Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 9, 2017

Nikki Haley says Syrian regime change is a 'priority,' U.S. Navy strike group moves toward North Korea, and more


Nikki Haley says Syrian regime change is a 'priority'

American envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley outlined an expansive agenda, including "inevitable" regime change, for U.S. intervention in Syria in a CNN State of the Union interview airing Sunday. "Getting [Bashar al-Assad] out is not the only priority," she said in response to host Jake Tapper's question about whether regime change is official U.S. policy. "So what we're trying to do is obviously defeat [the Islamic State]. Secondly, we don't see a peaceful Syria with Assad in there. Thirdly, get the Iranian influence out. And then finally move towards a political solution ... but we know that there is not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime." White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday likewise said the U.S. "can't put up with" Assad, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson named defeating ISIS as the Trump administration's top priority in Syria.


U.S. Navy strike group moves toward North Korea

A U.S. Navy carrier strike group is moving toward the Korean peninsula, the Pentagon indicated Saturday evening, in what is understood to be a show of force against North Korea. "We feel the increased presence is necessary" given Pyongyang's recent missile test provocation, an unnamed defense official told Reuters. The group includes the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson as well as multiple missile cruisers and destroyers. A statement from the Navy's Third Fleet did not specify the ships' purpose in moving into the western Pacific Ocean; the group was originally destined for Australia.


Syrian town targeted by chemical attack suffers a second airstrike

The rebel-held town in Syria's Idlib province that was hit by a chemical weapon attack on Tuesday was targeted in a new airstrike on Saturday, local sources say. It is not yet clear who is responsible for the attack, though CNN notes only Russian and Syrian regime aircraft have been observed bombing that area in the past. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in the United Kingdom, said the strike killed one woman. Russia is meanwhile in the process of moving a frigate carrying cruise missiles to the Mediterranean, apparently in reaction to Thursday's U.S. bombing of a Syrian government air base in response to the Tuesday attack.


Egyptian church bombings kill at least 36

A pair of bomb attacks on two Coptic Orthodox churches in Egypt on Sunday killed at least 36 people and injured about 100 more. The churches were celebrating Palm Sunday, one week before Easter. One attack took place near Cairo, killing at least 25 people. The second was in Alexandria and targeted the seat of the Coptic Church's Pope Tawadros, who was not injured. No terrorist group has taken responsibility so far, but Islamic extremists have attacked Egypt's Christian minority in the past. Pope Francis and Grand Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, a leader of Sunni Islam in Egypt, both denounced the attack and expressed their condolences for the victims.


Stockholm truck attack suspect's asylum application was denied

Swedish police on Saturday arrested a man who is "likely" the driver responsible for killing at least four people and injuring more than a dozen in a truck attack Friday. The suspect is a 39-year-old from Uzbekistan whose application for asylum in Sweden was denied. Swedish authorities say the suspect "has been sympathetic to extremist organizations," and they were searching for him before the attack for deportation. Investigators also found a device in the vehicle that may be an unexploded bomb, and on Sunday they arrested a second person in connection with the incident.


1 dead, 2 injured in Florida mall shooting

A disgruntled former fitness center employee opened fire in a mall in Coral Gables, Florida, a suburb of Miami, on Saturday, killing one person and injuring two more. The shooter has been identified as Abeku Wilson, a personal trainer who was fired earlier that day from his job at a mall gym. He returned to his erstwhile workplace with a gun to target his former coworkers, killing the gym’s general manager before reportedly killing himself. Wilson's acquaintances said they knew him as a "professional" and "sweet" guy and expressed surprise at his actions.


U.S. soldier killed in anti-ISIS operation in Afghanistan

An American Special Forces commando was killed during an operation targeting the Islamic State in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Saturday. "The soldier was mortally wounded late Saturday during an operation in Nangarhar Province," U.S. Navy Capt. Bill Salvin wrote in a statement on Twitter. "On behalf of all of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, I offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of our fallen comrade," said Gen. John Nicholson. "We will always remember our fallen comrades and commit ourselves to deliver on their sacrifice."


Alabama Supreme Court approves impeachment proceedings for state's governor

The Alabama Supreme Court on Saturday ruled the state's lawmakers can proceed with impeachment proceedings against embattled Gov. Robert Bentley, who has been accused of misuse of power in an effort to conceal his alleged affair with an aide. On Friday, a lower court stayed the impeachment process to allow Bentley to prepare his defense, a ruling the state supreme court reversed. The Republican governor vowed Friday he would not resign because he has not done anything illegal. He denies having an affair, though he admits to making inappropriate remarks to the aide before the end of his 50-year marriage.


Google denies allegation of gender pay gap

A U.S. Department of Labor official on Friday accused Google of a widespread gender pay gap among its employees, describing "systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce." Google roundly rejected the allegations. "Every year, we do a comprehensive and robust analysis of pay across genders and we have found no gender pay gap," the company said. "Other than making an unfounded statement which we heard for the first time in court, the DoL hasn't provided any data, or shared its methodology."


Hacker sets off 156 emergency alarms in Dallas

Dallas city officials said Saturday a hacker was to blame for setting off all 156 emergency alarms in the city more than a dozen times over an hour and a half period around midnight. The blaring sirens normally announce emergencies like tornadoes, and their persistent sounding produced a flood of 911 calls from worried Dallas residents. "This is yet another serious example of the need for us to upgrade and better safeguard our city's technology infrastructure," said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, promising the hacker responsible would be brought to justice.


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