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10 things you need to know today: December 14, 2012
Susan Rice drops her secretary of state bid, Russia backtracks on Syria, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
Rice speaks to the media in April.
Rice speaks to the media in April. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

1. SUSAN RICE DROPS HER BID FOR SECRETARY OF STATE
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, withdrew her name on Thursday from consideration to become the next secretary of state, due to Republican criticism that she misled the American public about the September terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. Rice initially claimed that the attack stemmed from a riot against an anti-Muslim video, which turned out to be false. "If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive, and costly — to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities," Rice wrote in a letter to President Obama. All the available evidence suggests that Rice was merely relaying talking points from intelligence agencies when she made her erroneous claim on national television, but Republicans have implied that she was part of a cover-up. [The Week]
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2. RUSSIA BACKTRACKS ON STATEMENT ABOUT SYRIA
Russia on Friday denied that its deputy foreign minister had said a day earlier that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is losing control of his country. Russia's explanation — that the official, Mikhail Bogdanov, was characterizing the opinion of the Syrian opposition rather than stating Russia's position — did not jibe with Bogdanov's words on Thursday: "There is a trend for the government to progressively lose control over an increasing part of the territory," adding that "an opposition victory can't be excluded." The reversal indicates that Moscow has no intention yet of not backing its Syrian ally. A spokesman for the ministry said that Russia continues to call for a political dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition. [Associated Press]
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3. OBAMA, GOP DRIFT FURTHER APART ON FISCAL TALKS
A call from President Obama to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday didn't seem to break the deadlock between Democrats and Republicans in the ongoing year-end budget talks. Earlier on Thursday, a top Senate Democrat quashed a proposal to raise the Medicare eligibility age, as Boehner continued to insist that spending cuts deeper than Obama has proposed must be part of the deal. He insists that Obama's refusal to budge on that matter is why there is no agreement yet to avoid the impending tax hikes and spending cuts set to hit on Jan. 1. Obama, on the other hand, says the problem is that Republicans in the House "are resistant to the idea of the wealthiest Americans paying higher tax rates." [Los Angeles Times]
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4. PENTAGON TO SEND MISSILES, TROOPS TO TURKEY
The Pentagon has said it will send Patriot air defense missiles and 400 troops to Turkey as part of a NATO effort meant to protect Turkey from a potential Syrian missile attack. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed the order on Friday en route to Turkey from Afghanistan. Panetta has not mentioned how soon the missiles will be deployed nor how long they will remain in Turkey. [Associated Press]
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5. EGYPT'S ISLAMISTS RALLY BEFORE REFERENDUM
Supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi held a final rally before a decisive referendum on the country's draft constitution. The first day of voting is Saturday, and will continue the next Saturday because there aren't enough judges willing to monitor all polling stations. Egyptians will vote to accept or reject a basic law that must be in place before national elections can be held next year. Despite protests by liberal, secular, and Christian opponents, the measure is expected to pass, given the well-organized Muslim Brotherhood's record of winning elections since the fall of Hosni Mubarak. [Reuters]
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6. MAN WOUNDS 23 IN CHINESE SCHOOL KNIFE ATTACK
A 36-year-old man was detained on Friday after allegedly wounding 22 Chinese children and a teacher in a knife attack at Chenpeng Village Primary School in Henan province. Initial reports suggest that the suspect is mentally ill. China was hit by a spate of knife and cleaver attacks that targeted school children in 2010. Several measures were introduced at the time, including increased security at schools across the country and a regulation requiring people to register with their national ID cards when buying large knives. [CNN
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7. U.S. JUDGE SAYS WOMEN'S BODIES CAN PREVENT RAPE
Superior Court Judge Derek Johnson of Southern California is being publicly admonished for saying a rape victim "didn't put up a fight" during her assault and that if someone doesn't want sexual intercourse, the body "will not permit that to happen." The California Commission on Judicial Performance voted 10-0 for the public admonishment, calling Johnson's comments inappropriate and a breach of judicial ethics. Johnson made the comments in the case of a man who allegedly threatened to mutilate the face and genitals of his ex-girlfriend with a heated screwdriver, beat her with a metal baton, and made other violent threats before committing rape, forced oral copulation, and other crimes. [Associated Press]
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8. NORTH KOREA HOLDS MASS RALLY TO CHEER ROCKET LAUNCH
North Korea staged a mass rally on Friday to celebrate the Wednesday launch of a long-range rocket. State television showed a crowd of citizens cheering the launch, which has been condemned by many international leaders as a violation of U.N. ban on North Korea of testing missile technology. The country also said Friday that more launches are planned. The launch is seen as a consolidation of power for North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, who took over last year following his father Kim Jong Il's death. [BBC]
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9. CHUCK HAGEL COULD BE NAMED DEFENSE SECRETARY
According to two people familiar with the matter, former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel from Nebraska tops President Obama's list to take over for outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Hagel, who served as an enlisted army infantryman in Vietnam, could be nominated as soon as this month. He is said to have already passed the White House's vetting process. President Obama invited Hagel to the White House to discuss the position on Dec. 4, according to an administration official. Hagel, who served two terms in Congress, has been a member of the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. [Bloomberg]
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10. GOOGLE MAPS TOPS ITUNES CHARTS
After its release in the iTunes store on Thursday, the Google Maps app has gone straight to the top of the store's charts. The highly anticipated app has an average four-and-a-half star rating with 3,000 reviews. The free app includes turn-by-turn navigation, like its Android counterpart, as well as directions for public transport, integrated Street View, and a Google Earth view. [Telegraph]

 

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