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  1. almost law President Obama to Sign Farm Bill Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    1. President Obama to Sign Farm Bill

    It's only taken two years. President Obama is expected to sign the new farm bill into law on Friday at Michigan State University. The bill, which the Senate passed on Tuesday 68 to 32, is a $956 billion piece of legislation to reauthorize hundreds of agriculture, conservation, nutritional, and dairy programs. It is set to reduce spending on farm subsidies and nutrition over the next 10 years by $16.6 billion. Cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food stamps, are the most controversial, and will reduce benefits for 1.7 million people. President Obama is expected to sign the bill when it gets to his desk.

    February 4, 2014 5:34 PM

  2. who's gossiping? NSA ‘Probably’ Spies on Congress Alex Wong / Getty Images

    2. NSA ‘Probably’ Spies on Congress

    Big Brother watching Big Brother is so meta. According to Deputy Attorney General James Cole, the National Security Agency "probably" gathers phone records of Congressional lawmakers and staff. Cole was grilled by members of Congress at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, and said that he was unaware of anything that "scrubbed out" Congressional numbers from the NSA's data sweeps. But don't worry, Cole added that NSA officials aren't allowed to look at the findings "unless we have reasonable, articulable suspicion that those numbers are related to a known terrorist threat."

    February 4, 2014 1:53 PM

  3. TAKE THAT, PUTIN Holder: Gay Equality 'Civil Right' Bertil Enevag Ericson/AFP/Getty

    3. Holder: Gay Equality 'Civil Right'

    Making his strongest statement in support of gay rights so far, Attorney General Eric Holder called the struggle for LGBT equality one of “the defining civil rights challenges of our time.” Holder was speaking before the Swedish parliament, which he praised for legalizing same-sex marriage by an overwhelming margin in 2009. “By becoming the seventh nation in the world to extend the right to marry to gay and lesbian couples, you've stabilized families and expanded individual liberty.” The remarks came just two days before the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where oppressive laws have sparked an international debate about discrimination.

    February 4, 2014 3:00 PM

  4. battlefield daycare U.S.-Backed Rebels Use Kid Troops AFP/Getty

    4. U.S.-Backed Rebels Use Kid Troops

    Syrian opposition groups backed by the west are recruiting and using children in support and combat positions, according to a Tuesday report from the United Nations. It also found that the violations against children were concentrated to Syrian government troops in the war's early stages, but later, as opposition bulked up, they committed a growing number of child abuses. "Of particular concern were cases of recruitment or attempted recruitment of children within refugee populations in neighboring countries," Ban Ki-moon wrote in the report. "The majority of incidents were related to recruitment by Free Syrian Army-affiliated groups or Syrian Kurdish armed groups."

    February 4, 2014 5:19 PM

  5. KILTED BLISS Scotland OKs Same-Sex Marriage Russell Cheyne/Reuters

    5. Scotland OKs Same-Sex Marriage

    There are so many fabulous tartan weddings being booked for fall. On Tuesday, the Scottish parliament passed the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill with an overwhelming 105 to 18 vote, legalizing same-sex marriage and allowing gender-neutral marriage ceremonies beginning later this year. The law ends the "spousal veto" requirement, which forced transgender people to have signed permission from their spouse before their gender was recognized. Same-sex marriage laws were passed by England and Wales last year and will go into law next month.

    February 4, 2014 2:11 PM

  6. MESSAGE FROM ABOVE Pope: 'Unjust' Economy Can Kill Tony Gentile/Reuters

    6. Pope: 'Unjust' Economy Can Kill

    Pope Francis said Tuesday that "unjust social conditions" like unemployment, lack of access to education and health care, can be "considered impending suicide." This type of moral destitution, "which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to the spiritual destitution, which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love." Good news though: "The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution."

    February 4, 2014 12:02 PM

  7. REBOOT Bill Gates Is Back! Do Emmert/AFP/Getty

    7. Bill Gates Is Back!

    Microsoft's founder and chairman is getting his hands dirty again. Bill Gates will step down as chairman to become "technology advisor," working full-time several days a week. The move will give Gates more time with new CEO Satya Nadella who takes over Tuesday. Despite the more junior roll, Gates still owns a 4 percent stake in Microsoft and is one half of the multibillion-dollar Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. So much for retirement.

    February 4, 2014 9:52 AM


    8. Massive Coal Spill in N. Carolina

    As much as 82,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of water have spilled into a river north of Greensboro, North Carolina. Duke Energy said late Monday a stormwater pipe broke, casuing a holding pond of waste to drain into the Dan River. So far, municipalities have reported no problems with its water.

    February 4, 2014 2:53 PM

  9. BUSTED Super Bowl Child Prostitutes Found Eric Thayer/Reuters

    9. Super Bowl Child Prostitutes Found

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered 16 child prostitutes, ranging in age from 13 to 17, who had come to New Jersey for the Super Bowl. More than 45 pimps and their associates were also arrested. “High-profile special events, which draw large crowds, have become lucrative opportunities for child prostitution criminal enterprises,” said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.“

    February 4, 2014 11:40 AM

  10. OFF TO THE RACES Sandra Fluke Readies Congress Run Alex Wong/Getty

    10. Sandra Fluke Readies Congress Run

    This is sure to please Rush Limabaugh to no end. Women's activist Sandra Fluke, who was famously called a slut by Limbaugh for testifying before Congress on contraception, has officially filed for a congressional bid. She is seeking the California state Democratic Party's endorsement for the race to replace retiring Henry Waxman (D-Calif). She's up against two better-known locals, Los Angeles mayoral finalist Wendy Gruel and state Sen. Ted Lieu.

    February 4, 2014 8:28 AM

  11. CLEANER WAY OF LIFE Ethics-Damaged Dem Quits Congress Mark Wilson/Getty

    11. Ethics-Damaged Dem Quits Congress

    Democtraic Congressman Rob Andrews will reportedly leave the noble world of public service for a position at a prominent law firm. Andrews faced major accusations of inappropriate use of funds and an House Ethics Committee investigation after he spent $30,000 of campaign money on a luxury trip to Edinburgh, Scottland with his family.

    February 4, 2014 8:49 AM

  12. TRIMMING THE FAT Deficit Hits New Low Under Obama Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

    12. Deficit Hits New Low Under Obama

    The Congressional Budget Office announced today that in 2014 the federal deficit will shrink by $46 billion more than the agency’s previous projection, bringing the total deficit to $514 billion. The current prediction pales in comparison to the $1.9 trillion deficit in 2009. The deficit is projected to decrease again in 2015 to $478 billion, but it is expected to increase after that to cope with the rising cost of healthcare for aging Baby Boomers. The CBO also predicts that unemployment will decline gradually and fall under 6% in 2017.

    February 4, 2014 11:04 AM

  13. SCARY Scalia: Internment Could Return Alex Wong/Getty

    13. Scalia: Internment Could Return

    Justice Antonin Scalia dropped some unnerving knowledge on a group of University of Hawaii law students. When asked about the Supreme Court’s 1944 decision in Kore­ma­tsu v. United States, which essentially upheld the Japanese internment camps, he said "Well, of course, Kore­ma­tsu was wrong. And I think we have repudiated in a later case. But you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again.” In fact, he seemed to suggest it would be likely to occur in the future. “It was wrong, but I would not be surprised to see it happen again, in time of war,” he said. “It's no justification but it is the reality."

    February 4, 2014 12:52 PM

  14. SYSTEM ERRORS Obamacare May Cost Jobs Antonov Mladen/AFP/Getty

    14. Obamacare May Cost Jobs

    While President Obama can celebrate the Congressional Budget Office’s good news that the deficit is shrinking, the report stresses Obamacare’s negative effect on the nation’s unemployment. The Affordable Care Act is expected to result in 2 million fewer full-time workers, at least partially due to employers cutting hours. The CBO also estimates a million fewer Americans than anticipated will receive health insurance coverage due to the difficulties with the rollout.

    February 4, 2014 1:19 PM

  15. SLICK Keystone Would Save 6 Lives a Year Justin Sullivan/Getty

    15. Keystone Would Save 6 Lives a Year

    The fight against building Keystone XL is getting personal: Advocates are now pointing to the proposed pipeline's potential to save lives. Instead of transporting crude from Canada's tar sands by rail, the State Department report concluded Keystone XL would be better for the environment and safer, too—as oil-laden freight trains could result in six additional deaths a year. Last summer alone, 47 people were killed by a runaway oil train in Lac Megantic, Quebec.

    February 4, 2014 6:48 AM

  16. COVERT AFFAIRS Karzai Holds Secret Taliban Talks Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty

    16. Karzai Holds Secret Taliban Talks

    Sleeping with the enemy in Afghanistan? The New York Times reports President Hamid Karzai has been holding secret conferences with the Taliban without involving the U.S. or Western allies. Karzai is struggling to arrange a deal with the Taliban, but his effort has further undermined an already-strained relationship with America, U.S. officials said. In the past few weeks, he has refused to sign a long-term security deal with the U.S. and pushed for the release of Taliban militants, which suddenly makes a whole lot of sense.

    February 4, 2014 6:50 AM

  17. AIR GUITAR Red Hot Chili Peppers Unplugged? Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    17. Red Hot Chili Peppers Unplugged?

    The Red Hot Chili Peppers may have given their secret away. There’s mounting evidence that the Red Hot Chili Peppers did not even have their guitars plugged in for their halftime Super Bowl performance. Flea and Josh Klinghoffer appear to have neither training cables nor wireless packs in photos from the event. Now, fans are scouring for evidence of other pantomimed performances. It’s no secret that many musicians use pre-recorded music for a major, televised performance like the Super Bowl but making it so obvious is probably not what the Chili Peppers or the show's producers had in mind.

    February 4, 2014 11:21 AM

  18. TRANSPARENCY Web Companies Reveal NSA Requests Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty

    19. Web Companies Reveal NSA Requests

    With the partial blessing of the federal government, major websites have started releasing data on the National Security Agency’s requests about users. Last month, the government said companies could disclose more information regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court orders they receive. During the first half of 2013, between 15,000 and 15,999 Microsoft accounts, 9,000 and 9,999 Google accounts, and 5,000 to 5,999 Facebook accounts were subject to FISA requests. “We have not received the type of bulk data requests that are commonly discussed publicly regarding telephone records,” Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith said. If you use Yahoo, though, the government apparently thinks you’re up to no good: 30,000 to 30,999 of its accounts were subject to FISA content requests.

    February 4, 2014 7:22 AM

  19. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Facebook Turns 10 Today Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty

    20. Facebook Turns 10 Today

    It’s been a decade of uploading drunk photos and stalking exes. Ten years ago as a socially bitter Harvard undergrad (if The Social Network has any truth in it), Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his dorm room. Although it still holds a coveted position among Silicon Valley empires and is valued at more than GM and Ford combined, Facebook’s future has some uncertainties. The teen-user population that made it so popular is now waning. For now, the decade-old company can more than hold its own with whipper-snappers like SnapChat.

    February 4, 2014 7:14 AM

  20. VA IS FOR LOVERS Gay-Marriage Ban Challenged in VA George Frey/Getty

    21. Gay-Marriage Ban Challenged in VA

    It’s a quick start to the week for the marriage-equality fight. Yesterday, the ACLU filed a suit in Wisconsin, and now today a U.S. district judge will begin considering a reversal of Virginia’s gay-marriage ban. The case is on a fast track and has added celebrity lawyers Theodore B. Olson and David Boies, who helped overturn California’s Proposition 8. Depending on Judge ­Arenda L. Wright Allen’s decision, the case could be on its way to the Supreme Court. In addition, last Friday four lesbians brought a class-action lawsuit against the Old Dominion for denying equal rights to same-sex couples.

    February 4, 2014 7:17 AM

  21. REAL-LIFE KNIGHT RIDER Car-to-Car Talk Mandated by Feds Spencer Platt/Getty

    22. Car-to-Car Talk Mandated by Feds

    Backseat driving has nothing on this. The U.S. Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approved a plan to ensure cars will talk to each other in the future as part of an effort to prevent accidents. According to the plan, vehicle-to-vehicle (v2v) systems would have to be installed in all cars and light vehicles, to communicate location, direction, and speed at as much as 10 times per second to surrounding cars. The V2V systems would let a driver know when there’s a risk of collision and even automatically slow the car down in some cases. “V2V has the potential to help drivers avoid 70 to 80 percent of crashes that involve unimpaired drivers,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. “The potential of this technology is absolutely enormous.”

    February 4, 2014 7:16 AM

  22. MERCY Chris Brown Narrowly Avoids Jail David McNew/Getty

    23. Chris Brown Narrowly Avoids Jail

    The “Don’t Judge Me” singer has been spared hard time, thanks to a Los Angeles judge who sent him back to rehab instead of jail. Brown was convicted for attacking former girlfriend Rihanna in 2009. In November, he was arrested and charged for his alleged involvement in a fight in Washington, D.C. The prosecutor, Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Mary Murray, wanted Brown to be given a jail sentence during Monday’s hearing, writing “He continues to pose an increasingly violent danger to society.” She noted he also threw a brick at his mother’s car after she suggested he continue therapy. Judge James R. Brandlin denied the request, noting Brown’s improvement in behavior since he started rehabilitation.

    February 4, 2014 7:13 AM

  23. REAL ISSUES, PLEASE Conservatives Bash Coca-Cola Ad

    24. Conservatives Bash Coca-Cola Ad

    Controversial? If anything, Super Bowl commercials were boring this year. Yet, Coca-Cola’s “It’s Beautiful” ad has still managed to outrage some conservatives. The ad features people from different cultural backgrounds singing “America the Beautiful” in different languages. In response, former Republican Congressman Allen West wrote a blog post saying, “If we cannot be proud enough as a country to sing ‘America the Beautiful’ in English, doggone we are on the road to perdition.” Fox Radio News Host Todd Starnes tweeted “So was Coca-Cola saying America is beautiful because new immigrants don’t learn to speak English?” Some liberals also weren’t pleased, thinking the ad didn’t go far enough. While the spot depicted a gay couple, Dan Savage called out Coke’s hypocrisy for sponsoring the Sochi Winter Olympics and purporting to support LGBT rights, tweeting “Now, @CocaCola? Put a pair of Russian gay dads in an ad that you run in Russia—during the Olympics. #CheersToSochi.”

    February 4, 2014 6:54 AM

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