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10 things you need to know today: August 8, 2012
Loughner pleads guilty in Tucson shooting, Curiosity beams back images of Mars, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
A view of Mount Sharp on Mars, in a photo taken by NASA's Curiosity rover: The rover is equipped with a nuclear-powered lab capable of vaporizing rocks and ingesting soil, measuring habitability and whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes.
A view of Mount Sharp on Mars, in a photo taken by NASA's Curiosity rover: The rover is equipped with a nuclear-powered lab capable of vaporizing rocks and ingesting soil, measuring habitability and whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes.
NASA/JPL-Caltech via Getty Images

1. LOUGHNER PLEADS GUILTY IN TUCSON SHOOTING
Jared Lee Loughner pleaded guilty on Tuesday to the 2011 Tucson shooting rampage that left six people dead and 13 others, including then-congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, wounded. The plea was part of a deal with prosecutors that spares Loughner, 23, the death penalty, and calls for sending him to prison for life with no possibility of parole. The plea came after a psychiatrist told the court that Loughner, a diagnosed schizophrenic, was competent to enter a plea after being forcibly medicated for months. Giffords' husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, said that avoiding a trial would allow Giffords, who left Congress to focus on her recovery from a gunshot to the head, and everyone else in Southern Arizona "to continue with our recovery and move forward with our lives." [Reuters]
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2. CURIOSITY BEAMS BACK COLOR IMAGES OF MARS
NASA's Curiosity rover beamed home its first color photographs of the surface of Mars on Tuesday, after thrilling scientists with its landing on Sunday. Curiosity had already sent back a gripping video of its dive through the planet's atmosphere, but the color images showed discarded pieces of spacecraft that preceded it. It also showed the pebbly landscape in the crater where it touched down, along with the crater's rim and a 3-mile-high mountain it is expected to climb. "Spectacular," mission deputy project scientist Joy Crisp said of the footage. "We've not had that before." [Associated Press]
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3. EGYPT LAUNCHES AIRSTRIKES IN SINAI
Egyptian attack helicopters fired missiles at suspected Islamist militants in the Sinai Peninsula close to the Israel-Gaza border on Wednesday, killing roughly 20 people. It was Egypt's biggest show of force in the region since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The airstrikes came after a series of apparently coordinated attacks on checkpoints, including one on Sunday that killed 16 border guards. Security officials have blamed that attack, in which three dozen gunmen sprayed the checkpoint with machine-gun fire, on Palestinian militants who allegedly infiltrated Egyptian territory using smuggling tunnels from Gaza. [Associated Press, New York Times]
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4. POLICE ARREST SIKH TEMPLE SHOOTING SUSPECT'S EX
Police on Tuesday arrested the former girlfriend of Wade Michael Page — the man who allegedly killed six people at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee — on gun charges. The woman, Misty Cook, has not been accused of having any connection to the shooting spree, but the Anti-Defamation League has identified her as participating, along with Page, in white supremacist online forums. As the Wisconsin Sikh community continued to mourn the dead, survivors heralded two children, Amanat and Abhay Singh, as heroes because they ran into the temple to warn others after the shooting began outside. [CNN]
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5. TEXAS EXECUTES MILDLY RETARDED MAN
Texas executed Marvin Wilson, 54, on Tuesday for the 1992 killing of a police informant. Wilson received a lethal injection less than two hours after the Supreme Court denied his appeal for clemency. Wilson's lawyers had argued that his IQ, placed at 61 in a 2004 test, was so low that his life should have been spared under a 2002 Supreme Court ruling outlawing the execution of mentally retarded prisoners. The justices, however, left it up to the states to determine what constitutes mental impairment. Texas prosecutors, backed by lower courts, said only one test supported Wilson's mental impairment claim, while other assessments concluded that his IQ was above the generally accepted minimum of 70. [Associated Press]
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6. GOP PICKS AKIN TO CHALLENGE MCCASKILL
Tea Party–backed conservative Rep. Todd Akin has won the GOP primary for the right to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill in a key election battle in Missouri. McCaskill is a first-term Democrat considered vulnerable in November because of the state's slow rightward shift. Her seat is considered one of the GOP's potential pick-ups in a year when the party needs to gain four seats to win back control of the Senate from Democrats. [Washington Post]
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7. OSCAR-WINNING COMPOSER MARVIN HAMLISCH DIES
Academy Award—winning composer Marvin Hamlisch has died in Los Angeles at 68. Hamlisch, who composed the scores for more than 40 films, including Ordinary People, Take the Money and Run, and The Sting — for which he won one of his three Oscars — also won a Pulitzer prize for scoring Broadway's A Chorus Line. Hamlisch collapsed and died after a brief illness, a statement said. [New York Times]
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8. U.S. GYMNAST WINS GOLD IN FLOOR EXERCISE
Shortly after taking home a bronze medal in the balance beam, Team USA's Aly Raisman won the gold medal in the floor exercise with a score of 15.600. Romania's Catalina Ponor took silver with a score of 15.200, and Russia's Aliya Mustafina took bronze with a 14.900. Raisman's teammate and World Champion in the floor exercise Jordyn Wieber came in 7th. [ESPN]
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9. THOUSANDS FLEE FLOODS IN THE PHILIPPINES
Floodwaters on Tuesday engulfed at least a third of Manila, the Filipino capital, forcing thousands of residents to flee the city. Manila has been buffeted by a week's worth of monsoon rains and flooding, which has killed about 50 people and forced some 250,000 others to evacuate. Images of the storm-wracked city show survivors clinging to ropes and poles to avoid being swept away by the water, and evacuees forging through waist-high water. It is Manila's worst storm since 2009, when two storms killed 900 people. [New York Times]
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10. MADONNA STANDS UP FOR JAILED RUSSIAN SINGERS
During a Tuesday concert, Madonna appealed for the freedom of three members of an all-female Russian punk band, Pussy Riot, who are facing prosecution for a protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin. "I think that these three girls — Masha, Katya, Nadya — I think that they have done something courageous," Madonna said in a Moscow concert. "They have paid a price for this act. I pray for their freedom." The U.S. government also has condemned the government's case against the Pussy Riot band members. [Bloomberg]

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