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Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 16, 2018

Harold Maass
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images
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1.

North Korea threatens to pull out of Trump summit

North Korean state media said Wednesday that leader Kim Jong Un may reconsider meeting with President Trump in Singapore next month if the U.S. continues to demand that Pyongyang give up its nuclear weapons program. North Korea earlier called off a high-level meeting that had been planned for Wednesday with South Korea, and threatened to cancel the unprecedented summit between Kim and Trump over ongoing joint military exercises by Washington and Seoul, which North Korea's Korean Central News Agency referred to as a "provocative military ruckus." Despite the warnings, South Korea's military said Tuesday that the North appeared to be moving forward with plans to close its nuclear site next week. [Reuters, The Associated Press]

2.

Democratic women surge in Pennsylvania primaries

Women candidates swept several Democratic House primaries Tuesday in Pennsylvania, which has a new congressional district map and could be key in deciding which party wins House control in the fall midterms. State House member Madeleine Dean, Air Force veteran Chrissy Houlahan, and lawyer Mary Gay Scanlon won in Philadelphia suburban districts where Democrats are favored, setting them up for likely victories that would diversify the state's all-male congressional delegation. Another Democrat, lawyer Susan Wild, won in the Lehigh Valley but faces a tough general election race in a largely blue-collar district. In Nebraska, another woman, staunch Bernie Sanders-style liberal Kara Eastman, upset former Rep. Brad Ashford, who was on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "Red-to-Blue" list of favored challengers to GOP incumbents. [Politico, The New York Times]

3.

Haspel wins over key Democrat with letter calling torture a mistake

President Trump's nominee to run the CIA, Gina Haspel, brightened her confirmation prospects on Tuesday when she said the agency should never have conducted harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. One of the "hard lessons since 9/11" was the high cost of using "enhanced interrogation" techniques many have labeled as torture, she wrote in a letter to the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). After receiving the letter, Warner said he would support Haspel's confirmation, and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) promptly said she would, too. [The New York Times]

4.

Turkey sends home Israel's ambassador after Palestinian deaths

Turkey on Tuesday expelled Israel's ambassador over the killing of scores of Palestinian protesters by Israeli troops along the Gaza border. Turkey's foreign ministry told the Israeli ambassador, Eitan Naeh, that it would be "appropriate" for him to return home "for a while," Turkey's semiofficial Anadolu news agency reported. Israel promptly told Turkey's consul general in Jerusalem to return to his country "for a while." Turkey's response was among the strongest international reactions to the violence, which coincided with the inauguration of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. At least 60 Palestinians were killed Monday and more than 2,000 injured. [The Washington Post]

5.

Putin opens bridge linking Russia with annexed Crimea

Russian President Vladimir Putin drove a truck across the auto-section of a new road-and-rail bridge linking Russia to the Crimean peninsula on Tuesday, inaugurating the span in defiance of Ukraine. The bridge was designed to link the annexed Crimean peninsula to Russia's transport network. In a ceremony broadcast on live TV, Putin praised cheering workers for helping realize "this project, this miracle." In Kiev, Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, called the construction of the bridge "the latest evidence of the Kremlin's disregard for international law." [Reuters]

6.

Feds identify suspect in CIA hacking-tool theft

Federal investigators have identified a 29-year-old former CIA software engineer, Joshua Adam Schulte, as a suspect in the leak last year of stolen secret documents on the agency's hacking operations, The Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing interviews and public documents. The information was published by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks in a series of damaging posts exposing secret cyberweapons and techniques the U.S. has used to spy on foreign adversaries. Federal authorities searched Schulte's New York apartment last year and took personal computer equipment and notes, but prosecutors have not been able to bring charges against him in the case. He is in a Manhattan jail on unrelated charges of possessing child pornography, and has pleaded not guilty. [The Washington Post]

7.

Report: U.S. investigating Cambridge Analytica

The Justice Department and the FBI are investigating now-defunct political data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica, The New York Times reported Tuesday, citing a U.S. official and others familiar with the matter. Investigators have questioned potential witnesses in recent weeks, focusing on employees and banks that handled business for Cambridge Analytica. The firm worked with the campaigns of President Trump and other Republicans during the 2016 campaign. In March, news reports revealed that the firm improperly harvested private data from more than 50 million Facebook users. The company used the data to help clients try to influence people's behavior, and may have violated election laws. Cambridge Analytica this month announced that it was shutting down and filing for bankruptcy protection because the negative publicity killed its business. [The New York Times]

8.

Trump administration to house undocumented children on military bases

The Trump administration is moving ahead with plans to separate migrant children from their parents in cases where the family has crossed the border illegally, The Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing an email notification to Pentagon staffers. The controversial plan is part of a new "zero tolerance" policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this month. "If you don't want your child separated, then don't bring them across the border illegally," Sessions said at the time. The Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for the underage migrants, is preparing to house children on military bases, probably in Texas and Arkansas, until an adult relative can take responsibility for them. [The Washington Post]

9.

Uber to stop forcing sexual assault survivors into silent arbitration

Uber announced Tuesday that it would let passengers and drivers file sexual assault and harassment allegations in courts and mediation, instead of requiring them to go into arbitration. Rival Lyft announced a similar change. Uber's move marks the latest in a series of steps the ride-hailing service has made in response to reports of bad behavior within the company. The San Francisco-based company also is dropping a policy requiring confidentiality regarding all sexual misconduct settlements. The company's CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, was hired in August to restore the company's reputation after a barrage of negative publicity over allegations of widespread sexual harassment, a data breach coverup, and stolen trade secrets, and he has promised to "do the right thing" and get the company back on track. [The Associated Press, CNN]

10.

Pioneering journalist, author Tom Wolfe dies at 88

Author Tom Wolfe died Monday of pneumonia at the age of 88, his longtime agent Lynn Nesbit confirmed Tuesday. Wolfe was best known for his novel The Bonfire of the Vanities, which was adapted into a movie starring Tom Hanks and Melanie Griffith, as well as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and The Right Stuff. Wolfe left his mark on the nonfiction genre with his contribution to New Journalism, which emphasized literary techniques and individual subjectivity over classical, objective fact-based reporting. "He is probably the most skillful writer in America — I mean by that he can do more things with words than anyone else," National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. once wrote of Wolfe. [The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal]