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Morning Briefing: Where do you plan to be when the world ends?

A figurine of Itzamana, centre, the creator of writing, knowledge and the Mayan calendar, is seen as part of the archaeological exhibition "Society and Maya's Time" at the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City, Dec. 19, 2012.


A summary of what you need to know today, compiled by The Globe's news desk on Dec. 20, 2012

Top court to rule on niqab in court

Does allowing a witness to wear a niqab undermine the fairness of a trial? That's the vexing question confronting the Supreme Court of Canada today as it rules on the case of a sexual-assault complainant who asked to wear the niqab veil during testimony. Lawyers for the accused – an uncle and cousin – have argued that being allowed to see the witness's facial expressions during testimony is critical to being able to mount a defence. The Globe and Mail's Kirk Makin is covering the decision.

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Does it all end with a whimper, or a bang?

Where do you plan to be when the world ends? By the Mayan calendar – and it appears its many global adherents – you have less than 24 hours to decide where you want to be on the so-called end of days, pegged for Dec. 21. A running gag for most, the Mayan countdown has prompted some odd behaviour and heavy handedness by governments. China has detained more than 1,000 members of a Christian cult – deemed "evil" by authorities – and in Russia, officials have been calling for calm for weeks as thousands of increasingly frantic people hoard candles, matches and other commodities in preparation for the end. For his part, Russian President Vladamir Putin predicts the world will end 4.5 billion years from now.

Russian President open to change in Syria

Mr. Putin had lots to say today in a very long press conference. He also addressed the situation in Syria, saying he realizes that changes are needed in the country – a long-time ally – but doesn't want Syria to become even more unstable as President Bashar Assad's regime is unseated. Mr. Putin said Russia wants to "prevent the country from breakup and an endless civil war," The Associated Press reports.

GOP to vote on dead-on-arrival "Plan B"

House Republicans are expected to score a symbolic victory in the "fiscal cliff" showdown today by voting on a proposal that would extend tax breaks to all but the very rich. The proposal, spearheaded by House Speaker John Boehner, represents the latest bargaining position by the Republicans, who are opposed to the White House plan to let tax cuts lapse on Americans earning more than $250,000. Under Mr. Boehner's "Plan B" proposal, taxes would rise only on Americans earning more than $1-million. The bill is a non-starter – both the Democrat-controlled Senate and the White House have already rejected the proposal.

First nations protests snowball

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In the most sustained such protests in recent memory, demonstrations by aboriginal Canadians are sweeping the country. The so-called Idle No More movement "is part of what so many of us have been saying is a moment of reckoning," Shawn Atleo, the head of Canada's largest aboriginal group, told The Globe and Mail's Gloria Galloway.

It ain't the Scopes Trial, but…

A judge will be asked today to return Darwin the IKEA monkey back to its owner. Yasmin Nakhuda says that the monkey – which was found wandering around an IKEA parking lot in North Toronto after escaping from a car – was taken from her illegally and should be returned. She has said she is willing to move to a jurisdiction where it isn't illegal to own the exotic animal, which has been staying in a sanctuary since it was captured. Her dre am: to get Darwin home for Christmas.

Canadian dies in rafting accident in Peru

A Canadian man is dead and an American woman is missing after a rafting accident in Peru. The accident occurred when a rubber raft carrying tourists capsized on the Vilcanota River. The dead man has been identified by Peruvian police as Nishant Fozdar Jagdeep, 25.

And the Stanley Cup goes to …

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Just because the NHL can't figure out how to get the sticks back on the ice doesn't mean the cherished Stanley Cup can't be awarded. At least that's the plan a group of hockey-loving Toronto lawyers are pursuing. The group – which backed a court challenge seven years ago over who actually owned the cup – has formed the Spirit Cup Challenge, a group that aims to award the Stanley Cup somehow in the event failed talks result in the cancellation of the entire season.

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