10 things you need to know today: February 24, 2015

McConnell changes tactics in the Homeland Security showdown, France deploys an aircraft carrier against ISIS, and more

Mitch makes his move.
(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

1. Homeland Security bill blocked in the Senate

The Senate on Monday failed to pass the $40 billion funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security for the fourth time. The Republican-controlled House has passed the bill, but Senate Democrats blocked it over provisions that would defund President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration. Funding for Homeland Security expires at midnight Friday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would try to break the stalemate by introducing separate bills on funding DHS and blocking Obama's immigration moves.


2. France deploys aircraft carrier against ISIS

France has deployed an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf on Monday as part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State. The first Rafale fighter jet flight under the campaign took off Monday as the ship, the Charles de Gaulle, cruised off Bahrain toward Iraq. The ship will enable the coalition to cut in half the time its planes need to reach Iraq to strike ISIS. The coalition has launched 2,000 airstrikes against ISIS since August.

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The Guardian

3. U.S. court finds Palestinian Authority liable for terror attacks

A jury on Monday found the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization liable for supporting a half dozen terror attacks that killed American citizens in Israel from 2002 to 2004. The Manhattan jury awarded the victims $218.5 million, though the figure could triple under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows plaintiffs to file suit in U.S. court over international acts of terrorism. The case involved 10 American families impacted by the attacks, which in total killed 33 people and injured more than 400 others.

The Associated Press

4. VA secretary apologizes for claiming special forces service

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald apologized on Monday for claiming that he had served in the U.S. Special Forces. His assertion, to a homeless veteran and captured on camera by CBS News, "was inaccurate, and I apologize to anyone that was offended by my misstatement," he said. McDonald did serve in the 82nd Airborne Division for five years in the 1970s, including completing Army Ranger training, but the 82nd Airborne isn't one of the military units that send elite troops to the Special Forces.

The Huffington Post The New York Times

5. Alaska legalizes marijuana

Alaska on Tuesday became the third state to legalize recreational marijuana use. Alaskans in November voted 53 percent to 47 percent to approve pot-smoking by adults in private places. The law leaves it up to local governments to enforce the law, and determine what constitutes public use of the drug. Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew vowed to issue $100 tickets to anyone violating the ban on public pot smoking. The state's alcohol commission plans to launch a regulated pot market in 2016.

The Associated Press

6. Reuters bureau chief dies in Islamabad

The Reuters bureau chief for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Maria Golovnina, was found dead in the news agency's Islamabad office on Monday. She was rushed to a hospital but doctors could not revive her. Friends and colleagues said Golovnina, 34, was widely revered for her courage and commitment to journalism. "Empathy wasn't just a skill she deployed for her craft," said colleague Peter Graff. "It burned in her white hot. It is what sustained her legendary stamina for work, play, and learning."


7. U.K. authorities search for three schoolgirls trying to join ISIS

British police officers traveled to Turkey on Monday to look for three teenage schoolgirls believed to have traveled from London to Syria to join the Islamic State. Turkish authorities are cooperating with U.K. counterterorrism authorities, but believe the trio — Kazida Sultana, Amira Abase, and Shamima Begum — had already crossed the border into ISIS territory. At least one of the girls reportedly was in contact with another young woman who fled the U.K. to Syria last year. Relatives made public statements begging the girls to return home.

The Independent

8. ISIS captures dozens of Syrian Christians

Islamic State militants have taken as many as 100 Assyrian Christian hostages from northern Syrian villages, the activist groups A Demand for Action and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Tuesday. ISIS fighters overran several villages, including one named Tal Shamiram, on Monday, and escaping villagers told activists about the hostages. ISIS forces in the area are facing increasing pressure, with U.S.-led airstrikes as well as simultaneous offensives by the Syrian government and rival rebel groups.

CBS News

9. Oscars ratings dip

The 87th Academy Awards posted the worst ratings for an Oscars telecast since 2009, according to Nielsen estimates released on Monday, the day after the ceremony. The broadcast, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and capped by Birdman's selection as best picture, averaged 36.6 million viewers, down 16 percent from last year's 43.7 million, under host Ellen DeGeneres. The last time the Oscars had fewer viewers was in 2009, when 36.3 million tuned in to watch host Hugh Jackman in the year Slumdog Millionaire won best picture.

USA Today

10. A-Rod returns to spring training after year-long suspension

Alex Rodriguez reported to New York Yankees spring training camp two days early on Monday. Rodriguez is returning after serving a one-year suspension for breaking Major League Baseball's rules on performance-enhancing drugs. He has not played in a game since Sept. 25, 2013. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has said Rodriguez will be a designated hitter this year, but at his first workout, Rodriguez was taking grounders at third base and shortstop. He wrote fans a letter of apology last week.

Sports Illustrated

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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.