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10 things you need to know today: August 29, 2013
World leaders debate military strikes on Syria, California enlists drones to fight a massive wildfire, and more
 
A firefighter tries to douse part of the Rim Fire on Aug. 24 near Groveland, Calif.
A firefighter tries to douse part of the Rim Fire on Aug. 24 near Groveland, Calif. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

1. Obama still undecided on Syria strike
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that U.N. experts collecting evidence from an apparent chemical attack in Syria will report to him as soon as they leave the country Saturday. Meanwhile, President Obama said Wednesday that he had not yet made a decision on whether he would order a military strike against Syria. However, administration officials have added that even without hard evidence tying Assad to the attack, the Syrian leader bears ultimate responsibility and should be held accountable. In Britain, opposition leaders forced Prime Minister David Cameron to back down on calls for an immediate strike. [The New York Times, The Washington Post, Associated Press]
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2. Military drone now helping fight California wildfire
An unmanned military Predator drone is now helping battle a California wildfire that has been raging since Aug. 17. The aircraft is helping to provide round-the-clock information to firefighters; helicopters that needed to refuel every two hours previously provided firefighters with their air information. Crews contained 30 percent of the fire on Wednesday, but at least 4,500 structures remain threatened, as do the power and water utilities for San Francisco and the Bay Area.[NBC News]
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3. Jury recommends death penalty for Fort Hood shooter
A military jury on Wednesday recommended the death penalty for convicted Fort Hood, Texas, shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan, who was behind a 2009 massacre that left 13 people dead and 32 others wounded. [CNN]
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4. Fast-food strikes set for cities nationwide
Thousands of fast-food workers are set to stage walkouts in dozens of cities on Thursday, as part of a push to get chains such as McDonald's and Taco Bell to pay workers more than double the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. It's expected be the largest nationwide strike by fast-food workers. The move comes amid calls from the White House, some members of Congress, and economists to hike the federal minimum wage, which was last raised in 2009. [ABC News]
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5. Obama echoes MLK's words in Lincoln Memorial speech
Tens of thousands of Americans thronged to the National Mall Wednesday to join President Obama, civil rights pioneers, and performers in marking the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. President Obama challenged new generations to seize the cause of racial equality and honor the "glorious patriots" who marched to the Lincoln Memorial. "The arc of the moral universe may bend toward justice, but it doesn't bend on its own," Obama said. [Huffington Post]
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6. Verizon and Vodafone in buyout talks
Verizon and Vodafone have rekindled talks about a buyout of the U.K. company's stake in their U.S. wireless joint venture, in a deal that may cost Verizon over $100 billion. Verizon has sought for years to buy out Vodafone's 45 percent stake in the largest U.S. cellphone carrier, but the companies have never agreed on price. [The Wall Street Journal]
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7. Swedish scientists confirm new periodic table element
Scientists in Sweden have finally confirmed a new element that was first proposed in 2004. The element with the atomic number 115 has yet to be named, but is currently called ununpentium. "Scientists hope that by creating heavier and heavier elements, they will find a theoretical 'island of stability,' an undiscovered region in the periodic table where stable super-heavy elements with as yet unimagined practical uses might exist," according to Live Science. [NPR]
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8. "Twerk" gets Oxford's blessing... sort of
The Oxford University Press announced Wednesday that twerk and selfie, among other words, are being added to the Oxford Dictionaries Online. A misunderstanding caused an internet uproar when readers believed that the newfangled words were being added to the Oxford English Dictionary. The Oxford Dictionaries Online focuses on contemporary English, a distinction that the Oxford University Press noted in its press release. [Slate]
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9. Manziel suspended for first half of Saturday's game
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who won the Heisman Trophy last year, will be suspended for the first half of the team's season-opening game against Rice on Saturday for an "inadvertent violation" of NCAA rules regarding autograph signing. A&M senior associate athletic director Jason Cook said both the school and the NCAA found that "there is no evidence Manziel received monetary reward in exchange for autographs," but added that student-athletes know that autographs are likely to be sold for commercial purposes. [USA TODAY]
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10. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones reportedly split up
Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones are reportedly separated and living apart, though neither has filed for divorce or moved toward a legal separation. The pair, who wed in 2000, have two children. Sources told People that the stresses from Douglas' 2010 cancer diagnosis and Zeta-Jones' struggles with bipolar II disorder played a role in the split. [People]

 
Terri is a freelance writer at TheWeek.com. She's a graduate of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, and has worked at TIME and Brides.

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