Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 13, 2013

Snowden tells China the U.S. hacks its computers, Colorado wildfires destroy 100 homes, and more

1. SNOWDEN ACCUSES THE U.S. OF HACKING CHINANSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden emerged briefly from hiding Wednesday to tell the South China Morning Post that the U.S. government has been hacking into computers in Hong Kong and mainland China for years. Snowden also told the newspaper that Washington is exerting diplomatic pressure on Hong Kong to extradite him. Chinese state media on Thursday suggested that Snowden's revelations about U.S. monitoring of internet and telephone communications could damage U.S.-Chinese relations. [South China Morning Post, New York Times]………………………………………………………………………………

2. LONGTIME CIA DEPUTY STEPS DOWNThe CIA's deputy director, Michael Morell, is retiring after 33 years with the agency, and he'll be replaced by Avril D. Haines, the top lawyer at the National Security Council, CIA Director John Brennan announced Wednesday. Haines will be the first woman to hold one of the agency's top two jobs. Morell was at George W. Bush's side during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and he was with President Obama during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden a decade later. [New York Times]………………………………………………………………………………

3. SYRIA DEATH TOLL CLIMBSThe death toll from Syria's two-year civil war climbed to at least 93,000 by the end of April, the United Nations' human rights office said Thursday. More than 5,000 people have been killed monthly since July. Eighty percent of those killed have been men, but the U.N. said it had documented the deaths of more than 1,700 children under the age of 10. The last U.N. report, issued in mid-May, estimated the total death toll at 80,000. [BBC News]………………………………………………………………………………

4. NSA DIRECTOR SAYS CONTROVERSIAL SPY PROGRAMS THWARTED TERRORISMNational Security Agency Director Keith Alexander defended two controversial surveillance programs before a Senate panel on Wednesday, saying they had helped prevent "dozens of terrorist events" in recent years. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last week leaked documents exposing the programs — one involving the collection of telephone call logs, the other tracking internet communications by foreigners outside the U.S. [Politico]………………………………………………………………………………

5. COLORADO FIRES DESTROY 100 HOMESColorado wildfires, fueled by gusty winds and high temperatures, have destroyed 100 homes and forced thousands of people to flee, including 900 inmates evacuated from a state prison. Mandatory evacuation orders have been extended over a 55-square-mile area, affecting 9,000 people near Colorado Springs, and firefighters expect the infernos to grow. "This part, not knowing if I have a house or not, is the worst," Paula Warren, forced to flee the Black Forest fire, says. [CNN]………………………………………………………………………………

6. ARIEL CASTRO PLEADS NOT GUILTYAriel Castro pleaded not guilty Wednesday to kidnapping and raping three women he allegedly held captive in his Cleveland home for a decade. The women — Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight — were freed in May after neighbors heard Berry calling for help. Castro's lawyers say they hope to avoid an "unnecessary trial" by reaching a plea deal, provided the death penalty is ruled out. Castro was charged with aggravated murder for allegedly forcing one of the women to miscarry. [Plain Dealer]………………………………………………………………………………

7. GIRL GETS NEW LUNGS AFTER HER PARENTS FIGHT TRANSPLANT RULESSarah Murnaghan, a 10-year-old Pennsylvania girl with cystic fibrosis, received new lungs Wednesday days after a judge's controversial ruling improved her shot at a lifesaving transplant. Federal rules require patients under 12 to receive organs from child donors, which rarely become available, but the girl's parents got a judge to block the agency that oversees transplants from applying the rule, clearing the way for the girl to receive lungs from an adult donor. [CNN]………………………………………………………………………………

8. TURKEY'S ERDOGAN DOUBLES DOWN AGAINST PROTESTERSTurkish Prime Minister on Thursday ordered that all "troublemakers" be removed from Istanbul's Taksim Square within 24 hours. The defiant move came as the European Parliament planned a resolution condemning Erdogan's government for "the disproportionate and excessive use of force" to quell the protests, which began with calls to save a park in the square but snowballed into broad demonstrations against what activists call Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian rule. [CBC]………………………………………………………………………………

9. NASCAR'S LEFFLER KILLED IN CRASHNASCAR driver Jason Leffler died Wednesday after a crash in a dirt-track race in New Jersey. Leffler was driving a 410 sprint car in a qualifying race at Bridgeport Speedway, a 5/8-mile, high-banked dirt track, when he slammed into a wall. Rescuers had to extricate him, unconscious, from the wreckage. He was pronounced dead a half hour later at a hospital. NASCAR said Leffler "was a fierce competitor in our sport and he will be missed." [USA Today]………………………………………………………………………………

10. AUSTRALIAN BECOMES LATEST TO ATTEMPT TO SWIM ACROSS THE FLORIDA STRAITSAustralian Chloe McCardel became the latest endurance athlete to try, and fail, to swim cross the Florida Straits without a shark cage. McCardel, 28, abandoned her attempt Wednesday night due to debilitating jellyfish stings — on her back, legs, and arms — just 11 hours after entering the water in Havana, Cuba. Diana Nyad, who has failed three times to make the same crossing, tweeted support, calling McCardel "a superior swimmer and an exemplary spirit." [Associated Press]

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