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10 things you need to know today: September 16, 2013
Summers withdraws from contention to be the next Fed chairman, the U.N. releases its report on Syria's chemical attack, and more
U.N. chemical weapons experts examine samples from one of the sites of the alleged attack in Damascus on Aug. 29.
U.N. chemical weapons experts examine samples from one of the sites of the alleged attack in Damascus on Aug. 29. (REUTERS/Mohamed Abdullah)

1. Summers drops out of contention to lead the Federal Reserve
Lawrence Summers withdrew his name from consideration to be the next Federal Reserve chairman on Sunday, after opposition from key Democrats indicated that he faced a tough, possibly fruitless confirmation fight. Summers, a former Treasury secretary, was widely known to be Obama's top pick to replace Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke when his second term ends in January. Now the frontrunner is Federal Reserve Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen. [New York Times]
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2. The U.N. releases its report on Syria's chemical weapons attack
United Nations inspectors are expected to say in a report being released Monday that sarin nerve gas was used in an August attack in Syria that the White House estimates killed 1,429 people, including hundreds of children. The assessment reportedly suggests that only the Syrian military has the missiles necessary to launch such an attack. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will brief the Security Council as its members discuss a plan to seize Syria's chemical stockpile. [ABC News, CNN]
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3. Rains and flooding slow rescuers in Colorado
Colorado authorities are taking advantage of clear skies to rescue stranded Coloradans by helicopter on Monday, after heavy rains hampered rescue efforts on Sunday. Seven days of downpours have destroyed 1,500 homes and left 1,254 people unaccounted for. Authorities believe most of the missing are safe — their families just couldn't reach them on the phone. However, five people have died already, and the number is expected to rise. [Fox News, USA Today]
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4. Biden fuels 2016 speculation with a trip to Iowa
Vice President Joe Biden forcefully defended the Obama administration's record on Sunday at Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry in the early presidential prize of Iowa, fueling speculation that Biden is gearing up for a third run for the White House. Biden faces an uphill battle in the primaries, though. A new CNN poll found that 65 percent of Democrats and left-leaning independents favor Hillary Clinton. [Washington Post, CNN]
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5. Comet crashes might have helped bring life to Earth
Collisions between icy comets and planets might help create the building blocks of life, potentially offering clues about how life began on Earth, according to a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience. The researchers say that such high-speed collisions can turn simple organic compounds found in comets and on icy planets into amino acids, which make proteins, cells, and ultimately all living organisms. [Guardian]
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6. The effort to right the Costa Concordia begins
Salvage crews on Monday began a complex, $795-million operation to raise the capsized ocean liner Costa Concordia in Italy. The ship ran aground 50 yards off the tourist port of Giglio in January 2012, killing 32 people. The goal is to rotate the 952-foot ship off the seabed and onto an underwater platform, slowly enough to keep it from breaking apart. The effort to refloat it and tow it to the mainland won't come until spring 2014. [CBS News]
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7. North Carolina cop charged with manslaughter after shooting accident survivor
A Charlotte police officer was charged with voluntary manslaughter over the weekend for allegedly shooting and killing an unarmed man who was apparently seeking help after surviving a car accident. A woman called police after the man, former Florida A&M football player Jonathan Ferrell, knocked on her door. When police showed up, Ferrell ran toward them, and Officer Randall Kerrick reportedly fired his gun, killing Ferrell. [Associated Press]
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8. Japan idles its last working nuclear reactor
Japan shut down its last working nuclear reactor for maintenance on Sunday, leaving it temporarily nuclear free for the second time in two years. The reactor was one of just a few to restart after the March 2011 tsunami that caused a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Japan generated 30 percent of its electricity from nuclear power before the disaster. With all 50 of its reactors now idle, Japan might face power shortages this winter. [CNN]
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9. South Korean troops kill a man trying to swim to North Korea
South Korean soldiers shot and killed a man who jumped into a river and tried to swim to North Korea on Monday. The two countries are still technically at war, although the fighting stopped under an armistice in 1953. Thousands of defectors from communist North Korea have crossed the heavily militarized border into the South, but it is rare for anybody to make the dangerous trip in the other direction. [BBC News]
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10. Miss America pageant crowns its 2014 winner
Miss New York, Nina Davuluri, was crowned the new Miss America on Sunday night in Atlantic City. Davuluri, 24, is the first woman of Indian descent to win the pageant, and the second straight from her state. Davuluri, who hopes to become a doctor like her father, performed a Bollywood fusion dance and answered a question about plastic surgery, saying, "Be confident in who you are!" [USA Today]

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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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