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10 things you need to know today: February 12, 2014
The House approves increasing the debt limit, Obama fetes France, and more
Even international relationships are about listening.
Even international relationships are about listening. (AP Photo/ J. Scott Applewhite)

1. The House votes to raise the debt ceiling
The House on Tuesday approved lifting the $17 trillion debt ceiling with no conditions, extending the nation's borrowing limit until March 15, 2015. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who pledged not to allow a debt default after last year's government shutdown, allowed the vote despite vehement opposition from hard-liners in the GOP demanding debt reduction measures as part of the deal. The "clean" bill passed with mostly Democratic support. [USA Today]
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2. Obama throws a White House state dinner for Hollande
President Obama honored visiting French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday night with the first official White House state dinner since 2011. Obama and Hollande used their meeting to talk up the friendship between the U.S. and France, especially the mending of relations frayed over National Security Agency spying and France's opposition to the Iraq War. "Mutual trust has been restored," Hollande said. [BBC News]
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3. The South hunkers down for a second day of severe ice and snow
An unusually severe winter storm killed five people in Texas on Tuesday as it barreled into the Southeast. By early Wednesday the storm had reached Atlanta, which was caught by surprise in a devastating arctic blast two weeks ago. Forecasters warned that Georgia and the Carolinas could get a "catastrophic" blow of snow and ice that could knock out power to hundreds of thousands, possibly for days, and make travel nearly impossible in the hardest hit areas. [The Associated Press]
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4. Washington governor halts all executions
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday declared a moratorium on executions in his state. Joining several states that have halted the death penalty recently, Inslee said the was concerned the death penalty was not being applied fairly. "Equal justice under the law is the state's primary responsibility," said the first-term Democrat. "And in death penalty cases, I'm not convinced equal justice is being served." [Reuters]
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5. Holder speaks out against state bans on felons voting
Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday urged states to repeal laws stripping felons of their voting rights. Ten percent of African-American voters can no longer go to polls in Florida, one of four states barring felons from voting for life, Holder said in a speech at Georgetown University, calling the laws' impact on minorities "disproportionate and unacceptable." State GOP leaders said they had fair policies for restoring rights when appropriate. [The New York Times]
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6. Iran sends rusting warships toward the U.S.
Iran has sent two warships on a three-month mission toward U.S. waters. Naval experts say Iran sent the "rust buckets," now near South Africa, in response to the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet's presence in the Persian Gulf. They pose no threat but demonstrate Iran's military reach. "Neither one of these ships are any good," said Christopher Harmer of the Institute for the Study of War, but, "from a strategic standpoint, they are very important." [Fox News]
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7. North Korea and South Korea hold a rare meeting
High-ranking officials from North and South Korea met in a border village on Wednesday in their highest level talks in years. The meeting had no set agenda. It was requested by Pyongyang, leading optimists to speculate that it could be a sign the communist regime wants to improve ties with South Korea after pulling back from a flurry of belligerent rhetoric last year. The two Koreas plan reunions later this month for families separated in the 1950-53 Korean War. [The Associated Press]
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8. Algerian military plane crashes, killing 77
An Algerian military transport plane crashed into a mountain on Tuesday, killing 77 people. One person reportedly survived and was taken to a hospital about 30 miles away in Constantine, eastern Algeria's main city. The dead included military personnel and their families, including children. The country's Defense Ministry said the plane, a U.S.-built C-130 Hercules, went down because of a snowstorm. [The Associated Press]
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9. NBC announces that Tom Brokaw has cancer
Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer that attacks blood cells in the bone marrow, the network announced Tuesday. Brokaw, 74, and his doctors say he is responding well to treatment. Brokaw stepped down in 2004 but has continued to file reports for NBC. "I am very optimistic about the future," Brokaw said. "I remain the luckiest guy I know." [NBC News]
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10. Snowboarder Shaun White falls short
The era of Shaun White's domination of the Olympic snowboard halfpipe ended on Tuesday. The American athlete, who won the gold medals in the event in the last two Winter Games, failed to complete a clean run this time around, and finished fourth. Swiss rival Iouri Podladchikov, also known as I-Pod, took the gold in Sochi, followed by two Japanese snowboarders — Ayumu Hirano, who won silver, and Taku Hiraoka, who took the bronze. [The New York 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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