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10 things you need to know today: December 29, 2012
America barrels toward the fiscal cliff, Indian gang-rape suspects face murder charges, and more in our roundup of stories that are making news and driving opinion
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) speaks during a press conference on the fiscal cliff on Dec. 28. 
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) speaks during a press conference on the fiscal cliff on Dec. 28.  Drew Angerer/Getty Images

1. LAWMAKERS MEET IN LAST-DITCH EFFORT TO AVOID FISCAL CLIFF
Officials gathered Friday afternoon for a "make-or-break" White House meeting on the fiscal cliff crisis. Aides said both sides were exploring a scaled-back version of the original proposal that would prevent tax increases in households making $400,000 or less. The compromise would not stop automatic spending cuts from hitting military and domestic programs beginning in January, but aides assured reporters that those issues would be dealt with in early 2013. After the meeting, Obama told reporters at the White House that he was "modestly optimistic" that lawmakers would reach an agreement — though time is running short. "The hour for immediate action is here," the president said. "It is now." [Los Angeles TimesNew York Times]

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2. INDIAN GANG-RAPE SUSPECTS FACE MURDER CHARGES
A 23-year-old student who was brutally gang raped in New Delhi more than a week ago has died at a hospital in Singapore. Local media outlets report that her assailants beat her and inserted an iron rod into her body, severely damaging her organs. On Thursday, she was flown to a hospital in Singapore that specializes in organ transplants. Demonstrators in India have demanded stronger protections for women and harsher punishments for rapists. Hours after the woman's death, Indian police charged six men with murder. They face the death penalty if convicted. [Associated Press, CBS]

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3. SHIPPING COMPANIES STRIKE DEAL WITH LONGSHOREMEN'S UNION
The East Coast longshoremen's union has agreed to drop its threat of a coastwide strike, which was originally slated to begin on Sunday. The strike, which would have been carried out by the union's 14,500 dockworkers based in 14 cities stretching from Boston to Houston, stems from a dispute between companies and workers over container royalty payments, which are currently shared with workers for each ton of cargo handled. Though the new agreement is only for a 30-day extension of existing contracts, the federal mediator handling the dispute has expressed cautious optimism that the differences can be resolved before next month's deadline. [New York Times]
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4. NYC HOSPITAL CLOSED BY SANDY PARTIALLY REOPENS
New York's NYU Langone Hospital, which was evacuated and closed due to extensive damage caused by superstorm Sandy, has partially reopened 59 days after its initial closure. The hospital was battered by the storm, with a flooded emergency room and the destruction of expensive diagnostic equipment resulting in an estimated $1 billion in damage. Roughly 55 surgeries were scheduled for the hospital's first day back in action, down from a normal day of 150, but surgery department chair Dr. Lee Pachter says he believes the hospital will soon be back to normal operation. [Wall Street Journal]
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5. NHL MAKES NEW OFFER TO PLAYER'S UNION
As fans continue to lament a dispute between the National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Association that has led to the cancelation of more than half of the 2012-2013 hockey season, the NHL has made a new proposal intended to resolve the dispute. A source reports that the new offer includes more favorable terms for player contracts, salary variance, and buyouts, which have been major sources of contention between the NHL and its players. If the Players' Association accepts the offer, the NHL season could resume as early as January. [ESPN]
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6. ANOTHER NY MAN KILLED AFTER BEING PUSHED ONTO SUBWAY TRACKS 
Late Thursday night, an unidentified man was killed in Queens when a woman reportedly pushed him in front of a moving train when he wasn't looking. Police are still searching for the suspect, who fled from the 40th Street and Queens Boulevard station wearing a blue, white, and gray ski jacket and gray-and-red Nike sneakers. Witnesses say she was pacing the platform and talking to herself before she crept up behind the unsuspecting man who had his back to her. The incident marks the second subway-pushing death this month. [ABC News]
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7. UTAH TEACHERS RECEIVE FREE GUN LESSONS
After the Dec. 14 shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn., that claimed 27 lives, defense instructors in Utah, who are being sponsored by the state's leading gun lobby, are giving elementary school teachers free gun-training sessions to defend their students in the event of an attack. Utah is among a few states that let people carry licensed concealed weapons into public schools without exception. The move comes after the National Rifle Association proposed a controversial plan to place armed officers at each of the nation's schools. [Associated Press]
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8. INSTAGRAM DENIES LOSING USERS
A report from the New York Post Friday said the popular photo-sharing service lost 25 percent of its users on Christmas day, apparently due to a recent public kerfuffle over its terms of service. Instagram has since said the data is inaccurate, and the service is experiencing "strong and steady growth in both registered and active users." [TechCrunch]
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9. SILVIO BERLUSCONI REACHES DIVORCE SETTLEMENT
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been ordered to pay nearly $50 million per year to ex-wife Veronica Lario. Berlusconi, who served three terms as prime minister and recently said he plans to run for office again in 2013, had reportedly offered Lario a $5 million per year settlement, while she was reportedly seeking $56 million per year. The 76-year-old Burlusconi is currently dating a woman nearly 50 years his junior. [USA Today]
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10. SONY STOPS SHIPPING PLAYSTATION 2 CONSOLES
After 12 years on the market, Sony has announced that it will no longer ship its Playstation 2 video game consoles. Shipments in Japan have already reportedly stopped, and once the current inventory runs out no new PS2s will be available for purchase. Though Sony followed the Playstation 2 with the release of the Playstation 3 in 2006, the older console continued to be a reliable seller for the company for years, selling over 150 million units since its original March 2000 release. [Ars Technica]

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