RSS
10 things you need to know today: December 4, 2013
A judge clears Detroit to slash pensions, SpaceX marks a new milestone, and more
Lift off!
Lift off! (AP Photo/John Raoux)

1. Judge rules Detroit deserves bankruptcy protection
A judge ruled Tuesday that the city of Detroit can remain under bankruptcy court protection. The decision means the city can impose pension cuts on its employees to salvage its finances. Unions and pension managers had argued that giving the city such power violated retiree contract protections. The ruling could change the course of bankruptcies in other cities, where leaders had assumed pensions were untouchable. [Bloomberg, New York Times]
………………………………………………………………………………

2. SpaceX marks a new milestone with rocket launch
SpaceX launched a 224-foot rocket carrying a massive satellite from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Tuesday night. The SES-8 telecommunications satellite will be released in geostationary transfer orbit nearly 50,000 miles from Earth — about a quarter of the way to the moon — marking a record distance into space for the private company, which also has a contract to resupply the International Space Station. The launch had been delayed twice. [Los Angeles Times]
………………………………………………………………………………

3. Train engineer nodded off before deadly crash
The engineer of a New York commuter train that derailed early Sunday, killing four people, told investigators he was "in a daze" before the crash, CNN reported Tuesday. A union official said the engineer, William Rockefeller, apparently nodded off briefly just before the crash. The Metro-North Hudson Line train in the Bronx was traveling more than 50 miles per hour faster than the speed limit when it jumped off the tracks in a sharp turn. [CNN, New York Times]
………………………………………………………………………………

4. French investigators say Arafat wasn't poisoned, after all
Yasser Arafat's widow says French scientists have ruled out poisoning by radioactive polonium as the cause of the Palestinian leader's 2004 death. Palestinians suspect Israel of poisoning Arafat, but Israel denies it. A recent Swiss lab report said Arafat's remains had high levels of polonium, boosting suspicions of murder. Arafat's widow, Suha, says she is "upset by these contradictions by the best European experts." [Associated Press]
………………………………………………………………………………

5. Kim Jong Un fires his uncle, a rival
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has reportedly dismissed his powerful uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who played a key role in his rise to power after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il. South Korean lawmakers said Tuesday that Kim appears to have forced out his uncle, who still had loyal followers in the old guard, to consolidate his power base and boost the influence of his younger supporters. [Reuters]
………………………………………………………………………………

6. Newtown 911 recordings are being released
Newtown, Conn., officials warned parents and other residents to prepare themselves emotionally for the release of nearly half an hour of 911 recordings from last year's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Town leaders had tried to keep the tapes private, but the state Freedom of Information Commission ordered them to be released. The town only recently dropped its challenge of the decision. [Reuters]
………………………………………………………………………………

7. Americans see the U.S. losing power abroad
For the first time in 40 years, a majority of Americans said the U.S. was less important around the world than it was a decade ago, according to a Pew survey released on Tuesday. Seventy percent of the poll's respondents said America is not as well respected as it used to be. More than half said the U.S. should "mind its own business" instead of having an active foreign policy. [BBC News]
………………………………………………………………………………

8. Hezbollah accuses Israel of assassinating a top commander
A senior Hezbollah commander, Hassan al-Laqis, was gunned down outside his home just south of Beirut on Wednesday. The Lebanese Islamist militant group immediately announced the killing and blamed Israel, threatening swift repercussions for "this ugly crime." Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Israel had nothing to do with the killing. "They don't need facts," he said of Hezbollah, "they just blame anything on Israel." [Associated Press]
………………………………………………………………………………

9. Space agency plans to plant a garden on the moon
NASA plans to send seedlings where no plant has gone before — the moon. The Lunar Plant Growth Habitat project aims to catch a ride with one of the private companies competing for Google's Lunar X Prize, and plant basil, flowers, and turnips on the moon in late 2015. "They can test the lunar environment for us, acting as a 'canary in a coal mine,'" NASA said. "If we send plants and they thrive, then we probably can." [Slate, NASA]
………………………………………………………………………………

10. Coroner completes autopsies after crash that killed Paul Walker
Universal Pictures said Tuesday that it was suspending production of the next Fast & Furious movie while authorities investigate the fiery crash that killed one of the franchise's stars, Paul Walker. The Los Angeles County coroner's office said it had completed autopsies on two bodies found in the mangled limited-edition Porsche sports car. The results, expected Wednesday, should formally identify the bodies and determine who was driving. [Washington Post]

Get '10 things you need to know today' in your inbox each morning. Sign up for the email version here.

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.

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week