(Dec. 19) Today's Top Headlines - The top 10 stories of the day - Today's Headlines - Explorer

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(Dec. 19) Today's Top Headlines - The top 10 stories of the day

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1. Fed curbs its bond-buying stimulus program

Stocks surged around the world early Thursday after the Federal Reserve announced it was tapering its effort to stimulate the economy by purchasing bonds. The Fed will cut back by $10 billion at the beginning of 2014, but will still pump $75 billion into the economy in January, before gradually ending its purchases by year's end. The Fed also announced it was strengthening its plans to keep short-term interest rates near zero. The moves signal that the job market is making solid gains but still needs some help. U.S. stock futures fell back after hitting records on Wednesday. [Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times]

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2. Advisers recommend limiting NSA spying

A panel of advisers on Wednesday urged President Obama to limit the National Security Agency's surveillance powers. The panel, echoing a recent court ruling, said that the NSA should not be allowed to collect phone logs in the hunt for terrorists. Instead, the advisers said, the information should be left in the hands of telecommunications companies to protect privacy, and intelligence agencies should be required to get a court order before doing any data mining. [New York Times]

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3. Senate sends Obama a budget deal

The Senate passed the bipartisan, two-year budget deal on Wednesday, sending it to President Obama for his signature. The agreement amounts to a pledge by Republicans and Democrats to avoid a government shutdown when a temporary spending measure expires Jan. 15. It says nothing about what will happen the next time the government reaches the debt limit, so there could be another budget clash when that happens, in late February or early March. [Washington Post]

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4. Foreigners evacuating South Sudan as rebels seize a town

The U.K. and U.S. sent planes Thursday to evacuate British and American nationals from South Sudan as violence spread following government claims of a failed coup attempt. The British government announced its decision to get its citizens out of the oil-rich country a day after rebels seized control of a town in the country's north from the South Sudanese Army. [BBC News, New York Times]

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5. Potential security breach reported at Target stores

The Secret Service is investigating a potentially massive security breach involving the credit card information of up to 40 million Target shoppers, USA Today reported on Wednesday. The problem appears to have started around Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. Krebs on Security says information may have been stolen from the magnetic stripe on the backs of cards used at most of Target's 1,800 stores around the nation. [USA Today]

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6. Kerry tries to calm India's outrage over diplomat's arrest

Secretary of State John Kerry is reportedly meeting with India's external affairs minister on Thursday to soothe tensions over the arrest of India's deputy consul general in New York, Devyani Khobragade. Prosecutors say Khobragade lied in an application for a visa for her housekeeper, dramatically inflating what she pays the woman. Indian officials say Khobragade was subjected to a "barbaric" strip search and are demanding an apology. [CNN]

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7. Congress reaches deal to send some Guantanamo prisoners home

Members of Congress have reached a tentative deal that could allow the transfer of about half of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay to their home countries. The compromise, part of a broad defense bill, still has to pass the Senate. A vote is expected later this week. If it clears that hurdle, the deal would mark a rare victory for President Obama's push to close the controversial prison for terror suspects. [Associated Press]

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8. Obama is expected to nominate Baucus as China ambassador

President Obama reportedly plans to name outgoing Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) as the next U.S. ambassador to China. Baucus has served in the Senate since 1978, but has already said he would not run for reelection when his term ends in 2014. If he leaves early, he'll be giving up the chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee in the middle of a push to rewrite the tax code, dampening the effort's chances in this Congress. [Politico]

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9. Guantanamo nativity scenes spark a controversy

The commander at the Guantanamo Bay naval base, Capt. J.R. Nettleton, ordered the removal of Nativity scenes from two dining halls on Wednesday after the Military Religious Freedom Foundation complained the displays improperly promoted Christianity. The decorations will be moved to the base's chapel. "The spirit of the Navy's policy on this is, if it's religious, it goes to the chapel," Nettleton said. [Associated Press, Miami Herald]

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10. Duck Dynasty star suspended over anti-gay remarks

Phil Robertson has been suspended from the Duck Dynasty reality TV show over homophobic remarks he made in GQ magazine. Robertson, 67, said gay sex was "not logical," and sinful, equating it to bestiality and sleeping around. A&E Networks said it was "extremely disappointed" over the comments, and gay-rights activists said they "fly in the face of what true Christians believe." [New York Daily News]

Compiled by theweek.com

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