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  1. REPLACEMENT Schatz Picked for Hawaii Senate Seat ltgov.hawaii.gov

    1. Schatz Picked for Hawaii Senate Seat

    Talk about having big shoes to fill. On Wednesday, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie chose Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz to fill the Senate seat left vacant by the death of revered Sen. Daniel Inouye earlier this month. Schatz has been lieutenant governor for two years, and has a background in nonprofit community work and state politics, having served as a member of the State House of Representatives for six years. He will serve as senator until the next election in 2014. The choice is a rejection of Inouye's reported “last wish” that Colleen Hanabusa, who represents urban Honolulu's 1st Congressional District, be appointed as his replacement. Jennifer Sabas, Inouye's chief of staff, issued a statement Wednesday saying "we are very disappointed that [his last wish] was not honored ... but we wish Brian Schatz the best of luck.”

    December 26, 2012 8:45 PM

  2. SNOWED IN Winter Storm Claims Five Lives G.M. Andrews/AP

    2. Winter Storm Claims Five Lives

    The sudden storm that has dumped up to 15 inches of snow and caused thunderstorms, tornadoes, and blizzard warnings across the country has claimed at least five lives Wednesday. The storm has also wreaked holiday travel mayhem, resulting in more than 1,500 canceled flights. According to the National Weather Service, 12 to 18 inches of snow is still expected in New England and across New York, and dozens of minor accidents were reported as travelers made their way home from holiday celebrations. In Texas, one man died as rare tornadoes hit the Gulf Coast, and icy roads killed four in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

    December 26, 2012 10:55 PM

  3. BIG BILL Toyota Acceleration Suit to Cost $1B Joe Raedle

    3. Toyota Acceleration Suit to Cost $1B

    Toyota’s largest recall ever—sparked by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2009 declaration that the cars’ design could cause acceleration pedals to get caught in the floor mats—has now led to the largest auto-industry settlement ever. Toyota announced Wednesday that it will equip 3.25 million cars with a new brake-override system and reimburse Toyota owners for the reduced value of their cars. On top of that, a warranty plan for the parts believed to cause the unintended acceleration will be made available for 16 million current Toyota owners. The whole settlement is estimated to cost Toyota at least $1 billion.

    December 26, 2012 7:27 PM

  4. DEBT EVE

    4. Geithner: Treasury May Take ‘Extraordinary Measures’

    If they won't act, he will. In a letter to our mostly absent congressional leaders Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told lawmakers the Treasury will “shortly” begin undertaking “extraordinary measures” to avoid the cliff. The Treasury can take action that would give the government another $200 billion in headroom on the budget, delaying the effects of the cliff until February or early March. Geithner also noted that the tax hikes and spending cuts that would go into effect if no action is taken by Jan. 1 would buy the government more time—at least until it’s no longer able to borrow more money.

    December 26, 2012 5:30 PM

  5. RECUPERATING Nelson Mandela Heads Home Schalk van Zuydam / AP Photo

    5. Nelson Mandela Heads Home

    Former South African president Nelson Mandela was discharged from the hospital Wednesday, after celebrating Christmas in the hospital. Mandela has been laid up since Dec. 8, when he was first admitted to the hospital with a lung infection, and also underwent surgery to remove gallstones. Though his health is improving, Mandela will continue to receive medical care at his home in Johannesburg. This was the first Christmas the 94-year-old had spent away from home since 1989—when he was still imprisoned for his role in the country's anti-apartheid movement.

    December 26, 2012 3:19 PM

  6. SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS Crapo Drank ‘Shots of Vodka’ Alexandria Police Department / AP

    6. Crapo Drank ‘Shots of Vodka’

    Who would've guessed Sen. Mike Crapo was such a wild guy? According to the police officer who arrested him for driving under the influence last week, the Idaho senator admitted he had “consumed several shots of vodka” before getting on the road. “When I spoke with the driver, I immediately detected a strong odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath, which became stronger as he spoke,” the officer wrote. Crapo’s breath test showed a .11 level, above the legal limit of .08. The Mormon senator has publically apologized for his mistake, and is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 4.

    December 26, 2012 5:55 PM

  7. LAST STRAW Report: Kim Jong-il Died in ‘Fit of Rage’ KNS

    7. Report: Kim Jong-il Died in ‘Fit of Rage’

    It may not have been a stress-induced heart attack that killed Kim Jong-il last year, but a fit of rage. It’s now being reported that the former North Korean leader died after being informed of a serious leak at a hydro-electric power plant. The lengthy and faulty state-sponsored project was meant to provide half of Pyongyang with electricity, and put an end to some of the North Korean capital’s power-shortage problems. An anonymous source—who claims to have been present—says that Kim, upon being briefed about the leak, “lambasted officials and ordered them to repair it. He rushed to make an on-site inspection of the facility unable to contain his anger and died suddenly,” the unnamed source said.

    December 26, 2012 3:50 PM

  8. ‘COME TOGETHER’ Starbucks to Promote Congressional Cooperation EVA HAMBACH / Getty Images

    8. Starbucks Promotes Congressional Cooperation

    Could there be some ulterior motives at play here? Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz wants workers in all of the 102 D.C.-area Starbucks stores to write “Come together” on cups sold Thursday and Friday, in hopes that it will push President Obama and his Republican adversaries to cooperate on economic negotiations before the dreaded spending cuts and tax increases go into effect on Jan. 1. “We’re paying attention, we’re greatly disappointed in what’s going on, and we deserve better,” said Schultz of the campaign.

    December 26, 2012 6:29 PM

  9. THE ‘N WORD’ Sarah Silverman Defends ‘Django’ Andrew Cooper

    9. Sarah Silverman Defends ‘Django’

    She may not exactly be the morality police, but she’s in Tarantino’s corner. Comedian Sarah Silverman is calling out director Spike Lee for criticizing the rampant use of the “N word” in Quentin Tarantino's new film, Django Unchained. Lee criticized the film, which uses the word roughly 110 times, for mocking slavery and being “disrespectful to my ancestors.” Silverman tells TMZ that Lee is wrong: “Doesn’t it take place during slavery? Wouldn’t it be odd if they didn’t have that horrific word in it?”

    December 26, 2012 4:30 PM

  10. SURPRISE! Winslet Marries Guy Named Rocknroll Antony Dickson, AFP / Getty Images

    10. Winslet Marries Guy Named Rocknroll

    Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet has officially tied the knot with her third husband: Ned Rocknroll, the 34-year-old grandson of billionaire Richard Branson. According to The Sun, the ceremony was so private the couple’s parents weren’t even told—though the bride was given away by none other than Leonardo DiCaprio. The wedding was attended by Winslet’s two children and a few family members and friends. The couple met as houseguests on Branson’s island in the Caribbean.

    December 26, 2012 10:20 PM

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  12. WE'RE HAVING A BABY! Jessica Simpson Pregnant Again Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty

    11. Jessica Simpson Pregnant Again

    It's a Christmas miracle! Jessica Simpson has confirmed via Twitter that she is pregnant once again. On Tuesday, she tweeted a pic of her daughter sitting with the words “Big Sis” written in the sand in front of her. Rumors of a second pregnancy for Simpson have been circulating since November. Simpson’s first child was born just seven months ago. The singer has been engaged to NFL player Eric Johnson for two years.  

    December 26, 2012 7:40 AM

  13. CASH MONEY

    12. Home Prices Rise

    The Case-Shiller index, which tracks housing prices in 20 cities and is largely considered the most reliable measure of home prices, showed average home prices rising 4.3 percent over the last year through October. Only New York and Chicago posted year-over-year price decreases, while San Diego and Phoenix had nine and thirteen months of home-price gains, respectively. According to the index, Las Vegas only reached its January 2000 level for average home prices in October, while Atlanta and Detroit still remain at January 2000 average prices.

    December 26, 2012 11:12 AM

  14. Bizarre Cross-Dressing Robber Kills Friend Suffolk County Police/AP

    13. Cross-Dressing Robber Kills Friend

    A Long Island ex-con has been arrested after admitting to killing his friend and leaving him in a closet for nearly a week. Aston Barth of Central Islip, N.Y., admitted to strangling his friend Jason Campbell during an argument last week. He then attempted to dismember the body with an ax, but only cut him at the neck before putting a garbage bag over Campbell’s head and stuffing him in a closet where his body was discovered on Christmas Eve. Barth had previously been arrested in 2007 for robbing a bank dressed like a woman.

    December 26, 2012 7:35 AM

  15. TISN'T THE SEASON Dismal Holiday Sales for 2012 Shen Hong / Xinhua / Landov

    14. Dismal Holiday Sales for 2012

    Hard times, fewer presents under the tree. Analysts are calling the 2012 holiday-shopping rush the slowest spending growth since the 2008 recession. Between the end of October and Christmas Eve retail sales for the season rose a mere 0.7 percent from last year, according to MasterCard’s research unit, SpendingPulse. SpendingPulse’s vice president of research called it “a lost season.” Hurricane Sandy was one factor suppressing growth, but even online sales registered lackluster gains.

    December 25, 2012 6:46 PM

  16. DISTURBING Fire Suspect Left Note AP; WHAM13-TV via AP video; Monroe County Sheriff's Dept.

    15. Fire Suspect Left Note

    One more body was found in the upstate New York house fire that turned out to be a trap. It is believed to be the 67-year-old sister of the man responsible. Neighbors say they lived together but hated each other. Two firefighters were killed when William Spengler started a house fire and then shot at the first responders, killing two and injuring two more. Spengler died of a self-inflicted gunshot. “I still have to get ready to see how much of the neighborhood I can burn down and do what I like doing best—killing people,” he wrote in a three-page typewritten note. In addition to the casualties, seven homes were destroyed.

    December 25, 2012 6:36 PM

  17. SAY CHEESE Instagram Users Flaunt Xmas Guns @ebhapa/instragram; @tylerbonta/instagram

    16. Instagram Users Flaunt Xmas Guns

    Nothing says Christmas like Americans posing next to trees with freshly unwrapped semi-automatics. And the increase in gun sales after the Newtown shooting may have had to do with the holiday season. The Atlantic Wire does a quick search on Twitter and Instagram and finds that this year, it’s not uncool to pose with your new firearm.

    December 26, 2012 7:31 AM

  18. Afghanistan Suicide Bomber Attacks U.S. Base Musadeq Sadeq/AP

    17. Suicide Bomber Attacks U.S. Base

    A suicide bomber struck outside of a major U.S. military base in Afghanistan on Wednesday. The vehicle driven by the suicide bomber exploded at the gate to Camp Chapman, killing the guard, two civilians, and the assailant. A spokesman for the Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the attack, said that the bombing targeted Afghan police and Afghans who worked for Americans entering the base. He also claimed to have inflicted high casualties. There has been a surge in insider attacks this year against foreign military and civilian personnel and over 50 Afghan members of the government’s security forces have died in insider attacks.

    December 26, 2012 6:48 AM

  19. IT'S OFFICIAL (ISH) Morsi Signs Constitution Mahmud Hams/AFP, via Getty

    18. Morsi Signs Constitution

    Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi signed the new Islamist-drafted constitution into law, after results of the constitutional referendum showed that 63.8 percent of voters approved the document. Opponents said that the constitution was too Islamist and did not offer enough protection to minority groups. But Morsi argued that the constitution offers enough protection for everyone and that the turmoil surrounding the constitution has prevented his government from focusing on the economy. Anxiety over the country’s economic situation has led to many taking cash out of banks and hoarding money at home. As a result, authorities recently made it illegal to enter or leave Egypt with more than $10,000 in cash.

    December 26, 2012 6:40 AM

  20. ALOHA Obama Leaving Hawaii Early Carolyn Kaster/AP

    19. Obama Leaving Hawaii Early

    President Obama is cutting his vacation to Hawaii short and returning to Washington on Wednesday, in an effort to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff. Only five days remain before the automatic spending cuts and tax increases are scheduled to take effect. Obama left for Hawaii on Friday after weeks of unsuccessful negotiations, but said he would return to the Capitol this week in an effort to get Republicans to agree to a stopgap measure or obtain a broader deal. Congress returns to D.C. on Thursday, but no talks are scheduled and there was no virtually no communication between the White House and Republicans over the holiday weekend.

    December 26, 2012 6:43 AM

  21. SPOIL SPORT Dan Stevens Leaving ‘Downton Abbey’ John Lamparski /Getty Images

    20. Dan Stevens Leaving ‘Downton Abbey’

    The halls of Downton will soon be short one dapper gentleman. Dan Stevens, the actor who plays swoonworthy heir Matthew Crawley, will not be returning to the British period drama Downton Abbey for a fourth season, Deadline confirms. The series, set to begin airing its third season in the U.S. in January on PBS, just aired its Christmas special in the U.K., which (SPOILER ALERT) explains Crawley’s exit. Season four of Downton Abbey begins shooting in the U.K. this winter. It is nominated for three Golden Globe awards, including Best Drama, at next month’s ceremony.

    December 26, 2012 9:41 AM

  22. LOOK AWAY Zuckerberg’s Sis Complains About Privacy Paul Sakuma / AP Photo

    21. Zuckerberg’s Sis Complains About Privacy

    No one is safe. Facebook guru Mark Zuckerberg's sister Randi was irked when a photo she posted to her Facebook account was tweeted to a wider audience. The photo shows her family, including Mark, making funny faces while viewing the new poke application on the site. When someone tweeted it—either because she subscribes to Randi's Facebook page or is friends with Randi's sister—Randi wasn't too pleased. “You reposting it to Twitter is way uncool,” she tweeted. And later: “I’m just sensitive to private photos becoming ‘news.’”

    December 26, 2012 9:47 AM

  23. HOPE AND BOOKS Cities Battle for Obama Library AFP, via Getty

    22. Cities Battle for Obama Library

    Competition is heating up between Honolulu and Chicago as they vie to be selected as the location for Barack Obama’s presidential library. Obama was born in Hawaii, but began his political career in Chicago. Presidential libraries each draw an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 visitors per year to the cities they're in. Bill Clinton selected the location of his library during his second term, so a decision could come soon. The president of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce claims that Chicago should be selected. “Flying all the way to Hawaii is costly and you’d have to tie it to a vacation. Here you can drive to the library and visit because you’re already in the city for a meeting or convention,” he said. 

    December 26, 2012 10:04 AM

  24. Awkward Police Investigating ‘Meet the Press’ William B. Plowman/NBC NewsWire, via Getty

    23. Police Investigating ‘Meet the Press’

    Be careful where you bear your arms. Washington, D.C., police announced that they are investigating Meet the Press after David Gregory, the host, displayed what he said was a high-capacity ammunition magazine. The incident occurred during Gregory’s interview with National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre on Sunday, while the two were discussing whether high-capacity ammunition should be banned. But Washington, D.C., law stipulates “No person in the District shall possess, sell, or transfer any large capacity ammunition feeding device” even if it is not attached to a firearm. A police spokeswoman confirmed, “We are investigating this matter.”

    December 26, 2012 7:21 AM

  25. White Christmas Winter Storms Head for Northeast G.M. Andrews/AP

    24. Winter Storms Head for Northeast

    The severe storms that killed six people and caused travel delays in the Southern U.S. on Tuesday are now headed for the Northeast. Severe storms headed for the region bring new risk of tornados in the Coastal Carolinas and heavy snow fall in the Ohio Valley. Winter storm warnings have been issued in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Forecasts indicate the weather system dump over a foot of snow on northern New England by Sunday. Severe thunderstorm and heavy rainfall is expected from southeast Virginia to Florida. An outbreak of tornadoes on Christmas Day left damage across the Deep South and over 100,000 customers were left without power in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama.

    December 26, 2012 6:46 AM

  26. FIRED UP N.Y. Paper Publishes Gun Database Scott Olson / Getty Images

    25. N.Y. Paper Publishes Gun Database

    Some gun owners proudly posed with their new firearms on Christmas morning, but others are not willing to be so public. After a local New York newspaper, The Journal News, published an online database of local gun-permit holders, gun advocates took to social media to complain that their privacy has been violated and their safety compromised. The database was legally obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, and has since gone viral, inciting a debate over whether making the information public was irresponsible. "We knew publication of the database would be controversial, but we felt sharing as much information as we could about gun ownership in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings," said CynDee Royle, editor and vice president/news of The Journal News.

    December 26, 2012 11:19 AM

  27. AHEAD OF THE CURVE

    26. China Launches Longest Rail Line

    Sure beats the Acela. China launched the world’s longest high-speed rail line Wednesday morning, as the first trains took off from Beijing to Guangzhou, an economic hub in the south, early this morning. The 1,400-mile trip—roughly the distance from Boston to Miami—takes eight hours at a starting pace of 186mph. Previously, the fastest time between the two cities by train was more than 20 hours. Meanwhile, Amtrak trains from New York to Miami, a shorter distance, take nearly 30 hours. One-way tickets on China’s silver bullet start at $140 and run up to $470 for a VIP lounge.

    December 26, 2012 2:04 PM

  28. SWITCHING SIDES High-Ranking Syrian General Defects AFP

    27. High-Ranking Syrian General Defects

    In the latest sign of momentum shifting against embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the highest-ranking military officer yet has abandoned the regime in a publicly broadcast address. In a video that ran on Al Arabiya, Maj. Gen. Abdul Azia Jassem al-Shallal said he was defecting because of the Syrian military has deviated from “its fundamental mission to protect the nation and transformation into gangs of killing and destruction.” It is believed that Shallal made the video near the Turkish-Syrian border, and that he is now seeking refuge in Turkey alongside other defectors. The announcement comes as insurgents continue to make territorial gains against Assad’s regime in northern and central parts of the country.

    December 26, 2012 12:50 PM

  29. RETALIATION Russia Passes U.S. Adoption Ban Getty Images

    28. Russia Passes U.S. Adoption Ban

    A ban on Americans adopting Russian children sailed through the upper house of Russian Parliament Wednesday. The legislation echoes strong anti-American sentiments shared by many of Russia’s political class—sparked namely by President Obama’s signing of a law prohibiting access to visas and U.S. bank accounts for any Russian officials linked to the controversial death of imprisoned whistleblower, Sergei Magnitsky. If passed into law, the ban on adoption will be Moscow’s promised “symmetrical” response to the Magnitsky Act, not to mention one of the most controversial laws of Vladimir Putin’s reign over the country.

    December 26, 2012 12:57 PM

  30. MERRY MUSICAL ‘Les Miz’ Sweeps Box Office Universal Pictures

    29. ‘Les Miz’ Sweeps Box Office

    Can you hear the producers sing? Les Misérables is dominating on the big screen just like it did the stage: opening on Christmas Day, the musical raked in a massive $17.5 million, and was the top advance ticket-seller among all releases. Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, which also debuted Tuesday, took in around $3 million less than the Victor Hugo adaptation. Nothing like watching two and a half hours of death and despair to get into the holiday spirit.

    December 26, 2012 3:30 PM

  31. TAKE YOUR TIME Senators in No Rush to Return to D.C. Win McNamee / Getty

    30. Senators in No Rush to Return to D.C.

    The fiscal-cliff clock is ticking, but as the Jan. 1 deadline nears, there hardly appears to be a sense of urgency on Capitol Hill. Few senators have chosen to return to their offices before Thursday, and House Republican leaders have yet to give fellow members the promised 48-hour warning before they anticipate returning. Despite the fact that lawmakers seem to be making the most of their Christmas break, they still insist a deal to avoid sending the U.S. economy over the dreaded fiscal cliff is still possible.

    December 26, 2012 4:50 PM