10 things you need to know today, January 23rd 2014

10 things1. Virginia to stop defending gay marriage ban in court

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s office said Thursday he would stop defending the state’s ban on gay marriage against challenges in federal court because he had concluded that it was unconstitutional. Herring spokesman Michael Kelly said the state — a battleground in the fight over same-sex marriage — would instead side with plaintiffs trying to get the ban struck down. Herring’s decision came a string of victories for gay marriage supporters, including the rejection by federal judges of bans in Utah and Oklahoma. [Associated Press]

2. First deaths reported in Ukraine protests

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich met with opposition leaders on Wednesday in an attempt to contain escalating violence in the streets of Kiev after two activists were shot dead as police pushed stormed the barricades of anti-government demonstrators. Opposition leaders threatened to go “on the attack” unless the government calls snap elections. After the shooting, angry protesters accused police of gunning down the activists. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov insisted the police didn’t have live ammunition. [The New York Times, BBC News]

3. Israel accuses three of planning attack on U.S. Embassy

Israel said Wednesday it had arrested a three-man al Qaeda cell that was plotting terrorist attacks on the U.S. Embassy and other targets. The Israeli Shin Bet security service said the men had been recruited by al Qaeda through an operative in the Gaza Strip, which is run by the Islamist movement Hamas. A Hamas spokesman said the accusations were “silly fabrications” intended to justify Israeli military strikes in Gaza. [BBC News]

4. Millions of Americans learn they qualify for government health plans

More than 6.3 million Americans were found to be eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program between the Oct. 1 launch of ObamaCare and the end of 2013, according to federal figures released Wednesday. Not all of the increase was attributed to the Affordable Care Act, though. Health policy analysts say another big factor was the “out-of-the-woodwork effect” — people who discovered they already qualified for government healthcare plans when they inquired about ObamaCare options. [Reuters]

5. Tanaka signs with the Yankees for $155 million

Masahiro Tanaka has accepted a $155 million, seven-year contract with the New York Yankees. The deal is the fifth largest ever for a pitcher, and the biggest for any player coming over from Japan. Tanaka, 25, went 24-0 last year for Japan’s Rakuten Eagles. The signing of Tanaka, who was also courted by seven other teams, concluded an expensive off-season for the Yankees after a 2013 season in which they failed to make the playoffs for just the second time in 19 years. [The New York Times]

6. Obama vows to fight rape crisis on college campuses

President Obama promised Wednesday to launch a campaign against sexual assault on college campuses. He said an “inspiring wave of student-led activism” had exposed the crisis — an estimated one in five women are raped in college, most by men they know. Obama signed a presidential memorandum establishing a task force to recommend policy changes within 90 days, telling students, “I have your back.” [Los Angeles Times]

7. Texas executes Mexican national despite diplomatic protest

Texas executed a Mexican national, Edgar Tamayo, late Wednesday, after a brief delay while the Supreme Court considered an appeal for a last-minute stay. Tamayo, 46, was convicted in 1994 of shooting and killing Houston police officer Guy Gaddis, 24, who had arrested him on suspicion of robbery. Secretary of State had asked that the case be reviewed, as had the Mexican government, which argued that Tamayo was never told of his right to diplomatic assistance under an international treaty. [Al Jazeera America]

8. Sperm donor told to pay child support

A judge ruled Wednesday that Kansas sperm donor, William Marotta, must pay child support. Shawnee County District Court Judge Mary Mattivi said Marotta was more than a sperm donor because no licensed physician was involved in the artificial insemination. Marotta donated sperm to a lesbian couple who placed an ad online. He said in court that he should not be responsible for a girl born to the couple in 2009 because he waived his parental rights, but the state child welfare department disagreed. [Associated Press]

9. The U.S. military plans to let soldiers wear religious garb

The Pentagon said Wednesday it would start letting soldiers wear turbans, head scarves, yarmulkes, and other religious clothing with their uniforms — even grow beards if their faith calls for it. Advocates said the policy didn’t go far enough though, because service men and women will still have to ask permission. Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said if the policy is not widely accepted but left to “the whim of individual commanders” it won’t be much of an improvement. [Reuters]

10. The Captain & Tennille file for divorce

The 1970s duo the Captain & Tennille, known for a flurry of hits including “Love Will Keep Us Together,” are getting divorced after 39 years of marriage. Tennille — full name, Cathryn Antoinette Tennille — reportedly filed the papers in Prescott, Ariz., but the Captain — really Daryl Dragon, a former Beach Boys keyboardist — says he doesn’t know why she did it. Tennille, 73, and Dragon, 71, released their first album in 1974, and won a Grammy in 1975. [People]

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