10 things you need to know today: December 3, 2012

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Nov. 20 in Jerusalem.

The Week

Fiscal cliff talks hit a wall, the U.N. chief warns Israel over settlement plans, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion

1. FISCAL CLIFF NEGOTIATIONS HIT A WALL
At the start of the final month before the nation reaches the fiscal cliff, Republicans and Democrats remain deadlocked over the question of whether to raise taxes on the rich. Both sides were confrontational on Sunday political talk shows. House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans had offered a way to reach a compromise to reduce the deficit and avoid damaging automatic tax hikes and spending cuts at year’s end — raising revenue by eliminating deductions that overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner rejected that idea, saying that the GOP has to accept a deal that makes the wealthy pay higher tax rates. “There’s no path to an agreement that does not involve Republicans acknowledging that rates have to go up on the wealthiest Americans,” Geithner said on NBC’sMeet the Press. [Washington Post]
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2. SYRIA MOVES CHEMICAL WEAPONS
The U.S. and several allies renewed their warnings that the Syrian government would be “held accountable” if it uses chemical weapons against rebel fighters, after intelligence sources said the Syrian military had moved some of the country’s stockpile of the weapons in recent days. A U.S. official said “the activity we are seeing suggests some potential chemical weapon preparation.” The news prompted emergency communications over the weekend among the Western allies, who have been developing a plan to seize Syria’s chemical weapons, if necessary. The Pentagon says such an operation would require more than 75,000 troops. [New York Times]
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3. U.N. CHIEF WARNS ISRAEL OVER SETTLEMENT PLANS
Israel is facing a diplomatic push-back over its recently announced settlement plans on strategically sensitive occupied land near East Jerusalem. On Monday, the British government warned that Israel should expect a “strong reaction” if it goes ahead with building 3,000 settlement units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. At the United Nations, where the General Assembly last week upgraded the Palestinians’ status from “entity” to “non-member observer state,” Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said such a move would be “an almost fatal blow” to peace talks. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was the Palestinians who had set back the cause of peace by asking for U.N. recognition, instead of establishing a Palestinian state through negotiations, as previously agreed. [BBC]
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4. JAPAN ON ALERT FOR NORTH KOREA LAUNCH
Japanese officials said Monday that they were deploying a surface-to-air missile defense system and putting the country’s armed forces on alert to prepare for North Korea’s planned missile launch this month. A navy ship carrying Patriot Advanced Capability-3 ballistic missiles is headed for Japan’s southern Okinawa island chain. A defense ministry spokesman also said “our ground, marine, and air forces are now preparing to deploy troops in Okinawa,” which the rocket could fly over. [AFP]
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5. CHINA REBOUND LIFTS STOCKS
Stock markets around the world got a lift early Monday after the release of a report suggesting that Chinese manufacturing activity is recovering. The state-sanctioned survey by the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing, which looks at orders, employment, actual production, and other indicators, provided welcome good news for a world economy weighed down by Europe’s debt crisis. The data was expected to buoy U.S. stocks, too, even though they’re under pressure as investors fret about the looming fiscal cliff. [Associated Press]
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6. CONFESSED SERIAL KILLER FOUND DEAD IN JAIL
A confessed serial killer was found dead in his jail cell in Alaska on Sunday. The man, Israel Keyes, was awaiting trial for the kidnapping and murder of 18-year-old Samantha Koenig, a barista who disappeared from an Anchorage espresso stand in February. Keyes was arrested in Texas after trying to use a debit card linked to Koenig. Keyes confessed to killing her, and his statements helped investigators find her body in an iced-over lake. Keyes also reportedly admitted killing a Vermont couple, Bill and Lorraine Currier, in 2011, as well as up to five other people he didn’t name. [Reuters]
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7. JAPAN INSPECTS TUNNELS AFTER COLLAPSE
The Japanese government ordered emergency inspections of highway tunnels across the country following the collapse of a tunnel 50 miles from Tokyo on Sunday. At least nine people were killed after concrete panels collapsed — possibly due to the loosening of metal rods securing the panels. The cave-in triggered a fire and trapped motorists inside. [BBC]
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8. COAST GUARDSMAN KILLED IN CLASH WITH SMUGGLERS
A U.S. Coast Guard chief petty officer, Terrell Horne III, was killed Sunday when suspected smugglers rammed his boat. Horne was second-in-command on an 87-foot patrol cutter, theHalibut, based in Marina del Rey, Calif. He boarded a smaller rigid-hulled inflatable boat dispatched to check out a suspicious, open-hulled vessel operating without lights in the middle of the night. As the Coast Guardsmen approached the open, “panga”-style boat — “the choice of smugglers operating off the coast of California,” a Coast Guard spokesman said — the vessel rammed the inflatable boat, throwing Horne into the water with a traumatic head injury. [Los Angeles Times]
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9. CHIEFS WIN A DAY AFTER BELCHER MURDER-SUICIDE
The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, a day after police say Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, before driving to Arrowhead Stadium and killing himself in front of the team’s head coach and general manager. Coach Romeo Crennel said he consulted with the Chiefs’ co-captains before deciding to go ahead with the game. The Chiefs snapped an eight-game losing streak with the 27-21 victory. “It was tough,” said Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn, who threw two touchdown passes. A friend of Belcher’s told Deadspin that the linebacker was “dazed” and suffered short-term memory loss after taking several hits to the head in his final game. [Associated Press]
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10. KENNEDY CENTER AWARDS: FROM BALLET TO ZEPPELIN
A diverse line-up of seven entertainers received Kennedy Center Honors on Sunday, in a gala affair that was part showbiz award event, part black-tie fundraiser, and part hall-of-fame-style ceremony. The recipients at the 35th annual event included late-night icon David Letterman, actor Dustin Hoffman, ballet dancer Natalia Makarova, blues great Buddy Guy, and Led Zeppelin rockers Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones. President Obama, who attended with First Lady Michelle Obama, said such an unlikely group “had no business being on the same stage together,” adding that his speechwriters had a hard time writing a smooth transition from “ballet to Led Zeppelin.” [Washington Post]

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