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Associated Press

Posted on March 20, 2013 at 8:00 AM

TOP STORIES FOR WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20, 2013

CYPRUS-FINANCIAL CRISIS

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cypriot officials work on an alternative proposal to stave off bankruptcy, a day after Parliament rejected an initial plan to raise billions of euros by seizing up to 10 percent of people's bank savings. Tuesday's decisive rejection of the plan to take a slice of all deposits above 20,000 euros has left the country's bailout in question and fueled fears that the Cypriot economy is on the cusp of bankruptcy — and could potentially have to leave the euro. By Menelaos Hadjicostis and Elena Becatoros.

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GERMANY-CYPRUS — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says her country wants a solution for Cyprus but insists there must be a plan to repair the tiny Mediterranean island's bloated banking sector.

VATICAN-POPE'S BACKYARD

ROME — When a future pope needed new soles, he strolled to a shoe repair shop practically around the corner from the Vatican. When he was pope and nearing retirement, he had the same shoemaker craft a pair of comfy, calfskin slippers. Borgo, the sleepy, medieval neighborhood with a timeless feel right outside the Vatican's borders, has been at the service of pontiffs for centuries. From resoling to risotto, from light bulbs to linguine, Borgo is the go-to place for up-and-coming cardinals and sometimes even for popes. By Frances D'Emilio.

AP Photos.

MAURITANIA-FRANCE-HOSTAGE

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania — A Mauritanian-based website says that al-Qaida's North African branch has executed a French hostage in retaliation for France's military intervention in northern Mali. In Paris, a French Foreign Ministry official says the government is aware of the report and is investigating. The hostage's father says he has not received confirmation of the death.

BRITAIN-BUDGET

LONDON — Britain is on the verge of slipping back into recession, it has seen its top AAA credit rating cut, and living standards have dropped under the impact of austerity measures. Even so, Treasury chief George Osborne is expected to cling to his message of tax hikes and spending cuts when he delivers his budget Wednesday, warning that failure to reduce borrowing could leave Britain in the same state as Cyprus or Greece. By Danica Kirka.

AP Photos

BRITAIN-PHONE HACKING

LONDON — Prosecutors say that The Sun newspaper's Deputy Editor Geoff Webster has been charged with authorizing thousands in illegal payoffs to government officials. The charges are among the most serious so-far leveled against journalists caught up in Britain's wide-ranging media ethics scandal, which has seen newspaper executives, senior journalists, and high-profile police figures get dragged before the courts.

POLAND-MINERS RESCUED

WARSAW, Poland — Nineteen miners trapped nearly a kilometer (half a mile) below ground by a cave-in at a copper mine in southern Poland are freed after a seven-hour search. The men were trapped by fallen rock at the Rudna copper mine in Polkowice after a magnitude-4.7 earthquake struck the area.

EU-ITALY-POLITICS

ROME — Italy's president is sounding out parliamentary leaders to see if there are solid prospects for forming a new government, weeks after inconclusive elections left the nation in political deadlock. Fresh elections could soon be called if President Giorgio Napolitano, after consultations on Wednesday and Thursday, decides no one can muster a reliable enough majority in Parliament to enact the economic and electoral reforms needed to pull Italy out of recession and improve future prospects for stable governments.

SLOVENIA-GOVERNMENT

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Slovenia's parliament to vote into office new center-left government of prime minister Alenka Bratusek, which will replace the cabinet that was ousted in a confidence vote following allegations of corruption and protests against austerity measures.

AIRLINES-OUTLOOK

GENEVA — The global airline industry has forecast a modest improvement in global net profits for 2013, crediting a backdrop of rising optimism about the world's economy — particularly in the United States and Europe. The International Air Transport Association, whose 240 member airlines carry 84 percent of all passengers and cargo, upgraded its financial outlook Wednesday to expected profits of $10.6 billion this year, mainly based on more passengers and cargo handled.

KOSOVO-JAILHOUSE ROCK

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo authorities are telling teachers and students to ignore a paragraph in a high school textbook that labels rock music as criminal. The citizenship textbook states that "rock music, pornography, violence on television — all not good acts — have been proven to be totally criminal." The Ministry of Education on Wednesday ordered teachers to disregard that part and said the paragraph will be deleted in future editions. By Nebi Qena.

RUSSIA-PUSSY RIOT

MOSCOW — Moscow's highest court panel has rejected an appeal by three members of the punk band Pussy Riot against their hooliganism conviction following a protest against Vladimir Putin. Moscow City Court's presidium upheld the verdict against the band last week. The decision was published Wednesday.

BRITAIN-DAVID BOWIE

LONDON — The Victoria and Albert Museum previews its show about the influence and many ch-ch-ch-changes of rock music's greatest chameleon. The exhibition has sold more advance tickets than any in the museum's history.

PORTUGAL-FINANCIAL CRISIS

LISBON, Portugal — Portugal has raised 1.5 billion euros ($1.94 billion) in a debt auction that saw the bailed-out country's longer-term interest rate fall, suggesting investor jitters about the financial fate of Cyprus are not contaminating other frail eurozone nations.

GERMANY-EARNS-DEUTSCHE BANK

FRANKFURT, Germany — Deutsche Bank has cut its 2012 profit figure because of new charges for possible costs from mortgage-related lawsuits in the U.S. The bank said Tuesday it would increase the amount set aside to pay such costs by 600 million euros ($800 million) to 2.4 billion euros.

SPORTS:

SOC--WCUP-EUROPEAN QUALIFYING

LONDON — European qualifying for the 2014 World Cup resumes on Friday with most of the big powers playing traditionally weaker teams. Defending champion Spain plays Finland, Germany takes on Kazakhstan and England faces San Marino. By 1600 GMT. By Rob Harris.

SOC--ITALY-BRAZIL

ROME — Italy hasn't beaten Brazil since a memorable victory en route to the 1982 World Cup title and will be looking to show off its newfound swagger in Thursday's friendly after last year's run to the European Championship final. By Andrew Dampf.

CYC--VOLTA A CATALUNYA

SETCASES, Spain — Belgian cyclist Gianni Meersman looks to protect his overall lead of the Volta a Catalunya as the weeklong race enters its third stage. By 1900 GMT.

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