AP WIRE: NEWS

AP Top News at 3:21 a.m. EST

Japan special envoy hopeful about release of hostage, pilot
TOKYO (AP) - A Japanese envoy in Jordan expressed hope that both Japanese hostage Kenji Goto and a Jordanian pilot held by Islamic militants will return home "with a smile on their faces," as questions rose Tuesday over the government's handling of the crisis. In the Jordanian capital, Amman, Deputy Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama seemed determined, saying he believed there were "firm ties" between Japan and Jordan.


Millions hunker down as Northeast storm totals downgraded
NEW YORK (AP) - Tens of millions of people along the East Coast hunkered down for a storm that for most failed to live up to predictions that it would be one of the worst they'd ever seen. Forecasters originally said the storm could bring 1 to 3 feet of snow and punishing hurricane-force winds. But early Tuesday, they downgraded most of those numbers, saying New England would fare the worst, but even then not as bad as expected.


The latest on the Northeast snowstorm
MIDNIGHT Rhode Island implemented a travel ban on all roads and closed its bridges.


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US loans fueled insider deal, failed power plan in Liberia
BUCHANAN, Liberia (AP) - A failed U.S. government-backed plan to produce environmentally friendly energy in one of Africa's poorest countries was marred by insider connections and questionable planning, an Associated Press investigation found. The federal agency at the center of the deal is one of the government's biggest secrets and routinely escapes public scrutiny. That agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, approved three loans totaling $217 million to help a company, Buchanan Renewables, convert nonproducing rubber trees into biomass chips that would help power Liberia.


Facebook suffers outage affecting users worldwide
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - Facebook suffered a widespread outage lasting an hour on Tuesday affecting users worldwide. The glitch reported in Asia, the United States, Australia and the U.K. affected access from PCs and Facebook's mobile app. The social media giant's Instagram service was also inaccessible.


Leaders mark Auschwitz liberation 70 years on without Putin
OSWIECIM, Poland (AP) - When the Soviet army entered Auschwitz exactly 70 years ago, finding piles of corpses and prisoners close to death, a Russian soldier took a small and hungry 11-year-old girl into his arms and rocked her tenderly, tears coming to his eyes. That girl, today the 81-year-old Paula Lebovics, doesn't know who that soldier was but still feels enormous gratitude to him and the other Soviet soldiers who liberated the camp on Jan. 27, 1945.


US announces charges in New York Russian spy ring case
NEW YORK (AP) - Three Russian citizens were charged Monday in connection with a Cold War-style Russian spy ring that spoke in code, passed messages concealed in bags and magazines, and tried to recruit people with ties to an unnamed New York City university, authorities said. The defendants were directed by Russian authorities to gather sensitive economic intelligence on potential U.S. sanctions against Russian banks and efforts here to develop alternative energy resources, according to a complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan.


Failed Iraqi bomber named in Islamic State hostage crisis
BEIRUT (AP) - In the moments after her husband blew himself up in the ballroom of a Jordanian hotel as part of an al-Qaida plot, Sajida al-Rishawi fled the scene of chaos wearing her own explosive belt. The 2005 assault on three hotels in Amman, the worst terror attack in Jordan's history, killed 60 people. Al-Rishawi, an Iraqi, was sentenced to death. But now, almost a decade later, she has emerged as a potential bargaining chip in negotiations over Japanese hostages held by the Islamic State group, a breakaway group from al-Qaida in Iraq that orchestrated the Jordan attack.


Federal government failing to protect children, report says
The federal government's failure to enforce the nation's child protection laws is a "national disgrace" that leaves abused children vulnerable to future harm, according to a three-year study by two child advocacy groups. The 110-page report released Tuesday identified some of the same failures reported in December by The Associated Press after an eight-month investigation into hundreds of children who died of abuse or neglect in plain view of child protection authorities.


Obama leading delegation of US dignitaries to Saudi Arabia
NEW DELHI (AP) - President Barack Obama will lead a delegation of lawmakers, senior U.S. officials and two former secretaries of state to Saudi Arabia Tuesday to pay respects to the royal family following King Abdullah's death. Obama was cutting short the final day of his visit to India to make the trip to Riyadh, the capital of the oil-rich desert kingdom. He had planned to close his three days in India with a visit to the famed Taj Mahal, but will instead make a four-hour stop in Saudi Arabia to meet with new monarch King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud and attend a dinner with other Saudi officials.

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