RSS
10 things you need to know today: June 20, 2013
Sopranos star James Gandolfini dies, stocks fall after Bernanke says the Fed's stimulus might end this year, and more
 
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on June 19.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on June 19. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

1. SOPRANOS STAR JAMES GANDOLFINI DIES
James Gandolfini, the actor best known for playing mob boss Tony Soprano in the hit HBO series The Sopranos, died Wednesday while traveling in Italy, HBO confirmed. He was 51. Several reports said Gandolfini might have had a massive heart attack. Gandolfini won three Emmys for his portrayal of Soprano, the troubled gangster who brought all the worries of Mafia life to the psychiatrist's office. The show helped establish HBO as a TV programming powerhouse. [New York Times]
………………………………………………………………………………

2. STOCKS FALL AFTER BERNANKE SAYS FED MIGHT WIND DOWN ITS STIMULUS
Stocks plunged in the U.S. on Wednesday and markets around the world followed suit early Thursday, after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the U.S. central bank could slow the pace of its economy-boosting bond-buying program later this year. Data suggesting a slowdown in China also worried investors. Bernanke said the Fed's plans could change if the economic recovery is weaker than expected, but the Dow Jones industrial average still dropped by 1.4 percent on Wednesday. [CNN]
………………………………………………………………………………

3. MURKOWSKI BECOMES THIRD REPUBLICAN SENATOR TO BACK GAY MARRIAGE
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on Wednesday became the Senate's third Republican to publicly endorse same-sex marriage. Murkowski, joining GOP Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Mark Kirk of Illinois on the issue, said in a statement posted on her website that allowing "all Americans to marry the person they love and choose" is consistent with her values as a "lifelong Republican" who believes in "promoting freedom and limiting the reach of government." [USA Today]
………………………………………………………………………………

4. NTSB WEIGHS REQUEST TO RE-EXAMINE CAUSE OF TWA FLIGHT 800 EXPLOSION
Federal officials are considering a request to reopen the investigation into the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800, which exploded off the coast of Long Island, killing all 230 people on board. A group of former investigators interviewed in a new documentary urged the National Transportation Safety Board, which concluded that a spark had ignited a fuel tank on the plane, to take another look, citing new evidence that something such as a rocket or missile might have brought down the plane. [Los Angeles Times]
………………………………………………………………………………

5. THREE NAVAL ACADEMY FOOTBALL PLAYERS FACE RAPE CHARGES
Three U.S. Naval Academy football players were charged Wednesday with raping a female midshipman during an April 2012 off-campus party. As the charges came more than a year after the alleged attack, the woman's attorney accused Navy officials of dragging their feet. The accused probably won't be publicly named until a hearing later this summer. The charges came as military leaders face intense scrutiny over how they police rape cases in the ranks. [Washington Post]
………………………………………………………………………………

6. BRAZIL MAYORS RESCIND FARE HIKES THAT IGNITED PROTESTS
The mayors of Brazil's two largest cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, reversed bus and subway fare hikes that triggered anti-government protests that have spread across the country in the past week. Many people doubted the moves would quiet public anger over poor public services in South America's biggest country. "It's not really about the price anymore," one demonstrator said. "People are so disgusted with the system, so fed up, that now we're demanding change." [Associated Press]
………………………………………………………………………………

7. AFGHAN PEACE PUSH STALLS
A meeting between U.S. and Taliban representatives — originally planned for Thursday — to begin arranging peace talks has been postponed, after the Afghan government said it would not participate in negotiations led by the U.S. A spokesman at the Islamist group's newly opened diplomatic office in Doha, Qatar, said the Taliban was ready to free U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured in 2009, in exchange for five senior Taliban operatives imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. [Reuters, Associated Press]
………………………………………………………………………………

8. MUELLER CONFIRMS FBI'S 'MINIMAL' USE OF SURVEILLANCE DRONES
FBI Director Robert Mueller told senators on Wednesday that his agency had used surveillance drones in the U.S., but in a "very, very minimal way." Mueller was testifying before a Senate panel looking into the reach of government intelligence programs following revelations by NSA leaker Edward Snowden about broad phone and internet data mining. Mueller said the FBI was developing guidelines so drone use wouldn't violate the privacy of ordinary Americans. [Bloomberg]
………………………………………………………………………………

9. NEW YORK MEN CHARGED IN RADIATION DEATH-RAY PLOT
Two New York men have been charged in a bizarre plot to develop a lethal X-ray system to silently kill "undesirable" people from a safe distance. Undercover agents in the Albany FBI Terrorism Task Force arrested Glendon Scott Crawford, 49, and Eric J. Feight, 54, after they allegedly began collecting parts to build the device, which Crawford, a self-described Ku Klux Klan member, wanted to use to target people he believed were hostile to the U.S. with lethal doses of radiation. [CNN]
………………………………………………………………………………

10. FBI GIVES UP ON FINDING JIMMY HOFFA... AGAIN
The FBI said Wednesday it was ending a search for the remains of former Teamsters union leader Jimmy Hoffa. The son of a reputed former mob boss had said Hoffa was buried under a concrete slab under a barn outside Detroit. Officials used excavating equipment and cadaver-sniffing dogs but found no trace of Hoffa, who disappeared in 1975. Over the years, authorities have chased down tips that Hoffa's body was hidden in several places, including the end zone of New Jersey's Giants' stadium. [CNN]

 
Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week