Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 12, 2014

1

House approves spending deal, preventing a shutdown

The House narrowly approved a $1.1 trillion spending bill on Thursday, just hours before a midnight deadline. The Senate passed a two-day extension so it would have time to approve the package, which funds most of the government through the fiscal year, without the threat of a government shutdown. House Democrats nearly derailed the deal, even though it was backed by President Obama, over provisions tucked inside rolling roll back Wall Street regulations and easing campaign finance laws.

2

Deadly storm strikes much of the West Coast

Two people died and 225,000 lost power when Northern California and other parts of the West Coast were hit Thursday by the strongest storm it had seen in a decade. A homeless man was killed in Oregon when a tree fell on his tent, and a boy in Portland died when a tree fell on the car he was traveling in. About 2.5 inches of rain fell on the San Francisco Bay Area, while areas to the north got more than a foot. The deluge was expected to ease a historic three-year drought.

3

CIA chief Brennan concedes some interrogation methods were "abhorrent"

CIA Director John Brennan acknowledged Thursday that some of the agency's interrogators used "abhorrent" methods on suspected terrorists captured after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Brennan said the interrogation program provided intelligence that helped "thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives," but that it was "unknowable" whether the harsh techniques described in the Senate torture report yielded critical information, as Bush administration leaders have claimed.

4

Oil falls below the symbolic threshold of $60 per barrel

Oil prices continued their decline on Thursday, with the American benchmark crude oil price falling below $60 per barrel for the first time in more than five years. Oil prices have dropped by more than 40 percent since early June, contributing to a sharp decline in gasoline prices. The U.S. average gas price fell to $2.62 per gallon of regular-grade fuel on Thursday, roughly 64 cents lower than a year ago. OPEC decided last month not to cut production despite a global oil glut.

5

Congressional staffers walk out to protest grand jury decisions

Dozens of congressional staff members staged a walkout on Thursday to protest grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City not to indict white police officers who killed unarmed black men. The protesters included members of the Congressional Black Associates. The participants prayed on the Capitol steps, and held up their hands, referencing the protests of the fatal shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson in August.

6

Federal government says Native Americans can legalize pot on reservations

The Justice Department said Thursday that Native American tribes have the authority to allow marijuana sales and cultivation on their reservations, even in states where the drug is illegal. In theory, the decision could pave the way for legal pot sales in nearly every state, although many tribes have already come out against marijuana legalization on their lands. Any reservations allowing the drug would still have to follow federal rules tightly regulating the sales, including prohibiting sales to minors.

7

Suicide bomber targets play performance in Afghanistan

A suicide bomber attacked a play condemning suicide bombers in Kabul on Thursday, killing a German and wounding 16 others. The play — Heartbeat: Silence After the Explosion — was being performed in a cultural center in the Afghan capital. Interior Ministry chief Gen. Ayoub Salangi said the bomber appeared to be about 17 years old. A Taliban spokesman said the play was targeted because "spread propaganda about our jihad operations, especially on suicide attacks."

8

Most teens are sleep deprived, study says

More than 90 percent of American teenagers are chronically sleep-deprived, according to a report published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease. Just 6 to 7 percent of girls and 8 to 9 percent of boys interviewed by the researchers between 2007 and 2013 got the recommended nine or more hours per night, and 95 percent of high school seniors got far less. The lack of sleep raises the teens' risk of diabetes, hurts school performance, and raises the likelihood they will be in a car wreck.

9

Model Beverly Johnson adds to allegations against Bill Cosby

Famed 70s-era model Beverly Johnson, the first black woman to appear on the cover of American Vogue, wrote an essay for Vanity Fair accusing comedian Bill Cosby of drugging her at his Manhattan home in the 1980s. Johnson was the latest in a series of women to make accusations against the comedian. Several other women have said Cosby sexually assaulted them — charges his lawyers deny — but Johnson said Cosby put her in a taxi after she realized she had been drugged and cursed him.

10

Birdman leads Golden Globe nominations

Birdman, Boyhood, and The Imitation Game each received multiple Golden Globe nominations in major categories on Thursday, making them favorites in the coming movie-award season. Birdman, a dramatic comedy about the comeback attempt of a washed-up actor played by Michael Keaton, got the most nominations with seven, including best comedy, best screenplay, best director, and best comedic actor (Keaton). Boyhood, a portrait of a child growing up, and The Imitation Game, about a World War II code breaker, got five nominations each.

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