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  1. DRAWDOWN Obama, Karzai Speed Up Withdrawal Jim Watson/AFP/Getty

    1. Obama, Karzai Speed Up Withdrawal

    This is certainly an optimistic start to the new year. President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Friday that they had agreed to a slightly sped-up withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan—although Karzai declined to say how many U.S. troops will be left behind after the 2014 deadline. “Starting this spring our troops will have a different mission—training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces,” Obama said at a joint press conference. In a joint statement, the two said the Afghan Army is “exceeding initial exceptions” and the Afghan forces will be in a combat role throughout the country by this spring. 

    January 11, 2013 2:23 PM

  2. COUGH COUGH 47 States Report ‘Widespread Flu’ Flu shot administered in Cleveland. (Tony Dejak/AP)

    2. Flu Reaches Epidemic Proportions

    The flu has officially reached epidemic proportions in the United States. According to a weekly report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 47 states across the nation are reporting “widespread flu activity.” On the bright side, the CDC also reports it appears the epidemic may be at its peak, and that this year’s flu vaccine is about 62 percent effective. Of all U.S. regions, only the Southwest is exhibiting “normal” flu conditions. The CDC says 7.3 percent of all deaths last week were from pneumonia flu, just above the epidemic threshold of 7.2 percent. New York City and Boston are being hit particularly hard in what is being called the worst flu epidemic to sweep the nation in more than a decade.

    January 11, 2013 8:30 PM

  3. Time for Justice Syria May Go to War Crimes Court AFP

    3. Syria May Go to War Crimes Court

    More than 50 countries signed a letter Friday urging the U.N. Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court. Doing so would make it possible to eventually prosecute Syria for war crimes. The letter was signed by the Swiss ambassador to the U.N. on behalf of the gaggle of nations, which included Britain and France—two of the five permanent members of the Security Council (the U.S., China, and Russia did not sign). The U.N. should at least place an ultimatum that it will take action unless “a credible, fair and independent accountability process is being established in a timely manner” by Syria, the letter said.

     

    January 11, 2013 9:30 PM

  4. Allies France Intervenes in Mali PHILIPPE WOJAZER / Getty Images

    4. France Intervenes in Mali

    French troops are providing the Malian government with backup in its fight against Islamist rebels, President François Hollande confirmed Friday. Since April, rebel militants have had control over the northern part of the country. According to a Defense Ministry official, the Malian Army seized the central city of Konna from rebel control on Friday. The Obama administration released a statement saying they are monitoring the situation and support France’s intervention.

    January 11, 2013 8:15 PM

  5. PROSECUTORIAL DISCRETION NBC Not Charged for Magazine Display NBC NewsWire

    5. NBC Not Charged for Magazine Display

    Lesson learned? NBC will not be charged for David Gregory’s display of a high-capacity magazine on Meet the Press, the D.C. attorney general’s office confirmed Friday, citing “prosecutorial discretion” in its decision. Despite blatantly breaking the law, the network was spared charges because Meet the Press displayed the magazine in order to inform in the “ongoing public debate about firearms policy” in the U.S., and because the magazine was promptly returned to the police after the show was produced. The decision not to press charges was nonetheless “very close,” and the attorney general’s office said any other similar occurrence will be “prosecuted to the full extent.”  

    January 11, 2013 5:40 PM

  6. IN COURT Judge: Holmes Must Stand Trial Holmes in prelim court on January 7, 2013. (Pool photo by Bill Robles)

    6. Judge: Holmes Must Stand Trial

    A Colorado judge ruled Thursday that there is enough evidence to try James Holmes for shooting and killing 12 people and wounding another 70 in a rampage at the Aurora multiplex in July. During a court hearing Friday, a father of one of the Aurora victims yelled out in court, “Rot in hell, Holmes.” Following the outburst, Judge William B. Sylvester told the father, “I am terribly sorry for your loss. I can only begin to imagine the emotions that this is raising,” before lecturing him on proper courtroom decorum. Sylvester ruled Thursday that there is sufficient evidence to tie Holmes to the 166 counts of murder, attempted murder, and other weapons charges—and ordered that Holmes continue to be held without bail. Holmes’s attorneys claim he is mentally ill, and it is not yet decided whether he can face the death penalty. 

    January 11, 2013 3:30 PM

  7. MALWARE ALERT U.S. Govt: Hackers Using Java Justin Sullivan

    7. U.S. Govt: Hackers Using Java

    Get rid of your Java—the software, that is. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is urging computer users to disable Oracle’s Java software in their Web browser in order to avoid being hacked. In the past few months, researchers have discovered a weakness in Java security that could allow for installation of malware and increase the chance of identity theft by hackers. The DHS Computer Emergency Readiness Team hasn’t yet found a way to debug the system, but warned on its website that the software’s “vulnerability is being attacked in the wild” and being made into publicly available exploit kits.

    January 11, 2013 7:04 PM

  8. Religious Freedom

    8. Imprisoned Taliban Fighter Wins Prayer Suit

    It's illegal to prevent John Walker Lindh and his fellow Muslim inmates at a high-security prison from praying together daily, a federal judge ruled Friday. Lindh, a convicted American-born Taliban fighter, sued the prison with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, arguing that its ban on daily group prayer goes against the Quran and, specifically, the Hanbali school of Islam that mandates that he pray with other Muslims. The prison had previously allowed inmates to pray in groups only once a week or on high holy days, a rule the judge deemed illegitimate based on a 1993 law preventing government from curtailing religious speech.

    January 11, 2013 5:30 PM

  9. Star Woes White House Won’t Build Death Star SERGEI SUPINSKY / AFP

    9. White House Won’t Build Death Star

    The White House would like to be clear: it does “not support blowing up planets.” That was one of the official statements released Friday in response to a “We the People” petition calling on the federal government to build a Death Star–like battle space station modeled after the one in Star Wars. The more than 25,000 people who signed the petition argued that the project would spur job creation and strengthen national defense capabilities. The White House sited the prohibitive $850,000,000,000,000,000 cost and its anti-planet destruction policies as the idea’s fundamental flaw: it “can be exploited by a one-man starship,” the statement read. 

    January 11, 2013 9:46 PM

  10. Oscar Drama Sony Exec Defends ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Jonathan Olley / Sony Pictures

    10. Sony Exec Defends ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

    And the award for Best Drama goes to … the debate over Zero Dark Thirty. Sony Pictures executive Amy Pascal defended the Oscar Best Picture nominee against an Academy member who said he would not vote for the film because it promotes torture. “We are outraged that any responsible member of the Academy would use their voting status … as a platform to advance their own political agenda,” Pascal said, adding that the film “does not advocate torture.” Pascal’s comments were made in response to actor David Clennon, who posted his opinion on the progressive website Truth-out.org. Zero Dark Thirty is up for five Academy Awards.

    January 11, 2013 10:11 PM

  11. The Ex Factor Britney Spears, Jason Trawick Split Up Michael Kovac / Getty Images

    11. Britney Spears, Jason Trawick Split Up

    Hit play on “From the Bottom of My Broken Heart” and just let the tears flow, Brit Brit. Sources tell TMZ that Britney Spears and fiancé Jason Trawick have broken up. The two met when Trawick was Spears’s agent and got engaged in 2011. Trawick eventually became co-conservator of Spears’s affairs, and the pop star’s lawyers are reportedly in court now to remove him from the position. Though sources tell TMZ it was a “friendly breakup,” the site finds the timing suspicious “considering Brit recently changed agencies ... an indication Trawick was no longer involved in managing her career.”

    January 11, 2013 6:49 PM

  12. TOO LATE Britain Missed Chances to Charge Savile Jimmy Savile in 1976. (Evening Standard/Getty)

    12. Britain Missed Chances to Charge Savile

    Late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile has been accused of sexually abusing boys and girls as young as 8 in 214 reported incidents over 50 years, according to a report released Friday. The investigation, conducted by Britain’s Metropolitan Police Service and the nonprofit firm the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, says there is evidence that Savile was a “predatory sex offender.” Savile has been accused of sexual abuse of young girls, occurring mainly at hospitals and group homes and even some at the BBC headquarters, with the investigation finding that the accusations date back to 1955 and the most recent was in 2009. Britain’s chief prosecutor, Keir Starmer, apologized Friday to women allegedly abused by Savile, and said police missed three chances to take Savile to trial.

    January 11, 2013 7:00 AM

  13. AIR TROUBLE FAA Orders Review of 787 Dreamliner Japan Airlines' Dreamliner in Boston on Jan. 7.(Stephan Savoia/AP)

    13. FAA Orders Review of 787 Dreamliner

    At a press conference Friday to discuss Boeing’s controversial new aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner, federal officials denied claims that it’s flawed: “There is nothing in the data to suggest that this aircraft is unsafe.” Still, the FAA has ordered a comprehensive review of the so-called sophiscated new aircraft after two separate mishaps on flights in Japan. A cockpit window on a Dreamliner jet cracked during domestic flight from Tokyo to Matsuyama, and the same airline said oil was found leaking from a 787 Dreamliner after the aircraft landed at Miyazaki Airport in Japan. The Dreamliner was introduced to much fanfare in 2011 but has since been hampered by production delays that left deliveries three years behind schedule.

    January 11, 2013 8:57 AM

  14. CASH CARS Ford to Hire 2,200 U.S. Employees Ford C-MAX assembly in Wayne, Mich. (Bill Pugliano/Getty)

    14. Ford to Hire 2,200 U.S. Employees

    Ford Motor Co. has announced plans to hire 2,200 U.S. employees in the coming year, the most for the Michigan-based automaker in more than a decade. The move will be the company’s biggest increase since 2001, when it added 3,300 workers. Ford continues to expand its U.S. light-vehicle sales after selling 14.5 million of them last year, the best annual total the company has seen in five years. Ford president Joe Hinrichs says he is looking forward to an exciting year. The hiring “is about supporting the introduction of great new products and the pace of those new products,” he says.

    January 11, 2013 10:02 AM

  15. CULTURE Biden to Meet Videogame Industry Biden meeting with interest groups on Thursday. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)

    15. Biden to Meet Videogame Industry

    Will there be some test playing of Call of Duty? Joe Biden will turn to the videogame industry Friday to examine the cultural forces that may contribute to violent behavior in the latest meeting of the vice president’s task force that will present recommendations to President Obama next week to prevent gun violence. On Thursday, Biden spent more than 90 minutes in a closed-door meeting with leaders of the NRA, which was described as open and frank discussion—but neither side showed any sign of budging on the issue. Biden also met with representatives from the entertainment industry, including Comcast and the Motion Picture Association of America, on Thursday. Biden said he will present his thoughts from the task force to the president Tuesday.

    January 11, 2013 6:55 AM

  16. Baby Bell Evan Rachel Wood Is Pregnant Charley Gallay / Getty Images

    16. Evan Rachel Wood Is Pregnant

    Queen Sophie Anne and Billy Elliott are having a baby. Actress Evan Rachel Wood (True Blood, Across the Universe) announced Friday that she and her husband, Jamie Bell (Billy Elliott, King Kong), are expecting their first child. “Remember when i said, ‘No baby on the way here,’” Wood tweeted with a picture of the book What to Expect When You're Expecting. “Well, I didnt know there actually was!” Wood, who was previously engaged to Marilyn Manson, married Bell in a secret ceremony this past October.

    January 11, 2013 5:57 PM

  17. INDEPENDENT WOMEN Destiny’s Child to Perform at Super Bowl Eric Jamison / AP Photo

    17. Destiny’s Child to Perform at Super Bowl

    Well, it’s about damn time. The only thing more exciting than a Destiny’s Child reunion is a Destiny’s Child Super Bowl halftime show. To celebrate—and promote—the Jan. 29 release of the trio's compilation album, Beyoncé will be joined on stage by her fellow independents Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams during her performance at this year’s Super Bowl in New Orleans. Whether Tina Knowles will be designing matching outfits for the singers is still unconfirmed.

    January 11, 2013 2:00 PM

  18. TERRIFYING Hostages Taken at L.A. Store Robbery Bloomberg

    18. Hostages Taken at L.A. Store Robbery

    Fourteen hostages were released early Friday morning after being held inside a Nordstrom Rack store in Los Angeles during an armed robbery in a terrifying ordeal in which one was allegedly sexually assaulted, another was stabbed, and a third was pistol-whipped. The attack began shortly after the store closed Thursday night, when a boyfriend of one of the employees called 911 and reported that two gunmen were in the store. Thirteen women and a man—all employees—were forced into a bathroom and a storage room, police said, while a SWAT team surrounded the store in a four-hour standoff.

    January 11, 2013 12:59 PM

  19. LAST HURRAH Sen. Jay Rockefeller to Retire Chip Somodevilla

    19. Sen. Jay Rockefeller to Retire

    The 113th congressional session will be the last for Jay Rockefeller. The longtime West Virginia senator will announce Friday that he doesn’t plan to seek reelection in 2014—becoming the first Democrat with an expiring term to make his future plans public. “I’ve gotten way out of whack in terms of the time I should spend with my wife and my children and my grandchildren,” he told The Associated Press. The former two-term governor and rare West Virginia Obama supporter has been a senator since 1985.

    January 11, 2013 11:04 AM

  20. NOT AGAIN Rep. on Akin: ‘He’s Partially Right’ Rep. Gingrey on Capitol Hill on Oct. 2011. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

    20. Rep. on Akin: ‘He’s Partially Right’

    So the “legitimate rape” controversy will just never go away. In an interview published Friday in the Marietta Daily Journal, Georgia Rep. Phil Gingrey said his fellow Republicans Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock made comments that were “a little bit over the top,” torpedoing GOP efforts to seize control the Senate. Akin lost his Senate race after saying a woman could not get pregnant from a “legitimate rape,” while Mourdock said pregnancy after rape is something “God intended.” Gingrey, an obstetrician and gynecologist since 1975, tried to clarify Akin’s comments, saying Akin meant a situation similar to when a “scared-to-death 15-year-old” becomes pregnant and claims it is rape. Gingrey insisted Akin is “partially right” that adrenaline can stop a woman from ovulating and thus could prevent a pregnancy.

    January 11, 2013 11:21 AM

  21. OFFENSIVE Rebels Seize Syrian Air Base Shelling in Taftanaz, Syria on Thursday. (Shaam News Network via AP video)

    21. Rebels Seize Syrian Air Base

    The fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues, as rebels took over northwestern Taftanaz air base Friday. The base, from which militants seized helicopters, tanks, and rocket launchers, was the biggest field for helicopters used to attack the areas held by the opposition. The move, considered a significant coup for a team of militants that includes members of al Qaeda affiliates and other Islamic groups, came after weeks of attacks on the Taftanaz base.

    January 11, 2013 9:55 AM

  22. OH, LINDSAY Lohan: NYT Was Accurate Charley Gallay / Gallay / Getty Images

    22. Lohan: NYT Was Accurate

    Wow, this was an unexpected reply. Lindsay Lohan said Thursday that The New York Times was pretty accurate in its long-form piece on the filming of The Canyons, her latest attempt at a comeback. While Lohan insisted she did not drink and drive, as the writer alleges, she said the claims that she was frequently late to the set, was nervous about getting naked, and argued with producers are all true—although she said such things are standard in Hollywood. The Times piece chronicles the making of the troubled film, written by Bret Easton Ellis, directed by Paul Schrader, and costarring porn actor James Deen. In the piece, Schrader defended his casting of Lohan by quoting Ellis’s Daily Beast article about Charlie Sheen.

    January 11, 2013 11:39 AM

  23. BEAUTY AND A BEAT Bieber Sued by Bodyguard Bieber performing in December. (Rick Diamond/Getty)

    23. Bieber Sued by Bodyguard

    First came the Selena Gomez breakup. Now Justin Bieber’s former bodyguard has filed a lawsuit against the singer, claiming physical abuse. Moshe Benabou, a former member of the Israeli Defense Force, alleges in the suit that Bieber berated him and punched him in the chest several times. Benabou, who worked for Bieber from March 2011 until October 2012, is seeking unspecified damages for assault and battery, as well as $420,000 in unpaid overtime.

    January 11, 2013 7:45 AM

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  25. ZERO OPTION Obama, Karzai to Talk Afghan Future Karzai welcomed at the Pentagon on Thursday. (Alex Wong/Getty)

    24. Obama, Karzai to Talk Afghan Future

    Joe Biden isn’t the only one with sensitive discussions Friday. President Obama will meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to discuss what the troop levels will be in Afghanistan after the U.S. removes most of its troops by 2014. White House officials have suggested there could be a complete withdrawal of forces after 2014—similar to the Iraqi withdrawal in 2011—although some have suggested this “zero option” is Obama’s ace in bargaining with Karzai. As relations with Karzai have become more strained, White House aides say the president does not expect any breakthroughs during Friday’s talks—and it could be months before Obama decides how many troops he wants to keep in Afghanistan. Former senator Chuck Hagel, Obama’s nominee to be the next defense secretary, is likely to back large-scale troop reduction.

    January 11, 2013 7:10 AM

  26. GUNS IN SCHOOL Cali Shooter Had ‘Intended Targets’ Rich Legg/Getty

    25. Cali Shooter Had ‘Intended Targets’

    The 16-year-old student who opened fire in a classroom Thursday morning had specific targets, police say. The suspect entered Taft Union High School in Kern County, Calif., with a 12-gauge shotgun and shot one student between two and four times in the chest and tried to shoot another, but missed. A teacher and supervisor talked him into putting the gun down and evacuated the classroom. “They did a great job of protecting the kids,” said Ed Whiting, the chief of the Taft Police Department. “We can’t thank them enough for what they did today.” One victim is in critical condition, and the teacher suffered a minor pellet wound on his head.

    January 10, 2013 5:00 PM

  27. PLOT ‘Internal Feud’ Behind Kurdish Murders? Kurdish demonstrators in eastern France on Thursday. (Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty)

    26. ‘Internal Feud’ Behind Kurdish Murders?

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that the three Kurdish activists found dead in Paris were killed because of an “internal feud.” Erdogan said the building where the execution-style murder is alleged to have taken place is guarded by coded lock, and “those three people opened it.” “No doubt they wouldn’t open it to people they didn’t know,” Erdogan said. Erdogan also suggested that the killings could have been intended to sabotage peace talks between Turkey and the PKK, the militant group the Kurdish activists worked for. Turkish activists have been linked to Kurdish deaths before, but those incidents were previously limited to within Turkey. French investigators have given no hint as to who is behind the murders.

    January 11, 2013 7:15 AM

  28. FAKE MOVIE Iran to Make Film to Correct ‘Argo’ Ben Affleck in "Argo." (Claire Folger/Warner Bros.)

    27. Iran to Make Film to Correct ‘Argo’

    Ben Affleck may not have gotten a best-director Oscar nomination for Argo, but at least he has the attention of the Iranian leadership. News reports from Tehran indicate that Iran’s government is planning on making its own version of Affleck’s Argo to correct what they consider errors in the original film. Argo dramatizes the story of six Americans hidden by the Canadian ambassador during the 1979 hostage crisis. “I’m not sure what the Iranians found wrong,” Affleck said Thursday. “It will be amusing to see what they take issue with.” Not much is known about the Iranian film so far, except that it will be called The General Staff and will be directed by Ataollah Salmanian.

    January 11, 2013 7:40 AM

  29. YIKES Report: Bachmann Campaign Staffers Unpaid Bachmann ending campaign on January 4, 2012. (Chris Carlson/AP)

    28. Report: Bachmann Campaign Staffers Unpaid

    Good thing there is no union for former campaign staffers. A former top campaign official for Michele Bachmann said Thursday that the 2012 presidential hopeful has refused to pay five of her staffers. Peter Waldon, the former national field coordinator, said the staffers are owed just $5,000, and Bachmann has more than $2 million in her campaign coffers. But Bachmann reportedly refuses to pay the former Iowa straw-poll staffers until they sign a nondisclosure agreement that would prevent them from telling any members of the media about any “unethical, immoral, or criminal activity” they witnessed on the campaign trail. It’s not the first time Bachmann has had problems paying her staff: in October 2011, most of her New Hampshire staff quit, partially due to a lack of payment.

    January 11, 2013 7:20 AM

  30. SUSPICIOUS NYPD to Review 800 Rape Cases Spencer Platt/Getty

    29. NYPD to Review 800 Rape Cases

    This sounds like it could be a great arc for Law & Order. The NYPD said Friday that it will be reviewing some 800 rape cases after allegations that DNA evidence had been mishandled or overlooked by a lab technician. According to the medical examiner’s office, supervisors have discovered 26 cases where the technician did not detect biological evidence when some actually did exist. The director of forensic biology at the medical examiner’s office insisted these errors are linked to false negatives, not false positives—and she insisted that “nobody was wrongfully convicted.” The office has yet to conclude its review of 412 of 843 cases it intends to examine. The cases span from 2001 to 2011, when the technician left.

    January 11, 2013 7:35 AM