Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 3, 2014

Sarah Eberspacher
Tensions mount in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
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Pro-Russia militants release OSCE observers as clashes continue in Ukraine

At least 42 people died in Friday clashes between pro-Russia militants and Ukrainian government supporters, and officials said the largest number — at least 36 people — were killed when a fire broke out in a government building occupied by pro-Russia protesters. This morning, pro-Russia militants released the seven OSCE military observers, along with their five Ukrainian assistants, who had been held for more than a week. Meanwhile, Moscow redoubled threats of intervention: "People are calling in despair," Dmitri Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said. "All these calls are reported to Vladimir Putin." [The Associated Press, The Washington Post]


At least 2,000 people dead following landslide in Afghanistan

Heavy rainfall caused a hill in the Hobo Barik village of Afghanistan to collapse on Friday, burying at least 2,000 people, officials said. Rescue operations were slow because the remote area does not have enough digging equipment. "It's physically impossible (to attempt a rescue operation)," Governor Shah Waliullah Adeeb said. "We don't have enough shovels; we need more machinery." This morning, local authorities declared the site a mass grave, saying they would not attempt to dig through more than 50 meters of mud covering the town. [The Associated Press, CNN]


Unemployment rate drops to 6.3 percent

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that an estimated 288,000 jobs were added in April. The BLS also announced that the unemployment rate dropped to 6.3 percent, the lowest rate since before the 2008 recession. Critics note that most of the decrease in unemployment came as a result of people dropping out of the labor force (from 63.2 percent to 62.8 percent), but over the past year, full-time employment is still up 2.4 million, a sign the economy is continuing to recover. [TheWeek.com]


Obama, Merkel threaten tougher sanctions against Russia

In a brief visit to the White House on Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with President Barack Obama that the countries are prepared to impose tougher sanctions on Russia if it continues with its movements in Ukraine. In a joint press conference, Merkel and Obama promised a new red line, referencing increasing tensions in eastern Ukraine that Western powers claim are the work of Moscow. The pair presented a united front despite U.S. spying, which is a source of contention between the two countries, and a topic which Merkel did allude to, saying any kind of deal on the issue "will require further discussion." [Los Angeles Times]


Kerry: South Sudan's president agrees to peace talks

After months of violence that has left thousands dead, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir finally agreed to meet with political rival and rebel leader Riek Machar, Secretary of State John Kerry, who was visiting the president on Friday, said. The rivals could meet as early as next week, and Kiir agreed to a tentative cease-fire that, while created four months ago, has yet to be implemented. Fighting began in December when Kiir accused Machar of staging an attempted coup. Since then, the two sides have waged battle between government forces and rebel factions, becoming more and more divided by ethnicity, with Kiir's Dinka group setting itself against Machar's Nuer group. [The Washington Post]


CDC confirms first MERS infection in United States

Officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced on Friday that they have confirmed the first U.S. case of Middle East Respiratory Virus in the state of Indiana. A man has been hospitalized after falling ill last week; he had just arrived in the U.S. from Saudi Arabia, where he is a healthcare worker. MERS is a deadly virus first detected in 2012; since then, various outbreaks in the Middle East have been reported, with other intermittent cases studied around the world. Experts do not know how MERS is transmitted to people, but the virus appears to be unusually lethal; some scientists estimate it has killed a third of the people who become infected. [The Associated Press, Reuters]


Republicans launch new investigation into Benghazi attack

House Speaker John Boehner on Friday tasked a congressional committee with further investigating the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. On Tuesday, the White House released an email between then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and an Obama Administration official, in which Rice is advised to reference an online video when speaking about the attack. Boehner, along with House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), called on Secretary of State John Kerry to testify before Congress and the committee, respectively, on what they say are lingering questions over the White House's role in the Benghazi attack. [TIME]


Jury awards Apple $119 million in patent dispute

Despite a jury's awarding Apple $119 million in a patent dispute with Samsung, "it is hard to view this outcome as much of a victory for Apple," Brian Love, a law professor at Santa Clara University, said. Apple had sought $2.2 billion in the dispute, claiming that Samsung copied certain smartphone features. Instead, a jury awarded the company far less and also determined that Apple had used one of Samsung's patents illegally (Samsung, which sought $6 million, was only awarded $158,400). [TIME]


Kentucky Derby field drops to 19 out of possible 20 slots

After Hoppertunity scratched on Thursday, also-eligible Pablo Del Monte's owners dropped him out of today's Kentucky Derby race. Pablo Del Monte would have started from the No. 20 post, meaning the alternate with long odds would have been facing an even tougher course. The field will be left at 19 out of a possible 20 slots, with California Chrome hanging onto the favorite title, at 5-2, as the horses gear up for the sport's most iconic event, running its 140th race. [SBNation.com]


Stephen Hawking's children's book series becoming television cartoon

Stephen Hawking's bestselling book series "George Greenby" is becoming a children's animated television show, produced by Nerd Corps Entertainment. Hawking and his daughter Lucy, who helped write the books, said they looked forward to helping in the development process. The books follow George Greenby, 11, and his friend Annie Bellis as they travel the universe and experience science and physics lessons. Nerd Corps said it initially aims to produce 26 half-hour episodes. [Variety]

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