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10 things you need to know today: December 22, 2012
The NRA holds a controversial press event, the pope denounces gay marriage, and more in our roundup of stories that are making news and driving opinion
In his annual Christmas address, Pope Benedict XVI denounced what he described as people manipulating their God-given identities to suit their sexual choices.
In his annual Christmas address, Pope Benedict XVI denounced what he described as people manipulating their God-given identities to suit their sexual choices. REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino

1. NRA: ALL SCHOOLS SHOULD HAVE ARMED OFFICERS
The National Rifle Association held a rare press event on Friday afternoon, offering its first public comments since last week's horrifying school shootings in Newtown, Conn., which claimed the lives of 26 victims, including 20 young children. The conference prompted a strong outcry — two protesters were removed from the event — when NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre declared that all schools should employ armed officers in order to prevent another massacre. LaPierre went on to denounce the "shadow industry" of violent videogames and movies, and to recommend creating a nationally instituted database for the mentally ill. "The only thing that could stop a bad guy with a gun," said LaPierre, "is a good guy with a gun." [The Week]
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2. OBAMA NOMINATES JOHN KERRY FOR SECRETARY OF STATE
President Obama tapped Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state on Friday afternoon. Kerry's appointment has been expected since last week, when U.N. ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration after enduring relentless Republican criticism over her inaccurate comments about a terror attack in Benghazi. "I think it is fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry, and this makes him a perfect choice to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead," Obama said. [CNN]
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3. EGYPT'S CONSTITUTION EXPECTED TO PASS
Egyptians headed to the polls on Saturday for the second and final round of voting in the country's constitutional referendum, which is widely expected to succeed. The secular-leaning opposition sees the proposed constitution as weakening human rights and opening the way to sharia-style strict Islamic laws under President Mohamed Morsi, and complained Saturday of alleged voting irregularities. Islamist supporters of President Morsi say the constitution is critical to moving Egypt from Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship to a new democracy. [Reuters]

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4. OBAMA: WE CAN STILL AVOID THE FISCAL CLIFF
In the wake of House Speaker John Boehner's failure to get Republicans to agree to Boehner's fiscal cliff "Plan B," President Obama made a statement from the White House early Friday evening, insisting that he is still "ready and willing" to agree to a package of tax hikes and spending cuts that would avoid a more aggressive slate set to automatically take effect at year's end. Obama urged Republicans to at least agree to a deal that would protect middle-class Americans from a tax increase. "Now is not the time for more self-inflicted wounds," he said, "certainly not coming from Washington." [Huffington Post]

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5. JOBLESS RATE FALLS ACROSS U.S.
The unemployment rate dropped in 45 states and Washington, D.C., in November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. The rate remained the same in the other five states. The news was not a big surprise, as it reflected a decline in nationwide decline in unemployment last month, to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent the month before. The change came despite concerns over the looming fiscal cliff, and Hurricane Sandy, which caused a temporary halt in hiring in some industries on the Mid-Atlantic coast. The falling unemployment rate is not a sign the economy is gaining much steam, economists warned, as some of the improvement came from people dropping out of the work force, not the creation of new jobs. [USA Today]
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6. POPE BENEDICT DENOUNCES GAY MARRIAGE
Pope Benedict XVI, in his annual Christmas address, pushed his opposition to same-sex marriage on Friday, denouncing what he called people manipulating their God-given identities to suit their sexual choices. He dedicated his speech, one of his most important of the year, to traditional family values in the face of campaigns to legalize same-sex marriage in the U.S., Britain, and France. "The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man's fundamental choice where he himself is concerned," the Pope said. [Associated Press]
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7. GANG-RAPE OF INDIAN WOMAN SPARKS MASS PROTESTS
Thousands of people took to the streets in New Delhi on Friday to protest the gang-rape and beating of a 23-year-old woman. The woman is battling for her life in a hospital after she was gang-raped for an hour and then thrown from a moving bus in the city last Sunday. Five suspects have been arrested. Sexual violence against women often goes unremarked on and unreported in India, but the demonstrators on Friday blockaded roads in New Delhi and marched to the president's palace, breaking through police barricades despite water-canon fire, to demand the culprits' execution. New Delhi, home to about 16 million people, has the highest number of sex crimes among India's mega cities. [Reuters]
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8. GABBY DOUGLAS NAMED AP FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Gabby Douglas, the first African-American woman to win the gymnastics all-around Olympic title, was named the Associated Press' female athlete of the year. The bubbly 16-year-old is the fourth gymnast to win one of the AP's annual awards. [USA Today]
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9. INDIANAPOLIS PROSECUTOR CHARGES THREE WITH MURDER IN HOUSE EXPLOSION
A prosecutor in Indianapolis charged homeowner Monserrate Shirley, her boyfriend, and his brother with murder for allegedly setting off a massive explosion that killed a couple that lived next door to Shirley and destroyed an entire neighborhood. Shirley's attorney has said she and her boyfriend were away at a southern Indiana casino on Nov. 10 when the explosion happened. Authorities say Shirley and her boyfriend intentionally caused the explosion using natural gas and setting a microwave to go off on a timer. The couple allegedly tried to do the same a week prior to the fatal explosion, also spending the night at a casino, boarding their cat, and leaving their daughter with a sitter. [Chicago Tribune]
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10. PSY'S "GANGNAM STYLE" HITS 1 BILLION VIEWS
South Korean rapper Psy's horse-dance video "Gangnam Style" has become the first video to ever reach 1 billion views on YouTube. The clip, which the K-pop star posted in June, rakes in seven million views a day on average, according to Google, which owns YouTube. [Entertainment Weekly]

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