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Older News Archivescom0116
NEWS   SUNDAY, JANUARY 25, 2015   NEWS

‘There Will Be A Price’: Obama Team Reportedly Fuming Over Netanyahu Visit
The Obama administration reportedly is fuming over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to address Congress in March regarding the Iranian threat, with one unnamed official telling an Israeli newspaper he will pay “a price” for the snub. House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu -- and the Israeli leader accepted – without any involvement from the White House. In public, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest politely describes this as a “departure” from protocol. He also says the president will not meet with Netanyahu when he visits in early March, but has attributed that decision only to a desire not to influence Israel’s upcoming elections. But in private, Obama’s team is livid with the Israeli leader, according to Haaretz. Fox News
VOA VIEW: Obama is no friend of Israel - he is pro Muslim nations.

President Barack Obama To Meet, Pay Respects To New Saudi King
U.S. President Barack Obama will travel to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in order to meet the newly appointed monarch, King Salman, and pay his respects to the family of the late King Abdullah, the White House said Saturday. Vice President Joe Biden was originally set to have led a delegation to Saudi Arabia on Obama's behalf.
However, the schedule for the President's departure from India has been adjusted to allow Obama to stop in Riyadh himself on his way home, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. Funeral services were held Friday for King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, who died earlier that day. He was 90. CNN

USDA Secretary Orders Update Of Animal Welfare Research Strategy
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has directed agency staff to create and deliver an updated Animal Welfare Strategy plan within 60 days, according to an internal email reviewed by Reuters. The emailed memo from Chavonda Jacobs-Young, head of the agency's Agricultural Research Service, was sent to all Animal Research Service employees on Friday afternoon in response to recent media reports over controversial animal welfare conditions at its U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska. The new strategy will include updated training for government employees and others who work with animals in the service's research labs, according to the email. In addition, an independent panel will be convened to review the group's animal handling protocols, policies and research practices. Reuters

Iowa Freedom Summit Kicks Off With Republican Star Power
The Republican race for the White House in 2016 starts here. At least that's what Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said Saturday morning as he kicked off the Iowa Freedom Summit, a GOP star-powered event hosting nearly two-dozen speakers and possible presidential contenders. King, who's co-hosting with the conservative group Citizens United, said he believes the next country's president will be speaking from the summit's stage. This "cattle call" of potential candidates is the unofficial precursor to the Iowa caucus season, which begins Feb. 1, 2016. Twenty-three speakers are on the Iowa Freedom Summit program — 10 of whom are being eyed for the White House nod in 2016, including Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Rick Perry, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump and Sarah Palin. MSNBC

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GOP Presses State Bills Limiting Gay Rights Before Ruling
A Texas lawmaker would strip the salaries from government officials who honor same-sex marriage licenses. Other states would protect government officials who opt out of performing gay nuptials. In Georgia, where lawmakers are considering a bill that critics fear could allow businesses to discriminate against gay customers, the former head of the country's largest Protestant denomination recently urged lawmakers to rein in "erotic liberty." The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in April and could decide by June whether gay couples can marry, and national opinion polls show U.S. voters increasingly unopposed to gay rights. Yet lawmakers in a handful of states are backing longshot legislation targeting gay rights, doubling down on the culture wars. Most, if not all, of the efforts are led by Republicans. ABC

Newt Gingrich: Fight Against Islamists Is 2016 Litmus Test
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told Republicans in Iowa they should view one issue as key to the 2016 campaign: the fight against radical Islam.  "I have no problem with Muslims who are prepared to live in diversity. But if you believe you are a Muslim who's going to impose Sharia by cutting off my head, I have a desire to kill you before you cut off my head,'' Gingrich said to a standing ovation at the Iowa Freedom Summit. Gingrich, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1978, was an architect of the 1994 Republican Revolution, propelling the party to control of the House and making him the first Republican House speaker in 40 years. In 1998, he led the charge to impeach Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and his party lost seats in the following election amid voter backlash. He resigned from Congress in 1999. Bloomberg

White House Condemns Islamic State Video Of Alleged Murder
The United States strongly condemns [the Islamic State’s] actions and we call for the immediate release of all the remaining hostages,” Mr. Ventrell said. “The United States is fully supportive of Japan in this matter. We stand in solidarity with Japan and are coordinating closely.” Mr. Yukawa, a private military contractor, was kidnapped in Syria last August. A Japanese government spokesman told Reuters that the apparent killing of Mr. Yukawa was “outrageous” and “unacceptable.” The terrorist group was demanding $200 million in ransom for the release of Mr. Yukawa and Kenji Goto, a freelance Japanese journalist who was abducted last year. Washington Times
VOA VIEW: The Islamic State should be attacked with full might.

Republicans Continue Pressuring Obama On Keystone Oil Pipeline
As the Senate debates a bill authorizing the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, with a vote on final passage expected next week, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski warned President Obama Saturday not to block the controversial, long-stalled project. "After more than 2,300 days of presidential indecision, it's important for us to act," Murkowski said in the weekly Republican address. "The world is watching to see whether the United States is willing to lead as a global energy superpower that respects its neighbors, trades with its allies and builds needed infrastructure. I believe we are ready for that role, and our leadership can start with the approval of Keystone XL." CBS

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Yemeni Protesters Denounce Houthis After President Resigns
Thousands of Yemenis took to the streets of the capital Sana’a and other cities Saturday to denounce what they called the coup against President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi by Shiite Houthi rebels. Chanting “No Houthis after today,” the protesters called on the militias to leave the cities they have taken over since September and urged Hadi to withdraw his Jan. 22 resignation. Houthi representative didn’t attend talks this evening with United Nations envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, and different political parties that aimed to resolve the crisis, Abdullah Noman, the secretary general of the Nasserist Party, said in an interview. The Houthi seizure of Hadi’s palace earlier this month has raised the risk that the country may fracture, raising concerns that a power vacuum will enable al-Qaeda to further expand its operations in a country that borders Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter. Yemen’s government has struggled to exert authority over much of the country amid challenges by ethnic separatists, political protesters and Islamist militants. Bloomberg

Sept. 11-Era Security Unveiled For Latest NYC Terror Trial
As a terrorism trial gets underway for a lone defendant in twin bombings of U.S. embassies nearly two decades ago, fears over the terror attacks in Paris and unrest a world away have raised security at the city's federal courthouses to levels not seen since the days following the Sept. 11 attacks. That includes assault rifle-toting federal guards at every entrance, Homeland Security vans surrounding the courthouses, and searches, metal detectors and sign-ins required for all trial visitors. And in the long-term, a $10 million security pavilion is being constructed that will permit screening of visitors in August before they enter a 26-story courthouse. Courthouse officials say they cannot speak about specific aspects of security. But they note that security has been routinely improved over time as needs are assessed. Las Vegas Sun

Disney Measles Outbreak Grows To Nearly 80 In 7 States, Mexico
The number of measles cases connected to California's Disneyland theme parks has shot to nearly 80, with confirmed cases in seven states and Mexico. The California Department of Public Health said there are 68 cases in 11 areas of the state. There are another 11 cases in six other states -- Utah (3), Washington (2) and one each in Colorado, Oregon, Nebraska and Arizona -- and one in Mexico. It's being called the worst measles outbreak in the state in 15 years. Public health investigators said the outbreak started at a Disneyland theme park in December. It has become so alarming that California health officials recommended that those who are unvaccinated and children under 12 stay away from the theme parks. UPI

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High Alert In Delhi As Obama Arrives For Republic Day
U.S. and Indian security agencies and intelligence services are mounting an unprecedented operation to keep President Obama safe on foreign soil as he arrives here for a historic visit as "chief guest" of Republic Day. Security is always tight wherever the U.S. president goes, but it appears that measures have been taken to a new level for this trip. Driving it all is the fact that Obama will spend a several more than two hours outdoors Monday on an open-air viewing platform in the center of the city -- a situation Secret Service tries very hard to avoid. The situation is made more complicated because foreign military aircraft will be crisscrossing overhead, tens of thousands of residents are expected to be clogging surrounding streets -- and escape routes, and Pakistani militants have been threating terror. "There's not been a similar event that he's attended overseas," deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said. "So this is unique." ABC

Four Arrested In Spanish Terrorist Cell, Planning Attack
Spanish police arrested four suspected Islamic extremists in North Africa who were preparing to a launch a terrorist attack in in Spain, authorities said. Officials did not say if the men had made concrete plans, but they were "willing to carry out an attack," Spain's Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz told reporters. "And, according to the police, to blow themselves up." Police on Saturday detained two pairs of brothers, Spanish citizens of Moroccan origin, in Ceuta, an autonomous city of Spain on the Moroccan border. The Interior Ministry said in a statement the men had "a very similar profile" to the perpetrators of the attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo that left 12 dead earlier this month. UPI

Ex-Obama aide takes president to task for 'not being tough enough' with Iran
Dennis Ross, the veteran Mideast hand and former peace envoy, criticized his former boss, US President Barack Obama, for “not being tough enough” with Iran in light of the stalled nuclear talks and the recent coup in Yemen. Writing for the online Politico newsmagazine, Ross argues that American allies in the region are growing more apprehensive over what they see as growing Iranian influence in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, while Washington is perceived to be on the retreat. “These two simultaneous developments - the deadlock in nuclear talks and Iran’s aggressive moves in the region - are not coincidental,” wrote Ross, who co-authored the piece with foreign policy analysts Eric Edelman and Ray Takeyh. “They are intimately linked, and that should be a lesson for President Obama: The nuclear deadlock cannot be broken unless Washington reengages in the myriad of conflicts and civil wars plaguing the region, particularly now that Yemen is vulnerable and the Saudi royal family is in a state of turmoil following the death of King Abdullah on Thursday.” Jerusalem Post

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Why The Supreme Court Is Acting On The Oklahoma Lethal Injections Case
The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a challenge to Oklahoma's lethal-injection system filed by three death-row prisoners. Here's a look at some of the issues involved: If it's just three prisoners in one state, why is this a big deal? The Supreme Court has not accepted a challenge to the drugs used for lethal injections since 2008, when it upheld the combination that was being used by virtually all death-penalty states at that time: sodium thiopental, which induced unconsciousness; pancuronium bromide, a paralytic that arrests breathing; and potassium chloride which stops the heart. Six years ago, the justices ruled that even if there was a risk of some pain from the procedure, it would not violate the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment. The new ruling will give lower courts further guidance when considering appeals by death-row inmates. MSNBC

Rep. King Prays God Will Help GOP ‘Restore The Soul’ Of U.S.
Rep. Steve King called on God Saturday to help the GOP nominate a 2016 presidential candidate that will “restore the soul” of the United States. “I pray that out of this process you identify and lift up the individual you will use to restore the soul of this great country,” the congressman from Iowa said. “Thank you Lord, and God bless America.” The seven term lawmaker has become one of the more polarizing figures on Capitol Hill on the issue of immigration, but he is a favorite among grassroots conservatives here in Iowa and elsewhere, who say he fights for them. His star power is on display here at the Iowa Freedom Summit that he is co-hosting with Citizens United. Washington Times

Flytenow grounded: FAA shuts down ride-sharing for air travelers
The federal government has blocked efforts to expand the "ride-sharing" models pioneered by Uber and Lyft to the flying public. The Federal Aviation Administration says "flight-sharing" -- when online services connect private pilots with passengers willing to split the cost -- is against the law. But one startup is fighting back, CBS News' Don Dahler reports. Pilot Matt Voska said he helped launch Flytenow to make flying more affordable. The concept is simple. Pilots post flight plans to the website, and passengers offer to pay some of the fuel and other costs - something allowed long before the Internet came along. "It's typically done on bulletin boards, like at the airport, so a pilot will say, 'Hey, I'm flying to Martha's Vineyard next week, anyone wants to come with, here's my number,'" Voska said. "So we said OK, let's just take that same concept and we'll put it online." CBS

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Premier 'Speechless' After Video Claims Hostage Dead
Japan's prime minister said Sunday he was "speechless" after an online video purported to show one of two Japanese hostages of the extremist Islamic State group had been killed, and he demanded the release of the other. Shinzo Abe said on NHK TV that the video was likely authentic and offered condolences to the family and friends of Haruna Yukawa, a 42-year-old adventurer taken hostage last year. He would not comment on the message on the latest video demanding a prisoner exchange for journalist Kenji Goto. Abe said in an earlier statement that Japan would not give in to terrorism. President Obama condemned what he called "the brutal murder" of Yukawa, saying he stood by Japan to get Goto released. Philadelphia Inquirer

Gay Marriage Case May Affect Discrimination Bill
Gov. Rick Snyder hopes to resuscitate legislation that would protect gay and transgender residents from discrimination, while LGBT advocates explore asking voters to pass the bill since it's unlikely to clear the GOP-led Legislature. In his State of the State speech, the Republican governor called for continued discussion over amending Michigan's civil rights law to prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents in employment, housing and places open to the public. "Let's show that we can deal with issues of discrimination in our state," Snyder said, drawing applause from Democrats and some Republicans. Detroit News

Obama’s Response To Terror: A Shrug
President Obama used his State of the Union address to urge Americans not to fear terrorists: “We lead best, when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents.” But his words reached Americans when the Gallup Poll notes that 40 percent of Americans are very or somewhat worried that they will become a victim of terrorism — a higher percentage than when Obama took office in 2009. They have reason for concern. From Day One, this administration has downplayed the terrorist threat from Islamic extremists. It declared the terrorist attack at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 as “workplace violence.” It pulled all US troops out of Iraq, allowing ISIS to move in and create a training ground for terrorists. Protracted negotiations with Iran have allowed that rogue nation to fortify and proliferate its nuclear facilities. NY Post

8 Republican Governors Buck Party Line On Raising Taxes
Republican governors across the nation are proposing tax increases — and backing off pledges to cut taxes — as they strike a decidedly un-Republican pose in the face of budget shortfalls and pent-up demands from constituents after years of budget cuts. “My jaw dropped,” Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, a conservative Republican in Nevada, said after hearing Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, propose a $1.1 billion tax increase for education this month. “Whether we kill it by five votes or 15 votes or 25 votes, we are going to kill it.” At least eight Republican governors have ventured into this once forbidden territory: There are proposals for raising the sales tax in Michigan, a tax on e-cigarettes in Utah, and gas taxes in South Carolina and South Dakota, to name a few. In Arizona, the new Republican governor has put off, in the face of a $1 billion budget shortfall, a campaign promise to eliminate the unpopular income tax there. Seattle Times

Obama Received Warmly In India, Seeks Policy Advances
President Barack Obama was greeted in India Sunday with an elaborate welcome at the country's sprawling presidential palace, then he solemnly laid a wreath at a memorial honoring the father of India's independence movement, Mahatma Gandhi. The president arrived in New Delhi under hazy skies Sunday morning. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was waiting for Obama at the steps of Air Force One and the two men shared a hug, underscoring the warm relationship they have formed in the short time Modi has been in office. The president and prime minister were to spend much of Sunday holding talks on climate change, defense and economic ties. On Monday, Obama was to be the guest of honor at India's Republic Day festivities, making him the first U.S. president to attend the anniversary of the enactment of country's democratic constitution. Tampa Tribune

Europe Shifts Policy In Escalating War On Terror
European leaders are adopting a distinctly American tone as they ramp up their war on terror two weeks after 17 people were killed in attacks by extremists in France.
"The No. 1 priority, the No. 1 requirement, is to further reinforce the human and technical resources of intelligence services," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said this week while unveiling a sweeping anti-terror plan that includes beefed-up police weapons and the hiring of about 3,000 counterterrorism agents and electronic eavesdropping experts. The shift comes despite widespread European criticism over the USA Patriot Act, the National Security Agency's dragnet of electronic communication and other American measures to combat terrorism. The change is sparking outrage in some and resignation in others. USA Today

Middle East Instability A Test For Relations Between Obama And New Saudi Leader
In the late 1980s, a U.S. diplomat in Riyadh went to ask a small favor from then-Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, who replied: A friend who doesn’t help you is no better than an enemy who does you no harm. Now the United States and Saudi Arabia need each other’s help as much as ever, as the Middle East shudders from instability that stretches from Syria to Iraq to Yemen, spawning terrorist threats as well as threats to the legacy of American intervention in Iraq and the Saudi leadership role in the Arab world. Washington Post

Obama 'Deeply Concerned' About Latest Violence In Ukraine
President Barack Obama says his administration is "deeply concerned" about the latest deadly flare-up in eastern Ukraine, but he says he won't change how he's handling the situation. Obama says he'll keep trying to isolate Russia and he will examine options short of military conflict with Russia. Economic penalties against Russia by the U.S. and Europe have failed to curtail Russia's backing of rebels in eastern Ukraine. Authorities say indiscriminate rocket fire on Saturday killed at least 30 people in Mariupol (mah-ROO'-pahl), in the southeast. Russia says it's not backing the rebels. But Western military officials say the number of heavy weapons under rebel control tells a different story. Obama commented in New Delhi during an appearance with Prime Minister Narendra Modi (nah-REN'-drah MOH'-dee). Houston Chronicle

Georgia Flatly Rejects Florida’s Water Wars Arguments
A tersely-worded legal filing this month attempts to shut down most of Florida’s arguments in the long-running battle with Georgia over regional water rights. The 33-page document, filed this month in the U.S. Supreme Court, denies that Georgia’s demand for water is causing “serious harm” to Florida’s Apalachicola Bay and “serious declines” to the state’s fisheries. Georgia rejects the notion that a reduction in flow from the river basins have shrunk habitats along the Apalachicola bay and “precipitated a collapse of Florida’s oyster fishery.” And it rebuffs Florida’s assertion that the increasing water demands of Georgia’s growing population would  jeopardize “the viability of the Apalachicola Region’s ecology, economy and way of life.” The filings are the opening maneuvers of the latest phase of what will likely be an even longer and costlier fight over the resource after the High Court surprised state leaders by agreeing to hear the last-ditch challenge from Florida. Atlanta Journal

As Vatican Revisits Divorce, Many Catholics Long For Acceptance
Facing millions of divorced Catholics around the world, many of whom express frustration over their status in the church, the Vatican has begun a remarkable re-examination of the church’s treatment of worshipers whose marriages have broken apart. Pope Francis, who plans to make his first trip to the United States in September to attend a conference on families, has acknowledged the concerns of divorced Catholics. He has set in motion a high-level debate about whether and how the church could change its posture toward them without altering a doctrine that declares marriage to be permanent and indissoluble. NY Times

US Works To Ease Caribbean Dependence On Venezuelan Oil
A decade-long addiction to oil subsidized by Venezuela may be coming to an end for several Caribbean nations, with a nudge from the United States. Fears that falling oil prices could knock the wheels off the already wobbly economy of oil-dependent Venezuela have sparked apparent interest in alternatives to Petrocaribe, a trade program created by the late President Hugo Chavez that has kept the region dependent on the South American country for energy. Evidence of that interest will be on display Monday as Caribbean leaders converge in Washington for the first Caribbean Energy Security Summit, hosted by Vice President Joe Biden. Charlotte Observer

Santa Ana Winds Knock Out Power To Thousands In California
Power was being restored Sunday to tens of thousands of people who lost electricity in Southern California after fierce Santa Ana winds gusting as much as 89 mph toppled trees and power poles. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said Saturday's outages affected more than 54,000 customers — mostly in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. The Santa Ana winds downed numerous trees and power poles across the region. The damage included a large billboard that blew down in Burbank, while a big tree fell into the kitchen of a house in Van Nuys. San Diego Union

Protesters Heckle Perry And Christie On Immigration Issues
Protesters have heckled Republican presidential prospects Rick Perry and Chris Christie over immigration policies during a conservative political forum in Iowa. The former governor of Texas was interrupted during his speech to the Iowa Freedom Forum by six people chanting, "If you become president, will you deport our families?" The six young adults claimed to be children of immigrants in the U.S. illegally. Police escorted them from the auditorium. Perry opposes offering legal status to people in the U.S. illegally. He praised the U.S. as a place "to be able to stand up and tell our government what we want them to do." Miami Herald

After Dove Debacle, Vatican Makes Balloons New Peace Symbol
Balloons, not doves, were released as a gesture of peace Sunday in St. Peter's Square, a year after an attack by a seagull and a crow on the symbolic birds sparked protests by animal rights groups. For many years children, flanking the pope at a window of the papal studio overlooking the square, have released a pair of doves on the last Sunday in January. The Catholic Church traditionally dedicates January to peace themes. Last year, the feel-good practice became a public relations disaster. After the children with Pope Francis tossed a pair of doves from the window, first a seagull and then a crow swept down and attacked the doves. Their ultimate fate was unknown. SF Gate

Trump: ‘No Way’ Bush, Romney Would Win In 2016
Donald Trump slammed potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, telling a sold-out crowd Saturday at the Iowa Freedom Summit there is “no way” they would win. “The last thing we need is another Bush,” the real estate mogul and sometimes-conservative pundit told the crowd, which erupted in applause. “He’s very, very weak on immigration. His brother gave us Obama – because Abraham Lincoln coming back from the dead could not have beaten Obama.” He added, “And Mitt? No.” The Des Moines summit is packed with potential 2016 GOP candidates, who are set to speak throughout the day. Romney and Bush, though, did not attend, making them an even bigger target for event organizers and speakers who deem them too moderate, particularly for the first-in-the-nation caucus state. Fox News
VOA VIEW: Trump made a dumb statement.

CDC: Flu Still Hitting Hard In Most Of U.S., But Spread Seems To Be Slowing
The flu is still hitting the U.S. hard, but the number of new infections seems to be slowing down from week to week. That's according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which monitors cases throughout the country. For the week ending January 17, based on pneumonia and influenza mortality surveillance, the season is still above epidemic levels, as is typical during flu season. Epidemic means that the number of cases is higher than usual. Forty-four states reported widespread flu activity, and 23 states and Puerto Rico reported high levels of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI). CNN

Kia Motors Recalls Nearly 87,000 Forte Sedans In U.S. Due To Fire Risk
Kia Motors is recalling 86,880 Forte sedans in the United States because a cooling fan resistor may overheat and melt, increasing the risk of a fire, according to documents filed by U.S. auto safety regulators. The recall involves certain model year 2014 Forte compact sedans and is expected to begin on Feb. 24, according to documents on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. Dealers will replace the cooling fan resistor and multifuse unit in the recalled cars, and owners of vehicles with a 1.8 liter engine will also have the engine control unit software updated, the documents said. Reuters

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'Hezbollah promised not to avenge Israeli attack from Lebanese soil'
According to a report in Saturday editions of the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Anbaa’, Lebanese government sources said that the Shi’ite group was keenly aware of domestic public opinion and the rising apprehension over the prospect of Israeli reprisals similar to the devastation that was wrought during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. “Hezbollah doesn’t just have courage [in standing up to Israel] but it also has a high degree of wisdom,” a Lebanese government minister and Hezbollah member, Muhammad Fneish, is quoted as saying by Al-Anbaa’. “Whenever the response will come, Lebanon’s interest will be taken into account before anything,” the minister said. Jeruslalem Post

Greek Elections: Party Leaders Make Final Calls For Votes
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has made a final appeal to voters ahead of Sunday's general election, with his party battling the left-wing Syriza. Mr Samaras said that despite years of austerity, the country was showing signs of recovery. Meanwhile, Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras said his party would restore "dignity" to Greece. He wants to renegotiate Greece's debt and end the austerity measures imposed by an international bailout. Greece has endured deep budget cuts tied to its massive bailout from the so-called troika - the EU, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Central Bank (ECB). BBC

Brazil's Most Populous Region Facing Worst Drought In 80 Years
Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira has said the country's three most populous states are experiencing their worst drought since 1930. The states of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais must save water, she said after an emergency meeting in the capital Brasilia. Ms Teixeira described the water crisis as "delicate" and "worrying". Industry and agriculture are expected to be affected, further damaging Brazil's troubled economy. The drought is also having an impact on energy supplies, with reduced generation from hydroelectric dams. BBC

US-Led Task Force Launches 26 Air Strikes Against Isis In Syria And Iraq
The US and its coalition partners have launched another round of air strikes against Islamic State (Isis) militants in Iraq and Syria, conducting 26 strikes since early on Friday. In a statement released on Saturday from the Combined Joint Task Force leading the military operation, officials said 13 strikes hit in Syria and also 13 hit in Iraq. In Syria, 12 air strikes targeted Isis positions near Kobani. In Iraq, five strikes hit near Mosul and five near Tal Afar, the statement said. US Central Command later said that of the strikes near Kobani, a town on the Turkish border which has been contested for months, “12 airstrikes struck eight Isis tactical units and a large Isis unit and destroyed an Isis vehicle, an Isis building, and eight Isis fighting positions”. Guardian

White House Says Drone Strikes In Yemen Continue Despite Houthi Coup
The Pentagon and the White House are pushing back on reports that the Obama administration is pausing drone strikes and other counterterrorism operations in Yemen, amidst the abrupt collapse of a critical partner government. Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, said both “unilateral and partnered” operations conducted by the US in Yemen against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) “are not suspended”. Continuing “partnered” strikes with the Yemenis provides a signal that the US still considers itself to have reliable allies on the ground to spot for drone strikes and aid in other attacks on an al-Qaida affiliate observers fear will capitalize on the unfolding unrest in the country. Guardian

American Sniper Blamed For Hundreds Of Threats Against American Muslims
Arabs and Muslims in the US have seen a surge in threats since the release of the controversial film American Sniper, according to a campaign group. The film tells the story of America's deadliest sniper, Chris Kyle, and has been nominated for six Academy Awards. However, it has attracted criticism for what some see as a pro-war, anti-Muslim agenda in its portrayal of the conflict in Iraq. Now the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has written to Bradley Cooper, its star, and Clint Eastwood, its director, asking them to condemn the "hateful rhetoric" it has spawned. "A majority of the violent threats we have seen over the past few days are result of how Arabs and Muslims are depicted in American Sniper," wrote Samer Khalaf, the group's president. Telegraph

Central Asia: Security Council Commends UN Centre's Work For Preventive Diplomacy
The Security Council today celebrated the role of the United Nations regional office in assisting countries in Central Asia confront a range of threats, from terrorism to trans-national drug trafficking, and reaffirmed the importance of conflict prevention tools in contributing effectively to the maintenance of international peace and security. In a statement to the press, the Council welcomed the recent briefing on 21 January by the Head of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), Miroslav Jen?a, on the Centre's work over the past seven months and “acknowledged” UNRCCA's role in providing support to Central Asian States to address regional challenges “by encouraging and facilitating closer cooperation, identifying and tackling potential sources of tension before possible escalation, responding to domestic and transnational threats to peace and by supporting the sustainable development of the region.” UN News

UN Libya Mission Deplores Deadly Shooting In Tripoli
The top United Nations official in Libya, Bernardino Léon, has condemned a fatal shooting incident outside a UN facility in the capital, Tripoli, as tensions continue to simmer across the war-torn country. In a statement issued earlier today, Mr. Léon reported that on the morning of 23 January, unidentified gunmen opened fire from a passing car at members of the Diplomatic Police guarding the offices of the UN Development Programme (UNDP). One policeman was mortally wounded. “The Diplomatic Police are investigating to determine the circumstances and the motives behind this drive-by shooting,” Mr. Léon's statement continued, adding that UN staff were not involved in the incident. UN News

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