Pope and Iranian President meet in Vatican
The leader of the Roman Catholic Church and the President of Iran met Tuesday at the Vatican, a face-to-face encounter that speaks to a changing geopolitical landscape and both men’s significant role in it.
Cameras captured Pope Francis and President Hassan Rouhani shaking hands and sitting down across from each other. No details were immediately available about exactly what they discussed.
No doubt, though, they have a lot to talk about — from the bloody, years-long war and humanitarian crisis in Syria to endangered Christians in the Middle East to the increasing integration of the country officially called the Islamic Republic of Iran into world affairs following the striking of a landmark nuclear deal.
The pair — one a senior Muslim cleric, the other the world’s most recognized Christian leader — had planned to sit down in November, according to official Iranian and Vatican news outlets. But Rouhani postponed that meeting, and his entire trip to Europe, following that month’s coordinated terrorist massacre in Paris. CNN
The Kremlin has called on the US Treasury to come up with proof after it told a BBC investigation it considered President Vladimir Putin to be corrupt. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the allegation was an “official accusation” and a “total fabrication”.
Adam Szubin, who oversees US Treasury sanctions, told BBC Panorama that the US government had known Mr Putin was corrupt for “many, many years”. It is thought to be the first time the US has made such a direct accusation.
Washington has already imposed sanctions on Mr Putin’s aides, but has stopped short of levelling corruption allegations at the president himself. US restrictions were placed on a number of Kremlin insiders in 2014, after President Putin ordered the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine.
The EU imposed similar measures against Russian companies and individuals, focusing on sectors of the Russian economy that were close to the elite. The US government stated at the time that President Putin had secret investments in the energy sector. BBC
Saudi Arabia presents plan to move beyond oil
Saudi Arabia outlined ambitious plans Monday to move into industries ranging from information technology to health care and tourism, as it sought to convince international investors it can cope with an era of cheap oil.
A meeting and presentation at a luxury Riyadh hotel was held against a backdrop of low oil prices pressuring the kingdom’s currency and saddling it with an annual state budget deficit of almost $100 billion — the biggest economic challenge for Riyadh in well over a decade.
Top Saudi officials said they would reduce the kingdom’s dependence on oil and public sector employment. Growth and job creation would shift to the private sector, with state spending helping to jump-start industries in the initial stage. VOA News
Tuesday promises to be another nerve-racking day for investors, with Asian stock markets sustaining another round of large losses certain to ripple across the globe. China’s Shanghai and Shenzhen indexes led the way, each losing 6 percent at the end of the day’s trading session, the lowest marks 14 months.
The indexes in Hong Kong and Japan lost 2 percent each, while markets in Taiwan, Singapore and Thailand also sustained losses. Tuesday’s declines were once again triggered by losses a day earlier on Wall Street, with the Dow Jones, S&P 500 and NASDAQ indexes all losing shares thanks to oil prices once against falling below $30 a barrel due to an oversupply of crude on the global market and slowing growth in China.
Energy shares have plunged as a result, and caused concern among investors about a slowdown in the global economy. VOA News
At the CNN Iowa Democratic Town Hall, Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Martin O’Malley took the stage separately to answer questions from the audience, one week before the Iowa Caucuses. Clinton discussed her foreign policy experience as Secretary of State and how she’s been “on the front lines of change and progress” since she was young.
O’Malley promised as president to fight for “common sense wage and labor policies that make wages rise again, things we used to do, Democrats and Republicans, together all the time, like keeping the minimum wage above the poverty line, paying overtime pay for overtime work. And how about this — the long deferred promise of equal pay for equal work for men and women.”
Sanders called for a “political revolution,” saying his campaign was striking a chord with Americans because they “understand that establishment politics is just not good enough. We need bold changes.”
Donald Trump has hit a new high in the race for the Republican nomination, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll, with more than 4-in-10 Republican voters nationwide now saying they back the billionaire. Trump has topped the 40% mark for the first time in CNN/ORC polling, standing at 41%. That more than doubles the support of his nearest competitor, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who notches 19% support in the poll.
Cruz, the Texas senator who is running neck-and-neck with Trump in Iowa polling, urged a gathering of evangelical pastors on Monday to coalesce around his candidacy in order to defeat the billionaire real estate mogul. He offered a remarkably candid assessment of the race for the Republican nomination: Donald Trump “could be unstoppable” if he wins the Iowa caucus.
Hillary Clinton has embraced Barack Obama’s legacy. Her campaign chairman is a former White House adviser credited for pushing through pro-environmental regulations. And she talks about the need to act on global warming. CNN, BBC, The Week
Weekend blizzard Jonas may have dumped a lot of snow on the East Coast, but its economic impact may not be as catastrophically damaging as expected, experts said Monday. The estimated cost of the storm, which won’t be firmed up until February, could be anywhere from $350 million to $850 million, said Chris Christopher, an IHS Global Insight macroeconomist.
Jonas missing the work week should help limit the cost, whereas a weekday storm would have targeted an area that produces $16 billion in output each day. A lack of major power outages should also minimize the damage incurred. The Associated Press
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