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  1. Judge Rules NSA Tool Likely Unconstitutional Alex Wong/Getty

    1. NSA Tool Likely Unconstitutional

    A federal judge ruled the National Security Agency's bulk collection of telephone and Internet data is likely unconstitutional. Richard Leon wrote the program clashes with the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure. “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’” than the metadata program, Leon wrote. The ruling from the judge appointed by George W. Bush is the first legal setback for the NSA’s surveillance program since Edward Snowden revealed it in June. In a statement sent to journalist Glenn Greenwald Monday, Snowden applauded the court's ruling. “Today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans’ rights," wrote Snowden. "It is the first of many.”

    December 16, 2013 4:00 PM

  2. America's Laziest Employee EPA Official Sentenced for Fraud John Greim/Getty

    2. EPA Official Sentenced for Fraud

    According to court documents obtained by NBC News, the Environmental Protection Agency’s highest-paid employee also doubled as its laziest and most dishonest. Climate-change expert John Beale, who will be sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty to bilking taxpayers out of $1 million, shirked responsibilities by telling co-workers that he was frequently unavailable for agency work because of his covert life in another, more secretive government agency: Beale was a CIA agent. Except that he wasn’t. While acknowledging his guilt, Beale’s lawyer helpfully explained his client’s need “to manipulate those around him through the fabrication of grandiose narratives … [which] are fueled by his insecurities.”

    December 16, 2013 10:07 PM

  3. UNCLEAN FDA Takes on Soap Kiichiro Sato/AP

    3. FDA Takes on Soap

    Better late than never. While the use of antibacterial hand soap and body wash is widespread in the U.S., the FDA proposed on Monday requiring manufacturers to prove the products are more effective than regular soap and water in terms of preventing germs, and that the use of the products does not have long-term consequences. "Although consumers generally view these products as effective tools to help prevent the spread of germs, there is currently no evidence that they are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water,” said the agency. In addition, it pointed out that there is some research showing that long-term use can lead to bacterial resistance and hormonal effects. If finalized, the rule will not affect hand sanitizers, wipes, and other products used in hospitals and other health-care venues.

    December 16, 2013 12:20 PM

  4. SNOOZE YOU LOSE Mega Millions Pot Soars to $586M Scott Olson/Getty

    4. Mega Millions Pot Soars to $586M

    All eyes are on the Mega Millions jackpot after a 20 percent rise in sales this weekend brought it to $586 million. The prize, to be drawn Tuesday night, is the second largest in U.S. history—falling behind the $656 million jackpot last year. Mega Millions’ lead director Paula Otto predicts that up to 75 percent of the 259 million possible combinations will be purchased in time for the draw. If the company sees a spike in sales Tuesday, the jackpot may have the potential to top last year's kitty. "I think we'll be very close to the record, and maybe even surpass it," said Otto.

    December 16, 2013 4:44 PM

  5. STILL BURNING CA Fire Devastates Coastline Nic Coury/AP

    5. CA Fire Devastates Coastline

    A wildfire that broke out late Sunday night continues to force evacuations in the Big Sur region of California. Hundreds of firefighters were dispatched to battle the blaze, which has spread across 500 acres. Officials estimate that 15 homes have been destroyed (including that of Big Sur Fire Chief Martha Karstens), and more than 100 residents have been evacuated. No injuries have been reported.

    December 16, 2013 10:43 PM

  6. HE’S IN! Jeh Johnson Approved as DHS Head Chip Somodevilla/Getty

    6. Jeh Johnson Approved as DHS Head

    Jeh Johnson will be the United States’ next secretary of Homeland Security. President Obama’s pick for the job, the former Defense Department general counsel, was confirmed in a 78-16 Senate vote Monday. Johnson will replace former secretary Janet Napolitano in overseeing national security, transportation, disaster response, and immigration policies. Ahead of his confirmation, Senate republicans attempted to use Johnson’s nomination to gauge the Obama administration’s plans for handling key issues, such as border security.

    December 16, 2013 7:41 PM

  7. TRAGEDY No Crime in Metro-North Crash Christopher Gregory/Getty

    7. No Crime in Metro-North Crash

    It’s unlikely any crime occurred in the Metro-North derailment in New York earlier this month that killed four people, sources told DNA Info on Monday. Investigators said the conductor, William Rockefeller, had gone to bed at 8:30 p.m. the night before the crash, his cell phone was off, and toxicology reports show he had not been drinking or using drugs. “Falling asleep, by itself, is fundamentally not a crime, not even for a motorman driving a train,” said a law enforcement source. “There was nothing mitigating here. He was not drunk, on the phone, or out partying the night before, and he went to sleep at a reasonable hour.”

    December 16, 2013 9:16 AM

  8. AIR STRIKES 80 Killed in Syria Aerial Bombings Wasim Al-Halabi/Reuters

    9. 80 Killed in Syria Aerial Bombings

    An estimated 83 people were killed Monday in aerial bombings in the Syrian city of Aleppo, according to an opposition group. At least 27 children and eight women were among the dead, according to Local Coordination Committee, which opposes Bashar al-Assad's regime. An additional 135 people died in clashes Sunday, the group said. Helicopters dropped bombs in 12 neighborhoods of the city, Syria’s largest and one of the most strategically important for both sides. An estimated 100,000 people have died in Syria since its civil war began nearly three years ago, and more than 2.3 million have fled the country, according to the United Nations.

    December 16, 2013 6:47 AM

  9. RIP Country Singer Ray Price Dies Ebet Roberts/Getty

    10. Country Singer Ray Price Dies

    Ray Price, the crooning country star behind crossover hits like "Release Me," "Crazy Arms," and “For the Good Times,” died Monday at his home in Texas. He was suffering from pancreatic cancer. While lacking the name-recognition of contemporaries and friends like Willie Nelson, Johnny Paycheck, and Merle Haggard, Price was a fixture on the country-music charts. In 1996, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Surveying his career in early December, Price spoke with contented finality: "I just like what I've done and how it's worked out, and it's been great. I haven't lost my voice, thank God for that." He was 87.

    December 16, 2013 9:35 PM

  10. SCARY Four Harvard Buildings Evacuated Lisa Poole/AP

    11. Four Harvard Buildings Evacuated

    Four buildings at Harvard University were evacuated on Monday after unconfirmed reports of explosives. Harvard and Cambridge police are currently investigating, and the buildings are currently being searched by a bomb squad and K-9 unit. The four building include the Science Center, and Thayer, Sever, and Emerson Halls. Two of those, Thayer and Emerson Hall, have been reopened. The school canceled Monday's final exams. President Obama, a Harvard Law alum, has been briefed on the situation, and the White House said they will be in touch with local law enforcement. Federal and state officials have joined the search. “The HUPD has no reason to believe there is a threat to any other site on campus,” Harvard police said in the message to students.

    December 16, 2013 12:02 PM

  11. two-timing Ex-President Wins Chilean Election © STRINGER Chile / Reuters

    12. Ex-President Wins Chilean Election

    She's back. Former President Michelle Bachelet won her second Chilean presidential election with nearly 62 percent of the 90 percent of votes counted in a run-off. Bachelet previously served as head of the country from 2006-2010, and has now become the first two-term leader in Chile since Gen. Augusto Pinochet. "I am happy with the result and victory and I shall be a president for everyone in Chile," she said.

    December 15, 2013 9:43 PM

  12. Bad News for Brains CTE Found in First Baseball Player Marc Serota/Getty

    13. CTE Found in First Baseball Player

    First NFL, now MLB? Boston University researchers say Ryan Freel suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy before he committed suicide last year. Freel is the first professional baseball player to be diagnosed with CTE, a degenerative brain disease. "The real important issue is that he hit his head multiple times—small hits, big hits, in baseball and outside of baseball," a BU researcher said. CTE can be caused by multiple concussions and has been linked to suicides, most notably in the case of linebacker Junior Seau.  It turns out football and hockey aren’t the only dangerous sports.

    December 16, 2013 1:05 PM

  13. CHEETAHS Google Buys Military Robot Makers Siu Chiu/Reuters

    14. Google Buys Military Robot Makers

    Move over, Amazon drones, this is just as fun. Google has purchased Boston Dynamics, an engineering company that develops animal-like machines, including a "cheetah" that's the world’s fastest-running robot, the company confirmed Sunday. Boston Dynamics once supplied the robots to the U.S. military, and does not sell the products commercially. The company is run by former Android boss Andy Rubin, and the terms of the sale have not been disclosed. Aside from the cheetahs, Boston Dynamics also created robots such as the BigDog and WildCat.

    December 16, 2013 7:25 AM

  14. KA-CHING 'Beyoncé' Sells Nearly 1M Copies Frank Micelotta/Invision, via AP

    15. 'Beyoncé' Sells Nearly 1M Copies

    Take that Miley. The surprise fifth album from Beyoncé sold an eye-popping 828,773 copies worldwide in its first three days of release. Domestically, sales were 617,000, placing it just behind Justin Timberlake and Eminem for highest first week sales in 2013. The sales also roughly doubled Beyoncé’s last album, which sold 310,000 copies in its first seven days, back in 2011. The success of the eponymous album is being attributed to its unexpected release, which turned its rollout into a global cultural event, particularly on social media. It was also unavailable on major streaming services, which meant people had to buy it from iTunes in order 

    December 16, 2013 1:25 PM

  15. MANDELA FUNERAL HOAX Relative: Signer Burned Men Alive Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

    16. Relative: Signer Burned Men Alive

    Are we going to find out that the fake Mandela signer killed Jimmy Hoffa? A relative of the fraudulent signer during Nelson Mandela’s funeral said that he was part of a group of people that burned two men to their deaths in 2003. The group allegedly found two men with a stolen television set, and then allegedly placed tires around the men’s necks and set them ablaze. Two suspects went on trial for the attack, but the imposter signer was allegedly deemed mentally unfit.

    December 16, 2013 9:58 AM

  16. FRAUD Man Gets 28 Years for Vets Scam Mark Duncan/AP

    17. Man Gets 28 Years for Vets Scam

    An Ohio man received 28 years in prison on Monday after being convicted of running a fake charity for U.S. Navy veterans. The fraudulent charity raised almost $100 million from donors in 40 states. John Donald Cody, 67, also known as Bobby Thompson, was also fined $6 million. Cody is a Harvard-trained lawyer who was a former member of the U.S. Army’s military intelligence unit. He has also been accused of embezzling from an estate, and he appeared on an FBI poster for “espionage.”

    December 16, 2013 12:35 PM

  17. OH GOD ‘Family Guy’ Brings Back Brian Fox

    18. ‘Family Guy’ Brings Back Brian

    There’s an essay on smarm that Seth MacFarlane could certainly check out. The Family Guy creator resurrected beloved Griffin family dog Brian in Sunday’s night’s episode, despite having insisted the dog had been dead for good. MacFarlane tweeted on Sunday night that he wanted to teach viewers a lesson to “never take those you love for granted, for they can be gone in a flash.” Despite the show’s executive producer Steve Callaghan saying that Brian was dead, MacFarlane said he didn’t know how any fans would actually believe they would kill off the beloved dog.

    December 16, 2013 7:39 AM

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  19. Legend Actress Joan Fontaine Dies Harry Harris/AP

    19. Actress Joan Fontaine Dies

    Oscar-winning actress Joan Fontaine, the 1940s star of Suspicion and Rebecca, died Sunday at age 96. A friend said Fontaine died “peacefully,” in her sleep. Fontaine was the sister of actress Olivia de Havilland, and the pair’s longstanding feud was the stuff of Hollywood legend. Both were nominated for Oscars in 1941, but Fontaine took home the statue for Suspicion, one of three Academy Award nominations for the actress. Fontaine acted well into her seventies, until her final role in a Family Channel film Good King Wenceslas in 1994. Fontaine married and divorced four times, and had one daughter.

    December 16, 2013 6:43 AM

  20. COLLATERAL DAMAGE Ex-Scientology Chief: Church Spied Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

    20. Ex-Scientology Chief: Church Spied

    Former Scientology leaders Marty Rathburn and his wife, Monique, claim in a lawsuit that the church used high-tech surveillance cameras to spy on them after Rathburn left Scientology. Monique Rathburn, who never became a member of the church, filed the suit in Texas, saying she has been “harassed, insulted, surveilled, photographed, videotaped, defamed, and humiliated” by church members. Marty Rathburn was the inspector general of Scientology’s Religious Technology Center but left the church in 2004, and now he alleges the church has tried to “make our life a living hell.” The Rathburns hope to depose Scientology leader David Miscavige in the suit.

    December 16, 2013 7:28 AM

  21. OFFLINE AOL Winding Down Patch Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    21. AOL Winding Down Patch

    Is the great Patch experiment over? If not, the local news providers may have lost their biggest backer. AOL CEO Tim Armstrong announced last week that Patch, long his pet project, could be forming partnerships with local companies—a signal that AOL could be abandoning the project. Armstrong brought Patch with him to AOL from Google, then secured a $50 million investment from the AOL board in 2010. Since then, Patch has cost somewhere between $200 million (AOL’s estimate) and $300 million, and the hedge fund Starboard Value LP ran for three seats on AOL’s board, contending that Patch isn’t a “viable business.” The company laid off more than 350 people this year and hundreds of local sites were shut down.

    December 16, 2013 7:27 AM

  22. who goes there? ‘Hobbit’ Wins Weekend Box Office Mark Pokorny/New Line Productions

    22. ‘Hobbit’ Wins Weekend Box Office

    Sorry Princess, Middle-earth has you beat. Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug took the No. 1 spot at the weekend box office, raking in $73.7 million, and knocking off Disney's Frozen, which earned $22.2 in its third weekend. The Tolkien sequel's haul didn't manage to top The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which came in with $84.6 million its opening last year. "We had an excellent weekend," said Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros. "Of course, it could have been a little better, but the weather back East was really tough last night and probably took a couple million dollars out of my pocket. But our box office will survive."

    December 15, 2013 5:01 PM

  23. CONFRONTATION Neo-Nazis, Anti-Racists Clash Hampus Andersson/TT News Agency, via AP

    23. Neo-Nazis, Anti-Racists Clash

    Note to Neo-Nazis: You are not going to have our sympathy here. Around 40 Neo-Nazis attacked more than 200 legally organized anti-racism protesters in Stockholm on Sunday. The cause of the initial demonstration had been to address the growing neo-Nazi sentiment in the area, which seems hard to argue with now. The Neo-Nazis threw stones, bottles, and fireworks, leading to 28 arrests. Two protesters and two police officers were injured and taken to the hospital.

    December 16, 2013 6:52 AM

  24. NA’VI ‘Avatar’ to Get Three Sequels Jo Yong hak/Reuters

    24. ‘Avatar’ to Get Three Sequels

    First The Lord of the Rings, now Avatar—what did New Zealand ever do to deserve this? There will be three sequels to the 2009 hit Avatar, with the first expected to be released in December 2016. Director James Cameron and Twentieth Century Fox have worked out a $412 million deal with the government of New Zealand, Wellington announced Monday. Live-action filming and visual effects will all be done in New Zealand, and around 90 percent of the live-action crew are expected to be New Zealanders.

    December 16, 2013 7:38 AM