Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 4, 2016

Rand Paul and Rick Santorum drop out of the presidential race, Obama condemns anti-Muslim bias, and more


Rand Paul and Rick Santorum end their presidential campaigns

On Wednesday Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania both dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination after disappointing finishes in Monday's Iowa caucuses. Paul won the support of less than 5 percent of Iowa caucus-goers, but promised to continue pushing his libertarian brand of conservatism as he seeks another term in the Senate. "Brush fires of liberty were ignited, and those will carry on, as will I," Paul said. Santorum, who got just 1 percent in Iowa, endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.


Obama condemns anti-Muslim intolerance in mosque visit

On Wednesday President Obama made his first visit to a U.S. mosque as president and called for a dialogue with American Muslims to counter the "divisive rhetoric on the campaign trail." Obama, speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, condemned an increase in bias against Muslim Americans following terrorist attacks in Paris and California. "If we're serious about freedom of religion, we have to understand that an attack on one faith is an attack on all of our faiths," he said. Obama last week denounced anti-Semitism in a visit to the Israeli embassy. He speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday.


U.N. halts peace talks as Syrian government advances toward Aleppo

On Wednesday United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura suspended his effort to carry out peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups after government forces advanced against rebels near Aleppo. The Syrian army, supported by Russian airstrikes, cut off rebel supply lines from Turkey into the contested city. De Mistura has said a ceasefire is crucial for progress. "I won't talk for the sake of talking," he said.


Trump says Cruz stole victory in Iowa

GOP frontrunner Donald Trump accused Sen. Ted Cruz of committing fraud to win Monday's Iowa caucuses, demanding a "new election" or the nullification of the results. "Ted Cruz didn't win Iowa, he stole it," Trump tweeted. Trump said Cruz's campaign circulated an email suggesting Ben Carson was dropping out of the race, possibly causing some Carson supporters to join Cruz. Cruz apologized for spreading the false information about Carson, but tweeted that his rival was having "yet another 'Trumpertantrum.'"


Durst pleads guilty to gun charge, clearing path for murder trial

On Wednesday New York real-estate heir Robert Durst pleaded guilty in a New Orleans federal court to illegally possessing a .38-caliber revolver. Under the plea arrangement, Durst will be sentenced to 85 months in prison. Eventually he will be returned to California to face charges that he murdered a former confidante, Susan Berman. Police believe he killed her so she would not tell what happened to his wife, Kathleen, who vanished in 1982.


BBC reports U.N. panel finds Wikileaks founder Julian Assange 'unlawfully detained'

A United Nations panel has ruled that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is being "unlawfully detained," BBC News reported Thursday. Assange has been holed up in London's Ecuadorian embassy since 2012, when he sought asylum there to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, which he denies. Assange asked the U.N.'s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, based in Geneva, to look into his case. He tweeted late Wednesday that he would accept arrest if the U.N. ruled against him.


Sumner Redstone steps down as CBS executive chairman

CBS announced Wednesday that billionaire media mogul Sumner Redstone was stepping down as its executive chairman. CBS chief executive Les Moonves will replace him. Redstone, 92, controls about 80 percent of voting stock in both CBS and Viacom, the parent company of MTV, Comedy Central, and Paramount Pictures, among other media brands. CBS shares rose 4 percent after the news. Viacom's battered stock jumped by 8 percent in after-hours trading.


Toyota discontinues struggling Scion brand

On Wednesday Toyota confirmed that it was discontinuing its slumping Scion. Toyota launched the small-car brand in 2003. After some missteps, such as the iQ mini car, which critics found cramped, Scion's sales fell by 3 percent in 2015, down 68 percent from the brand's high point in 2006. Toyota said it would sell surviving Scion vehicles as Toyota models starting in the 2017 model year.


Al Shabaab leading suspect in Somalia plane explosion

Investigators believe an on-board explosion that forced an Airbus A321 to return for an emergency landing in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, was caused by a bomb, U.S. officials said Wednesday. One man was killed in the incident on the Daallo Airlines plane, and two others were treated in a hospital for minor injuries. No group has claimed responsibility. Investigators suspect that the Somali Islamist extremist group al Shabaab was responsible, but the insurgents made no comment about the explosion.


Judge rules Cosby sexual assault trial can proceed

On Wednesday a judge in Pennsylvania refused to throw out a sexual assault case against Bill Cosby, clearing the way for a trial. Former Temple University athletic department employee Andrea Constand says that Cosby drugged and violated her at his Pennsylvania house in 2004. Cosby says the encounter was consensual. Cosby's lawyers argued in the two-day hearing that former district attorney Bruce Castor granted the comedian immunity 11 years ago. The current prosecutors said there was no valid deal.


Colombian forces capture country's most wanted drug lord
Colombian anti-narcotics police helicopter.
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Ex-U.S. envoy to Afghanistan defends withdrawal deal
Zalmay Khalilzad.
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Erdogan orders removal of 10 ambassadors from Turkey, including U.S. envoy
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
'persona non grata'

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U.S. military says drone strike killed al Qaeda leader in Syria
A file photo showing the aftermath of a drone strike in Syria.

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