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10 things you need to know today: February 1, 2016

Harold Maass
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Candidates make last-minute pleas for votes ahead of Iowa caucuses

Iowa voters kick off the 2016 presidential primary season as their state holds the nation's first caucuses on Monday. The presidential contenders in both parties made pleas for support. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump called his nearest rival, Sen. Ted Cruz, a "total liar," while Cruz said voters "deserve more than just a battle of petty insults." Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton said she was her party's best bet to beat the GOP nominee. Her main rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, promised "one of the biggest political upsets" ever. [Chicago Tribune, USA Today]


Two Virginia Tech students charged over 13-year-old girl's death

Two Virginia Tech engineering students have been charged in connection with the abduction and murder of 13-year-old cancer survivor Nicole Madison Lovell from Blacksburg, Virginia. Authorities arrested freshman David Eisenhauer, 18, at his dorm on Saturday. He was first charged with abduction, and hours later charged with first-degree murder after police found Lovell 's remains in North Carolina. On Sunday, police arrested sophomore Natalie Marie Keepers, 19, for allegedly assisting with disposal of the body. [The Washington Post]


ISIS claims responsibility for bombings that killed 70 in Syria

The Islamic State on Sunday claimed responsibility for bombings that killed at least 70 people near the Syrian capital, Damascus. The attack targeted a bus carrying Shiite Muslim militia members, and took place near Syria's holiest Shiite shrine. The violence threatened to further complicate already postponed peace talks under way in Geneva. [The Associated Press, The New York Times]


Sanders gains on Clinton in fundraising with record donations

Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign said Sunday that it had raised $33.6 million in the last three months of 2015, thanks to more than 3.25 million donations — a record number of contributions for a presidential candidate at this point in a campaign. He raised $20 million in January alone with average online contributions of $27. Hillary Clinton raised a little more — $37.4 million — to lead Democrats in the quarter. Ben Carson led Republicans with $22.6 million, although most of that came before he began falling in the polls. [The Huffington Post, Politico]


Iranian commanders get medals for seizing U.S. Navy boats

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, awarded Fath (Victory) medals to the Revolutionary Guard's naval chief and four commanders for the capture of 10 U.S. sailors last month. Two small U.S. Navy boats strayed into Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf. Iran freed the crews a day after the boats were seized. The Revolutionary Guard said it determined that the American boats entered Iranian waters by mistake. [Reuters]


Boko Haram torches village, killing 86

Boko Haram militants killed at least 86 people in an attack on a Nigerian village, survivors said Sunday. Members of the Islamist extremist group reportedly torched huts, and witnesses said they heard children being burned alive inside. The insurgents have killed thousands of people and driven more than two million from their homes over six years of fighting. [Al Jazeera, BBC News]


Greece's lenders to review progress on economic reforms

On Monday Greece's lenders, the International Monetary Fund, and the euro-zone bailout fund are due to start a review into the debt-burdened nation's progress in implementing the economic reforms required under its third bailout. Athens is counting on a speedy positive review to lift economic confidence and start new debt-relief talks. [Reuters]


Justice Department to review San Francisco police after fatal shooting

The Justice Department is expected to announce Monday that it will conduct a "comprehensive review" of the San Francisco Police Department following the Dec. 2 shooting of Mario Woods, a 26-year-old black man. Police Chief Greg Suhr requested the review, which will be done by a federal agency that helps local police improve community relations. Woods' family and the American Civil Liberties Union had asked for an investigation by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, which can impose reforms. [San Francisco Chronicle]


Pentagon confirms U.S. ship sailed close to Chinese island in disputed waters

The Pentagon confirmed over the weekend that it sent a warship, the USS Curtis Wilbur, to within 12 nautical miles of a South China Sea island claimed by China in waters also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. The U.S. said the ship was on a "freedom of navigation" mission to challenge China's attempt to assert its authority over the disputed waters. [Bloomberg]


Freely elected lawmakers take office in Myanmar

On Monday Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, swore in members of its first freely elected parliament since the military took power more than 50 years ago. The National League for Democracy, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, trounced the military's allies in November elections, winning two-thirds of available seats. The military holds 25 percent of the seats in parliament, however, effectively giving it veto power over any changes to the constitution. [USA Today]

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