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News Wrap: Security forces search for Americans missing in Iraq

In our news wrap Monday, security forces searched Baghdad for three Americans who disappeared over the weekend. An Iraqi lawmaker said they worked for a private company. Also, a pair of Iranian poets have escaped to another country after having been convicted of anti-government propaganda.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff. Gwen Ifill is away.

    On the "NewsHour" tonight: major breakthroughs in Iran's relationships with the United States. We examine the prisoner release, new missile sanctions, and implementation of the nuclear deal.

  • Then:

    reviewing the final Democratic primary debate before Iowa, and more news from the trail with only two weeks left until voting begins.

    And methane gas from a leaking pipe overtakes a Southern Californian town, forcing residents to flee.

  • PAULA CRACIUM, Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council:

    There's this enormous stain on the community right now caused by this leak, and a stain that's not going to go away the day after the leak's fixed, unfortunately.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."

    (BREAK)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Two Iranian poets who faced heavy prison terms have fled the country. Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Mousavi told the Associated Press that they escaped, but declined to say where. The pair had been convicted of anti-government propaganda and — quote — "insulting sanctities." In addition to prison terms, they'd been sentenced to 99 lashes for shaking hands with the opposite sex.

    Security forces in Iraq fanned out across part of Baghdad today, after three Americans disappeared over the weekend. Iraqi officials said they were kidnapped on Friday and taken to the heavily Shiite neighborhood known as Sadr City.

    A key Sunni figure strongly condemned the growing wave of abductions.

    ABDUL-LATIF AL-HIMAIM, Head of Sunni Endowment, Iraq (through interpreter): We reject any kidnap operation. We fully support the government, stability and security. We absolutely condemn and reject anyone who violates the law and disturbs security and stability. We denounce outlawed acts and kidnappings. Such acts are rejected from any party.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    An Iraqi lawmaker said the missing Americans worked for a private company. The U.S. Embassy didn't identify them or say what they were doing in Iraq.

    In Afghanistan, a second round of talks unfolded in Kabul, aimed at ending the war with the Taliban. Officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States gathered to lay the groundwork for future negotiations, and called for the Taliban to step up.

  • SALAHUDDIN RABBANI, Foreign Minister, Afghanistan (through interpreter):

    Any delay by the Taliban at the negotiating table will isolate them more in the eyes of the Afghan people. Those who missed the chance to join the peace process clearly proved that they do not want an Afghanistan with sovereignty, independence, stability and welfare and their aim is insurgency and destruction.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    An earlier attempt at negotiations collapsed last summer.

    In Great Britain, lawmakers debated today whether Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump should be banned from their country. The House of Commons took up the topic after more than 500,000 people signed a petition to bar Trump. It's a response to his call to stop Muslims from entering the United States.

    Back in this country, an Arctic air mass brought bitter cold to parts of the Upper Midwest, and pushed east. Temperatures sat in the single digits or below zero in Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois. Much of Minnesota, meanwhile, saw windchills today between minus-20 and minus-40. Streets in Minneapolis were left nearly bare, except for a heavily bundled-up few who braved the cold.

    This Martin Luther King holiday brought an air of change, especially in Columbia, South Carolina. Crowds marked the day for the first time since the Confederate Flag was removed from the state capitol grounds.

    In Washington, FBI Director James Comey laid a wreath at the King Memorial, and called for both police and minorities to put aside distrust.

  • JAMES COMEY, FBI Director:

    We have to also understand that all of us, law enforcement and non-law enforcement, carry with us implicit biases. We react differently to a face that looks different than our own. We have to stare at that and own that.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    For their part, President and Mrs. Obama visited an elementary school in Washington, where they planted gardens and gave books and supplies to needy students.

    Wall Street was closed for the holiday, but oil prices slipped below $29 as Iran increased its output. Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande declared a state of economic and social emergency. He announced a $2.2 billion plan to jump-start jobs and growth.

  • PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, France (through interpreter):

    In a country capable of facing the most horrible challenges such as terrorism, a country plagued by high levels of unemployment, it must be capable of reforming itself, creating a solid and demanding economic and social system and belief in progress.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Also today, the value of the Russian ruble fell again, this time to an all-time low.

    And a passing of note. Rock musician Glenn Frey died today in New York, after a long illness. The guitarist co-founded the Eagles with drummer Don Henley in the early 1970s, and together, they wrote such hits as "Hotel California" and "Life in the Fast Lane." Glenn Frey was 67 years old.

    Still to come on the "NewsHour": what could be a new era in Iranian relations and prisoners freed with Iran's sanctions lifted; Democrats battle it out just two weeks before Iowa; California's methane leak that's gone on for nearly three months; and much more.

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