TOKYO (AP) — As Japan gears up to host the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and caters to a surging influx of foreign visitors, the country faces a cultural dilemma: Should it stop identifying Buddhist temples on maps with the traditional "manji" symbol that is often confused with a Nazi swastika?
British banking giant HSBC is to pay more than $600 million to US authorities for its abusive mortgage lending and foreclosure practices in the housing market, officials said Friday. HSBC, Europe's biggest bank, will pay $470 million to settle the allegations by the US government, 49 states and the District of Columbia, the Justice Department said in a statement. "This agreement is the result of a coordinated effort between federal and state partners to hold HSBC accountable for abusive mortgage practices," said Stuart Delery, acting associate attorney general, in the statement.
NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said Friday that Russia's air strikes in Syria targeting rebel forces are "undermining" efforts to find a peaceful solution to the five-year war. Syrian peace talks in Geneva earlier this week broke up acrimoniously as Moscow's long-time ally President Bashar al-Assad launched a fresh offensive against rebel forces in Aleppo with massive Russian backing. "What we have seen is that the intense Russian air strikes mainly targeting opposition groups in Syria are undermining the efforts to find a political solution to the conflict," Stoltenberg said as he arrived for talks in Amsterdam with EU defence and foreign ministers.
BOSTON (AP) — Daily fantasy sports giant DraftKings is making its long-anticipated international push with a launch Friday in the United Kingdom even as its industry continues to tangle with U.S. policymakers.
The massive flow of migrants into Europe must be slowed with the help of Turkey and better screening of asylum applicants on arrival on the continent, the interior ministers of France and Germany said Friday. Speaking in Athens, the ministers warned again of a real "danger" of Europe's Schengen border-free zone collapsing if its outer frontiers were not better protected by, among other things, boosting Greece's capacity to sort "genuine" refugees from economic migrants. Most come from Turkey, which Europe accuses of doing too little to prevent migrant families setting out for Greece in overloaded boats that often sink, costing hundreds of lives since the crisis accelerated last summer.
Britain faces opposition from European partners over plans to reform the EU ahead of an in/out referendum on membership, and should not expect "Europe a la carte," the European Parliament president warned Friday. Martin Schulz welcomed Britainâ s push to make the European Union more competitive, but said other demands would "set a dangerous precedent for a Europe a la carte", where countries could ignore aspects of the EU they did not like. The reforms would "meet resistance in the European Parliament", Schultz told students at the London School of Economics (LSE).
Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa's bid to take over as FIFA president received a massive boost on Friday with the Asian football chief getting the powerful backing of the African continent. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) agreed to support the Bahraini's bid to succeed Sepp Blatter as president of world governing body FIFA in an election in Zurich later this month. "The executive committee decided that CAF will give full support to Sheikh Salman with his candidacy for FIFA presidency," CAF first vice-president Suketu Patel said after an executive committee meeting during the African Nations Championship tournament in Kigali.
A close ally of President Vladimir Putin, Patriarch Kirill has helped to transform the Russian Orthodox Church into a powerful institution of the post-Soviet state. The 69-year-old native of Saint Petersburg will meet Pope Francis next week in Cuba. Kirill, born Vladimir Gundyaev, was chosen to take the helm of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2009 after the death of Patriarch Alexy II, a domineering presence who had been in charge since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Pope Francis will meet Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Cuba next week in a historic first meeting between the heads of the two largest Christian churches, the Vatican announced Friday. The two wings have been estranged ever since with each maintaining for centuries that they are the true heritors of the early Christian church established by the apostles of Jesus Christ. Relations have warmed of late between Rome and other branches of the Orthodox tradition, but the Russian one, the most influential in the Eastern family, has maintained its distance, until now.
Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to renegotiate Britain's ties with Europe and then give voters a referendum on European Union membership by the end of 2017. Following are the views of business leaders: AEROSPACE AND AIRLINES Chief executive of airline easyJet Carolyn McCall said: "We will do everything we can to make sure that consumers understand that they are far better off within the EU when it comes to connectivity and low fares." "We think it would be very difficult for our government to negotiate with 27 other member states to get the flying rights that we have today within the EU." Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary: "We're very actively supporting the campaign to keep the UK in the European Union.
By Gabriela Baczynska BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Britain's European partners voiced reservations but no outright rejection of a draft deal to meet its demands for reformed EU membership terms on Friday when negotiators from the 28-nation bloc met for the first time to discuss the text, diplomats said. London's bid to win exemption from the European Union goal of "ever closer union", preserve its financial sector from regulation by the euro zone and curb access to in-work benefits for EU migrant workers won backing from Poland as the meeting of national negotiators - or sherpas - began in Brussels. The powerful leader of Warsaw's new ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said after meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron that he was satisfied that the proposals would protect the rights of some 600,000 Polish workers already in Britain.
The Turkish army has confiscated 700 parrots and 294 budgerigars on the border with Syria, it said on Friday, as its tighter security measures ensnare what was once a thriving trade in domesticated birds. NATO member Turkey has stepped up security along its 900-km (560-mile) border with Syria as it tries to prevent foreign fighters joining Islamic State militants and defend itself against spillover from the country's civil war. "They were generally bringing Sultan, Love and Paradise parrots.
By Tom Miles GENEVA (Reuters) - The U.N's top migration official called German Chancellor Angela Merkel a hero on Friday, saying she had taken a principled stand to support refugees while some European leaders had failed a test of human decency. "In my opinion Mrs Merkel is a hero," Peter Sutherland, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special representative for international migration, told a news conference in Geneva.
AMSTERDAM (AP) — European Union defense ministers huddled Friday with NATO's secretary general to discuss closer cooperation between the military alliance and the 28-nation bloc to tackle looming threats to the region.
PRAGUE (AP) — In a protest about the plight of migrants coming to Europe, Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has wrapped golden thermal blankets around his bronze animal heads meant to recreate the traditional Chinese zodiac.
VATICAN CITY (AP) — In an historic step to heal the 1,000-year schism that split Christianity, Pope Francis and the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet in Cuba next week in an attempt to begin bridging the church's East-West divide, both churches said Friday.
The European transfer window is not so European any more, with Chinese clubs outspending the continent's richest clubs in January to prove that the country is now a genuine power in attracting the world's best players.
Scuffles broke out on Friday on the Greek island of Kos between police and a small group of residents protesting against the construction of a registration and reception center for migrants, police officials said. "About 100 people tried to enter the facilities under construction, and we fired teargas," one of the Police officials said.
BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Ankara on Monday to meet with Turkey's prime minister as she tries to reduce the migrant influx to Europe, the German government said Friday.
The patriarch of Russia's Orthodox Church will take part in an historic first meeting with the Roman Catholic pontiff on Feb. 12 because of the need for a joint response to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, the Orthodox Church said. Senior Orthodox cleric Metropolitan Hilarion said that long-standing differences between the two churches remain, most notably a row over the status of the Uniate Church, in Ukraine. "The situation shaping up today in the Middle East, in North and Central Africa, and in some other regions where extremists are carrying out a genuine genocide of the Christian population, demands urgent measures and an even closer cooperation between the Christian churches," Hilarion said.
PARIS (AP) — French police have rounded up hundreds of suspects and searched more than 3,000 homes under a state of emergency since the November extremist attacks on Paris — but much of the action involves drug cases or similar crime, not terrorism.
HELSINKI (AP) — Swedish truck maker AB Volvo has posted a fourth quarter net profit of 2.59 billion kronor ($310 million), compared with a 2.98 billion kronor loss last year, on the back of cost cuts and brisk sales in Europe.
TOKYO (AP) — Japan has deployed PAC-3 missile batteries in the heart of Tokyo to shoot down any incoming rocket debris. South Korea is reportedly mobilizing two Aegis-equipped destroyers. The U.S. is already gunning to punish Pyongyang for what it says will be a ballistic missile test in the guise of a space launch.
Prime Minister David Cameron is playing a high-stakes game which will decide his place in political history with negotiations aimed at preventing Britain from leaving the EU in a looming referendum, experts say. Cameron landed himself in his current position by promising in 2013 to hold a referendum on Europe if he won the 2015 election. Paradoxically for a leader who is arguing for Britain to stay in the European Union, Cameron has described himself as a eurosceptic.
TOKYO (AP) — As Japan gears up to host the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and caters to a surging influx of foreign visitors, the country faces a cultural dilemma: Should it stop identifying Buddhist temples on maps with the traditional "manji" symbol that is often confused with a Nazi swastika? The symbol, from ancient Sanskrit, means happiness and prosperity. It has been used for centuries by Hindus and Buddhists, and has turned up in archaeological digs in Europe. But many Western tourists associate it with anti-Semitism and the Holocaust because the emblem was adopted by Nazi Germany to try to enhance a sense of ancient lineage.
By Matt Siegel SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia is considering subjecting thousands of refugees from Syria to tougher character and security checks than their European counterparts to minimize the risk of "extremist infiltration", a leaked policy document says. The draft document singles out refugees from Syria as potentially holding beliefs or associations that may lead them to engage in violent activities, and outlines measures to monitor them even after they gain Australian citizenship. Australia is part of the United States-led bombing campaign against the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria and is on heightened alert for attacks by home-grown radicals.
LONDON (AP) — World leaders pledged more than $10 billion Thursday to help fund schools, shelter and jobs for refugees from Syria's civil war, money that British Prime Minister David Cameron said "will save lives, will give hope, will give people the chance of a future."
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Two people in southeastern Brazil contracted the Zika virus through blood transfusions, a municipal health official said Thursday, presenting a fresh challenge to efforts to contain the virus on top of the disclosure of a case of sexual transmission in the United States.
Brazilian midfielder Alex Teixeira became China's third record signing in just over a week on Friday when Jiangsu Suning snapped him up for 50 million euros ($56 million) -- following earlier interest from English giants Liverpool. China's latest monster move came only three days after Guangzhou Evergrande paid 42 million euros for Atletico Madrid's Jackson Martinez, and nine days after Jiangsu's 28-million-euro purchase of Ramires from Chelsea. The hat-trick of record deals pushed China's spending in its current transfer period, which closes on February 26, to 258.9 million euros, higher than the 247.3 million euros spent by English clubs in the now-closed January transfer window, according to the transfermarkt website which tracks the sport's commercial dealings.
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — At least 200 million girls and women in 30 countries are estimated to have undergone female circumcision — half of them in Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia, the U.N. children's agency said in a report released Thursday night.
LinkedIn developed the product, Lead Accelerator, from technology it acquired with the purchase of marketing company Bizo in 2014 for $175 million. LinkedIn's revenue from ads on its website rose 20 percent in the fourth quarter, but the growth was the slowest in two years. LinkedIn forecast an adjusted profit of about 55 cents per share for the first quarter, way below the average analyst estimate of 74 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
World leaders pledged over $10 billion (9.0 billion euros) Thursday to help conflict-hit Syrians at a London conference overshadowed by the breakdown of peace talks in Geneva. The European Union, Germany, Britain and the United States were among the biggest donors to provide food, education and job opportunities for Syrians in their homeland and neighbouring countries where they have fled.
A Syrian child with eye cancer was flown into Italy for treatment Thursday, becoming the first to benefit from a new humanitarian corridor hoping to stop desperate refugees from attempting an often deadly Mediterranean crossing to Europe. "So happy because we come to Italy, from Syria... by humanitarian corridor, direct to Rome!", Yasmine Al Hourani, mother of Falek, a seven-year-old girl, said in halting English at Rome's Fiumicino airport.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is struggling to find the right mix of military and diplomatic moves to stop the Islamic State in Libya, where the extremist group has taken advantage of the political chaos in the country to gain a foothold with worrying implications for the U.S. and Europe — particularly Italy, just 300 miles (500 kilometers) away.
The World Health Organization on Thursday advised countries against accepting blood donations from people who have travelled to regions affected by the Zika virus, as Spain announced Europe's first known case of the disease in a pregnant woman. With dozens of cases emerging in Europe and North America from travellers returning from affected areas, WHO stressed the potential link between Zika and microcephaly -- which causes children to be born with abnormally small heads -- and urged health authorities to take precautions.