1 February 2015

Two blasts rock Nigeria's Gombe city, 5 dead: witnesses, source

Greste had been sentenced to seven years in prison along with a fellow Al-Jazeera reporter, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy, for allegedly aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood groupKano (Nigeria) (AFP) - Two blasts rocked north Nigeria's Gombe city on Sunday, killing five people, with one of the attacks targeting a military checkpoint, witnesses and a military source said.


1 February 2015

Obama plans 19 percent tax on U.S. companies' foreign earnings

Obama delivers remarks at the armed services farewell in honor of Hagel in VirginiaBy Jeff Mason and Kevin Drawbaugh WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's fiscal 2016 budget proposes a 19 percent tax on U.S. companies future foreign earnings and a one-time 14 percent tax on roughly $2 trillion of profits being held offshore, the White House said on Sunday. The White House has long been critical of practices by U.S. companies that it views as avoiding tax responsibilities at home. The proposals are part of a broader tax reform package that the Obama administration hopes will re-focus tax advantages toward middle-income Americans. "This transition tax would mean that companies have to pay U.S. tax right now on the $2 trillion they already have overseas, rather than being able to delay paying any U.S. tax indefinitely," a White House official said.


1 February 2015

Bulgaria bids farewell to 'democracy hero' Zhelev

A relative mourns on February 1, 2015 Bulgaria's first democratically elected president Zhelyu Zhelev during his funeral service at the Alexander Nevski cathedral in SofiaBulgaria bid farewell on Sunday to its first non-communist president Zhelyu Zhelev, hailed as a hero of freedom and democracy in the Balkan country. Bulgaria's political and intellectual elite and several Balkan leaders gathered in the golden-domed Alexander Nevski cathedral in Sofia to pay their last respects to the former leader. Zhelev, a dissident who became Bulgaria's first democratically-elected president and led the country between 1990 and 1997, died on Friday at the age of 79. "Zhelyu Zhelev is a symbol of the fight for freedom and democracy of the Bulgarians," President Rosen Plevneliev said at the funeral.


1 February 2015

Chad forces bomb Boko Haram positions in Nigerian town

File picture shows Chadian government soldiers loading rockets onto a MI24 combat helicopter in the capital N'Djamena on February 4, 2008Fotokol (Cameroon) (AFP) - Chadian aircraft struck Boko Haram positions in the Nigerian border town of Gamboru for a second straight day on Sunday, an AFP journalist in a neighbouring town said.


1 February 2015

Fierce fighting rages for key Ukraine town

A man stands next to his car on Febuary 1, 2015 after it was destroyed by shelling in the eastern Ukrainian city of DonetskBattles raged Sunday between government forces and pro-Russian rebels for control of a strategic transport hub as the death toll mounted in east Ukraine following the collapse of ceasefire talks. Intense artillery fire thundered around the Kiev-controlled town of Debaltseve, a key position between the rebel bastions of Donetsk and Lugansk, where insurgent fighters are trying to encircle Ukrainian troops. Ukrainian military spokesman Volodymyr Polyovyi in Kiev said that "constant battles" were going on around Debaltseve but pledged that government forces would not give up control of the last remaining road into the town. Ukraine's military said 13 soldiers had died and 20 were wounded over the past 24 hours, pushing the military death toll over the past two days to 28.


1 February 2015

APNewsBreak: Obama ties foreign profits tax to public works

FILE - In this Wednesday, May 16, 2012 file photo, newly constructed roadways are being built in Fairfax County, Va. President Barack Obama’s budget will propose an ambitious six-year, $478 billion public works program of highway, bridge and transit upgrades, half of it financed with a one-time mandatory tax on profits that U.S. companies have amassed overseas, White House officials said. Obama will unveil a $4 trillion budget on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015.(AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's budget will propose an ambitious six-year, $478 billion public works program of highway, bridge and transit upgrades, half of it financed with a one-time mandatory tax on profits that U.S. companies have amassed overseas, White House officials said.


1 February 2015

Saudi frees women's rights activist close to blogger

Protesters enact a flogging in front of the Saudi embassy in Washington on January 15, 2015 in a protest against the 10-year prison sentence and 1,000 lashes of Saudi activist Raef Badawi for "insulting Islam" in a blogpostA woman who co-founded the Saudi Liberal Network Internet discussion group with blogging activist Raef Badawi has been freed after about three months in prison, her daughter said on Sunday. Suad al-Shammari had spent around 90 days at a women's prison in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, her daughter Sarah al-Rimaly told AFP. She was arrested in late October for insulting Islam, activists said at the time. Saudi Arabia's new King Salman late on Thursday issued an amnesty for some prisoners, but Rimaly said her mother's release was unconnected to this.


1 February 2015

Ebola-hit Liberia delays school reopening

Liberia's schools closed six months ago to limit the spread of the Ebola virusLiberia's education ministry said on Sunday it had postponed by two weeks the reopening of the country's schools, which were closed six months ago to limit the spread of the Ebola virus. Liberia is one of three west African countries hit by the deadliest Ebola outbreak on record, together with Guinea and Sierra Leone. Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf this week cited cost as a factor hampering the resumption of classes in her country.


1 February 2015

IS claims beheading of Iraqi security personnel

Iraqi Kurdish forces hold a position near Al-Assal village, west of Kirkuk, on February 1, 2015, a day after Peshmerga forces and police retook the area from Islamic State (IS) fightersThe Islamic State group beheaded an Iraqi police officer and two soldiers, the latest in a long series of atrocities committed by the jihadists, according to pictures posted online Sunday. In one photo, a blindfolded man said to be a police lieutenant colonel kneels in a street in front of a row of gunmen. Another photo shows an overweight masked militant apparently struggling to behead a man identified as a captured Iraqi soldier. A second soldier was beheaded at the same location, according to another photo of the scene.


1 February 2015

Nigeria military repels Boko Haram assault on key city Maiduguri

Soldiers and security block a road as they secure the venue during a rally of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) in Maiduguri on January 24, 2015Nigeria’s military on Sunday repelled a Boko Haram assault on the key northeastern city of Maiduguri, as violence raged across the region just two weeks before national elections. The hours-long attack on the strategic capital of Borno state was the Islamists’ second attempt to take Maiduguri in a week. With near-relentless violence plaguing much of the northeast, and Boko Haram still in control of large swathes of territory in the region, fears are mounting over the prospect of organising polls on February 14. The opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), which claims to be gaining momentum in the campaign against President Goodluck Jonathan, has rejected a call by the national security advisor for the vote to be postponed.


1 February 2015

Walker open to sending troops to fight Islamic State group

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he is open to sending U.S. troops to the Middle East to combat Islamic State fighters, but the potential Republican contender for 2016 presidential nomination isn't calling for them immediately.

1 February 2015

Blast hits pilgrim bus in Damascus, killing seven

A handout picture released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on February 1, 2015 shows the damage after a blast ripped through a bus carrying Shiite pilgrims in a central district of the Syrian capital DamascusAt least seven people were killed when a blast ripped through a bus carrying Lebanese Shiite pilgrims in the Syrian capital Damascus on Sunday, a monitoring group said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said another 20 people were wounded in the explosion near the Souq al-Hamadiyeh neighbourhood of the city. Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said the bus had a Lebanese licence plate and was carrying Shiite Muslim pilgrims visiting religious sites in Damascus. In Beirut, an official with the Lebanese group that organised the trip said all the passengers on the bus were Lebanese, but could not confirm a toll.


1 February 2015

Japan condemns 'despicable' IS hostage beheading claim

People walk past a screen reporting that Japanese hostage Kenji Goto was killed by the Islamic State group, on February 1, 2015 in TokyoPrime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday condemned the announcement by Islamic State militants that they had beheaded second Japanese hostage as "heinous and despicable," ending a hostage standoff that has rocked the pacifist nation. IS claimed in a video released online that it had killed 47-year-old journalist Kenji Goto -- the second purported beheading of a Japanese hostage in a week -- but made no mention of a Jordanian pilot it has also threatened to kill. Jordan's King Abdullah II denounced Goto's murder as a "cowardly, criminal act" and said every effort was being made "to seek the release of the hero pilot Maaz Kassasbeh", captured after his F-16 plane crashed in Syria in December.


1 February 2015

Greece on European charm offensive in search of debt relief

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (R) shakes hands with European Parliament Chairman Martin Schulz as he welcomes him in Athens on January 29, 2015Greece's new anti-austerity government was set to kick off its European charm offensive in Paris on Sunday seeking to renegotiate its 240 billion euro ($270 billion) bailout, though Germany has already refused to consider any debt relief. Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who is looking to write down half of Greece's debt, was scheduled to meet with his French counterpart Michel Sapin and Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron in the afternoon, before heading on to London and Rome. Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has tried to calm nerves and markets spooked by his radical plans, saying he did not intend to renege on commitments to the European Union and International Monetary Fund. Varoufakis is likely to get a sympathetic hearing in France, where Sapin has already said the EU should be open to reworking Greece's bailout programme, while emphasising that it must still pay up eventually.


1 February 2015

Officials meet to address safety after aviation calamities

FILE - In this April 8, 2014 file photo, a school utility worker mops a mural depicting the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, at the Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino High School campus at Makati city east of Manila. After a calamitous year for aviation, hundreds of government and industry officials will gather in Montreal this week in an attempt to reach a consensus on how to prevent any more airliners from disappearing without a trace or being shot down while flying over a conflict zone. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — Government and aviation industry officials from dozens of countries are meeting in Montreal this week to try to find consensus on how to keep from losing airliners like the one that vanished without a trace in Asia and another shot down in Eastern Europe.


1 February 2015

British mosques hold open day after Paris attacks

British mosques open their doors to the public Sunday in a gesture of reassurance following last month's Islamist attacks in ParisSome 20 mosques in Britain were opening their doors to the public Sunday in an unprecedented gesture of reassurance following last month's Islamist attacks in Paris. Visitors will be served tea and cakes by members of the mosque community who will answer questions about Islam, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) umbrella group which is organising the initiative said in a statement. Participating mosques include Finsbury Park in north London, where Abu Hamza -- jailed in the US last month for the deadly kidnapping of Western tourists in Yemen plus terrorism offences -- was once imam. The Finsbury Park Mosque has since undergone a change of leadership and ethos and now stresses community relations and interfaith dialogue.


1 February 2015

French piano virtuoso Aldo Ciccolini dies aged 89

Italian-born French pianist Aldo Ciccolini, pictured in 2012, applied his virtuosity to composers as diverse as Bach and Rachmaninov to Grieg and BorodinItalian-born French piano virtuoso Aldo Ciccolini died overnight at his home in the Paris area after a long illness, his manager said Sunday. He had just returned home last week after spending several weeks in hospital, Paul Blacher told AFP. Born on August 15, 1925, into a musical family in Naples, Aldo Ciccolini was a child prodigy, beginning composition classes in the city's conservatory at age nine. The launchpad for his international career was his winning performance of Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto at the prestigious Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud competition in Paris when he was 25.


1 February 2015

Suicide bombing in northeast Nigeria kills seven

A suicide bomber detonated explosives outside the home of a politician in Nigeria's Potiskum cityA suicide bomb attack targeting a political meeting killed seven people in northeast Nigeria's Potiskum city on Sunday, just two weeks from national elections, witnesses and a police officer told AFP. "We have evacuated eight bodies including the suicide bomber's to hospital," said a police officer at the scene, who requested anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media. Witness Nura Umar, who gave the same death toll, said the bomber emerged from a bus that pulled up in front of the home Sabo Garbu, who is running for a seat in the lower house on the ruling Peoples Democracy Party ticket.


1 February 2015

A look at rates for payday loan usage, broken down by state

The share of people in each state who reported taking out a payday loan in the past five years, which ranged from 1 percent to 13 percent, according to a 2012 survey by Pew Charitable Trusts. Because the Pew survey was only conducted in the continental U.S., the figures do not include Alaska or Hawaii. In cases where states had too few survey respondents, the percentage is not reported and marked with an X:

1 February 2015

Regulators prepare rules on payday loans to shield borrowers

Maranda Brooks stands outside a payday loans business that she frequented in the past Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in Cleveland. Troubled by consumer complaints and loopholes in state laws, federal regulators are putting together expansive, first-ever rules on payday loans aimed at helping cash-strapped borrowers from falling into a cycle of high-rate debt. Analysts often point to Ohio for its complicated history with payday loans: Ranking fourth in the nation in the share of people who took out payday loans, at 10 percent, Ohio also was third among states in the number of consumer complaints to the CFPB about payday loans, behind Texas and California. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)WASHINGTON (AP) — Troubled by consumer complaints and loopholes in state laws, federal regulators are putting together the first-ever rules on payday loans aimed at helping cash-strapped borrowers avoid falling into a cycle of high-rate debt.