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10 things you need to know today: August 26, 2014

Harold Maass
Woohoo! (Kevin Winter/Getty Images
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Obama approves surveillance flights over Syria

President Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria in a significant step toward greater U.S. involvement in the country's three-year civil war, Defense Department officials said Monday. The approval covers both flights by drones and U2 spy planes. The U.S. does not plan to notify the government of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Obama administration has called for Assad's ouster, and is trying to figure out how to strike ISIS rebels without helping Assad. [The New York Times]


Sharpton criticizes police in Michael Brown eulogy

The Rev. Al Sharpton delivered a stirring eulogy for slain teen Michael Brown on Monday, calling for an end to the kind of militarized police presence that was seen in Ferguson, Missouri, after the teen was shot dead by a police officer on Aug. 9. "There's something wrong," Sharpton said, "that we have money to give military equipment to police forces but we don't have money for training." The funeral for Brown, who was 18, was attended by thousands, including three representatives from the White House. [Politico]


Poroshenko dissolves Ukraine's parliament and calls early elections

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko dissolved his country's parliament on Monday and called early elections for Oct. 26. Poroshenko said in a statement that parliament was stymied by conflict because many deputies were "direct sponsors or accomplices" of pro-Russian separatists that have seized government buildings and battled soldiers in eastern Ukraine. Poroshenko is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to discuss the crisis a day after Russian tanks reportedly entered the region. [Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post]


Egypt and UAE launch strikes against Islamists in Libya

Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have secretly bombed Islamist-allied militias in Libya two times in the last week. The airstrikes marked an escalation in the two allies' efforts to contain Islamist movements unleashed since the region's Arab Spring revolts. U.S. officials said they had not been notified of the strikes, and warned that they could inflame tensions in Libya, where Islamists allied under the banner Libya Dawn were battling for control of the Tripoli airport. [The New York Times]


VA report finds no proof delays in care caused deaths

A Department of Veterans Affairs investigation found no proof that delays in care caused the deaths of any patients at a Phoenix VA hospital. The VA's inspector general, who has yet to issue a final report, spent months looking into the matter after revelations that as many as 40 veterans had died awaiting care at the facility. The scandal led to the resignation of former VA secretary Eric Shinseki, and the allocation of $16 billion by Congress to fix the system. [CBS News]


California mandates a kill switch for new smartphones

California lawmakers have approved a bill requiring new smartphones to be equipped with a kill switch to allow users to shut them down remotely if they are stolen. The law applies only to phones manufactured after July 1, 2015, and sold in the state. The switch is expected to be added to handsets across the world, however, because it would be inefficient for manufacturers to make a special version for California. Apple has already added such an anti-theft feature in its iOS 7 operating system. [PC World]


Napa earthquake losses estimated as high as $1 billion

The 6.0-magnitude earthquake that hit California's Napa Valley wine country could have caused up to $1 billion in insured economic losses, experts estimated Monday. The quake hit just as the job-generating grape-harvesting season was beginning. Some of the region's wineries reported damages to production equipment, inventories, and barrel-storage areas. The Sunday quake left at least 49 buildings in Napa unsafe to enter, and injured more than 200 people. [Reuters]


S&P 500 hits the 2,000 mark for the first time

The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index briefly rose above 2,000 for the first time on Monday. The index closed at its second record high in a week thanks to rising corporate earnings and improving economic data. The S&P 500 has gained nearly 196 percent since the bull market began on March 9, 2009. The index has risen nearly 8 percent this year. Stocks got a lift Monday from corporate dealmaking, including news that Burger King was in talks to buy Canadian doughnut chain Tim Hortons. [USA Today]


Doctors recommend starting school later so teens get more sleep

The American Academy of Pediatrics called for middle and high schools to start their days 30 minutes later every morning to allow teenagers to get more rest. The policy statement, issued Monday, said the change would help address chronic sleep deprivation in the nation's teenagers. The organization said that 87 percent of high school students get less than the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep per night. Twenty-eight percent report falling asleep in class at least once a week. [Los Angeles Times]


Breaking Bad takes home five Emmys

Breaking Bad capped off last year's final season with six Emmys at Monday night's 66th Primetime Emmy Awards. Bryan Cranston won his fourth best-dramatic-lead-actor award, tying the record, for his role as chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-king Walter White. Aaron Paul won his third award as White's student-turned-partner Jesse Pinkman. Anna Gunn, as Skyler White, won her second straight Emmy for outstanding supporting actress. The AMC drama also won for outstanding drama series, which it won six of the last seven times. [The New York Times]

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