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Annual "Death Penalty In Decline" Story:  Over the Christmas weekend newspapers across the country published stories reporting that the nation is abandoning capital punishment. This selection is authored by Sam Hananel of the Associated Press. The stories,  Informed by the annual December report from the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), indicate that only 30 people in the U.S. were sentenced to death in 2016, down from 49 last year. DPIC Executive Director Robert Dunham  believes that the drop suggests that the country is going through "a major political climate change" regarding the death penalty. But in states where the death penalty was on the ballot, political efforts to abolish it failed. Nebraska voters chose to reinstate the death penalty by a margin of 61%-39%. Oklahoma voters adopted a measure to protect its death penalty from constitutional challenges by a margin of 88%-34% and in California, voters in the nation's largest and most liberal state voted for the second time in four years to keep the death penalty, with the 2016 initiative to abolish failing by an 8-point margin compared to a 4-point margin for a similar initiative in 2012.

Violence Breaks Out at Shopping Malls: J.J. Gallagher, Joshua Hoyos & Michael Edison Hayden of ABC News report that fights broke out Monday at shopping malls in at least nine states. Police suspect that social media may have contributed in fights at malls in Connecticut, Ohio, Illinois, Colorado, Texas, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Tennessee which resulted in police responses, arrests, and in some cases evacuation of malls.

DC Woman's Body Found: A popular actress and DC area yoga instructor has been found and homicide is suspected. Peter Hermann of the Washington Post reports that Tricia McCauley, 46, went missing on Christmas Day as she was driving to a friend's home for a holiday dinner.  Police later spotted McCauley's car driven by someone else at several locations in the DC area and eventually tracked it to a CVS store.  An unidentified suspect was arrested in the store and later, the woman's body was found in her car.  Police reported that the body had blunt-force trama.  

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