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10 things you need to know today: January 16, 2014
A Senate report says Benghazi deaths were preventable, the Vatican defends its record on clerical abuse, and more
Bishop Francis Kane after a news conference in Chicago on Wednesday. 
Bishop Francis Kane after a news conference in Chicago on Wednesday.  (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

1. Senate investigation concludes the Benghazi disaster was preventable
A Senate report released Wednesday said the 2012 Benghazi attack, which killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, was "likely preventable." The long-awaited, bipartisan report criticized the performance of everyone from diplomats to intelligence officials ahead of the deadly assault on the diplomatic compounds in Libya, saying more security and intelligence resources could have saved lives. [The Wall Street Journal]
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2. U.N. panel grills Vatican officials on sex abuse
The Vatican was forced to defend its record on clergy sex abuse Thursday before a U.N. committee in Geneva investigating the Holy See's compliance with a 1990 child rights convention. The hearing marks the most high-profile grilling the Vatican has ever faced on whether it enabled pedophile priests. Pope Francis has formed a committee to address the issue. A top Vatican official told the panel every child should be "inviolable." [BBC News]
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3. House Republicans back $1.1 trillion spending bill
In a defeat for the Tea Party, the House on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a $1.1 trillion spending bill for the current fiscal year. Conservative political action committees, including the Club for Growth and Heritage Action, had urged a "no" vote because the bill restores some 2014 spending cuts, but most Republicans went along in the 359 to 67 vote, choosing pragmatism over ideological purity. The Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to pass the bill this week. [The New York Times]
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4. Egyptian government says voters strongly backed a new constitution
Officials in Egypt's military-backed interim government said Wednesday that voters had overwhelmingly approved a new constitution in two days of balloting. The vote has been called a referendum on the July overthrow of the country's elected Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi. The government said turnout (55 percent) was higher than past elections. If that holds true, it could pave the way for a presidential bid by army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. [BBC News]
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5. Nuclear missile teams allegedly cheated on proficiency tests
Thirty-four officers on nuclear launch duty in Montana allegedly cheated on routine proficiency tests, or tolerated cheating by others, the Air Force reported Wednesday. The scandal is just the latest in a series of embarrassing revelations about burnout and lax attitudes at the command posts responsible for firing nuclear missiles. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said she was "profoundly disappointed." [Associated Press]
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6. Apple agrees to refund money for kids' unauthorized app purchases
Apple has agreed to refund customers at least $32.5 million to settle a complaint that the iPhone maker has billed people for apps their kids bought without permission. The settlement, announced Wednesday by the Federal Trade Commission, also requires Apple to start getting parental authorization for all in-app spending. "You cannot charge consumers for purchases they did not authorize," said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. [Reuters]
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7. Video reportedly shows Afghan POW Bergdahl alive
U.S. officials said Wednesday they had obtained a recent video showing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl alive but in declining health more than four years after his capture by Afghan insurgents. Little is known about the clip, although the fact that it was not released by Islamist extremists as propaganda suggests it was seized by U.S. or allied forces. Talks on exchanging Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners at Guantánamo have stalled. [The New York Times]
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8. J.C. Penney and other retailers cut jobs to bring back profits
Struggling retailer J.C. Penney Co. said Wednesday that it was closing 33 of its 1,100 mid-market department stores and cutting 2,000 jobs in a bid to restore profits. Rivals are taking similarly drastic measures. Last week, Macy's said it was slashing 2,500 jobs, and Sears Canada reported Wednesday that it would trim upward of 1,600 jobs, more than 7 percent of its staff. [Reuters]
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9. Foreign donors dig deep to help Syrian war refugees
A fundraising conference in Kuwait collected $2.4 billion in pledges Wednesday to help Syrians suffering due to their country's nearly three-year civil war. The fighting has driven millions of Syrians out of their homes. The need is so great that the United Nations said that even the money promised by Kuwait, the U.S., and other nations would be far from enough. The U.N. is asking for a whopping $6.5 billion this year alone. [Associated Press]
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10. Dodgers sign Clayton Kershaw to record contract
The Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly have signed National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw to a $215 million, seven-year deal. The 25-year-old left-hander will be the first pitcher in Major League Baseball history to get a $200-million-plus deal, and, at $30.7 million per year, he'll make more per season than any pro baseball player, ever. The All-Star ace led the majors with a 1.83 earned run average in 2013. [Sports Network]

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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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