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10 things you need to know today: December 26, 2012
A winter storm hits the U.S., Morsi signs Egypt's new constitution, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
Motorists travel slowly on a snow-covered Interstate 24 during a winter storm Dec. 26, in Paducah, Ky.
Motorists travel slowly on a snow-covered Interstate 24 during a winter storm Dec. 26, in Paducah, Ky. AP Photo/Stephen Lance Dennee

1. MORSI SIGNS EGYPT'S CONSTITUTION, SENATE CONVENES
Egypt's Senate convened for the first time Wednesday since President Mohamed Morsi signed a decree late Tuesday putting the country's new Islamist-backed constitution into effect. The chamber met to swear in 90 new members appointed by Morsi, and it's expected to begin the framework for elections in the lower house of parliament within the next two months. Morsi signed the decree after the election commission confirmed that almost 64 percent of voters had backed the constitution. Liberal and secular voters, however, have vowed to continue their protests against the constitution, which they say was drafted in a rush, mostly by Islamists, ignoring their interests, and, some say, ignoring the rights of women. [Voice of America]
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2. NEW YORK FIREFIGHTER-SHOOTER LEFT CHILLING NOTE
William Spengler, the ex-con who reportedly set fire to his house as a trap and then shot two firefighters dead and injured two others on Monday before fatally shooting himself, left a chilling typewritten note detailing his motives. The 62-year-old, who served more than 17 years in prison after being convicted of beating his 92-year-old grandmother to death with a hammer, said he wanted to do "what I like doing best, killing people." Police confirmed that the note clearly stated Spengler set the fire as a trap, and that he wanted to see "how much of the neighborhood I could burn down." [ABC News]
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3. SYRIA'S MILITARY POLICE CHIEF DEFECTS TO REBELS
Syrian military police chief Major General Abdelaziz Jassim al-Shalal has defected from the army and declared his allegiance to the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. Shalal made a statement about his defection on al-Arabiya TV late Tuesday. "The army has destroyed cities and villages and has committed massacres against an unarmed population that took to the streets to demand freedom," he said. "Long live free Syria." The defection came as a group of Syrian officials traveled to Moscow on Wednesday to discuss proposals for ending the conflict after U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi held talks with Assad and others in Damascus this week. Shalal's defection follows dozens of other defections by generals since fighting began nearly two years ago. In July, Brigadier General Manaf Tlass was the first member of Assad's inner circle to break ranks and join the opposition. [Guardian]
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4. WINTER STORM COULD BRING TORNADOES
The southern U.S. plains were treated to a rare white Christmas on Tuesday, as a major winter storm barreled from Kansas across the Texas Panhandle — bringing with it the threat of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. As the storm heads northeast on Wednesday, it's expected to bring blizzard conditions and 6 to 8 inches of snow to the upper Ohio River Valley as it moves through southern Missouri and Illinois. As of early Wednesday, snow and ice began covering roads in southern Illinois and southern Indiana. Officials have urged people to stay home if they can. [Reuters, CBS News]
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5. STARBUCKS CEO URGES WORKERS TO PRESSURE LAWMAKERS
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is urging workers in Washington D.C.'s 120 Starbucks locations to write "come together" on customers' cups on Thursday and Friday as President Obama and Congress return to work to revive fiscal-cliff negotiations that were dropped before the Christmas holiday. "We're paying attention; we're greatly disappointed in what's going on and we deserve better," Schultz said in an interview. The CEO said he has joined a growing list of high-powered business leaders, politicians, and financial experts in endorsing the Campaign to Fix the Debt, a well-funded nonpartisan group leaning on lawmakers to put the U.S.' finances in order, and avoid the tax hikes and spending cuts set to hit Jan. 1. [Chicago Tribune]
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6. IN CHRISTMAS ADDRESS, POPE CONDEMNS VIOLENCE IN SYRIA
In his traditional Christmas day Urbi et Orbi address, Pope Benedict XVI decried the slaughter of "defenseless" Syrians, encouraged reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, and called for peace around the world from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. "I appeal for an end to the bloodshed, easier access for relief of refugees and the displaced," he said of the Syrian crisis, going on to urge all to "find time and room for God in their fast-paced lives." [USA Today]
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7. YEN FALLS TO NEW LOW AS NEW PM TAKES OFFICE
The yen slumped to a 20-month low against the dollar on Wednesday, after Shinzo Abe assumed office as Japan's new prime minister, and reiterated his pledge to push for more drastic fiscal measures. Abe said his government will pursue bold monetary policy, a flexible fiscal strategy, and a growth plan to encourage private investment. His party won a landslide victory on Dec. 16, and he was elected prime minister by parliament's lower house on Wednesday. [Reuters]
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8. STUDY FINDS DECLINE IN OBESITY RATES AMONG KIDS FROM POOR FAMILIES
A new national study has found modest declines in obesity among 2- to 4-year-olds from poor families. Researchers say that dip may indicate that the obesity epidemic has passed its peak among this group. The study, by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, analyzed the height and weight measurements of 27 million children who were part of the federal Women, Infants and Children program, which provides food subsidies to low-income mothers and their children up to the age of 5. The new study was one of the first to document a national decline in obesity among young children from low-income families, a population that is disproportionately at risk for obesity. [New York Times]
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9. LES MISERABLES HITS THEATERS AMID OSCAR BUZZ
The film version of the world's longest-running musical hit theaters Christmas day to mostly favorable reviews and a hefty dose of Oscar buzz. Critics have praised director Tom Hooper's (The King's Speech) bold decision to have the actors sing all their vocals live, although "the intimacy can be uncomfortable at times." And even if the writers have "pared down Victor Hugo's great wallow of a novel" to astoundingly basic proportions, the show, which has been "audience-tested for decades, defiantly holds the screen." [MTV]
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10. BEN AFFLECK: I'M NOT RUNNING FOR SENATE
Despite rumors that the writer, director, and star of Argo was contemplating a run for John Kerry's (D-Mass.) Senate seat, Ben Affleck publicly announced on his Facebook page that a political career is not in the cards for him. "I love Massachusetts and our political process, but I am not running for office," he said. Speculation had initially arisen after Affleck spoke quite articulately about the Middle East and politics during his promotional tour for Argo and coyly avoided outright denying a run on Face the Nation with Bob Scheiffer. [New York Times]

 

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