French President Francois Hollande

10 things you need to know today: February 8, 2015

Johannes Simon

The Week

1.Russia, Ukraine to meet this week for peace talks in Minsk
The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany plan to meet in Minsk, Belarus, on Wednesday for talks aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine. “They expect that their efforts during the Minsk meeting will lead to the swift and unconditional cessation of fire by both sides,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s office said in a statement. Fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists has intensified since the failure last year of a delicate cease fire. Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande traveled to Russia to discuss a last-ditch peace plan.

Source: BBC

2.Brian Williams to take leave from NBC News
NBC News anchor Brian Williams said Saturday he would take a temporary leave from the network amid an internal investigation into his account of a 2003 helicopter mission in Iraq. “In the midst of a career spent covering and consuming news, it has become painfully apparent to me that I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions,” he said in a statement. Williams is under investigation for allegedly embellishing a story about an attack on a helicopter convoy he was part of at the outset of the Iraq war.

Source: USA Today

3.North Korea test-fires short-range missiles
North Korea on Sunday fired five short-range missiles into the sea, according to the South Korean government. Fired near the coastal town of Wonsan, the missiles traveled about 125 miles before crashing into the water. The second such test this year, the launch dims the hopes of the two nations resuming peace talks that stalled last year.

Source: The New York Times

4.Legendary college hoops coach Dean Smith dead at 83
Dean Smith, the longtime University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach, died on Saturday at the age of 83. “We lost a man of the highest integrity who did so many things off the court to help make the world a better place to live in,” current Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said in a statement. Smith coached North Carolina from 1961 to 1997, leading the team to national titles in 1982 and 1993. He retired with 879 victories, the most in college basketball history at the time.

Source: ESPN

5.Israeli PM vows to block Iranian nuclear deal
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he would do everything possible to scuttle “bad and dangerous” nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and Iran. “We will do everything to thwart a bad and dangerous deal that will cast a dark cloud on the future of the state of Israel and its security,” he said in a weekly cabinet meeting. The remarks come amid a backlash over Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress next month, which some Democrats and the White House believe could undermine the ongoing nuclear talks.

Source: CBS

6.Maryland court to hear appeal in ‘Serial’ murder case
In a case popularized by the podcast Serial, Adnan Syed will be allowed to appeal his murder conviction. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals filed its decision on Friday, and Syed’s lawyers can now move forward with the appeals process, which can include the presentation of new evidence. A former classmate who did not testify at the original trial, Asia McClain, says she can provide an alibi for Syed in the 1999 murder of his former girlfriend and high school classmate Hae Min Lee.

Source: The Washington Post

7.New England braces for more snow
A slow-moving winter storm could dump as much as two feet of snow on parts of New England over the next two days. The region is already reeling from two massive storms that left behind record snow totals. In Boston, 49 inches of snow fell over a 14-day period, smashing the previous two-week record of 40.2 inches.

Source: The Boston Globe

8.Iran’s top cleric endorses developing nuclear agreement
Iran’s religious leader on Sunday offered his support for a potential nuclear deal with the U.S. in which both sides give ground. “I would go along with any agreement that could be made,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement, adding that “negotiations mean reaching a common point.” The two sides have until late March to establish the basic framework of a nuclear agreement.

Source: Reuters

9. Teen arrested in connection with weekend mall shooting
Police on Sunday arrested a 17-year-old in connection with a weekend shooting at a mall outside Pittsburgh that injured three people, two of them critically. Police said the suspect, Tarod Thornhill, is believed to have been targeting one person when he opened fire Saturday night in the Monroeville Mall. Thornhill is charged with attempted homicide, aggravated assault, and reckless endangerment.

Source: NBC

10.The Grammy Awards ceremony is tonight
The 57th annual Grammy Awards will be held Sunday night in Los Angeles. Beyonce, Sam Smith, and Pharrell Williams, all of whom are up for Album of the Year, lead the pack with six nominations each.

Source: Billboard

10 things you need to know today: February 6, 2015

(AP Photo/Presidential Press Service, Mykola Lazarenko)

The Week

1.Jordan bombs ISIS, declaring, “This is just the beginning”
Jordan, already participating in the U.S.-led air campaign against ISIS, launched a barrage of airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Syria on Thursday in an escalation of its response to the Islamist group’s killing of captured fighter pilot Muath Al-Kaseasbeh, who was burned alive in a cage. “This is just the beginning,” the armed forces said in a statement. “We are upping the ante,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said. The military jets flew over the slain pilot’s home after the mission in a show of respect.

Source: CNN

2.German and French leaders push Ukraine peace plan in Moscow
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande are traveling to Moscow on Friday to push Russian President Vladimir Putin to get behind a new cease-fire plan for Ukraine. Merkel and Hollande met Thursday with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The proposal is an alternative to one by Putin that would put parts of eastern Ukraine under the control of pro-Russian separatists. The U.S. is putting pressure on Russia, too, Secretary of State John Kerry said during a visit to Kiev, Ukraine’s capital.

Source: Bloomberg

3.U.S. presses Cuba to allow embassy to open in Havana by April
The Obama administration is pressuring Cuba to follow through with an agreement to restore diplomatic ties and allow the U.S. to reopen an embassy in Havana by April, U.S. officials told Reuters. Cuba has made several demands, including that it first be removed from the U.S. list of states sponsoring terrorism. The showdown over how to begin rebuilding ties has exposed deep mistrust held over from the Cold War, and has complicated efforts to bring the historic deal, announced in December, to fruition.

Source: Reuters

4.Obama cautions against all religious extremism, angering Christian critics
President Obama spoke out against religious intolerance at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, saying that, at a time of fear over Islamist terrorism, Christians should remember that their faith also has been twisted to justify “terrible deeds,” such as the Crusades and the Inquisition. “In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ,” he said. Some Republicans called the remarks offensive to Christians. A Southern Baptist leader said Obama was making “a wrongheaded moral comparison.”

Source: The Washington Post

5.RadioShack files for bankruptcy protection
Aging electronics chain RadioShack filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Thursday after struggling for years to reinvent itself in the digital age. The company said it would sell some 2,400 stores as part of an effort to turn itself around. The 94-year-old company tried to rebrand, most notably with a self-deprecating 2014 Super Bowl commercial that poked fun at the company’s dated image, but its losses continued growing, making bankruptcy the only option.

Source: Bloomberg

6.Jury pool gathers for trial of man accused of killingAmerican Sniper Chris Kyle
Jury selection began Thursday in the murder trial of Eddie Ray Routh, the Iraq War veteran accused of killing Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle in 2013. Routh allegedly shot and killed Kyle and Chad Littlefield, a friend of Kyle’s, during an outing at a shooting range. Kyle wrote a memoir and inspired the Oscar-nominated box-office smash American Sniper, a film about his life and military career. Kyle and Littlefield reportedly took Routh to the range to help him deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Source: The Washington Post

7.Sony studio chief Amy Pascal steps down after hacking scandal
Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal has resigned in the wake of a hacking attack that exposed embarrassing internal emails, the company announced Thursday. Pascal had been with Sony since 1996, and was often cited as the top female executive in the film industry. President Obama blamed the hacking scandal on North Korea, and Pascal was the one who green-lighted The Interview, a comedy about a plot to kill Kim Jong Un that angered Pyongyang.

Source: The New York Times

8.Minnesota stops accepting TurboTax returns
The Minnesota Department of Revenue will no longer accept tax returns filed through TurboTax due to concerns about fraud, the department announced in a conference call Thursday. Two residents told the state that they logged into TurboTax and saw that a return had already been filed in their name. Investigators examined other returns filed using TurboTax, and found “potentially fraudulent activity.” The department is checking 2,000 returns already filed using TurboTax, one of the most commonly used programs for individual income tax filing.

Source: CBS Minnesota

9. Gary Glitter convicted of child molestation
A London court on Thursday found British glam rocker Gary Glitter guilty of committing sexual offenses against three children in the 1970s. Glitter, born Paul Francis Gadd, was convicted of sexual intercourse with a girl under age 13, attempted rape, and four counts of indecent assault. Glitter, most famous for his 1972 hit Rock and Roll (Part2), was convicted in Vietnam of molesting two girls, ages 10 and 11, and served nearly three years in prison. He could face life in prison when he is sentenced on the new convictions on Feb. 27.

Source: Los Angeles Times

10.A new injury heightens doubt on Tiger Woods’ comeback potential
Tiger Woods dropped out of the Farmers Insurance Open on the 12th holeon Thursday, fueling doubts about his chances of returning to championship form. Woods said a week ago that he felt great heading into the tournament, but his lower back gave out on him. Woods was 2 over par through 11 holes at Torrey Pines in California, then appeared to tell his caddy, “I’m done.” He was then driven off the course in a cart. Woods has not won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open. He was hoping to use this tournament to prepare for the Masters in April.

Source: USA Today

 

10 things you need to know today: February 5, 2015

(AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

The Week

1.Jordan says it will intensify its war against ISIS
King Abdullah of Jordan declared Wednesday that his country would wage “relentless” war against the Islamic State, the Islamist extremist group that burned alive a captured Jordanian fighter pilot. “We are waging this war to protect our faith, our values, and human principles,” the king said on his return to Amman from a trip to the U.S. Leaders from other Middle East nations also expressed outrage. Saudi Arabia called the killing a “heinous crime” and called for intensified fighting against terrorists.

Source: The Independent, The Washington Post

2.Anthem data breach could affect 80 million people
The health insurance giant Anthem announced Wednesday that hackers had broken into a database containing the personal information of as many as 80 million customers and employees. The information in the breached database included names, birthdays, social security numbers, email addresses, and income data, but no credit card numbers or other financial information. Anthem said it would individually notify people affected by the “very sophisticated attack.”

Source: CNBC

3.Kerry promises Ukraine aid as France and Germany pitch a new peace plan
Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Ukraine on Thursday and announced the U.S. would send $16.4 million to help Ukrainians affected by escalating fighting with pro-Russian separatists. Washington also reportedly is considering sending weapons to Ukraine now that peace talks with rebels have collapsed. French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also are traveling Thursday to pitch a new peace plan to Ukraine and Russia, which NATO says is arming and financing the rebels.

Source: NBC News, The Associated Press

4.Death toll in Taiwan plane crash climbs to 31
Taiwanese rescuers used a crane to lift the fuselage of a TransAsia Airways plane from a Taipei river on Wednesday after pulling 15 survivors from the wreckage. The death toll from the crash of the turboprop plane climbed to 31. Eleven of the 58 people on board remained missing. The plane banked sharply shortly after takeoff and went down, as the crew called “Mayday” over the radio. Local media speculated that the pilot turned to avoid hitting a densely populated residential area.

Source: Voice of America, The Associated Press

5.Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht convicted
A Manhattan jury on Wednesday swiftly convicted Ross Ulbricht of operating the black-market website called Silk Road, helping drug dealers and other criminals reach customers. Prosecutors said Ulbricht ran a $1.2 billion empire under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts. Drugs made up the majority of Silk Road’s sales over the three years it operated, government lawyers said. Ulbricht said he merely ran the site for a few months. Ulbricht, 30, faces up to life in prison. Sentencing is in May.

Source: Bloomberg

6.Deadly fire on wrecked New York train linked to dislodged third rail
The deadly fire on a New York commuter train that hit an SUV erupted because the crash tore up 400 feet of the electrified third rail that powered the train, investigators said Wednesday. Gasoline from the wrecked Jeep Cherokee fed the blaze. “The entire interior of the first rail car was burned out,” said Robert L. Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board. Six people were killed and more than a dozen were injured in the wreck, which occurred in Valhalla in Westchester County.

Source: The New York Times

7.Boko Haram raid leaves 100 dead in Cameroon
Boko Haram militants killed more than 100 people in a cross-border raid into Cameroon, leaders in the town of Fotokol said Wednesday. The victims, many with their throats slit, were killed in mosques and houses. The Islamist group has kidnapped or killed thousands of people in neighboring Nigeria, and is the target of a multi-nation offensive. Cameroonian soldiers, backed by forces from Chad, eventually drove away the attackers, killing some of them.

Source: Voice of America

8.FCC proposes tough net neutrality rules
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler on Wednesday proposed regulating internet service providers like utility companies — a big win for net neutrality advocates. The proposal, which the FCC could vote on this month, would create “bright-line rules” to “ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services,” Wheeler wrote in an op-ed for Wired. Last year, President Obama called on the FCC to “implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality.”

Source: Wired

9. Snoop Dogg’s son signs to play football at UCLA
Wide receiver Cordell Broadus, son of rapper Snoop Dogg, announced Wednesday that he had signed to play for the UCLA Bruins. The younger Broadus is ranked No. 130 among ESPN’s top U.S. high school players. The 6-foot-3 Broadus had narrowed his choices to UCLA, Arizona State, and USC, which his father has supported for years. “UCLA presented the best platform for him when his football career is over,” said father Calvin Broadus, a.k.a. Snoop Dogg.

Source: Los Angeles Times

10.Brian Williams recants claim his helicopter was shot down in Iraq
NBC News anchor Brian Williams on Wednesday admitted that he had falsely claimed his helicopter was shot down in Iraq in 2003. Williams apologized on the air after Stars & Stripes looked into complaints from soldiers who were there. Williams was actually on another helicopter flying up to an hour behind the one that was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade. He reported the incident accurately at the time, but told the false story last Friday. He apologized, saying “the fog of memory” caused him to “conflate” the events.

Source: Fox News

10 things you need to know today: December 13, 2014

James Risen will not have to choose between revealing his source or being found in contempt of court.

James Risen will not have to choose between revealing his source or being found in contempt of court. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Week

Police arrest a suspect in a shooting near a Portland high school, Attorney General Holder decides against forcing reporter James Risen to reveal a source, and more

1. Police arrest suspect in shooting near Portland high school
Saying their investigation thus far suggests a Friday shooting outside a Portland alternative high school was gang-related, police confirmed that they arrested a 22-year-old, male suspect early Saturday morning. Witnesses say a dispute outside Rosemary Anderson High School preceded the Friday shooting that left three people wounded. Taylor Michelle Zimmers, 16, is in critical condition; David Jackson-Liday, 20, and Labraye Franklin, 17, were also taken to a nearby hospital but are reportedly in stable condition. [The Associated Press]

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2. Reporter James Risen will not be forced to reveal source
Ending a years-long battle, Attorney General Eric Holder has directed that reporter James Risen not be forced to reveal a confidential source’s identity, according to a senior Justice Department officialwho spoke with NBC News. Risen’s book, State of War, outlined the CIA’s efforts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear arms program. The Justice Department had been deciding whether or not to subpoena Risen about whether former CIA official Jeffrey Sterling was the source behind the reporter’s information. [NBC News, The Washington Post]

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3. NFL upholds Adrian Peterson’s suspension, denies appeal
An NFL appeals officer upheld Adrian Peterson’s suspension on Friday. While Peterson is eligible for reinstatement as early as April 15, 2015, the Minnesota Vikings star must forfeit six game checks from the 2014 season — one for each remaining game when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Peterson on Nov. 18 — adding up to about $4.147 million in salary losses. Peterson allegedly used a wooden switch to discipline his 4-year-old son in May; he pled no contest in November to a misdemeanor reckless assault charge. [USA Today]

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4. Rescuers search for missing Indonesian villagers following mudslide
A landslide tore through a remote Indonesian village on Friday, killing at least 17 people and leaving scores more missing, officials said. Rescuers are searching for the buried villagers with their bare hands and sticks, because there is no access to earth-moving machinery. [Reuters]

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5. French President Hollande calls for terminal sedation law
French President Francois Hollande announced on Friday that the terminally ill have “the right to deep, continuous sedation until death.” France’s president called for a law to keep terminally ill patients sedated until they die; the law would only apply at patients’ requests, or if their conditions were life-threatening in the short term. [The Associated Press]

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6. Pew: Wealth inequality by race is growing
A new study from the Pew Research Center reports that the median wealth of white households was 13 times greater than that of black households in 2013. That’s up from eight times over in 2010, and the racial gap is the largest its been since 1989, when white households had 17 times the wealth of black households. In the wake of the recession, Pew notes that wealth for white, black, and Hispanic households is still lower than it was pre-recession. [Pew Research Center]

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7. SeaWorld CEO Jim Atchison steps down
After more than four years of public-relations crises, SeaWorld announced on Thursday that CEO Jim Atchison will step down from his position. An orca killed trainer Dawn Brancheau in Orlando, in 2010, then the 2013 documentary Blackfish painted a dark picture of the killer whales’ daily lives in captivity. The amusement park also plans to cut an unspecified number of jobs, as its earnings and attendance have dropped significantly in the last year. [U-T San Diego]

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8. Drug-resistant infections could kill 10 million people by 2050
The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance released a report, commissioned by British Prime Minister David Cameron, that warns of a “crisis” of drug-resistant superbugs. The infections could lead to as many as 10 million deaths by 2050 and cost roughly $100 trillion. The threat is most dire in the developing world; four million people could die in Africa, and 4.7 million in Asia. The report’s creators say the infections could eventually be deadlier than cancer. [Time]

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9. Mexican government passes bill to ban circus animals
The Mexican legislature voted 267-66 to ban circus animals on Thursday, following an earlier Senate vote. The bill hopes to fight animal cruelty in circus shows, and it would let zoos take their pick of animals already being used as performers. President Enrique Pena Nieto, though, has yet to announce whether he will sign the bill into law. [The Associated Press]

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10. Pope Francis suggests that dogs and cats go to heaven
Pope Francis reportedly recently told a boy grieving the loss of his dog, “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.” The comments set off waves through the Catholic Church, which has flip-flopped on the issue of whether animals can go to heaven, because that would imply that they have souls. [The New York Times]

10 things you need to know today: December 10, 2014

Senate Intelligence Committee head Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) called the torture report's findings a "stain on the nation's history."

Senate Intelligence Committee head Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) called the torture report’s findings a “stain on the nation’s history.” | (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Week

A Senate report says CIA torture was ineffective, Congress reaches a spending deal to avert a shutdown, and more

1. Torture report slams the CIA
The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released a highly critical report on the CIA’s secret interrogations of terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The five-year investigation found that agency medical personnel warned of “a series of near drowning by waterboarding.” The report also rejected claims that torturing detainees helped find Osama bin Laden. The CIA pushed back, saying that so-called enhanced interrogations were effective in foiling al Qaeda plots. [The Washington Post, ABC News]

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2. Congress strikes a $1.1 trillion spending deal to avoid a government shutdown
Republicans and Democrats in Congress reached an agreement Tuesday on a $1.1 trillion spending bill that would delay a fight over funding President Obama’s executive order on immigration and avoid a government shutdown. House Speaker John Boehner said he hoped to bring the deal to a vote on Thursday, when the federal government is due to run short of money. The bill gives most of the government money for the next fiscal year, but only funds the Homeland Security Department, which will carry out Obama’s immigration policies, into early next year. [The Associated Press]

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3. World Food Program raises money to resume aid to Syrian refugees
The United Nations’ World Food Program announced Tuesday that it has raised more than enough money through a social media campaign to resume a food voucher program for 1.7 million refugees from Syria’s civil war. WFP officials had said they needed $64 million to get the program back on track, and the 72-hour Dollar for Syrian Refugees campaign last week raised $80 million. The agency will now be able to give about $30 to average families for use in local shops. [United Nations]

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4. Gruber apologizes for “insulting” remarks on ObamaCare passage
MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who helped shape the Affordable Care Act, apologized Tuesday for what he called his “glib, thoughtless, and sometimes downright insulting comments” about how supporters got the law passed. In a recently surfaced video, Gruber said supporters relied on the “stupidity of the American voter” to mask the penalty for failing to obtain health insurance as something other than a tax. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Gruber’s initial comments inadvertently revealed how Democrats pushed ObamaCare through Congress. [The Washington Times]

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5. California DAs accuse Uber of misleading customers
District attorneys in San Francisco and Los Angeles are suing ride-sharing service Uber for allegedly misleading customers and charging bogus fees. The DAs say Uber misleads customers about the quality of its background checks on drivers, and operates out of airports without proper authorization. Uber said it was cooperating with authorities and was “an integral, safe, and established part of the transportation ecosystem in the Golden State.” Uber competitor Lyft settled a similar case, agreeing to pay $250,000 and be more open with passengers. [San Jose Mercury News]

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6. Korean Air Lines executive resigns after delaying flight over bag of nuts
A top Korean Air Lines official resigned Tuesday after facing intense criticism for delaying the departure of a flight from New York to South Korea because she was served macadamia nuts in a bag, instead of on a plate. The official, Cho Hyun-ah, is the eldest daughter of the company’s chairman, Cho Yang-ho. The younger Cho served as the airline’s executive vice president of cabin service, and she had ordered a senior crew member off the plane, forcing it to return to the gate. [The Associated Press]

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7. Projected gas prices drop
The Energy Department on Tuesday lowered the projected average gasoline price by 35 cents to $2.60 per gallon, 23 percent below this year’s average. The decline would amount to a $100 billion savings for drivers in 2015 based on current levels of consumption. It comes as crude oil prices have fallen to $66 per barrel from $115 in June due to a glut in global supply. Next year’s predicted gas price would be the lowest yearly average since 2009. [USA Today]

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8. Freed hostage returns to France
The last French hostage held by Islamists, Serge Lazarevic, returned home Wednesday after being held for three years by al Qaeda’s North African branch. Lazarevic was released days after the release of two al Qaeda fighters from a prison in Mali. He thanked French President Francois Hollande “for having done everything to free me.” The deal revived debate over negotiating with hostage takers. Hollande said France did not pay ransoms or exchange prisoners, but that other countries have, “to help us.” [BBC News, The Associated Press]

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9. Former Miss America and actress Mary Ann Mobley dies at 75
Mary Ann Mobley Collins, a former Miss America who appeared in movies with Elvis Presley, died Tuesday in Beverly Hills. She was 75. Collins won the Miss America crown in 1958, and moved on to acting a few years later. Her credits included TV shows, including General Hospital and Perry Mason. She appeared with Elvis in Girl Happy, and with Jerry Lewis in Three on a Couch, the job during which she met her late husband, Gary Collins, who died two years ago. [The Associated Press]

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10. Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi in Oslo to accept Nobel Peace Prize
Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot by a Taliban gunman, and fellow education advocate Kailash Satyarthi are in Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize on Wednesday. Malala, 17, will be the youngest person ever to receive the award. “We are not here just to accept our award, get this medal, and go back home,” the Pakistani teen said at a press conference before the ceremony. “We are here to tell children especially that you need to stand up, you need to speak up for your rights … It is you who can change the world.” [Agence France Presse]

10 things you need to know today: September 25, 2014

Obama raises his glass in the UN. 

Obama raises his glass in the UN. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Surely the Right Wing talking-heads will find something wrong with this UN ritual…wait and see.

The Week

The U.S. bombs Syrian refineries controlled by ISIS, Islamists behead a French hostage in Algeria, and more

1. U.S. bombs Syrian refineries that were financing ISIS
The U.S. and Arab allies on Wednesday bombed a dozen small Syrian oil refineries controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, in an attempt to cut off the Islamist militant group’s funding. ISIS was estimated to be making $2 million a day from the facilities. The Obama administration also labeled 11 people and one so-called charity as terrorists, accusing them of aiding ISIS. President Obama chaired a United Nations Security Council vote approving a resolution compelling countries to stop recruits from joining ISIS and other terrorist militias. [Los Angeles Times, BBC News]

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2. French hostage beheaded in Algeria
Algerian Islamist extremists released a video on Wednesday in which they appear to behead French tourist Herve Gourde to retaliate for France’s airstrikes against ISIS. Gourdel, a nature guide and photographer, was kidnapped on Sunday as he drove into a remote mountain area to go hiking. French President Francois Hollande said Gourdel, 55, had been “killed cruelly and in a cowardly way,” but his murder would not shake France’s resolve to help defeat ISIS. [Reuters]

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3. Judge denies defense request to move Boston Marathon bombing trial
A federal judge on Wednesday denied a request by lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to move his trial out of Boston. U.S. District Judge George O’Toole said that despite extensive media coverage, it “stretches the imagination” to suggest that it will be impossible to find 12 fair and impartial jurors in a metropolitan area of five million people. O’Toole did delay the trial’s start from Nov. 3 to Jan. 5, 2015. The defense wanted a longer delay to go over the large volume of information in the case. [CNN]

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4. Court tells Ohio, a key swing state, to expand early voting
A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld an Ohio judge’s order expanding the time people will have in the swing state to vote this fall. Under the ruling, early ballots can be cast as early as next Tuesday, instead of Oct. 7. A federal judge had temporarily blocked a state law narrowing the early-voting window, and told election officials to give people more options. State officials had argued Ohio already offered more time for early voting than many other states. [The Associated Press]

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5. Navajo Nation to receive $554 million under settlement with government
The Obama administration has agreed to pay the Navajo Nation $554 million to settle a lawsuit accusing the federal government of mismanaging funds and resources at the 14-million-acre Navajo reservation in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. The settlement — the largest ever for a single Native American tribe — will end disputes dating as far back as five decades. Attorney General Eric Holder said the deal shows the government’s “firm commitment to strengthening our partnerships with tribal nations.” [The Washington Post]

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6. Colorado students protest anti-civil-disobedience proposal
Hundreds of Colorado high-school students walked out of their classrooms on Wednesday to protest their school district’s conservative-led school board’s proposal “to focus history education on topics that promote citizenship, patriotism, and respect for authority.” The students waved flags and held up signs reading, “There is nothing more patriotic than protest.” The Jefferson County school board is considering establishing a committee to review history texts and weed out materials that “condone civil disorder.” [The Associated Press]

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7. Grand jury clears police in shooting of Walmart shopper carrying air rifle
The U.S. Justice Department will investigate possible civil rights violations in the shooting death of a Walmart shopper carrying an air rifle he had apparently taken off a store shelf, the state attorney general said Wednesday. The announcement was made after a special grand jury ruled out charges against police officers who shot the 22-year-old man, John Crawford III, on Aug. 5 as he talked on a cellphone and walked around the store. [The Cincinnati Enquirer]

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8. More than 100 Boko Haram fighters surrender to Nigerian forces
Nigeria’s military announced Wednesday that more than 130 Boko Haram Islamist fighters had surrendered to government forces. Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Chris Olukolade also said that in a recent clash soldiers had killed a man named Mohammed Bashir, who had claimed to be Boko Haram’s late leader Abubakar Shekau. The army has increased operations in the remote areas which Boko Haram declared to be “Muslim territory” after taking over several small towns. [Reuters]

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9. Apple scrambles to fix glitch in software updates for iPhone 6
Apple issued an apology Wednesday after some users of its newest iPhones ran into software glitches that prevented them from making or receiving calls. The news came as other users reported the popular iPhone 6 models were vulnerable to bending. Apple said it would stop distributing the software update that caused the blocked calls — iOS 8.0.1. Some users also reported problems with a feature allowing them to unlock the phones with their fingerprint. Apple said it would issue advice on a fix “as quickly as we can.” [CNET]

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10. Grand jury clears race-car driver Tony Stewart in fatal crash
A grand jury on Wednesday decided there was no evidence to justify filing criminal charges against race-car driver Tony Stewart in the death of fellow driver Kevin Ward Jr. at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York. A toxicology report said Ward had marijuana in his system when he crashed into a wall and got out of his car before Stewart’s right-rear tire struck him. Ward’s family said “the matter is not at rest.” [Yahoo! Sports]

10 things you need to know today: September 23, 2014

An American F/A-18c Hornet in the Persian Gulf. 

An American F/A-18c Hornet in the Persian Gulf. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

The Week

The U.S. and allies hit ISIS with airstrikes in Syria, WHO warns that Ebola cases could triple by November, and more

1. U.S. targets ISIS with airstrikes inside Syria
The U.S. and five Arab allies launched airstrikes against ISIS in Syria early on Tuesday, marking a new phase in the fight against the Islamist extremist group. Warplanes, cruise missiles, and drone strikes targeted bases, training camps, and other facilities near the Iraq border. The strikes came 13 days after President Obama said in a televised address that he was expanding U.S. military involvement in the effort to defeat the group. [The New York Times]

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2. WHO warns that Ebola cases could rise to 20,000 by November
Without a massive effort to fight the spread of Ebola in West Africa, the number of people stricken by the disease could triple — even quadruple — from 5,800 to more than 20,000 by early November, World Health Organization researchers warned in a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Tuesday. The findings came as the death toll from the Ebola outbreak rose to 2,800. Ebola cases are doubling every two weeks in Guinea, every 24 days in Liberia, and every 30 days in Sierra Leone, the report said. [The Washington Post]

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3. Obama joins fellow leaders at U.N. Climate Summit
President Obama will address more than 100 world leaders on Tuesday at the United Nations’ one-day Climate Summit. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon organized the gathering in an effort to bolster support for negotiations on a draft global agreement in time for a December meeting in Lima. The Obama administration has been calling for action, too. “The worst impacts can be prevented still — there is still time — if we make the right set of choices,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in New York. [Bloomberg News]

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4. Islamists kidnap Frenchman at ISIS’ urging
Militants in Algeria reportedly took a French mountain guide hostage on Monday in response to a call from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria for Islamists to attack French nationals in retaliation for France’s airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq. The terrorists threatened to kill the Frenchman, 55-year-old Herve Gourdel, unless France bails out of the international coalition against ISIS. In a video, Gourdel asked French President Francois Hollande to “do everything you can to get me out of this ordeal.” [ABC News]

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5. Vet who ran past White House security had weapons in his car
Iraq war veteran Omar Gonzalez had 800 rounds of ammunition, as well as two hatchets and a machete, in his car when he was arrested on Friday for jumping a fence and dashing past security into the White House, carrying a folding knife. President Obama and his family had just left for Camp David when Gonzalez was tackled and arrested. Authorities also said that Gonzalez had been arrested in July after a high-speed chase, and was caught with 11 guns in his car. [The New York Times]

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6. Treasury Department moves to discourage corporate tax-avoiding “inversions”
The Obama administration is imposing new rules to limit the ability of multinational corporations to avoid paying U.S. taxes on the earnings of overseas subsidiaries through so-called corporate inversions. Over the summer several big-name corporations, including Burger King and medical device company Medtronic, moved their corporate headquarters abroad, allowing them to avoid paying U.S. taxes on international earnings. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says the companies are exploiting a loophole and “leaving the middle class to pay the bill.” [MSNBC]

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7. Turkey disperses Kurds’ protests over border closings
Turkish security forces used tear gas and water cannons to break up protests by Kurds over the closure of border crossings being used by refugees fleeing an offensive by ISIS fighters in neighboring Syria. Since Friday, at least 130,000 Syrian Kurds have fled the Syrian border town of Ayn al-Arab, known as Kobani in Kurdish, fearing an imminent attack by ISIS forces. The Islamist militants have already seized dozens of villages as they advanced toward the town. [The Washington Post]

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8. Suspects in Israeli teens’ murder die in gun battle
Israeli soldiers on Tuesday killed two Palestinians suspected of killing three Israeli teens in June. The men, Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha, were shot dead in a shootout with troops who surrounded a house in the West Bank city of Hebron before dawn. “We opened fire, they returned fire, and they were killed in the exchange,” an Israeli military spokesman said. Israel also announced that it shot down a Syrian warplane that flew over the Golan Heights, possibly by accident, on Tuesday. [Reuters]

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9. Jury links Arab Bank money to Hamas attacks
A U.S. jury on Monday ruled that Arab Bank was liable for providing funding that helped Hamas launch attacks in Israel and Palestinian territory. The unprecedented verdict covered some of Hamas’ most notorious attacks, including the 2001 Sbarro suicide bombing that killed or wounded 130 people in Jerusalem, and 24 other attacks between 1998 and 2004. The decision capped a 10-year legal battle over the case, which was filed by 297 plaintiffs. [The Jerusalem Post]

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10. Justice Kagan officiates at her first gay wedding
Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan presided over her first same-sex marriage over the weekend. The ceremony was for Kagan’s former law clerk, Mitchell Reich, who wed his now-husband Patrick Pearsall in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Kagan’s fellow justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as well as retired justice Sandra Day O’Connor, also have performed same-sex wedding ceremonies. The high court could consider potential landmark cases on gay marriage in its next term, which begins Oct. 6. [TIME]

 

10 things you need to know today: September 19, 2014

David Cameron is pleased.

David Cameron is pleased. (AP Photos/Lefteris Pitarakis)

The Week

Scottish voters reject independence, Congress votes to arm Syrian moderates against ISIS, and more

1. Scotland votes to stay in the United Kingdom
Voters in Scotland rejected independence on Thursday in a historic referendum that threatened to break apart the United Kingdom. Turnout was a record 85 percent. Fifty-five percent of the 3.6 million people casting ballots voted to preserve the 307-year union, while 45 percent backed secession. Ahead of what was expected to be closer balloting, leaders of the Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat parties promised to give Scottish Parliament “extensive new powers” if Scotland remained part of the U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “delighted” by the election’s result. [The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times]

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2. Senators approve arming anti-ISIS rebels in Syria
The Senate voted 78 to 22 on Thursday to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels as part of a stepped up effort to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. The Senate’s approval came a day after a bipartisan majority in the House signed off on the bill. Now it goes to President Obama for his signature. Obama, who last week announced expanded U.S. military involvement in the fight against ISIS, thanked Congress for its “speed and seriousness” in addressing the matter. [MSNBC]

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3. One man charged with arson as 10 California wildfires continue to burn
Authorities on Thursday accused Wayne Allen Huntsman, 37, with starting the King Fire, one of the 10 wildfires burning in California, officials announced Thursday. Huntsman was charged with arson of forest land with aggravating factors — the injuries of two firefighters. He is being held in El Dorado County Jail in lieu of $10 million bail. Across the state, 6,600 firefighters are battling the wildfires, and Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a statewide emergency. [The Sacramento Bee]

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4. The U.N. and France add resources to the battle against Ebola
The United Nations Security Council declared Ebola a “threat to international peace and security,” and announced the creation of a special mission to combat the outbreak in West Africa. The death toll has now reached 2,630. France, the latest Western nation to increase its efforts to fight the disease, announced it was setting up a military hospital in a remote part of Guinea. “We must save lives,” French President Francois Hollande said. [Reuters]

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5. Home Depot says 56 million cards affected in hackers’ attack
Data from 56 million credit and debit cards were exposed in a cyber attack on the Home Depot payment system that was discovered more than two weeks ago, the home-improvement retailer said Thursday. The tally surpassed last year’s infamous data breach at Target, in which 40 million cards were affected. Home Depot said that the malware hackers used to get the information had been eliminated. Like Target, Home Depot is offering affected customers free identity protection and credit monitoring. [ABC News]

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6. France agrees to hit ISIS with airstrikes
France joined the growing coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria on Friday, launching its first airstrike against the Islamic extremist group. French Rafale fighter jets attacked a logistics depot controlled by ISIS in northeastern Iraq, leaving the facility “entirely destroyed,” according to a statement released by the office of French President Francois Hollande. “Other operations will follow in the coming days,” the statement said. [The Associated Press]

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7. ISIS releases video of another British hostage kidnapped in Syria
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria released a new video on Thursday showing a British hostage, John Cantlie, delivering what he said would be a series of messages telling “the truth” about ISIS’ kidnapping of Americans and Britons in Syria. Cantlie was kidnapped in Syria with American journalist James Foley, who was the first of three Westerners beheaded by ISIS in recent weeks. ISIS has threatened to kill another Briton, Alan Henning, because of the U.K.’s support for U.S. airstrikes against the group. [ABC News]

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8. Kansas Supreme Court lets Democrat drop off the November ballot
The Kansas Supreme Court on Thursday dealt a setback to Republican Sen. Pat Roberts by ordering the removal of his former Democratic challenger, Chad Taylor, from the November ballot. Taylor ended his campaign this month, but the state’s Republican secretary of state had declined his request to scratch his name from the ballot. Now that he is off, the embattled Roberts will face a one-on-one contest against independent businessman Greg Orman, who no longer has to share the anti-Roberts vote with Taylor. [Los Angeles Times]

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9. Police say man killed six grandchildren and his daughter in murder-suicide
A rural Florida man allegedly shot and killed his daughter and six grandchildren, then turned the gun on himself after police arrived, Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert Schultz III said Thursday. Investigators identified the man as Donald C. Spirit. The victims were identified as Jonathan, Kylie, and Kaleb Kuhlmann, ages 8, 9, and 11, and Brandon, Destiny, and Alanna Stewart, ages 4, 5, and 2 months, as well as their mother, Sarah Spirit, 28. “There are certain things in life you can explain,” Schultz said, “and there are some things you can’t.” [Orlando Sentinel]

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10. Alibaba IPO bringing in $21.8 billion for the Chinese internet powerhouse
Alibaba priced its shares at $68 on Thursday, setting the stage for the giant Chinese company to raise nearly $21.8 billion Friday in the biggest U.S. initial public offering of stock ever. The IPO’s haul is bigger than those of Facebook and General Motors. Alibaba offers everything from e-commerce to cloud computing services, like a hybrid of Amazon and Google. The IPO share price gives the company a market value of $168 billion, more than eBay, Twitter, and LinkedIn combined. [The New York Times]

10 things you need to know today: April 1, 2014

Doctors Without Borders prepares an isolation and treatment area in Guinea. 

Doctors Without Borders prepares an isolation and treatment area in Guinea. (AP Photo/Kjell Gunnar Beraas, MSF)

The Week

Healthcare.gov buckles under last minute pressure, Ebola rocks West Africa, and more

1. ObamaCare website buckles under last minute pressure
As Americans scrambled to beat the Mar. 31 ObamaCare enrollment deadline, Healthcare.gov was overloaded by the sheer number of people trying to sign up for insurance. The site stopped taking applications for several hours and even made it difficult for those who hadn’t yet set up accounts. A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human services said the site experienced record traffic with more than 1.6 million visitors before 2 p.m. [The New York Times]

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2. Ebola outbreak spreads to Liberia
At least 78 people have reportedly been killed due to an outbreak of the Ebola virus that started in the West African country of Guinea. It took health officials six weeks to identify the outbreak, and the delay allowed it to spread to Liberia, where two cases have been confirmed. The World Health Organization has been called in to help contain the disease, which has no cure and quickly kills those who have been infected. [TIME ]

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3. General Motors issues another recall
General Motors is recalling 1.3 million vehicles because of a faulty power steering mechanism. The news came on the heels of a separate recall of 2.2 million cars due to an ignition switch problem that has been blamed for 13 deaths. Later today, CEO Marry Barra is scheduled to testify before Congress about how the company handled the ignition switch issue. [CNN]

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4. Senate investigation reveals harsh tactics didn’t lead to bin Laden
Enhanced interrogation tactics did not lead to the death of Osama bin Laden, according to a classified, 6,200-page report prepared by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The findings note that most of the useful information on the whereabouts of bin Laden was gathered through standard techniques — either before or after detainees were subjected to waterboarding and other extreme measures. The CIA disputes the report’s conclusions. [USA Today]

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5. Ukraine prepares for Crimean refugees
Now that Russia has annexed Crimea, thousands of refugees have begun fleeing to mainland Ukraine. Arseniy Yatseniuk, Ukraine’s prime minister, has said his country will offer assistance to the refugees and is preparing to provide shelter to those who are displaced. Most of those leaving Crimea are ethnic Tatars, but officials expect Ukrainian soldiers stationed on the peninsula and their families to decamp from the Russian occupation. [Fox News]

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6. French president shakes up government
French President Francois Hollande formed a new government on Monday after municipal elections across the country dealt severe losses to his Socialist Party and were widely viewed as a rebuke to his leadership. In the biggest change, Hollande accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and replaced him with Interior Minister Manuel Valls, a popular immigration hawk. Center-left newspaper Le Monde called the elections — in which the far right party National Front made significant inroads in municipal governments — a “historic rout.” [The New York Times]

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7. U.S. mulls releasing Israeli spy
In an effort to keep delicate peace talks from imploding, the Obama administration may grant an early release of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. The idea was floated as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made an emergency visit to the Middle East to resuscitate negotiations that have stalled in recent weeks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Pollard was a civilian U.S. Navy employee who pleaded guilty to providing classified information to Israeli agents. He was sentenced to life in prison and has served almost 29 years. [The Washington Post]

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8. Toxic contaminants from mudslide hamper recovery efforts in Washington state
Officials in Washington state say the massive mudslide that killed two dozen has also released a slew of toxic contaminants. Sewage, propane, and household solvents are just a few of the pollutants to seep into the mud that devastated a rural community on March 22. Despite the challenges, the recovery efforts continue in the hopes of finding the more than 20 people who are still missing. [Chicago Tribune]

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9. Judge clears way for restrictive Arizona abortion law
A federal judge declined to halt new rules approved by Arizona’s legislature that would restrict medication-induced abortions in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. The judge, David C. Bury, said that the new regulations won’t put an undue burden on women seeking abortions because they still have a surgical option available to them. Planned Parenthood, one of the plaintiff’s in the case, said it will appeal the ruling. [The New York Times]

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10. Archeologists unearth ancient tomb in Egypt
Researchers have unearthed in Egypt a 3,300-year-old tomb that most likely had a 23-foot-pyramid on top of it at one time. Along with the remains of 15 to 18 people, archeologists also found a sandstone sarcophagus that was painted red and covered with the images of several images of Egyptians gods. It is believed the sarcophagus belonged to a scribe named Horemheb. [NBC]

France Elections: Hollande Beats Sarkozy To Become French President

France Elections 2012

The Huffington Post

In an almost universally expected result, Socialist candidate François Hollande has unseated French president Nicolas Sarkozy, winning the French presidential runoffSunday, France 24 reports. Hollande won 51.9 percent to Sarkozy’s 48.1 percent.

Reuters has also confirmed Mr. Hollande’s victory.

Mr. Sarkozy trailed Mr. Hollande in the days leading up to the runoff, according to the New York Times, and his popularity waned in the face of high unemployment, austerity and a possible recession throughout Europe.

The two candidates advanced to a runoff election after first-round elections held on April 22; according to France 24, Hollande won 28.63 percent of votes, while Sarkozy won 27.18 percent of votes. The surprise result of the first-round came for third-place Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front, who won a surprising 17.90 percent of votes, the highest the right-wing party had ever secured in a presidential race.