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10 things you need to know today: August 1, 2012
Prolific writer Gore Vidal dies, Phelps becomes the winningest Olympian in history, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
Gold medalist U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps celebrates following the medal ceremony for the Men's 4x200m freestyle relay final on July 31: Phelps has now taken the record for the most Olympic medals ever.
Gold medalist U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps celebrates following the medal ceremony for the Men's 4x200m freestyle relay final on July 31: Phelps has now taken the record for the most Olympic medals ever.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

1. WRITER GORE VIDAL DIES AT 86
The prolific writer passed away Tuesday in his Los Angeles home. A family member said the cause of death was complications of pneumonia. In his 86 years, "the elegant, acerbic all-around man of letters" wrote 25 novels, two memoirs, numerous essays, and a number of plays, TV shows, and screenplays. One of his most successful plays was The Best Man. The political drama first opened on Broadway in 1960; four years later it was made into a film starring Henry Fonda, and the play is currently enjoying a star-studded Broadway revival. Vidal twice ran, unsuccessfully, for public office, and once said, "There is not one human problem that could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise." [New York Times]
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2. CRUZ WINS TEXAS GOP SENATE RUNOFF
Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz beat Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a Tuesday runoff election to secure the Republican Senate nomination. Cruz's come-from-behind victory suggests a growing rift between the GOP establishment in Texas and activist conservatives who are further to the right. Cruz is heavily favored to beat Democrat Paul Sadler to win the seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison. [New York Times]
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3. PHELPS WINS 19TH MEDAL, BREAKS RECORD
Swimmer Michael Phelps made history Tuesday night when he touched first in the anchor leg of the 4x200-meter freestyle relay to claim his 19th career Olympic medal and 15th career gold medal. Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina previously held the record, having won 18 medals competing in the 1956, 1960, and 1964 Olympics. Phelps still has three events to go. [Associated Press]
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4. NEW POLLS: OBAMA AHEAD IN THREE KEY STATES
According to Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News polls, President Obama has a lead over Mitt Romney in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. The president is ahead by 6 percentage points in Ohio and Florida and 11 in Pennsylvania. Voters ranked both candidates fairly evenly when asked about their ability to manage the economy, but Romney's campaign is being hampered by worries about his time at Bain Capital and his not releasing more tax returns. [New York Times]
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5. U.S. GYMNASTS WIN TEAM GOLD
The U.S. women's gymnastics team gave a "simply flawless" performance Tuesday to win Olympic gold in the team competition. In a dozen routines across four apparatuses, the American women made no significant mistakes and demonstrated "complete, gorgeous dominance." The last time the U.S. won team gold was in 1996. [Washington Post]
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6. POWER RESTORED IN INDIA AFTER MASSIVE BLACKOUT
India is up and running again Wednesday after a historic blackout left 620 million people without power on Tuesday. It was preceded by a Monday outage that left 370 million without electricity. Many are now calling for widespread reform of the country's power sector. [USA Today]
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7. CONGRESS REACHES TENTATIVE BUDGET DEAL 
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reached a short-term spending deal Tuesday, staving off a government shutdown during the election season. Under the agreement, Congress agreed to fund the government through March, but larger economic issues remain unresolved. [Washington Post]
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8. MICROSOFT LAUNCHES OUTLOOK.COM
Microsoft launched its new email service and Hotmail replacement Tuesday and reportedly signed up 1 million users in the first six hours. Hotmail users can upgrade to Outlook.com but keep their same email addresses. Skype will eventually be integrated into the new service. [CNET]
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9. RAPPER SNOOP DOGG CHANGES NAME
Earlier this week, the former rapper announced that he will now go by "Snoop Lion," after a recent trip to Jamaica where he was "born again" with a new focus on reggae and its culture. While in Jamaica, Snoop says he made a connection with the spirit of Bob Marley and now considers himself "Bob Marley reincarnated." The performer has a reggae album called Reincarnated coming out this fall. [Associated Press]
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10. BADMINTON PLAYERS CHARGED WITH CHEATING
The Badminton World Federation has charged eight female Olympic athletes with "not using one's best efforts to win a match" and will hold a hearing on the matter Wednesday. The players appeared to lose matches on purpose to help ensure a better draw later in the tournament. The accused are from South Korea, China, and Indonesia. [CNN]

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