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10 things you need to know today: August 27, 2013
Kerry steps up U.S. criticism of Syria, Lew warns the government will hit its borrowing limit soon, and more
Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a statement about the use of chemical weapons in Syria on Monday.
Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a statement about the use of chemical weapons in Syria on Monday. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

1. KERRY CALLS SYRIAN GAS USE A 'MORAL OBSCENITY'
The U.S. has postponed a Wednesday meeting with Russia to discuss Syria as the Obama administration considers a possible military strike in response to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians. Secretary of State John Kerry described the attacks as a criminal, "moral obscenity." The rebuke was the administration's harshest yet, and a Western strike could reportedly come as early as next week. Russia, a key Syrian ally, said there was "no proof" Assad's forces had used poison gas, and warned a military strike would be a catastrophic mistake. [Voice of America, New York Times]
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2. CREWS GAIN GROUND AGAINST YOSEMITE FIRE
A massive California wildfire is expected to burn farther into Yosemite National Park on Tuesday. Firefighters, however, finally made some progress late Monday against the blaze, which has threatened to disrupt San Francisco's water and power supply. The blaze, known as the Rim Fire, has now spread across 252 square miles, making it the largest ever recorded in California's Sierra Nevada region. Crews say it is now 20 percent contained. [Reuters, CBS News]
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3. OBAMA AWARDS SOLDIER MEDAL OF HONOR FOR VALOR IN AFGHANISTAN
President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Staff Sgt. Ty Carter on Monday for his valor in a 2009 battle in Afghanistan. Carter dashed into enemy fire repeatedly as 53 American soldiers fought off 300 Taliban militants to retake a U.S. outpost. He was the second soldier to get the country's highest military commendation for valor that day, marking the first time since Vietnam that two living recipients have received the Medal of Honor for the same battle. [USA Today]
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4. EGYPTIAN ISLAMISTS ASK FOR TRUCE
Two former Egyptian insurgent groups — Gamaa Islamiya and Islamic Jihad — have offered to call off street protests if the military-backed government eases its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. Security forces have arrested hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood leaders since Aug. 14 raids to clear two sprawling Cairo sit-ins where protesters were demanding the reinstatement of the country's Islamist former President Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted in July. [Associated Press]
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5. LEW WARNS THE U.S. WILL HIT THE DEBT CEILING IN OCTOBER
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner on Monday warning that the federal government will hit the $16.7 trillion debt limit, set in a May budget deal, in mid-October. Lew urged Congress to avoid a showdown and raise the ceiling before then. If the government hits the limit, it will have to pay incoming bills with the cash it has on hand — which will be about $50 billion. Eventually that money would run out, raising the risk of default. [USA Today]
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6. ONCE-ANTI-VACCINE CHURCH OFFERS CLINICS AFTER MEASLES OUTBREAK
A Texas megachurch has dropped its opposition to vaccinations after a measles outbreak that has sickened 21 people was traced to its congregation. The outbreak began when a person who contracted measles overseas visited Eagle Mountain International Church. The victims range in age from 4 months to 44 years, most of them unvaccinated; all of the school-age patients were homeschooled. The church is now offering vaccination clinics, and encouraging members to get their shots. [Associated Press]
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7. ZIMMERMAN WILL ASK FLORIDA TO PAY HIS LEGAL BILLS
Lawyers for George Zimmerman, acquitted in July of second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, say they are preparing a motion asking the state of Florida to pay for $200,000 to $300,000 of Zimmerman's legal expenses. Zimmerman has to foot the bill for his attorneys, but state law requires Florida to cover his other costs, such as expert witnesses, travel, depositions, and photocopies. [Orlando Sentinel]
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8. JAPAN HALTS LAUNCH OF ITS NEW ROCKET
Japan's space agency halted the launch of its new Epsilon rocket 19 seconds before lift-off on Tuesday due to an "irregularity." It was the second delay this month for the 80-foot-high, three-stage rocket — Japan's first new rocket in 12 years. The Epsilon was aiming to carry a telescope into orbit to observe the solar system. The Epsilon's aborted maiden mission was seen as a potential setback for Japan's bid to secure a bigger share of the multi-billion-dollar satellite launch industry. [Reuters]
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9. GAY MARRIAGE MAKES MORE GAINS IN NEW MEXICO
Gay-marriage advocates scored another in a string of victories in New Mexico on Monday, when a court ruled that same-sex unions were now legal in the state's most heavily populated county and the city of Albuquerque. The decision came after a judge last week ordered the Santa Fe County clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses. A clerk in another county decided to do the same, independently of any court ruling. [Reuters]
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10. JON AND KATE GOSSELIN HIT NEW LOW
Former reality TV star Kate Gosselin filed a lawsuit on Monday accusing her ex-husband, Jon, of conspiring with a journalist to hack her computer and cell phone to get fodder for a nasty tell-all book. The case marked a new low in the already bitter relationship for the Gosselins, whose 2009 divorce brought an end to their once popular TLC series, Jon & Kate Plus 8, which followed them through the ups and downs of raising sextuplets and twins. [New York Daily News]

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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