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10 things you need to know today: January 16, 2013
Obama prepares to unveil his gun-control plan, the House approves Sandy aid, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
A home destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in the Belle Harbor neighborhood of the Rockaways, Queens.

A home destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in the Belle Harbor neighborhood of the Rockaways, Queens.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

1. OBAMA TO ANNOUNCE PROPOSAL TO CURB GUN VIOLENCE
President Obama is expected on Wednesday to announce his plan to reduce gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., in December. He's expected to propose a new federal ban on assault rifles and on high-capacity magazines, which police say were used in several recent mass shootings, including the one in Newtown. Obama also may call for expanded background checks on gun buyers. The moves are coming as several states consider beefing up their own gun laws — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made his state the first to act in response to Sandy Hook, when he signed a broad package of new gun-control measures on Tuesday. Gun-rights advocates say the new proposals trample the Second Amendment and wouldn't have prevented the Newtown killings — police say Adam Lanza used a rifle that was legally purchased under Connecticut's assault-rifle ban. [New York Times]
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2. U.S. CONSIDERS AIDING FRANCE IN MALI INTERVENTION
The Obama administration is weighing its options to provide more help to France in the effort to stop al-Qaeda-linked rebels who have taken over northern Mali. The Pentagon is already giving French forces intelligence, some gathered by U.S. surveillance drones. U.S. officials say they might also send transport or refueling planes, although they say sending troops is out of the question. The issue of how to aid the French intervention is sticky, legally. U.S. law prohibits direct military aid to Mali because the government, which requested outside help stopping a rebel advance, came to power in a coup just last March. [Washington Post]
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3. HOUSE APPROVES SANDY AID
After a widely criticized delay, the House late Tuesday approved a $50 billion relief bill for victims of Hurricane Sandy 78 days after the superstorm hammered the Northeast. The vote came after several hours of heated debate, in which a group of Republicans tried but failed to trim down the bill and offset it with spending cuts, saying Congress needed to start coming up with ways to cover disaster spending that inevitably pops up every year. The bill, which now goes to more hospitable territory in the Senate early next week, passed 241-180, with 179 Republicans voting against it and 49 voting for it. "People are hurting," Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said. "The suffering and damage are real and their needs are great." [The Hill]
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4. BILL WOULD MODIFY COMPUTER SECURITY LAWS TO HONOR SWARTZ
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) has introduced a bill that would modify a tough computer hacking law in honor of Reddit co-creator Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide last week as he faced up to 35 years in prison for allegedly stealing hundreds of academic articles from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology archive. Lofgren said many people were "deeply troubled" to learn how the Justice Department went after Swartz so aggressively, and Swartz's relatives said the case pushed Swartz over the edge. "There's no way to reverse the tragedy of Aaron's death," Lofgren said, "but we can work to prevent a repeat of the abuses of power he experienced." [Huffington Post]
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5. JAPANESE AIRLINES GROUND DREAMLINERS
Japan's two leading airlines — Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways — grounded all of their Boeing 787 Dreamliners on Wednesday after one of the new passenger jets made an emergency landing. It was the latest in a series of mishaps on Dreamliners, including fuel leaks, a battery fire, wiring trouble, and other problems. In Wednesday's incident, an All Nippon pilot had to land after one instrument indicated a battery error and another warned of smoke. "I think you're nearing the tipping point where they need to regard this as a serious crisis," said analyst Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group in Fairfax, Va. [Reuters]
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6. HELICOPTER CRASH KILLS TWO IN CENTRAL LONDON
Two people were killed and nine others injured on Wednesday when a helicopter slammed into a construction crane in central London. "It was like an earthquake," a witness said. The crash occurred at the height of the morning rush hour in thick fog. The pilot, who was one of the people who died, appeared to have been the only person on board the helicopter. The other person killed "was in close proximity" to the spot where it hit, rescue workers said. Investigators said the incident appeared to have been an accident, not the result of terrorism. [CNN]
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7. BOMBERS ATTACK AFGHAN SPY AGENCY
Six suicide bombers launched a coordinated attack on Afghanistan's intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, in a heavily guarded area in Kabul that is home to government ministries and foreign embassies. The Wednesday morning attack began when one person detonated a large car bomb, killing two people and wounding 22 others. Then, guards shot and killed five other assailants strapped with explosives as they tried to enter the spy agency compound driving a minivan. [Reuters]
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8. EMERGENCY ROOM VISITS LINKED TO ENERGY DRINKS RISE
A new government survey says the number of Americans visiting emergency rooms after consuming energy drinks doubled from 2007 to 2011, as the high-caffeine drinks soared in popularity. The number of patients jumped from around 10,000 to more than 20,000 in that period; most of the people involved were teens or young adults. The report didn't list what symptoms the people had, but it said energy drinks are posing a "rising public health problem" that can cause insomnia, nervousness, headache, fast heartbeat, and seizures. [Associated Press]
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9. ARMSTRONG FACES PRESSURE TO ADMIT DOPING UNDER OATH
Lance Armstrong's reported confession to Oprah Winfrey that he used performance-boosting drugs will not be enough to get officials to lift his lifetime ban from the sport, anti-doping officials say. "He's got to follow a certain course," David Howman, director general of World Anti-Doping Agency, told The Associated Press. "That is not talking to a talk show host." Winfrey says she was "mesmerized" by Armstrong's frank talk about the charges, which he denied for a decade. The interview will air in two parts, on Thursday and Friday. World Anti-Doping Agency officials they won't reconsider the ban until they hear "a full confession under oath." [Associated Press]
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10. FACEBOOK LAUNCHES NEW TYPE OF SEARCH
Facebook is unveiling a new smart search engine it calls graph search to make it easier for users of the social network to find material that truly interests them. The feature lets people search content shared by friends using "natural" searches, with terms such as "friends who like Star Wars and Harry Potter." Founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook wasn't trying to lure people away from Google, as the tool isn't intended to be used to do broad web searches. "But in the event you can't find what you're looking for," Zuckerberg said, "it's really nice to have this." [BBC]

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