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10 things you need to know today: February 15, 2013
Republicans block Hagel's confirmation, a disabled cruise ship finally docks, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
Media await the final unloading of the crippled cruise liner Carnival Triumph Feb. 14 in Mobile, Ala.
Media await the final unloading of the crippled cruise liner Carnival Triumph Feb. 14 in Mobile, Ala. Jeff Gammons/Getty Images

1. GOP BLOCKS HAGEL CONFIRMATION VOTE
Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked President Obama's nominee, former GOP senator Chuck Hagel, to lead the Defense Department. Democrats fell two votes shy of the 60 they needed to overcome the Republican filibuster. It's the first time in history that the Senate has made a nominee to lead the Pentagon clear the 60-vote hurdle before a final, simple majority confirmation vote. Hagel's Republican critics, who say he's not supportive enough of Israel and too soft on Iran, argued that Democrats were trying to rush the confirmation process, and several said they wouldn't block a final vote when the Senate returns from its Presidents' Day recess in 10 days. Democrats accused Republicans of needlessly stirring up partisan tensions, and vowed to push through the nomination of Hagel, a decorated Vietnam veteran. [New York Times]
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2. CRIPPLED CARNIVAL CRUISE SHIP FINALLY DOCKS
Passengers finally got off the disabled Carnival cruise ship Triumph in Mobile, Ala., and began checking into hotels early Friday, after a four-day ordeal in the Gulf of Mexico that began when an engine-room fire knocked out the 900-foot vessel's propulsion. Some of the 3,000-plus passengers, who had endured overflowing toilets and food shortages, kissed the ground after tug boats finally managed to push the ship into port so the worn-out vacationers could disembark. "I want a hot shower and a daggum Whataburger," said passenger Deborah Knight, 56, of Houston. [Associated Press]
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3. CHARRED BODY IDENTIFIED AS FUGITIVE DORNER'S
Law enforcement officials in California announced Thursday that they had positively identified a charred body found in a burned out cabin as that of ex-policeman and alleged killer Christopher Dorner. The 33-year-old former Los Angeles police officer was the subject of a massive manhunt after he allegedly went on a killing spree to avenge his firing from the force in 2009, which came as a result of him reporting an alleged act of police brutality. His body was identified through a dental examination. Police say Dorner was involved in a fierce shootout in which one deputy was killed before the cabin where he was holed up erupted in flames. No official cause of death was announced. [New York Times]
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4. METEOR INJURES HUNDREDS IN RUSSIA
A meteor crashed into Russia's Ural mountains early Friday. It broke apart as it streaked across the sky, sending flaming fragments flying and injuring at least 500 people, most with minor cuts and bruises but some with head injuries. The shockwave shattered windows, rocked buildings, and set off car alarms. "It was quite extraordinary," Chelyabinsk resident Polina Zolotarevskaya said. "We saw a very bright light and then there was a kind of a track, white and yellow in the sky." [BBC]
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5. INTENSE FIGHTING DRIVES TENS OF THOUSANDS OF SYRIANS FROM THEIR HOMES
The United Nations' World Food Program announced Friday that 40,000 people had fled a town in eastern Syria after three days of intense fighting between government troops and rebels. At least 30 opposition fighters and 100 Syrian government soldiers were reportedly killed before the rebels took over the town, al-Shaddadeh, on Thursday. The exodus of refugees will only intensify an already crippling humanitarian crisis, said WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs. [Reuters]
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6. PISTORIUS FACES FORMAL MURDER CHARGE IN SOUTH AFRICAN COURT
Oscar Pistorius, the South African Olympic and Paralympic sprinter, was formally charged with the murder of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, in a packed courtroom on Friday. Pistorius, a double amputee who is known as Blade Runner because he runs on carbon-fiber blades, stood with his head bowed as a magistrate read the charge. Then, Pistorius sobbed and buried his face in his hands. Some early news reports suggested that Pistorius may have mistaken Steenkamp for an intruder, but police and prosecutors say they believe the shooting was pre-meditated. [Reuters]
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7. LAUTENBERG DECIDES AGAINST 2014 RE-ELECTION BID
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who at 89 is the nation's oldest senator, said Thursday that he wouldn't run for re-election in 2014. The liberal New Jersey Democrat has been polling behind one of his potential rivals, Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Lautenberg, who has represented his state for nearly three decades, says he'll devote the remaining two years of his term fighting for gun control, but that "with 30 years of service, I think that the time was right." [Philadelphia Inquirer]
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8. ILLINOIS SENATE APPROVES BILL THAT WOULD LEGALIZE GAY MARRIAGE
Illinois inched closer to allowing same-sex couples to wed when the state's Democratic-controlled Senate, on Valentine's Day, approved a bill that would make the state the 10th to legalize gay marriage. One of the bill's Democratic supporters said it would remove gay and lesbian couples from "second-class status," while one of its Republican opponents said it would knock down "one of the basic foundations of society." The bill now goes to the state House, where the vote could be close, but Gov. Pat Quinn promises to sign it if it passes. [Chicago Tribune]
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9. FORMER MELROSE PLACE ACTRESS GETS PRISON FOR DEADLY CRASH
A judge on Thursday sentenced former Melrose Place actress Amy Locane-Bovenizer to three years in prison for a 2010 crash that killed a New Jersey woman. Locane-Bovenizer's blood-alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit when her SUV crashed into a Mercury Milan that was turning into a driveway, critically injuring the other car's driver, Fred Seeman, and killing his wife, Helene. The judge could have given Locane-Bovenizer a sentence five times as long, but said that would only punish her two small children. "This isn't justice!" Helene Seeman's son, Ford, yelled. [Star-Ledger]
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10. ASTEROID EXPECTED TO BUZZ EARTH
A 150-foot asteroid is on course to zoom past Earth at 17,400 mph on Friday in what would be the closest known fly-by of a space rock that size. NASA says not to panic — the asteroid will miss the planet by 17,150 miles. That's a bit too close for comfort, however, as it means the asteroid will come closer to Earth than many weather and communications satellites. The asteroid, known as DA14, is far smaller than the six-mile-wide monster that is believed to have hit and wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, but it would still release energy equivalent to 2.4 million tons of TNT and flatten 750 square miles if it actually struck Earth. [ABC News]

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