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10 things you need to know today: February 19, 2016

Harold Maass
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
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1.

Mourners to pay respects to late Justice Scalia at Supreme Court on Friday

Justice Antonin Scalia's casket is expected to arrive early Friday at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. His body will lie in repose through the day in the building's Great Hall, near the courtroom where he served as a leader of the court's conservative wing for three decades. Thousands of dignitaries, including President Obama, and other mourners are expected to pay their respects to Scalia, who died on Saturday at age 79. His funeral will be held Saturday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

2.

Trump shrugs off evidence he once supported invading Iraq

Donald Trump said in a CNN town hall forum that in 2002 he "could have" expressed support for the Iraq invasion, even though he has emphasized his opposition to the war during his presidential campaign. Anderson Cooper pressed the GOP frontrunner on the issue after BuzzFeed posted an audio clip of Trump telling Howard Stern on Sept. 11, 2002, that he did not think George W. Bush's invasion plan was a bad idea. Trump explained Thursday that Stern probably was the first to ask him about Iraq. "By the time the war started," Trump said, "I was against the war."

3.

Obama vows to press human rights issues as Republicans slam Cuba trip

President Obama on Thursday officially announced his plan to visit Cuba, pledging to press the Communist Caribbean nation's president, Raul Castro, on human rights and other sensitive issues. Obama also will meet with dissidents. Republicans accused Obama of coddling a ruthless regime. Former Florida governor and current presidential candidate Jeb Bush called the planned trip "appalling." The last, and only, sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba was Calvin Coolidge in 1928.

4.

Trump calls Pope Francis' criticism 'disgraceful'

Donald Trump has clashed plenty with his fellow Republican presidential candidates, but on Thursday he got into a long-distance dispute with an unlikely adversary — Pope Francis. The pontiff said after a trip to the Mexico-U.S. border that anyone who wants to build a wall on the border to keep out undocumented migrants — as Trump does — is "not a Christian." Trump, campaigning in South Carolina, shot back: "For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful."

5.

U.S. airstrike kills 30 at ISIS camp in Libya

U.S. warplanes hit an Islamic State camp in Libya early Friday, killing more than 30 ISIS recruits. The airstrike targeted Noureddine Chouchane, an ISIS operative from Tunisia linked to two major attacks in his home country last year. One killed 22 people at Tunis' National Bardo Museum in March. The other killed 38 people in the coastal resort town of Sousse. U.S. officials are still trying to determine if Chouchane was killed in the attack.

6.

Turkey blames Kurdish militants as bombing targets soldiers

Six Turkish soldiers were killed Thursday when a roadside bomb detonated by their armored vehicle exploded in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir. The attack came a day after 28 people were killed in a car-bombing that targeted buses of military personnel in Ankara, Turkey's capital. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu blamed the Ankara bombing on a Syrian man with ties to Kurdish militias, and said he carried out the bombing with the help of Turkish militant group the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Syrian Kurdish militias denied any involvement.

7.

FBI searches house of San Bernardino shooter's brother

FBI agents on Thursday searched the California house of Syed Raheel Farook, the brother of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. Syed Raheel Farook is a decorated military veteran who has not been named as a suspect in the San Bernardino terror attack in which his brother and sister-in-law killed 14 people. A dozen FBI agents spent several hours in the house and left with armloads of boxes, a computer, and other items.

8.

Pope Francis hints that women threatened by Zika could use contraception

Pope Francis suggested Thursday that the Catholic Church could relax its longstanding ban on most birth control in the interest of fighting the Zika virus. The pope, on a plane returning to Rome from Mexico, was asked whether allowing contraception would be the "lesser of two evils" as some women in Latin America reportedly consider having abortions due to a suspected link between Zika and devastating birth defects. The pope reiterated the church's position that abortion is a "crime," but said "avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil."

9.

Obama signs new sanctions against North Korea

President Obama signed legislation Thursday to hit North Korea with strengthened and expanded sanctions over the nation's nuclear weapons program. The move comes two days after the U.S. sent four F-22 stealth fighters to South Korea in a show of force as tensions rise with North Korea, which recently carried out a nuclear test and rocket launch. The U.S. and China have been in careful negotiations over a U.N. Security Council resolution on new sanctions. China has expressed concerns that such strict measures could destroy North Korea's economy.

10.

California gas leak permanently plugged with cement

California officials announced Thursday that a natural gas leak that fouled the air in Porter Ranch has been permanently sealed. The leak forced thousands of people to leave their houses as Southern California Gas worked on stopping the leak. Crews last week temporarily stopped the gas flow by injecting heavy fluids into the well, and this week followed up by plugging it with cement. Now the gas company is developing a proposal to mitigate the damage the leak did to the environment.

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