Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 24, 2013

Iran agrees to start nuclear talks, Cruz and Reid head for a Senate clash, and more

1. Iran offers to negotiate on its nuclear programIran took its charm offensive to the next level at the United Nations, agreeing to nuclear talks ahead of President Obama's Tuesday speech to the General Assembly. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart will participate in a Thursday meeting, marking the highest-level contact between the two nations in more than 30 years. President Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani might even meet, if only to shake hands. [Reuters, Wall Street Journal]………………………………………………………………………………

2. Cruz and Reid head for a Senate clash as a shutdown loomsSen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) vowed Monday to use "every procedural means available" to block funding for ObamaCare in a stopgap spending measure that must pass to keep federal agencies from having to shut down on Oct. 1. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) slammed Cruz and his House GOP allies for pursuing a "foolhardy plan to drive the economy off the cliff," and vowed to pass the spending measure without defunding the health-care law. [Washington Times] ………………………………………………………………………………

3. Kenya says it has secured besieged mallKenyan officials said early Tuesday that soldiers and police had regained control of an upscale Nairobi shopping mall attacked by about a dozen members of Somalia's al-Shabab Islamist militant group, and freed all remaining hostages. Al-Shabab, however, tweeted that some of the militants were "still holding their ground." At least 62 people have died since the attackers stormed the mall on Saturday as retribution for a 2011 push by Kenya into Somalia. [New York Times]………………………………………………………………………………

4. BlackBerry agrees to sell itself to investorsStruggling smartphone maker BlackBerry announced Monday that it had reached a tentative deal to be bought out for $4.7 billion by a group of investors planning to take the Canadian company private. BlackBerry has lost 95 percent of its market value in recent years as customers have flocked to rivals. Just three days ago, the company, after a failed turnaround push, announced that it was laying off 40 percent of its workers. [USA Today]………………………………………………………………………………

5. Ex-FBI agent pleads guilty in a controversial leak caseRetired FBI bomb technician Donald Sachtleben has agreed to plead guilty to leaking classified information to The Associated Press about a disrupted terrorist plot to bring down a U.S.-bound airliner, the Justice Department said Monday. The disclosure came while the sensitive intelligence operation was ongoing, prompting the Justice Department to make the controversial decision to secretly subpoena AP phone records to trace the leak. [Washington Post]………………………………………………………………………………

6. Death toll from Colorado floods reaches 8The death toll from Colorado's devastating floods earlier this month rose to eight on Monday, after the recovery of the body of a 79-year-old woman swept away by rushing water in Larimer County 10 days ago. Six other people in the same county are still unaccounted for, and at least one is presumed dead. Vice President Joe Biden on Monday toured the damage caused by the flooding, which spanned nearly 2,000 square miles. [NBC News]………………………………………………………………………………

7. Navy says a security check missed key details on the Navy Yard shooterThe Navy said Monday that it was not aware when it gave security clearance to Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis that he had shot out a car's tires in Seattle in 2004. A background check conducted in 2007 by the Office of Personnel Management only mentioned that he had deflated someone's tires. The overlooked details raised fresh questions about the company USIS, which OPM used to carry out checks on both Alexis and NSA leaker Edward Snowden. [Reuters]………………………………………………………………………………

8. Egypt outlaws the Muslim Brotherhood ... againAn Egyptian court banned all activities of the Muslim Brotherhood, signaling an escalation of a government crackdown on the Islamist movement. The Brotherhood was banned for decades until the 2011 ouster of Hosni Mubarak, and emerged to dominate elections held last year. Thousands of Brotherhood members, including its leaders, have been arrested since the military ousted the country's Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, in July. [CNN]………………………………………………………………………………

9. IRS official who exposed scandal set to retireEmbattled Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner is reportedly retiring from the agency. Lerner touched off the IRS scandal in May when she revealed that the division she ran had applied special scrutiny to Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status. Lerner went on administrative leave after the scandal broke. An investigation found her work lacking, but no evidence of political bias. [Politico]………………………………………………………………………………

10. Burger King introduces "Satisfries"Burger King is escalating the fast-food wars. The hamburger chain on Tuesday is introducing "Satisfries" — crinkle-cut French fries with 30 percent less fat and 20 percent fewer calories than its standard fries, and 30 percent fewer calories than rival McDonald's fries. The move comes as First Lady Michelle Obama is calling on food companies to offer healthier options for kids. [Reuters]

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