Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 9, 2013

Cleveland abduction suspect is charged with kidnapping and rape, the Benghazi hearing heats up, and more

1. ARIEL CASTRO CHARGED IN CLEVELAND KIDNAPPINGS
Former school bus driver Ariel Castro, 52, was charged Wednesday with kidnapping and raping three women — Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight — who were freed this week after allegedly being confined for a decade. Castro was also charged with kidnapping Berry's 6-year-old daughter, who was born in the cramped Cleveland house where police say the women were often restrained with chains. Police said there was no evidence Castro's brothers, Pedro and Onil, had anything to do with the abductions and rapes. [New York Times]
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2. 'WHISTLE-BLOWER' HEARING RENEWS BENGHAZI CRITICISM
Three State Department officials accused superiors of holding back damning facts after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on U.S. diplomatic compounds in Benghazi, which left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead. Some Republicans have suggested that the White House tried to cover up the attack. Democrats say conservatives are twisting the investigation to smear then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a possible 2016 presidential frontrunner. [Washington Post]
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3. BANGLADESH CLOTHING-FACTORY FIRE KILLS EIGHT
Eight people were killed in Bangladesh when a fire erupted in a clothing factory, officials said Thursday. On the same day, the death toll from the collapse of another garment manufacturing complex two weeks ago reached 900. That tragedy — now the deadliest industrial accident since India's 1984 Bhopal disaster — has focused global attention on safety standards in Bangladesh's booming clothing export industry, and sparked local demonstrations demanding better pay and working conditions. [Reuters]
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4. BERRY AND DEJESUS RETURN HOME AFTER 10 YEARS
After vanishing a decade ago as teens, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus returned to their Cleveland homes Wednesday to raucous cheers. DeJesus, 23, hid her face under a hoodie and flashed a thumbs-up sign as she was hurried inside. As horrifying details emerged — police say Berry, DeJesus, and a third woman, Michelle Knight, were chained and raped, then beaten so they would miscarry — the families asked for privacy. "Give us time and privacy to heal," DeJesus' aunt, Sandra Ruiz, said. [ABC News]
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5. JODI ARIAS FOUND GUILTY OF MURDER
A Phoenix jury on Wednesday found Jodi Arias guilty of murdering her ex-boyfriend, motivational speaker and businessman Travis Alexander, capping a sensational trial peppered with X-rated details. Prosecutors said Arias, a 32-year-old high school dropout, shot Alexander in the forehead and stabbed him nearly 30 times before slitting his throat. Arias, who claimed self-defense, could face the death penalty, which she says she would prefer to life in prison. [Deseret News]
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6. SYRIAN WEB BLACKOUT ENDS
Web companies say Syria's internet links to the outside world have been restored after a 20-hour outage. The blackout was similar to one in November, when all routes to the Syrian internet were withdrawn at once, "almost like a switch being thrown," Jim Cowie, of Renesys, told the BBC. One theory is that the Syrian regime, locked in a two-year civil war, shut down internet access to disrupt rebel communications. The government blamed a faulty fiber-optic cable. [BBC News, Bloomberg]
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7. AIR FORCE COMMANDER SUSPENDS OFFICERS ON NUCLEAR WATCH
An Air Force commander stripped 17 officers of their authority to launch nuclear missiles. The unprecedented move came after the unit botched an inspection. One of the officers is under investigation for possibly compromising nuclear launch codes. The officers now face 60 to 90 days of intensive refresher training. The commander, Lt. Col. Jay Folds, announced the decision in an email in which he also ordered his unit to "turn off the TVs" and "get your hair cut." [CNN]
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8. STEPHEN HAWKING BACKS ISRAEL BOYCOTT
British physicist Stephen Hawking dropped out of a major June conference in Israel, saying he wanted to respect an academic boycott protesting Israel's treatment of Palestinians. The University of Cambridge at first said that Hawking, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) could not travel for health reasons, but acknowledged Wednesday that he was backing the boycott. Conference chairman Israel Maimon called the decision "unjustifiable and wrong." [Associated Press, Independent]
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9. NUN CONVICTED IN NUKE FACILITY BREAK-IN
Sister Megan Rice, an 83-year-old Catholic nun, and two other peace activists were convicted Wednesday of interfering with national security by breaking into the nation's main facility for storing bomb-grade uranium. The trio face up to 20 years in prison for what prosecutors say was an act of sabotage at the site in Oak Ridge, Tenn. They cut through fences and hung banners. Defense lawyers say the government is being too harsh because it was embarrassed by the incident. [Associated Press]
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10. JUDGE SAYS CHEERLEADERS' RELIGIOUS BANNERS DON'T VIOLATE CONSTITUTION
A judge ruled Wednesday that high school and middle school cheerleaders in football-crazy Kountze, Texas, can continue waving banners with Bible verses during football games. The public school district had ordered them to stop putting up the banners, which had messages such as "If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31." The girls sued, and the judge sided with them, saying that the banners "have not created, and will not create, an establishment of religion in the Kountze community." [Los Angeles Times]

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