Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 12, 2013

The U.S. suspends aid to Syrian rebels, ObamaCare sign-ups double in November, and more

1. Obama administration suspends nonlethal aid to Syrian rebelsThe Obama administration confirmed Wednesday that it had suspended nonlethal aid to Syrian rebels after an Islamist group seized control of warehouses where the nonlethal supplies — including food and medical kits — were stored. Islamist fighters also ran the top Western-backed rebel commander out of his command center on Wednesday. He has since fled the country, in the latest sign that moderate opposition groups are losing power to radicals. [Washington Post, Wall Street Journal]………………………………………………………………………………

2. Interest grows in ObamaCare exchangesThe Obama administration announced Wednesday that the number of Americans picking health plans on ObamaCare marketplaces more than doubled in November over October. The total has reached 365,000 — still lower than the administration initially hoped. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius acknowledged in testimony to Congress that early glitches that kept people from using HealthCare.gov "dampened enthusiasm" for it. [New York Times]………………………………………………………………………………

3. "Fake" sign-language interpreter at Mandela memorial blames illness The South African sign-language interpreter accused of using "fake" signs at Nelson Mandela's memorial service said he suffered a schizophrenic episode on stage. The interpreter, Thamsanqa Jantjie, said in Johannesburg's Star on Thursday that he was trying to control himself as he hallucinated and heard voices. He told the AP he saw angels. A sign-language educator said Jantjie was just "literally flapping his arms around." [USA Today]………………………………………………………………………………

4. Mechanical trouble hampers space station operationsNASA was forced to scale back work aboard the International Space Station on Wednesday after a cooling-system pump shut down. Engineers suspect a valve malfunctioned, but they couldn't immediately come up with a way to fix it. Astronauts might have to do repairs on a space walk. NASA said the crew and the space station itself were never in danger, partly because the station's life support system never broke down. [CNN]………………………………………………………………………………

5. Canada postal service cuts all home deliveriesCanada's postal service announced Wednesday that it would cut out home mail delivery over the next five years. Customers will have to use community mailboxes instead. Canada Post also is significantly hiking postal rates. Like the U.S. Postal Service, Canada's mail system is struggling to trim deficits caused by high wage and pension costs, and declining mail volumes as customers communicate more through emails instead of letters. [New York Times]………………………………………………………………………………

6. Facebook joins the S&P 500 indexFacebook is joining the S&P 500 stock index, Standard & Poor's said Wednesday. The change will take place after trading closes on Dec. 20. The S&P listing, which comes after Facebook's fourth straight profitable quarter, will solidify the social networking company's transformation into one of the nation's biggest companies. Facebook shares rose 4.3 percent to $51.51 on the news, which came after regular market hours. [Reuters]………………………………………………………………………………

7. Michigan passes law barring standard abortion coverageMichigan lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bill banning insurance plans in the state from covering abortion unless the woman's life is at risk. The law will force women who want the procedure covered to purchase a separate abortion rider. Opponents call it "rape insurance," because women would have to buy the insurance before being raped to be covered. Supporters say it just means that people opposed to abortion won't have to pay for plans that cover it. [Huffington Post]………………………………………………………………………………

8. GOP aide busted on child pornography chargesThe chief of staff to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) was arrested Wednesday on charges of possessing and distributing child pornography. Investigators searched the home of the aide, Ryan Loskarn, on Wednesday. Alexander, a prominent senior GOP lawmaker, said in a statement that he was "stunned, surprised, and disappointed by what I have learned." Alexander removed Loskarn from his office's payroll pending the outcome of the case. [TIME]………………………………………………………………………………

9. India's high court revives ban against gay sexIndia's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that consensual homosexual sex is illegal in the country, overturning a lower court ruling. Four years ago the high court decriminalized same-sex relations in what gay-rights groups welcomed as a landmark ruling. Now, though, the court says Section 377 of the penal code, which dates to India's colonial era and bans "carnal acts against the order of nature," is valid as long as Parliament says it is. [CNN]………………………………………………………………………………

10. Prosecutors drop domestic violence case against ZimmermanFlorida prosecutors have dropped domestic violence charges against George Zimmerman because his girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, has refused to cooperate. Scheibe said during a 911 call last month that Zimmerman, who was acquitted last summer in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, had pointed a gun at her face. She now says that never happened, and she wants to patch things up with him. [New York Daily News]………………………………………………………………………………

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