10 things you need to know today: February 14, 2015

Barack Obama
(Image credit: (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin))

1. President Obama denounces killings of North Carolina Muslim students

President Barack Obama condemned the murders of three Muslim students earlier this week in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. "No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship," the president said in a statement on Friday. "We are all one American family." Obama's remarks on the killings come as federal investigators begin inquiries into whether or not the murders were a hate crime. Craig Stephen Hicks, who has been charged with the killings, had reportedly engaged in many parking space disputes with other residents of the Chapel Hill apartment complex where he and the students lived. But prominent Muslim groups have disputed that characterization of events, saying the murders were a hate crime and should be investigated as such.

The New York Times

2. Argentine president charged for alleged cover-up of 1994 bombing

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina was charged on Friday with allegedly covering up Iranian involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Federal prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita brought the charges, resuming the investigation that had been headed by Alberto Nisman, who died on Jan. 18 under suspicious circumstances and who had drafted a warrant for Kirchner's arrest just four days before his death.

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3. Fighting in Ukraine intensifies ahead of agreed-upon cease-fire

Fighting around rebel-controlled areas of Ukraine intensified on Friday, despite a cease-fire plan that is intended to end hostilities over the weekend. Both sides blamed the other for at least five civilian deaths in separate shelling attacks near Luhansk and Donetsk. The cease-fire is scheduled to begin on Sunday, at which point heavy weapons are to be withdrawn from the frontline in eastern Ukraine. The deals were signed early on Thursday after about 15 hours of talks involving Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Francois Hollande.


4. Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announces resignation

One month after being sworn in for a fourth term, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) officially announced his resignation on Friday amid an ethics scandal. Kitzhaber and his private-consultant fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, are under criminal investigation amid suspicion Hayes used their relationship for the benefit of her business. Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) will succeed Kitzhaber, whose resignation is effective Wednesday.

The Oregonian

5. Arkansas legislature passes bill blocking anti-discrimination laws against LGBT people

On Friday, the Arkansas legislature voted in favor of a bill preventing cities and counties from passing laws which would criminalize LGBT discrimination in housing, job, and business situations. The Arkansas House of Representatives voted 57-20 in favor of the bill, which will be sent to Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R). Proponents of the bill said it would "create consistent policies" for employment laws across the state, but detractors called it a "proactive act of discrimination."

BuzzFeed News

6. South Sudan calls off elections as cabinet members try to extend presidential term

South Sudan's June elections have reportedly been called off, and the country's cabinet is now planning to request that parliament approve an extension of President Salva Kiir. An extension of the presidency would also extend the terms of parliament members; government spokesman Michael Makuei said he is confident the proposal would pass. The cabinet says an extension is necessary in the world's newest nation because of ongoing fighting between supporters of Kiir, and his former vice president Riek Machar.


7. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf puts moratorium on state death penalty

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) put a moratorium on the state death penalty on Friday. The moratorium will be in effect until the Pennsylvania Task Force and Advisory Commission on Capital Punishment publishes its report on the state's death penalty policy. The moratorium "is in no way an expression of sympathy for the guilty on death row, all of whom have been convicted of committing heinous crimes," Wolf said, but rather is "based on a flawed system that has been proven to be an endless cycle of court proceedings." Pennsylvania has 186 inmates on death row, and the moratorium will delay the execution of Terrance Williams, who was convicted of a 1984 murder and had been scheduled to receive the death penalty on March 4.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

8. Ray Rice apologizes for domestic violence incident, thanks Baltimore

In a statement to The Baltimore Sun on Friday, Ray Rice apologized for his "horrible mistake," adding that "there is no excuse for domestic violence." Rice thanked the city of Baltimore and the Ravens, saying he'll "always be proud" to have been a member of the team. Sources told the paper that Rice, who found his $35 million contract with the Ravens terminated after a graphic video surfaced in 2014 showing him punching his then-fiancee Janay in an elevator, will move back to his home state of New York and try to reboot his football career.

The Baltimore Sun

9. Northeast braces for another frigid, snowy winter storm

A fourth winter storm in as many weeks is expected to hit the Northeast on Saturday and into Sunday. Twenty-six states are under winter weather warnings; the system could bring some of the coldest air in the past 20 years, along with near-hurricane-force winds. Bill Simpson, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said people should expect a "monster storm."

NBC News

10. Fifty Shades of Grey on track to make more than $75 million in opening weekend

Based on current estimations, the big-screen adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey is on track for a whopping $75 million to $85 million dollar opening weekend, smashing the record previously set by Valentine's Day in 2010. The film is on track to gross another $75 million internationally.

The Hollywood Reporter

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Sarah Eberspacher

Sarah Eberspacher is an associate editor at TheWeek.com. She has previously worked as a sports reporter at The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus and The Arizona Republic. She graduated from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.