Israel Says It Foiled an Al-Qaida Attack on US Embassy: Reuters: "Israel said on Wednesday it had arrested two Palestinians from East Jerusalem who were planning to carry out attacks for al Qaeda with the help of foreign suicide bombers posing as Russian tourists. The men were recruited by another al Qaeda agent in the Gaza Strip, said Israel's Shin Bet intelligence agency—the second Israeli report in as many months suggesting the militant network was taking root among Palestinians. Hamas Islamists governing Gaza rejected the spy agency's account as 'silly fabrications,' saying it was an attempt to justify Israeli military strikes in the territory. Security experts say al Qaeda and its global agenda have for a long time had only a only fringe appeal among Palestinians as they pursue a more nationalist conflict with the Jewish state. .... According to the agency, the Palestinians planned to provide bomb vests to foreign militants posing as Russian tourists for attacks on an Israeli convention center in Jerusalem and the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv."
Details: Associated Press: "The Palestinian operatives had planned on several other attacks, [Israel] said. One included shooting out the tires of a bus and then gunning down passengers and ambulance workers. ... The agency said the plot was in 'advanced planning stages' but gave no further information on how close the men got to carrying it out. It said the Palestinians from Jerusalem had used their Israeli resident cards to scope out and gather intelligence on targets. They were arrested in the past few weeks, it said. ... The Shin Bet said the three suspects made contact with al-Qaida over the Internet. It said they planned on traveling to Syria — where various jihadist groups are battling the forces of President Bashar Assad — for training."
Sexual Assault Task Force: New York Times: "President Obama on Wednesday reviewed his administration’s efforts to combat sexual assault, including in the military, and planned to order a new task force focused on sexual assault on college campuses. He summoned his cabinet and senior advisers for a meeting at the White House to underscore the significance of the issue. At the meeting, Mr. Obama was expected to sign a presidential memorandum creating the task force, and to receive a report from the White House Council on Women and Girls .... The report says that one in five college students are sexually assaulted, but just 12 percent of those victims report the violence. While both the administration and the news media have paid greater attention recently to sexual assaults in the military, rape is most common on college campuses, according to the council’s report. The problem, it says, is exacerbated by students’ alcohol and drug use."
It's That Time Again: Politico: "The Obama administration wants Congress to raise the debt limit in the next 16 days. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner Wednesday, saying the 'best course of action would be for Congress to' raise the nation’s debt limit 'before February 7 to ensure orderly financing of the government.' At the latest, Lew writes, Congress must lift the cap by the end of February. ... There’s not a ton of time. The House is out of session this week, and only in session for two and a half days next week. As of right now, there doesn’t appear to be a plan to lift the debt limit. Asked last week about whether Congress would have to deal with the debt limit by late February, Boehner demurred."
Lean In: Bloomberg: Sheryl Sandberg’s fortune surpassed $1 billion [Tuesday] after Facebook Inc. (FB) closed at a record high. The chief operating officer of the world’s most popular social-networking service owns about 12.3 million shares of the Menlo Park, California-based company, which closed at $58.51 in New York. Her stake is valued at about $750 million. Sandberg has collected more than $300 million selling shares since the company’s 2012 initial public offering, and owns about 4.7 million stock options that began vesting last May. The 44-year-old is one of the youngest female billionaires in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index."
Yesterday's Campus Shooting: USA Today: "Authorities continue to look for a motive in a Purdue University shooting in which one teaching assistant targeted another. Andrew Boldt, 21, a senior electrical engineering major from the Milwaukee suburb of West Bend, Wis., died Tuesday in the first on-campus shooting at the public university in more than 17 years. Cody Cousins, 23, also a senior electrical engineering major from the Dayton suburb of Centerville, Ohio, was taken into custody shortly after the shooting and is being held without bond in connection with the homicide, Tippecanoe County Jail officials said. Purdue police chief John Cox said Tuesday that Cousins did not resist when arrested and was not armed but he also was not forthcoming with information. Criminal charges against Cousins have not yet been filed."
Today's False Alarm: ABC News: "Reports of a shooting and a gunman on the campus of the University of Oklahoma today were false, the school's president said this afternoon. The school was placed on lockdown around 12:30 p.m. today after a faculty member told police they heard three noises that sounded like gunshots, President David L. Boren said at a news conference today. Police and SWAT teams responded to Gould Hall, searched the building, and evacuated students, but found no evidence of a shooting, he said. There were no bullet casings inside or outside the building, no one who appeared to be a shooter, and no witness reports of a shooter. The police began a second search of the building after the first to ensure that it was safe. At 1 p.m., 30 minutes after the initial text message telling the school's students and staff to stay in place, the university sent out another alert notifying students and faculty the campus was safe and operations would resume as normal. Gould Hall remained closed."
Bad Astronomy: KABOOM! Nearby Galaxy M82 Hosts a New Supernova!
Ukraine Update: Washington Post: "With at least two protesters dead from gunshot wounds, and another found beaten to death after his kidnapping, talks that opened Wednesday afternoon between President Viktor Yanukovych and the three main leaders of the political opposition are likely to be the last chance to head off a nation-shaking physical confrontation. Aggressive riot police had put the center of Kiev, with its many thousands of protesters, in a state of considerable tension. Sporadic conflict continued all day outside Dynamo Stadium as protesters, led by a right-wing splinter group, refused to give ground to Interior Ministry troops. The politicians broke off talks after three hours, and the opposition leaders later delivered angry avowals of their determination to oust Yanukovych, but they said they planned to meet again Thursday. The deaths of three and possibly more activists shocked and energized the legions of protesters who once more turned out Wednesday evening."
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