Good morning. Here are some of the stories we’re following today:
1. ISIS holds two Japanese hostages for ransom
ISIS released a new video Tuesday purporting to show two Japanese hostages being held ransom. The terror group demanded $200 million for their release, and a militant in the video said the pair would be executed if their demands weren't met within 72 hours. The video's release comes on the heels of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledging about $200 million in non-military assistance for countries battling ISIS. Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief Cabinet secretary, described ISIS' threat to kill the hostages as "unforgivable" and said that Tokyo would "cooperate with related nations and do our very best to achieve the release of these Japanese nationals." Read more in NEWS.
2. Obama gets economic boost ahead of State of the Union
What is the state of our union? Divided, recovering, troubled and deteriorating were among the top answers from Americans, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released before President Barack Obama's annual State of the Union address Tuesday night. But while Americans as a whole seem unsure about where this country is headed, Obama is able to hang his hat on the improving economy. His overall job-approval number of 46 percent is his highest rating since October 2013, and 49 percent of Americans approve of his handling of the economy — the most since his first year in office. Among the topics he'll tout during this year's State of the Union agenda will be raising taxes on the wealthy and providing free community college. Read more in POLITICS.
3 Who’ll be guests at this year’s State of the Union?
One of the key — and oftentimes poignant — moments in the annual State of the Union address is the introduction of regular Americans and those who have overcome extraordinary circumstances in the past year. This year, the honored guests will include Alan Gross and his wife, Judy. Gross spent five years imprisoned in Cuba, and was released last month as part of a deal to open up communications between the U.S. and the communist country. They'll be guests of first lady Michelle Obama, along with American astronaut Scott Kelly, a soldier wounded in Afghanistan and Latinos who have made strides in their respective fields. Read more in POLITICS.
4. Pope adds stops in NYC, D.C. to U.S. itinerary
Pope Francis' fall visit to Philadelphia will include papal pit stops in New York and Washington, D.C., the Vatican confirmed Monday. Details of his itinerary are in the early-planning stages, but organizers are already talking about appearances at the White House, the United Nations and Ground Zero — and even a Mass at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will welcome the 79-year-old leader of the world's Catholics "with open arms." Francis, who just completed a record-shattering visit to the Phillippines, had already committed to traveling to Philadelphia in September for the World Meeting of Families, but he had not announced any other stops. Read more in NEWS.
5. Ohio overpass collapses, killing one
Cincinnati officials are investigating why a highway overpass being prepared for demolition collapsed like a pancake Monday, killing a construction worker and injuring a truck driver. "Something went wrong and a tragedy has occurred," Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black said. Southbound lanes of Interstate 75 will be closed for at least 48 hours for the investigation and to remove debris from the collapse, Police Chief Jeffery Blackwell said. He added that the truck driver was "very lucky" to have survived with only minor lacerations. Read more in NEWS.
6. Jury selection begins in Aurora theater shooting trial
Some 9,000 people have been called as prospective jurors in the trial of James Holmes, which begins Tuesday in the complex and highly charged case. Holmes, 27, is accused of massacring a dozen people and wounding another 58 during a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in July 2012. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but could face the death penalty if found guilty. Read more in NEWS.
And now this ...
Here's an out-of-this-world case of lost and found. A decade ago, the Brits lost track of a spacecraft that went searching for signs of life in the universe. NASA just found it ... on Mars.