Daily Briefing

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

Harold Maass
The UN's special envoy to Syria resigned Tuesday.   AP Photo
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U.N. Syria envoy Brahimi steps down

The United Nations' envoy in Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, quit on Tuesday, saying he was frustrated with the lack of progress in negotiations to end the country's three-year civil war. "It's very sad that I leave this position and leave Syria behind in such a bad state," Brahimi said. In another setback, France's top diplomat said evidence indicated Syria had used chemical weapons a dozen times since signing a treaty banning them. [The New York Times]


Judge strikes down Idaho's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage

U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale late Tuesday ruled that Idaho's 2006 ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, the latest in a string of court victories for gay rights advocates. Dale's ruling striking down the state's constitutional amendment denying same-sex couples the right to wed takes effect Friday, but Gov. Butch Otter (R) has filed a motion asking for a stay until the "completion of all appeals." [Idaho Statesman]


Dow continues its record run

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at its third straight record high on Tuesday. The S&P 500 also inched above its previous high. The tech-heavy Nasdaq, however, was dragged down by Cisco Systems, which is scheduled to post results Wednesday. Only a small group of stocks are rising while others stumble, one analyst noted, leading some investors to wonder "whether the economy was going to bounce back as strongly as some folks had been expecting." [Reuters]


Clay Aiken wins Democratic congressional primary

Former American Idol singer Clay Aiken on Tuesday was declared the winner of the still-uncertified vote count in a Democratic congressional primary in North Carolina on Tuesday. His main opponent, textile manufacturer Keith Crisco, died in his home a day earlier from an apparent fall. The rivals had been a few hundred votes apart, with Aiken in the lead. Aiken goes into the general election campaign an underdog against GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers. [CBS N]


Mine explosion kills 200 in Turkey

An explosion and fire killed at least 205 people in a Turkish coal mine on Tuesday. About 80 more were injured. The Energy Ministry said 787 people were in the mine when an electrical malfunction ignited the explosion, and only 360, including the dead, have been accounted for so far. Rescuers worked through the night in an effort to reach about 200 miners believed trapped inside, and by early Wednesday had pulled out 88 survivors. [BBC News]


Court delays execution of mildly mentally disabled Texas killer

A federal appeals court stayed the execution of Texas inmate Robert James Campbell two hours before his scheduled lethal injection. The court said lawyers representing Campbell, 41, should have more time to show that a low IQ, estimated at 69, made him ineligible for the death penalty. A cousin of Alejandra Rendon, the 20-year-old woman Campbell raped and murdered in 1991, called the reprieve "a joke." [NBC News]


Army vet receives the Medal of Honor

President Obama on Tuesday pinned the Medal of Honor — the nation's highest military honor — on Army veteran Kyle White, who repeatedly dashed into heavy gunfire to save comrades in a 2007 Taliban ambush in Afghanistan. White, the 10th living soldier to receive the award for service in Afghanistan or Iraq, vowed to wear the medal "with the same reverence" with which he wears a bracelet bearing the names of six comrades killed that day. [CNN]


Ukraine hosts talks on ending its political crisis

Ukraine is hosting national round-table talks on resolving the country's six-month political crisis beginning Wednesday. Ukraine's prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, is leading the first meeting, which will include politicians, regional, and national officials, and pro-Russian activists demanding autonomy in eastern Ukraine, provided they don't have "blood on their hands." The discussions will focus on a roadmap calling for decentralizing power. [The New York Times, The Guardian]


California fire forces thousands of evacuations

Fire crews gained ground late Tuesday on a wildfire in San Diego County, California, but not before the blaze forced the evacuation of thousands of homes. High winds and 100-degree temperatures fueled the fire as it blackened a square mile of parched land. The evacuation order was lifted and schools shut Tuesday were expected to resume classes Wednesday. The fire came as the state entered fire season under one of its worst droughts in decades. []


Malik Bendjelloul, who won an Oscar for Searching for Sugar Man, dies at 36

Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul, who made the Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man, died in Stockholm late Tuesday. He was 36. Bendjelloul's film told the story of once forgotten American singer Sixto Rodriguez's stardom in South Africa, where he had a cult following of mostly white liberals. Police gave no details on how Bendjelloul died. [The Washington Post]