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  1. Fiscal Cliff Obama to Meet Congressional Leaders Elaine Thompson/AP

    1. Obama to Meet Congressional Leaders

    When even Starbucks baristas can’t agree to get along, things are not looking good on the Hill. President Obama will meet with congressional leaders at the White House on Friday, communications director Dan Pfeiffer said Thursday. Obama will meet with House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Thursday shows that more Americans blame the Republicans for the crisis than the Democrats or the president. Meanwhile, Boehner said the House will return to its session on Sunday, one day before the fiscal-cliff deadline. Get your parachutes ready, folks…

    December 27, 2012 7:57 PM

  2. GETTING WELL Hillary Will Return Next Week Matt Rourke / AFP / Getty Images

    2. Hillary Will Return Next Week

    Hillary Clinton is back! The secretary of state will return to work next week after three weeks away recovering from a concussion and stomach virus—and not a moment too soon. Though she will still have to refrain from travelling abroad for the time being, Clinton will finally be able to give her testimony on the September attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Doctors mandated that she not testify earlier this month, which spawned conspiracy theories that she may be faking or exaggerating her illness to get out of the hearing.

    December 27, 2012 6:55 PM

  3. R.I.P. Norman Schwarzkopf Dies Tim Sloan/AFP, via Getty

    3. Norman Schwarzkopf Dies

    Retired U.S. general Norman Schwarzkopf died Thursday in Tampa at age 78. Known as “Stormin’ Norman,” Schwarzkopf was the commander in chief of the U.S. central command in the five-week Persian Gulf War in 1991 and was regaled for freeing Kuwait from its Iraqi occupiers. In the aftermath, Schwarzkopf was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George H.W. Bush, and Queen Elizabeth II made him an honorary knight. He overcame prostate cancer almost 20 years ago, and he died Thursday from complications from pneumonia.

    Retired U.S. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the man who led the U.S. command in the first Gulf War, died Thursday at the age of 78. Three months before his retirement in 1991, Schwarzkopf told soon-to-be soldiers about the importance of protecting the nation—and the importance of dedication to the U.S.

    December 27, 2012 9:00 PM

  4. OMINOUS

    4. U.S. Suspends Central African Rep. Embassy

    Things are appearing to be more volatile in the Central African Republic. The United States announced it was suspending operations at its embassy in the country, as rebels appear to be on the cusp of a capital takeover. They have already seized at least 10 towns throughout the country. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the U.S. ambassador and embassy staff had exited the country. “This decision is solely due to concerns about the security of our personnel and has no relation to our continuing and long-standing diplomatic relations with the CAR,” he noted in a statement.

    December 27, 2012 10:20 PM

  5. Ailing Bush's Family Hopeful for Release Charles Krupa/AP

    5. Bush’s Family Hopeful for Release

    George H.W. Bush is in intensive care after “a series of setbacks including persistent fever,” but the former president's family said Thursday they are confident that he will be released shortly. "He has every intention of staying put," his chief of staff wrote in a note to supporters. "He would ask me to tell you to please put the harps back in the closet." The 88-year-old was admitted to the ICU at Methodist Hospital on Sunday, but is alert and talking to medical staff and is surrounded by family. Unfortunately, the fever that kept Bush in the hospital over Christmas has gotten worse. “It’s a stubborn fever that won’t go away,” a spokesman said, adding that doctors are cautiously optimistic about his treatment. Bush had been admitted to the hospital for bronchitis in November.

    December 27, 2012 5:55 PM

  6. CAN’T TAINT THIS Poll: 54 Percent View NRA Favorably Alex Wong/Getty

    6. Poll: 54 Percent View NRA Favorably

    They’re not exactly the most lovable bunch, but despite what it may seem like on Twitter or in the media, most Americans still have a fondness for the National Rifle Association. According to a Gallup poll released Thursday, 54 percent of participants have a favorable opinion of the recently scandal-ridden gun lobby, while 38 percent view them unfavorably. The time period in which the poll was conducted includes NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre’s speech advocating the stationing of armed guards at each school in America. It remains to be seen which side Obama will run with as public pressure for gun control remains strong.

    December 27, 2012 8:55 PM

  7. CREEPY Adam Lanza’s DNA to be Tested AP

    7. Adam Lanza’s DNA to be Tested

    Was Adam Lanza’s murderous ambition built into his DNA? That’s what researchers at the University of Connecticut hope to find as they prepare to study the school shooter’s genetics for signs of a mutation or abnormality that could foretell a propensity toward violence. “I don’t think any one of these mutations would explain all of [the mass shooters], but some of them would have mutations that might be causing both schizophrenia and related schizophrenia violent behavior,” said Arthur Beaudet, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine, who is unconnected to the research. The research area is controversial because it could lead to genetic discrimination against those with certain gene mutations.

    December 27, 2012 8:45 PM

  8. TRAGIC

    8. Man Dies After Pushed Onto Subway

    For those living with subway systems, being pushed onto the tracks is a nagging nightmare, but it’s been happening with concerning regularity in New York City. On Thursday, a man was killed when a woman pushed him onto the tracks as a train was approaching the station in Sunnyside, Queens. The woman ran down the street and has not been apprehended. Earlier this month, a man was pushed into a train’s path in Manhattan and the ensuing photograph of his final moments caused an uproar. Heed those announcements, New Yorkers, and stay far from the track’s edge.

    December 27, 2012 10:55 PM

  9. CREATIVE PALEONTOLOGY Man Admits to Smuggling Dinosaurs Handout/ U.S Attorney Office, via AP

    9. Man Admits to Smuggling Dinosaurs

    Talk about a cold case. A Florida fossils dealer pleaded guilty on Thursday to smuggling dinosaur bones from Mongolia—and agreed to surrender a $1 million dinosaur skeleton seized by the U.S. earlier this year. Eric Prokopi, 38, of Gainesville, Florida, admitted he sold a 70 million-year-old skeleton at an auction in May for more than $1 million. In exchange for leniency, Prokopi gave up the rights to that skeleton and others that he smuggled in from Mongolia and China. He faces up to 17 years in prison when he is sentenced in April.

    December 27, 2012 10:05 PM

  10. TOXIC Report: Cowell Wants to Fire Spears FOX / Getty Images

    10. Report: Cowell Wants to Fire Spears

    Guess Britney wasn’t enough of a slave for Simon. Simon Cowell reportedly wants to fire Britney Spears from The X-Factor, sources told Us Weekly on Thursday. “Britney will get the boot,” one source said, indicating the singer had not offered enough energy to the show to warrant her $15 million contract. Another source said it even more harshly: Cowell “wanted crazy Britney, but he got boring Britney.”

    December 27, 2012 10:20 PM

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  12. SPIDEY SENSES Peter Parker Killed in New Comic Mario Tama / Getty Images

    11. Peter Parker Killed in New Comic

    Peter Parker has weaved his last web. In the 700th issue, which was published Thursday, Marvel killed off the man who, for 50 years, wore the Spidey suit in the comic series The Amazing Spider-Man. In the shocking issue, Parker-as-Spidey faces off against notorious nemesis Dr. Otto Octavius, better known as Doc Ock. During the battle, Parker and Octavius end up switching minds, with Parker’s mind transferred into Octavius’s body. Parker utters his last words, “With great power comes great responsibility,” right before Octavius destroys his former shell—and therefore Parker with it. The confusing twist ends with Octavius vowing to live on as Spider-Man and leave his evil ways behind. Tangled web, indeed.

    December 27, 2012 4:47 PM

  13. FISCAL BLAME GAME Reid: Boehner Runs a 'Dictatorship' Win McNamee/Getty

    12. Reid: Boehner Runs a 'Dictatorship'

    With just five days to go, Senate leader Harry Reid is sounding off on the fiscal cliff, predicting that the national will take the dreaded fall on Jan. 1—and blaming John Boehner's "dictatorship" over the House for Washington's failure to come up with a plan. Meanwhile, President Obama is back in town from Hawaii and hitting the phones, dialing up Congress's four top leaders; Republican Sen. Scott Brown broke news of a nascent deal but then appeared to be dead wrong; and the House is now adjourned until Monday. Happy new year. 

    The Senate Majority leader told Congress today that the Speaker is running the House like a ‘dictatorship’ and that all Boehner cares about is keeping his job—and not keeping the country on track financially.

    December 27, 2012 1:30 PM

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

    13. 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

  15. Crack is Whack Investigator Says Whitney Murdered Robin Marchant/Getty

    14. Investigator Says Whitney Murdered

    Let the conspiracy theories begin. A private investigator has surveillance video, which he believes proves Whitney Houston was murdered, according to The National Enquirer. Paul Huebl suggests that Houston was killed by thugs who had been sent to collect a $1.5 million drug debt. Huebl also says that Houston’s body showed “classic defense wounds that would have occurred while she was battling for her life.” He has reportedly turned over the evidence to the FBI. Huebl’s theory contradicts that of the medical examiner who ruled that Houston’s death was “accidental” after she took cocaine, marijuana, and  prescription drugs and then drowned.

    December 27, 2012 7:37 AM

  16. NINE TO FIVE Weekly Jobless Claims Plummet John Moore / Getty Images

    15. Weekly Jobless Claims Plummet

    Nothing says "back to work" like ... holidays? Initial claims for unemployment benefits came in at 350,000 for last week--a 12,000 drop from the week before. This indicates a strengthening labor market and represents the lowest weekly figure since 2008. The number is down 8.9 percent from one year ago. Nineteen states sent in estimated data because the holiday affected data collection, so the figure may be revised upward next week. The four-week moving average, which helps smooth out inconsistencies in data collection was 356,750, down from last week’s figure of 368,000.

    December 27, 2012 1:01 PM

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

    16. 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

  18. STOP FIGHTING Syria Envoy Revives Stalled Peace Plan STR/AFP, via Getty

    17. Syrian Envoy Revives Peace Plan

    The international peace envoy to Syria has called for the formation of a transitional government that would have “full executive powers” to run the country until elections can be held. Lahkdar Brahimi’s plan is reportedly based on the peace plan that world powers came up with in Geneva in June, which called for the creation of a unity government. That plan failed because it did not insist upon Bashar al-Assad’s departure or prohibit him from participating in government. Brahimi did not specify what would become of Assad under this new plan.

    December 27, 2012 6:33 AM

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

    18. 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

  20. Law & Order Police: NBC Knew Magazines Illegal William B. Plowman/NBC NewsWire, via Getty

    19. Police: NBC Knew Magazines Illegal

    NBC won’t be able to claim ignorance of the law if any charges are filed over David Gregory’s display of a high capacity magazine on Meet the Press. Police say the network’s producers checked with them before producing the segment. In an email, a police spokesperson said, “NBC was informed that possession of a high capacity magazine is not permissible and their request was denied.” An official said the investigation will involve questioning NBC producers and could conclude by this week. In Washington D.C., possessing a “large capacity ammunition feeding device” is misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

    December 27, 2012 7:35 AM

  21. MY BAD, EGYPT Morsi Admits Constitution ‘Mistakes’ Egyptian Presidency/AP

    20. Morsi: Constitution Has ‘Mistakes’

    Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi admitted to “mistakes” during the drafting of the country’s new constitution. In a televised address, Morsi said that there had been “mistakes here and there, and I bear responsibility.” He also called the intense disagreements over the constitution, “a healthy phenomenon” and vowed to respect those who voted against it. “This is their right, because Egypt of the revolution—Egypt’s people and its elected president—can never feel annoyed by active patriotic opposition.” He did not promise any specific concessions, but called on opponents to engage in a national dialogue, which one opposition spokesman dismissed as “a dialogue with himself.”

    December 27, 2012 6:41 AM

  22. SNOWY OUT THERE Christmas Megastorm Turns Deadly Jeff Swensen/Getty

    21. Christmas Megastorm Turns Deadly

    Fallout from this year's Christmas megastorm has killed six people since Tuesday, including a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old who died in a car accident in Arkansas. One man in Rayville, Louisiana died when a tree fell on his house. The Indiana Pacers took the rare step of postponing their game against the Chicago Bulls due to the severe weather in Indianapolis. Wind from the storms also caused massive delays at major airports, cancelling nearly 2,000 flights since Christmas. At one point, Philadelphia International Airport had delays of over four hours—the worst in the country.

    December 27, 2012 6:58 AM

  23. Dreams Deferred Putin to Sign U.S. Adoption Ban Geert Vanden Wijngaert

    22. Putin to Sign U.S. Adoption Ban

    Vladimir Putin has announced that he will sign a law banning adoptions of Russian children by American citizens, which was approved by Russia’s Federation Council on Wednesday. Lawmakers said they felt the need to retaliate for a U.S. law signed by President Obama that prohibits Russian citizens accused of violating human rights from traveling to the U.S. or owning assets there. The new law will be enacted immediately and is expected to block the departure of 46 children who are ready to be adopted by parents in the United States.

    December 27, 2012 9:17 AM

  24. FIRING BACK Blogger Publishes Journalists’ Addresses

    23. Blogger Posts Journalists’ Addresses

    Return fire? After a New York newspaper, The Journal News, published an interactive database of all the gun-permit holders in the region, an angered blogger retaliated by posting the names and addresses of almost every employee of the publication. Christopher Fountain said he was offended by the paper’s “conflating legal gun owners with some crazed tormented devil up in Newtown,” and “wondered how they would like it if their addresses were published.” The spark that lit the powder keg: emails he said he received from “abused women who were under protective order and in hiding” who said they feared for their safety after their information was posted on The Journal News database.

    December 27, 2012 12:40 PM

  25. BURNT OUT EPA Chief to Step Down Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

    24. EPA Chief to Step Down

    After four frustrating years, Lisa P. Jackson is stepping down from her position as chief as the Environmental Protection Agency. Though she informed staffers in a brief statement Thursday that she was confident “the ship is sailing in the right direction,” her resignation comes as her agency continues to struggle to make climate change a policy priority. Despite the president’s 2008 promise to combat the issue, Jackson’s tenure was instead consume with defending the E.P.A. against challenges from other industries and attacks from the Republican majority over what it called “job-killing regulations.”

    December 27, 2012 1:41 PM

  26. GRANDE MISFIRE Starbucks Fiscal Gimmick Fails Kin Cheung / AP Photo

    25. Starbucks Fiscal Gimmick Fails

    The fiscal-cliff deadline is less than five days away and Democrats and Republicans still haven’t reached an agreement. Harry Reid is calling John Boehner a dictator. All of this discord “can only mean one thing,” says Dan Amira at New York magazine. “Some D.C.-area Starbucks employees have not been writing ‘come together’ on their coffee cups today.” The coffee giant’s CEO Howard Schultz ordered that baristas write the cutesy phrase on all cups today to encourage a swift end to fiscal negotiations. But, as many Starbucks patrons are reporting on Twitter, the company's employees are for the most part not complying.

    December 27, 2012 3:37 PM

  27. SCAMMER

    26. Woman Arrested for Exploiting Newtown

    Just hours after the news of the Newtown, Conn., shooting was announced, Nouel Alba had an idea. The 37-year-old Bronx resident took to Facebook, claiming to be the aunt of Noah Pozner, one of the students killed in the shooting, and solicited money via a PayPal account to help pay for his funeral. Alba corresponded with donors, telling one that she was in Newtown at the same time as the president but couldn’t watch his speech in person because “Emotionally I cant (sic) deal.” Alba is not in any way related to Pozner, and after her Facebook post was featured in an NBC report on donation scams, she was arrested Thursday by the FBI for exploiting the tragedy.

    December 27, 2012 5:35 PM

  28. No Movie Star Markey to Run for Kerry’s Seat Kris Connor

    27. Markey to Run for Kerry’s Seat

    Since Ben Affleck is apparently not ready to give the people what they want, Rep. Edward Markey will step up to the plate and run for the Senate seat expected to become available with John Kerry’s nomination for secretary of state. He’s no movie star, but Markey, a Democrat, has been a member of the House since 1976 and is the most prominent politician to express interest in Kerry’s seat. “This fight is too important,” Markey said of his decision to run in 2013. “There is too much at stake.”

    December 27, 2012 4:17 PM

  29. CRUEL NATURE Whale Dead on Queens Beach Mario Tama

    28. Whale Dead on Queens Beach

    A 60-foot-long whale is dead after lying on a Queens, N.Y., beach for more than a day. Biologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were monitoring the beached finback since a passerby spotted it and called 911 Wednesday morning. It was still breathing Thursday morning and NOAA had planned to euthanize it humanely if nature didn’t take its course overnight. Now biologists are developing a plan for conducting a necropsy and disposal of the whale. Long Island–based marine research and preservation group the Riverhead Foundation will determine what to do with the massive corpse. “In the past they have been buried on the beach, disposed of in a landfill, or towed out to sea,” said the director of the group.

    December 27, 2012 2:09 PM

  30. FOOTBALL FOLLIES Tebow: I’m Not a Quitter Rich Schultz / Getty Images

    29. Tebow: I’m Not a Quitter

    It may be “almost certain” that Tim Tebow will be shipped from the New York Jets to the Jacksonville Jaguars next season, according to reports, but the polarizing quarterback still doesn’t want his allegiance to Gang Green to be questioned. After reports surfaced that Tebow asked to be removed from the “Wildcat formation” (the only one in which he was used), Tebow insisted on Thursday he was no quitter. “When people are talking about how you play football or how much, that’s one thing, it really doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I think the only thing that has been disappointing for me these last few days, and frustrating, is the people saying, “Oh, you quit on the team” or “You’re not a good teammate.”

    December 27, 2012 4:48 PM