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10 things you need to know today: October 2, 2012
Obama and Romney prep for the debate, 36 die in a Hong Kong ferry crash, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
The stricken ferry is pulled out of the water near Yung Shue Wan on Lamma Island on Oct. 2 in Hong Kong.
The stricken ferry is pulled out of the water near Yung Shue Wan on Lamma Island on Oct. 2 in Hong Kong.
Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images

1. SENATE TRYING TO AVOID 'FISCAL CLIFF,' TAX HIKE
In hopes of avoiding another debt-ceiling-like showdown, Senate leaders are desperately trying to steer clear of what's being called a "fiscal cliff," a series of steep tax hikes that could increase tax bills by an average of $3,500 per family. Congress and President Obama have until Dec. 31 to make a deal or the Bush-era tax cuts will automatically expire, creating a de facto tax hike. The Senate isn't even close to agreement, and House GOPers are against any type of tax increase. However, a bipartisan group of senators is rallying around a three-step plan to avert the tax increases and deep spending cuts. [New York Times, CBS News]
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2. HONG KONG FERRY CRASH KILLS 36 
At least 36 people are dead and dozens wounded after a ferry carrying more than 120 partygoers on a company outing collided with another boat just south of Hong Kong. One of the ferries was being used by Hong Kong Electric, whose employees were going to watch fireworks in the city's Victoria Harbor to celebrate China's National Day. The other ferry was returning with passengers from Lamma Island. Survivors said that within 10 minutes of the crash, the ship had sunk. [Reuters]
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3. OBAMA, ROMNEY PREP FOR DEBATE
President Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, are feverishly preparing for Wednesday's first presidential debate in Denver. Obama has hunkered down with top advisers at a desert resort in Nevada. Meanwhile, Romney has been practicing with his debate team in Massachusetts, and is heading to Denver for a rally and more prep. With just five weeks left until Election Day, polls show Romney behind Obama in many critical swing states. [Associated Press]
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4. NATO TROOPS COULD LEAVE AFGHANISTAN EARLY
U.S.-led NATO forces could leave Afghanistan sooner than 2014, according to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The leader told The Guardian that the spike in insider attacks had hurt Western morale. "From now until the end of 2014 we will see announcements of redeployments, withdrawals, or drawdown," Rasmussen said. More than half of the 120,000 NATO troops still in Afghanistan are American. [The Guardian]
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5. SPARKS FLY AT WARREN-BROWN DEBATE
Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown continued to spar with his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Warren, over her purported Native American ancestry during the second debate in their hotly contested race. When moderator David Gregory pressed Brown to say whether there was any evidence to suggest that Warren had benefited or was hired because she had previously claimed that she was Native American, the Republican insisted, "The real issue, David, is what she's telling the people." Brown, who is trying to keep his seat in the left-leaning state, also tried to distance himself from Mitt Romney, saying that while he agrees with the Republican presidential candidate on economic issues, they are "two different people." [Washington Post]
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6. AMTRAK CRASH INJURES 50 PASSENGERS
An Amtrak train derailed in California's San Joaquin Valley, injuring up to 50 people, after a tractor-trailer truck crashed into it. Repair crews worked into Tuesday at the scene in Hanford, Calif. The collision occurred when the driver of the truck, carrying cotton trash, failed to yield, authorities said. Two passenger cars and the locomotive were pushed off the tracks. [USA Today]
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7. STUDY: HALF OF GREAT BARRIER REEF IS GONE
Australia's Great Barrier Reef, filled with diverse marine life, has lost more than half of its coral in the past 27 years, according to a study by scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences and the University of Wollongong. The researchers warn that the coral population could be halved again by 2022. The disappearance of the vital marine life is being attributed to storms, predatory starfish, and climate change. [AFP]
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8. SAMSUNG ALLOWED TO SELL GALAXY TAB IN U.S.
A U.S. court lifted a temporary sales ban on Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the United States. The ban had been put in place after Apple won a patent dispute against Samsung. "We are pleased with the court's action today, which vindicates our position that there was no infringement of Apple's design patent and that an injunction was not called for," Samsung said in a statement. Separately, Samsung filed a motion against Apple, arguing that the iPhone 5 had infringed on some of its own patents. [Reuters]
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9. MACY'S TO HIRE 80,000 HOLIDAY STAFFERS
'Tis the season. Macy's Inc. announced that it will hire approximately 80,000 seasonal staffers ahead of Black Friday, a 2.5 percent increase from last year. Toys R Us Inc. and Walmart Stores Inc. also said they would hire more seasonal workers than in previous years. Toys R Us will employ  45,000 temporary workers, up 13 percent from last year. Walmart will hire more than 50,000. [Associated Press]
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10. SETH MACFARLANE TO HOST OSCARS
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made a "bold and unexpected move," announcing that Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane will host the 2013 Oscars. MacFarlane, who was behind the surprise movie hit Ted, has never hosted an awards show but left a good impression at the podium when he presented an award during last month's Emmys. Jimmy Kimmel, who hosted the recent Emmy broadcast, had been viewed by many as the main contender for the gig after Jimmy Fallon said he wasn't interested in August. [Entertainment Weekly]

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