10 things you need to know today: January 2, 2013

I had some internet connectivity problems over the holidays and had to wait until today for my provider’s tech to come out and resolve it.  Once again, Happy New Year everyone.

The Week

The House passes the fiscal-cliff deal, Sandy Hook students return to class, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion

1. HOUSE PASSES FISCAL-CLIFF DEAL
In a dramatic conclusion of the fiscal-cliff showdown, the House approved a deal late Tuesday canceling tax increases for the vast majority of Americans and pushing off $100 billion in potentially damaging spending cuts for two months. The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature, ending the threat of potentially recession-inducing spending cuts and tax hikes before financial markets opened for the first day of trading in the new year. House Republicans allowed the bill to come up for a vote without any poison-pill spending-cut amendments — a strategy proposed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and other conservatives. Most Senate Republicans backed the compromise, but a majority of House Republicans voted “no,” as many were angered that the compromise lets income tax rates rise on wages and investment profits for households making more than $450,000 a year — the first tax hike passed with broad GOP support in two decades.  [Washington Post]
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2. SANDY HOOK CLASSES RESUMING
The students and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary are preparing to return to school on Thursday for the first time since a gunman killed 20 first graders and six educators — after, police say, he killed his own mother at home — in a shooting rampage three weeks ago. “I’m nervous about it,” parent David Connors said. “It’s uncharted waters for us. I know it’s going to be difficult.” The classes won’t be at the Newtown, Conn., school where the tragedy occurred, though. The students’ desks and belongings have been moved to a repurposed former middle school in the neighboring town of Monroe. An open house is scheduled for Wednesday so the children, along with their parents and teachers, can get accustomed to new classrooms set up to mirror the ones at Sandy Hook. [Associated Press]
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3. GANG-RAPE VICTIM’S ASHES SCATTERED IN INDIA
Mourners on Tuesday scattered the ashes of a 23-year-old Indian woman who died after being gang-raped and tortured with a metal bar by a group of men on a private bus in New Delhi on Dec. 16. The woman, a student, died of her horrific injuries on Saturday in a Singapore hospital. Police are preparing to file formal charges against six suspects. Protests over rampant sexual violence against women have erupted across India, prompting promises from the government to impose tougher punishments for rapists. As part of a campaign to change society’s treatment of women, India’s top court said Wednesday that it would decide whether tosuspend six lawmakers facing sexual assault charges. [Reuters]
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4. GROUNDED OIL-DRILLING SHIP NOT LEAKING
High seas have prevented rescuers from pulling a grounded oil-drilling rig back to sea in the Gulf of Alaska, but the Coast Guard says there’s no sign that the ship is leaking any of its 143,000 gallons of diesel or 12,000 gallons of lube oil and hydraulic fluid. The Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig — the Kulluk — was used this summer in the Arctic. It ran aground off a small island near Kodiak Island in a severe storm that hit as it was being towed to port. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said the crisis shows the potential for environmental disaster from Alaskan drilling. “Oil companies keep saying they can conquer the Arctic,” he said, “but the Arctic keeps disagreeing with the oil companies.” [Associated Press]
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5. EUROZONE ECONOMY WEAKENS FURTHER
Manufacturing output in the eurozone continued to shrink in December, according to a poll of manufacturing purchasing managers released by data company Markit on Wednesday. The figures add to a growing pile of evidence that the currency bloc’s “steep downturn” continued in the final quarter of 2012, and will probably continue in early 2013, says Markit’s chief economist, Chris Williamson. “The region’s recession therefore looks likely to have deepened, possibly quite significantly, in the final quarter,” he says. [Wall Street Journal]
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6. EXPERTS SAY ENERGY DRINKS FAIL TO DELIVER
Energy drinks are soaring in popularity, in part because consumers, especially teenagers, are convinced they deliver a mental and physical edge. The beverages are being investigated by the Food and Drug Administration, however, following reports of deaths and injuries possibly linked to their high caffeine content. No matter what the FDA finds, researchers have concluded that popular energy drinks offer little if any benefit other than a jolt of caffeine. “If you had a cup of coffee you are going to affect metabolism in the same way,” says Dr. Robert W. Pettitt, an associate professor at Minnesota State University in Mankato. [New York Times]
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7. PAPARAZZO KILLED BY CAR AFTER CHASING JUSTIN BIEBER
A photographer was struck by a car and killed on Tuesday as he crossed a Los Angeles freeway after snapping pictures of pop star Justin Bieber’s white Ferrari. Highway Patrol officers had pulled over someone driving Bieber’s vehicle, although the teen idol was not in the car. The paparazzo parked his own car and crossed the street to take pictures, and was killed as he tried to return to his car. Bieber, who has been chased by speeding photographers in the past, expressed sympathy for the victim but said he hopes the tragedy inspires laws to prevent potentially dangerous paparazzi feeding frenzies. [CNN]
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8. PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR PLANS TO SUE NCAA OVER SANDUSKY SANCTIONS
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is expected to file a lawsuit against the NCAA on Wednesday, accusing the college athletic association of imposing illegal sanctions against Pennsylvania State University over the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal. Corbett’s office provided few details about his plan, but said it would provide more information at a Wednesday morning news conference. The National Collegiate Athletic Association hit Penn State with a $60 million fine, a reduction in player scholarships for the football program, and a four-year ban on post-season play after an investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh concluded that university administrators covered up abuse allegations to protect Sandusky, once an assistant to Penn State’s legendary head coach, the late Joe Paterno. [Philadelphia Inquirer]
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9. AVIS TO BUY ZIPCAR
The Avis Budget Group said on Wednesday that it would buy Zipcar for $500 million. With its $12.25-per-share cash offer, Avis will pay a 49 percent premium over Zipcar’s stock price, a sign that Avis sees a big future for the car-sharing pioneer’s strategy of letting its 760,000 members rent vehicles by the hour or by the day. “We see car sharing as highly complementary to traditional car rental, with rapid growth potential,” Ronald L. Nelson, Avis’ chief executive, said in a statement. [New York Times]
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10. SOME IPHONE USERS GET A LATE START IN 2013
Apple is launching a new ad on Wednesday promoting the iPhone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature, but the company’s timing could have been better. Some iPhone users are complaining that a bug in the function surfaced as 2013 began, causing it to fail to turn off when it was scheduled to, sending their calls to voicemail when their phones should be ringing, and causing some people to miss calls. [Guardian]

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