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10 things you need to know today: May 8, 2014

Harold Maass
Putin dials it back.  (AP Photo/Sergei Karpukhin, Pool)
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House holds former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt

The House on Wednesday voted to hold former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner in contempt over her handling of a hearing on the agency's targeting of conservative groups from 2010 to 2013. In May, Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during the hearing, but Republicans said she waived the right to remain silent by making an opening statement first. She could face a year in jail and a $100,000 fine. [National Journal]


Putin urges Ukrainian separatists to postpone Sunday's secession referendum

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that he had pulled his country's troops away from the Ukrainian border, and urged pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine to postpone an independence referendum. Analysts predicted the separatists would comply and postpone the Sunday vote. Putin's peace offering was interpreted as a sign he wants to ease tensions in the face of Western sanctions and a looming recession. [Reuters]


Hundreds reported dead after Boko Haram militants attack Nigerian village

Boko Haram attacked a Nigerian village used as a base in the search for 276 high-school girls the Islamist terror group abducted in Nigeria, witnesses said Wednesday. The assault took several hours and reportedly left 310 people dead. Some of those killed were reportedly burned alive. Witnesses said gunmen wearing military uniforms arrived at a market, firing rocket-propelled grenades and throwing improvised explosive devices. [CNN]


Feds crack down on synthetic-drug suspects

Drug Enforcement Administration agents served 200 search warrants and made more than 150 arrests on Wednesday in a nationwide crackdown on makers, wholesalers, and dealers of synthetic drugs. More than $20 million in cash and assets were seized during the operation. The Treasury Department also got involved, announcing its first sanctions against people accused of dealing the drugs. [The Associated Press]


Insurers say 80 percent have paid for ObamaCare policies

Top health insurers told members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday that more than 80 percent of people who signed up for coverage under ObamaCare had paid their premiums. The hearing was called after Republicans last week issued a report finding that only 67 percent had paid premiums as of April 15, a figure the GOP used to refute White House claims that the law was a success because more than eight million had enrolled. [The Associated Press]


Tesla stock drops as its research costs rise

Tesla Motors stock fell by more than seven percent in after-hours trading Wednesday after the electric-luxury-car maker reported a $50 million loss in the first quarter. Tesla made a profit in the first quarter of last year, but it is now facing a surge in costs to boost production of its luxury Model S, expand its product lineup, and build a 10-million-square-foot "gigafactory" for assembling vehicle lithium-ion batteries in the U.S. [The Wall Street Journal, Reuters]


Students math and reading scores show no improvement since 2009

High school seniors have failed to improve since 2009 in math and reading on an exam known as the "Nation's Report Card," the Education Department reported Wednesday. Only 38 percent scored as proficient readers, and only a quarter performed proficiently in math on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress. The lack of progress came despite George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind and President Obama's Race to the Top initiatives. [Bloomberg]


Vietnam says Chinese ships rammed two of its vessels

Vietnam accused China on Wednesday of ramming two Vietnamese Sea Guard vessels and firing water cannons at them in contested South China Sea waters. The Sunday confrontation, which China did not immediately confirm, increased already high tensions in the region over China's increasingly bold assertion of authority over waters also claimed by Vietnam, Japan, and other nations. [The New York Times]


Ferry company president detained over deadly South Korean ferry disaster

South Korean prosecutors said Wednesday that they had detained the head of the company that owns the sunken ferry Sewol. The ship sank last month, and investigators believe it was overloaded with cargo that shifted, causing the vessel to tip on its side and sink, leaving more than 300 people dead or missing. Prosecutors said Kim Han-sik, president of Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd, knew the Sewol was carrying too much cargo when it left port. [The Associated Press]


Fast-food workers take their demand for higher wages global

Fast-food workers are going global with their push for higher pay. Fast Food Forward, which represents American workers demanding raises to $15 an hour, is planning the latest in a series of U.S. strikes for May 15. Workers from 32 countries on five continents plan to hold solidarity protests on the same day at McDonald's, Burger King, and KFC outlets. Median pay for U.S. fast food workers is now just over $9 an hour — about $18,500 a year. [Aljazeera, CNN]

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