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National News Stories for Friday, Dec. 23rd

The search continues in central Maine for a missing 20-month-old girl. Ayla Reynolds has not been seen since last Friday night. Investigators returned to the girl’s home yesterday and sealed it off. Officers also used cadaver dogs near the city’s airport as part of their search. Ayla’s father, Justin Dipietro, reported his daughter missing last Saturday morning. He told police he found her bed empty at the home.

A pair of strong earthquakes rock New Zealand. The first 5.8 quake hit Christchurch…the second, similar in strength, struck the same area. The city is prone to earthquakes, but it doesn’t mean the effects are any less significant. David Coetzee, controller for New Zealand’s Civil Defense and Emergency Management, says dozens suffered minor injuries. Power services had to be cut, and Christchurch’s airport shut down as a precaution. Residents were told to stay away from hillside areas, in case of rockslides.

The standoff between Senate Democrats and House Republicans, over an extension of the payroll tax cut, ends with surrender. House Speaker John Boehner has agreed to go along with the senate-passed continuance of the tax cut. It ensures Americans will NOT see their paychecks shrink for at least another two months. Boehner’s opposition was about extending the cuts for a full year.

A dispute between California nurses and hospital management, over health care costs, staffing levels and sick leave…leads to a nurses’ strike. San Francisco Bay-area nurses began a one-day strike yesterday. It’s supposed to end today, but hospital officials say those workers are not allowed back. They claim a signifcant number of nurses have crossed picket lines anyway.

If you’re trying to fly home, or anywhere else for the holidays, Denver International Airport isn’t where you want to be right now. A quick, but powerful, snowstorm has blown through the area…forcing plenty of cancellations and delays. Snow is possible for the northeast today, which could disrupt even more travelers’ plans. Triple-a estimates 92-million people will travel 50 miles or more from today through January 2nd, an increase of 1.4-percent over last year.

At one point, she was booted off the show…but now, “The X Factor” castoff is season one’s victor. 19-year-old south Florida native Melanie Amaro bested dozens of other hopefuls…scoring a $5-million recording contract, and an advertising deal with Pepsi. Some of the artists who made appearances on the finale…Leona Lewis, Justin Bieber and Stevie Wonder.

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