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10 things you need to know today: January 30, 2013
Kerry sails to confirmation, South Korea sends a satellite into orbit, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
South Korea's Naro rocket lifts off from the launch pad at Goheung Space Center on Jan. 30.
South Korea's Naro rocket lifts off from the launch pad at Goheung Space Center on Jan. 30. Korea Aerospace Research Institute via Getty Images

1. JOHN KERRY CONFIRMED WITHOUT A FIGHT
As expected, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) easily won confirmation Tuesday as President Obama's next secretary of state. The vote among his colleagues in the Senate, where he has served for 28 years, was nearly unanimous, with just three Republicans opposed. Earlier in the day, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Kerry chaired, approved his nomination in a unanimous voice vote. Kerry said in his Senate hearing that there was no "daylight" between his governing philosophy and that of outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said the Massachusetts senator and former Democratic presidential nominee was the "right choice" to replace her. Kerry could be sworn in as early as Friday. [CBS News]
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2. U.N. APPEALS FOR HUMANITARIAN RELIEF IN WAKE OF SYRIA MASSACRE
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon called for an end to the fighting in Syria "in the name of humanity," and called for a big increase in humanitarian relief aid at the start of a donor-pledging conference on Wednesday. Kuwait's emir, citing "terrifying reports" of fresh violence in Syria's two-year civil war, pledged $300 million toward the $1 billion or more the U.N. is hoping to raise to help Syria's neighbors, which are sheltering an estimated 700,000 Syrian refugees. Peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi told the U.N. Security Council the killing had reached "unprecedented levels of horror" after 65 bodies, apparently killed execution-style, were found Tuesday near Aleppo. [Associated Press]
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3. OBAMA CHALLENGES CONGRESS TO PASS IMMIGRATION REFORM
President Obama on Tuesday launched a push for a sweeping overhaul of immigration laws, endorsing a plan unveiled this week by a bipartisan group of senators that would strengthen border security while providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already living in the United States. Obama urged Congress to approve immigration reform fast, saying he would push his own plan if it doesn't. "The good news is that — for the first time in many years — Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together," Obama said. [NBC News]
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4. TEXAS DELAYS EXECUTION OF TEXAS WOMAN
A Texas judge postponed the execution of Kimberly McCarthy on Tuesday hours before she was scheduled to become the first woman put to death in the U.S. in nearly three years. Defense lawyers want time to prove racial discrimination influenced the selection of the jury that convicted McCarthy, who is black, in the 1997 stabbing death of her 71-year-old neighbor Dorothy Booth. "Of the twelve jurors seated at trial, all were white, except one, and eligible non-white jurors were excluded from serving by the State," said University of Texas adjunct law professor Maurie Levin, who helped represent McCarthy. [Reuters]
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5. SOUTH KOREA SENDS A SATELLITE INTO ORBIT
South Korea on Wednesday launched a satellite into orbit for the first time, joining only a handful of nations that have managed the feat. The mission was a matter of intense national pride, as rival North Korea successfully sent up a satellite seven weeks ago. The two Koreas, still technically at war despite a six-decade-old truce, have recently rushed into a race to build long-range rockets, with each suffering embarrassing failures before managing to put a payload into space. [Los Angeles Times]
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6. FRENCH SOLDIERS PUSH INTO LAST REBEL STRONGHOLD IN MALI
French forces have taken control of the airport in the northern Mali city of Kidal, the last major town in the West African nation to remain under the control of Islamist rebels, the French military said Wednesday. Earlier in the week, French and Malian soldiers retook the Saharan towns of Timbuktu and Gao, facing little resistance from the al-Qaeda-linked insurgents. France has 4,500 troops in Mali, but hopes to quickly hand over the pursuit of the rebels to an 8,000-strong force formed by African nations. [Bloomberg]
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7. SEVERE STORMS HAMMER THE SOUTH
Severe storms slammed the South and Midwest on Tuesday and early Wednesday with high winds and even several tornadoes, which are rare but not unprecedented in January. The storms knocked out power to thousands of homes, and prompted authorities to issue tornado warnings. The states facing the greatest risk for tornadoes stirred up by the rapidly changing conditions were Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi. One man was reportedly killed in Nashville, Tenn., when high winds knocked a tree onto a shed where he was seeking shelter. [USA Today]
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8. MAN HOLDS CHILD HOSTAGE IN ALABAMA
A man was holding a 6-year-old boy hostage in southeastern Alabama early Wednesday after boarding a school bus on Tuesday, grabbing the child, and shooting the bus driver. Police say the attacker is holed up in an underground bunker, which a neighbor described as a "bomb shelter" the man built after moving into the neighborhood two years ago. Authorities used a PVC pipe to communicate with the man, and pass down medication the child takes. Local media reported that the driver died. [CNN]
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9. BOEING BATTERIES WERE A CONCERN BEFORE FIRE
Japan's All Nippon Airways had to replace 10 lithium-ion batteries on its Boeing 787 Dreamliners before two battery failures led to the grounding of the world's fleet of the new aircraft this month, according to The New York Times. All Nippon, the Dreamliner's biggest operator, says it told Boeing of the replacements. The airline says it wasn't required to alert safety regulators, though, as the problems — such as unusually low charges — didn't pose safety issues or force flights to be delayed or canceled. The National Transportation Safety Board plans to look at these cases as part of its investigation of the aircraft. [New York Times]
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10. ALEX RODRIQUEZ MENTIONED IN LATEST DOPING INQUIRY
An alternative weekly newspaper in Florida reported Tuesday that the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, baseball's highest-paid star, was listed in the records of a shuttered clinic suspected of selling performance-enhancing drugs. A lawyer for the owner of the Biogenesis clinic said the report was "filled with inaccuracies, innuendo and misstatements of fact," and Rodriguez's public relations firm said he had never been a patient of the anti-aging facility. Major League Baseball is investigating. Three other players mentioned in the report — Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon and Yasmani Grandal — were suspended for positive drug tests last year. [Associated Press, New York Times]

 

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