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10 things you need to know today: February 16, 2013
Carnival gets hit with a Triumph lawsuit, Jesse Jackson Jr. is charged with fraud, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
Jesse Jackson Jr. in 2009: The past few years have not been good to the once-rising star of the Democratic Party.
Jesse Jackson Jr. in 2009: The past few years have not been good to the once-rising star of the Democratic Party.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

1. CARNIVAL HIT WITH FIRST LAWSUIT AFTER TRIUMPH DISASTER
Less than 24 hours after the disabled Carnival Triumph cruise ship reached land after several days helplessly adrift at sea, the company has been hit with the first of what will likely be many lawsuits. The suit, filed by Cassie Terry of Brazuria County, Texas, alleges that Carnival "failed to provide a seaworthy vessel and sanitary conditions" and details the "horrifying" conditions aboard, where passengers were forced to wade through human feces from overflowing toilets. Terry says she suffered "physical and emotional harm, including anxiety, nervousness and the loss of enjoyment in life." [Reuters]
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2. JESSE JACKSON JR. CHARGED WITH FRAUD
Former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. has been accused of misusing $750,000 in campaign funds, and is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, and making false statements. The Chicago Democrat was once seen as a rising star in the party before being named as a potential interested buyer in Rod Blagojevich's attempted sale of Barack Obama's old Senate seat. Since then, Jackson's star has fallen fast. Last year he had a lengthy unexplained absence from Congress — he was later said to be suffering from mental illness — and eventually resigned. Now the feds say Jackson used campaign funds to buy an expensive watch, fur capes and parkas, furniture, Michael Jackson memorabilia, and more. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. His wife has also been implicated in the alleged scandal. [Chicago Tribune]
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3. TV SHOW TO AIR WITH PISTORIUS' DEAD GIRLFRIEND 
A pre-recorded reality show will air in South Africa on Saturday featuring Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend of South African Olympian amputee runner Oscar Pistorius, who has been charged with Steenkamp's shooting death. The reality show, filmed in Jamaica, features the slain model and law graduate competing for a more than $100,000 prize. During a Friday court appearance, South African Olympian Oscar "Blade Runner" Pistorius rejected allegations that he shot Steenkamp. She was shot four times in the head, chest, hand, and pelvis through the bathroom door of Pistorius' house, and neighbors said that they heard loud voices and shouting earlier in the evening. [AFP]
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4. RUSSIAN DIVERS COMPLETE LAKE INSPECTION AFTER METEORITE HITS
Divers Saturday finished their initial inspection of the Chebarkul Lake 60 miles west of Chelyabinsk but found no traces of the space object that exploded Friday morning over the region, Interfax reported. The meteor that crashed into Russia's Ural mountains early Friday reportedly injured 1,200 people as it streaked across the sky, sending flaming fragments flying. The shockwave shattered windows, rocked buildings, and set off car alarms. While no deaths have been reported, Russia's Interior Ministry said 200 of those injured were children, and that most of the injured were hurt by shards of broken glass. [Los Angeles Times]
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5. OBAMA PROPOSES SCRAPPING THE PENNY
President Obama said in an online "Fireside Chat" that the time has come to stop minting the penny. The one-cent piece costs 2.4 cents to mint and distribute, so the U.S. government loses money on every one put into circulation. The loss has risen from $19.8 million in 2009 to $60.2 million in 2011. Cutting out copper and zinc coins won't result in a "huge savings," Obama concedes, but "anytime we're spending more money on something that people don't actually use, that's an example of something we should probably change." The president doesn't expect quick action, though, as Americans are sentimentally attached to the coins and Congress has bigger priorities. [CNN]
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6. SEC LOOKS INTO TRADING SPIKE ON EVE OF HEINZ TAKEOVER
Federal regulators have launched an investigation into an unusual spike in options trading in H.J. Heinz the day before Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway announced that it was buying the maker of Heinz ketchup and other iconic products. Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital, a firm with Brazilian roots, offered $75.20 per share for Heinz — a 20 percent premium over the previous day's closing price — and the stock promptly shot up to match the offer price after the $23 billion deal was announced. The Securities and Exchange Commission wants to know why there was a spike in option bets that Heinz stock would rise on Wednesday, the day before the takeover announcement, even though hardly any such wagers were made a day earlier. [New York Times]
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7. AIRBUS ABANDONS LITHIUM-ION BATTERIES IN NEW PLANE
Airbus is ditching plans to use lithium-ion batteries in its A350 jet — the European aircraft manufacturer's new plane meant to rival the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Boeing's plane has been grounded due to a string of technical glitches, including lithium battery failures that resulted in fires. Airbus says it's going to keep testing A350s with lithium-ion batteries on board so it can remain on schedule to launch the super-efficient jets in mid-2014, but it will make a change in the versions it sells. "With a view to ensuring the highest level of program certainty," the company says, "Airbus has decided to activate its Plan B and therefore to revert back to the proven and mastered nickel-cadmium main batteries." [BBC]
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8. REPORT: FACEBOOK PAID ZERO INCOME TAXES IN 2012
According to left-leaning research and advocacy group Citizens for Tax Justice, Facebook paid no net corporate income taxes last year. The social networking site will take in $429 million in net tax refunds for the year, the report said, citing Facebook's annual financial report. The company earned $1.1 billion in U.S. corporate profits last year. Facebook reportedly reduced its tax burden mainly by taking advantage of the tax deductibility of executive stock options, linked to its initial public offering last year. [Huffington Post]
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9. VENEZUELA RELEASES NEW PHOTOS OF CHAVEZ
The Venezuelan government has released new photos of President Hugo Chavez, who has been recovering from his fourth cancer-related surgery in Cuba for two months. The photos show a smiling Chavez holding Thursday's edition of the Cuban daily Granma and joined by his two eldest daughters. Chavez was unable to make it to his Jan. 10 swearing-in, but is still in full control of his presidential duties, according to a court ruling. [Guardian]
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10. IFC PICKS UP LOHAN FILM
The Canyons, the low-budget, Kickstarter-funded, racy drama starring Lindsay Lohan and porn star James Deen, has been picked up by IFC and scheduled for an early summer theatrical launch. The deal is good news for the Bret Easton Ellis-scripted film, which most recently made the news after a now-infamous New York Times Magazine story captured the difficulties of working with Lohan. [Variety]

 

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