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10 things you need to know today: January 18, 2013
Lance Armstrong admits doping to Oprah, Biden urges mayors to back gun-control, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
Vice President Biden told U.S. mayors "we have an obligation to respond intelligently" after the Sandy Hook tragedy.
Vice President Biden told U.S. mayors "we have an obligation to respond intelligently" after the Sandy Hook tragedy. Alex Wong/Getty Images

1. ARMSTRONG ADMITS DOPING TO OPRAH
After years of vehement denials, Lance Armstrong admitted to Oprah Winfrey that he used performance-enhancing drugs in all of his record seven Tour de France wins. In the first segment of a two-part interview, aired Thursday, the disgraced former cycling champion said he had been "arrogant" and a "bully," ordering teammates to follow his lead as he used EPO, blood doping, transfusions, testosterone, and human growth hormone in various combinations to boost his strength and endurance during his Tour streak, from 1999 to 2005. At the time, Armstrong said, he viewed it as "part of the job," not cheating, because he believed all of his rivals were doing the same thing. "I viewed it as a level playing field," he said. Armstrong, however, refuted allegations that he doped during a brief comeback, in which he placed third in the 2009 Tour. [Washington Post]
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2. ALGERIAN HOSTAGE CRISIS CONTINUES
The British government said Friday that an assault by the Algerian military hadn't ended the hostage crisis at a remote desert gas-pumping facility, as the fate of some of the dozens of Western hostages remained unknown. The hostages include Americans, Britons, and people from other nations, but Algeria didn't consult any foreign governments before it launched a raid that reportedly freed some of the captives, but left others dead alongside some of the Islamist attackers, who were believed to be members of a group affiliated with al Qaeda. Conflicting reports have put the foreign casualties between four and 35, although one Algerian official said the most grim reports were "exaggerated." [New York Times]
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3. BIDEN URGES MAYORS TO BACK GUN-CONTROL PUSH
Vice President Joe Biden urged a gathering of nearly 300 of the country's mayors to rally behind President Obama's gun-control proposals on Thursday. Biden, speaking at the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., said that gun violence had become so common it was "coarsening" society and "defining deviancy down." Biden said last month's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., had convinced an unprecedented number of Americans the time had come for broad measures to reduce gun violence. "The image of first-graders not just shot but riddled with bullets..." Biden said, "we have an obligation to respond intelligently to that crisis." Some big city mayors, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (D), who is president of the mayors' conference, have both been vocal proponents of tighter restrictions on firearms. [The Hill]
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4. SOUTH HIT WITH SNOW
A winter storm blanketed much of the Southeast with snow late Thursday and early Friday. The storm wasn't as bad as feared, although it was blamed for at least one death. Some areas — such as southwest Virginia — got more than a foot of snow, and the state police were barraged with 760 calls reporting crashes and disabled vehicles in the regions first significant storm of the season. Some government offices, schools, and businesses as far south as Alabama planned to open late on Friday because of the threat of icy roads. [Associated Press]
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5. DEAR ABBY ADVICE COLUMNIST PAULINE PHILLIPS DIES
Pauline Phillips — the original Dear Abby advice columnist — has died after a long battle with Alzheimer's Disease, her family said Thursday. She was 94. Phillips' pithy suggestions about marriage, children, and work, written under the pen name Abigail Van Buren, made her an American institution. Her first column appeared in 1956, and she kept at it until 2000, when she began sharing the byline with her daughter Jeanne, who took over full time in 2002, due to her mother's illness. "My mother leaves very big high heels to fill," she said, "with a legacy of compassion, commitment and positive social change." [CNN]
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6. IRAN NUCLEAR TALKS END WITH NO DEAL
United Nations nuclear inspectors returned Friday from two days of talks in Iran without a deal to allow inspections of the country's key nuclear sites. Officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency have been trying for a year to gain access to a military facility where Iran is suspected of conducting atomic bomb research. Tehran has long insisted that it only wants nuclear technology for peaceful purposes such as electrical power and medical research. Another round of talks is scheduled for Feb. 12. [Reuters]
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7. MALIAN ARMY RETAKES KEY TOWN
As reinforcements arrived in Mali, the West African nation's army recaptured the strategically important town of Konna on Thursday, forcing Islamist rebels to flee. France has increased its troop strength by several hundred to 1,400, after starting its intervention last week with air strikes aiming to halt an offensive toward the capital, Bamako, by al-Qaeda-linked groups. About 100 troops from Nigeria and Togo arrived on Thursday, the first part of a force from countries in the region intended to help halt the advance of the insurgents, who took control of northern Mali last year. [BBC]
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8. LOTTERY WINNER'S BODY EXHUMED
The body of Urooj Khan, a Chicago man who died in July a day after receiving a $425,000 lottery check, is being exhumed on Friday, so that medical examiners can determine whether he was poisoned. Khan's death was originally attributed to natural causes, but a relative asked the Cook County Medical Examiner to take another look. The medical examiner then found lethal levels of cyanide in Khan's body. "We are confident he was a healthy person and cannot die like that," Khan's brother, ImTiaz Khan, said. "We are just praying to God that justice will be serviced, and whoever did this will be punished." Khan's autopsy is expected to take two hours, but the report could take three weeks. [NBC Chicago]
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9. BOLSHOI BALLET LEADER TARGETED IN ACID ATTACK
An unidentified assailant threw acid into the face of Sergei Filin, the artistic director of Russia's Bolshoi Theater, late Thursday. Filin, described as an "uncompromising" perfectionist by a colleague, was taken to a Moscow hospital, where doctors say they are fighting to save his eyesight. Filin, 42, reportedly had been dragged into infighting between groups of Bolshoi dancers. A Bolshoi spokesman said he had faced threats for months. The Bolshoi has been engulfed in turmoil in recent years — two star dancers quit in 2011 to protest changes to the Bolshoi's repertoire; the head of the troupe resigned after erotic pictures, purportedly of him, appeared online; and a celebrated dancer publicly criticized Filin in 2012. [BBC]
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10. TOYOTA SETTLES SUIT OVER UTAH DEATHS
Toyota has settled a lawsuit filed by the family of Paul Van Alfen and Charlene Jones Lloyd, who were killed in Utah in 2010 when their Toyota Camry suddenly accelerated and slammed into a wall. Investigators said skid marks indicated that Van Alfen, who was driving, had tried to stop the vehicle. The case had been scheduled to go to court next month and serve as a test case for hundreds of other pending cases involving wrongful death claims. Last month, Toyota agreed to a settlement worth more than $1 billion to end claims of economic losses filed when the Japanese automaker recalled millions of vehicles due to sudden acceleration problems. [Associated Press]

 

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