Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 14, 2014


Senate passes $1.1 trillion spending bill

After several procedural delays, the Senate used a rare weekend session Saturday to pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund most of the federal government through the end of the fiscal year. The Senate had been poised Friday to punt a vote on the measure to Monday, but Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and a small group of conservative lawmakers upended the plan by trying to block funding for President Obama's immigration order. That forced the Saturday session, where the bill passed in a bipartisan vote, 56 to 40.


U.N. negotiators reach landmark climate deal

U.N. members on Sunday salvaged a historic climate change agreement that will for the first time require all nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Reached by delegates from 196 countries, the pact itself does not accomplish the U.N.'s goal of slashing emissions to sustainable levels, but rather requires every nation to create a plan in the next six months for doing so at home. Those plans will then form the bedrock of a longterm climate deal, to be signed next year in Paris.


Marcus Mariota wins Heisman Trophy

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy Saturday night with a near-record share of the vote. Mariota was widely expected to win in a landslide, and he claimed 90.92 percent of the possible points, trailing only Ohio State QB Troy Smith's 91.63 percent in 2006. Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon finished second, while Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper finished third.


Thousands nationwide protest police killings

Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets Saturday to march against recent police killings of unarmed black civilians. More than 10,000 people participated in Washington, D.C.'s, "Justice For All" march, while thousands more demonstrated in New York City, Boston, Oakland, and other major cities. "This is a history-making moment," said Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died after a New York police officer placed him in a banned chokehold.


Japan holds parliamentary vote amid recession

Japanese voters headed to the polls Sunday to cast ballots in parliamentary elections considered a referendum on the economic policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Last month, Abe called for the immediate election following the unexpected news Japan had slipped into a recession despite his vaunted "Abenomics." The next election wasn't due until late 2016.


Texas man in North Korea criticizes U.S.

A Texas man who claims to have snuck illegally into North Korea last month went on state TV and assailed the U.S. as a "mafia enterprise." Arturo Pierre Martinez, of El Paso, said he entered the country via China and was not being held against his will. "The illegal war carried out against the nation of Iraq serves as a perfect example of how the U.S. government acts much like a Mafia enterprise by criminally plundering entire nations," he said in a video released Sunday by the Korean Central News Agency.


Turkey detains journalists in raid

Turkey on Sunday arrested two dozen journalists it accused of trying to topple the state. Police raided one newspaper and a TV station to apprehend journalists it claimed hold ties to a U.S.-based Islamic cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who is a rival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan's critics condemned the move as a blatant crackdown on the freedom of the press.


Afghan president to overhaul security after Taliban attacks

Calling a wave of recent terror attacks "inhuman" and "not Islamic," Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday said the nation had to ramp up its domestic security operations. "It is enough and it's no longer acceptable," he said. A spokesperson for Ghani said Afghanistan had a sufficient defense force, but that it wasn't being deployed in the most effective manner to counter the Taliban.


Sweden claims Russian jet nearly hit passenger plane

Sweden on Saturday claimed a Russian military jet flying with its radar-signaling transponders disabled came dangerously close to hitting a passenger plane. Russia's Defense Ministry on Sunday pushed back that the two planes were never less than 42 miles apart, and accused Sweden of overreacting. In March, a Russian jet flying with its transponders off came within 300 feet of a Scandinavian Airlines plane.


Taylor Swift turns 25

Taylor Swift celebrated her 25th birthday on Saturday with a star-studded party in her adopted home of New York City. After performing at the city's Jingle Ball, the pop star — whose hits include an homage to feeling like a 22-year-old — partied at her Manhattan home with Jay Z, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, and other celebrities.


Putin acknowledges 'mistakes' with draft
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
a rare admission

Putin acknowledges 'mistakes' with draft

North Korea fires missiles hours after Harris visit
kamala harris and Yoon Suk-yeol photo
Cutting it close

North Korea fires missiles hours after Harris visit

Queen Elizabeth II died of 'old age,' death certificate says
Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II died of 'old age,' death certificate says

Iran president warns against 'chaos' as protests continue
Iran Protests
Crimes against chaos

Iran president warns against 'chaos' as protests continue

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Returning the Crown Jewels
Queen Elizabeth.

Returning the Crown Jewels

Will Ukraine be Putin's downfall?
Vladimir Putin.

Will Ukraine be Putin's downfall?

Russia claims victory in 4 staged Ukrainian referendums
Referendum voting in Donetsk, Ukraine
Prelude to a theft

Russia claims victory in 4 staged Ukrainian referendums