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10 things you need to know today: June 24, 2013
Mandela slips into critical condition, George Zimmerman's trial begins, and more
 
George Zimmerman walks into court on June 10.
George Zimmerman walks into court on June 10. Joe Burbank/Getty Images

1. SNOWDEN REQUESTS ASYLUM FROM ECUADOR
Edward Snowden, the IT expert who leaked secrets about National Security Agency spying, is seeking asylum in Ecuador, the South American country's foreign minister said Sunday. Snowden, who faces espionage charges in the U.S., flew from Hong Kong to Russia on Sunday. He plans to fly from Moscow to Cuba and eventually make it to Ecuador, according to WikiLeaks, which is helping Snowden flee. The U.S. urged Russia to send Snowden back to the U.S., but Moscow said no. [Huffington Post, CNN]
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2. NELSON MANDELA'S CONDITION DETERIORATES
Nelson Mandela was in critical condition in a Pretoria hospital early Monday, according to the office of South African President Jacob Zuma. The 94-year-old former president and anti-apartheid icon had been stable as he fought a recurring lung infection, but his health began deteriorating over the weekend. [CBS News]
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3. TEXAS LAWMAKERS ADVANCE BILL WITH TOUGH ABORTION RESTRICTIONS
Texas' Republican-controlled House gave preliminary approval to one of the strictest anti-abortion bills in the country early Monday. If the measure wins final approval and is passed in the Senate, it would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and limit abortions to surgical centers, restrictions opponents say would shut down 37 of 42 abortion clinics in the state. Senate Democrats, however, can filibuster the bill until the legislative session ends Tuesday. [Associated Press]
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4. ATTORNEYS PREPARE FOR OPENING STATEMENTS IN ZIMMERMAN'S MURDER TRIAL
Lawyers are set to give their opening arguments Monday morning to officially launch the long-awaited murder trial of George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watch volunteer who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year. The killing of the unarmed black teenager sparked nationwide protests, and demands for the arrest of Zimmerman, who remained free for weeks after claiming he fired in self-defense. [Reuters]
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5. CIVIL RIGHTS WATCHDOG BACKS TRANSGENDER 6-YEAR-OLD IN BATHROOM DISPUTE
The Colorado Civil Rights Division has ruled that a school district discriminated against a transgender 6-year-old — who was born a boy but identifies as a girl — by barring her from using the girls' bathroom. In a key test of state anti-discrimination laws, Steven Chavez, the division director, wrote in the decision that administrators created a hostile environment by forcing the student to "disregard her identity while performing one of the most essential human functions." [New York Times]
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6. SHARIF PROPOSES FILING TREASON CHARGES AGAINST MUSHARRAF
Pakistan's new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, says former president and military leader Pervez Musharraf should face trial for high treason, a crime that could carry the death penalty. Sharif said Musharraf violated the country's constitution twice — first when he overthrew Sharif's former government, and then again when he fired and imprisoned judges. A spokesman for Musharraf, who is under house arrest, called the proposed move "reckless and ill-conceived." [BBC News]
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7. BERLUSCONI AWAITS VERDICT IN UNDERAGE SEX TRIAL
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's two-year underage sex trial is finally coming to a close, as judges in a Milan court retire to consider their verdict on Monday. Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with then-teenager Karima El Mahroug — who danced in nightclubs under the name "Ruby the Heartstealer" — and abusing his powers to cover it up. The trial captivated the public with tales of alleged "bunga bunga" sex parties at Berlusconi's villa. [Reuters]
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8. GANDOLFINI'S FUNERAL IS SCHEDULED FOR THURSDAY
The body of actor James Gandolfini, who died of a heart attack in Rome last week at age 51, was returned to the U.S. late Sunday, according to a Port Authority of New York & New Jersey spokesman. Gandolfini's funeral reportedly has been scheduled for Thursday at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City. [People]
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9. HOSTESS ANNOUNCES TWINKIES' RETURN
Hostess says it plans to return Twinkies and other iconic snack cakes to store shelves on July 15. The company shut down its bakeries and filed for bankruptcy last year after a bitter fight with unions, but a streamlined version of the company is cranking up again under new owners. The new management says Hostess' products will remain the same, but boxes will have the added tag line, "The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever." [Associated Press]
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10. WALLENDA WALKS TIGHTROPE ACROSS RIVER GORGE NEAR GRAND CANYON
High-wire daredevil Nik Wallenda safely completed a quarter-mile tightrope walk 1,500 feet over the Little Colorado River gorge near the Grand Canyon in Arizona on Sunday. Wallenda, a seventh-generation member of the famous "Flying Wallendas" circus family, twice had to crouch as strong winds swayed the 2-inch-thick steel cable. "It was strenuous the whole way across. It was a battle," said Wallenda, 34, whose last big feat was crossing Niagara Falls in 2012. [Associated Press]

 
Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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