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10 things you need to know today: February 20, 2013
Gen. Allen decides not to take NATO post, more details emerge in Pistorius case, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
Gen. Allen listens during a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee in March 2012.
Gen. Allen listens during a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee in March 2012. Alex Wong/Getty Images

1. GEN. ALLEN TURNS DOWN NATO JOB AND RETIRES
Gen. John Allen has decided to retire rather than accept a nomination as commander of NATO. The four-star Marine general was investigated and cleared of any wrongdoing connected to emails he exchanged with Florida socialite Jill Kelley, a key figure in the unraveling of the David Petraeus scandal last year. President Obama thanked Allen, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan, for his "extraordinary service" over a 38-year career. Allen, who oversaw the shift from counterinsurgency to local-troop training in Afghanistan, said his priority now is taking care of his wife, who has chronic health problems. [Washington Post]
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2. POLICE SAY A WITNESS HEARD SHOUTING FROM PISTORIUS HOME
On day two of Oscar Pistorius' bail hearing, South African police said a witness reported hearing gunshots, then screaming, then more gunshots coming from the Olympic sprinter's home on the morning when his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, was killed. Investigators also said they found testosterone and needles in Pistorius' bedroom. The defense team says the substance was actually an herbal supplement. On the first day of testimony, prosecutors accused Pistorius, a double amputee, of premeditated murder. Pistorius said he opened fire through a bathroom door in a panic, thinking Steenkamp was an intruder. [BBC]
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3. CHINA'S MILITARY CHALLENGES HACKING EVIDENCE  
China's defense ministry said Wednesday that a report blaming a Chinese military unit for a series of hacking attacks is technically flawed, because it cites the use of an IP address as proof the hacking originated in China. "Everyone knows that the use of usurped IP addresses to carry out hacking attacks happens on an almost daily basis," the ministry said. The Obama administration is reportedly considering imposing fines and other trade penalties against China. [Reuters, Associated Press]
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4. COURT HALTS GEORGIA EXECUTION
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday granted a last-minute stay of execution to Warren Lee Hill, 52, as he was being prepared to receive a lethal injection for beating a fellow inmate to death in 1990. Doctors recently changed their assessments of Hill's mental capacity, so "all of the experts — both the State's and the petitioner's — now appear to be in agreement that Hill is in fact mentally retarded," judges in the 2-1 majority wrote. The stay will provide time for a review to determine whether Hill falls under a Georgia law prohibiting the execution of people with diminished mental capacity. [Associated Press]
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5. HIGH COURT TAKES CAMPAIGN FINANCE CASE
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to federal campaign contribution limits that could be the biggest campaign finance case since the 2010 Citizens United decision. That ruling tossed aside limits on spending by corporations and unions on their own, independent campaign messages. In Citizens United, the court left alone rules for contribution limits, but the new case — brought by Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama man, and the Republican National Committee — challenges aggregate individual two-year spending limits, currently $46,200 for contributions to candidates and $70,800 for contributions to groups, arguing that they are unconstitutional. [New York Times]
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6. GREEK UNIONS STRIKE AGAINST WAGE CUTS
Greek workers brought the financially struggling nation to a standstill on Wednesday with a nationwide strike against wage cuts and high taxes. Schools closed, ports were idled, and hospitals operated with only emergency personnel. The labor unions behind the strike represent 2.5 million workers, and they have repeatedly lashed out against austerity measures imposed by the government to comply with the terms of an international bailout, which union leaders say only deepen the country's recession. "A social explosion is very near," said Ilias Iliopoulos, secretary-general of the ADEDY public sector union. [Reuters]
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7. GAS EXPLOSION INJURES PATRONS AT KANSAS CITY RESTAURANT
A natural-gas explosion and fire leveled a Kansas City, Mo., restaurant called JJs during happy hour on Tuesday night, leaving two people missing and 14 injured, three of them critically. Cadaver dogs are now searching the wreckage. The blast knocked out the front of the building and blew off the roof. People at JJs and nearby businesses reported smelling gas about an hour before the explosion. Utility workers were sent out to inspect the area, and said a contractor doing underground work might have struck a gas line. [CNN]
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8. APPLE OFFERS MALWARE REMOVAL ATTACK AFTER HACKING SCARE
Apple is releasing a malware removal tool after hackers infected the Mac computers of several company workers. The Apple employees had visited a website for software developers that had been infected with malicious software designed to attack Macs through a vulnerability in the Java plug-in for browsers, Apple said. The cyber-security breach came just days after Facebook revealed that it had faced a similar attack. [Telegraph]
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9. ROBIN ROBERTS RETURNS TO GMA
Robin Roberts returned to ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday nearly six months after leaving to fight a rare, life-threatening blood disorder. ABC promoted the moment for two weeks, delighting fans and well-wishers. Industry research shows that Roberts is by far the most-liked host of any American morning TV news show. "After 173 very long days, it's beautiful to get back to business as usual with our full team," said Ben Sherwood, the president of ABC News. "Faith, family, and friends have brought me to this moment," said Roberts, who underwent a bone marrow transplant. "I am so full of gratitude." [New York Times, Hollywood Life]
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10. OSCAR LOSERS WON'T GO HOME EMPTY-HANDED
Oscar nominees who don't win a gold statuette on Sunday will still take home a consolation prize — a gift bag from the Los Angeles-based marketing firm Distinctive Assets filled with more than $45,000 in gifts. The swag bags include everything from personal training sessions, condoms, and tequila to hand-illustrated tennis shoes and vouchers for trips to Australia, Hawaii, and Mexico. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars, stopped handing out its own gift baskets in 2007 due to intensifying scrutiny by the IRS, which expects celebrities to declare the value of the swag on their tax returns. [Reuters]

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