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10 things you need to know today: December 20, 2012
The State Department gets a shake-up, South Korea elects its first female president, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
South Korean President-elect Park Geun-Hye celebrates her historic win on Dec. 19.
South Korean President-elect Park Geun-Hye celebrates her historic win on Dec. 19. Getty Images

1. INDEPENDENT BENGHAZI REPORT PROMPTS STATE DEPARTMENT SHAKE-UP
According to State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, four State officials have been disciplined in the wake of a report conducted by an independent group about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. One of the four, Eric Boswell, assistant secretary of diplomatic security, resigned, while three others have been placed on administrative leave and relieved of their duties. The independent review released on Wednesday cites "systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies" at the State Department. Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the Benghazi attack next month. [CNN]
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2. OUT-OF-STATE FUNERAL HOME MAY CLAIM NANCY LANZA'S BODY
Connecticut's chief medical examiner Dr. H. Wayne Carver says an out-of-state funeral home is making arrangements to bury the body of Nancy Lanza, whose son Adam allegedly shot and killed her on Dec. 14 before driving to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and killing 26 people there before committing suicide. No one had previously claimed Nancy's body. Carver says he doesn't know the name of the funeral home, but says police in New Hampshire are fielding questions from the media. Nancy Lanza once lived in New Hampshire and her brother is a retired police captain in Kingston, N.H. Carver wouldn't say whether Adam Lanza's body remains unclaimed. In Newtown, four more victims of the massacre were laid to rest Wednesday, including students Charlotte Helen Bacon, 6, Caroline Phoebe Previdi and Daniel Gerard Barden, both 7, and first-grade teacher Victoria Soto. [Associated Press, Hartford Courant]
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3. HOUSE GOP TO VOTE ON FISCAL CLIFF PLAN B
The GOP-controlled House will vote Thursday on a bill that would raise taxes on people earning more than $1 million a year, sparing most workers from a tax hike "but leaving in place painful budget cuts to the military and domestic agencies as fiscal cliff talks appear stalled." The plan, which House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed "Plan B," seems to be aimed at increasing pressure on President Obama and Congressional Democrats, but it likely will not fly in the Senate and the White House has threatened to veto. Obama dismissed the plan and urged Boehner to get back to fiscal-cliff talks, saying that are just a few hundred billion dollars apart on a 10-year, $2 trillion-plus deficit-cutting pact. [ABC News]
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4. WINTER WEATHER BATTERS MIDWEST AHEAD OF HOLIDAYS
A major Midwestern snowstorm brought blizzard warnings on Thursday and threatens to drop more than a foot of snow on parts of the Central Plains. The inclement weather could make travel very difficult as Americans begin to head home for the holidays. Blizzard or winter storm warnings have been issued for 16 states. And already at least 90 flights at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, where up to four inches of snow is expected, have been canceled. After leaving the Midwest, the storm is expected to move to the East Coast in the form of wind and rain. [NBC News]
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5. SOUTH KOREA'S FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT SEEKS UNITY
South Korea elected its first female president on Wednesday, choosing Park Geun-hye, daughter of the late military ruler Park Chung-hee, over the liberal candidate Moon Jae-in. On her first day as South Korea's president-elect, Park visited the graves of both her authoritarian father and his most famous opponent, as she seeks to win over her detractors following a fiercely contested campaign. "I will appoint people from all regions, genders and generations," she said on Thursday. "I will try to cut off the historical loop that has caused extreme divides and discord in the last half century." [Financial Times]
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6. CONTROVERSIAL CONSERVATIVE JURIST ROBERT BORK DIES
Robert Bork, an intellectual godfather of conservative jurisprudence in the modern era, died on Wednesday due to complications from heart disease. He was 85. Bork was revered in conservative circles for laying the groundwork for an originalist interpretation of the Constitution, but was criticized by liberals for his opposition to Roe v. Wade and the Civil Rights Act. Ronald Reagan nominated him to the Supreme Court in 1987, but his nomination was defeated 58-42 — a lingering source of bitterness for conservatives. [The Week]
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7. U.S. TREASURY PLANS TO SELL GM STAKE
The Treasury Department has announced that it would sell its remaining stake in General Motors within 15 months, the latest move by the government to extract itself from the private sector after a series of billion-dollar bailouts in 2008 and 2009. Last week, the Treasury announced that it had sold its final shares of the insurance giant AIG. Overall, the government invested $49.5 billion in GM, which kept the company afloat during bankruptcy and saved an estimated 1 million jobs. [New York Times]
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8. CHILD ONLINE PRIVACY LAW EXPANDED TO INCLUDE APPS, SOCIAL MEDIA
The Federal Trade Commission has broadened the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 to cover new areas like smartphones. The commission also expanded the types of information it considers personal under the law. Kids' apps and websites will now have to obtain parental consent before gathering photos, videos or geographic location, and before tracking kids' online behavior and passing along the data to other companies. But the FTC exempted app stores like those operated by Apple and Google from responsibility for privacy violations by games and other software sold there. The new rules go into effect July 1. [Wall Street Journal]
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9. CDC: MENINGITIS OUTBREAK COULD HAVE BEEN MUCH WORSE
The meningitis outbreak that has sickened 620 people in 19 states, and killed 39 of them, could have been much worse, say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Previous fungal outbreaks that were actually much smaller killed as many as 40 to 50 percent of those infected. Instead, the overall death rate linked to tainted steroid injections from a Massachusetts pharmacy has been about 6 percent. The CDC credits quick response by federal and state public health agencies, hospitals, and doctors. [Reuters
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10. MISS USA IS CROWNED MISS UNIVERSE
Olivia Culpo, a 20-year-old Miss USA from Rhode Island was crowned Miss Universe on Wednesday night, replacing outgoing Miss Universe Leila Lopes of Angola. The Boston University sophomore's coronation ends a long losing spell for the U.S. in the competition co-owned by Donald Trump and NBC. An American had not claimed the Miss Universe title since Brook Lee won in 1997. [Associated Press]

 

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