MAIDUGURI, Nigeria –  In fierce fighting Sunday that killed more than 200 combatants, Nigerian troops clashed with Islamic extremists who attacked Maiduguri, the biggest city in northeastern Nigeria, from three fronts.

At the same time the insurgents continued scorched-earth attacks on villages some 125 miles to the south in Adamawa state, slitting throats of residents, looting and burning homes and abducting dozens of trapped women and children, according to Vandu Kainu and other escaping survivors.

Adamawa state legislator Adamu Kamale appealed for troops to protect civilians in Michika, where six villages are under attack. "The attacks have continued since Friday with no presence of security operatives," he complained.

The multiple attacks come as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital nearly 1,000 miles southwest of Maiduguri, over fears of violence around critical Feb. 14 elections.

Kerry met with President Goodluck Jonathan and his chief rival candidate, former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari. Kerry told reporters afterward that he won pledges from both to refrain from violence.

He also issued a warning: Anyone responsible for inciting post-election mayhem will be barred entry to the United States, where millions of Nigerians live.

Kerry stressed the elections should take place on time and promised more U.S. support in the fight against Boko Haram if the elections take place peacefully and democratically.

More than 800 people were killed in northern protests after Buhari, a Muslim northerner, lost 2011 elections to Jonathan, a Christian from the south.

Boko Haram has denounced democracy and wants to make an Islamic state of Nigeria, whose population of about 170 million is divided almost equally between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south.

In Maiduguri, troops blocked roads into the city, which also prevented civilians from escaping.

"Coordinated air and land operations are being conducted now," Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)

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The rocket attacks on Saturday on public places in the Ukraine city of Mariupol that killed 30 people drew rebuke from Secretary of State John Kerry and other world leaders who says the strikes were executed by Russian-backed separatists.

“I join my European counterparts in condemning in the strongest terms today's horrific assault by Russia-backed separatists on civilian neighborhoods,” Kerry said.

He also suggests more international economic sanctions on Russian if Moscow continues to arm and finance the separatist, or anti-government forces, in Ukraine, in violation of a peace deal between the countries reached last year.

“We call on Russia to end its support for separatists immediately, close the international border with Ukraine and withdraw all weapons, fighters and financial backing,” Kerry also said in a statement. “Otherwise, U.S. and international pressure on Russia and its proxies will only increase.”

On Saturday, rocket fire slammed into a market, two schools and homes in the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, about 25 kilometers outside of the ceasefire line.

Ukraine's top rebel leader said an offensive had begun on the strategically important port.

Ukraine's president called an emergency meeting of his military officials and cut short a trip to Saudi Arabia to rush back to coordinate the government's response.

The rocket attacks came a day after the rebels rejected a peace deal and announced they were going on a multi-prong offensive against the government in Kiev to vastly increase their territory. The rebel stance has upended European attempts to mediate an end to the fighting in eastern Ukraine, which the U.N. says has killed nearly 5,100 people since April.

Mariupol, which lies on the Azov Sea, is the major city between mainland Russia and the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula. Heavy fighting in the region in the fall raised fears that Russian-backed separatist forces would try to take over the government-held city ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)

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Flight attendants in Japan have claimed that some female cabin crews are regularly paid to sleep with pilots, according to a Japanese weekly magazine.

Unnamed flight attendants made the allegations in an article in the Shukan Post, claiming that the flight attendants earn between $450 and $650 for 90 minutes.

"Stewardesses who are willing to (engage in the activity) pass their number to a senior stewardess who is effectively a female pimp," one cabin crew member was quoted as saying. "Other stewardesses outsource their services through companies, some of which specialize in offering air hostesses."

Salaries for Japanese stewardesses have fallen dramatically over the past decade ― according to Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, yearly wages have been cut from $42,000 a year in 2004 to just $33,000 in 2013.

Another flight attendant added that pilots normally express interest to the hostesses with hand signals.

"Four digits raised to the nose indicate an offer of 40,000 yen ($340) for an overnight stay at a hotel," the flight attendant said, adding that the "prostitution circle" began several years ago.

"But since then, the girls in the circle at the same time are still employed at the company," she said. "I'm sure it still goes on even now."

Korea Times

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SINGAPORE, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Authorities in Singapore announced a fine of more than $15,000 was imposed on a litterbug caught on camera tossing cigarette butts from his high-rise window.

The National Environment Agency announced the 38-year-old man was ordered to pay $15,836 after investigators planted surveillance cameras outside his apartment building in response to repeated complaints about residents throwing litter from their windows.

The cameras caught the man throwing cigarette butts out of his window 34 times between March 13 and 16, 2014, investigators said.

The agency said the man, who was also ordered to complete five hours of community service on a Corrective Work Order, received the largest fine to date for an offense of high-rise littering.

The National Environment Agency said the surveillance camera was one of 600 set up at high rises around the country in an attempt to identify littering residents. The cameras have led to 206 people being penalized for violations, the agency said.


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 A man has been questioned by police after travelling on the Beijing Metro with a watermelon on his head.

Passengers and subway staff in the Chinese capital called police after several people said they were unnerved by the sight.

The man has been nicknamed the 'Watermelon Brother' by internet users who are trying to work out the mystery man's identity.

One commuter told the Beijing Morning Post he was freaked out by the man and his hollowed-out melon mask.

"It was so scary last night when I was on the metro," he said.

"This guy was just hanging around on the train wearing a watermelon mask with a beer bottle - apparently he was totally drunk."


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CALDWELL, Idaho, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- A puppy born with female and male sex organs was adopted in Idaho after a successful operation to remove one of its sets of genitalia.

Charcoal, an 8-week old chihuahua mix, was born in a litter of five at the West Valley Humane Society (formerly known as the Canyon County Animal Shelter), but workers noticed something different about the puppy.

"All of the other ones had normal external reproductive parts, except for Charcoal," Cherisse Faulkner, a worker at the West Valley Humane Society, told KIVI.

Charcoal, so named for her color, was born a hermaphrodite. Due to the puppy's difficulty urinating, shelter workers decided to perform a sex-assignment surgery to remedy the problem, removing one set of Charcoal's external reproductive organs.

"It was less intrusive to make it a female rather than go for a male," Faulkner told KIVI.

After a week, Charcoal had healed well and was energetic. Faulkner said after receiving several Facebook messages following the puppy's appearance on a local station, Charcoal was adopted Jan. 20.

Two days ago a hermaphrodite cat in Newfoundland was reportedly being prepared for a sex-assignment surgery due to similar digestive complications.


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State and local police in south Georgia are involved in a frantic search for a Marietta couple who disappeared after going to purchase a car from a seller they contacted online.

Telfair County Sheriff Chris Steverson said the Georgia State Patrol's aviation unit has joined local officials searching Telfair and Wheeler counties for Bud and June Runion, who are both in their late 60s.

The couple drove to McRae on Thursday to meet someone who responded to an ad Bud Runion placed on Craigslist seeking a 1966 Mustang. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that family members became concerned when the couple did not return for a family function and did not answer their cell phone.

Concerned family members have set up a Facebook page to assist with the search and to raise awareness of the couple's disappearance.

Police say the phone number the Runions called traces back to a disposable cell phone, signals from which they are tracking in hopes of finding the couple. A missing person's report has been filed with Cobb County police.

Fox News

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A New York City dad massacred his family early Saturday morning, marching from room to room, shooting his two daughters, his girlfriend and her mother in the head before fleeing, police said.

The only survivor is the couple’s 12-year-old daughter, who managed to call 911 and open the door for police despite being shot in the head and having the bullet exiting through her eye, sources said.

The girl was rushed to Long Island Jewish Medical Center in critical condition.

Jonathan Walker, 34, a hulking, 6-foot-6, 260-pound nightclub bouncer, fled the bload-soaked 5 a.m. scene in Springfield Gardens, Queens. Just before noon, his body was found inside his car with a gunshot wound to the head, in a wooded area near John F. Kennedy Airport, sources said.

It’s unclear what made Walker, who is originally from Buffalo and played basketball professionally in Europe from 2008-2009, suddenly snap.

He told a friend he was “going home to watch Netflix with the family,” said City Councilman Donovan Richards, who called the murder scene “truly horrific.”

“We’ve heard he was out with a friend. He told his friend he was going to get some beers and going home to watch Netflix with the family. We don’t know what made him snap when he came in,” Richards said.

The bodies of Viola Warren, 62, and her daughter, Shantai Hale, 31, were discovered in one bedroom, while little 7-year-old Kayla Walker was found in another bedroom inside the 148th Avenue home, police said.

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Two passenger jets were escorted by fighter jets to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and evacuated Saturday after what authorities called two “credible” bomb threats. However, FBI Atlanta later said that no devices were found on either plane.

The flights, Delta flight 1156 and Southwest flight 2492, were met in the air by fighter jets and escorted to the airport “as a precautionary measure’ according to a spokesman for NORAD. The flights landed safety and the fighter jets returned to their base.

The passengers were evacuated and a bomb squad checked both planes, MyFoxAtlanta reports.

"Due a security situation, the aircraft operating Flight 2492 was taken to a remote area of the airport where customers and the aircraft are being rescreened,” a spokesman for Southwest Airlines said. “Our number one priority is the safety of our customers and people. We cannot comment on the nature of the security situation."

The FBI in Atlanta later confirmed that no explosive devices were discovered.

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PANGKALAN BUN, Indonesia –  The second attempt to lift the fuselage of the crashed AirAsia jetliner failed Sunday as the wreckage sank back to the ocean floor when a rope linking the lifting balloons broke.

Navy spokesman Manahan Simorangkir said strong current was the main obstacle. The rope had been fastened and linked to a ship, but broke again as the fuselage was lifted.

"We could not fight against nature," Simorangkir said. "We just hope the weather would change and be conducive."

The attempt on Saturday failed because lifting balloons deflated. Divers reached the fuselage for the first time on Friday. Most of the victims are believed to be inside.

Simorangkir said rescuers retrieved one body Sunday that floated as the fuselage was being raised.

A total of 70 bodies have been discovered from Flight 8501, which crashed Dec. 28 with 162 people on board while flying from Indonesia's second-largest city of Surabaya, to Singapore.

Dozens of navy divers have been fighting strong current and poor visibility while trying to lift the fuselage from 30-meter- (100-feet-) deep waters in the Java Sea. The cockpit has been located about 500 meters (yards) away, and the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot are believed to be there.

Bad weather is a suspected factor in the crash. The pilots asked for permission to climb to a higher altitude, but air traffic controllers couldn't allow it because of heavy air traffic. The flight disappeared soon afterward.

Transportation authorities have ruled out sabotage and say a preliminary accident report is expected to be submitted to the International Civil Aviation Organization this coming week.

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