10 things you need to know today: November 19, 2014

Snow in Buffalo
(Image credit: (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson))

1. Keystone pipeline bill fails in the Senate by one vote

Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked a bill that would have approved construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Republicans and some Democrats say the 1,700-mile, $7.6 billion pipeline, which would carry 830,000 barrels of Canadian oil through the American heartland every day, would create jobs. Environmentalists staunchly oppose it, and President Obama has said he would only approve it if it won't damage the environment. The bill fell one vote shy of the 60 it needed to advance.

The Washington Post

2. Winter blast hits parts of New York with record snowfall

A deadly winter storm that has dumped six feet of snow on parts of New York state is expected to briefly ease, then unload another two feed of snow later Wednesday. The Buffalo area has already been covered with nearly 76 inches — the most snow that has fallen anywhere in the U.S. over a 24-hour period. The band of icy weather has hit all 50 states with freezing temperatures. Four deaths have been blamed on the storm — three people had heart attacks while shoveling snow, and one died in a car crash.

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NBC News

3. Obama orders review of policy on trying to free terrorists' hostages

In the wake of ISIS' murdering of five Western hostages, President Obama has ordered a review of U.S. policies on trying to free Americans held by terrorists overseas. The review will include an emphasis on "examining family engagement, intelligence collection, and diplomatic engagement policies," Christine Wormuth, the undersecretary of defense for policy, wrote in a Nov. 11 letter to a member of Congress. President Obama still opposes paying ransoms, the White House said.

ABC News Reuters

4. U.N. committee urges prosecution of North Korean leaders for crimes against humanity

A United Nations human rights committee on Tuesday passed a resolution recommending that North Korea's leaders be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. The resolution was based on a February report describing decades of executions, torture, rape, and mass starvation. North Korea denies the atrocities, saying the accusations were cooked up to smear its leaders. China, a key Pyongyang ally, could veto the resolution when it reaches the Security Council.

Voice of America

5. GOP senators block NSA data-mining overhaul

Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked a bill that would have ended the National Security Agency's bulk collection of Americans' phone records. The measure fell two votes shy of the 60 votes needed for consideration. The Obama administration had urged the Senate to pass the overall under the president's promise to rein in domestic surveillance following former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's leak of once-secret documents. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the GOP leader, said curtailing the NSA program would amount to "tying our hands behind our backs."

The New York Times

6. Netflix halts Cosby special as more women make rape allegations

Netflix has called off the debut of a Bill Cosby stand-up comedy special after several women came forward accusing Cosby of rape. "At this time we are postponing the launch of the new stand-up comedy special Bill Cosby 77," the streaming video service said in a statement Tuesday night, hours after a third and fourth accuser came forward. Netflix's decision adds to the pressure on NBC to put a hold on a family sitcom starring Cosby that it is developing.


7. Twitter introduces search engine capable of finding any tweet in its archive

Twitter on Tuesday began offering a service allowing users to search for any tweet that has ever been posted. The new search engine initially will be limited to rudimentary keyword searches, but the microblogging site plans to offer ways to make more complex queries soon. For now, analysts say, outside services such as Topsy and Tweet machine that already offer ways to hunt down old tweets remain the best way to find deleted posts.


8. Human Rights Watch urges Indonesia to end "virginity tests" for female police recruits

A human rights group has launched a call for Indonesia to stop making some female police recruits submit to "virginity tests." Nisha Varia of Human Rights Watch called the exams "a discriminatory practice that harms and humiliates women." Human Rights Watch said it had interviewed police officers and police applicants in six cities who said they were subjected to the "two-finger test" to determine if the hymen was intact, although "failing" the test did not necessarily disqualify an applicant.


9. Police say UVa student Hannah Graham's death was homicide

Hannah Graham, a 18-year-old University of Virginia student found dead in October after a month-long search, was killed by "homicidal violence," local police said Tuesday. No other details — including a specific cause of death — will be released on the medical examiner's findings until a final autopsy report is submitted. Police did not say whether suspect Jesse Leroy Matthew, who has been charged with abduction, would face additional charges.

USA Today

10. Philae lander finds organic molecules on comet

The European Space Agency's Philae lander has detected organic molecules containing carbon — one of the key building blocks of life — on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, scientists said Tuesday. It is unclear precisely what the molecules are, or how complex they are. That will take further study. The findings could provide the first solid evidence supporting the theory that comets brought life to Earth.


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Harold Maass

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 Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.