Daily Briefing

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

Sarah Eberspacher
Control of the MH17 crash site remains in flux. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Our '10 things you need to
know' newsletter
Your free email newsletter subscription is confirmed. Thank you for subscribing!


Ukraine blames insurgents for blocking access to MH17 crash site

Ukraine's government released a statement this morning accusing Russian-backed insurgents of blocking access to and tampering with evidence at the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site. Ukrainian officials had planned to take the bodies of the 298 victims to a laboratory in Kharkiv, but they say that 38 bodies have instead been taken by insurgents to a morgue in Donetsk. "We have limited information and limited ability to obtain formal information," Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's Defense and Security Council, said. "The people who are working from our side... they are under control of the terrorists. They are taking out all the evidence." [The New York Times]


Sentencing Commission votes to reduce drug offenders' terms

The U.S. Sentencing Commission unanimously voted to reduce the terms of drug traffickers who are already in prison on Friday. That means more than 46,000 drug offenders could be eligible for early release, as most sentences will be reduced by more than two years. Congress could move to stop the plan before Nov. 1, but otherwise, offenders may begin petitioning federal judges for early release, which could begin in November of 2015. "The magnitude of the change, both collectively and for individual offenders, is significant," Judge Patti Saris, a U.S. district judge who chairs the commission, said. [NPR]


Thai junta issues effective media gag

The Thai military government further tightened its control on the country on Friday, issuing an order banning members of the media from criticizing the junta's operations. Officials warned that any reporters found to be reporting on the group in an unflattering light would face broadcast or publication suspension. "This is basically a gag order, and it's not just a gag order on the press, it's extending to anyone in Thailand, especially now that a lot of Thai people use social media to express opinions," Sarinee Achavanuntakul, an online media freedom advocate, said. "To me, it signals that the coup makers may not have a clear idea of who the enemies are." [The Associated Press]


IRS says it destroyed hard drive containing lost emails

Court rulings on Friday confirmed that the IRS destroyed Lois Lerner's computer hard drive nearly three years ago, ending any chance of retrieving lost emails related to applications for tax-exemption. Lerner headed the division that handles tax exemptions at that time, and she has become a central figure in congressional investigations into how the government body addressed applications by Tea Party and other conservative groups. [The Associated Press]


Putin's approval rating in Russia matches record high

Despite reports that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by rebels using a Russian-made missile, President Vladimir Putin's approval rating among Russians is at its highest in years. A Gallup poll published on Friday noted that 83 percent of Russians approve of their president; the last time his approval rating was that high was in 2008. And while 78 percent of Russians also express confidence in their own military, those polled put approval ratings of U.S. and EU leadership in the single digits. [TheWeek.com, Gallup World]


Federal appeals court strikes down Oklahoma's gay-marriage ban

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined on Friday that Oklahoma must allow gay couples to wed, upholding lower rulings which had found the state's voter-approved gay marriage ban unconstitutional. The three-judge panel also struck down Utah's ban on same-sex marriage in June; the court is putting Friday's 2-1 ruling on hold pending an appeal, though, which means that same-sex couples cannot yet legally marry in Oklahoma. "(Friday's) ruling is another instance of federal courts ignoring the will of the people and trampling on the right of states to govern themselves," said Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin. [The Associated Press]


Italian court acquits former Premier Berlusconi in sex-for-hire case

An Italian appeals court acquitted former Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Friday in his infamous sex-for-hire case. The decision reversed a conviction that could have sent Berlusconi to prison for seven years, in addition to banning him from holding political office for life. The court ruled that Berlusconi, 77, committed no crimes, which his lawyer said "goes beyond the rosiest predictions." Berlusconi is still on trial in Naples for "political corruption," under investigation in Milan for "witness-tampering" in the sex-for hire trial, and serving a community service sentence for a separate tax-fraud conviction. [The Associated Press]


Forbes family plans to sell majority stake in media empire

The Forbes family announced on Friday that it will sell a controlling stake in its media dynasty to Hong Kong-based Integrated Whale Media Investments. Forbes Media, which includes Forbes magazine and Forbes.com, is nearly a century old. The company said current management will remain in place and that the deal is intended to expand Forbes' international reach. No sales prices were disclosed, but the deal is expected to be completed later this year. [Los Angeles Times]


New study says eye movement reveals love versus lust

A husband-and-wife team of researchers at the University of Chicago released a study on Thursday showing eye movements may reveal whether a person is in lust or in love. The results, based on study participants at the University of Geneva, show that both males and females fixate more on the face when they feel love, but expand their gaze to the entire body when focused on sexual desire. "Little is currently known about the science of love at first sight," Stephanie Cacioppo, the study's lead author, said. But, "these patterns of response provide the first clues regarding how automatic attentional processes, such as eye gaze, may differentiate feelings." [Time]


Amazon launches Kindle Unlimited, the 'Netflix for books'

Amazon unveiled Kindle Unlimited on Friday, an e-book and audiobook subscription service already being billed as "Netflix for books." The service offers "unlimited access to over 600,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks" for $9.99 per month, and Amazon is offering a 30-day-free trial. [Amazon.com, ABC News]