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10 things you need to know today: August 20, 2012
Romney vows to release his 2011 tax returns, director Tony Scott commits suicide, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
Mitt Romney speaks in Manassas, Va., on Aug. 11: The Republican presidential candidate says he will release his 2011 tax return by Oct. 15.
Mitt Romney speaks in Manassas, Va., on Aug. 11: The Republican presidential candidate says he will release his 2011 tax return by Oct. 15.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

1. TONY SCOTT, DIRECTOR OF TOP GUN, COMMITS SUICIDE
Famed Hollywood director Tony Scott jumped to his death from a bridge over the Los Angeles Harbor on Sunday, according to officials. Witnesses saw the 68-year-old Brit, the brother of director Ridley Scott, park his car on the Vincent Thomas Bridge and jump into the water below around 12:30 p.m. His body was found just hours later. Scott, who directed hits like Days of Thunder and Top Gun, left a message, believed to be a suicide note, in his car. [Associated Press]
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2. CHINA'S GU KAILAI GETS SUSPENDED DEATH SENTENCE
Gu Kailai, the wife of an ousted Chinese lawmaker, was given a suspended death sentence on Monday after she confessed to murdering a British businessman. The high-profile case rocked the communist nation after Kailai admitted to the killing but blamed a "mental breakdown" for her actions. Suspended death sentences in China are often commuted to life behind bars after two years. Her husband, Bo Xilai, was ousted from his post as a party secretary after the story broke earlier this year. [Reuters]
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3. ROMNEY TO RELEASE 2011 TAX RETURNS BY OCT. 15
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will release his entire 2011 tax return by Oct. 15, according to his campaign. The statement comes as Team Obama revs up its demands that Romney release more years of returns. Romney had previously released his 2010 tax returns and estimates for 2011. Romney has said he does not plan to make any more years of his tax returns public. [Boston Globe]
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4. U.N. MONITORS DEPART FROM SYRIA
Monitors for the United Nations, who were sent to Syria four months ago to help end the bloody conflict, have left after failing their mission. Several U.N. vehicles were seen leaving Damascus on Monday. The observers, sent to oversee a ceasefire between President Bashar al-Assad and rebels, suspended their operations in June after coming under attack. "Our mission failed because the two sides did not abide by their commitments," said one U.N. observer. [Reuters]
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5. PUSSY RIOT MEMBERS WON'T ASK FOR PARDON
The three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot will not ask President Vladimir Putin to pardon their two-year prison sentence for singing an anti-Putin song in Russia's Orthodox church in Moscow. "Our clients will not ask for a pardon," defense lawyer Nikolai Polozov said. "Literally this is what they said: 'Let them go to hell with their pardon.'" The women's harsh sentences, stemming from their February performance, sparked an international outcry over free speech. [AFP]
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6. REPUBLICAN'S RAPE COMMENTS SPARK BACKLASH
Todd Akin, a Republican from Missouri who is running for Senate, prompted a firestorm of criticism after arguing that women's bodies are capable of preventing pregnancy if the woman is a victim of "legitimate rape." The congressman, who just won his party's Senate nomination, later said that he misspoke and that his comments do "not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year." The verbal blunder has the potential to reshape Akin's Senate race against endangered Democrat Claire McCaskill, a contest that had been seen as a top opportunity for a GOP pickup. [Washington Post]
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7. THOUSANDS FLEE CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES
Thousands of residents in Northern California were told by authorities to leave their homes on Sunday as a growing inferno nearby threatened to destroy several towns. The fire, which began this weekend, has destroyed nearly 19 square miles near the towns of Viola, Shingletown, and Manton. Nearly 1,000 firefighters have been called upon to battle the fire. [Associated Press]
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8. GROUPON INVESTORS RETREAT FROM COMPANY
Several major investors in Groupon have decided to bail on the daily-deals site, which was once expected to yield immense profits. That includes Silicon Valley vet Marc Andreesen and at least four other major investors. Last week Groupon released a disappointing earnings report, and its stock price began to sink to a record low. Since its IPO last fall, Groupon has lost more than three-quarters of its stock market value. [Wall Street Journal]
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9. EXPENDABLES 2 TOPS WEEKEND BOX OFFICE
The Expendables 2, Sylvestor Stallone's sequel to the 2010 action blockbuster, was the highest-grossing movie over the weekend, with box office sales of $28.8 million. The Bourne Legacy fell to second place with $17 million, and cartoon ParaNorman came in third with $14 million. [Bloomberg]
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10. NASA ROVER BLASTS ITS FIRST ROCK WITH LASER
Zap! Mars rover Curiosity has blasted its first rock with a laser, NASA officials announced on Sunday. Curiosity fired 30 pulses at a rock over a 10-second time period, burning a small hole in the object. Curiosity landed two weeks ago and is expected to point the laser at various habitats in efforts to determine if the environment is habitable. By lasering rocks and other objects into plasma, Curiosity can then use "spectrometers to analyze the elemental composition." [Los Angeles Times]

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