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10 things you need to know today: December 19, 2012
The NRA responds to Sandy Hook, a Benghazi report blames systemic failure, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi aflame during the attack on Sept. 11 that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others dead.
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi aflame during the attack on Sept. 11 that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others dead. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori

1. OBAMA TO PUSH FOR GUN-POLICY CHANGES
As the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook school shootings continue to lay their slain relatives to rest, President Obama has announced that he will launch an administration-wide effort to curb gun violence, following the massacre at the Connecticut elementary school that left 20 first-graders and six school employees dead. Obama is tasking Vice President Joe Biden, a longtime gun-control advocate, with spearheading the effort. In remarks from the White House on Wednesday, Obama will outline a process for pursuing policy changes, though he is not expected to call for specific measures. [Associated Press]
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2. REPORT BLAMES BENGHAZI ATTACK ON SYSTEMIC FAILURES
According to an independent review by the Accountability Review Board for Benghazi, the inadequate security situation at the time of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya was due to "systemic failures" and "management deficits" by top U.S. officials. The attack left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. The board also found that despite lapses in judgment, no American official was guilty of neglect or dereliction of duty, and that blame for the attack rests "solely and completely with the terrorists." The report laid out 29 recommendations to improve security for State Department personnel around the world, and said that State should have been better prepared to handle such an assault. [Politico]
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3. NRA ISSUES FIRST STATEMENT AFTER NEWTOWN SHOOTINGS
The National Rifle Association, the influential lobbying group that is a driving force behind America's lax gun laws, on Tuesday released its first statement since the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., which left 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the gunman and his mother, dead. "We were shocked, saddened, and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown," the statement read. "The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again." The group also announced that it would hold a major news conference on Dec. 21. [The Week]
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4. BOEHNER SWITCHES GEARS IN FISCAL-CLIFF TALKS
A day after President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) appeared to make substantial progress toward resolving looming budget problems, Boehner shifted to what he called Plan B, calling on the House to vote on a measure that would prevent taxes from increasing — except for Americans making more than $1 million. The proposal drew opposition from the White House and Senate Democrats as well as from some House conservatives. The speaker insisted that he was not cutting off talks with the president, but his latest move seemed to sidestep what some see as Obama's substantial concession that he would accept an agreement raising taxes on household income above $400,000, rather than the $250,000 threshold he had previously insisted on. [Los Angeles Times]
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5. U.N. SUSPENDS IMMUNIZATION WORK IN PAKISTAN AFTER KILLINGS
The U.N. has halted all polio-related field activities in Pakistan after two days of violence against workers attempting to immunize children. On Wednesday, two people were killed and another was wounded in Peshawar. On Tuesday, four female health workers were killed in Karachi. The World Health Organization and UNICEF ordered their staff members off the streets in response to the latest shootings, although some provincial governments continued to immunize children. The Pakistani Taliban has denied perpetrating the murders, though it has a history of threatening polio-eradication programs. Pakistan is one of three countries — along with Nigeria and Afghanistan — where polio remains endemic. [New York Times]
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6. UBS TO PAY $1.5 BILLION OVER RATE-RIGGING SCANDAL
Switzerland's largest bank, UBS, will pay $1.5 billion in fines following an investigation into the rigging of the benchmark LIBOR interest rate. UBS now becomes the second bank, after Britain's Barclays, to settle over the rate-rigging scandal. The fine, which will be paid to authorities in the U.S., Britain, and Switzerland, also comes just over a week after HSBC agreed to pay nearly $2 billion for alleged money laundering. As a result of the fines and litigation, UBS said it expects to report a fourth quarter net loss of between $2.2 billion and $2.7 billion. [Associated Press]
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7. SOUTH KOREA VOTES IN TIGHT PRESIDENTIAL RACE
An exit poll by three main South Korean television stations gives ruling Saenuri Party candidate Park Geun-hye a slim lead in the country's tight presidential race. Combined figures from the networks gave Park 50.1 percent of the vote over left-leaning rival Moon Jae-in's 48.9 percent. Park, the daughter of former military leader Park Chung-hee, would make history as South Korea's first female president. Formal results are expected late Wednesday or early Thursday. [BBC
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8. NBC'S RICHARD ENGEL RECOUNTS HIS CAPTIVITY IN SYRIA
After being freed from five days of captivity in Syria on Monday, NBC correspondent Richard Engel recounted his experience on the Today show, saying that his captors were part of a government militia known as Shabiha, which is loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He described them as Shiite Muslims trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and allied with Hezbollah. The kidnappers told Engel and his crew that they wanted to exchange them for four Iranian agents and two Lebanese Shabiha members who had been captured by the rebels. That plan was thwarted when the kidnappers unwittingly drove into a rebel checkpoint while trying to move the captives to a new location. In the ensuing gunfight, two of the group's captors were killed, and the captives were eventually freed. [Washington Post]
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9. PAULA BROADWELL WON'T FACE CYBERSTALKING CHARGES  
The federal government notified lawyers of Paula Broadwell, the mistress of former CIA director David Petraeus, that she will not be charged with cyberstalking in connection to the sex scandal that led to Petraeus' resignation on Nov. 9. The affair between Petraeus and Broadwell, the retired four-star general's official biographer, was uncovered after Tampa socialiate Jill Kelley filed a complaint with an FBI agent about harassing emails she had received from Broadwell. In its investigation, the FBI found evidence of Broadwell's affair with Petraeus. [NBC News
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10. INSTAGRAM BACKTRACKS ON NEW POLICY
After a public outcry and a widespread user campaign to delete Instagram accounts, the CEO of the photo-sharing service said Tuesday that it would revise its new policy to remove terms that would have allowed Instagram to sell users' photos or use them in advertisements. "Since making these changes, we've heard loud and clear that many users are confused and upset about what the changes mean," CEO Kevin Systrom wrote in a blog post. No other service similar to Instagram appears to have had a policy as broad as the company's now-abandoned language, which claimed the perpetual right to license users' photos to companies or any other organization. [CNET]

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