Check out our picks for the local stories you should read today:

Metro bus operators at the Western Division spent their own money to buy gifts for 25 disadvantaged kids from Amidon-Bowen Elementary School in Southwest. (Courtesy of WMATA/COURTESY OF WMATA)

Pepco fined $1 million. Maryland regulators say Pepco failed to fix problems that have led to frequent outages.

The most-read crime stories of 2011. The Lululemon murder was among the most-read D.C.-area crime stories of the year.

Fairfax public pensions, pay in the spotlight. The departure of Fairfax County’s top leader could stoke debate over how much public officials get paid.

For Korean Americans, new hope. Following the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, some hope that the country’s new, young leader may be more open to reuniting families.

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View Photo Gallery: December 22 is the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, bringing us the shortest daylight period and longest night of the year.