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10 things you need to know today: November 20, 2012
Obama sends Clinton to seek a Gaza truce, Rep. Allen West concedes in Florida, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives at Don Muang International Airport on Nov. 18 in Bangkok, Thailand. President Obama has asked Clinton to leave a summit in Asia to mediate the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives at Don Muang International Airport on Nov. 18 in Bangkok, Thailand. President Obama has asked Clinton to leave a summit in Asia to mediate the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Athit Perawongmetha/Getty Images

1. HILLARY CLINTON SEEKS MIDDLE EAST PEACE
With Israel and the Hamas-led Gaza Strip engaged in a seventh day of bloody conflict, President Obama is sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Israel, the West Bank, and Egypt on Tuesday. Clinton will leave directly from Cambodia, where she is attending an Asian regional summit with Obama. She is trying to head off an escalation in the violence, joining a cease-fire push by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Turkey, Egypt, and the Arab League. Clinton will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, then talk to Palestinian leaders in the West Bank before heading to Cairo to consult with Egyptian officials who are trying to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. [Associated Press]
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2. OBAMA URGES CALM IN ASIA
President Obama called on Asian leaders to ratchet down tensions in the South China Sea, where U.S. allies Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam are engaged in disputes with China over contested island territory, trade, commercial espionage, and other issues. Obama made the plea at the end of a three-day South Asia tour during a summit in Cambodia attended by China, Japan, the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), India, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. Obama's message, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said, is that "there is no reason to risk any potential escalation, particularly when you have two of the world's largest economies — China and Japan — associated with some of those disputes." [Reuters]
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3. REP. ALLEN WEST CONCEDES FLORIDA RACE
Three weeks after Election Day, Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) is conceding defeat to his Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy in the race for Florida's 18th District. A recount of the ballots failed to show West making the necessary gains to retain his seat. West had successfully gotten votes recounted in St. Lucie County, but the recount actually showed Murphy increasing his lead, which has remained above the margin that would trigger an automatic recount throughout the entire district. "While a contest of the election results might have changed the vote totals, we do not have evidence that the outcome would change," West said in a statement. [National Journal]
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4. FRANCE HIT WITH SECOND DOWNGRADE
Moody's Investors Service stripped France of its triple-A credit rating in the wake of a controversial article in the British Economist magazine saying that the country is "the time-bomb at the heart of Europe" because President Francois Hollande has failed to reform bloated government agencies. Standard & Poor's Ratings Services downgraded France in January, leaving Fitch Ratings as the only major credit analyst that still gives France top marks for its credit worthiness. [Wall Street Journal]
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5. DECISION LOOMS ON GREEK BAILOUT
Eurozone finance ministers are meeting in Brussels on Tuesday to decide whether to give Greece the next $42 billion in bailout money it needs to avoid defaulting on its massive government debt. The ministers will consider giving Greece an extra two years to meet targets on reducing its deficits with painful spending cuts and tax hikes, which have contributed to the collapse of the country's economy. Greece said last week that its economy shrank by 7.2 percent in the third quarter of this year compared with the same period last year. [BBC News]
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6. CALIFORNIANS CHARGED WITH TERROR PLOT
Federal law enforcement officials said Monday that four Southern California men have been charged with plotting to help al Qaeda and the Taliban kill Americans and attack U.S. military bases and other targets overseas. The men — Air Force veteran Sohiel Omar Kabir, Muslim converts Ralph Deleon and Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales, and Arifeen David Gojali — reportedly sold off their possessions to raise money to travel to a jihadist training camp in Afghanistan, after being indoctrinated in the radical Islamist doctrine of the late al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki. [Associated Press]
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7. HOSTESS AND UNION AGREE TO MEDIATION
Hostess — the maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread — on Monday agreed to enter mediation talks with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers' International Union, possibly averting a liquidation of the company that had been announced last week. A bankruptcy judge in White Plains, N.Y., said the liquidation could not proceed unless the two sides at least tried mediation first. The initial news that the iconic, 82-year-old company would go under had sparked a nationwide wave of nostalgia for Twinkies and other Hostess treats, which have fallen out of favor in recent years with the rise of healthier eating habits. [Associated Press]
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8. COLOMBIA REBELS DECLARE TRUCE
Colombia's left-wing FARC rebels have declared a unilateral, two-month truce beginning Tuesday, as members of the group meet in Havana to resume peace talks with representatives of the Colombian government. FARC lead negotiator Ivan Marquez said the move was intended to contribute to a "climate of understanding." The government says it will not suspend military operations against the rebels, who have repeatedly failed to keep their word in more than four decades of fighting that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. [Voice of America]
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9. BECKHAM PREPARES FOR FINAL GALAXY GAME
Soccer superstar David Beckham says he'll be playing his final game for Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy next month. The longtime England team captain, who launched his career in his home country with 12 years at Manchester United before moving to Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid and then the Galaxy in 2007, didn't say what his next move would be. "I've had an incredibly special time playing for the L.A. Galaxy," Beckham, 37, said. "However, I wanted to experience one last challenge before the end of my playing career." [Associated Press]
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10. ATHEISTS WIN FIGHT OVER NATIVITY SCENE
A federal judge ruled Monday that the city of Santa Monica, Calif., has the right to bar Nativity and other seasonal religious displays in public spaces. A coalition of 13 churches had asked the court to make the city allow Nativity scenes this year in Palisades Park, where they have been permitted for nearly 60 years. A few years ago, atheists began applying to set up booths, too, and last year atheists flooded the city with applications. The city held a lottery to dole out limited space, and atheists won 18 of 21 spaces. "The atheists won on this," said William J. Becker Jr., an attorney for the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee. [Los Angeles Times]

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