Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 25, 2015

Pope Francis urges compassion in historic address to Congress, Obama welcomes China's president for state visit, and more

1

Francis calls for compassion in first-ever papal address to Congress

Pope Francis urged Congress on Thursday to end partisan squabbling and help heal "open wounds" inflicted by hatred, poverty, pollution, and other problems. It was the first time a pope had addressed a joint session of Congress. Francis encouraged liberals with calls for compassion to immigrants and ending the death penalty, and conservatives with a defense of "traditional" marriage and a condemnation of abortion. The pope, declining an invitation to lunch with congressional leaders, then dined with homeless people at a Catholic church. He visits New York City Friday.

2

Chinese leader to announce pollution caps in official state visit

Chinese President Xi Jinping has arrived in Washington, D.C., for his first U.S. state visit, which starts Friday morning with a welcome ceremony at the White House. During a summit meeting with President Obama, Xi is expected to announce that his country, the world's biggest polluter, will help fight climate change with a cap-and-trade program to cut emissions. The meeting is expected to include discussions of several sources of tension, including alleged Chinese cyber spying and territorial claims in the South China Sea.

3

More than 700 confirmed dead in crush of pilgrims near Mecca

The death toll from a stampede of Muslim pilgrims near Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca rose to 717 on Thursday, and authorities said it could go still higher. It is already the deadliest incident in 25 years during the annual hajj pilgrimage. The incident occurred on a narrow street where crowds were rushing to finish a ritual before the worst heat of the day hit. "Thousands of people were trying to push through and stumbling and falling to the ground like dominoes," one survivor said.

4

Yellen says the Fed will likely raise interest rates this year

In a speech Thursday at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen said the U.S. central bank would likely begin raising interest rates later this year, so long as the U.S. economy is able to support employment growth and interest rates hold steady. The Fed declined to raise rates for the first time in nearly a decade in September, after a selloff in the stock market spooked investors. Yellen was forced to cut the speech short after visibly struggling through passages; a spokesperson later said the Fed leader was dehydrated from the hall's "bright lights."

5

Obama and Putin agree to meet next week

President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet in New York next week, the White House announced Thursday. Obama has avoided direct contact with Putin since 2013, when he canceled a summit meeting with Putin after Russia sheltered Edward Snowden, who leaked National Security Agency secrets. In a sign relations remain tender, the Obama administration says the talks will focus on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, while Moscow says Syria will be the main topic.

6

VW expected to pick Porsche head to lead it out of emissions scandal

Volkswagen reportedly plans to name the head of its luxury Porsche brand, Matthias Mueller, to lead the company out of its emissions-test cheating scandal, which involved 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide. The former VW CEO, Martin Winterkorn, resigned Wednesday, saying he did nothing wrong personally but wanted the company to have a chance for a fresh start. The German automaker's board is expected to formally select Winterkorn's successor in a Friday meeting.

7

Democrats block emergency spending bill over cutoff of Planned Parenthood

Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked a GOP-sponsored spending bill aiming to avert a government shutdown because of a provision that would have shut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood for a year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promptly filed a new bill funding federal agencies past the Oct. 1 shutdown date, through Dec. 11. The new legislation does not cut off Planned Parenthood, and could be brought to a vote as soon as Monday.

8

Four killed in Seattle bus crash

An amphibious "duck boat" tour vehicle and a charter bus carrying foreign college students collided on a Seattle bridge Thursday, killing four and leaving at least a dozen in critical condition. Witnesses described the wreck as a head-on collision. "We could hear the screech and twisted metal. It was surreal," a witness said. The cause of the crash could not immediately be determined, but a driver who was behind the Ride the Ducks tour vehicle said it appeared to have swerved into the bus.

9

Charleston to distribute $2.5 million in church-shooting memorial fund

Charleston, South Carolina, Mayor Joseph Riley announced Thursday that the city would distribute $2.5 million donated for a memorial fund for the nine people shot dead in June at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church. About $300,000 has already gone toward victims' funerals. Fifty-five percent of the remaining $2.5 million will go to the families of the dead, and 25 percent will go to five people who were at the church but survived. More money is being set aside for educational and other needs of the children of those killed.

10

Fordham and Marquette universities rescind Cosby's honorary degrees

Fordham University's Board of Trustees on Thursday rescinded Bill Cosby's honorary doctorate over a sexual assault allegations made against him by numerous women. On the same day, Marquette University took back an honorary degree it awarded the actor and comedian. Cosby has denied assaulting anyone but admitted in a deposition to giving prescription drugs to women he wanted to have sex with. Fordham said it took the "unprecedented action" of yanking the degree because, as a Jesuit school, it could not stand behind someone who has admitted to the "sexual exploitation of women."

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