Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 13, 2012

A GOP showdown in the South, a U.S. trade battle with China, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion

1. SANTORUM AIMS TO OUST GINGRICH IN THE SOUTH Coming off of a big victory in the Kansas caucuses on Saturday, Rick Santorum is hoping that strong showings in Tuesday's primaries in Mississippi and Alabama can help him knock Newt Gingrich out of the race and establish Santorum as the conservative challenger to Mitt Romney. Santorum had been hoping to use Super Tuesday to turn the GOP primaries into essentially a two-candidate contest, but the mixed results left the race wide open. Polls show a surprisingly tight three-way race in Southern bellwethers Mississippi and Alabama, too, with Gingrich having a slight edge. [CNN]………………………………………………………………………………

2. U.S. TO CHALLENGE CHINA'S GRASP ON RARE MINERALSOn Tuesday, the Obama administration is expected to ask the World Trade Organization to facilitate negotiations with China to ease its trade restrictions on rare-earth minerals. China produces more than 95 of these minerals, which are key components in everything from consumer electronics to defense systems. China has been curbing its exports of the minerals to meet the demands of its growing economy, arguably giving Chinese businesses an unfair advantage. China's state-run news agency says the suit "may hurt economic relations between the world's largest and second-largest economies." [Washington Post]………………………………………………………………………………

3. TALIBAN ATTACKS AT MASSACRE SITE On Tuesday, Taliban militants opened fire on Afghan government officials visiting one of the villages where a U.S. soldier allegedly went on a killing spree that left 16 civilians dead. The officials were unharmed, but a civilian and a soldier were injured. Hours before the attack, the Taliban threatened to behead U.S. soldiers to avenge the massacre. [Reuters]………………………………………………………………………………

4. ISRAEL REACHES TRUCE WITH PALESTINIANS Early Tuesday, Israel-Gaza violence ebbed as an Egypt-brokered truce took effect. On Friday, months of calm along the Israel-Gaza border were shattered after Israel killed a militant commander suspected of plotting an attack. At least 24 Palestinians were killed in the cross-border fighting that ensued. [Associated Press]………………………………………………………………………………

5. SARKOZY TAKES THE LEAD IN LATEST POLLS According to a poll released Monday night, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is now ahead of his Socialist Party challenger, Francois Hollande. That marks the first time Sarkozy has been in the lead since the presidential election campaign began. The French presidential election will be held in late April. [Wall Street Journal]………………………………………………………………………………

6. ASSAD'S FORCES TAKE NORTHERN REBEL STRONGHOLD After driving rebels out of the central city of Homs, the Syrian army has recaptured the northern rebel stronghold of Idlib, according to reports in a pro-government newspaper. An international human rights group says Syrian troops are placing land mines along the border with Turkey. According to a U.N. official, 30,000 Syrians have already fled to Turkey. [Associated Press]………………………………………………………………………………

7. FLOODWATERS RISING IN LOUISIANA Record floodwaters soaked southern Louisiana early Tuesday after the region was hit with as much as 20 inches of rain in some areas. Parish officials have declared a state of emergency as water levels rise. Intermittent rain is expected to continue, though the heaviest rainfall is thought to be over. [CNN]………………………………………………………………………………

8. BANGLADESH FERRY CRASH LEAVES 31 DEAD At least 31 people have been confirmed dead and dozens more are missing after a ferry in southern Bangladesh capsized. Casualties are expected to rise as rescue efforts continue. Approximately 200 people were aboard the ferry. [Associated Press]………………………………………………………………………………

9. YAHOO SUES FACEBOOK OVER PATENTS Yahoo filed suit Monday against Facebook over 10 patents, including some related to methods of web advertising. The lawsuit comes on the heels of Facebook announcing plans for an initial public offering that could value the company at $100 billion. [Reuters]………………………………………………………………………………  

10. RED MEAT TO BLAME FOR MANY PREMATURE DEATHS According to a new study from Harvard researchers, eating red meat and processed meats like bacon and salami can significantly increase the likelihood of early death. Decreasing the amount of meat consumed by 1.5 ounces a day could prevent nearly one in 10 premature deaths in men and one in 13 in women, according to the study. [Telegraph]

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