TOP STORIES ON FRIDAY, JAN. 25, 2013
SEVARE, Mali — Islamic extremists based in the Malian town of Ansongo have destroyed a bridge near the Niger border, officials said on Friday, marking the first use of explosives by the insurgents since the start of a French-led military intervention two weeks ago. The explosion shows that the extremists remain a nimble and daunting enemy, despite gains by the French, who have recaptured three towns from the insurgents and on Friday pushed toward the Islamist stronghold of Gao, one of three provincial capitals controlled by the al-Qaida-linked rebels. By Rukmini Callimachi and Baba Ahmed.
AP Photos XJD107-0124131234, XJD101-0125130611, XJD105-0124131204, XJD103-0125130733, XJD103-0125130751, XJD104-0124131202, XJD103-0124131240, XJD106-0124131244, XJD104-0124130842, XJD101-0124131249, XJD102-0124131325.
From France's Joan of Arc to female resistance fighters in World War II and the black-clad women warriors of the Viet Cong, history is filled with stories of women fighting alongside men. In many modern armies, however, ground infantry combat is still largely a male preserve — either by regulation, practical issues such as physical requirements of living space or personal preference in volunteer forces. By Robert H. Reid.
AP Photos TH106-0919121720, TH105-0112090641.
VIENNA — Austrian parliamentarians and invited guests are gathering to watch the premiere of an opera depicting how Nazis methodically killed mentally or physically deficient children at a Vienna hospital during World War II. "Spiegelgrund" is the work of Austrian composer Peter Androsch, whose great grandfather died in a concentration camp. Friday's performance will mark International Holocaust Day in Austria — a nation still atoning for its role in atrocities committed by the Nazis during the war.
LONDON — A judge on Friday granted a suspected Algerian terrorist the right to stay in Britain on human rights grounds, but ordered six other suspects to be return to Algeria. British officials had sought to deport all seven, who were said to be threats to Britain's national security. They were not identified for legal reasons.
LONDON — A British court has rejected a compensation claim by a man wrongly convicted of murdering a prominent television personality. Two High Court judges ruled that Barry George failed to meet the threshold for compensation because a "reasonable jury" could have found him guilty.
ROME — Silvio Berlusconi is vowing to scrap Italy's property tax in his first Cabinet meeting if his coalition is elected, zeroing in on Italians' deep distaste for the tax re-imposed by Mario Monti's government in a bid to boost public coffers. The former premier outlined his latest "contract" with Italians on Friday as he pressed his comeback bid, promising a host of reforms, incentives and measures to give relief to Italians suffering through a deep recession and youth unemployment at a record 37 percent. By Nicole Winfield.
AP Photos ALT112-0125131331, ALT106-0125131446, ALT108-0125131409, ALT107-0125131442, RDL102-0125131237, ALT114-0125131323, ALT111-0125131321, ALT101-0125131231.
MOSCOW — Russia stepped up efforts Friday to resolve a dispute with neighbor Kazakhstan over its demand to reduce the number of commercial satellite launches from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome. Kazakhstan, which in the past suspended Russian rocket launches after previous failures spilled toxic rocket fuel, has demanded that Russia cuts the number of Proton rockets lifting off from Baikonur from 17 to 12 this year. By Vladimir Isachenkov.
PRAGUE — With his rants against the EU and gay rights, Vaclav Klaus has been no stranger to controversy in his 10 years as Czech president. But one of his final acts in power — a sudden prisoner amnesty — has backfired so badly he's being accused of treason. His portrait has been torn down in anger in schools and offices across the country in a rapidly evolving scandal that has cast a shadow over this weekend's presidential election and tainted the post which, while largely ceremonial from the grandeur of Prague Castle, is seen to carry moral weight. It could also swing the outcome of the runoff vote that began Friday. By Karel Janicek.
AP Photos LGL111-1113120000.
PARIS — France has added itself to the list of countries telling their citizens to avoid the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. But the message from Paris, which appeared on Friday on the Foreign Ministry's website in the travel warning section, said that travelers should "temporarily" avoid the region of Benghazi and its environs "to the extent that is possible."
THESSALONIKI, Greece — Excavation work during construction of a new subway network in Greece's second largest city has discovered an ancient wreath made of gold that was buried with a woman some 2,300 years ago. Archaeologists say Friday's find in Thessaloniki occurred on the site of an ancient cemetery in the west of the northern port city.
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia — Officials say police have killed 2 suspected militants who took a woman and two children hostage in southern Russia. The Interior Ministry's branch in the province of Kabardino-Balkariya in the North Caucasus Mountains said the unidentified gunmen refused on Friday to free their captives in a house in Chegem town, opened fire at police and threatened to blow up the building.
OSLO, Norway — Norwegian energy company Statoil ASA said Friday that three Norwegian employees missing after a terror attack on a gas plant in Algeria have been confirmed dead. Statoil CEO Helge Lund said the three workers were 58-year-old Tore Bech; Thomas Snekkevik, 35; and 55-year-old Hans M. Bjone.
GENEVA — Tina Turner is on her way to becoming a Swiss citizen. The American rock diva has lived in the Zurich suburb of Kuesnacht since the mid-1990s. The local Zuerichsee-Zeitung newspaper said on its website the local council announced its decision to grant the 73-year-old Turner citizenship in an official notice published in Friday's edition.
DAVOS-AP JOBS DEBATE
DAVOS — The Associated Press hosts a debate at the World Economic Forum in Davos on "Creating Economic Dynamism," looking at the hollowing-out of middle-class jobs over the past five years and what countries and businesses can do to turn things around. Panelists include Eric Cantor, Majority leader and Republican Congressman from Virginia, Italian Finance Minister Vittorio Grilli, IMF Deputy Managing Director Min Zhu and economist Joseph Stiglitz. Hosted by Michael Oreskes, senior managing editor for U.S. news at the AP.
— DAVOS-FORUM- — ECB President Mario Draghi admits the renewed calm in the euro area's financial markets has yet to be reflected in the wider European economy.
— EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK — ECB: European banks to repay early $183 billion of the huge three-year emergency loans.
Also from DAVOS FORUM: BC-DRAGHI, BC-EURO-WOES-GDP-GLANCE, BC-EURO WOES-STOCKS-GLANCE, BC-CHINA-TERRITORIAL DISPUTES, BC-DAVOS FORUM-PROTEST.
DAVOS, Switzerland — What's the hot gossip on the party circuit at Davos this year? No big Google bash. For the past few years, the hottest invitation at the World Economic Forum was the Google party, where hundreds of the world's VIPs, especially the successful young technology entrepreneurs, would be out on the dance floor in droves, or trying to chat on the sidelines while shouting to be heard over the loud music. By Edith M. Lederer. AP Photos MEU134-0124132007, MEU136-0124132007.
—GERMANY-ECONOMY — German business confidence rises more than expected in January on hopes economy turning corner.
—BRITAIN-ECONOMY — Britain's economy contracts 0.3 percent in the last three months of 2012, raising the possibility that it might fall back into recession for the third time since the global financial crisis.
—SPAIN-FINANCIAL CRISIS — Spain extends special aid payments to long-term jobless until unemployment drops below 20 percent.
—GREECE-FINANCIAL-CRISIS — Athens subway staff end 9-day strike after riot police raid depot to enforce emergency order, ending a bitter standoff over new austerity measures.
—LITHUANIA-EURO — Lithuania says it will try to adopt the euro in 2015.
ITALY-MONTE DEI PASCHI
MILAN — Shareholders in embattled Italian bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena are lining up to question managers about a scandal involving potential trading losses that have reportedly been concealed. The world's oldest running bank has convened shareholders to approve capital increases as a condition to receive about $5 billion in state aid.
AMSTERDAM — Positive economic news from the European Central Bank and Germany, combined with promises of more monetary easing in Japan, helped stock indexes in those countries lead most markets around the world higher Friday. U.S. stocks rose in early trading, helped by a strong quarterly earnings report from Procter & Gamble. By Toby Sterling.
AP Photos KSX110-0125131134, KSX109-0125131135, KSX108-0125131132.