Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 22, 2015

Harold Maass
Saudi Arabia has called off airstrikes.
(AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)


Saudi Arabia announces end to air campaign to focus on political solution in Yemen

A Saudi-led coalition is ending its "Decisive Storm" air campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen to focus on finding a political solution to the crisis, Saudi Arabia announced Tuesday. Despite the announcement, airstrikes resumed early Wednesday when rebels launched an attack on a government military brigade. Saudi officials said Yemen's Western-backed president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, had requested an end to the strikes, and Iran said halting the campaign would mark a "step forward" toward reaching a political solution. [Daily Star, CNN]


DEA chief is stepping down

Michele Leonhart, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, is retiring next month, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Tuesday. Holder called Leonhart, who has held the top job for eight years, a "trailblazer for equality" and a "good friend." Her retirement comes after a DEA scandal in which agents in Colombia allegedly attended drug cartel-hosted parties with prostitutes. Leonhart also opposed President Obama's decision to let states move ahead with easing their marijuana policies. [The New York Times]


Senate schedules long-delayed confirmation vote for Loretta Lynch

The Senate on Tuesday announced an agreement to move ahead on a stalled human trafficking bill, resolving an impasse that has delayed a confirmation vote on attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch. The Senate scheduled a confirmation vote for Thursday morning on Lynch, whom President Obama nominated in November to replace Attorney General Eric Holder. Democrats had filibustered the trafficking bill due to language restricting abortions, and Republicans had responded by delaying a confirmation vote for Lynch. [The Associated Press, The New York Times]


Justice Department starts civil rights investigation of Freddie Gray's death

The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it was launching a civil rights investigation into the death of a black man, Freddie Gray, whose spinal cord was broken while in the custody of Baltimore police. Members of Maryland's congressional delegation had called for the inquiry, saying that the family of Gray, 25, and the community "deserve to know what happened to him while he was in police custody," the members wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. "We need answers." [USA Today]


France stops alleged terrorist plot against churches

French police have foiled a terrorist plot to attack "one or two churches," France's interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said Wednesday. A 24-year-old computer science student and Islamist extremist known to security forces was arrested in connection with the death of a Frenchwoman, 32-year-old Aurelie Chatelain, and police discovered several military weapons in his car and at his home. The man, an Algerian national, reportedly was arrested after shooting himself by accident and calling for an ambulance. [USA Today, BBC News]


Auschwitz bookkeeper goes on trial in Germany

The 93-year-old former bookkeeper at Aushwitz, ex-SS sergeant Oskar Groening, went on trial in Germany on Tuesday, accused of being an accessory in the murder of 300,000 people at the Nazi death camp. Groening's duties included collecting the belongings of thousands of Jews arriving by train, many of whom were sent directly to the gas chambers. Groening, who has spoken publicly about Auschwitz to counter Holocaust deniers, told the court he shared "morally in the guilt," but he has said he is legally innocent because he never killed anyone. [MSNBC]


Europe charges Gazprom with violating antitrust rules

European Union antitrust regulators on Wednesday charged Russia's Gazprom, the world's biggest producer of natural gas, with abusing its dominance to manipulate prices and the flow of gas to European customers. The move is likely to increase tensions between Europe and Moscow, already strained over the crisis in Ukraine. Europe gets a third of its gas from Russia, which has used its control over prices to reward and penalize countries depending on their relations with the Kremlin. [CNN, The New York Times]


ISIS leader al-Baghdadi reportedly "seriously wounded"

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been seriously wounded in an airstrike, The Guardian reported Tuesday, citing sources in Iraq. His wounds, sustained in mid-March, were described as initially life threatening. Al-Baghdadi has slowly recovered, although he has not been able to resume "day-to-day control of the organization," an anonymous source said. The ISIS leader reportedly was injured along the Syrian border. [The Guardian]


Taliban vows to ramp up attacks as weather warms

The Taliban on Wednesday announced that they were launching an annual spring offensive in Afghanistan. The Islamist militant group, which ruled the country until U.S.-backed Afghan forces ousted it in 2001 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, said it would increase attacks on government targets and foreign embassies starting Friday. "If the foreign occupiers really want to relieve themselves from this nuisance of fighting, they should immediately withdraw," the Taliban said in a statement. [Reuters]


Oklahoma concedes link between energy drilling and earthquakes

A new Oklahoma Geological Survey report says it is "very likely" that most of a dramatic increase in earthquakes in the state has been triggered by oil and gas companies injecting wastewater into deep underground disposal wells. There were 585 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater in Oklahoma last year, up from 109 in 2013 and fewer than two a year before 2008. The report was endorsed by Gov. Mary Fallin (R), who as late as last fall dismissed the connection as speculation requiring further study. [NBC News]