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10 things you need to know today: January 21, 2014
The U.N. yanks Iran's invitation to Syria peace talks, Georgia's governor pledges a King memorial on Capitol grounds, and more
 
Elder Cal Murrell reacts to a speaker at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga. 
Elder Cal Murrell reacts to a speaker at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga.  (AP Photo/Jason Getz)

1. U.N. withdraws Iran's invitation to Syria peace negotiations
The United Nations withdrew an invitation to Iran to attend this week's long-awaited Syria peace conference in Switzerland. The Western-backed Syrian National Coalition had said it would drop out unless U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon's last-minute invitation to Tehran was rescinded. Opposition leaders are demanding that Iran commit to pulling out forces it has sent to support President Bashar al-Assad, whose regime is accused of "systematic torture and killing" in a new report by a team of war-crimes experts. [USA Today, CNN]
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2. Georgia's governor pledges a King memorial on Capitol grounds
Americans honored Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday with celebrations and ceremonies across the nation in a display of reverence for the slain civil rights leader's legacy. In King's native Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal (R) promised to address a sore point — the absence of a fitting government memorial near the state's main government buildings. "I'm committed to finding an appropriate way to honor Dr. King on our Capitol grounds," Deal said from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church. [USA Today]
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3. Two die in Omaha feed plant explosion
At least two people were killed and 10 injured in an explosion and fire at the International Nutrition feed plant in Omaha on Monday. About 38 people were inside the plant before part of it collapsed. Two of the injured were listed in critical condition. Authorities said the others were accounted for. Investigators have not yet figured out what triggered the incident. [Daily News]
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4. Iran nuclear freeze takes effect
Iran halted the most controversial parts of its nuclear activity as a preliminary deal with world powers took effect on Monday. The move won Tehran badly needed relief from some of the painful economic sanctions that have been imposed by the U.S. and other nations determined to keep it from building nuclear weapons. Iran now expects to recover $4.2 billion in frozen oil revenues and resume legal oil sales abroad, both critical to reviving the country's devastated economy. [Reuters]
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5. U.S. citizen jailed in North Korea issues statement
Kenneth Bae, a U.S. missionary imprisoned in North Korea, issued a statement Monday saying he had committed a "serious crime." Bae also said Pyongyang does not abuse human rights, and called on the U.S. government to cooperate with the North Korean government and "stop worsening my situation by making vile rumors against North Korea." Bae said he wanted supporters to stop accusing Pyongyang of abuse so he will be pardoned. North Korea has a history of forcing false "confessions" from high-profile prisoners. [CNN]
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6. Christie begins his second term as accusations of bullying spread
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is being sworn in for a second term on Tuesday as he faces the Bridgegate scandal and widening accusations that his administration has tried to intimidate rivals. Former Olympic track star Carl Lewis added a new twist to the saga Monday when he said Christie tried to pressure him into abandoning a bid for state Senate in 2011. Christie, a potential GOP presidential candidate, reportedly plans to renew his calls for small government and bipartisanship in his inaugural address. [Fox News, TIME]
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7. Two arrested with credit card information stolen from Target
South Texas police arrested two Mexican citizens on Monday on charges that they used credit card account information stolen during the Target security breach to buy tens of thousands of dollars' worth of merchandise at stores such as Best Buy, Walmart, and Toys R Us. The suspects — Mary Carmen Garcia, 27, and Daniel Guardiola Dominguez, 28 — were picked up as they arrived at the border, allegedly carrying 96 fraudulent credit cards. [Associated Press]
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8. Panama Canal expansion slows to a crawl
A project to expand the Panama Canal has slowed to a near stop due to a cash shortage. The Spanish-led consortium behind the project — Grupo Unidos por el Canal — had said that it would halt work Monday if it didn't acquire more funding, but the work is still proceeding at about 25 percent of its top pace. The Panama Canal Authority is putting together a plan to take over the $3.2 billion project, which will widen the century-old shipping lane so modern mega-ships can use it, if the consortium gives up. [Financial Times]
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9. Spacecraft wakes up ahead of trip to comet
Europe's Rosetta spacecraft blinked awake on Monday after a 31-month hibernation. The comet-chasing probe had been placed in sleep mode to save power in a swing around Jupiter meant to put it on a path to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which it is expected to reach in August. The signal that Rosetta was back on alert came three quarters of the way through a one-hour window of opportunity. "It was the longest hour in my life," spacecraft operations manager Andrea Accomazzo said. [BBC News]
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10. Venezuelans lose a birthright: Free gas
Oil-rich Venezuela has long subsidized the gasoline its citizens buy at the pump. At about 6 cents a gallon, it's the cheapest in the world. That's about to change. President Nicolas Maduro, facing 50 percent inflation, vanishing cash reserves, and an annual gas-subsidy cost of $12 billion, has decided it's time to raise prices at the pump, something his late, charismatic predecessor, Hugo Chavez, never dared try. Maduro hasn't announced the price, but it's expected to be a whopping 17 cents. [The New York Times, The Washington Post]

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Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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