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10 things you need to know today: August 23, 2012
Tropical Storm Isaac threatens the GOP convention, the U.S. middle class shrinks, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
In this handout satellite image provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Isaac reached tropical storm status and is approaching the Lesser Antilles islands as it moves westward in the Atlantic Ocean.
In this handout satellite image provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Isaac reached tropical storm status and is approaching the Lesser Antilles islands as it moves westward in the Atlantic Ocean.
Getty Images

1. ROMNEY TO UNVEIL ENERGY POLICY
Presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will lay the groundwork for an energy policy on Thursday morning in Hobbs, N.M. Romney's goal is for America to achieve energy independence by 2020, by giving states more power to increase the production of oil and natural gas, in addition to revving up offshore oil and gas drilling. The Republican's plan might sway voters in potentially energy-rich states like Virginia, where drilling could bring employment. But the plan could be controversial following the catastrophic 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and in places like Florida, where offshore drilling is often seen as disastrous for tourism. [New York Times]
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2. GAMBIA TO EXECUTE EVERYONE ON DEATH ROW
Gambia is coming under fire by human rights groups after the government announced it would execute all of the country's prisoners sitting on death row by September. It's not clear what sparked the mandate, as the small West African nation hasn't put an inmate to death in about three decades. According to human rights activists, there are currently 44 Gambians that are sentenced to die. "All punishments prescribed by law will be maintained in the country to ensure that criminals get what they deserve: that is, that those who kill are killed," said President Yahya Jammeh. "By the middle of next month, all the death sentences would have been carried out to the letter." [CNN]
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3. STORM THREATENS TO POSTPONE RNC
Tropical Storm Isaac, which has been picking up steam along the Gulf, is threatening to derail next week's Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. Isaac's winds clocked in at 45 mph on Wednesday, while meteorologists predicted the storm would become a hurricane by Thursday. Even during a typical summer storm in the area, major roads can be flooded. "Public safety will always trump politics," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. "And so my job, and our job, if we move into that mode, is to make sure we get people out of harm's way. I don't care whether they're anarchists or they're delegates." [Associated Press]
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4. OBAMA: AKIN 'MISSED SCIENCE CLASS'
President Obama skewered embattled Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin on Wednesday night, saying the Missourian — under fire for suggesting that rape victims can't get pregnant — doesn't understand basic science. "The interesting thing here is that this, this is an individual who sits on the House Committee on Science and Technology but somehow missed science class," Obama told an audience at a New York fundraiser. Obama insisted that Akin represents the "desire to go backwards instead of forwards and fight fights that we thought were settled 20 or 30 years ago." Despite calls from the GOP to step down, Akin is forging ahead with his campaign. [Politico]
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5. CALIF. DECLARES EMERGENCY AS WILDFIRES ADVANCE
California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in three Northern California counties after a wildfire pulverized 64 homes and is threatening to destroy hundreds more. Dubbed the "Ponderosa Fire," the inferno has engulfed more than 24,000 acres. Brown's declaration of emergency in Plumas, Shasta, and Tehema counties loosens the purse strings to allocate more funds as thousands of firefighters battle the blaze.  [Reuters]
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6. SYRIAN ARMY POUNDS DAMASCUS, 47 DEAD
At least 47 people are dead in Damascus after the Syrian army launched a brutal attack Wednesday in the country's capital. According to activists, military forces carried out house raids and shot dozens of rebels execution-style as struggling President Bashar al-Assad seeks to maintain his grip on the country 17 months into a bloody civil war. The army has amped up its attacks following the departure of U.N. military observers this week. [Associated Press]
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7. U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL TO VISIT IRAN
Despite objections from the United States and Israel, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will go to Iran later this month to attend a meeting of non-aligned nations. U.S. officials say America is worried Iran will pursue an anti-American narrative and manipulate the meeting to "deflect from its own failings." [New York Times]
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8. STUDY: AMERICA'S MIDDLE CLASS IS SHRINKING
While President Obama and Mitt Romney make their appeals to the middle class, a new study finds that the group has been shrinking. Only 51 percent of adults are now considered middle class, substantially down from 61 percent in 1971, according to the Pew Research Center. While the study did find that the decline was partially due to some joining the upper classes (which has grown since 1971), the lower income group also rose to 29 percent from 25 percent. The middle class is defined as those who make between $39,000 and $118,000 for a family of three. [Los Angeles Times]
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9. MERKEL TOPS FORBES' POWERFUL WOMEN LIST
Forbes magazine has released its annual list of the most powerful women in the world, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in first place for the second year in a row. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came in second and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff rounded out the top three. A number of celebs also made the list, including Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and Angelina Jolie. [Forbes]
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10. JOLIE AND PITT'S DAUGHTER TO MAKE ACTING DEBUT
It's all in the family. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's 4-year-old daughter, Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, will have a role opposite her mom in the Disney movie Maleficent, the studio announced Wednesday. In the movie, based on Sleeping Beauty, the tot will play a young version of Princess Aurora who is cursed to sleep by Maleficent (played by Jolie) until she is woken by a dashing prince. The movie will hit theaters in spring of 2014. [Reuters]

 

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