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10 things you need to know today: March 22, 2012
France's shooting suspect dies, new controversy surrounds the Trayvon Martin case, and more in our roundup of the stories making news and driving opinion
Civil rights leaders and residents of Sanford, Fla., attend a town hall meeting to discuss the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin: The teen was shot and killed by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman.
Civil rights leaders and residents of Sanford, Fla., attend a town hall meeting to discuss the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin: The teen was shot and killed by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman.
Gerardo Mora/Getty Images

1. FRENCH POLICE END STANDOFF WITH SHOOTING SUSPECT
After more than 30 hours, the standoff between French police and a terror suspect came to a dramatic end Thursday morning. Mohamed Merah, the 23-year-old who allegedly killed seven people in three recent shootings, died after jumping from a balcony amidst gunfire as police stormed the apartment where he had barricaded himself. It's not clear if Merah died from the fall or if he was wounded earlier in a shootout with security forces. "This man wanted to bring the Republic to its knees," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Wednesday, but "the Republic did not yield." [New York Times]
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2. CRITICS SLAM POLICE CHIEF OVER TRAYVON MARTIN
Sanford, Fla., city commissioners voted 3-2 on Wednesday to express "no confidence" in Police Chief Bill Lee Jr. for his handling of the Trayvon Martin case. Commissioners can't fire Lee, as he reports to the city manager, who says he is still "looking at all the circumstances" and hasn't come to a decision. Protests over the case spread to New York yesterday as hundreds marched through the streets to remember Martin and demonstrate in support his family. [CBS News]
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3. MALI REBELS SAY THEY'VE OUSTED REGIME
Renegade Mali soldiers say they've overthrown the government and taken charge following discontent over how an insurgency in the north was being handled. In a statement distributed by state media, the rebels said they had suspended the constitution. The whereabouts of President Amadou Toumani Toure are unknown. [CNN]
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4. SECURITY COUNCIL BACKS SYRIA PLAN
On Wednesday, the previously divided U.N. Security Council endorsed international envoy Kofi Annan's diplomatic plan to end the bloodshed in Syria. With China's backing, Russia recently vetoed a plan requiring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power to a transitional government. Russia's support on the latest plan was secured by offering several concessions, including watering down the threat of military action against Syria if it doesn't comply. [Washington Post]
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5. SUPREME COURTS EXPANDS DEFENDANTS' RIGHTS
The Supreme Court voted 5-4 on Wednesday to expand the plea bargain rights of criminal defendants. The high court ruled that convictions can be overturned if defense lawyers don't adequately help clients when deciding whether on not to take a plea bargain. The decision will have wide-reaching consequences given that more than 90 percent of convictions in the U.S. come by guilty pleas. [Associated Press]
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6. BRONCOS TRADE TEBOW TO NY JETS
After lengthy negotiations, Tim Tebow is indeed headed to New York. The Denver Broncos traded the headline-grabbing quarterback to the Jets after signing Peyton Manning earlier this week. It's unclear what purpose Tebow will serve for the Jets and how the mild-mannered player will fit in in the Big Apple. Jets legend Joe Namath called the deal a "publicity stunt." [Associated Press]

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7. NFL SUSPENDS SAINTS COACH
The NFL has suspended New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season and banned General Manager Mickey Loomis for eight games over a bounty program that paid players to injure opposing players. The league has not yet punished any players, but the case remains under review. The league's action is the the most severe penalty ever imposed on a team and its leadership. [Bloomberg]

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8. BILLIONAIRE SPENDS BIG TO BEAT OBAMA
Henry Clark Simmons, a reclusive Texas chemical-and-metal magnate, has donated a reported $18 million to GOP super PACs, and he plans to spend another $18 million by the general election. He calls Obama "the most dangerous American alive," and has spent more on the election than any other donor. [Huffington Post]

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9. BLOOD TEST COULD PREDICT HEART ATTACKS
Researchers are getting closer to developing a simple blood test that could predict whether a patient will soon have a heart attack, by detecting cells that have sloughed off the walls of unhealthy blood vessels. The study's lead author, Dr. Eric Topol, says the research could potentially address cardiology's "greatest unmet need." Cardiologists can easily detect a heart attack once it's underway, but patients can pass a cardiac stress test only to suffer a severe heart attack weeks later. [Los Angeles Times]

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10. HUNGER GAMES POISED FOR HUGE NIGHT
The dystopian drama hits movie theaters at midnight Thursday, and it has already sold more than $15 million in tickets at the major theater chains. On Wednesday, the movie joined the ranks of Fandango's top five all-time best pre-selling films, surging past The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Exhibitors expect it to bring in $130 million to $140 million this weekend. [Hollywood Reporter]

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