Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 13, 2015

Harold Maass
Emergency workers help a victim of the wreck.
AP Photo/ Joseph Kaczmarek
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Six die in Philadelphia Amtrak derailment

At least six people were killed Tuesday night when an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia. Dozens more were injured, at least six of them critically. The impact ripped passenger cars apart and mangled the engine. "It's an absolute disastrous mess," Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said. "I've never seen anything so devastating." The train was en route from Washington, D.C., to New York, carrying 238 passengers and five crew members. [The Washington Post, CNN]


Democrats block debate on fast-track trade bill

Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked consideration of a bill that would give President Obama authority to fast-track a major trade agreement with Asia. The Senate voted 52-45 to begin debate, falling short of the 60 votes needed to break the Democrats' filibuster. Democrats who oppose the bill want provisions added to protect American workers. Obama says he needs the fast-track authority to get trading partners to make concessions without fearing Congress will block the deal. [The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal]


Death toll rises from Nepal quake

The death toll from the latest earthquake in Nepal rose to more than 50 in Nepal and India on Tuesday. The 7.3-magnitude temblor was the strongest aftershock yet since the 7.8-magnitude quake that struck on April 25, killing more than 8,000 people. A U.S. Marine helicopter that was already in the Himalayan nation conducting humanitarian and disaster relief missions went missing on Tuesday about 45 miles east of the capital of Kathmandu with six American Marines and two Nepali soldiers on board. [The Washington Post]


Virginia dean sues Rolling Stone over rape article

University of Virginia associate dean Nicole Eramo on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Rolling Stone magazine over a now-discredited article about an alleged gang rape at a fraternity house. Eramo accused the magazine and the writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, of defaming her by portraying her as the "chief villain." The article made Eramo's response to the alleged crime appear inadequate. The lawsuit asks for $7.5 million and calls the story a "monumental hoax." A Columbia University review found the story "deeply flawed," and Rolling Stone retracted it. [Los Angeles Times]


No charges against Wisconsin officer who killed unarmed teen

The Madison, Wisconsin, police officer who killed an unarmed biracial teenager will not face criminal charges, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced Tuesday. "I conclude that this tragic and unfortunate death was the result of a lawful use of deadly police force," Ozanne said. In March, officer Matt Kenny fatally shot 19-year-old Tony Robinson after responding to a disturbance call. The shooting set off peaceful protests similar to those in other cities over deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police. [The Guardian]


Humanitarian truce begins in Yemen after last-minute airstrikes and shelling

A five-day humanitarian truce started in Yemen on Tuesday. In the hours before the cease-fire, Saudi-led airstrikes hit military targets in the rebel-held capital of Sanaa, and in the port city of Aden. Iranian-backed Houthi rebels shelled areas along the border with Saudi Arabia. Iran sent a cargo ship to Yemen, prompting the U.S. to warn against "provocative actions." The truce appeared to be holding on Wednesday despite reports of violations on both sides. [Reuters]


Navy plans policies to improve quality of life, including more maternity leave

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is expected on Wednesday to announce policy changes intended to improve quality of life and careers for sailors and Marines. The changes will include doubling paid maternity leave to 12 weeks, easing body fat restrictions, increasing career flexibility, updating the co-location policy for dual military couples, and bolstering recruitment of women to 25 percent, up from 18 percent for the Navy and 5 percent for the Marines. [Navy Times]


North Korean military chief reportedly executed for falling asleep

North Korea has executed its own defense chief on treason charges, South Korean media reported on Wednesday. The military leader, Hyon Yong Chol, reportedly was accused of showing disrespect to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by dozing off at a military event and failing to carry out unspecified instructions. He was allegedly executed by firing squad in front of hundreds of people at a Pyongyang military school. Kim has reportedly ordered the executions of at least 15 high-ranking officials this year. [Reuters, The Washington Post]


Gunmen kill 43 minority Ismaili Muslims in Pakistan

Gunmen on motorcycles killed at least 43 people on a bus in Karachi, Pakistan, early Wednesday. The passengers were members of the Ismaili sect of Shiite Islam making a daily commute from an Ismaili residential complex to other parts of the southern port city. At least six people took part in the attack, some of them boarding the bus and opening fire. All of the gunmen escaped, police said. Sunni extremists in a Taliban splinter group called Jundullah claimed responsibility for the killings. [The New York Times]


Raul Castro says Cuba ready to exchange ambassadors with U.S.

Cuban President Raul Castro said Tuesday that his country was ready to exchange diplomats with the U.S. as soon as it was removed from Washington's list of state terrorism sponsors. President Obama announced last month that he intended to remove the communist Caribbean island nation from the list. The formal move is expected this month under Obama's push to resume normal relations with the former Cold War rival. "This sort of unjust accusation is about to be lifted," Castro said, "and we'll be able to name ambassadors." [The Associated Press]