Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 19, 2013

Republicans back down on the debt ceiling, the TSA ditches naked body scanners, and more in our roundup of stories that are making news and driving opinion

1. CLINTON: ALGERIAN HOSTAGE CRISIS AN 'ACT OF TERROR'An Algerian attack in which militants seized a natural gas plant and killed a reported 12 people left at least one American dead: Frederick Buttaccio of Texas. Buttaccio reportedly suffered a heart attack. Another American, Mark Cobb, was able to escape. Algeria has been extremely tight-lipped about the siege, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decried the attack as an "act of terror." "The perpetrators are the terrorists," she said. "They are the ones who have assaulted this facility, have taken hostage Algerians and others from around the world as they were going about their daily business." [Fox News]

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2. HOUSE GOP BACKS DOWN ON DEBT CEILINGIn a significant retreat, House Republican leaders on Friday unveiled a plan for a three-month increase to the debt ceiling, with the condition that the House and the Senate pass a budget by April 15. The House GOP had previously demanded dollar-for-dollar spending cuts for any increase in the borrowing limit, seeking to use the threat of a debt default to extract deep concessions from President Obama. But Obama held firm, and in recent weeks pressure had mounted on the GOP — from business groups and conservative media outlets — to drop the threat, since the economic impact of a default would have been devastating, to say the least. [The Week]………………………………………………………………………………

3. TSA TO GET RID OF 'NAKED' BODY SCANNERSThe Transportation Security Administration announced Friday that it's ditching its infamous x-ray body scanners, which show naked images of passengers, by June. The offending scanners will be replaced by full-body scanners already used at some airports that make generic images showing where agents should look for items on a passenger's body, rather than showing detailed images of a passenger naked. The change comes after Congress mandated that the TSA either change its x-ray scanners to avoid invasions of privacy or ditch them altogether by June 2013. [Associated Press]………………………………………………………………………………

4. LANCE ARMSTRONG SHOWS EMOTION IN PART 2 OF OPRAH INTERVIEWDisgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, who has finally admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs after years of strident denials, also showed some emotion in the second part of his highly scrutinized interview with Oprah Winfrey. "I saw my son defending me and saying, 'That's not true. What you're saying about my dad is not true,'" the cyclist recalled, tearing up. "That's when I knew I had to tell him." An emotional Armstrong continued later: "I said, 'Don't defend me anymore. Don't.'" [ESPN]

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5. CHINA'S ECONOMY PULLS OUT OF ITS SLUMPChina's economy grew at its slowest pace in 13 years in 2012, but a modest rebound in the year's final quarter suggested that it is finally pulling out of its slump. Industrial production and exports helped push quarterly growth to 7.9 percent, narrowly beating economists' predictions. That's still slower than China's average 10 percent growth over the last three decades, but the news confirmed that after two tough years "the economy has officially exited its slowdown," HSBC economists wrote in a note. That means that China's economy won't face a hard landing, and instead "will contribute significantly to global growth as we go through this year," said Australian finance minister Wayne Swan. [CNN Money]………………………………………………………………………………

6. FORMER NEW ORLEANS MAYOR INDICTED ON CORRUPTION CHARGESFormer New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has been indicted on 21 federal corruption charges including wire fraud, bribery, and money laundering. The charges stem from an investigation of New Orleans City Hall that has already resulted in guilty pleas by two former city officials and two businessmen. Part of the indictment accuses Nagin of accepting more than $160,000 in bribes and truckloads of free granite for his family business in exchange for promoting the interests of a local businessman who secured millions of dollars in city contract work after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Nagin is also charged with accepting $60,000 in payoffs from another businessman, and getting free private jet and limo services from yet another. Nagin has consistently denied any wrongdoing. [Associated Press]………………………………………………………………………………

7. MORGAN STANLEY STOCK SOARS AS PROFIT SURGESMorgan Stanley shares climbed Friday after the bank reported that quarterly earnings from its brokerage business — the world's largest — had more than doubled. Earnings at the brokerage hit $385 million, as profit margins jumped to 17 percent from 7 percent a year earlier. The firm also reached its profit-margin goal in its wealth-management unit. The results were better than expected, boosting CEO James Gorman's strategy to patiently reshape the company after the financial crisis by shifting from its own trading to focusing on its client and advisory businesses. "After a year of significant challenges, Morgan Stanley has reached a pivot point," Gorman said. [Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal………………………………………………………………………………

8. FRENCH JOURNALIST KILLED BY SNIPER FIRE IN SYRIAFrench war reporter Yves Debay, who had been working for Assaut, a French magazine he founded, was killed by sniper fire while reporting on the crisis in Syria. "France condemns this odious act and expresses its condolences, its sympathy, and its solidarity with the friends and family of Yves Debay," French President Francois Hollande said in a statement. Debay was shot in the head and in the chest in the city of Aleppo, according to medical staff in Turkey, where Debay was taken for treatment before being pronounced dead. [Reuters]………………………………………………………………………………

9. NASA BEAMS MONA LISA IMAGE TO THE MOONNASA achieved the first one-way laser communication at planetary distances on Friday when it transmitted an image of Leonardo Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" painting to the moon using a laser beam. The famous face was digitized and traveled via the laser for almost 240,000 miles from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. By using lasers, NASA is now on the verge of revolutionizing and speeding up delivery of data now dispatched from outer space and all around the solar system, the agency said. After transmission, Mona Lisa's image contained some defects caused by the Earth's atmosphere, but scientists were able to fix the errors by employing the same error-correction code used in CDs and DVDs. [CNN]………………………………………………………………………………

10. REPORT: ALICIA KEYS TO SING NATIONAL ANTHEM AT SUPER BOWLAlicia Keys is reportedly slated to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl in New Orleans on Feb. 3. Keys will be yet another headlining performer at the event, as Beyoncé is scheduled to sing during the halftime show. Rumors also surfaced earlier this week that Beyoncé will reunite with her Destiny's Child groupmates for part of that performance. [Los Angeles Times]

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