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10 things you need to know today: July 18, 2012
Fed chair Bernanke delivers some bad economic news, Nelson Mandela turns 94, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on July 17 in Washington, D.C.: Bernanke warned that economic growth in the U.S. "decelerated" in the first half of 2012.
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on July 17 in Washington, D.C.: Bernanke warned that economic growth in the U.S. "decelerated" in the first half of 2012.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

1. REPORTS: BOMB KILLS SYRIAN DEFENSE MINISTER
Syria's state-run media reports that the country's defense minister was killed in a suicide bombing on Wednesday. The bomber reportedly targeted a national security building in Damascus and struck as ministers and officials were meeting there. Reports have not made note of other casualties. Violence and chaos are intensifying in the Syrian capital and throughout the country as the U.N. considers what to do with the 300 U.N. monitors sent there. The observer mission's mandate expires Friday. The U.S., Germany, France, and Britain are pushing for a resolution that would keep monitors in Syria for 45 more days, but also would incude the threat of sanctions; Russia has said it would veto the resolution and has proposed one without sanctions. The Security Council is expected to vote Wednesday. [CNN]
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2. NELSON MANDELA CELEBRATES 94TH BIRTHDAY
The former South African president and anti-apartheid icon celebrates his 94th birthday Wednesday. July 18 has been designated as International Nelson Mandela Day, and South Africans and people around the world are asked to dedicate 67 minutes on this day to helping others in recognition of the 67 years Mandela spent working to the improve other people's lives. [Telegraph]
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3. KIM JONG UN TAKES ON MARSHAL TITLE
According to North Korean state media, the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, has been given the title of marshal, further strengthening his status as the top leader of the country's 1.2-million-strong military. Kim already had the title of supreme commander of the Korean People's Army. The new title is "another brick in the wall of consolidating Kim Jong Un's power, across party, state, and military institutions," according to a North Korea analyst at a university in South Korea. [Associated Press]
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4. BERNANKE PESSIMISTIC ON ECONOMIC OUTLOOK
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke painted a gloomy picture of the U.S. economy in testimony to Congress on Tuesday. He said progress in lowering the unemployment rate, which is currently at 8.2 percent, "seems likely to be frustratingly slow." Bernanke outlined a number of options for further monetary easing but was vague as to whether the central bank would soon provide a new round of monetary stimulus. [Financial Times]
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5. DROUGHT CONTINUES TO RAVAGE MIDWEST
High temperatures prevailed across much of the Midwest on Tuesday, worsening the area's most severe drought in 50 years. The drought has devastated vital crops like corn and soy, but forecasters say the region could get some much-needed rain next week. [Reuters]
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6. NEW YAHOO CEO'S PREGNANCY TAKES SPOTLIGHT
The news that Marissa Mayer will not only be Yahoo's new chief executive but also give birth to her first child in October is generating a new conversation about working motherhood. "The question isn't how is [Mayer] going to balance her work-family life, but it's how do we ensure that companies are fully using the talent pool [including women of childbearing years] so we can have an economic engine that will deliver a strong economy?" says the founding executive director of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Victoria Budson. [Boston Globe]
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7. NCAA COULD PENALIZE PENN STATE
The National Collegiate Athletic Association could impose severe penalties on Penn State University in the wake of a report showing that some of the school's former top officials worked to cover up the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal. Penn State President Rodney Erickson says the university will be responding to the NCAA's request for information in the coming days and that he doesn't want to "jump to any conclusions" about the possibility of a "death penalty" that would shut down the school's athletic program. [Bloomberg]
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8. BOY SCOUTS TO CONTINUE BAN ON GAYS
After an evaluation that took nearly two years, the Boy Scouts of America announced Tuesday that the organization will continue with its policy of "not granting membership to open or avowed homosexuals." The exclusion applies to both scouts and scoutmasters. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force issued a statement calling the decision "deeply disappointing." [CNN]
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9. JEREMY LIN HEADED TO HOUSTON
Jeremy Lin is set to join the Houston Rockets after the New York Knicks failed to match a three-year, $25.1 million offer from the Texas team. The Asian-American hoops star was undrafted out of Harvard and became a New York favorite and international sensation after "an improbable and magical" string of games with the Knicks last season. [Newsday]
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10. COACHELLA HITS THE HIGH SEAS
The popular summer music festival in the Southern California desert will be getting wet: Two Coachella-themed music cruises will depart from Florida in December. The Caribbean voyages will feature a number of acts, including Hot Chip, Pulp, and Girl Talk. [New York Times]

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