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Seven By Seven / Seven things you need to know by 7 a.m.

1. If you go to ship a package via FedEx and UPS today, you'll notice that the rates have gone up. The world's two largest package-delivery companies announced last year they would increase their rates by an average of 4.9 percent, starting today.

2. Religious leaders, community activists, city officials and families touched by violence will gather at 5 p.m. outside the Bissonette House, 355 Grider St., to commemorate the fact that Buffalo went at least 30 days without a homicide. Until the death Friday of Elexe Mercado, 17, victim of a shooting Christmas morning, the city had gone a month without a murder death since Charles B. Myles-Jones was fatally shot on Kensington Avenue on Nov. 29. The month without murder came in the wake of an effort to galvanize the community against violence. Buffalo United Front President George Johnson called the month without a murder "a reason for celebration."

3. World Junior Hockey Championship fever continues to run high around town today. Semifinal games will be played at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. in HSBC Arena to determine the teams that will face off in the championship game Wednesday. Meanwhile, Albright-Knox Art Gallery will keep Clifton Hall open until 10 p.m. so that fans can get close to hockey's leading trophies, including the Stanley Cup. And don't overlook the Peace Bridge, which will be lit in blue and yellow/gold this evening in honor of Team Sweden.

4. This is the last day for Buffalo property owners to file a challenge if they think their tax assessments are too high. Appeals hearings begin today and will continue through early February. The volume of complaints should be lower this year. Assessments were increased on fewer than 2,400 properties, compared with an average more than 10,000 in the past five years. For info on filing a challenge, call the city's 311 Call and Resolution Center.

5. It's back to work today for 37 laid-off hourly employees at General Motors' Town of Tonawanda engine plant. The plant is gearing up for increased business with GM's joint-venture partner in China, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., or SAIC. The plant shipped about 25,000 engine heads to China last year, and SAIC was so pleased with them that it placed another large order. The callbacks bring the plant's number of active hourly workers to 705, with 142 still on layoff.

6. For the NFL, Monday Night Football is over, but there's still football on the tube tonight, thanks to the spread-out schedule of college postseason bowl games. This time it's the Orange Bowl in Miami (8:37 p.m., ESPN), with the oddsmakers giving Stanford (11-1) and Heisman Trophy runner-up quarterback Andrew Luck a 3 1/2 -point advantage over Virginia Tech (11-3).

7. A native Western New York will be wishing you a good morning on CBS' "The Early Show" starting today. Jeff Glor, a Town of Tonawanda native and Kenmore East High School graduate, joins co-anchors Erica Hill and Chris Wragge and weather forecaster Marysol Castro on the show, which will be aired locally from 7 to 9 a.m. on WIVB-TV, Channel 4. Glor, a big Buffalo-area booster, can be expected to drop a few mentions of his hometown.


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