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10 things you need to know today: December 17, 2012
Obama vows action on gun violence, Syria's vice president wants unity, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
President Obama waves after speaking at an interfaith vigil in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 16.
President Obama waves after speaking at an interfaith vigil in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 16. Getty Images

1. OBAMA GIVES SPEECH ON CONNECTICUT SCHOOL MASSACRE
On Sunday night, President Obama addressed an interfaith vigil for the victims of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., delivering a powerful call for the nation to take measures to prevent such tragedies in the future. "We can't tolerate this any more," he said. "These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change." Obama, speaking to hundreds of mourners assembled at Newtown High School, said he would gather law enforcement officials, educators, and mental-health workers to find ways to prevent future shootings. "We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true," he said. "No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this." [The Week, Boston Globe]
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2. SYRIAN VICE PRESIDENT CALLS FOR 'HISTORIC SETTLEMENT'
Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa was quoted in a Lebanese newspaper calling for an end to the country's ongoing civil war and the creation of a national unity government. "The solution has to be Syrian, but through a historic settlement, which would include the main regional countries, and the members of the U.N. Security Council," Sharaa is quoted as saying. He noted that neither the government nor the rebels had the military ability to reach a "conclusive end" to the fighting that has claimed some 40,000 lives since an anti-government uprising began nearly two years ago. "This settlement must include stopping all shapes of violence, and the creation of a national unity government with wide powers," he said. [CNN]
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3. BOEHNER AGREES TO MILLIONAIRE TAX
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has agreed to raise taxes on Americans making more than $1 million, reversing an earlier decision that Bush-era tax cuts should remain intact for all Americans, rather than just those making less than $250,000 a year as President Obama requested. The move is a "gesture toward compromise" as Republicans and Democrats work to resolve budget issues to avoid looming tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. The millionaire tax hikes would increase federal coffers by some $1 trillion over 10 years. President Obama has demanded $1.4 trillion in new revenue. [Forbes]
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4. EGYPT VOTE MARRED BY IRREGULARITIES
Egypt's opposition group National Salvation Front called for protests against the constitution backed by President Mohamed Morsi, which won 57 percent approval in the first round of voting in a two-part referendum, citing widespread voting irregularities. The group has urged the referendum organizers to investigate and ensure that the second round of voting, on Dec. 22, is properly supervised. The closeness of the first-round tally and the low turnout give Morsi little comfort as he seeks to assemble support for difficult economic reforms to reduce the budget deficit. The Front also asked for protests across Egypt on Tuesday "to stop forgery and bring down the invalid draft constitution." [Reuters]
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5. CAR BOMB KILLS 17 IN PAKISTAN MARKET
Militants detonated a car bomb at a bustling market in the Pakistani town of Jamrud on Monday, killing at least 17 people and injuring 70 others just two days after Pakistani Taliban fighters launched an attack on an airport in Peshawar. The powerful explosion tore through several shops and severely damaged more than a dozen vehicles. The target of the attack remains unclear as most of the dead were townspeople, including women and children. No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing. [Los Angeles Times
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6. CHAVEZ'S CANCER COULD DELAY VENEZUELA DEVALUATION
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's battle with cancer could put on hold a sharp currency devaluation needed to shore up public finances. Chavez spent heavily this year giving new apartments, appliances, and cash to the poor in order to ensure his re-election. The spending widened the fiscal deficit, prompting economists to predict a devaluation this month or early next year. But the plans have been delayed because Chavez, famous for his micromanaging leadership style, is being treated for cancer in Cuba. Chavez is supposed to begin his third term on Jan. 10, but he may not be in the condition to do so, which could further stall important policy decisions. [Reuters
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7. DUKAKIS COULD REPLACE KERRY IN SENATE
Michael Dukakis, former Massachusetts governor and 1988 presidential nominee, is considered a likely interim replacement for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who according to new reports, is President Obama's choice to be the next secretary of state. If Kerry is nominated, Gov. Deval Patrick must fill Kerry's seat until a special election can be held next year. Dukakis, 79, has remained politically active, including campaigning for Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). He also teaches at Northeastern University. [The Hill]
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8. NORTHERN IRAQ HIT BY MULTIPLE BOMBINGS
Multiple bomb blasts in northern Iraq have left at least 10 people dead. The explosions happened in contested areas where tensions have heightened between the Kurdish minority and the central government. The attacks follow a string of bombings in Iraq Sunday that killed at least nine people in Kirkuk and Jalula. [Voice of America]
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9. BERLUSCONI GETS ENGAGED
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, 76, has revealed that he's engaged to 28-year-old Francesca Pascale, who is reportedly part of a group called "Silvio, we miss you." Berlusconi's second wife left him in 2008, citing his affairs with young women. The former leader is on trial for allegedly having sex with an underage woman and using his office to cover it up. Reports emerged earlier this month that Berlusconi plans to run again for prime minister. [Associated Press
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10. DUCHESS MAKES FIRST PUBLIC APPEARANCE SINCE HOSPITAL RELEASE
The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, presented awards at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony on Sunday, her first public appearance since being released from the hospital, where she was being treated for acute morning sickness stemming from her recently revealed pregnancy. Palace officials say Middleton is in the first 12 weeks of her pregnancy. The child will be the first for her and her husband, Prince William. [USA Today]

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