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10 things you need to know today: December 18, 2012
Newtown begins to bury its dead, Obama's counteroffer raises hopes for a fiscal deal, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
Six-year-old Sandy Hook Elementary students Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto were laid to rest on Monday.
Six-year-old Sandy Hook Elementary students Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto were laid to rest on Monday. Mario Tama/Getty Images

1. NEWTOWN BEGINS BURIALS FOR SANDY HOOK VICTIMS
Mourners have begun burying the young victims of Friday's shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. On Monday, the family of Noah Pozner held a funeral for the 6-year-old, who was one of the 20 children killed. Noah's uncle, Alexis Haller, said the child would have become a great man. "He would have been a backbone of our family for years to come," he said. Nearby, another funeral was held for Jack Pinto, also 6, who was laid to rest wearing a New York Giants football jersey with the number of his favorite player, receiver Victor Cruz. "We cannot but feel the pain of losing him," a family friend said, "but we will never forget the joy of loving him." [Boston Globe]
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2. OBAMA, BOEHNER MOVE CLOSER TO FISCAL CLIFF DEAL
President Obama has sent House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) a new offer on slashing the deficit and avoiding the fiscal cliff, raising hopes that they could strike a deal to avoid potentially devastating automatic tax hikes and spending cuts due to start hitting in the New Year. Obama's plan would raise revenues by $1.2 trillion over the next decade and renew Bush-era tax rates for households earning less than $400,000. Obama's proposal, which was delivered to Boehner on Monday, was close to one Boehner pitched on Friday, leading both sides to say that a compromise was within reach. Boehner is meeting with other House Republicans on Tuesday to discuss what's next in the talks. [New York Times]
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3. LONGTIME HAWAII SEN. INOUYE DIES
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), the second-longest-serving senator in history, died Monday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. He was 88. Inouye, first elected to the Senate in 1962, orchestrated inquiries into Watergate and the Iran-contra affair, but mostly stayed out of the spotlight, working behind the scenes and gaining influence among members of both parties with his bipartisan approach. He described himself as "the No. 1 earmarks guy in the U.S. Congress," bringing his state a steady flow of money for military sites and other projects as longtime chairman of the Appropriations defense subcommittee. He served as chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee since 2009, and had been president pro tempore of the Senate since 2010, putting him third in the line of succession for the presidency. He was also a highly decorated World War II combat veteran. [Washington Post]
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4. NBC CORRESPONDENT ENGEL FREED IN SYRIA
NBC News said early Tuesday that veteran foreign correspondent Richard Engel, two of his colleagues, and their security guard had been "freed from captors in Syria after a firefight at a checkpoint on Monday, five days after they were taken prisoner." The network did not identify the others who were with Engel, nor did it say who had abducted them, other than to say that the captors "were not believed to be loyal to the Assad regime." Two of the captors reportedly were killed in the shootout at a checkpoint operated by an Islamist rebel group, the Ahrar al-Sham brigade. Several Western journalists have been detained by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. American freelancer Austin Tice, who was reporting for The Washington Post and other outlets, is still missing, and the U.S. believes the 31-year-old former Marine is being held by Assad's regime. [CBS News]
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5. VACCINE WORKERS KILLED IN PAKISTAN
Five Pakistani vaccination workers were shot dead in Karachi, Pakistan, while working for a United Nations program to eradicate polio. Pakistani health officials say that the latest three-day nationwide anti-polio drive has been suspended in Karachi. Polio is endemic in Pakistan, and vaccination workers were trying to administer 5.2 million polio drops nationwide. No group has claimed responsibility for the killings, although the Taliban are active in the area where the murders occurred and have made threats against the polio drive. [BBC]
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6. NEWS OUTLETS PROTEST BILLS FROM ROMNEY CAMPAIGN
Major print and online news outlets, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, have signed a joint letter sent to former leaders of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, protesting what they said were extraordinarily high expenses billed for reporters who traveled with the campaign. The organizations — which also included The Washington Post, USA Today, Yahoo, and BuzzFeed — said they expect to "pay a premium to travel with a candidate," but the invoices from the Romney campaign "have raised serious questions." The complaints included "$745 per person charged for a vice presidential debate viewing party on Oct. 11; $812 charged for a meal and a hold on Oct. 18; $461 for a meal and hold the next day; $345 for food and hold Oct. 30." [Politico]
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7. FORMER CONGOLESE WARLORD CLEARED OF WAR CRIMES
The International Criminal Court on Tuesday acquitted former Congolese militia leader Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Chui was accused of ordering the 2003 killings of 200 people in the mineral-rich Ituri province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Witnesses told of terrible atrocities — victims burned alive, babies smashed against walls, women raped. The defendant said he didn't order the killings, and only heard about them days later. Presiding Judge Bruno Cotte said the testimony was "too contradictory and hazy," and that prosecutors had "not proved beyond reasonable doubt that Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui was responsible." [BBC]
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8. TIM SCOTT NAMED TO REPLACE SEN. JIM DEMINT
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has named Rep. Tim Scott, who was elected to Congress in the Tea Party wave of 2010, to fill the vacancy being left by Sen. Jim DeMint, the Republican Tea Party icon who is stepping down to run the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Scott will also be the first black Republican to serve in the Senate since 1978, and the first black senator from the South since the Reconstruction era in the late 1800s. He will also be the only black senator serving in the next Congress, making him a highly visible conservative figure as the GOP attempts to broaden its appeal to minority voters. [Washington Post]
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9. TARANTINO PREMIERE CANCELED OUT OF RESPECT FOR NEWTOWN VICTIMS
The Tuesday premiere of Quentin Tarantino's new film, Django Unchained, has been canceled in the aftermath of last week's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Tarantino's Western was just the latest of several films making subdued debuts in the wake of the tragedy. Tom Cruise is attending a scaled-down event for his new film, Jack Reacher, after Paramount Pictures called off its Saturday premiere "out of honor and respect for the families of the victims." Fox also canceled the Saturday premiere of Parental Guidance, a comedy starring Billy Crystal. [BBC]
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10. HACKER OF SCARLETT JOHANSSON NUDE PICS SENT TO PRISON
A California judge has sentenced a Florida man, Christopher Chaney, to 10 years in prison for hacking into the email accounts of 50 entertainment industry celebrities. Chaney, 36, stole everything from nude photos — one of movie star Scarlett Johansson was distributed online — as well as private conversations, movie scripts, and other private material. Actress Mila Kunis and singer Christina Aguilera were among his other victims. Chaney, who was caught in the FBI's "Operation Hackerazzi," apologized and said he had become addicted to peeking into the private lives of big-screen stars. "I didn't know how to stop doing it," he said. [CNN]

 

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