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News Wrap: Biden weighs in on Democratic race

In our news wrap Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden weighed in Monday on the Democratic contest for the White House, saying Sen. Bernie Sanders has more credibility on the issue of income inequality. Also, Iran picked up two small U.S. Navy boats and their crews in the Persian Gulf. Iran's foreign minister assured Secretary of State Kerry that the sailors and boats would be returned promptly.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Iran picked up 10 U.S. Navy sailors and their two small boats in the Persian Gulf today. U.S. officials reported one boat had mechanical trouble and ran aground. Iran said the crews were detained for trespassing. It happened near Farsi Island. The Pentagon said the vessels were moving between Kuwait and Bahrain at the time.

    Afterward, officials said Iran's foreign minister assured Secretary of State John Kerry that the sailors and their boats will be handed over promptly.

    The Persian Gulf incident came as President Obama was putting the finishing touches on his last State of the Union address. He's expected to use the prime-time speech to talk about where he sees the country headed for years to come, including after he leaves office. But House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans talked up their own ideas today on what the president should say, especially when it comes to fighting terrorism.

    REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), Speaker of the House: While we're not certainly expecting much new, there is one thing that we hope to hear from the president, and that is a comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS. Americans are so anxious right now about their security, about what's going on around the world.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    On the Democratic side, Washington Senator Patty Murray acknowledged there's more work to be done and urged both parties to pitch in.

    SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), Washington: Tonight's speech is going to be about the future of our great country. And Democrats are ready to keep working here in Congress to make sure that future works for families and the middle class.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    We will get a preview of tonight's address, and talk to the president's chief of staff, after the news summary.

    In the presidential race, Vice President Joe Biden weighed in Monday on the Democratic contest and offered words of praise for Bernie Sanders. New polls have the Vermont senator leading Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire and moving up closer to her in Iowa. In a CNN interview, the vice president said Sanders has more credibility on the issue of income inequality.

  • VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN:

    Bernie is speaking to a yearning that is deep and real.

    It is relatively new for Hillary to talk about that. Hillary's focus has been other things up to now. And that's been Bernie's — no one questions Bernie's authenticity on those issues.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Later, the vice president said that wasn't a criticism of Clinton. He said that, as secretary of state, her focus had rightly been on foreign policy.

    There's been new trouble in Germany over the wave of migrants pouring into the country. More than 200 anti-immigration protesters tore through the city of Leipzig last night. They carried racist signs and shouted anti-Muslim slogans. Dozens of police responded to the scene and made arrests after violence erupted. The rioters smashed windows and vandalized several buildings. Earlier, some 2,000 protesters had marched peacefully.

    Japan warned today that it will send armed vessels to keep China's Navy away from disputed islands. The Senkaku Islands, in the East China Sea, are claimed by both nations. A top official in Tokyo says that Japan means to control the waters around them.

  • YOSHIHIDE SUGA, Chief Cabinet Secretary, Japan (through interpreter):

    This objective was approved by the cabinet in May last year, stating that foreign naval passage into Japanese seas that aren't considered nonthreatening will trigger seaborne policing action, and will be dealt with by the self-defense force.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Meanwhile, the Philippines' Supreme Court upheld a security deal with the U.S. amid rising tensions in the South China Sea. Manila hopes that an increased U.S. military presence will fend off aggressive Chinese moves there.

    Some 50,000 British doctors-in-training went on strike today for the first time in 40 years. The 24-hour walkout was triggered by a contract dispute with the government-run National Health Service. The so-called junior doctors took to the picket lines to demand better pay for working weekends and to warn against plans to lengthen their schedules.

  • MAN:

    I already work up to 24 hours. Many times, that's nonstop. And I don't really have any set breaks during the day or the night. But if those protections are taken away and the trusts are able to just make us work for as many hours as they wish, then, of course, we are going to be more tired, and, ultimately, that's going to affect patients' safety.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    About 4,000 operations and outpatient procedures had to be canceled due to the walkout, but the doctors still provided emergency care.

    Back in this country, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 the state of Florida's method of handing out the death penalty is unconstitutional. Judges in the state have the final say in capital cases and can even impose a death sentence when a jury decides against it. Today's decision could mean new appeals for some of the 390 people on Florida's death row.

    On Wall Street, stocks gained ground, even as oil prices fell to near $30 a barrel, and pulled energy shares lower. Despite that, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 117 points to close at 16516. The Nasdaq rose nearly 48 points, and the S&P 500 added 15.

    And the University of Alabama celebrated its fourth college football national championship since 2009 today. The Crimson Tide beat Clemson last night 45-40. And per tradition, coach Nick Saban got a Gatorade shower from his players. Bet it probably felt good.

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