Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 18, 2015

Harold Maass
Bibi delivers a victory speech.
(AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

1.

Netanyahu wins decisive victory in Israeli election

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party soundly defeated the center-left Zionist Union coalition of Isaac Herzog, setting the stage for Netanyahu to serve a record fourth term as prime minister. Likud appeared likely to take 29 or 30 spots in the 120-seat parliament, while the Zionist Union got 24 seats, according to a nearly complete vote count early Wednesday. Netanyahu, who trailed in the last pre-election polls, made a last-minute appeal to the right by promising there would be no Palestinian state as long as he served as premier. [The Washington Post, The New York Times]

2.

Republican Aaron Schock resigns from House under ethics investigation

Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), once considered a rising GOP star, announced his resignation Tuesday after revelations suggesting his lavish use of campaign funds might have broken House ethics rules and campaign finance laws. "Constant questions over the last six weeks have proven a great distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve the people of the 18th District with the high standards that they deserve," said Schock, 33. The four-term congressman plans to step down at the end of the month. [Politico]

3.

Letter sent to White House tests positive for cyanide

A letter addressed to the White House tested positive for cyanide at an off-site mail-screening facility on Tuesday. The Secret Service said it would do further screening to determine whether the "presumptive positive" result was accurate and the envelope indeed contained the poisonous substance. The agency did not say whether the letter was addressed to President Obama. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, letters laced with anthrax were sent to the White House, Congress, and other recipients in Washington. [The Associated Press]

4.

Serbia makes first arrests for 1995 Srebrenica massacre

Serbian and Bosnian prosecutors on Wednesday announced the arrest of seven men in connection with the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 1,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at a warehouse just outside the Bosnian town. The suspects were the first people arrested in connection with the killings, Europe's worst civilian massacre since World War II. Among those arrested was Nedeljko Milidragovic, or "Nedjo the Butcher," a commander who launched a successful trucking business after the war. [The Associated Press]

5.

First gay group marches in New York St. Patrick's Day parade

An openly gay organization marched in New York City's St. Patrick's Day Parade on Tuesday — a first. The parade's organizers announced in September that the group, OUT@NBCUniversal, would be permitted to take part. The group's members work for NBC, the TV network that broadcast the event. Gay-rights advocates, however, criticized organizers for only letting in one openly gay group. Mayor Bill de Blasio and many other city leaders boycotted, saying more should be done to make the parade inclusive. [Los Angeles Times]

6.

Penn State suspends fraternity over nude photos of women on Facebook

Pennsylvania State University administrators said Tuesday they had suspended the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity after some of its members came under investigation for a private Facebook page with photos of nude or partly nude women. Some of the women appeared to be sleeping or passed out. "No arrests are being made at this time," State College Police Lt. Keith Robb said. "Unfortunately, we aren't able to identify any suspects right now because the accounts on Facebook were sanitized, wiped clean." [CNN]

7.

House GOP releases budget proposal

House Republicans unveiled their budget proposal on Tuesday, calling for increasing defense spending and cutting social services spending. The $5.468 trillion plan would eliminate deficits by 2024 while reducing spending on health care for the poor. The document, which has little chance of adoption, assumes that the federal government will save $2 trillion over a decade from the full repeal of ObamaCare. It also calls for transforming Medicare into a system of subsidies on insurance for the elderly. [Reuters]

8.

Air Force mechanic accused of trying to join ISIS

A former Air Force mechanic has been arrested after allegedly trying to enter Syria to join the Islamic State, authorities said Tuesday. Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh was indicted Monday on two charges, including attempt to provide material support to a terrorist organization. Though officials offered scant details about the case, the indictment shows Pugh flew from Egypt to Turkey in mid-January, but was denied entry. He then flew back to Egypt, where he was apprehended and sent to the U.S. [The Associated Press]

9.

Washington and Havana hold third round of talks on restoring relations

The U.S. and Cuba completed their third round of negotiations on restoring full diplomatic relations, officials from the two countries said Tuesday. The day-long meeting was part of an effort to strike a deal before President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro attend the Summit of the Americas on April 10 in Panama. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said "the discussion was positive and constructive and was held in an atmosphere of mutual respect." [The Associated Press]

10.

Presbyterian Church formally approves gay weddings

The Presbyterian Church (USA), the nation's largest Presbyterian denomination, formally changed its constitution to permit same-sex weddings on Tuesday. More than half of the church's 171 regional presbyteries voted in favor of changing the church's definition of marriage from being a union "between a woman and a man" to "between two people, traditionally a man and a woman." The change, which takes effect on June 21, could deepen differences between the 1.7-million-member church and other Presbyterian groups. [The Washington Post]