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10 things you need to know today: December 20, 2013
Obama relaxes rules for people losing health coverage, New Mexico's top court allows gay marriage, and more
This happy couple helped bring gay marriage in front of New Mexico's Supreme Court. 
This happy couple helped bring gay marriage in front of New Mexico's Supreme Court.  (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)

1. The White House relaxes another ObamaCare rule
The Obama administration said late Thursday that millions of people whose health insurance is being canceled because it doesn't comply with the Affordable Care Act will be exempt from penalties if they go without coverage next year. They can also buy catastrophic coverage instead of policies meeting the law's minimum requirements. The move is the latest part of President Obama's effort to address complaints as the law takes effect. [New York Times]
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2. New Mexico's top court says gay marriage is legal
New Mexico's Supreme Court ruled Thursday to allow same-sex marriage in the state. The unanimous decision makes New Mexico the 17th state to legalize gay marriage, and clears up confusion that allowed a patchwork system in which some New Mexico counties permitted gay and lesbian couples to marry, and others didn't. The court said barring gay marriage was unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation. [Reuters]
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3. Roof falls in on London theater audience
A ceiling or part of a balcony collapsed Thursday night at London's Apollo Theater during a production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Emergency workers treated 81 of the "walking wounded." Seven patients with serious injuries were rushed to hospitals. There did not appear to be any fatalities. Some of the 700 theatergoers reported hearing a crack before chunks of plaster began raining down, as stunned actors watched. [Los Angeles Times]
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4. Obama reduces punishment for crack cocaine offenders
President Obama on Thursday commuted the sentences of eight people serving harsh prison terms for crack cocaine convictions. The prisoners were serving stiffer sentences under old federal guidelines that treated crack offenses more severely than those for powder cocaine. Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 to make the penalties fairer, but this marks his most aggressive use of presidential authority to free inmates. [Associated Press]
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5. Boitano comes out as he joins U.S. Olympic delegation
Gold-medal-winning figure skater Brian Boitano announced Thursday that he is gay, two days after President Obama named him to the U.S. delegation to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Boitano is the third gay delegation member, along with former tennis great Billie Jean King and hockey player Caitlin Cahow. The makeup of the group is seen as a message of tolerance to Russia, which approved a controversial anti-gay law this year. [Washington Post]
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6. NYC bans e-cigarettes in public spaces
New York's City Council voted Thursday to ban electronic cigarettes in indoor public areas where smokers are prohibited from lighting up regular cigarettes. The e-cigarette ban is similar to policies for bars and restaurants in Utah, North Dakota, and New Jersey. Fans of the battery-powered nicotine inhalers say they are safer than cigarettes, but health experts warn that the devices are so new nobody really knows what risks they pose. [TIME]
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7. Screw publisher Al Goldstein dies
Porn pioneer Al Goldstein, publisher of the now-defunct Screw magazine, died Thursday at 77 in Brooklyn. Goldstein's magazine promised in its debut issue in 1968 to be a "Consumer Reports of sex." It offered raunchier images than seen in the tamer Playboy — once publishing nude photos of Jacqueline Kennedy. Goldstein used his fame to rant about politics, but print and online rivals drove him into bankruptcy in 2003. [Associated Press]
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8. Russia frees Khodorkovsky, and Pussy Riot members
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday pardoned jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was seen by Kremlin critics as a political prisoner. Russia also released two members of punk band Pussy Riot — Nadya Tolokonnikova, 24, and Maria Alekhina, 25 — under a new amnesty law. The women were jailed for "hooliganism" after performing a song insulting Putin in a Russian Orthodox cathedral in 2012. The case sparked an international outcry. [Reuters, USA Today]
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9. Detroit's art collection could be worth $867 million
Detroit may be broke, but Christie's auction house says the city's art collection is worth $454 million to $867 million. A single van Gogh among the works at the Detroit Institute of Arts was valued at $150 million. The appraisal was ordered after Detroit declared bankruptcy last summer. The city won't solve its financial troubles with an auction, though. It has a debt load of $18 billion. [ArtFixDaily]
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10. The Lakers lose Bryant to an injury... again
The Los Angeles Lakers announced Thursday that Kobe Bryant would miss six weeks due to an injury he suffered in a Tuesday win against the Memphis Grizzlies. An MRI showed Bryant had fractured the laterial tibial plateau in his left knee. His absence will mark a big setback to the team, which signed him to a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension before he returned to action after tearing an Achilles tendon in April. [ESPN]

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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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