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10 things you need to know today: December 13, 2013
The House passes a two-year budget truce, North Korea says it executed Kim Jong Un's uncle, and more
Kim Jong Un's uncle was accused of being a "traitor for all ages."
Kim Jong Un's uncle was accused of being a "traitor for all ages." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-Joon)

1. House approves budget compromise
The House passed a two-year bipartisan budget deal on Thursday as Congress wrapped up its business for the year. The bill, which passed 332–94, is intended to serve as a truce between Republicans and Democrats in their ongoing war over taxes and spending, which has led to government shutdowns and bitter fighting for three years. The vote exposed a GOP rift, with mainstream Republicans slamming Tea Party groups for fighting the compromise. [New York Times]
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2. Kim Jong Un's uncle reportedly executed
North Korea announced Friday that Kim Jong Un's once powerful uncle, Jang Song Thaek, had been executed, days after being purged from the government. State media said Jang had plotted against his nephew, calling Jang a traitor and "worse than a dog." Jang helped the untested Kim consolidate power after inheriting it from his late father, Kim Jong Il. Experts differed on whether the execution showed Kim was growing confident or desperate. [Associated Press]
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3. American who disappeared in Iran was on rogue CIA trip
Intelligence officials say an American man, Bob Levinson, who disappeared in Iran more than six years ago had been working in a rogue CIA operation. The CIA had said that Levinson, an ex-FBI agent and CIA contractor, wasn't working for the U.S. when he disappeared in 2007, but emails and documents later surfaced suggesting he had gone to the country while working for the CIA, under the direction of analysts who lacked the authority to send him overseas. [Washington Post]
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4. Mandela memorial organizers admit error in hiring interpreter
South African officials admitted Thursday they made a mistake and will investigate the hiring of a mentally ill man, Thamsanqa Jantjie, as a sign-language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial. Jantjie, who waved his arms in meaningless gestures, said he was hallucinating on stage, and that he had been violent in similar episodes in the past. At one point he stood next to President Obama, but was never screened by the Secret Service. [ABC News]
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5. U.N. reports several chemical weapons attacks in Syria
Chemical weapons have been used in Syria, and not just in the infamous August 21 attack near Damascus that led to a deal to destroy the government's stockpile, according to a United Nations report released Thursday. Inspectors confirmed four other cases, two of which targeted government soldiers. The report was based on interviews and samples collected despite continued fighting, in the most extensive examination of the evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria to date. [New York Times]
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6. Newlywed pleads guilty to pushing her husband to his death
A newlywed bride, Jordan Graham, unexpectedly pleaded guilty Thursday to pushing her husband, Cody Johnson, off a cliff to his death on a trip to Glacier National Park just eight days after their wedding. In exchange for the plea to second-degree murder, prosecutors dropped a first-degree murder charge as well as one count of lying to police. Graham, 22, said she wasn't thinking about where she was when she pushed Johnson during an argument. [Associated Press]
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7. Twitter reverses a change to its blocking feature after uproar
Twitter caved to an outcry from users late Thursday, and scrapped a change to its "block" feature. The change briefly allowed people to still see and respond to tweets by users who had blocked them. Opponents to the change complained that it empowered online abusers at their expense. Twitter has reinstated the policy that allows users to prevent people from following them or interacting with their tweets in any way. [Reuters]
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8. Bangladesh puts Islamist leader to death
Four people were killed in Bangladesh on Friday in an outburst of violence over the execution of Islamist leader Abdul Kader Mullah, who was convicted of committing atrocities in the country's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. Prosecutors at Mullah's trial earlier this year accused him of massacring unarmed civilians, calling him the Butcher of Mirpur, a Dhaka suburb. Mullah denied the crimes. [Reuters, BBC News]
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9. Judge orders war memorial cross removed from federal property
A federal judge on Thursday ordered a cross, part of a war memorial, to be removed from federal property on top of San Diego's Mount Soledad. U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said it was "time for finality," 22 years after a judge first ordered the 43-foot cross taken down. An appeals court ruled in 2011 that the cross violated the constitutional separation of church and state. The Supreme Court declined to review the case. [Associated Press]
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10. Beyoncé releases surprise album
With no advance notice, Beyoncé released a new album overnight. Consumers woke up Friday to find the self-titled "visual album," with 14 new tracks and 17 music videos, available on iTunes. Beyoncé worked on the project secretly with Jay Z, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, and several other artists, but never said it was in the works. "I didn't want to release my music the way I've done it," she said. "I am bored with that." [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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