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10 things you need to know today: January 3, 2013
A new Congress takes over on Capitol Hill, Hillary Clinton leaves the hospital, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participates in a press conference on Nov. 14 in Perth, Australia.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participates in a press conference on Nov. 14 in Perth, Australia. Getty Images

1. NEW CONGRESS TAKES OVER WITH DIVISIVE ISSUES LOOMING
A new Congress officially takes office on Thursday, resuming bitter debates left pending by the widely criticized, outgoing 112th Congress. One of the first matters the House will tackle is a massive aid package for Superstorm Sandy victims. Elected officials from New York and New Jersey slammed House Speaker John Boehner for scrapping a vote to approve the $60 billion measure Tuesday following the vote on the deal averting the fiscal cliff. Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey blamed the delay on "the toxic internal politics of the House majority." Boehner, after meeting with members of the New York and New Jersey delegations, said he would schedule a vote Friday to clear $9 billion for the national flood insurance program, with approval of the remaining $51 billion in aid coming on Jan. 15. [CNN]
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2. HILLARY CLINTON RELEASED FROM HOSPITAL
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was discharged from a New York hospital late Wednesday after being treated for a blood clot in her head. Clinton, 65, was admitted to New York-Presbyterian/Columbia hospital on Sunday after doctors discovered the problem in a scan performed to check for problems stemming from a concussion she suffered in mid-December, when she fainted, fell, and struck her head. The clot was blocking a vein that drains blood from the brain and, if left untreated, could have led to brain hemorrhages or strokes. Doctors said, however, that Clinton responded well to treatment with blood thinners, and they expect her to make a full recovery. The illness cut short Clinton's final weeks at the State Department, as she prepares to leave when President Obama's second term begins later this month. [New York Times]
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3. OBAMA SIGNS FISCAL-CLIFF DEAL
President Obama signed a compromise bill averting the fiscal cliff on Wednesday, a day after a divided House approved the legislation. Obama returned to Hawaii, where his family is vacationing, after the House vote, and finalized the deal with the stroke of an autopen. The agreement postponed deep spending cuts and staved off painful tax hikes for most Americans, by making permanent Bush-era breaks for individuals making less than $400,000 a year. Economists had warned that if the austerity measures, which were scheduled to begin taking effect Jan. 1, had hit all at once, the economy would have been thrust into another recession. [CNN]
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4. DRONE STRIKE KILLS TALIBAN COMMANDER
A missile fired from a U.S. drone has killed a key Taliban commander, Maulvi Nazir Wazir, in northwest Pakistan, intelligence sources and tribal leaders said Thursday. Wazir's deputy and eight others were also reportedly killed in the strike, which hit a mud house in the Islamist militant stronghold of South Waziristan, near the Afghan border. The deaths could make life harder for Pakistan's military. Wazir, who survived a November bomb attack that has been blamed on Taliban rivals, wanted his fighters to attack U.S. troops in Afghanistan, while other Taliban leaders have focused on launching attacks against army forces in Pakistan. [Reuters]
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5. GANG-RAPE SUSPECTS FACE CHARGES IN INDIA
Advocates of women's rights continued a string of protests in India on Thursday, as police in New Delhi prepared to file sexual assault and murder charges in a new fast-track court against five men accused of brutally gang-raping a 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a bus on Dec. 16. The woman — who, along with a male companion, was assaulted with metal bars — later died. The case has sparked widespread outrage in India and abroad, prompting calls for tougher rape laws and launching an unprecedented debate about how women are treated in Indian society. The victim's father said the attackers should be hanged. [Guardian]
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6. U.N. RAISES ESTIMATED SYRIA DEATH TOLL
The United Nations raised its estimate of the death toll in Syria's pro-democracy uprising and civil war to more than 60,000, a five-figure increase. U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said researchers arrived at the total by cross-referencing seven sources over five months. They found that 59,648 people had been listed as killed in the country between March 15, 2011, and November 30, 2012, and hundreds, if not thousands, more have died since then. "The number of casualties is much higher than we expected and is truly shocking," Pillay said. [Reuters]
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7. NEW RULE EASES PATH TO RESIDENCY FOR CITIZENS' RELATIVES
The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday issued a rule giving illegal immigrants who are immediate relatives of American citizens an easier path to permanent residency. Starting March 4, illegal immigrants who can show that they'll face "extreme hardship" if they have to spend time apart from an American spouse, child, or parent will be able to apply for a visa without leaving the U.S. The new rule aims to reduce the time illegal immigrants are separated from their families while they try to get legal papers in order. The change could affect 1 million of the estimated 11 million people in the U.S. who entered illegally. With the fiscal-cliff fight over, President Obama says he'll begin pushing for immigration reform in January. [Los Angeles Times]
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8. CRITICS CHALLENGE ENERGY DRINK CLAIM
A watchdog group on Wednesday disputed a boast on the label of a top-selling energy "shot," 5-Hour Energy, that claims the highly caffeinated drink provides a jolt of energy but "no crash" after the effects wear off. The National Advertising Division said it had urged the beverage maker, Living Essentials, to stop making the assertion five years ago, because research suggested many consumers suffered a "moderately severe" crash hours after drinking 5-Hour Energy. Living Essentials said it addressed the issue by adding an asterisk to its labels, noting that "no crash means no sugar crash." The dispute comes as the energy drink industry faces investigations into whether the high-caffeine beverages are linked to health problems, and even deaths, in rare cases. [New York Times]
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9. MYANMAR ADMITS ESCALATION IN FIGHT WITH REBELS
The government in Myanmar, also known as Burma, said Thursday that its military had used jets to bomb rebels in northern Kachin state. Rebels have reported that they have been facing aerial bombardments, shelling, and chemical-weapon attacks since Dec. 28. The government's announcement of the use of bomber jets was its first formal admission that the conflict, which has displaced more than 50,000 people and fueled questions about the government's promises of reform, had intensified at the end of 2012. [Reuters]
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10. PUTIN OFFERS FRENCH ACTOR TAX EXILE
Russian President Vladimir Putin waded into the tax dispute between Gerard Depardieu and the French government on Thursday by granting the actor Russian citizenship. Depardieu, saying the French government was punishing "success, creation, and talent," last year bought a house in neighboring Belgium and threatened to hand in his French passport to protest President Francois Hollande's proposed super-tax on millionaires, which would raise the tax on earned income above $1.33 million to 75 percent from the current 41 percent. Depardieu, whom French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called "pathetic," has not said whether he would accept Putin's offer. [Associated Press]

 

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