Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 24, 2016

Harold Maass
Damaged buildings after an earthquake in Amatrice, Italy


Powerful earthquake devastates Italian mountain towns

A 6.2 magnitude earthquake hit central Italy on Wednesday, killing at least 37 people. The quake struck at a shallow depth of just over six miles, magnifying its impact. The worst damage was reported in the town of Accumoli near the epicenter and about 65 miles northeast of Rome, and in the nearby mountain towns of Amatrice and Arquata del Tronto, which were left largely in ruins. "The town is no more," Amatrice Mayor Sergio Pirozzi said. "I have an appeal to make: We have access roads to the town cut off and people under the rubble, help us." [BBC News, CNN]


Obama promises help on visit to flooded Baton Rouge neighborhoods

President Obama toured flood-ravaged neighborhoods in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Tuesday, pledging to provide federal aid needed to help clean up and rebuild. "What I want the people of Louisiana to know is that you're not alone in this, even after the TV cameras leave," Obama said. He brushed off criticism from Republicans, including presidential nominee Donald Trump, that he should have cut short his summer vacation to visit last week, saying his focus has been on getting Louisiana the federal resources it needs. "This is not a photo-op issue," he said. [USA Today, The Wall Street Journal]


Turkey deploys tanks against ISIS in Syrian border town

Turkey sent tanks and special forces across the border into Syria early Wednesday in a push to drive Islamic State fighters out of the Syrian border town of Jarablus. The offensive, backed by U.S. warplanes and special forces advisers, marked Turkey's most significant involvement yet in Syria's civil war, now in its sixth year. Turkish warplanes and artillery hammered ISIS targets in the area, one of the Islamist group's last strongholds along the border, before the ground forces went in. Turkey also hopes to stop Syrian Kurdish rebels from extending their self-proclaimed autonomous Kurdish region. [The Associated Press]


North Korea launches missile toward Japan

North Korea on Wednesday launched a ballistic missile from a submarine, the South Korean military said. The missile reportedly came down at sea in Japan's air defense identification zone. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the test "an impermissible and outrageous act that represents a grave threat to the security of Japan." The incident came two days after South Korea and the U.S. started annual joint military maneuvers that the North condemned as a step toward invasion. [Reuters, The Associated Press]


FBI investigates hacking attempt against New York Times

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. security agencies are investigating cyberattacks that targeted reporters at The New York Times and other news organizations, federal officials said Tuesday. The hackers are believed to have been working for Russian intelligence as part of a broad series of security breaches that also targeted Democratic Party accounts. The Times said hackers targeted is Moscow bureau but there were no indications that they managed to breach the system's security. [CNN, Reuters]


Clinton surges to 12-point lead over Trump in new poll

Hillary Clinton extended her lead over Donald Trump to 12 percentage points in a national Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday. Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, was backed by 45 percent of likely voters polled. Thirty-three percent supported Trump, the GOP nominee, while 22 percent said they would not vote for either of them. In a four-way race, Clinton had 41 percent, Trump had 33 percent, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson had 7 percent, and Green Party nominee Jill Stein had 2 percent. In early August, Clinton's lead over Trump in the same poll ranged from 3 to 9 percentage points. [Reuters]


Trump open to 'softening' his immigration proposals

Donald Trump confirmed Tuesday that he was open to "softening" his position on illegal immigration. The Republican presidential nominee vowed in the primaries to deport all 11 million of the undocumented immigrants estimated to be in the U.S. Trump has been losing ground in polls, and he has launched a push to win over minority voters to broaden his appeal. In a town hall meeting, Fox News' Sean Hannity asked Trump whether he was open to making exceptions for some immigrants, as his new campaign chief has suggested. "There certainly can be a softening," Trump said, "because we're not looking to hurt people." [Politico]


Labor board rules working graduate students are university employees

The National Labor Relations Board ruled Tuesday that private-university graduate students who teach and serve as research assistants qualify as school employees. The 3-to-1 decision gives them the right to join or form unions, overturning a 2004 Brown University ruling in which the board said giving grad students union rights ran counter to the purposes of graduate education, because students in many programs have to teach and participate in research projects to earn their degrees. Universities argued that changing working students' status would shift their relationships with their schools, changing it from educational to economic. [The Washington Post]


EpiPen maker faces backlash over soaring prices

Criticism is mounting against drug maker Mylan over massive price increases for its EpiPen injectors, which are used to quickly treat severe allergic reactions. The average wholesale price of EpiPens has increased by nearly 500 percent since 2009. The steady, steep increase has been thrust into the spotlight this week as parents are stocking up on EpiPens as they send their kids back to school and are being hit with high deductibles, prompting public criticism of the company by members of Congress, doctors, and consumers. [USA Today, The Washington Post]


Clinton gets fundraising windfall from Hollywood

Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel hosted a star-studded fundraiser for Hillary Clinton at their Hollywood Hills home on Tuesday, helping the Democratic presidential nominee raise $3.36 million, based on attendance figures and ticket prices reported by the campaign. The $33,400 per person luncheon added to a Clinton fundraising blitz in California that has brought in $11 million so far. Clinton had her best month so far in July, raising $52.3 million, compared to Republican rival Donald Trump's haul of $36.7 million, also his best month to date. [CNN, Variety]