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10 things you need to know today: March 15, 2012
Syria marks the uprising's anniversary, jurors side with Virginia Tech victims' families, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion 
Smoke rises as Idlib city is shelled by Syrian government forces Wednesday.
Smoke rises as Idlib city is shelled by Syrian government forces Wednesday.
REUTERS

1. ASSAD TAKES IDLIB ON ANNIVERSARY OF SYRIA UPRISING
Thursday marks the first anniversary of the start of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. National media report that Assad's forces have cleared rebels from the northwest city of Idlib, but the opposition continues to fight throughout the country. Meanwhile, Britain's Guardian claims to have accessed Assad's private emails. They show the leader seeking counsel from Iran on how to handle the uprising, while continuing to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle. According to United Nations estimates, more than 8,000 people, the majority of them civilians, have died in the violence, and nearly 230,000 have been displaced from their homes.
[Reuters]
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2. AFGHAN ATTACKER DIES AFTER AIRFIELD INCIDENT
An Afghan man has died after stealing a truck on Wednesday and attempting to run over a group of U.S. Marines waiting on a runway for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's plane. The man, an interpreter at Camp Bastion, where the attack took place, was badly burned when the vehicle burst into flames. He died while being treated for his wounds. Panetta has said that he doesn't think he was the target of the attack. [Washington Post]
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3. JURY AWARDS VA. TECH FAMILIES $4 MILLION EACH
A Virginia jury on Wednesday awarded two families of victims of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre $4 million each. The families sued the state for wrongful death, saying the university failed to inform students quickly enough that a gunman was on the loose. It is likely the state will appeal the verdict. [CNN]
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4. ARIZONA BIRTH CONTROL BILL ADVANCES
Legislators in Arizona have advanced a controversial bill that would require women seeking health insurance coverage for their contraceptives to provide evidence to their employers that they need contraceptives to treat medical conditions, not merely to prevent pregnancy. The American Civil Liberties Union says the law could make it legal for employers to fire a woman if it was found that she was taking birth control to prevent pregnancy. [Huffington Post]
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5. WHITE HOUSE HOLDS GLAM DINNER FOR CAMERON
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday hosted British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife, Samantha, at a star-studded state dinner. Guests included George Clooney, Warren Buffett, Apple's Jonathan Ive, Harvey Weinstein, and Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern. John Legend and Mumford & Sons performed. [CBS News]
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6. BLAGOJEVICH BEGINS PRISON TERM
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is set to begin serving his 14-year prison term at a Colorado federal prison on Thursday. Blagojevich was convicted last year of 17 counts of corruption, including trying to sell Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat. [CNN]
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7. GOLDMAN LOSES $2.2 BILLION AFTER OP-ED
Shares of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. fell 3.4 percent in Wednesday trading, knocking $2.15 billion off its market value, after an executive announced he was quitting the company in a scathing New York Times op-ed lamenting the "decline in the firm's moral fiber." [Bloomberg]
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8. FEDS UNVEIL $54 MILLION ANTI-SMOKING CAMPAIGN
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will unveil a $54 million national media campaign to fight smoking. The paid ads and public service announcements will feature graphic images of former smokers and their severe health problems from tobacco use. The CDC estimates that smoking causes more than 443,000 deaths a year, making it the leading cause of disease and preventable death in the country. [CNN]
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9. GOOGLE DEVELOPING SEMANTIC SEARCH
Google is at work on changes to its search formula that are being called the "biggest in the company's history." The tech giant is developing  a technology called "semantic search" that will enable the search engine to comprehend the actual meaning of words and even provide direct answers, not just links, to users' questions and queries. [Wall Street Journal]
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10. CRITICS RAVE ABOUT NEW IPAD SCREEN
Tech critics are releasing their reviews of the new iPad, which goes on sale Friday. Many are declaring the gadget's "spectacular" screen to be the most notable improvement, saying it makes "text looks impossibly good," though, like all glossy displays, it doesn't function well in bright sunlight. [Computerworld]

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