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10 things you need to know today: December 5, 2013
The NSA tracks millions of mobile phones, Biden asks China to ease tensions, and more
 
Biden meets with China's vice president in Beijing. 
Biden meets with China's vice president in Beijing.  (AP Photo/Lintao Zhang, Pool)

1. NSA gathers data on the whereabouts of cellphones
The National Security Agency collects nearly 5 billion records a day on the locations of cellphones all over the world, according to interviews and documents provided by NSA leaker Edward Snowden and reported by The Washington Post. The agency uses the information to track the movements and relationships of people overseas with suspected terrorist ties. The NSA does not target Americans, but tracks some of them "incidentally." [Washington Post]
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2. Biden tells China its new defense zone is raising tensions
Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that he had been very direct about Washington's displeasure over China's new air defense zone in a five-hour meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Biden said he urged Xi to take steps to ease tensions over the issue. China said the move was legal, and cautioned the U.S. against taking sides with its ally, Japan, in the dispute about airspace over contested islands in the East China Sea. [Voice of America]
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3. Newtown 911 tapes are released
Police on Wednesday released nearly 30 minutes of chilling 911 tapes recorded during last December's shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. "They're still running! They're still shooting!" one caller says. In several calls, methodical shooting can be heard in the background. Hearing the tapes opens "a new layer of pain" for still traumatized families said Pat Llodra, the town's chief executive. [USA Today, New York Times]
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4. Fast-food restaurant employees strike for higher pay
On Thursday, fast-food workers are going on strike in 100 cities across the U.S. to demand higher wages. It wasn't clear how many people would participate — a similar event in the summer had just a few protesters at some locations — or whether the walkouts and rallies would disrupt restaurant operations. President Obama is urging Congress to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. [Newsnet5.com, Associated Press]
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5. Stolen radioactive cargo found in Mexico
After a two-day search, Mexican police have recovered a stolen truck that was carrying 60 grams of highly radioactive cobalt-60. The material, used in cancer treatment, can be so deadly it could be used in a dirty bomb, but authorities believe the thieves just wanted the truck. The cobalt-60 was found, its protective casing opened by the curious thieves. "They will, without a doubt, die," said Mardonio Jimenez of Mexico's nuclear safety commission. [Washington Post]
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6. Suicide bomb and gunfire kill 20 in Yemen
A suicide attack on Yemen's defense ministry killed at least 20 people on Thursday. First a suicide bomber drove through the gate of the ministry's hospital and detonated a car bomb. Then several gunmen dressed in Yemeni army uniforms started shooting at security personnel. Most of the gunmen were killed or wounded. No one claimed responsibility, but al Qaeda–linked militants have attacked several government sites in the last two years. [Reuters]
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7. Ukrainian legislators block parliament
Opposition lawmakers in Ukraine's parliament blocked off the speaker's dais, vowing to shut down the legislature "until its dissolution." Anti-government protests broke out late last month after President Viktor Yanukovich broke off talks with the European Union on forging closer economic and political ties. Opposition politicians demanded that Yanukovich and his government resign and call "urgent elections." [Los Angeles Times]
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8. Dozens of whales get stuck in shallow Florida waters
Rescuers were forced to euthanize four pilot whales stranded in shallow water off Florida's Everglades National Park on Wednesday, bringing the number that have died to 10. Crews continued early Thursday, however, to save 41 others, but Blair Mase, NOAA Fisheries southeast marine mammal stranding coordinator, said they faced long odds because efforts to herd them into deeper water had failed. [CNN]
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9. Coroner releases report telling what killed Paul Walker
Actor Paul Walker died from a combination of the impact of the high-speed crash that killed him and a friend, Roger Rodas, and the fire that followed, according to a report released Wednesday by the Los Angeles County coroner's office. Rodas, who was driving the special-edition Porsche, died from the trauma of multiple injuries. Investigators said the car was going at least 90 mph on a 45 mph street when it hit a light pole, two trees, and a sign. [People]
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10. Martin Bashir leaves MSNBC after insulting Palin
Commentator Martin Bashir resigned from MSNBC on Wednesday after three weeks of criticism for his scathing attack on Sarah Palin. Bashir disputed Palin's comparison of the national debt to slavery, and suggested that someone should defecate in her mouth, in reference to an old slave punishment. He also called her a "dunce." He has since apologized. [Los Angeles Times]

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Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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