“I’ve never seen anything so devastating,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said after a 243-passenger train traveling between Washington, D.C., and New York City derailed in his city last night while speeding at 100 miles per hour, about double the limit. The crash killed at least seven and injured more than 60 others — and officials are working to ensure everyone aboard has been accounted for. Trains between Philly and the Big Apple have been suspended while investigators swarm the site to determine what caused the disaster.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The method seems particularly gruesome, but satellite spying appears to back it up: death by anti-aircraft fire, in front of a crowd of hundreds. Defense Minister Hyon Yong-chol apparently died on April 30, after daring to question Kim Jong-un — and falling asleep at an event. Some reports say Hyon may have been involved in a rebellion. The information comes from South Korea’s spy agency, and it’s tough to verify, but as other recent executions have made clear, standing close to Kim doesn’t do much for one’s longevity.
They’re making this a key issue for 2016. The GOP had been wary of the bill — which bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, long before the fetus can survive on its own — for fear of losing female voters. But after some tweaks to the language that eased exceptions for rape and incest victims, Republicans scrounged up enough votes that the bill made it through the house. This may be as far as it gets, though: Even if the bill passes the Senate, President Obama says he’ll veto it.
Israel thinks they’re out of order. The Pope has long been a supporter of Palestine — the Vatican has recognized it as a separate state since 2012 as an observer, much as the U.N. does — but this is the first treaty the two entities have signed, which gives their relationship legal status. Pro-Israel activists say the move could undermine a two-state solution, but the Pope’s making clear that he supports a Palestinian state by welcoming President Mahmoud Abbas for a visit this weekend.
The “black spider letters” have crawled into the sunlight. The release of the 27 missives follows a battle between The Guardian newspaper and the British government. Concerns arose that the letters written in 2004 and 2005 would cast a poor light on the monarchy and inhibit royal communication. Prince Charles worried that troops in Iraq weren’t adequately supported, and he advocated for causes he held close, like environmental measures. But since the letters were just released, it may take time for the full impact to come clear.
Thousands slept in the open air last night, too afraid to seek shelter inside after yesterday’s earthquake, which killed at least 66 and injured thousands more. Tuesday’s 7.3-magnitude temblor hit less than three weeks after a 7.8-magnitude one killed 8,000, and aftershocks are keeping people on edge. Officials have vowed to deliver aid — and help find a missing U.S. helicopter — in response, but with remote towns and villages facing complete devastation, many expect the death toll to rise significantly.
They just wanted to pray. But gunmen — most likely Taliban or other Sunni extremists — targeted an Ismaili Shiite Muslim sect in Pakistan’s largest city today. The militants boarded a mosque-bound bus filled with about 60 faithful and opened fire, killing at least 43 and injuring many others. It was the fifth anti-Shiite attack in the country this year. Authorities suspect the assailants were from a group responsible for other recent attacks, including religious bombings, and have vowed to find the culprits.
It had to come from somewhere. But nobody expected Athens to scrape together $730 million of yesterday’s $842 million IMF payment from the country’s holdings of IMF currency, which are rarely tapped. Essentially they’ve taken out a low-interest loan from the international lending agency in order to pay the same lender for a different loan. Now Greece must pay back that money, in addition to all its other arrears, as it appears increasingly desperate to avoid default and a eurozone Grexit.
Inspectors find traces of banned substances in Syria. (NYT)
ISIS second-in-command killed in air strike, Iraq says. (BBC)
Senate Democrats delay fast-track trade legislation. (Reuters)
British PM eyes laws to discourage radicalization. (BBC)
Export downturn slows German economic growth. (DW)
Last year, Rolling Stone published a shocking story of a fraternity gang rape at the University of Virginia, which was later discredited. Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo, claiming she was portrayed as a villain indifferent to the allegations, has filed a defamation suit against the magazine — and the writer — for $7.85 million. UVA supports her, but the magazine must now decide whether to settle or risk going to court, where it would face questions over its reporting, plus hefty legal fees.
It’s got milk, but the question is why. China’s now third in global milk production, behind the U.S. and India, which is odd considering 92 percent of its population has trouble digesting it. It may be that China’s burgeoning middle class is latching on to the Western notion that cow juice is good for children. The country doesn’t export much milk, and imports also jumped 78 percent last year, so it looks like the bourgeoisie plans to drink to strong bones — even if it turns their stomachs.
Homosexual and bisexual males, who for the past 30 years have faced a lifelong prohibition, may soon be allowed to give blood. U.S. officials have proposed a rule change, but there’s a catch: The men need to be celibate for a year before donating. Activists are angered by the celibacy stipulation and disregard for scientific evidence showing the safety of blood from gay donors. The FDA will now collect public comments for two months, giving opponents time to explain why they’re needled by the restrictions.
Has he fallen under her spell? The Oscar-winning actor has been offered the starring role in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the three-part cinematic version of a Hogwarts textbook documenting the adventures of “magizoologist” Newt Scamander. Redmayne asked to read J.K. Rowling’s script — it’s her screen-writing debut — before committing, and is reportedly pleased. The trilogy promises a long-anticipated return to the wizarding world — and for four American children, yet to be cast, a shot at stardom.
Catalan defender Gerard Pique is rooting for an El Clasico championship. Despite being beaten 3-2 by Bayern Munich, Barca had enough cushion from its 3-0 stomping of the German squad in the first leg to nab a final round spot for the first time since 2011. The other half of a potentially tantalizing championship matchup could be longtime rival and defending champs Real Madrid. But first Madrid must overcome its 2-1 deficit against Juventus on Wednesday for a chance at Lionel Messi and a classic final.