Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 26, 2015

Harold Maass
NYPD Commissioner Bratton holds presser.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

1.

GOP splits on Homeland Security funding as deadline nears

Republicans continued feuding over Homeland Security Department funding after the Senate advanced a "clean" bill to give the agency the money it needs through September, and prevent a shutdown when its current funding runs out Friday. The Senate removed a provision in the House version blocking President Obama's executive actions on immigration. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to hold two votes, one on DHS funding and another countering Obama on immigration, but House GOP leaders have refused to endorse it. [The Washington Post]

2.

Three New York men accused of trying to aid ISIS

Federal authorities arrested three New York men Wednesday on charges that they plotted to join Islamic State fighters in Syria. One of them also allegedly spoke of attacking President Obama, and planting a bomb on Coney Island. One of the men, Akhror Saidakhmetov, was arrested at Kennedy Airport as he attempted to board a flight to Turkey, Syria's neighbor. Another man, Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, was arrested in Brooklyn. He allegedly had a ticket to travel to Istanbul next month. A third man, Abror Habibov, was arrested in Florida and accused of helping fund Saidakhmetov. [The Associated Press]

3.

Rice calls Netanyahu's U.S. visit "destructive" to relations

National Security Adviser Susan Rice on Wednesday strongly criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of his address to a joint session of Congress next week, saying that his trip was "destructive" to the relationship between Israel and the U.S. Netanyahu was invited by House Speaker John Boehner without President Obama's approval to argue against the Obama administration's effort to negotiate a deal to curb Iran's controversial nuclear program. [The New York Times]

4.

Palestinians blame Jewish nationalists for West Bank mosque fire

Someone set a mosque near Bethlehem on fire Wednesday. Palestinian leaders blamed Jewish nationalists, calling the arson "a sign of the mounting violent extremism within Israeli society." The attackers spray-painted the walls of the mosque with a Star of David, and slogans, such as, "We want the redemption of Zion," and "Revenge." The blaze was discovered when worshippers showed up for morning prayers at 4:30 a.m. Nobody was injured, but interior walls, as well as furniture and carpet were damaged. [The Washington Post]

5.

Apple told to pay Texas tech company $533 million for violating patents

Apple was ordered to pay Texas-based technology company Smartflash $533 million after a federal jury on Wednesday found that the iPhone and iPad maker's iTunes software infringed on three Smartflash patents. Smartflash had asked for $852 million. Apple tried to have the court throw out the case, arguing that it had never used Smartflash's technology and that the company's patents were invalid because they involved innovations already patented by other companies. Apple says it will fight to overturn the decision. [PC World]

6.

French authorities detain three Al-Jazeera journalists over drone flight

Three Al-Jazeera English journalists were arrested in France on Wednesday and charged with flying drones in Paris. The network said the journalists were working on a report on mysterious reports of drone flights near sensitive sites in the city, which have triggered an investigation. The drone sightings have heightened tensions in a city that has been under an elevated alert status since last month's terrorist attacks on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery. [Fox News]

7.

17 injured in massive pile-up on I-95 in Maine

Seventeen people were injured Wednesday in a 75-car pile-up on a snow-covered stretch of Interstate 95 in Maine . The crashes began at around 7:30 a.m. At first, several cars, a school bus, and a tractor-trailer were involved. By the time it was over, at least 50 vehicles were so damaged they had to be towed away. State police called it the largest accident they had seen in more than 15 years. The highway's two northbound lanes were closed for more than five hours. [The Associated Press]

8.

Avalanches kill 124 in northeastern Afghanistan

Avalanches killed at least 124 people in northeastern Afghanistan on Wednesday. Rescuers were digging through debris and snow with their bare hands trying to reach buried survivors. The avalanches buried homes in four provinces. The hardest hit was Panjshir province 60 miles northeast of Kabul, where 100 homes were buried. The province's police chief, Gen. Abdul Aziz Ghirat, said he expected the death toll to rise when rescuers resumed work early Thursday after heavy snowstorms passed. [The Associated Press]

9.

Washington, D.C., legalizes home pot smoking over GOP threat

Home use of marijuana became legal for people age 21 or older in Washington, D.C., at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a news conference Wednesday evening that the voter-approved legalization measure would take effect as planned despite threats from House Republicans to send her to prison for violating the Anti-Deficiency Act. "I have a lot of things to do in the District of Columbia," Bowser said in the televised conference. "Me being in jail wouldn't be a good thing." [The Washington Post]

10.

"Jihadi John" identified in news reports

News outlets including BBC News and The Washington Post have published reports identifying the masked, British-accented Islamic State killer shown in videos beheading Western hostages. The terrorist, known as "Jihadi John," is allegedly a Kuwaiti-born British man named Mohammed Emwazi. Emwazi, now in his mid-20s, grew up in West London and became radicalized after graduating from college with a computer programming degree. He traveled to Syria in 2012. "I have no doubt that Mohammed is Jihadi John," a close friend said. [BBC News, The Washington Post]