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10 things you need to know today: May 15, 2018

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Harold Maass
Dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israeli military forces during protests in Gaza.
MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images
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1.

Death toll in Palestinian protests rises to 61

Israeli troops fired on tens of thousands of Palestinians protesting along the Gaza border fence on Monday, killing at least 61 people and injuring more than 2,700, Gaza health officials said. It was the bloodiest day in seven weeks of demonstrations against Israel's blockade of Gaza. Israeli military officials said some of the Palestinians were planting or throwing explosives, and that many of those hurt had merely inhaled tear gas. The violence came in a surge of protest against Monday's opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, a city claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians as their capital. President Trump decided last year to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. More protests are expected Tuesday. [The New York Times, The Washington Post]

2.

Iraq election gives Shiite militia leader Sadr greater influence

Iraqi election officials confirmed Monday that the coalition led by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who once led a militia that fought U.S. occupation forces, has won the most seats in weekend parliamentary elections. Sadr was not a candidate himself, but his role could give him a big say in choosing the country's next prime minister. The shift is likely to force the U.S., which backed allies of incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, to figure out new strategies to defend U.S. interests in the country. A spokesman for Sadr said he supported honoring commitments concerning weapons purchases from the U.S. and the training of Iraqi security forces by Americans, as long as there is "no interference on the sovereignty of Iraq." [The Washington Post, The New York Times]

3.

Iranian foreign minister heads to Europe on tour to save nuclear deal

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow on Monday as part of an international tour aimed at saving the Iran nuclear deal despite the withdrawal of the U.S. Zarif met Sunday with Chinese officials in Beijing, and he will meet with foreign ministers from Germany, France, and the U.K. in Brussels on Tuesday. Zarif has said Iran would resume "industrial-scale" uranium enrichment "without any restrictions" if the deal can't be saved and sanctions resume. European leaders are trying to keep Iran from dropping the agreement, which curbed Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Obama-era deal, calling it "defective at its core." [CNN]

4.

Melania Trump hospitalized for benign kidney condition

First lady Melania Trump underwent surgery for a "benign kidney condition" on Monday, her office announced. Mrs. Trump, 48, is expected to remain at Walter Reed Military Medical Center for the rest of the week, the first lady's office said. The "embolization procedure was a success and there have been no complications," White House officials said. The surgery was one of the most serious medical procedures performed on a first lady since Nancy Reagan's mastectomy in 1987, reports CNN. "The first lady looks forward to a full recovery so she can continue her work on behalf of children everywhere," the White House said. [Reuters, CNN]

5.

St. Louis prosecutor drops charge against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner on Monday abruptly dropped her prosecution of Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) for felony invasion of privacy after the judge agreed to let her be called as a witness. Greitens' lawyers said the prosecutor should testify because she probably knew about perjury committed by an investigator her office hired. Greitens called the decision to drop the "false charges" a "great victory." Gardner's office asked the court to appoint a special prosecutor to refile charges against the governor for allegedly taking a partially nude photo of a woman he was having an affair with in 2015, and threatening to release it if she talked about their relationship. Republican legislative leaders said they would proceed with an effort to impeach Greitens starting Friday. [The Kansas City Star]

6.

Supreme Court rules states can allow betting on sports

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a federal law prohibiting states from allowing sports betting, siding with New Jersey, where lawmakers passed legislation lifting prohibitions on some sports gambling as part of a bid to revitalize Atlantic City as its casinos close. The majority opinion said sports gambling is controversial, with supporters saying it can provide states with revenue and opponents saying it gets young people hooked on betting and encourages "people of modest means to squander" their limited resources. The majority concluded that the legalization of sports gambling "requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make." Liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented. [The Washington Examiner, Supreme Court]

7.

Ex-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid undergoes cancer surgery

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has undergone surgery after doctors detected pancreatic cancer in a routine screening, the Nevada Democrat's family announced on Monday. "His surgeons are confident that the surgery was a success and that the prognosis for his recovery is good," Reid's family said. "He will undergo chemotherapy as the next step in his treatment. He is now out of surgery, in good spirits, and resting with his family." Reid, 78, suffered a freak accident while exercising in 2015 and lost vision in one eye. He retired from politics shortly after the accident, and now serves as co-chair of the MGM Resorts International Public Policy Institute. [Politico]

8.

Seattle approves scaled-down 'head tax' over Amazon's objections

The Seattle City Council on Monday passed a scaled back version of the so-called Amazon tax, which will impose a $275-per-employee "head tax" on companies in the city with more than $20 million in gross revenue. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan had threatened to veto the original $540-per-employee tax, saying it would cost too many jobs, but said she would sign the latest version. The city plans to use the tax on big businesses to build affordable housing and alleviate homelessness. The tax is expected to raise $44.7 million a year. Amazon, which has 45,000 employees in Seattle, said it was "disappointed by today's City Council decision to introduce a tax on jobs," but added that the company would resume construction of a 17-story office tower it had placed on hold. [CNN]

9.

Former New York nanny sentenced to life for killing children

A New York judge on Monday sentenced former nanny Yoselyn Ortega to life in prison for fatally stabbing two children she was hired to care for. "I'm very sorry for everything that happened," Ortega, 55, said in Spanish, speaking in open court for the first time. The judge, Gregory Carro, called Ortega's actions "pure evil," borrowing a term used by a witness. Ortega used a butcher knife from the kitchen to stab the children, and was stabbing herself in the neck when their mother walked in. The children's parents, Marina and Kevin Krim, have one surviving daughter, and have had two more children since the 2012 murders. [The New York Times]

10.

Actress Margot Kidder dies at 69

Margot Kidder, who starred as Lois Lane in 1978's Superman with Christopher Reeve, has died at the age of 69. She also starred in The Amityville Horror, The Great Waldo Pepper with Robert Redford, and Some Kind of Hero with Richard Pryor. She struggled with bipolar disorder throughout her career, but her fellow actors said it was her kindness that defined her. "She and Christopher Reeve were polar opposites," said Marc McClure, who played Jimmy Olsen in the Superman films. "He was a Julliard-trained actor. She was a cowgirl. She came from a farm … But she spoke her mind. She was so tough. She stood up for people. She protected me on the set — I was just a kid at the time." [The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline]