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10 things you need to know today: March 16, 2012
The Afghan massacre suspect's lawyer speaks up, North Korea breaks a promise, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
A marine awaits Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's arrival in Afghanistan Wednesday.
A marine awaits Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's arrival in Afghanistan Wednesday.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

1. DETAILS EMERGE ABOUT AFGHAN MASSACRE SUSPECT
The U.S. staff sergeant suspected of killing 16 Afghan villagers in a brutal rampage last weekend "just snapped," according to a senior U.S. official. The soldier had been drinking alcohol on the night of the attack, which violates military rules for combat zones, and was under stress due to marital tensions about his being deployed for a fourth combat tour, the official says. A lawyer retained by the family says there were no marriage problems but confirms the soldier served three tours in Iraq, and adds that his client has "been decorated many, many times." The attorney also says the soldier had witnessed a friend's brutal injury the day before the attack. "His leg was blown off, and my client was standing next to him." [New York Times]
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2. ANNAN TO BRIEF U.N. ON SYRIA
On Friday, Kofi Annan is set to brief the United Nations Security Council on the worsening situation in Syria. Annan traveled to Syria last weekend and met with President Bashar al-Assad, but failed to negotiate a cease-fire. The U.N. estimates that more than 8,000 people have died in the fighting. The opposition says the number is closer to 9,000, and that the majority of the casualties have been civilians. Yesterday marked one year since the conflict began. [CNN]
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3. PANETTA ATTACK MORE SERIOUS THAN THOUGHT
New details about an Afghan man's attempt to run over military commanders as they waited for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's plane on Wednesday suggest that the incident was more serious than previously disclosed. According to new information, the attacker was indeed targeting Panetta, something the U.S. military previously denied. Officials also say that three Afghans, including two close relatives of the suspect, have been detained by the military. [Associated Press]
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4. NORTH KOREA TO LAUNCH ROCKET
On Friday, North Korea announced plans to launch a satellite into space with a long-range rocket. The rocket launch would violate an agreement that Pyongyang made with the U.S. just a few weeks ago to make nuclear concessions in exchange for aid. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the plans "highly provocative" and urged North Korea to comply with international agreements. [Associated Press]
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5. OBAMA RELEASES HOLLYWOOD CAMPAIGN VIDEO
President Obama re-election campaign released a glossy, 17-minute film online Thursday night. The video, called The Road We've Traveled, cost a reported $345,000 to produce. It features Tom Hanks as a narrator, and and was directed by Oscar-winner Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth). The video touts health care reform as one of Obama's accomplishments, suggesting the president will again embrace health care as a key campaign issue, despite the "ObamaCare" backlash. [Bloomberg]
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6. ACKERMAN RETIRING FROM CONGRESS
U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) has announced he will not be seeking re-election. The 69-year-old, known for being quirky and feisty, has served 15 terms and held integral posts on committees concerned with financial regulation and foreign policy in the Middle East. [CNN]
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7. BIDEN ENTERS THE CAMPAIGN
Vice President Joe Biden hit the campaign trail on Thursday, harshly criticizing the GOP contenders and marking a new phase in the presidential race. Biden touted Obama's auto-industry bailout and economic policies to autoworkers in Ohio, saying "we're about promoting the private sector, they're about protecting the privileged sector." [CNN]
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8. ROMNEY SPENDING BIG IN ILLINOIS
After a disappointing showing in the South, Mitt Romney is ramping up campaigning and making big ad buys in Illinois. He's been favored to win in the state, which holds its primary on Tuesday, but his record in the Midwest is spotty. [Wall Street Journal]
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9. HEARTBROKEN FRUIT FLIES TURN TO BOOZE
According to new research, when male fruit flies are rejected by their female counterparts, they are more likely to indulge in alcohol-spiked food because of a brain chemical also found in the human brain. The finding may help scientists understand addiction and cravings in people. [Bloomberg]
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10. SMARTPHONES TAMING SPRING BREAK
The New York Times reports that college kids aren't getting as crazy on spring break as they once did, for fear their wild time will end up on Facebook and splashed across the internet. [New York Times]

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