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Morning Briefing: Would marriage survive Mars mission?

An artist's concept of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft approaching Mars.


A summary of what you need to know today, compiled by The Globe's news desk on Feb. 28, 2013.

Mars mission seeks married couple for flight

Wanted: married couple willing to spend 500 days cooped up in small space capsule for sake of science. The private, not for profit venture – estimated to cost up to $1-billion – aims to launch a mission to Mars and back in a privately-built spaceship. The launch would take place about five years from now, taking advantage of the close orbit of Earth and Mars in 2018.

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Doubts cast on validity of Khadr guilty pleas

The lawyer for Omar Khadr says the Canadian's conviction on murder and terrorism charges should be tossed out in light of recent rulings in the United States that case doubt on the validity of his guilty plea. In two recent cases, terror-related charges have been overturned in U.S. appeal courts on grounds that the charges in question weren't recognized as war crimes at the time of the offences. Khadr's lawyer, Dennis Edney, says Khadr was wrongfully convicted and is calling on the Pentagon to appoint lawyers to mount an appeal. Khadr is now in a maximum security prison in Canada after a pleading guilty to the charges.

Pope bids farewell to cardinals

The Pope bid an emotional farewell to his cardinals today, making a pledge to offer "unconditional reverence" to his soon to be named successor. Benedict, the first pope to retire in 600 years, made the comments on his final day as leader of the Catholic Church. The pope – to be referred to as 'emertius pope' or 'Your Holiness' in retirement – is to leave the Vatican palace today and fly to the papal retreat south of Rome.

U.S. to aid rebels, aims for regime change in Damascus

The United States is stepping up pressure on the regime of Bashar al-Assad, pledging an additional $60-million in aid to Syrian rebels and, for the first time, food and medical supplies. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the aid at a conference in Rome, and European countries are expected to follow suit with additional assistance to rebels, now in the second year of an effort to topple al-Assad's government in a conflict that has cost more than 70,000 lives.

Survey shows 'shocking' level of sodium in restaurant food

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University of Toronto researchers have found startling levels of sodium in many chain restaurant meals in Canada, raising yet more concerns over elevated levels of salt in Canadians' diets. A survey of more than 4,000 items from 85 restaurants across Canada revealed levels of sodium in meals approaching and exceeding the daily, maximum allotment of 1,500 mg of sodium. The researchers are calling on Ottawa to set salt reduction targets for restaurants.

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