Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 1, 2015

1

ISIS claims to execute Japanese hostage

In a video released Saturday, the Islamic State claimed it had beheaded journalist Kenji Goto, the second of two Japanese captives held by the militant group. ISIS initially demanded $200 million in exchange for Goto, then instead offered to swap him for a failed suicide bomber imprisoned in Jordan. Though the video's authenticity has yet to be confirmed, President Obama tacitly acknowledged its veracity on Sunday by issuing a statement denouncing the "barbaric act."

2

Egypt frees jailed journalist Peter Greste

Egypt on Sunday said it freed Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste and would soon deport him to his native Australia. Greste was arrested in December 2013 and accused of publishing false news, sparking an international outcry from free press advocates who considered the charges bogus. Egypt has not said what it plans to do with two other Al Jazeera reporters, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, who were imprisoned along with Greste.

3

Today is Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl XLIX kicks off Sunday night at 6:30 pm in Glendale, Arizona. The New England Patriots are a slight favorite over the defending champion Seattle Seahawks. Katy Perry will perform the halftime show with special guest Missy Elliot. And if football isn't your thing, today is also Puppy Bowl XI.

4

Italy elects new president

Italy's parliament on Saturday elected Sergio Mattarella, a constitutional court judge, as the nation's next president. The relatively smooth election was a victory for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who backed Mattarella's candidacy to the largely ceremonial position. "First and foremost, my thoughts go to the difficulties and hopes of our citizens," Mattarella, who will be sworn in Tuesday, said after his election.

5

Ohio postpones all executions for 2015

Ohio on Friday postponed until next year all six executions scheduled for 2015 while the state looks for new lethal injection drugs. The state previously said it would change its death sentence protocol due to concerns that the drug cocktail used for executions could result in prolonged, painful deaths. The move comes one week after the Supreme Court said it would review the execution protocols used by a number of states to determine whether they are unconstitutional.

6

Novak Djokovic wins record fifth Australian Open

Novak Djokovic on Sunday defeated Andy Murray in four sets — 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 6-0 —  to claim a record fifth Australian Open title. The top-ranked player in the world, Djokovic remained perfect in Australian Open finals while claiming his eighth Grand Slam. Murray, who has never won the event, settled for his fourth second place finish in Melbourne.

7

Regulators recall 2.1 million vehicles over air bag issue

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Saturday announced the recall of 2.1 million vehicles whose air bags could spontaneously deploy. The recall covers models made by Toyota, Honda, and Fiat Chrysler. The automakers issued three earlier recalls over the airbag defect, but the NHTSA said those efforts did not entirely address the problem.

8

Record-breaking balloon flight ends near Mexico

Two pilots on Saturday concluded a historic trip across the Pacific Ocean when their helium-propelled balloon landed off the coast of Mexico. The two men, American Troy Bradley and Russian Leonid Tiukhtyaev, covered 6,646 miles in six days after departing from Japan, earning them world records for the longest and farthest trips ever made in a gas balloon. Though others have piloted balloons longer and farther, none have done so without the aid of burners.

9

Winter storm threatens to dump more snow across Northeast

One week after a massive blizzard buried parts of New England in more than two feet of snow, another winter storm is headed toward the region. The snowstorm is forecast to roll from the Midwest through the Northeast from Sunday into Monday, potentially affecting around 100 million people. Parts of the Midwest could see up to 18 inches of snow, while much of New York and New England are projected to see between six inches and a foot of powder.

10

Developer of birth control pill dead at 91

Carl Djerassi, a chemist considered to be the father of the birth control pill, died Friday at his home in San Francisco. He was 91 years old. In 1951, Djerassi led a team that for the first time synthesized the hormone norethindrone, a key ingredient in the first birth control pill. 

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