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

Pope Francis calls for fighting poverty and abuse, hundreds of pilgrims die in Mecca stampede, and more

The pope delivers his speech.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

1. Pope Francis calls for fighting poverty and clergy sex abuse

Pope Francis, welcomed by jubilant crowds, began a six-day visit to the U.S. with a call for the country to do more to fight climate change and global poverty. He also praised Catholic bishops for their "courage" in handling the church's sexual abuse crisis, and urged them to "ensure that such crimes will never be repeated." Victim advocates said the pope should have focused more on the victims' suffering. Francis addresses Congress Thursday morning — the first time a pope has done so.

The New York Times The Washington Post

2. Stampede kills at least 453 Muslim pilgrims outside Mecca

A stampede outside Saudi Arabia's Muslim holy city of Mecca killed at least 453 people and injured at least 700 others on Thursday. The stampede occurred during a ritual known as "stoning the devil" in Mina, two miles from Mecca. Hundreds of people have died in previous incidents at the ceremony, one of the last of the hajj pilgrimage season, when crowds pass through a bottleneck to see a reenactment of the Prophet Abraham rejecting the devil's temptations. A 2006 stampede left 363 dead.

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3. Volkswagen chief resigns over emissions scandal

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned on Wednesday after admitting that the German automaker put software in 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide to cheat on emissions tests. Winterkorn apologized profusely and took responsibility after the Environmental Protection Agency discovered what VW had done, although he said he had done nothing wrong, personally. "Volkswagen needs a fresh start," he said. Winterkorn stands to collect a pension worth $32 million, and possibly more.

The Associated Press Bloomberg

4. Colombian government and rebels set to announce peace breakthrough

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Rodrigo Londono, leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, announced a breakthrough in peace talks on Wednesday. The two sides have been negotiating in Havana since 2012, trying to end to a half century of civil war. The peace framework includes provisions for investigating rights abuses and prosecuting war crimes, as well as an amnesty law for combatants. The next goals are disarmament and a formal peace pact.

BBC News The Wall Street Journal

5. Trump says he is boycotting Fox News over unfair treatment

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump announced Wednesday via Twitter that he was boycotting Fox News because the conservative cable outlet had treated him "very unfairly." A Fox spokesperson said Trump had only made his declaration of media war because the network had canceled his appearance on The O'Reilly Factor. Fox did not say why it canceled Trump's appearance, although the decision came after he tweeted criticism of The O'Reilly Factor and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.


6. EU to give aid groups helping refugees in camps near home countries

European Union leaders agreed Thursday to send $1.1 billion to international aid agencies serving refugees in camps close to their home countries. The decision came at an emergency summit in Brussels held to discuss how to contain a wave of an estimated 500,000 people who have come to Europe this year seeking asylum or jobs. Many of the refugees have gone from Syria to camps in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, then made a dangerous sea voyage to Greece.

The Associated Press

7. Hackers stole 5.6 million federal workers' fingerprints

The Office of Personnel Management said Wednesday that hackers stole the fingerprints of 5.6 million government officials, five times as many as estimated when the cyberattacks were disclosed this summer. The hackers also stole the Social Security numbers and addresses of more than 21 million current and former federal employees. Joseph Lorenzo Hall of the Center for Democracy & Technology called the increase in the estimate of stolen fingerprints "pretty mind-boggling."

The Washington Post

8. Egypt frees two Al Jazeera journalists as 100 prisoners pardoned

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday pardoned 100 prisoners, including three Al Jazeera television journalists — Canadian Mohamed Fahmy, Egyptian Baher Mohamed, and Australian Peter Greste, who was deported in February. In an August retrial, the journalists were sentenced to three years in prison on charges that they operated without a press license, and broadcast material harmful to Egypt. The Al Jazeera journalists said they were happy Sisi released them; Amnesty International said it was "ludicrous" many pardoned prisoners "were even behind bars in the first place."


9. Border Patrol agent indicted for fatal shooting of Mexican teen

A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted a U.S. Border Patrol agent, Lonnie Swartz, on second-degree murder charges for the 2012 cross-border shooting death of a Mexican teenager, Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez. Swartz was in Nogales, Arizona, when he allegedly shot the 16-year-old Elena Rodriguez, whom the Border Patrol said was in a group of teens throwing rocks and endangering agents' lives. Relatives say Elena Rodriguez was walking home from a basketball game, and did nothing wrong. Swartz's lawyer said he would plead not guilty.

The Associated Press

10. Pope canonizes controversial missionary

Pope Francis made controversial 18th century missionary Junipero Serra a saint on Wednesday, in the first canonization ceremony in the U.S. Francis praised Serra, who worked in what is now California, "the evangelizer of the western United States." The pope also called Serra "the embodiment of a church which goes forth" to spread the word of God. Many Native Americans, however, bristled at the move, because they believe Serra destroyed their ancestors' culture.

NBC News

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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.