Islamic State militants have posted a new video threatening to execute two Japanese hostages. The militants have demanded Japan pay a $200 million ransom within 72 hours — the same amount Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to give Saturday in nonmilitary aid to countries fighting ISIS. The hostages shown in the video are Kenji Goto, a freelance journalist, and Haruna Yukawa, head of a private security firm. Prime Minister Abe demanded their release but did not say if Japan would pay the ransom.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: “It is an unacceptable act to threaten us in exchange for human lives, and I feel angry about it. I strongly urge them to immediately release the hostages without harming them.”
In Germany, anti-racist demonstrators have continued to outnumber participants at anti-Islam rallies. The far-right Pegida party was banned from rallying in Dresden Monday after an assassination threat against group leaders. Pegida supporters rallied in other cities, but thousands of counter-protesters vastly outnumbered them.
In Chechnya, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to condemn depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. The rally has been called the largest ever held in the North Caucasus.
Fox News has apologized for broadcasting false information about Muslims in the wake of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a kosher market in Paris. Last weekend, self-described terrorism expert Steve Emerson claimed on Fox News that parts of Europe, including the entire English city of Birmingham, were totally Muslim areas where non-Muslims do not go. Emerson was forced to apologize, but the claim about so-called “no-go zones” was repeated by other Fox guests and anchors. On Saturday, according to a CNN tally, Fox News took time out of four broadcasts to apologize. Julie Banderas issued the broadest apology, directed at the people of England and France.
Julie Banderas: “A correction now: Over the course of this last week, we have made some regrettable errors on air regarding the Muslim population in Europe, particularly with regard to England and France. Now this applies especially to discussions of so-called 'no-go zones,' areas where non-Muslims allegedly aren’t allowed in and police supposedly won’t go. To be clear, there is no formal designation of these zones in either country and no credible information to support the assertion there are specific areas in these countries that exclude individuals based solely on their religion.”
Banderas’ apology came just hours after she interviewed a guest who falsely claimed that 69 percent of Muslims in France support ISIS — a claim Fox subsequently corrected.
Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal is in London where he has continued to claim the “no-go zones” exist. Jindal, who is considered a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, told CNN: “Look, I’ve heard from folks here that there are neighborhoods where women don’t feel comfortable going in without veils.”
In the southeast African country of Malawi, devastating floods have killed at least 176 people and displaced 200,000. Rescuers have rushed to bring aid to people cut off from food and supplies. The floods come as NOAA and NASA climate scientists confirmed 2014 was the hottest year on record due to human-caused climate change.
John Tucker, NASA climate scientist: “2014, the year just ended, was the warmest year on record, going back when the record started in the 1880s. What was found for 2014 was that 2014 was about 1.25 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the average temperature of the Earth during the 20th century.”
In Central African Republic, a woman working for the United Nations peacekeeping mission has been kidnapped by gunmen in the capital Bangui. The news comes one day after anti-balaka militia members seized two aid workers.
A new report finds the Obama administration’s accusation that North Korea carried out the hack on Sony Pictures was based on evidence it gathered from its own hacking of North Korea. The New York Times reports the National Security Agency began penetrating North Korea’s networks in 2010 and planted malware to monitor activities.
A report in the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, based on documents from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, outlines how the United States is engaging in extensive preparations for an online “guerilla war” which “threatens to transform the Internet into a lawless zone in which superpowers and their secret services operate according to their own whims, with very few ways to hold them accountable for their actions.”
The Guardian has published a new report based on Edward Snowden documents that show the National Security Agency’s British counterpart, GCHQ, collected the emails of reporters as part of its bulk spying operations. Emails from the BBC, Reuters, The Guardian, The New York Times, NBC, The Washington Post and the French newspaper Le Monde were saved and shared with staff on the agency’s intranet as part of a test exercise. The agency also listed “investigative journalists” as a threat alongside terrorists or hackers.
In Switzerland, a whistleblower has been found guilty of violating bank secrecy laws by giving information on offshore accounts to WikiLeaks. Rudolf Elmer headed the Cayman Islands office of the bank Julius Baer until his firing in 2002. In 2011, he publicly handed compact discs containing information on offshore account holders to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a bid to reveal what he called the “damaging” impact of hiding money offshore. Elmer’s attorney has vowed to appeal the guilty verdict, which comes with a suspended fine, but no prison time.
An Israeli airstrike has reportedly killed a top Iranian general and six fighters with the group Hezbollah. The dead include a Hezbollah commander and the 26-year-old son of a late military leader.
The International Criminal Court has opened a prelimary inquiry into possible war crimes committed by Israel in the Occupied Territories. The inquiry comes as Palestine is set to become a member of the ICC on April 1. Emeric Rogier of the ICC prosecutor’s office said the examination would cover possible crimes by both Israelis and Palestinians.
Emeric Rogier: “It’s important to understand that a preliminary examination is not an investigation. It is a process in the course of which the office will gather information on alleged crimes committed in Palestine since June of last year. And then we will asses this information, and at the end of the process we will decide whether to open an investigation or close the matter, or possibly we will need further information.”
The U.S. State Department opposed the ICC inquiry, saying, “It is a tragic irony that Israel, which has withstood thousands of terrorist rockets fired at its civilians and its neighborhoods, is now being scrutinized by the ICC.”
In Argentina, a federal prosecutor who accused Argentina’s president of helping to cover up Iran’s role in the deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center has been found dead of a gunshot wound to the head. Alberto Nisman’s death was discovered just hours before he was due to testify before lawmakers on his findings. Last week, Nisman accused President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and other top Argentine officials of plotting to conceal the role of Iranian suspects in the attack in a bid to obtain Iranian oil. Nisman had been under police guard after receiving death threats. Authorities say his death remains under investigation, but appears to be a suicide.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up the issue of whether same-sex couples in all 50 states have a constitutional right to marry. The decision comes three months after the court refused to hear appeals from states seeking to uphold marriage equality bans, triggering a chain reaction that increased the number of states allowing same-sex marriage to 36. The court has agreed to hear appeals from couples in four states where bans remain in place.
Attorney General Eric Holder has unveiled changes to the federal government’s role in civil asset forfeiture — a controversial practice where police seize property that belongs to people suspected of crimes, even if they are never convicted. The new rules prevent federal agencies from taking property seized by local and state police, with exceptions for items like guns and child pornography. In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union called the move “a significant advancement to reform a practice that is a clear violation of due process that is often used to disproportionately target communities of color.”
In eastern Montana, crews have been struggling to clean up an oil spill in the partially frozen Yellowstone River. The Bridger Pipeline company has acknowledged 50,000 gallons of oil spilled from a burst pipeline. Residents have reported an oily taste in their drinking water, and an oil sheen has been spotted nearly 60 miles downstream.
A new study from Oxfam finds the world’s 80 richest people own as much as the bottom half of the world combined. The group warns the richest 1 percent now own 48 percent of the world’s wealth and are poised to own more than one-half by 2016. The report’s release comes as global elites gather in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum. Speaking in Davos, Oxfam’s Max Lawson urged world governments to take action.
Max Lawson: “The clear message that governments should take away from Davos is that they should tax the rich. They should tax rich people and rich corporations, progressively and fairly. Rich individuals, and particularly the richest individuals, should pay a reasonable level of tax, the kinds of levels of tax they were paying as recently as the 1990s.”
President Obama is expected to propose new taxes on wealthy Americans during his State of the Union address tonight.
New York City has agreed to pay $75,000 to an African-American man who said he was placed in a police chokehold in 2013. Kevin Dennis-Palmer said he was approached by police while parallel parking outside his home in Brooklyn. When he could not get out of the car quickly due to his large frame, police tried to pull him through a window, pepper-sprayed him, slammed him to the ground and placed him in a chokehold while he yelled, “I can’t breathe.” The case closely mirrors that of Eric Garner, an African-American man killed in Staten Island when police placed him in a chokehold and and pinned him down. He said “I can’t breathe” 11 times. The New York City Council is considering a bill that would make police chokeholds a misdemeanor, but New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he would veto it.
Protesters across the country held more than 50 actions Monday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by reclaiming his radical legacy and condemning police killings of unarmed African Americans. Marches and acts of civil disobedience under the banner of “Reclaim MLK” were held from Oakland to Chicago to St. Louis to New York and Denver, Colorado, where an estimated 30,000 people were in the streets. In a statement, the group Ferguson Action said, “We resist efforts to reduce a long history marred with the blood of countless members of our community into iconic images of men in suits behind pulpits. … This MLK weekend we will walk in the legacy of Dr. King and the movement that raised him.”