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  1. cover story blown CIA Paid Missing American in Iran Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

    1. CIA Paid Missing American in Iran

    It turns out that Robert Levinson, an American man who went missing in Iran almost seven years ago, was working for the CIA as part of an unapproved intelligence-gathering mission that broke the agency's most basic rules. Though the U.S. has said that Levinson was a private citizen who went missing during a business trip to Kish Island, an Associated Press investigation found that a team of CIA analysts ("with no authority to run spy operations") paid Levinson to gather intelligence around the world. According to the AP, three veteran analysts have been forced out of the agency and seven more disciplined over the matter. Levinson's family last received proof-of-life photos and a video from his captors in late 2010 and early 2011. 

    December 13, 2013 6:30 AM

  2. All Collateral

    2. 15 Civilians Killed by U.S. Drone

    A U.S. drone bombed a wedding-bound convoy in Yemen today, killing 15 civilians and injuring five others, according to Yemeni officials. The bomb “missed its target,” an official said. Al Qaeda’s presence in Yemen has led the U.S. to increase its campaign of targeted air strikes, though Washington doesn’t comment on the practice. Just four days earlier, a U.S. drone killed three people in eastern Yemen. 

    December 12, 2013 2:19 PM

  3. compromise House Passes Two-Year Budget Deal Bloomberg/Getty

    3. House Passes Two-Year Budget Deal

    And vacation on! The House passed a two-year bipartisan budget plan on Thursday night, the House's last action of 2013. The Senate is poised to pass the deal next week, while votes on a new Farm Bill will be held in early January. The passing of the budget seems to signal a shift for House Republicans away from the uncompromising attitude that has driven multiple standoffs, threats of default and, oh yeah, the shutdown. If the Senate approves the bill, members of the House and Senate appropriations committees would convene during the holiday to prepare funding bills for individual government agencies, which will likely be combined into one big omnibus bill. In order for the government to stay open, that bill must pass before January 15, when the current temporary spending bill expires. 

    December 12, 2013 6:26 PM

  4. SORRY ABOUT THAT Mandela Signer: I'm Mentally Ill Itumeleng English/AP

    4. Mandela Signer: I'm Mentally Ill

    After worldwide outrage over the discovery that the South African sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s funeral was using fake signs, he has come forward to say he suffered a schizophrenic episode. Thamsanqa Jantjie told a South African newspaper he was overcome by a schizophrenic episode and was hallucinating and hearing voices. "There was nothing I could do. I was alone in a very dangerous situation," Jantjie said. "I tried to control myself and not show the world what was going on. I am very sorry, it's the situation I found myself in." In another interview with the AP, Jantjie said he was seeing angels coming into the stadium.  Defending his actions, he told the South African newspaper, “life is unfair. This illness is unfair. Anyone who doesn't understand this illness will think that I'm just making this up."

    December 12, 2013 6:43 AM

  5. PURGED Kim Jong Un’s Uncle Executed © China Daily China Daily Inform/Reuters

    5. Kim Jong Un’s Uncle Executed

    North Korea’s state news agency announced Thursday that “traitor” Jang Song Thaek was executed for the crime of trying to overthrow the state. Jang was Kim Jong Un’s uncle and has stood by the young leader’s side since he took power two years ago. Jang was publically ousted from the Workers’ Party of Korea last weekend. Officials accused him of "womanizing," which North Korea observers speculated might have something to do with a personal feud between Jang and Kim Jong Un.

    December 13, 2013 8:00 AM

  6. BEST PICTURES ‘12 Years’ Grabs Golden Globe Nods Francois Duhamel/Annapurna Productions

    6. ‘12 Years’ Grabs Golden Globe Nods

    And the 71st annual Golden Globe nominees are in! 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle cleaned up with seven nods each, while Captain Phillips and Gravity both grabbed four. 12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips, Rush, Philomena, and Gravity received the nominations for best motion picture dramas and American Hustle, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska and The Wolf of Wall Street, made the list for best motion picture comedy or musical. The Globes’ picks don’t offer much of a prediction for what will go down at Oscars, other than a guarantee that there will be several worthy candidates vying for Hollywood’s most coveted award.

    December 12, 2013 9:47 AM

  7. KEEP IT DOWN DOT Considers In-Flight Call Ban Matt Slocum/AP

    7. DOT Considers In-Flight Call Ban

    Now that there is no longer any technical reason for people not to use their cell phones on planes, the Federal Communications Commission is considering lifting the ban on in-flight calls that’s been in place since the 1990s. At the same time, the U.S. Department of Transportation may enact a ban of its own. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said at a House hearing Thursday that ending the ban “is the responsible thing to do,” arguing, “when the rationale for the rule doesn’t exist, the rule shouldn’t exist.” On the other hand, lawmakers and frequent fliers have expressed concern over how allowing passengers to chat on their phones might negatively impact the flying experience. A bill proposed to prohibit cell phone conversations would, however, allow the use of Kindles, iPads and other such Internet-connected electronic devices.

    December 12, 2013 3:45 PM

  8. money matters Teen Who Killed 4 Avoids Jail News 8 abc

    8. Teen Who Killed 4 Avoids Jail

    A 16-year-old who killed four people in a drunk driving incident this summer was spared jail and sentenced to 10 years probation after his attorneys argued he suffered from "affluenza," a psychological condition due to his parents never teaching him right from wrong. Ethan Couch had a blood alcohol level of .24—triple the legal driving limit for an adult—and was on Valium when he lost control of his pick-up truck and crashed into a broken-down car on a rural road in Texas. Along with the four who died, 11 were injured and one remains paralyzed. In the trial, a psychologist argued Couch had "freedoms no young person should have," and he was estimated to have the emotional age of a 12-year-old.

    December 12, 2013 10:00 AM

  9. SYSTEM UPDATE Instagram Welcomes Direct Messages EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP

    9. Instagram Welcomes Direct Messages

    Because sending a low-fi filtered photo via text message is really just such a pain, Instagram is now making it possible for users to send photos and videos to friends directly through the app. Instagram’s founder and CEO Kevin Systrom announced the new service in New York, Thursday. “For us, communication is very core,” he said. “It’s not about photography necessarily.” The creation of Instagram Direct is no doubt a response to the popularity of other private messaging apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp.

    December 12, 2013 10:58 AM

  10. mogul moms Oprah: My Kids Would Hate Me Evan Vucci/AP

    10. Oprah: My Kids Would Hate Me

    As if anyone could hate you, Oprah. In a wide-ranging interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Oprah Winfrey discussed the early struggles of OWN, her South African girls' school, and dreams of scaling back her packed schedule. She noted the difference between herself and her best friend, Gayle, who she said has always wanted kids. "If I had kids, my kids would hate me," Winfrey says. "They would have ended up on the equivalent of the Oprah show talking about me; because something [in my life] would have had to suffer and it would've probably been them." She also discussed the struggle that comes with success and the moment she decided to leave her talk show after 25 years. "When [my producers] called me in and said, 'I know, we could take the audience to outer space,' I knew it was time to go."

    December 12, 2013 2:46 PM

  11. 'sticky fingers' Queen Is Mad Police Ate Her Snacks Adem Altan/AFP/Getty

    11. Queen Is Mad Police Ate Her Snacks

    Some snacks are only fit for royalty. Queen Elizabeth was apparently "furious" after discovering royal protection officers digging into the "Bombay mix" left for her around Buckingham Palace, according to a memo sent by News of the World's former royal editor to Andy Coulson, and presented during the phone hacking trail on Thursday. The queen, it claimed, even "started marking the bowls to see when the levels dipped. Memo now gone around to all palace cops telling them to keep their sticky fingers out." The nerve.

    December 12, 2013 4:02 PM

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  13. REMEDY India Reconsiders Gay Sex Ban Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters

    12. India Reconsiders Gay Sex Ban

    A day after India’s highest court reinstated a law criminalizing gay sex, the Indian government is looking into restoring a 2009 Delhi High Court order that decriminalized the act. The law in question, Section 377, is a 153-year-old remnant of Britain's Victorian-era colonial system, which considered gay relationships an “unnatural offense” and carried a 10-year jail sentence. India's finance minister, P. Chidambaram, said Wednesday's ruling takes India “back to 1860,” while Law Minister Kapil Sibal promised “all options were being considered” to restore the 2009 decriminalization.

    December 12, 2013 6:42 AM

  14. SAYS WHO? Megyn Kelly: Santa is White Richard Drew/AP

    13. Megyn Kelly: Santa is White

    Hmmmm. In response to a Slate article discussing a potential makeover for Santa to be more diversity-friendly, Fox News host Megyn Kelly, while sympathetic to the argument by the author, reassured children everywhere when she said, "For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white...Santa is what he is, and just so you know, we're just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids." Later in the segment, Kelly also might have shocked some historians when she declared that Jesus, too, was white (which is not exactly agreed upon). "But just because it makes you feel uncomfortable, doesn't mean it has to change. Jesus was a white man too. He was a historical figure, that's a verifiable fact," she declared.

    December 12, 2013 11:12 AM

  15. FOUND

    14. 1st Black Prison Memoir Discovered

    A rare-books dealer in upstate New York may have discovered the first recovered African-American prison memoir. Penned by Austin Reed in 1858, the piece of writing offers grisly details surrounding the years 1830-1850, when Reed resided at the infamous Auburn State Prison in New York. “Turning my back towards him he threw Sixty seven lashes on me…I was then to stand over the dreain (sic) while one of the inmates wash[ed] my back in a pail of salt brine,” Reed writes. Prohibited from speaking or even facing one another, the prisoners were regularly whipped and beaten. Professors at Yale are now preparing the book for publication.

    December 12, 2013 1:07 PM

  16. Getting Nervous? Christie: Ease Up on Bridge Flap Kena Betancur/Getty

    15. Christie: Ease Up on Bridge Flap

    New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to complain that a Democratic appointee is being too nosy with an investigation of a bridge closure. Last September, a Port Authority official shut several lanes of the George Washington Bridge, snarling traffic in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Democrats say Christie’s appointee closed the lanes to punish Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor for not endorsing the Republican for reelection. The controversy has already claimed the job of one Christie appointee, who quit the Port Authority last week.

    December 12, 2013 12:37 PM

  17. TRAGIC Official Who OK'd Obama Docs Dies Hawaii Deaprtment of Health/AP

    16. Official Who OK'd Obama Docs Dies

    Loretta Fuddy, the Hawaiian health director who made headlines two years ago for approving the hotly contested release of President Obama’s birth certificate, was the sole casualty in a Hawaiian plane crash Wednesday afternoon. The Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft that Fuddy was aboard went down shortly after taking off from Hawaii’s Kalaupapa Airport. Why, exactly, the plane plummeted has not been confirmed, but all eight of the other passengers on board with Fuddy survived. “She was a respected professional who served her state with pride and distinction,” said Hawaiian Senator J. Kalani English in a tribute Thursday. “Rest in peace with the angels Director Fuddy.”

    December 12, 2013 12:17 PM

  18. heartbreak Taye Diggs, Idina Menzel Split Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images Entertainment

    17. Taye Diggs, Idina Menzel Split

    Is this up there with the tragic Amy Poehler-Will Arnett divorce? On Wednesday, Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs announced they have separated after 10 years of marriage. The two actors met in the '90s as costars in Rent, and wed in 2003. The couple had a son, Walker, in 2009, and their representatives have asked for privacy for his sake. Earlier this year, Menzel told People that their marriage wasn't always easy. "We work at it," she said. "I'm not going to glamorize it or glorify it—we go through tough times like everybody else, but we love each other very much."

    December 11, 2013 8:21 PM

  19. JUSTICE DiGiorno Goes Torture-Free Michelle L. Johnsoln/AP

    18. DiGiorno Goes Torture-Free

    This just solved dinner plans. DiGiorno, the makers of one of the most popular frozen-pizza brands, has decided to cut ties with a Wisconsin dairy farm after the disclosure of a video that showed workers beating, stabbing, kicking, and taking whips to sick and injured cattle. The farm sells its milk to cheese supplier Foremost Farms, which is the supplier for DiGiorno (owned by Nestle USA). Wise Brothers Farm, the operation captured in the video, says the two employees in the video have been fired and another has been reassigned, and that it was unaware of the abuse.

    December 12, 2013 6:56 AM

  20. TOUCHING Bush Sends Alabama Kicker a Letter Kevin C. Cox/Getty

    19. Bush Sends Alabama Kicker a Letter

    Now that’s one way to cheer somebody up. Cade Foster, the senior kicker at Alabama, missed two field goals in a 34-28 loss to Auburn a few weeks back. After the loss, he received multiple threats. And while teammates and fans have tried to show the kicker public support, former President George W. Bush has now put them to shame. Foster posted a note from the former president on Instagram, which reads, “Dear Cade (#43), Life has its setbacks. I know! However you will be a stronger human being with time. I wish you all the best – Sincerely – another 43 George Bush.”

    December 12, 2013 6:54 AM

  21. sliding in MLB Bans Home Plate Collisions Brian Garfinkel/Getty

    20. MLB Bans Home Plate Collisions

    Well this is no fun. On Wednesday, the Major League Baseball Rules Committee voted to eliminate collisions at home plate during baseball games. The decision is now up to the players, and if they vote it down it won't go into effect until 2015. The rule, which is not yet written, stipulates that catchers cannot block home plate, while runners cannot initiate contact with catchers and must slide into home plate. Recent injures and research into concussions sparked this change.

    December 11, 2013 9:59 PM

  22. UNFAIR Google Execs Got Fuel Discount Mike Blake/Reuters

    21. Google Execs Got Fuel Discount

    Talk about playing favorites. A report by the inspector general of NASA says top executives from Google saved millions of dollars when they flew their private jets using discounted fuel bought from the federal government, which they were not at liberty to buy. For six years, the executives were only allowed to buy the fuel at a discount for government business, but instead were being allowed to use it for private flights. The inspector general says the situation was due to a government “misunderstanding,” and not misconduct on the part of Google.

    December 12, 2013 6:37 AM

  23. warning signs Top Rebel Commander Flees Syria Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP

    22. Top Rebel Commander Flees Syria

    As Syria's Islamist groups strengthen, the highest-ranking Western-backed rebel commander, Gen. Salim Idris of the Free Syrian Army, apparently fled to Turkey on Wednesday. His escape comes after the Islamic Front, a recent merger of the largest Islamist groups excluding those with al Qaeda links, seized warehouses of military gear, offices, and a border crossing over the weekend. The move prompted the U.S. and Britain to immediately freeze nonlethal military aid to Syria. American officials are trying to coax him back to Syria and are holding direct talks with the Islamic Front before the Jan. 22 peace talks in Geneva.

    In this episode of The Daily Beast’s ‘Darkroom,’ a Free Syrian Army fighter rests in the old city of Aleppo, a snapshot of humanity in the midst of a savage civil war.

    December 11, 2013 11:06 PM

  24. YIPPEE Foreclosures Lowest Since Crisis Joe Raedle/Getty

    23. Foreclosures Lowest Since Crisis

    Finally. New foreclosure filings, including default notices, auctions, and bank repossessions, numbered 113,454 in November, a 15 percent drop from October. The numbers, which come from RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed properties, reflect the biggest monthly decline since November 2010, and are at the lowest since December 2006. In the past year alone, filings are down 37 percent.

    December 12, 2013 6:40 AM