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  1. taking a bow Snowden: Mission Accomplished AP

    1. Snowden: Mission Accomplished

    Edward Snowden, observing the havoc wreaked on the American government's surveillance programs, believes he's done what he set out to do. “For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished. I already won," Snowden said in his first in-person interview since arriving in Moscow. "As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated.” Since the former government contractor's revelations leaked this past spring, the NSA has been under intense scrutiny and criticism from not just the American public, but also heads of state across the globe. “I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA,” Snowden said. “I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realize it.”

    December 23, 2013 9:41 PM

  2. CHURCH BUDDIES Popes Meet for Pre-Christmas Chat Vatican Pool/Getty

    2. Popes Meet for Pre-Christmas Chat

    Two Popes walk into a retirement home.... Pope Francis paid a pre-Christmas visit to his predecessor, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, at the latter’s retirement home on Monday. The Vatican newspaper released photographs of the two, dressed nearly identically, chatting on the white couches in Benedict’s living room. They also prayed together in the chapel next door. This is only the second time that the two popes have met publicly, though occasionally they speak on the phone and arrange private meetings.

    December 23, 2013 4:03 PM

  3. Why So Mum? Obamacare Gets Secret Extension Jon Elswick/AP

    3. Obamacare Gets Secret Extension

    The White House is playing Secret Santa. Monday night was supposed to be the deadline for signing up for federal health insurance plans that take effect on January 1, but the Obama administration secretly updated Healthcare.gov over the weekend to extend the deadline 24 hours. The change was announced after the Washington Post broke the story. Last week, the individual mandate was extended for people whose insurance plans were canceled.

    December 23, 2013 11:57 AM

  4. act fast U.S. Warns of Afghan Withdrawal Charles Dharapak/Getty

    4. U.S. Warns of Afghan Withdrawal

    In response to hesitation from Afghanistan's government on an upcoming deal to keep American troops in the country beyond 2014, the U.S. government is warning of a complete military withdrawal in the coming year. The deal was supposed to be decided upon by Dec. 31, but President Karzai has requested putting it on hold until presidential elections in April. Meanwhile, American officials want a deal now, and if not, "will be forced to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no U.S. or NATO troop presence in Afghanistan,” said a White House spokeswoman.

    December 23, 2013 9:08 PM

  5. Green market Colorado Issues Pot Licenses Brennan Linsley/AP

    5. Colorado Issues Pot Licenses

    The budding legal marijuana industry is ready to light up. On Monday, Colorado issued 348 approved licenses for stores, manufacturers, and cultivation facilities to begin growing and selling the drug to anyone at least 21 years old in 2014. This includes 136 marijuana shops, which are mostly located in Denver. The state's voters approved a legalization law in 2012, and it will become the first state to boast a legal marijuana market.

    December 23, 2013 10:54 PM

  6. A Deadly Life AK-47 Creator Dies at 94 Jens Meyer/AP

    6. AK-47 Creator Dies at 94

    Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the world’s most popular gun, the AK-47, died Monday at age 94. Kalashnikov was a Soviet Union weapons designer when his creation, the Avtomat Kalashnikov went into production in 1947. It has since become the most popular firearm in the world, with an estimated 100 million spread across the globe, and is the weapon of choice for many soldiers, guerrillas and terrorists. Kalashnikov, who’d been hospitalized in Russia’s Udmurtia republic when he died of unspecified causes, had often commented on how unconcerned he was about the bloodshed his invention had caused. “I sleep well,” he said in 2007. It’s the politicians who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence.”

    December 23, 2013 11:54 AM

  7. soaring Dow, S&P Hit Record Close Alexander F. Yuan/AP

    7. Dow, S&P Hit Record Close

    Merry Christmas, Wall Street. On Monday, stocks in the Dow and S&P 500 climbed to an all-time high with the help of a new Chinese distribution deal with Apple announced on Sunday. The tech giant saw its highest gains in three months after the news, giving Wall Street a pre-holiday bump. The S&P technology sector index rose to be the top-performing of the sectors, and the final stock price was 1,827.99—a record high. The Dow Jones also closed with a record, hitting 16,294.61.

    December 23, 2013 5:33 PM

  8. better late than never Queen Pardons British Codebreaker Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

    8. Queen Pardons British Codebreaker

    The British government has pardoned pioneer codebreaker and computer scientist Alan Turing—a man instrumental in the WWII Allied effort—50 years after he was convicted of homosexuality, chemically castrated, and stripped of his title. Justice Minister Chris Grayling requested the pardon, calling Turing "an exceptional man," and saying his work on the Enigma machine shortened the conflict and saved thousands of lives. Turing died two years after the sentence by cyanide poisoning, which was deemed a suicide. His pardon will go into effect on Dec. 24.

    December 23, 2013 8:46 PM

  9. Bling-Less Ex-Tiffany & Co. Exec Gets Prison Spencer Platt/Getty

    9. Ex-Tiffany & Co. Exec Gets Prison

    A Tiffany & Co. employee of 25 years was sentenced to one year in federal prison after stealing $2.1 million worth of jewelry from the company and then selling it. Back in July, Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun admitted to stealing roughly 165 pieces of jewelry over the course of several years, including diamond bracelets and platinum diamond rings. Despite a leniency plea, a judge imposed the sentence Friday.

    December 23, 2013 9:53 PM

  10. Wait, What? McDonald’s: Fast Food Is Bad Joe Raedle/Getty

    10. McDonald’s: Fast Food Is Bad

    The company knows what it's selling, right? On McDonald's employee resources website there's some bizarre piece of advice for its workers bashing the very product it provides. One post starts off favorably, reading "Fast foods are quick, reasonably priced and readily available alternatives to home cooking," but then, "While convenient and economical for a busy lifestyle, fast foods are typically high in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, and salt and may put people at risk for becoming overweight." Another post descirbes the struggles with overeating and calls a meal with cheeseburgers and fries the "unhealthy choice." Looks like a job for Ronald McDonald.

    December 23, 2013 9:08 PM

  11. EQUALITY Utah: Gay Marriage Is Still Legal Kim Raff/AP

    11. Utah: Gay Marriage Is Still Legal

    A federal judge rejected Utah's request against gay marriage, meaning the Christmas weddings will go on as planned. Everyone knows Christmas is a time to tell people you love them. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby said the state's attorneys had failed to make arguments that differed from their presentation on Friday, when he ruled the state's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Marriage license applications for gay couples will continue on Monday, after about 100 were issued on Friday. On Saturday, two 10th Circuit Court of Appeals judges refused to grant the state’s emergency request to stop same-sex couples from marrying. The same day, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert advised county clerks to check with their attorney, council, or commission on how to handle requests for marriage licenses.

    December 23, 2013 1:29 PM

  12. AMNESTY Jailed Pussy Riot Members Freed Ilya Naymushin/Reuters

    12. Jailed Pussy Riot Members Freed

    Some good news just before Christmas. The two jailed members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot were released from prison Monday and granted amnesty—although one of the two women, Masha Alyokhina, 25, refused to give Russian President Vladimir Putin any credit. “I do not think it is a humanitarian act, I think it is a PR stunt,” Alyokhina said. Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich were convicted last year of hooliganism for a “punk prayer” protest at a church that criticized Putin. Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were both sentenced to two years in prison, while Samutsevich received a suspended sentence. Tolokonnikova went on a hunger strike in September to protest the conditions at the penal colony, and her husband said last month she disappeared. She was found at a remote hospital three weeks later.

    December 23, 2013 7:29 AM

  13. HE'S OUT NFL Season Cut Short for Tony Romo Patrick McDermott/Getty

    13. NFL Season Cut Short for Tony Romo

    A back injury will keep Tony Romo off the field for the rest of football season. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback rallied despite his back pain to beat the Washington Redskins, Sunday, but a hit in the first half pushed him over the edge. While Romo admitted to being hurt on Sunday, he didn’t anticipate that his back would keep him from playing against the Philadelphia Eagles this coming weekend. Now it looks like he’ll have to watch the game from the sidelines as Kyle Orton plays in his place.

    December 23, 2013 4:56 PM

  14. LOYALTY Robertson Defends Remarks Zach Dilgard/A&E, via AP

    14. Robertson Defends Remarks

    Phil Robertson is not sorry. The Duck Dynasty star defended his remarks Sunday in his first public appearance since his interview with GQ, in which he called gays “sinful.” “I will not give or back off from my path, because you conquered death, Father, so we are not worried about all the repercussions,” Robertson said, according to an online report. Robertson spoke to a small group at White’s Ferry Road Church in West Monroe, Louisiana, and his eldest son, Pastor Allan Robertson, later addressed the congregation. “Well, we’ve had quite a week. Shot some ducks, done some shopping, ignited a national controversy,” Allan Robertson said. Meanwhile, Cracker Barrel reversed its ban on Duck Dynasty merchandise, issuing a statement saying it had “listened” to customers who “told us we were wrong.” Never underestimate the power of a Twitter mob.

    December 23, 2013 8:18 AM

  15. 1-year sentence American Jailed in the UAE via Youtube

    15. American Jailed in the UAE

    The UAE is not amused. An American living in the United Arab Emirates was sentenced on Monday to a year in prison and a fine of approximately $2,700 after posting a parody video short of a group of Dubai teens known as "Satwa G" who mimic hip-hop culture. Shezanne Cassim, a 29-year-old from Woodbury, Minnesota, has been held since April under charges of endangering national security. "He's a big fan of SNL, Funny or Die, all those shows, and he and his friends just wanted to make a funny sketch comedy in their spare time," his brother said.

    December 23, 2013 4:16 PM

  16. CHRISTMAS WEATHER Storm Slams 35 States Darren Hauck/Reuters

    16. Storm Slams 35 States

    Nasty winter weather wreaked havoc in 35 states Sunday, snarling holiday travel. Heavy snow fell in the Midwest, paralyzing a stretch from Oklahoma to Wisconsin. In the Northeast, unseasonably warm temperatures meant flash-flood warnings, and New York's Central Park hit a record 65 degrees. Meanwhile, New England and Canada were hit by a nasty ice storm, which left thousands without power, including Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. About 1,105 flights were canceled and 11,518 flights were delayed through Sunday night, according to FlightAware.com.

    December 23, 2013 7:32 AM

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  18. OH YEEZUS Obama: Kanye’s Music ‘Outstanding’ John Parra / Getty Images Entertainment

    17. Obama: Kanye’s Music ‘Outstanding’

    From “jackass” to “outstanding” in just four years. That sounds about right. President Obama told People magazine that he thinks Kanye West’s music is “outstanding.” “I’ve got a lot of his stuff on my iPad,” Obama said. “If it was a concert, I wouldn’t mind listening to him.” Pretty high praise considering Obama called West a “jackass” in 2009 after West interrupted Taylor Swift onstage at the VMAs. Obama was asked to choose between the Kardashian family and the Duck Dynasty crew, which is how he got to talking about West. Diplomatically, Obama called the Robertsons a “fun bunch” and said “I can see how that would be pretty fun,” but ultimately choosing West (not an option, but okay). At least the Robertsons have that in this difficult time.

    December 23, 2013 1:23 PM

  19. Bench Bombshell

    18. Judge Rejects Ohio's Marriage Law

    A federal judge on Monday rejected Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriages, calling the law unconstitutional when it comes to death certificates. But the decision only requires Ohio to recognize same-sex unions on death certificates. Despite the limited effect, Judge Timothy Black made a sweeping case against the same-sex marriage ban. "Once you get married lawfully in one state, another state cannot summarily take your marriage away," wrote Black. The suit was filed by two gay men who wanted to be recognized as spouses on their respective partners’ death certificates.

    December 23, 2013 12:26 PM

  20. FOR THE REST OF US Rand Paul Celebrates Festivus © Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

    19. Rand Paul Celebrates Festivus

    Christmas is not for a couple of days but for the rest of us, December 23 is Festivus: a holiday created by Seinfeld that involves, among other non-traditional traditions, gathering around an aluminum Festivus pole and confronting loved ones about the ways they've disappointed you over the past year. In honor of Festivus, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has taken to Twitter to air his grievances about, politics, the federal government and DC living in general. Non-political grievances include a defense of his penchant for turtlenecks, despite his staff’s pleas—“Too many people wearing ties on TV as it is”—and that newbie Senator Cory Booker “doesn’t RT me enough.”

    December 23, 2013 10:55 AM

  21. UNREST South Sudan Rebels Seize Key City AP

    20. South Sudan Rebels Seize Key City

    Rebels in South Sudan seized control of the key city of Bentiu, the capital of the oil-rich Unity State, the government announced Sunday. The government insisted it is still in control of the nation’s oil fields—and nearly 99 percent of the country’s revenue comes from oil. Bentiu is now in the hands of an army commander who has declared loyalty to former Vice President Riek Machar, who is now a rebel leader. Clashes began in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, last week between forces loyal to Machar and others who remained in support of President Salva Kiir. Kiir has accused Machar of staging a coup, and Machar has accused Kiir of purging Machar’s allies.

    December 23, 2013 7:31 AM

  22. WHO RUNS THE WORLD? Beyoncé Visits Walmart Robin Harper/Invision for Parkwood Entertainment/AP

    21. Beyoncé Visits Walmart

    Even the queen goes to Walmart. Beyoncé visited a Massachusetts Walmart on Friday—and her presence wasn’t the only gift for customers. Bey also paid the first $50 off customers’ holiday gifts. The total: $37,500. While Target and Amazon do not carry her latest album, Walmart does—so you know where you can find true Beyoncé fans.

    December 23, 2013 12:32 PM

  23. AWFUL

    22. Girl Reports Rape, Gets Expelled

    A young woman says she was kicked out of her high school after reporting a rape three years ago. Rachel Bradshaw-Bean said a boy had asked her to go into the band room, and then raped her. When she reported it to the band director, he told her “to work it out with the boy.” At first, Bradshaw-Bean didn’t even tell her parents, but eventually a friend persuaded her to tell the school—and her parents. “It kills you. You die,” said Bradshaw-Bean’s mother, Colleen Chevallier. “I’m not the same person I was before this.” But that wasn’t the end of their ordeal: police decline to press charges against the boy, closing the case the next day and saying the sex between the two was consensual. Most incredibly, Bradshaw-Bean says she and the boy were disciplined for “public lewdness” and sent to disciplinary school for 45 days.

    December 23, 2013 3:07 PM

  24. SYMBOLIC GESTURE Obama Signed Up for Obamacare Alex Wong/Getty

    23. Obama Signed Up for Obamacare

    Just in time for Monday’s deadline for January 1 coverage, President Obama signed up for federal health care over the weekend. According to the White House, the President used the D.C. marketplace and chose one of the bronze plans, which have the lowest premiums. While the President’s enrollment was purely symbolic, as he will continue to receive military-provided health care, a White House official said Obama “was pleased to participate in a plan as a show of support for these marketplaces which are providing quality, affordable health-care options to more than a million people.”

    December 23, 2013 1:45 PM

  25. OVER IT Rodman Leaves North Korea Jason Lee/Reuters

    24. Rodman Leaves North Korea

    Trouble in BFF-land? Dennis Rodman left North Korea on Monday and refused to answer questions about whether he met with leader Kim Jong Un. On Sunday, Rodman told the Associated Press that he had not had a chance to meet with Kim. Rodman has been trying to get 12 ex-NBA players to travel to Pyongyang on Jan. 8 for a game honoring Kim’s birthday. Kim has been a little busy lately—Rodman arrived on Thursday, one week after Kim purged and executed his uncle.

    December 23, 2013 7:36 AM

  26. TERRIFYING 13 Injured in LA Bus Crash KABC-TV/AP

    25. 13 Injured in LA Bus Crash

    Thirteen people were injured early Monday morning when a tour bus crashed on a Los Angeles freeway. The injuries were mostly minor, with just two considered serious. The bus’s 38 passengers and driver were trapped inside after the freeway entrance blocked the bus’s door. A passenger said the driver had been going too fast to get on the ramp for the exit, which caused the bus to careen off the ramp into a small embankment, taking out a fence. The bus is registered to Travel Tours Americas International, and was traveling from the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio to Eagle Rock and Panorama City.

    December 23, 2013 10:50 AM

  27. OPENING THE DOOR Apple, China Mobile Team Up Wong Campion/Reuters

    26. Apple, China Mobile Team Up

    IPhone reception could soon get a lot better in China. Apple and China Mobile announced Monday they had signed a long-awaited agreement to sell iPhones in China, opening up the country’s largest mobile network to the U.S. giant. Pricing and availability for the iPhone 5S and 5C will be disclosed at a later date, Apple said. The phones will be available for China Mobile users starting Jan. 17. China is the second-largest market for iPhones after the U.S., but sales have been lagging behind competitors and this deal will give access to China Mobile’s 760 million-customer base. China Mobile estimated it had about 45 million iPhone users on its network, but they could only use 2G wireless speeds. 

    December 23, 2013 7:34 AM

  28. GAL PAL Report: Spitzer Has a Girlfriend Mary Altaffer/AP

    27. Report: Spitzer Has a Girlfriend

    Now that Eliot Spitzer’s rehabilitation campaign has crashed and burned, he might as well start seeing someone, right? The former New York governor is allegedly dating a staffer for Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s campaign, at least according to the New York tabloids. The Post got photos of Spitzer staying overnight several times at the apartment of Lis Smith, 31, a former spokesman for Spitzer’s campaign for New York City comptroller and a communications director for de Blasio. The pair reportedly has been spotted several times at a local restaurant (although they probably shouldn’t go there again, given the loose lips of the staff). Spitzer and his wife, Silda, are allegedly living apart, at least according to the Post. She wasn’t spotted at any campaign events with him.

    December 23, 2013 8:16 AM

  29. still got it ‘Hobbit’ Beats ‘Anchorman 2’ Warner Bros./AP

    28. ‘Hobbit’ Beats ‘Anchorman 2’

    The Channel 4 news team can't beat a bunch of Middle-earth creatures. After taking first place at the box office its opening weekend, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug returned to the top spot, beating out Anchorman 2 with $403.8 million worldwide. The Anchorman sequel took in $26.8 million in its debut, $2 million less than the original.

    December 22, 2013 7:00 PM

  30. buckin' bronco Manning Breaks Touchdown Record Scott Halleran / Getty Images

    29. Manning Breaks Touchdown Record

    He's the comeback kid. The Denver Broncos' Peyton Manning set the NFL record for most touchdown passes in one season after making four during Sunday's game against Texas, bringing his total to 51. The record was previously held by Tom Brady, but Manning edged in after starting the 2013 season by becoming the first quarterback in nearly 45 years to throw for seven touchdowns in one game.

    December 22, 2013 4:46 PM