Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 17, 2015

Harold Maass
The Kremlin speaks.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images


Senators strike deal on fast-track trade authority for Obama

Key lawmakers on Thursday introduced bipartisan legislation to give President Obama new authority to conclude one of the biggest free-trade agreements ever. The Senate's bipartisan fast-track trade bill from Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) — and a House version introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — would let Obama present the final, 12-nation Pacific trade accord to Congress for an up-or-down vote, with no chance for amendments. Many Democrats and labor groups oppose the trade pact, saying it will lower wages and job opportunities for Americans. [The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal]


Russia accuses U.S. of destabilizing Ukraine by sending military trainers

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that the U.S. might be destabilizing Ukraine by sending 300 American soldiers to train Ukrainian troops. Government forces and Russian-backed separatists have observed a shaky truce in eastern Ukraine since February. The paratroopers from the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade arrived Thursday at a facility in western Ukraine to provide instruction for 900 Ukrainian reservists called up in 2014, as the government moved to solidify control of its forces in the face of the revolt. [Radio Free Europe]


Gyrocopter pilot charged with felony for Capitol landing stunt

Postal worker Doug Hughes was charged with violating aircraft registration laws, a felony, and sent home to Florida to await prosecution on Thursday, a day after landing his ultralight gyrocopter on the lawn of the Capitol. Hughes said his "crazy" act of civil disobedience was meant to call attention to the need for campaign finance reform. He also was charged with violating national-defense airspace, a misdemeanor. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the aircraft "literally flew under the radar" to get into the highly restricted zone.  [The Washington Post, The Associated Press]


Teenagers' e-cigarette use triples

Teen use of e-cigarettes tripled from 2013 to 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday. The percentage of high school students using e-cigarettes, which contain addictive nicotine but not tobacco, went from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent, or a total of two million, in 2014. Among middle schoolers, usage went from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014. Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, called the figures "stunning." [USA Today]


Jeb Bush says Senate should confirm Loretta Lynch as attorney general

Potential Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said Thursday that the Senate should confirm Loretta Lynch as President Obama's next attorney general. Senate Republicans have been delaying a confirmation vote — Lynch was nominated five months ago — because of political differences with Lynch, but former Florida governor Bush said "there should be some deference to the executive." Civil rights groups, including one founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton, are planning a hunger strike, in which fasters will alternate days without food, until Lynch is confirmed to replace Eric Holder. [The Associated Press, Politico]


Vatican unexpectedly ends investigation of U.S. nuns

In a surprise move, the Vatican on Thursday ended a seven-year-old investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the largest U.S. organization of Catholic nuns, three years ahead of schedule. In a press release, the Vatican said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had accepted a final report on the case. The crackdown was prompted by allegations that the LCWR was straying from church teaching, a charge the nuns denied. [National Catholic Reporter, The Associated Press]


O'Malley slams Hillary Clinton in preview of Democratic nomination battle

In one of the first jabs of the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination fight, former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley accused the party's only declared candidate, Hillary Clinton, of flip-flopping on key issues. For example, Clinton revealed in her campaign rollout this week that she now hopes the Supreme Court will rule gay marriage a constitutional right, something she previously said should be left to the states. O'Malley, who is preparing for his own White House bid, said he was glad Clinton had "come around," but that Democratic leaders should "lead with our principles and not according to the polls." [The Huffington Post]


NFL reinstates Adrian Peterson

The NFL announced Thursday that it had reinstated running back Adrian Peterson, who was suspended in November after pleading no contest to child abuse charges. As of Friday, Peterson can return to the Minnesota Vikings. The league warned Peterson that he must "fulfill his remaining obligations" with law enforcement and the NFL, including honoring his commitment to enter counseling. Any new violation of the league's Personal Conduct Policy could result in "suspension without pay or banishment from the NFL," the league said. [NBC News]


Tennessee shelves bill declaring the Bible the official state book

Tennessee's state Senate on Thursday shelved legislation approved by the state House that would have made the Bible the official state book. The state attorney general, Herbert Slatery III, and many religious leaders had warned that the measure would violate both the U.S. and state constitutions, saying that the measure did not respect the separation of church and state. The GOP, which holds strong majorities in both houses of the legislature, was sharply divided over the issue. [Reuters]


Woman who accused FSU quarterback Jameis Winston of rape files lawsuit

Erica Kinsman, the woman who accused former Florida State star quarterback Jameis Winston of raping her in 2012, filed a civil lawsuit on Thursday saying the Heisman Trophy winner intentionally inflicted "emotional distress" on her during the off-campus alleged assault. The suit seeks more than $15,000 in damages, but specifies no set amount. Winston has always maintained his innocence, and several investigations concluded without charges. Winston is expected to be the first player chosen in the NFL draft in two weeks. [Tampa Bay Times]