10 things you need to know today: June 4, 2014

(Image credit: (AP Photo/George Clark))

1. Sen. Thad Cochran's GOP primary battle appears headed for a runoff

Sen. Thad Cochran trailed Tea-Party-backed challenger Chris McDaniel by less than 1 percent in a bitter and expensive Republican primary vote in Mississippi on Tuesday. The too-close-to-call race could be headed for a runoff in three weeks in one of the more intense examples of the struggle for control of the GOP. The Tea Party won one in Iowa, where conservative state Sen. Joni Ernst won a five-way Republican Senate primary.

The Washington Post Politico

2. Obama defends prisoner swap with the Taliban

President Obama forcefully defended his decision to exchange five Taliban prisoners — without notifying Congress — to free Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was the lone U.S. POW left from the Afghan war (watch a video of his release here). Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — a former POW — called the deal "a mistake." Obama said it was the right thing to do as the U.S. prepares to withdraw at year's end. "We don't leave our men or women in uniform behind," he said.

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The New York Times Los Angeles Times

3. Storms pelt the Midwest with baseball-size hail

Severe thunderstorms swept through parts of the Midwest on Tuesday, hammering Omaha and other parts of Nebraska with baseball-size hail. Nebraska residents uploaded photos to social media showing severely damaged cars, including an Omaha police car that was dented and had a shattered windshield. The storms, with winds up to 100 mph, are expected to continue into early Wednesday. "If you're in Nebraska, Iowa, or Missouri, this is going to be a very long night," CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said,


4. U.S. calls on China to release activists on Tiananmen anniversary

The Obama administration called on China to release dissidents rounded up ahead of Wednesday's 25th anniversary of the violent crackdown on democracy activists in Tiananmen Square, which is believed to have left hundreds dead. Chinese security forces fanned out in Beijing to prevent any attempt to commemorate the event. "Every candlelight vigil makes the perpetrators shudder in fear," blind dissident Chen Guangcheng said in Washington.

Voice of America

5. Obama counters Russia with $1 billion to beef up U.S. military in Eastern Europe

President Obama on Tuesday proposed spending up to $1 billion to bolster the U.S. military presence in Poland and neighboring countries to reassure America's European allies as Russia bolsters separatists in Ukraine. Obama, starting a four-day tour of Europe, said Moscow would face additional economic sanctions if it doesn't back off. Obama called America's commitment to Europe's security "a cornerstone of our own security."

The Washington Post

6. Sisi officially wins Egypt's presidency in a landslide

Egypt's former army chief, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, was confirmed Tuesday as the winner of the country's presidential election last week, having won 97 percent of the vote. Foreign monitors, however, said the election didn't meet international standards, and turnout was a surprisingly low 47 percent. The latter might be a sign that Egyptians will be impatient if Sisi can't restore calm and rebuild Egypt's economy quickly.

The Independent The New York Times

7. Panera says it will remove additives from its food

In the latest healthy shift in the fast-food wars, Panera Bread announced Tuesday that it was getting rid of all artificial additives in its food. "I want to serve food that I want to eat," founder and CEO Ron Shaich said. Panera was among the first five chains to stop serving chicken raised with antibiotics a decade ago. The company also says it is trying to phase out drinks with high-fructose corn syrup.

USA Today

8. Rebels take two military bases in eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatist rebels seized two Ukrainian military bases in the eastern region of Luhansk on Wednesday. Ukraine's government said it was pressing on with its "anti-terrorist operation" aimed at stamping out the violent opposition. A government spokesman said more than 300 rebel fighters had been killed and 500 wounded in fighting over the past day near the separatist stronghold of Slaviansk.

BBC News Reuters

9. CDC warns that restaurants are a main source of norovirus

The real threat of the nasty norovirus is not on cruise ships, despite a flurry of reports of outbreaks on board, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In reality, far more of the 20 million annual infections from the highly contagious gut bug are contacted in restaurants. Twenty-five percent of infections are food-borne, and in 92 percent of those cases it was spread by the unwashed hands of a sick food service worker.

NBC News

10. Marino backs out of NFL concussion lawsuit

Former Miami Dolphins star quarterback Dan Marino reportedly is dropping out of a concussion lawsuit against the NFL. The news came just a day after media outlets reported that he had joined 14 other retired players in filing complaints accusing the league of ignoring links between concussions and long-term health problems. Marino said he had authorized a suit in case he needed future health coverage, but did not know one would be filed now.


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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.