French President Francois Hollande

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.