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10 things you need to know today: October 21, 2012
Liberal icon George McGovern dies, protesters try to storm Lebanon's government, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
George McGovern, the former U.S. senator from South Dakota and 1972 Democratic presidential nominee, died Sunday at age 90.
George McGovern, the former U.S. senator from South Dakota and 1972 Democratic presidential nominee, died Sunday at age 90.
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

1. IRAN DENIES REPORT OF NUCLEAR TALKS WITH U.S.
After The New York Times reported on Saturday that Iran and the U.S. had agreed to direct bilateral talks on Iran's nuclear program, both countries on Sunday denied the claim. "We don't have any discussions or negotiations with America," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told a news conference. The White House also said that there would be no one-on-one talks with Iran, but noted that talks are ongoing among the P5+1 group, which includes the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, Britain, China, France, and Russia — plus Germany. The group has been working to pressure Iran to halt its nuclear program, with few results. [Reuters]
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2. PROTESTERS TRY TO STORM LEBANESE GOVERNMENT
Protesters assembled in Beirut on Sunday to demonstrate their anger at the killing of a top intelligence official who died in a Friday car bombing blamed on the Syrian regime. The demonstrators attempted to storm the Lebanese government headquarters because they believe the government is too close to Syria and its ally in Lebanon, the Shiite group Hezbollah. Lebanese soldiers fired guns into the air and used tear gas to try to hold back the crowds. The protest occurred as the funeral of the official, Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, took place in Beirut's Martyrs' Square. [Associated Press]
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3. LIBERAL ICON GEORGE MCGOVERN DIES
George McGovern, a three-term U.S. Senator from South Dakota who was an icon of American liberalism, died Sunday at 90. McGovern won the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972, but lost to Richard Nixon in "one of the biggest defeats in U.S. history." Still, his run for the White House "left a significant legacy, including his proposals, since fulfilled, that women be appointed to the Supreme Court and nominated for the vice presidency." McGovern, whose chief concern was world peace, was one of the first senators to warn against involvement in Vietnam, in 1963. Two years later, he opposed extending the fighting into North Vietnam and called the war a "moral debacle." [Los Angeles Times]
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4. ASSAD MEETS WITH U.N. PEACE ENVOY
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with U.N. special envoy for peace Lakhdar Brahimi on Sunday. Brahimi has urged both sides in the Syrian crisis that has gone on for 19 months and left thousands dead to support a ceasefire during the four-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha that begins Oct. 26. But while the two were in their meeting, the violence continued with a car bomb exploding near a police station in Bab Touma, the Christian quarter of Damascus' Old City, killing at least 10 people and wounding others. [Voice of America, New York Times]
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5. PALESTINIANS GO TO THE POLLS
Palestinians across the West Bank voted in municipal elections on Sunday, the first voting in six years. The vote has aggravated the long-standing feud between the two leading Palestinian political parties — Fatah, the secular party of President Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas, the Islamic militant rulers of the Gaza Strip, which blocked voting there and boycotted the elections. The two sides have failed to fulfill a promise to work together on holding parliamentary elections. Voter turnout was low because of the political stalemate, and ongoing economic troubles that have paralyzed the region. [Wall Street Journal
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6. POPE BENEDICT NAMES SEVEN NEW SAINTS
Pope Benedict XVI canonized seven new saints to the Roman Catholic Church on Sunday, including St. Catherine Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be canonized by the church. In the 17th century, she was known as "Lily of the Mohawks," a Catholic convert "scarred by smallpox and ostracized by her tribe but unshaken in her faith." [Los Angeles Times]
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7. JESSE JACKSON JR: I'M STARTING TO HEAL  
For the first time since the start of his secretive, four-month leave of absence, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) spoke about his treatment for depression and bipolar disorder in a robocall released on Saturday to his south Chicago constituents. Jackson, who was released from a treatment facility in September, pleaded for patience and said he is "starting to heal." He has yet to return to the campaign trail with just two and a half weeks left before Election Day. Still, he's on the November ballot with two little-known candidates, and is widely expected to win re-election. [Associated Press]
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8. OBAMA, ROMNEY PREP FOR LAST DEBATE
The presidential nominees took a break from the campaign trail to focus on foreign policy ahead of their final presidential debate on Monday in Boca Raton, Fla. President Obama was holed up in Camp David in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains, where he arrived Friday to prep for the debate. Romney planned to spend the weekend in Florida, continuing intensive preparation for the 90-minute meeting. [Associated Press]
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9. U.S. BOYS ENTERING PUBERTY EARLIER
According to a new study in the journal Pediatrics, American boys are beginning puberty six months to two years earlier than they did 30 to 40 years ago. Researchers found signs of puberty in white boys — genital and pubic hair growth and early testicular development — at 10.14 years old, more than a year earlier than in a classic British study of white boys in 1969 (11.60 years). And African-American boys in the new study showed signs of puberty even earlier, at 9.14 years old; Hispanic boys averaged 10.40 years old. The findings follow research demonstrating earlier physical maturation of U.S. girls. [USA Today]
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10. PIONEER OF BONE MARROW TRANSPLANTS DIES
E. Donnall Thomas, a physician who pioneered the use of bone marrow transplants in leukemia patients and won the 1990 Nobel Prize in Medicine, has died at the age of 92. Bone marrow transplantation and its sister therapy, blood stem cell transplantation, have improved the survival rates for some blood cancers to upward of 90 percent from almost zero. [Associated Press]

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