Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 23, 2014


Justices uphold Michigan's affirmative action ban in college admissions

The Supreme Court, in a 6-to-2 ruling, upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment banning affirmative action policies in public university admissions. Michigan and other states, such as Florida and California, that have outlawed taking race into consideration in higher education have seen sharp drops in enrollment of black and Hispanic students, but the court's majority said voters, not courts, should decide what policies to use.


Obama sets out to reassure Pacific allies

President Obama arrived in Japan Wednesday for a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the start of a four-nation tour of Asia. Obama is trying to show allies that the U.S. is "rebalancing" in the Pacific, to reassure them in the face of security concerns raised by China's territorial battle with Japan over remote islands, and North Korea's nuclear program. Obama will also makes stops in South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines.


Ukraine calls an end to truce with pro-Russian separatists

Ukraine officially ended an Easter truce in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday and vowed to make a new push to remove pro-Russia separatists from occupied government buildings. The move came after Vice President Joe Biden visited Kiev and repeated a U.S. pledge to hit Russian leaders with new sanctions if they fail to reduce tensions. First Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Yarema said the U.S. had promised not to "leave us alone with an aggressor."


Divers retrieve more victims from sunken South Korea ferry

The official death toll in the sinking of the South Korean ferry Sewol reached 150 on Wednesday as divers recovered dozens more bodies. Search crews said, however, that they would have to break through cabin walls to reach more victims. Most of the dead are high school students who were taking a trip. Two more crew members were arrested Wednesday, bringing the total number of crew arrested or detained by investigators to 11.


Obama visits with families of Washington state mudslide victims

President Obama on Tuesday visited the scene of a massive mudslide that buried three dozen homes in a Washington state river valley on March 22. The bodies of 41 victims have been recovered. Two people are still missing. Obama viewed the site of the disaster from his hovering presidential helicopter, then met with relatives of victims in a small chapel, and promised federal support to rescue workers and others in the community.


U.N. reports a massacre in South Sudan

United Nations officials said hundreds of civilians were massacred last week in Bentiu, the capital of South Sudan's oil-producing Unity state, where rebels recently took control. The U.N. said there were "piles and piles" of bodies, some inside a mosque. The victims were reportedly members of targeted ethnic groups. The killings in South Sudan, the world's newest country, came 20 years after the genocide in a nearby nation, Rwanda.


IRS employees got bonuses despite owing back taxes

The Internal revenue service paid $1 million in bonuses between Oct. 1, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2012, to employees who had failed to pay their own taxes, according to a report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The allegedly tax-averse tax collectors also received more than 10,000 hours of extra vacation. Another $1.8 million went to employees cited for fraudulently claiming unemployment benefits and other infractions.


Sherpas reportedly decide to leave Everest after deadly avalanche

Most of the Sherpa mountain climbers on Mount Everest have decided to walk out following the loss of 16 of their colleagues in an avalanche, a guide said Tuesday. It was the deadliest day ever on the world's highest mountain. The bodies of three of the Sherpas still haven't been recovered. The walkout is expected to severely curtail the normal rush for the summit in the narrow spring season.


Bridgegate might disrupt World Trade Center development plan

The Bridgegate scandal dogging New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is threatening to disrupt developer Larry Silverstein's plan to finish the next World Trade Center skyscraper. He needs a guarantee from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to land a $1.2 billion construction loan for 3 World Trade Center. The agency's board, which has begun reconsidering its mission since the scandal hit, is due to vote on the matter Wednesday.


Pujols hits his 500th homer

Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols hit his 500th home run Tuesday night, an accomplishment only 26 of the 18,000 major league baseball players since 1876 have achieved. Pujols also pulled off a first by becoming the first hitter ever to whack his 499th and 500th homers in the same game. At age 34, he was also the third youngest player ever to reach the milestone. Only Alex Rodriquez and Jimmie Foxx got there quicker.


Putin acknowledges 'mistakes' with draft
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
a rare admission

Putin acknowledges 'mistakes' with draft

North Korea fires missiles hours after Harris visit
kamala harris and Yoon Suk-yeol photo
Cutting it close

North Korea fires missiles hours after Harris visit

Queen Elizabeth II died of 'old age,' death certificate says
Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II died of 'old age,' death certificate says

Iran president warns against 'chaos' as protests continue
Iran Protests
Crimes against chaos

Iran president warns against 'chaos' as protests continue

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Returning the Crown Jewels
Queen Elizabeth.

Returning the Crown Jewels

Will Ukraine be Putin's downfall?
Vladimir Putin.

Will Ukraine be Putin's downfall?

Russia claims victory in 4 staged Ukrainian referendums
Referendum voting in Donetsk, Ukraine
Prelude to a theft

Russia claims victory in 4 staged Ukrainian referendums