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10 things you need to know today: February 20, 2016

Julie Kliegman
Rob Carr/Associated Press
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1.

To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee dead at 89

Harper Lee, who won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for To Kill a Mockingbird, has died at 89. Lee had been in uncertain health for years and lived a famously reclusive life, declining to give interviews. More than 30 million copies of To Kill a Mockingbird are in print. Her second novel, Go Set a Watchman, was published last year.

2.

Clinton and Sanders neck-and-neck ahead of Nevada caucuses

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton remain in fierce competition as they head in to the Nevada Democratic caucuses Saturday, with a recent CNN/ORC poll putting Clinton at 48 percent support and Sanders at 47 percent. In the days leading up to the caucus, both candidates have been pushing to make their campaign messages appeal to diverse voters and meeting with prominent African-American leaders.

3.

Donald Trump leads in polls ahead of South Carolina primary

Donald Trump is leading the Republican pack heading in to the South Carolina primary Saturday, with more uncertainty surrounding the up-for-grabs second place position. However, nothing is guaranteed: A Fox 5 poll released Friday shows Marco Rubio surpassing Ted Cruz and even threatening Trump's first place position. Trump holds 27 percent of support from the South Carolina Republican voters surveyed, with Rubio at 24 percent and Cruz at 19 percent.

4.

Mourners bid their final farewells to Justice Scalia

Mourners paid their respects to Justice Antonin Scalia in the Supreme Court's Great Hall on Friday, where his body laid in repose until late evening. President Obama and the remaining justices bid their farewells. Scalia's funeral is scheduled for Saturday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Scalia died last Saturday after serving as a leader of the court's conservative wing for three decades.

5.

Feds call Apple's refusal to unlock iPhone 'marketing strategy'

The Justice Department asked a federal judge Friday to enforce its previous order that Apple unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, calling the company's refusal a "marketing strategy." Apple CEO Tim Cook has characterized the FBI's request as a "chilling" attack on privacy. The Justice Department maintains that Apple's assistance is necessary to uncovering clues surrounding the attack that killed 14 people. Apple is expected to file a formal response by next Friday.

6.

Judge rules Kesha must honor Sony contract

Kesha was denied a request for a preliminary injunction that would have temporarily nullified her contract with Sony Records. The singer of hits "Tik Tok" and "Die Young," Kesha, 28, has said she is too afraid to work with her producer, Dr. Luke, as she alleges he raped her when she was 18. Dr. Luke, whose real name is Luke Gottwald, is a superstar in the business and was never formally charged. The artist is required to make six more albums with Sony.

7.

Britain to vote on EU membership

Britain will hold a referendum June 23 on whether or not to stay in the European Union, Prime Minister David Cameron announced Saturday. Cameron renegotiated the terms of the country's membership with EU leaders in Brussels, including restrictions on benefits for migrants and a guarantee Britain won't have to join the euro. Now, as part of a years-long plan to renegotiate his nation's involvement in the EU, Cameron will let voters decide if they'd like to stay in the union on the new terms.

8.

Hillary Clinton's campaign reportedly paid pop star Katy Perry

Katy Perry was reportedly paid $70,000 by Hillary Clinton's campaign. Perry, one of the first major celebrities to support Clinton, was paid by the campaign for "event production" two months after her endorsement. While it isn't clear what Perry was paid for, the singer did headline Clinton events. Perry is performing with Elton John at a concert for campaign donors in March. The singer was paid more than $128,000 by Barack Obama when he was seeking re-election.

9.

Italian author Umberto Eco dies at 84

Italian author Umberto Eco died at his Milan home Friday, his American publisher confirmed. He was 84. Eco was best known for The Name of the Rose, a bestselling historical novel made into a 1986 movie starring Sean Connery. The philosophical novelist also wrote children's books and literary criticism. "It's only publishers and some journalists who believe that people want simple things," Eco told The Guardian in 2011. "People are tired of simple things. They want to be challenged."

10.

NASA receives record number of astronaut applications

NASA received a record number of applicants for their 2017 astronaut class. The agency didn't just beat the old record — they obliterated it. More than 18,300 people applied for the gig. The previous record was 8,000, way back in 1978. "It's not at all surprising to me that so many Americans from diverse backgrounds want to personally contribute to blazing the trail on our journey to Mars," said NASA administrator Charlie Bolden.

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