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10 things you need to know today: February 18, 2012
Whitney Houston's funeral, the arrest of an alleged terrorist — and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
A police car sits in front of the U.S. Capitol building Friday, after FBI agents arrested a Moroccan man for allegedly plotting to attack the Capitol.
A police car sits in front of the U.S. Capitol building Friday, after FBI agents arrested a Moroccan man for allegedly plotting to attack the Capitol.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

1. CONGRESS EXTENDS PAYROLL TAX HOLIDAY
After months of wrangling, the House and Senate approved a $150 billion economic package that extends a popular payroll tax holiday through 2012. Roughly 160 million U.S. workers will get to keep an extra $1,000, on average, thanks to the tax holiday. Congress also extended unemployment benefits through the end of the year. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law shortly after returning from a fundraising trip to the West Coast. [Washington Post]

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2. FEDS ARREST MAN ON ALLEGED D.C. SUICIDE MISSION
Amine El Khalifi, a 29-year-old Moroccan citizen living in the U.S., was arrested and charged Friday as he traveled toward Washington, D.C. with an eye to delivering "a suicide attack on one of the nation's most symbolic landmarks," the U.S. Capitol building. The FBI had been tracking Khalifi for months. He had thought "undercover FBI agents assisting him in his plot were associates of al Qaeda." [Fox News]

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3. MOURNERS PREP FOR WHITNEY HOUSTON'S FUNERAL
Friends, family, music legends, and Hollywood stars are converging on the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., today for a private ceremony. The funeral, which begins at noon, will be streamed live online. [E!]

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4. DOW CLOSES AT HIGHEST POINT SINCE MAY 2008
After another solid week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 12,950 — its highest level in nearly four years. So far in 2012, the Dow is up nearly 6 percent, the S&P 500 has jumped more than 8 percent, and the Nasdaq has delivered "an impressive 13 percent run." [CNN Money]

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5. MAINE REPUBLICANS BOTCH CAUCUS VOTE COUNTING
Charlie Webster, head of the Maine GOP, conceded that Pine Tree State Republicans "made numerous clerical errors" during the vote counting for last weekend's presidential caucuses — "even omitting some votes because emails reporting tallies 'went to spam' in an email account." Webster insisted that the miscues would not change the overall results, which show Mitt Romney in first, Ron Paul in second. [Politico]

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6. RESEARCHERS MAKE NEW AUTISM DISCOVERY
New research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry explains how changes in autistic babies' brain development have now been detected in infants as young as 6 months. Typically, parents don't begin to notice autistic symptoms until children are at least 1 or 2. Researchers say the discovery could "help lead to earlier detection and treatment. [USA Today]

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7. PROMINENT BACKER BAILS ON MITT ROMNEY
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine endorsed GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum on Friday, after previously supporting Mitt Romney. "To be elected president, you have to do more than tear down your opponents," DeWine said in a statement. "You have to give the American people a reason to vote for you — a reason to hope — a reason to believe that under your leadership, America will be better. Rick Santorum has done that. Sadly, Governor Romney has not." Ohio's crucial GOP primary is on March 6. [ABC News]

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8. CASINO MOGUL DOUBLES DOWN ON NEWT
Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, one of the world's wealthiest men, reportedly plans to give a Newt Gingrich-aligned super PAC another $10 million. Adelson and his family have already given the Gingrich-friendly group $11 million — money that is widely credited with keeping Newt's otherwise struggling candidacy alive. [CBS News]

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9. LIBYA CELEBRATES THE ANNIVERSARY OF AN UPRISING
After traditional Muslim prayers Friday, Libyans waved their country's new flag, blasted off fireworks, and heralded the one-year anniversary of the start of a revolution that led to the death of Moammar Gadhafi and the birth of a new Libya. Libya's new leaders have not organized any official nationwide celebrations to mark the uprising's anniversary. [Daily Times

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10. EXPERTS IDENTIFY EARTH'S HOTTEST CHILE
Researchers at New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute have named the "sweat-inducing, tear-generating, mouth-on-fire Trinidad Moruga Scorpion" the world's hottest chile pepper. [Associated Press]

 

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