Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 18, 2014

Harold Maass
People walk amongst the debris of the downed passenger jet.  (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
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Malaysia Airlines plane downed by missile over Ukraine

A Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down with a surface-to-air missile over a rebel-held area in eastern Ukraine near the Russian border on Thursday. All 298 people aboard were killed, including top AIDS researcher Joep Lange and others heading to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia. U.S. intelligence confirmed the attack but not the origin of the missile. Ukraine blamed pro-Russian separatists, who denied culpability. [USA Today, The Washington Post]


Israel follows up aerial attack with a ground invasion of Gaza

Israel launched a ground invasion into the Gaza Strip late Thursday, sending in tanks after 10 days of airstrikes failed to stop rocket fire from northern Gaza into southern Israel. Israel said it was not trying to topple Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian faction running Gaza, but to shut down tunnels used by militants to carry out attacks in Israel. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, called Israel's offensive "a dangerous step." [The New York Times]


Florida judge overturns state ban on same-sex marriage

A judge in the Florida Keys declared the state's gay-marriage ban unconstitutional on Thursday. The ban was approved by 62 percent of Florida voters in 2008. "It is our country’s proud history to protect the rights of the individual, the rights of the unpopular, and the rights of the powerless," Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia — appointed by Republican Gov. Jeb Bush in 2000 — wrote, "even at the cost of offending the majority." [The Palm Beach Post]


Deadly storm gains force as it heads toward China

Typhoon Rammasun grew to super-typhoon strength as it barreled toward China after killing at least 54 people in the Philippines. The storm, now with top sustained winds of 112 miles per hour, was expected to make landfall between the Chinese provinces of Hainan and Guangdong. Thirty thousand people have been evacuated from low-lying areas, and Hainan authorities have ordered fishermen back to port. [Reuters]


Negotiators avert a strike at the nation's biggest commuter railroad

Unions and management of the Long Island Railroad — the nation's largest commuter railroad — reached a tentative contract agreement on Thursday, averting a strike that threatened to leave 300,000 daily riders scrambling for a new way to get to work. Under the proposal, workers would get a 17 percent pay raise over six and a half years, although they would have to share their health care costs for the first time. [The Associated Press]


Military prison starting Chelsea Manning's gender treatment

The U.S. military is starting gender treatment for Pvt. Chelsea Manning, after a request for a civilian prison to take over Manning's treatment was declined. Manning has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, the feeling of being a woman trapped in a man's body. Manning, a former intelligence analyst previously known as Bradley Manning, was convicted of espionage for leaking secret documents to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. [The Associated Press]


Bolivia lowers its working age to 10

Bolivia has lowered its legal working age to 10, provided the children are in school and self-employed. Twelve-year-olds can legally work for others, with authorization from their parents. More than 500,000 children already work to help support their families in the country, one of South America's poorest. Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera said the law struck "a balance between the reality and the law, between rights and international treaties." [BBC News]


FedEx charged with delivering drugs from illegal online pharmacies

FedEx was indicted Thursday on charges that it delivered pain killers, sedatives, and other controlled substances illegally sent from online pharmacies to people who filled out questionnaires but didn't see a doctor. Fines could be double the $820 million in profits FedEx and the pharmacies made. FedEx said it was innocent and would defend itself against this attack on its "integrity and good name." [Bloomberg News]


Microsoft cuts 14 percent of its work force

Microsoft announced Thursday that it was laying off 18,000 people, or 14 percent of its work force. The layoff is the biggest in the software giant's history. Most of the positions being cut over the next year are at Nokia, which Microsoft recently acquired for $7 billion. Half of Nokia's 25,000 workers will be losing their jobs as Microsoft seeks "synergies and strategic alignment." [PCWorld]


Broadway legend Elaine Stritch dies at 89

Three-time Emmy winner Elaine Stritch died Thursday after months of failing health. She was 89. Stritch was a fixture on Broadway for decades, after making her debut in the 1940s. Her raspy singing voice, comedic timing, and brassy persona helped her land five Tony nominations in a long career that led to a popular 2002 one-woman show, Elaine Stritch: At Liberty, which touched on her fight with alcoholism. [NPR]

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