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Morning Briefing: Joe Biden takes reins on U.S. gun control

U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden walk from the stage, following remarks on the impending "fiscal cliff" talks with Congress, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Fiscal cliff or no, Washington faces an urgent need to greatly reduce its bloated budget deficit without starving its already supermodel-thin economy in the process.


A summary of what you need to know today, compiled by The Globe's news desk on Dec. 19, 2012

Canadian to be space boss

Today marks Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield third trip to space, but first as the boss. The space veteran blasted off from Kazakhstan this morning on a mission to the International Space Station, along with fellow astronauts Tom Marshburn, of the United States, and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko. The 53-year-old, who made previous trips into space in 1995 and 2001, will take over command of the space station during the last half of the five-month stay in space.

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South Korea on verge of electing first female president

Conservative Park Geun-hye appears set to become South Korea's first female president after early results show her narrowly winning in Wednesday's election over her liberal rival. Ms. Park is the daughter of Park Chung-hee, the country's Cold War dictator. Click here to read a report from The Globe's Mark MacKinnon in Seoul.

Biden to be White House lead on gun control

Vice-President Joe Biden will lead the White House effort to tightened gun laws in the wake of the Newtown massacre. The announcement, expected today, will put the veteran politician at the centre of a growing effort to clamp down on the rules surrounding gun ownership. The push for reform got an unexpected boost Tuesday when high profile private investment firm Cerberus Capital Management LP announced it would sell Freedom Group, the maker of the gun user to slaughter 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Obama named TIME's person of the year – for the second time

TIME magazine has named U.S. President Barack Obama its person of the year for the second time. The magazine cited Mr. Obama's re-election in making the announcement. "He's basically the beneficiary and the author of a kind new America - a new demographic, a new cultural America that he is now the symbol of," said editor Rick Stengel. To read more, click here.

Canadian productivity: Not all bad news

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After years of hand-wrangling about Canada's lagging productivity, new research suggests that we may not be doing so bad after all. A paper published today suggests that Canadian productivity has been underestimated for decades and that policy efforts to boost economic performance may be working.

Teachers threaten to pull out strike stops in 2013

Ontario likely  has not seen the last of the teacher strikes. On Tuesday nearly half the elementary teachers walked off the job, and union leaders signalled they may be back out en masse early in the new year. That would set the stage for a showdown with the province, which has warned that under contracts that any strike action would be illegal after January 1 when new contracts kick in. Elementary and secondary teachers are protesting legislation that sets contract terms and limit the teachers' right to strike.

Deadly attacks end effort to eradicate polio in Pakistan

The UN has suspended the rollout of polio vaccinations in Pakistan after a series of deadly attacks against health-care workers. Nine workers have been killed in attacks since the vaccine campaign began Monday. The Pakistan Taliban, who are believed to be behind the attacks, have banned the use of vaccines in parts of the country. They suspect the vaccination campaigns are used as by the West as cover for spying. Pakistan is one if just three countries in the world where polio is still endemic.

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