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10 things you need to know today: February 11, 2012
Obama caves, Syria bleeds, Madonna unloads — and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
President Obama has backtracked on his controversial birth control mandate in an effort to calm Catholics who bristled at the prospect of offering employees insurance coverage for contraceptives.
President Obama has backtracked on his controversial birth control mandate in an effort to calm Catholics who bristled at the prospect of offering employees insurance coverage for contraceptives.
Zhang Jun/Xinhua Press/Corbis

1. OBAMA COMPROMISES ON CONTRACEPTION
In an attempt to calm a weeks-long "furor," President Obama backtracked on a "rule that would require health insurance plans — including those offered by Roman Catholic hospitals, universities and charities — to provide free birth control to female employees." The tweaked rule now requires insurers, not religious organizations, to offer the cost-free contraceptives. "Religious liberty will be protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women," the president said. [New York Times]

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2. ROMNEY INSISTS HE'S "SEVERELY CONSERVATIVE"
GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney won "multiple standing ovations" at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., largely by proclaiming himself a true conservative. The former governor, who Newt Gingrich brands a "Massachusetts moderate," used the word "conservative" 25 times in his speech. Sarah Palin will address the conference on Saturday afternoon. [Washington Post]

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3. VIOLENCE SPREADS IN SYRIA
At least 26 people were killed by Syrian government forces on Saturday, a day after dozens were killed and hundreds wounded when two explosions rocked Syrian military and security buildings in the commercial capital of Aleppo. "Mangled, bloodied bodies as well as severed limbs lay on the pavement" in the "worst violence to hit the country's commercial hub in the 11-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad." No one claimed responsibility for the Aleppo attacks, though state media was quick to blame "foreign-backed 'terrorists.'" [Reuters]

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4. GREECE FACES A CRUCIAL TEST
The Greek parliament is scheduled to vote Sunday on an austerity package that European leaders are demanding in exchange for handing Athens a second massive bailout. Without a rescue from the rest of Europe, Greece will likely default on a 15 billion euro debt payment due in March. Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said his nation must do "whatever it takes" to lock down the emergency loans. "Any other development would be disastrous." [CNN]

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5. JERRY SANDUSKY GETS A COURT DATE
A judge has set May 14 as the tentative trial date for Joe Paterno's ex-assistant football coach. Sandusky, whose alleged crimes have sparked a months-long identity crisis at Penn State, faces 52 criminal counts for alleged sexual abuse involving several young boys. Sandusky maintains his innocence. [Associated Press]

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6. THE NAVY NAMES A SHIP AFTER GABBY GIFFORDS
One of the Navy's new close-to-shore combat ships will be named the Gabrielle Giffords, in honor of the former congresswoman who narrowly survived an assassination attempt last year. The as-yet-to-be-constructed ship would traditionally be named after a city — the last two were dubbed Montgomery and Little Rock. [Navy Times]  

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7. OFFICIALS IDENTIFY SEPT. 11 VICTIM'S REMAINS
More than a decade after the 9/11 attacks, the remains of a woman who worked on the 89th floor of the World Trade Center's south tower have been identified. Scientists "matched remains for Karol Ann Keasler, 42, by retesting remains recovered during the original excavation of the trade center ruins." [NBC New York]

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8. MADONNA KNOCKS M.I.A.
Super Bowl halftime star Madonna has finally weighed in on fellow performer M.I.A.'s controversial decision to flip the bird on-air, telling Ryan Seacrest that she "wasn't happy about it. I understand it's punk rock and everything, but to me there was such a feeling of love and good energy and positivity, it seemed negative.... It was just out of place." [USA Today]

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9. AMERICA'S PLASTIC SURGERY RATES CLIMB
Americans went under the knife for roughly 1.6 million cosmetic surgery procedures in 2011 — a 2 percent increase over 2010, but far from the record-high of 2.1 million in 2005. Last year, Americans had more than 300,000 breast augmentation procedures, 196,000 eyelid surgeries, 119,000 face lifts, and nearly 250,000 nose jobs. [USA Today]

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10. RESEARCHERS DETAIL THE DEADLY RISKS OF DRIVING STONED
Driving within three hours of smoking pot nearly doubles your chance of getting into a fatal or near-fatal car crash, according to an ambitious new study. Nearly 1 in 20 American adults have driven "under the influence of a drug other than alcohol, overwhelmingly marijuana." [TIME]

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