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ISIS Threatens Obama, Japanese And Jordanian Hostages In New Online Messages
A new, grisly beheading video from ISIS includes a direct threat against President Obama and is one of at least three new warnings from the terror organization, including pledges to kill Jordanian and Japanese hostages if a hostage held by Jordan is not freed. In a new online video discovered by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) on Tuesday, three Islamic State fighters stand behind a kneeling Kurdish fighter as one of the extremists launches into a diatribe against the U.S. and other Western nations. “Know, oh Obama, that will reach America,” says one of the fighters, clad in black and wearing a balaclava, in a translation from Arabic provided by MEMRI. “Know also that we will cut off your head in the White House, and transform America into a Muslim Province.” Fox News

Palin And Trump Up To Their Old Tricks
Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the Republican campaign trail, Sarah Palin and Donald Trump are back. All it took to set Twitter abuzz at the first big GOP campaign bash at the weekend was for The Donald and the 2008 vice presidential nominee to clear their throats and muse, yet again, about presidential campaigns. But the idea that they're both seriously searching their souls and considering a run for the White House doesn't pass the smell test. Trump and Palin are now more at the reality show end of the political spectrum than serious contenders -- but they sure know how to get a headline. CNN

U.S. Not Among Top Nations For Economic Freedom
The United States does not rank among the Top 10 countries in the world for economic freedom, according to the Heritage Foundation’s 2015 Index of Economic Freedom. Instead, the U..S. ranked only 12th--after Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Chile, Estonia, Ireland, Mauritius, and Denmark. Estonia was formerly a part of the Soviet Union. The Index rates economic freedom for countries on 10 quantitative and qualitative factors that are based on four pillars of freedom: rule of law, limited government, regulatory efficiency and open markets. CNS News

U.S. Says 9.5 Million People Enroll For 2015 Insurance, Beating Goal
More than 9.5 million people have signed up for 2015 individual health insurance on the new exchanges created under the national healthcare reform law, the U.S. government said on Tuesday, beating its enrollment target weeks before the deadline. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that it had signed up or automatically enrolled more than 7.1 million people on its HealthCare.gov website through Jan. 16. The federally run site covers 37 states. Another 2.4 million people selected a plan or were automatically enrolled in the other 13 states plus Washington D.C., which run their own websites. That data is through Jan. 18 for California and through Jan. 17 for the District and the other states. Reuters

Chronic Disease Fighters Tell Supreme Court Not To Strike Down Obamacare Subsidies
The American Cancer Society and other anti-disease groups told the Supreme Court Tuesday there is no evidence that Congress wanted to limit Obamacare’s subsidies to states with their own health exchanges. In a friend-of-the-court brief, the groups said a decision this term to yank the subsidies from states that rely on the federal HealthCare.gov portal would put 9.6 million people at risk of losing coverage, and make them more susceptible to chronic disease. Washington Times

FTC: "Internet Of Things" Poses Consumer Risks
For consumers, the advent of "smart" TVs, home automation gear and other web-enabled products offers a wealth of new capabilities. But the "Internet of Things," as this emerging technological ecosystem is known, also poses serious security risks. In a new report, the Federal Trade Commission lays out just how vulnerable that makes us, urging consumers and businesses to make safe use and design of the gadgets a priority. Although there is no single, uniform definition of the The Internet of Things, it generally refers to physical objects -- from home thermostat and lighting controls to baby monitors and wearable fitness gadgets -- that can connect to the Internet and each other. Not counting computers and smartphones, such devices are estimated to number 25 billion worldwide, including health monitoring, home security, vehicle, power usage and many other products. CBS

President Obama Talks Religion, Race In India Farewell
On his final day in India, President Obama declared U.S. relations with the world’s largest democracy "one of the defining partnerships of this century," while nudging his Indian counterpart, Narenda Modi, to pursue greater economic equality, women’s rights, and religious tolerance. In a speech to New Delhi youth, Obama sought to leverage three days of back-slapping and bonhomie into a subtle challenge to the right-wing, Hindu nationalist government of his host. One Indian media outlet went so far to describe Obama’s words as a "snub." "India will succeed as long as it’s not splintered along religious lines," Obama declared, a message some viewed as direct reference to the anti-Muslim policies of Modi’s ruling party and their efforts to constrain Muslim and Christian groups that do evangelization and religious conversion. ABC

Obama To Request Big Pentagon Budget Hike
President Barack Obama will ask Congress for a hefty, almost 8 percent boost for the Pentagon, including $5.3 billion to equip and train Iraqi soldiers and moderate Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State militants in the Middle East. Obama will ask for $534 billion for the core budget of the Defense Department — a $38 billion increase — according to "pre-decisional" Pentagon documents obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday. That means there could be some slight changes when the budget actually comes out Monday. Kansas City Star

American Express Says Sí To Cuba
American Express is the latest U.S. company to throw its hat into the ring and say it plans to do business in Cuba under new regulations outlined by the Obama administration. The world’s largest credit card issuer by purchase volume and operator of the world’s largest travel network provided few details. “I can’t tell you when our cards will be working in Cuba, but we are planning to do business in Cuba,” Marina H. Norville, an American Express vice president, said Tuesday.
MasterCard announced last week that it intended to stop blocking Cuban transactions on its cards issued by U.S. banks on March 1. It already has infrastructure set up because MasterCards issued by non-U.S. banks are accepted in Cuba, generally at state-run hotels and for other tourist-oriented activities. Miami Herald

Judge Refuses To Toss Perry Case On Constitutional Grounds
A Texas judge has refused to throw out a felony abuse-of-power case against former Gov. Rick Perry on constitutional grounds, ruling that the case against the possible 2016 presidential hopeful should continue. District Judge Bert Richardson, who like Perry is a Republican, ruled Tuesday that the case should proceed. Perry's defense team had sought to have the proceedings dismissed. They say he was acting within his constitutional rights as governor when he threatened, then carried out, a veto of funding for public corruption prosecutors after the Democrat leading the unit refused to resign following a drunken-driving conviction. Perry was indicted in August. He says he'll announce whether he'll run for president again as soon as May. Las Vegas Sun

Baseball Could Bring Cuban Teams To Play In Biloxi This Year
The owner of the minor league Biloxi Shuckers is planning to bring a Cuban baseball team in to play some exhibition games. Team owner Tim Bennett said he is meeting with delegates from Cuba on Thursday to discuss the games. "The goal would be to get one or two teams to come to Biloxi to play baseball," he said. They will discuss the best time to play — possibly late summer or early fall when the Shuckers' season is over, he said. "We'll be spending the next few days with them finalizing the deal," Bennett said. Bennett said the trip won't be all business though. He plans on taking the group to MGM Stadium to do a site check, take them to dinner and show off what the coast has to offer. Tampa Tribune


High Cholesterol Raises Risk Of Heart Problems In Future
Many folks in their 30s and 40s chow down on burgers, fried chicken and other fatty foods without fear, figuring they have years before they need to worry about their cholesterol levels. But new research reveals that long-term exposure to even slightly higher cholesterol levels can damage a person's future heart health. People at age 55 who've lived with 11 to 20 years of high cholesterol showed double the risk of heart disease compared to people that age with only one to 10 years of high cholesterol, and quadruple the risk of people who had low cholesterol levels, researchers report online Jan. 26 in the journal Circulation. CBS

House Speaker John Boehner Threatens Second Lawsuit Against Obama On Immigration
Speaker John Boehner told House Republicans in a closed-door meeting that a lawsuit might be the best –- or only –- option to try and overturn President Obama’s executive action on immigration, ABC News has learned. “We are finalizing a plan to authorize litigation on this issue, one we believe gives us the best chance of success,” Boehner told GOP lawmakers at their weekly conference meeting, according to a Republican official in the room. One month before the Homeland Security Department runs out of funding, Republican leaders are scrambling to find alternative ways to express their displeasure over the president’s decision last year to grant work visas to up to five million undocumented immigrants. ABC

U.S. Stocks Drop As Microsoft To P&G Results Disappoint
U.S. stocks tumbled, with the Nasdaq 100 Index falling the most since April, as a drop in durable-goods orders and disappointing results from Caterpillar Inc. to Microsoft Corp. heightened concern about the economy’s strength. Technology shares in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX) plunged 3.3 percent for the biggest drop since November 2011. Microsoft lost 9.3 percent, the most in 18 months, as software-license sales to businesses were below forecasts. Caterpillar plunged 7.2 percent after forecasting 2015 results that trailed estimates as plunging oil prices signal lower demand from energy companies. Procter & Gamble Co. slid 3.5 percent as a surging U.S. dollar cut into its earnings. Bloomberg

Obama Drops Proposal To Cut Tax Benefits Of 529 College Savings Plans
President Obama on Tuesday abandoned a proposal to end a major tax benefit of popular college savings accounts used by millions of American families after the White House faced mounting criticism from lawmakers and parents. White House officials said the backlash against the president’s plan became “such a distraction” that it was best to drop the proposal, which would have removed the ability of families to withdraw money tax-free from the savings plans, known as 529s. The administration had tried to frame the elimination of the tax break as a way to redirect more money to middle-class families, arguing that the savings plans were being used disproportionately by wealthy families. Washington Post

Hezbollah Claims Responsibility For Attack On Israeli Convoy
The Lebanese Hezbollah group claimed responsibility for firing a missile that targeted an Israeli military convoy on Wednesday, an attack that prompted Israel to fire at least 50 artillery shells into Lebanon in a significant escalation along the volatile border. In a statement, Hezbollah said its fighters destroyed a number of Israeli vehicles that were carrying Israeli officers and soldiers and caused casualties among “enemy ranks.” It said the attack was carried out by a group calling itself the “heroic martyrs of Quneitra,” — suggesting it was retaliation for an Israeli airstrike on the Golan Heights on Jan. 18 that killed six-Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general. Washington Post

Jordan Ready To Swap Prisoner For Pilot Held By Islamic State
Jordan's information minister says his government is ready to swap an Iraqi woman held in Jordan for a Jordanian pilot captured in December by extremists from the Islamic State group. Mohammed al-Momani made no mention in his statement Wednesday of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, who is also being held by the Islamic State group. Al-Momani's comments were carried by Jordan's state Petra news agency. The minister says that "Jordan is ready to release the Iraqi prisoner" if the Jordanian pilot, Lt. Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh, is released unharmed. A purported message Tuesday threatened to kill both Goto and the pilot within 24 hours. Houston Chronicle

Govt Tells Agents To ID Which Immigrants Not To Deport
The Obama administration has ordered immigration agents to ask immigrants they encounter living in the country illegally whether they might qualify under President Barack Obama's plans to avoid deporting them, according to internal training materials obtained by The Associated Press. Agents also have been told to review government files to identify any jailed immigrants they might be able to release under the program. The directives from the Homeland Security Department mark an unusual change for U.S. immigration enforcement, placing the obligation on the government for identifying immigrants who might qualify for lenient treatment. Previously, it was the responsibility of immigrants or their lawyers to assert that they might qualify under rules that could keep them out of jail and inside the United States. SF Gate

Are Students Helped Or Hurt By Higher Math Requirements In High School?
Speaking at a panel last year, Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, described a growing disconnect between our education system and our economy. Citing the fervor after the 1983 “Nation at Risk” report to overhaul our schools, Carnevale said, “We made great progress on that. It has been a good thing. We are at the point where it may be too much of a good thing.” Carnevale said schools teach an increasingly abstract math curriculum under the premise all students ought to be prepared for Harvard. What’s missing today, he said, is “a more applied education, something that students can sell in the labor market.” That was the rationale of Jobs for Texas, an industry coalition that told the Texas Board of Education algebra II was not as important as vocational training for many of the good jobs in the state for which a college degree wasn’t necessary. Atlanta Journal

Lynch To Cast Herself As Departure From Holder In Bid To Be Attorney General
Loretta E. Lynch on Wednesday will cast herself as an apolitical career prosecutor who is a departure from Eric H. Holder Jr. when she faces a new Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee that includes some of the administration’s fiercest critics in Congress. If she is confirmed, Ms. Lynch would be the nation’s first African-American woman to serve as attorney general. Her allies have sought to differentiate her from Mr. Holder, an outspoken liberal voice in the administration who clashed frequently with Republicans who accused him of politicizing the office. In particular, Ms. Lynch is expected to face tough questioning about her opinion of the president’s decision to unilaterally ease the threat of deportation for millions of unauthorized immigrants. Mr. Holder approved the legal justification for that action, enraging some Republicans. NY Times

Obama Wants To Drill, Baby, Drill!
The Obama administration proposed Tuesday to open the Atlantic coast to offshore drilling from Virginia to Georgia while moving to declare portions of Alaska and the West Coast off-limits to energy exploration. The proposed offshore plan probably wouldn’t open up the Atlantic coast to drilling for at least another 10 years, and it faces vehement opposition from environmental groups. It’s the second time Mr. Obama has made the proposal for offshore drilling in the Atlantic, following similar action in 2010. Washington Times

Stronger Dollar Punishes U.S. Earnings From P&G To DuPont
The dollar’s surge is reducing earnings at American companies from Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) to Pfizer Inc. (PFE) and DuPont Co. that make a large portion of their revenue abroad. P&G, the world’s biggest consumer-products maker, Tuesay reported profit that missed analysts’ estimates in the quarter ended Dec. 31 after what Chief Executive Officer A.G. Lafley called “unprecedented” foreign-exchange rate fluctuations reduced sales by 5 percentage points. DuPont and drugmakers Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMY) all posted annual forecasts that trailed predictions, in part because of the dollar. While 75 percent of Standard & Poor’s 500 Index companies have beaten analysts’ estimates so far this earnings season as the U.S. economy weathers a slowdown in global growth, the dollar’s advance is making American goods and services more expensive overseas, eroding sales. Bloomberg

Markets Look To Fed Meeting
Wall Street stock futures rose and Asia markets diverged Wednesday ahead of the first monetary policy meeting of the Federal Reserve in 2015. Dow futures added 0.1%, Nasdaq futures climbed 0.9% and S&P 500 futures were up 0.3% several hours ahead of the opening bell. “Having rallied to record highs over the past ten days on the ECB stimulus announcement, global markets have finally become concerned about the currency wars and the effect it has on corporate earnings — particularly in the U.S.,” said IG Markets, in a report.  “The question (for the Fed) now becomes when will we see a rate rise?” The Fed indicated previously that rates could rise in coming meetings as the economy has improved. USA Today

After Setting IPhone Record, What Does Apple Do Next?
Apple CEO Tim Cook says consumer demand for new iPhones has been "staggering" and "hard to comprehend." That helped the company report record-smashing earnings for its latest quarter and primed its stock for a rally Wednesday. But after selling a record 74.5 million iPhones in three months that ended in December, what can Apple do next? Some analysts worry that Apple depends too much on the iPhone, which contributes two-thirds of its sizable revenue — leaving the company vulnerable if some other gadget comes along to replace the iPhone in popularity. San Diego Union

Governors Associations Top List Of Biggest State-Race Donors
The Republican Governors Association and its Democratic counterpart were the dominant players in making donations to pay for state-level elections in 2014. The two groups often served as pass-throughs for billionaires, unions and corporations seeking influence in statehouses nationwide. The RGA, which helped the GOP grow its roster of governors to 31, donated almost $69 million to candidates and others spending money on campaigns. The Democratic Governors Association gave nearly $32 million, according to a new analysis from the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity. Those totals account for more than a fifth of the $440 million the top 50 donors spread around during the two-year cycle leading up to the November elections in races for state legislatures, as well as executive office, such as governor, and seats on state boards, commissions and courts that are elected statewide. Charlotte Observer


Tempers Flare At Benghazi Committee Hearing
Republicans and Democrats on the House Select Committee on Benghazi are at odds about how the panel is handling the investigation into the 2012 terrorist attacks -- and the conflict was on full display at a hearing Tuesday. The committee's top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, charged at the group's third public hearing that Republicans, led by Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), have been withholding key information from Democrats. "I am saddened to report today that there are major, major problems with this Committee and its work," Cummings said in his opening statement Tuesday morning. Cummings has released previously private emails from the five Democrats on the select committee to Gowdy in order to air their concerns. MSNBC

Senators To Hold Confirmation Hearing For Defense Secretary
The Senate Armed Services Committee is holding a confirmation hearing next week to consider Ashton Carter to be the next secretary of defense. President Barack Obama nominated Carter to succeed Chuck Hagel, who resigned under pressure from Obama. The nomination of Carter, a physicist who has served two Democratic presidents at the Pentagon, was welcomed by some Republicans as well as Democrats. He is expected to be easily confirmed by the new GOP-controlled Senate.
Still, Republicans are expected to use the hearing next Wednesday as a chance to challenge Obama's foreign policy. Las Vegas Sun

Fidel: A Cautious Approval Of U.S.-Cuba Thaw
Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro's first public comments on the restoration of U.S.-Cuba relations indicate his cautious approval. "I do not trust the policy of the United States nor have I exchanged a word with them," he wrote. "This does not mean, however, that I would oppose a peaceful solution to conflicts or threats of war," Castro, 88, wrote in a letter published Monday in Granma, the state-run newspaper. "We will always defend the cooperation and friendship with all peoples of the world, including our political opponents," he added, saying President Raul Castro, his brother, took "the appropriate steps, according to his prerogatives." UPI

Jewish Leader: A Storm Of Anti-Semitism Is Gathering
A Jewish leader stood before 300 survivors of the Nazis' most notorious death camp yesterday and asked world leaders to prevent another Auschwitz, warning of a rise of anti-Semitism that has made many Jews fearful of walking the streets, and is causing many to flee Europe. Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, made his bleak assessment on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, speaking next to the gate and the railroad tracks that marked the last journey for more than a million people murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau. He said his speech was shaped by the recent terrorist attacks in France that targeted Jews and newspaper satirists. Philadelphia Inquirer

Bill Would Grant War Powers To Fight Islamic State
The top Democrat on the House intelligence panel is introducing a bill Wednesday to authorize President Barack Obama’s war against Islamic State militants, saying Congress should not wait to see if the White House sends over its blueprint of what the legislation should say. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said he wants to spark the debate in the Republican-controlled Congress over a new authorization to fight IS, which has been fighting for territory in Iraq and Syria. “We’re in what it seems is a never-ending game of who goes first in terms of putting a draft out there — the White House or Congress?” Schiff said. “It’s time we moved past this. … I think the administration is reluctant to put something out there that’s going to be shut down by House and Senate leadership.” Detroit News

New Saudi King Greets Obama, But Ignores First Lady
First lady Michelle Obama accompanied the president during his four-hour visit to Riyadh. She dressed conservatively in black pants and a long jacket, but did not cover her head, which is often standard for Western women visiting the kingdom but forbidden for Saudi women. Some members of the all-male Saudi delegation shook her hand as they greeted the Obamas, while others simply nodded to her as they passed by. Earlier Tuesday, Obama told an audience of young people in New Delhi that every woman should “be safe and be treated with the respect and dignity that she deserves.” A senior administration official said Obama raised the issue of human rights broadly in his discussions with the king, but did not tackle specific matters, including the case of a Saudi blogger who was convicted of insulting Islam and sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. NY Post

Airlines Begin Digging Out From Storm In Northeastern US
Lingering snow and subfreezing temperatures mean that travel delays in the Northeast will extend through Wednesday, even if the storm wasn't as bad as expected.
Airlines have already cancelled more than 500 flights for Wednesday, according to FlightAware.com. But that's a reprieve after 7,600 U.S. flights got scrubbed and another 3,200 ran late on Monday and Tuesday, mostly in the blizzard's path. New York was spared the worst of the blizzard, but Boston was hit with more than two feet of snow. By Tuesday afternoon, airlines had already canceled one-fourth of the flights that would normally depart from Boston's Logan Airport on Wednesday, and subfreezing temperatures will mean tedious de-icing of the planes that do take off. United Airlines canceled all flights through Wednesday in Boston and other New England airports, said spokeswoman Mary Ryan. Seattle Times

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Cuba's $6B Debt To Americans For Seized Properties Hangs Over US Talks
A $6 billion sticking point could create headaches for the U.S.-Cuba talks. Though concerns over human rights, press freedoms and U.S. fugitives living free on the island have dominated debate over the Obama administration's negotiations on restoring diplomatic ties, the Castro regime also still owes Americans that eye-popping sum. The $6 billion figure represents the value of all the assets seized from thousands of U.S. citizens and businesses after the Cuban revolution in 1959. With the United States pressing forward on normalizing relations with the communist country, some say the talks must resolve these claims. Fox News

Asteroid's Moon Seen During Earth Flyby
The asteroid that flew close to Earth Monday didn't come alone. NASA images released Monday reveal the asteroid, officially known as 2004 BL86, has its own small moon. The grainy, black and white photos show the asteroid, about a third of a mile in size, spinning through space, with its 230-foot-wide moon trailing behind. Asteroid 2004 BL86 came about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Earth, or about three times as far away as the moon, just after 11 a.m. ET Monday, according to NASA. It was far enough that it didn't pose a threat to Earth, but close enough to give scientists and amateurs a chance to observe a large asteroid up close. CNN

Hagel: Gitmo Detainees 'Are There For A Reason'
Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wants to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but he admits it "is going to be difficult." "This isn't a simple, easy matter of let's just move 122 detainees," Hagel told National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" on Monday. "These people are there for a reason. And as you draw down into the last numbers there, these are the most difficult cases." As CNSNews.com reported, of the 122 detainees remaining at Gitmo, 54 have been approved for transfer to countries that are willing to monitor them. Forty-seven of those 54 are from Yemen, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said on Sunday. McDonough also said the United States is at war with al Qaeda in Yemen and everywhere else where the terrorists hide. CNS News

House Speaker Boehner Acknowledges 'Stumbles'
Republicans in the House of Representatives, whose ranks swelled as a result of last November's elections, have gotten off to a clumsy start this year, House Speaker John Boehner said on Tuesday, as legislative initiatives have been derailed by attacks from inside the party. "There have been a couple of stumbles," Boehner told reporters after meeting in a closed session with his rank-and-file. The latest Republican casualty was a border security bill aimed at demonstrating a tough law-and-order approach toward stopping illegal immigration, mostly along the southern border with Mexico. Reuters

Obama Meets New Saudi King For Strategic Talks And To Strengthen Ties
President Barack Obama and a large American delegation visiting Saudi Arabia on Tuesday were greeted with calls for a revamped relationship between the important allies. The whistle-stop tour allowed the Americans to pay their respects to the family of the recently deceased King Abdullah and meet with new King Salman. The visit, however, should not be seen as a condolence visit but instead a chance to start again, said Jamal Khashoggi, general manager of AlArab News Channel and a prominent commentator. "The Saudis, the Americans, need a new start in the Middle East because whatever policies we have can be described as failed policies," Khashoggi said. Chief among the concerns, he added, is ISIS, which has overtaken swathes of Syria and Iraq. MSNBC

Documents Show DEA Tracking Millions Of Vehicles
The Drug Enforcement Administration uses roadside cameras and license plate readers to track millions of vehicles in the United States, documents show. The American Civil Liberties Union obtained documents the group describes as "heavily redacted and incomplete" through a Freedom of Information Act request. The documents, "undated" and "years old," show information sharing with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that use license plate readers to track vehicles.
"This story highlights yet another way government security agencies are seeking to quietly amplify their powers using new technologies," Jay Stanley, an ACLU senior policy analyst, told the British Guardian newspaper. "On this as on so many surveillance issues, we can take action, put in place some common sense limits or sit back and let our society be transformed into a place we won't recognize -- or probably much like." UPI

Vowing To Respond, Iran Says Israel Crossed 'Red Lines' With Syria Attack
Iran has told the United States that an Israeli air strike which killed an Iranian general in Syria last week had crossed "red lines" and the Islamic Republic will respond, a senior official was quoted as saying by IRNA news agency on Tuesday. "We told the Americans that the leaders of the Zionist regime should await the consequences of their act," deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said. Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Mohammed Allahdadi was killed with a Hezbollah commander and the son of the group's late military leader, Imad Moughniyeh, in a Jan. 18 attack on a Hezbollah convoy on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. Jerusalem Post

Netanyahu After Rocket Fire From Syria: Those Who Play With Fire Get Burned
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to the firing of two rockets from Syria into the Golan Heights on Tuesday, saying that whoever tries to challenge Israel on its borders "will find out that we are ready to react with force." "Israel regards with severity the attack today from Syrian territory. Those who play with fire get burned," the prime minister said. A senior security source said Hezbollah was behind Tuesday's rocket attacks. The source added that the IDF continues to be in high preparation mode for potential further events. "Syria is responsible for what happens on Syrian territory," the source said. "We will see how further events unfold." Jerusalem Post

Obama Visits Saudi Arabia's New King Salman
US President Barack Obama has led a large, bipartisan US delegation to Saudi Arabia following the death of King Abdullah. Mr Obama cut short a trip to India to make time for the brief visit, during which he met new ruler King Salman. He was accompanied by prominent Republican officials, including former Secretaries of State James Baker and Condoleezza Rice. Saudi Arabia is a key US ally in a region riven by war and rivalries. President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were met at the airport in Riyadh by King Salman and then driven to Erga Palace, the king's private residence, for dinner. BBC

World Tourism Numbers Top 1.1 Billion
Global international tourist numbers exceeded 1.1 billion in 2014, an increase of 4.7% on the previous year, according to the UN. The Americas and Asia saw the strongest growth in international visitor numbers. Europe continued to be the most visited region, according to the UN World Tourism Barometer. Visitor numbers to sub-Saharan Africa appear not to have been affected by the Ebola disease outbreak, the UN said. Similarly, the number of international tourists visiting the Middle East also appear to have risen, despite unrest in some countries in the region. However, the UN warned that data for these areas was "volatile". BBC

Moscow Condemns Arrest Of 'Spy' Yevgeny Buryakov As 'Anti-Russian Move'
Moscow has condemned the arrest of a Russian man in New York on espionage charges as yet another instance of unfair persecution by the US. Yevgeny Buryakov, an employee of state-owned VEB bank, was arrested on Monday and charged with gathering “economic intelligence” along with two other Russian men who had already left the United States. In remarks carried by Russia’s state-owned television channels, foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich accused the United States of detaining Russian citizens without presenting evidence and warned that this “anti-Russian campaign” would “undermine” cooperation between the Washington and Moscow. Guardian

US Army Denies Reports It Has Decided To Charge Bowe Bergdahl With Desertion
As speculation builds that desertion charges are looming against the US military’s longest-held prisoner of war since 9/11, the US army is insisting it has made no decisions on the fate of a soldier freed last year from Taliban captivity. Despite several reports that Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl would face desertion charges – the subject of persistent speculation since the controversial 2014 prisoner swap that set five Taliban members free from detention at Guantánamo Bay – the army said on Tuesday that “there have been no actions or decisions” emerging from its investigation. “The investigation is still with the Commanding General of US Army Forces Command who will determine appropriate action – which ranges from no further action to convening a court martial,” Major General Ronald F Lewis said in a statement. Lewis called stories from Fox and NBC about imminent desertion charges for Bergdahl “patently false”. Guardian

Billionaire Brothers To Spend $899m To Help Republicans Win 2016 Election
A network of Right-wing political groups headed by a pair of conservative billionaire brothers plans to spend the equivalent of $1.4 million (£922,000) a day helping Republicans to win the 2016 election. Charles and David Koch, two of the wealthiest men in America, plan to marshal an $899 million war chest to defeat Hillary Clinton and retain Republican control of Congress. The staggering figure is more than twice what they spent in the 2012 presidential election and puts their spending power on par with the Democratic and Republican parties. The spending plan, which was unveiled at a California retreat for conservative millionaires, highlights the extraordinary role of private money in US elections. Telegraph

Angelina Jolie Warns World Against Turning Blind Eye To Crimes In Syria
Angelina Jolie has made a heartfelt appeal for the international community to do more to end the conflict in Syria after touring refugee camps in Iraq, where millions of people are seeking aid. The actress, who is a special envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said she had been visiting Iraq since 2007 but had never never witnessed such suffering. Writing in The New York Times, she describes how she was left speechless by accounts of children being snatched by violent jihadists of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. "Stories of terror, barrel bombs and massacres have acquired an awful familiarity. There is a great temptation to turn inward, to focus on our own troubles," she writes. Telegraph

Security Council Strongly Condemns Terrorist Attack On Hotel In Libyan Capital
The United Nations Security Council today condemned in the strongest terms the deadly terrorist attack against the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, Libya, and underlined the need to bring the perpetrators, financiers and sponsors of such “reprehensible” acts to justice. In a statement issued to the press in New York, members of the Security Council strongly condemned the incident and expressed deep sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims of this heinous act, and wished a speedy recovery to those injured. Press reports suggest that at least three people were killed and half a dozen or more were injured today in a car bomb explosion and gun attack against the Corinthia Hotel, which is located in the heart of Libya's capital, Tripoli. UN News

Lack Of Funds Forces UN Agency To Halt Gaza Programme For Repairs To Destroyed Homes
The United Nations agency tasked with assisting Palestinian refugees across the Middle East announced today that a major funding shortfall has forced the suspension of its cash assistance programme that would have helped families in Gaza repair their homes and provide rental subsidies to people left homeless after last year's conflict in the enclave. Announcing the suspension, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said in a press release “virtually none” of the funds pledged by donors at an international conference in Cairo last year has reached Gaza, and that it will need some $100 million in the first quarter of 2015. UN News

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