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10 things you need to know today: February 24, 2012
Critics blast Obama's Afghan apology, Assad gets an ultimatum, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
President Obama sent a three-page letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai apologizing for the U.S. military's "inadvertent" burning of Muslim holy books.
President Obama sent a three-page letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai apologizing for the U.S. military's "inadvertent" burning of Muslim holy books.
CC BY: The White House

1. GINGRICH ATTACKS OBAMA FOR AFGHANISTAN APOLOGY
GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich criticized President Obama for apologizing to the Afghan government over the burning of Muslim holy books at a U.S. military base outside Kabul. Gingrich said the president "surrendered" in a situation that has been "blown into a huge incident by various fanatics in Afghanistan." Despite Obama's apology, violent anti-American protests continued in Afghanistan on Friday. [CBS News]

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2. "FRIENDS OF SYRIA" TO GIVE ASSAD AN ULTIMATUM
Leaders from the U.S., Europe, and Arab countries meet in Tunisia on Friday to hammer out the details of a 72-hour ultimatum demanding that President Bashar al-Assad step down, cease all violence, and allow foreign humanitarian aid. In advance of the Tunis event, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that if Assad doesn't cooperate "the pressure will continue to build," but she ruled out giving direct military aid to the opposition. [Associated Press]
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3. MARYLAND SENATE APPROVES GAY MARRIAGE
The Maryland state Senate has approved a measure legalizing same-sex marriage in the state. The House of Delegates passed the bill last week. It now moves to Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), who has said he will sign it into law, making Maryland the eighth state in the country — and the first on the East Coast south of the Mason-Dixon line — to allow same-sex marriage. [Washington Post]

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4. POLL PREDICTS EASY PUTIN WIN
Despite a drop in popularity after fraudulent December parliamentary elections and large-scale public protests, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appears headed for victory in the country's upcoming presidential vote, according to an independent poll published Friday. The poll forecasts that Putin will get up to 66 percent of the vote in the first round of balloting, on March 4. A reported 130,000 people gathered at a stadium in Moscow on Thursday in support of Putin. [Associated Press]

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5. SANTORUM BUZZING ON SOCIAL NETWORKS
A new analysis shows that surging GOP candidate Rick Santorum has been leading the Twitter and Facebook conversation since he swept contests in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado on Feb. 7. This week, 41 percent of posts concerning the Republican field were about Santorum, compared with 32 percent for Romney. [MSNBC]

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6. SEVEN MARINES KILLED IN HELICOPTER CRASH
On Thursday, officials reported that seven U.S. Marines had died in a midair crash between two military helicopters over the Arizona-California border during a routine training exercise. "This tragedy serves as another stark and sad reminder of the peril our men and women in uniform encounter on a daily basis — not only abroad, but on our own soil," Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said in a statement. [CNN]
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7. GOOGLE AGREES TO "DO NOT TRACK" BUTTON
Google and a coalition of other tech giants have agreed to have a "do-not-track" button embedded in web browsers to give users more control over their privacy, although it won't stop all tracking. The Federal Trade Commission first called for such a button two years ago, but the industry has resisted. [Wall Street Journal]

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8. J.K. ROWLING TO WRITE ADULT NOVEL
Little Brown announced Thursday that it will publish Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling's first adult novel. "The freedom to explore new territory is a gift that Harry's success has brought me," Rowling said in a statement. [Associated Press]

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9. SACHA BARON COHEN WARNED ABOUT OSCARS HIJINKS
Oscars organizers have warned comedian Sacha Baron Cohen against coming to the awards ceremony dressed as General Aladeen, his character from the upcoming film The Dictator. "We don't feel it's appropriate to use our Oscar red carpet as a venue for a movie promotional stunt," an Academy Awards representative said. [CBS News]

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10. HUNGER GAMES BREAKS TICKET SALES RECORD
The hotly anticipated film adaptation of the popular young-adult book has broken a record for the most first-day advance ticket sales on Fandango, the online ticketing site. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse previously held the record. The Hunger Games opens March 23. [Bloomberg]

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