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10 things you need to know today: August 19, 2012
Syria's Assad makes a rare public appearance, Obama attacks Ryan on taxes, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
President Obama speaks in Iowa on Aug. 15: A few days later, in New Hampshire, the president charged that Paul Ryan would slash Mitt Romney's tax rate.
President Obama speaks in Iowa on Aug. 15: A few days later, in New Hampshire, the president charged that Paul Ryan would slash Mitt Romney's tax rate.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

1. SYRIA'S ASSAD MAKES RARE PUBLIC APPEARANCE
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad performed Eid prayers at a Damascus mosque on Sunday — his first public appearance since a deadly bombing in the country's capital last month. The footage of Assad praying was shown on state-run television. Assad's power has wilted during a brutal 17-month revolt and civil war, and many experts predict that the leader's days are numbered. In the video, Assad sits quietly during a sermon. Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa is nowhere to be seen, and some members of the opposition claim that al-Sharaa has defected to them. [Reuters]

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2. ASSANGE TO SPEAK FROM ECUADOR EMBASSY
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is expected to make his first public statement from the Ecuador Embassy in Britain on Sunday — his first public remarks since the Latin American country offered him asylum. The Australian secret-spiller, who has revealed hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic and military documents since 2010, has been hiding out at the embassy as Ecuador and Britain battle over his fate. Britain wants to extradite Assange to Sweden, where he faces allegations of rape and sexual misconduct. [CNN]

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3. PLANE CRASH IN SUDAN KILLS UP TO 31
A plane crash in Sudan has left up to 31 people dead, including the minister of endowment, Ghazi al-Sadeq. According to state television, the plane crashed "due to harsh weather" on Sunday in the mountainous area near Talodi. The plane was heading for an Islamic festival to celebrate the end of Ramadan.  [Reuters]
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4. DEADLY SALMONELLA OUTBREAK HITS 20 STATES
An outbreak of salmonella has killed two people and sickened 141 others across 20 states. The source of the outbreak has been linked to cantaloupes from a farm in Indiana. The outbreak has been the worst in Kentucky, where two people died and an estimated 50 others have been infected. The Centers for Disease Control is warning consumers to be extra aware of where their melons are coming from, and if in doubt, to throw the fruit out. [New York Times]

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5. OBAMA: RYAN WOULD SLASH ROMNEY'S TAX RATE
President Obama is zeroing in on Paul Ryan's tax plan, arguing that the presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee wants to cut Mitt Romney's taxes. "The centerpiece of my opponent's entire economic plan is a new, $5 trillion tax cut, a lot of it going to the wealthiest Americans," Obama said in New Hampshire on Saturday. "And his new running mate, Congressman Ryan, put forward a plan that would let Gov. Romney pay less than 1 percent in taxes each year. Here's the kicker: He expects you to pick up the tab." Obama's heated rhetoric comes as Democrats continue to call on Romney to release his taxes. [The Hill]
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6. REPORT: IRAQ HELPS IRAN SKIRT SANCTIONS
Iraqi officials are reportedly helping neighboring Iran skirt international sanctions by smuggling oil and letting Tehran surreptitiously move large amounts of money through bank auctions. According to The New York Times, Iraqi government officials — some with ties to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Malik — are profiting from the activities. [New York Times]

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7.THOUSANDS PROTEST S. AFRICAN MINERS' DEATHS
Thousands of protesters gathered around the Lonmin mine in South Africa on Saturday, where 34 mine workers were killed and 78 injured when police opened fire on workers this week. Julius Malema, a controversial lawmaker who was recently thrown out of Congress, called on South African President Jacob Zuma to resign. "The minister of police (Nathi Mthethwa) must step down because this massacre was committed under his supervision," said Malema. "The same thing with President Zuma." [CNN]
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8. JAY LENO LAYS OFF 20 STAFFERS, CUTS PAY
There's trouble brewing at The Tonight Show, as NBC's late-night jewel laid off 20 employees, with Jay Leno himself reportedly taking a "tremendous" pay cut. The cause of the shakeup is not yet clear. The news comes as something of a surprise, as the show regularly tops late-night ratings. [The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline]
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9. RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH "FORGIVES" PUSSY RIOT
The Russian Orthodox Church says it forgives the controversial punk band Pussy Riot for protesting at a Moscow Cathedral, but insists it will never forget the insult. "We did forgive them from the very start. But such actions should be cut short by society and authorities," said the church's Tikhon Shevkunov, believed to be President Vladimir Putin's spiritual counselor. This week, a judge in Moscow sentenced three members of the band to two years in prison for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred," stemming from a February appearance in which the women stormed the altar of Moscow's Russian Orthodox cathedral to sing a song critical of President Vladimir Putin. The harsh sentence sparked an international outcry over free speech. [Associated Press]
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10. GM RECALLS 250,000 SUVS
Due to an electrical problem that poses a potential fire hazard, General Motors is recalling nearly a quarter of a million SUVs. At least 28 vehicle door fires have been reported in connection with this problem. The recall covers several 2006 and 2007 models of GM sport utility vehicles. [CNN]

 

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