famed World War II Tuskegee Airmen, has died at age 95 at a hospital in Ventura, Calif., his family says.

Steward, a Los Angeles native who flew 143 missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross among other awards, died on Wednesday.

The number of people who have died from the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola has crossed the 7,000 mark, the World Health Organization reports, after it recorded another 392 deaths from its previous total of 6,900 earlier this week.

The total number of infected, nearly all of them in West Africa, is at 19,031, up from 18,569 in the previous report. More than 99 percent of all infections and deaths have occurred in three countries — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

I've always had a good time in Cuba. The people are friendly and funny, the rum is smooth, the music intoxicating and the beaches wide, white and soft.

But you're accompanied everywhere by government minders. They call them responsables. Any Cuban you interview knows your microphone might as well run straight to their government.

If you want to talk to someone with a different view, you have to slip out of your hotel in the middle of the night without your minder — though dissidents say other security people follow you.

President Obama is not the only one thinking about the precedent set when Sony decided not to release the comedy The Interview. Around Hollywood, the action drew immediate rebuke as celebrities took to Twitter — like director and producer Judd Apatow:

Late night host Jimmy Kimmel agreed, writing, "An un-American act of cowardice that validates terrorist actions and sets a terrifying precedent."

In writing rooms and comedy clubs in Los Angeles, however, the conversations are more nuanced.

Updated at 10:45 a.m. ET

The United States has released four Afghan detainees from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who were returned to Afghanistan — the latest in a series of releases of inmates in recent weeks.

Reuters says: "The men were flown to Kabul overnight aboard a U.S. military plane and released to Afghan authorities, the first such transfer of its kind to the war-torn country since 2009, a U.S. official said."

Limericks

Dec 20, 2014
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PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Lightning Fill In The Blank

Dec 20, 2014
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PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Now on to our final game, "Lightning Fill In The Blank." Each of our players now has 60 seconds in which to answer as many fill-in-the-blank questions as he or she can - each correct answer now worth two points. Bill, can you give us the scores?

Prediction

Dec 20, 2014
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PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Now panel, who will be the next American ambassador to Cuba and why? Paula Poundstone?

PAULA POUNDSTONE: Amy Pascal from Sony...

(LAUGHTER)

POUNDSTONE: ...'Cause she's not a great secret keeper so our new relationship will be open and honest.

SAGAL: Roxanne Roberts?

Russia, battered by the falling price of oil, its chief export, and a tumbling ruble, lashed out against the U.S. and EU for new sanctions that President Vladimir Putin says already account for "25 to 30 percent" of his country's eroding currency.

Shannon Johnson, a researcher at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, found that when she talked to youngsters about sea snails, she communicated a little more effectively if she skipped the technical description and called them "punk-rock snails."

"Their entire shells are covered in spikes," Johnson explains. "And then the spikes are actually all covered in fuzzy white bacteria."

We've been privileged in these last few months to share the stories of many Americans, some of them famous, but most of them not. We came together through some avenues we know well — books, music and theater. Sometimes, we found each other through pathways that have only recently become a big part of our lives, such as the #BeyondFerguson hashtag that brought so many young people to an August community meeting in that city. Our New Year's Resolution is to keep these honest and vital conversations going. We are going there.

North Korea, which denies that it had anything to do with a hack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, now wants to help the U.S. root out the real culprit. But true to form for Pyongyang, the dubious offer comes tinged with a threat of "serious" consequences should Washington decline.

Marlon Frausto is in pursuit of the new American dream. Just a few weeks ago, he left his job, in Hispanic marketing for the legal industry, and moved to San Francisco.

Every day he wakes at 5:30 a.m., commutes 45 minutes by train, and studies until 9 or 10 at night. He's spending down his savings and says he's getting help from "my loving family."

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

How every week I look forward to saying, time for BJ Leiderman's Sports theme.

(MUSIC)

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Suddenly, Russia's Confidence Stumbles

Dec 20, 2014
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

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