Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 24, 2014


At least 7 killed in Santa Barbara shooting rampage

At least seven people were killed, and seven more were wounded in a string of shootings carried out by a lone gunman on Friday night, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown confirmed this morning. The gunman drove a black BMW through the Isla Vista neighborhood, a student enclave located near the University of California, Santa Barbara. The shootings took place at several locations, resulting in at least nine crime scenes. Deputies exchanged gunfire with the suspect, and he is one of the seven people killed in the tragedy; Brown said he did not know whether the gunman had been killed by a self-inflicted wound or as a result of the gunfire exchange with deputies.


Putin pledges to respect Ukraine's presidential election

At least two people died following a three-hour firefight in eastern Ukraine on Friday, further heightening tensions ahead of Sunday's presidential election. International bodies hope the election will provide stability in a country torn apart by fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian militias, although they fear Russian President Vladimir Putin could derail such a peace. For his part, Putin said on Friday that Russia will respect the results of the election.


Report: Thomas Piketty's data in book on income inequality may be false

Thomas Piketty, the French economist whose book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, has rocketed onto bestseller lists, may have used inaccurate data to develop his theory of income inequality, reported Chris Giles of The Financial Times on Friday. Piketty's theory, which suggests that wealth inequalities are heading back toward levels not seen since before World War I, relies on detailed sourcing that the economist has provided via spreadsheets online; Piketty responded to the investigation, saying that while new raw data sources may have slightly affected his work, he "would be very surprised if any of the substantive conclusions about the long-run evolution of wealth distributions was much affected."


Secretary of State Kerry agrees to testify about Benghazi

Secretary of State John Kerry offered "part olive branch, part warning shot" in a letter to lawmakers answering requests for him to testify in regard to Benghazi in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Kerry's letter to the committee's chairman, Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) offered two possible dates for the testimony; Issa selected June 12, one of the dates provided, for the hearing. Kerry did not give any response to a separate select committee that House Speaker John Boehner formed earlier this month to investigate the state department's response to a 2012 attack on the American diplomatic outpost in Libya.


U.S. judge permits Pentagon to force-feed Guantanamo prisoner

Calling it an "anguishing" decision, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler ruled late Thursday that the U.S. military can force-feed a Syrian detainee being held in Guantanamo Bay. Abu Wa'el Dhiab, a Syrian arrested in Pakistan in 2002, was cleared by the Obama administration in 2009, but the government has continued to hold him, citing Syria's ongoing civil war. Dhiab is staging a hunger strike in response, and Judge Kessler said she struggled with the ruling because many detainees who are force-fed reportedly go through extreme pain in the process, often vomiting blood or contracting chest infections.


Donald Sterling reportedly authorizes wife to sell Clippers

Donald Sterling has reportedly authorized his wife to sell the Los Angeles Clippers. Shelly Sterling had previously said she planned to fight to keep her 50 percent ownership stake in the team, but she has reportedly changed her mind and will now voluntarily try to sell the Clippers, with the caveat that she is allowed to maintain a minority interest in the team. For its part, the NBA said it will still proceed with attempts to terminate the Sterlings' team-ownership, in response to a recording released last month in which Donald Sterling makes racist comments.


Researchers announce promising new malaria vaccine

A group of researchers reported on Friday in the journal Science that they have developed a novel malaria vaccine, that uses the blood of malaria-resistant Tanzanian 2-year-olds. Reproducing antibodies found in toddlers who are resistant to the disease, the new vaccine effectively traps the virus once it has entered red blood cells, which is unique from most of the 50 to 100 vaccines in early stages of development. "We've taken a different approach," Dr. Jonathan Kurtis said. "We're sort of trapping the parasite in the burning house." Malaria kills an estimated 660,000 people each year; most of them are children in sub-Saharan Africa.


Indianapolis Colts owner charged with OUI

Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, was charged on Friday with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and possession of a controlled substance. The misdemeanor charges came about two months after Irsay's arrest, in which he was stopped on March 16 for driving slowly and failing to use a turn signal. He failed a subsequent roadside sobriety test, and police discovered prescription drugs in his vehicle. While each charge carries a maximum of 60 days in jail, along with a $500 fine, legal experts said most first-time offenders, such as Irsay, do not spend time in jail. Irsay's hearing will take place in June.


Italy plans to include illegal drugs, prostitution sales in GDP calculation

In an attempt to boost a stuck economy, Italy's national statistics office announced on Thursday that it will include prostitution and illegal drug sales in its calculations of gross domestic product. Italy has suffered through four recessions in the past 13 years, and current Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he is committed to meeting deficit targets — through whatever legal means available. The new revisions do comply with European Union rules, and may offer Renzi a greater margin to spend in 2014.


Donald Levine, 'the father of G.I. Joe,' has died

Hasbro executive Donald Levine, who was credited with developing the world's first G.I. Joe action figure, died on Thursday from cancer, his wife Nan told The Associated Press today. He was 86 years old. As head of research and development at the company, Levine moved the toy through production, working with his team to create the iconic action figure. An Army veteran who served in Korea, Levine led a team that included many other former military men; that led to the toy's being outfitted in Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force garb. When G.I. Joe arrived on shelves in 1964, it sold for $4 and was hugely popular until opposition to the Vietnam War prompted parents to select less military-influenced toys for their children.


White House expectations low for Biden-Putin meeting
Russian, American, Swiss flags ahead of Biden-Putin meeting.
no unpleasant surprises

White House expectations low for Biden-Putin meeting

Associated Press will no longer name suspects in minor crimes
AP Offices.
Big changes

Associated Press will no longer name suspects in minor crimes

COVID-19 vaccines effective against Delta variant, U.K. studies find
NHS COVID-19 vaccination bus
Solving COVID

COVID-19 vaccines effective against Delta variant, U.K. studies find

Ghana fights deforestation by planting 5 million trees in 1 day
Seedlings in Ghana.
it wasn't all bad

Ghana fights deforestation by planting 5 million trees in 1 day

Most Popular

7 toons about the Dems' Joe Manchin problem
Political Cartoon.

7 toons about the Dems' Joe Manchin problem

Bernie Sanders wants to know if cannabis reporter is 'stoned' right now
Bernie Sanders.
Sounds dope

Bernie Sanders wants to know if cannabis reporter is 'stoned' right now

Georgia election workers reportedly received a 'torrent' of threats
Trump rally.
The big lie

Georgia election workers reportedly received a 'torrent' of threats