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Headline News

$400 Million Airlifted by US to Iran as Detained Americans Released

The U.S. government airlifted the equivalent of $400 million to Iran this past January, which occurred as four detained Americans were released by Tehran.

The cash flown to Iran consisted of euros, Swiss francs, and other currencies because U.S. law forbids transacting American dollars with Iran.

The cash transfer was supposed to be the first installment paid in a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran to resolve a failed 1979 arms deal dating from just before the Iranian Revolution.

State Department spokesman John Kirby denied the cash transfer was done to secure the release of the four Americans, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine; Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, whose case had not been publicized before the release.

“The negotiations over the arms deal settlement and were completely separate from the discussions about returning our American citizens home,” Kirby said in a statement. “Not only were the two negotiations separate, they were conducted by different teams on each side.”

“The funds that were transferred to Iran were related solely to the settlement of a long-standing claim at the U.S.-Iran Claims Tribunal at The Hague,” Kirby’s statement concluded.

Since the cash was airlifted, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has arrested two more Iranian-Americans. Tehran has also detained dual-nationals from France, Canada and the U.K. in recent months.

“Paying ransom to kidnappers puts Americans even more at risk,” Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., said in a statement. “While Americans were relieved by Iran’s overdue release of illegally imprisoned American hostages, the White House’s policy of appeasement has led Iran to illegally seize more American hostages.”

Michael Bloomberg May Run As Independent For President

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is seriously considering an independent presidential run and may make a decision in March, a source familiar with Bloomberg’s thinking told the media.

The source said Bloomberg, 73, sees the Republican and Democratic presidential races as becoming increasingly polarized, and said that neither fits Bloomberg’s views.

A spokesman for the former mayor declined to comment.

News of Bloomberg’s consideration was first reported Saturday morning by The New York Times.

Kate del Castillo Is Wanted By Mexican Authorities For Questioning About El Chapo Connections

Mexican authorities want to question actors Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo about Penn’s interview with drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, a senior Mexican law enforcement official stated.

Penn held a secret meeting with Guzman in October in a mountainous Mexican jungle, Rolling Stone reported. The interview took place three months after Guzman made a dramatic escape through a tunnel under his shower in a Mexican prison.

Kate del Castillo is now wanted by Mexican Authorities for questioning about El Chapo connections.

Iran Sanctions Lifted With Nuke Deal Which Has Already Been Broken

The IAEA says Iran has completed all the necessary steps in an agreement aimed at reining in its nuclear program, clearing the way for the removal of some sanctions.

Iran has various obligations under the nuclear agreement. It must reduce its level of uranium enrichment, dramatically reduce the size of its stockpile of enriched uranium, reduce the number of centrifuges and agree to unfettered international inspections.

But not all nuclear-related sanctions will be rescinded immediately — that won’t happen for about 10 years, should the deal hold. But Iran will be able to sell its oil again on world markets and its banks will be able to connect to the global system.

Washington Post Journalist Jason Rezaian Is Being Released

Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who has been detained in Iran since July 2014, is being released as part of a prisoner swap deal, according to an Iranian news agency report today.

Three other prisoners are also being released, the semi-official FARS news agency said, citing Tehran’s prosecutor.

The news agency did not name the other prisoners being released, or provide any details on the deal.

Iran has been known to be holding Rezaian, Marine veteran Amir Hekmati and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini. Additionally, former FBI agent and CIA contractor Robert Levison has been missing since visiting Iran in 2007.

Former District Attorney Agreed Not To Use Deposition By Bill Cosby

A former district attorney claimed in an email to his successor that his office agreed more than a decade ago to not use a civil deposition given by Bill Cosby in any criminal matter — a revelation that could call into question the viability of the criminal case against the comedian.

Cosby faces three felony charges of aggravated indecent assault for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand when she visited his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.

She was the first of at least 50 women who have come forward to publicly accuse Cosby of assaulting them over four decades.

David Bowie Dies After 18 Month Long Battle With Cancer

David Bowie, whose ground-breaking sound and chameleon-like ability to reinvent himself made him a pop music fixture for more than four decades, has died. He had just turned 69 last week.

Bowie died Sunday after an 18-month battle with cancer, his publicist Steve Martin told the media.

“David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer. While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief,” said a statement posted on his official social media accounts.

Neither his publicist nor the statement elaborated on what kind of cancer the singer was fighting.

Barack Obama Answers Questions At Town Hall Event, Guns in America

President Barack Obama answered a gun executive, a sheriff, a rape survivor and a widow who oppose his actions at the “Guns in America” town hall event.

Obama also rejected the “imaginary fiction” that he wanted to take away the guns of law-abiding Americans.

“The way it is described, is that we are trying to take away everybody’s guns,” Obama said, charging that his opponents had twisted his plans on gun safety measures.

“Our position is consistently mischaracterized,” Obama said. “If you listen to the rhetoric, it is so over-the-top, it is so overheated.”

Obama also took questions from people who agreed with his proposal to expand background checks, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, who have been fierce advocates of increased gun control since Giffords was seriously wounded in a 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona.

The President also said that he would be happy to meet with representatives of the National Rifle Association, which declined to take part in the town hall meeting even though other gun rights advocates did attend.

House of Representatives Repealed Obamacare

The GOP-controlled House of Representatives has approved a bill to repeal Obamacare that, after more than 60 votes in the past five years, will finally get to the President’s desk.

The House vote was 240-181, largely along party lines. The Senate passed the legislation last month.

The bill is expected to arrive at the White House later this week. President Barack Obama has already vowed to veto any Republican bill that guts his signature health care law.

The measure also bars any federal money for Planned Parenthood. Conservatives in Congress vowed to defund the organization after a series of videos released by an anti-abortion group last year triggered a controversy about the sale of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood maintains the footage was edited, and has denied any improper activity.