The Super Bowl kicks off Sunday as American football seeks to put a scandal-plagued season behind it, with this year's spectacle featuring a Katy Perry concert, ultra-expensive commercials and a compelling clash between Seattle and New England. The extravaganza is expected to draw a whopping 115 million viewers -- or about one in three Americans -- and amounts to an unofficial holiday in the United States, where even those with no interest in the sport gather at countless Super Bowl parties. This year's championship comes with the National Football League battling back from a season of turmoil, accused of complacency and even conspiracy in its handling of issues ranging from domestic violence to concussion dangers. The latest controversy -- accusations that the New England Patriots intentionally deflated footballs -- has dominated news coverage in the days leading up to the game.
Thirteen Ukrainian soldiers and at least seven civilians have been killed in fighting in the past 24 hours, Kiev authorities said on Sunday, reporting widespread clashes with Russian-backed separatists a day after peace talks collapsed. "Fighting continues across all sections of the frontline," Kiev military spokesman Volodymyr Polyovy said in a briefing.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Fighting and other violence in Iraq killed at least 1,375 people including 790 civilians in January, the United Nations said on Sunday. The dead included 585 members of the Iraqi army which is struggling to rebuild itself after Islamic State militants seized large sections of the country last year. At least 2,240 civilians and soldiers were wounded during the same period, the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq said in a statement. (Reporting By Stephen Kalin; Editing by Ned Parker and Andrew Heavens)
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday denounced as "heinous and despicable" the apparent beheading of a second Japanese hostage by the Islamic State group, as global leaders denounced the jihadists. IS claimed in a video released online Saturday that it had killed 47-year-old Kenji Goto -- the second beheading of a Japanese hostage in a week -- but made no mention of a captured Jordanian pilot it had also threatened to kill. Jordan "will do everything it can" to save the pilot's life and secure his release, government spokesman Mohammed al-Momeni told the official Petra news agency in Amman. He directly addresses Abe, saying the killing was the result of "reckless" decisions by the Japanese government -- a possible reference to aid money that Tokyo gave to help refugees fleeing IS-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq -- and would mark the beginning of a "nightmare for Japan".
By Kate Kelland and Ben Hirschler LONDON (Reuters) - As West Africa's devastating Ebola outbreak begins to dwindle, scientists are looking beyond the endgame at the kind of next-generation vaccines needed for a vital stockpile to hit another epidemic hard and fast. "We need a stockpile because there will be other outbreaks," said Seth Berkley, chief executive of the GAVI global immunisation alliance, which helps bulk-buy vaccines for poor countries. The experimental vaccines now moving into large clinical trials in West Africa target the current Ebola Zaire virus strain, but the next outbreak may be different. "We need to work with the pharmaceutical industry to create second-generation vaccines that would cover not just Ebola Zaire but also Ebola Sudan and perhaps Marburg, perhaps Lassa.
WASHINGTON (AP) — With a blend of tax hikes and spending increases, President Barack Obama's budget spells out a policy agenda that will distinguish him from Republicans who now control Congress. It also will contain what amount to opening bids for some long-shot compromises.
By Donny Kwok and Michelle Price HONG KONG (Reuters) - Thousands of pro-democracy protesters returned to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in the first large-scale rally since demonstrations rocked the global financial hub late last year. Last year's protests for a fully democratic vote to choose Hong Kong's next leader were the most serious challenge to China's authority since the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations and crackdown in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Packed streets resembled rivers of yellow as protesters carried yellow banners and umbrellas - a symbol of last year's campaign after protesters used them to fend off police pepper spray attacks. Chants of "we want true democracy" echoed off high rise buildings.
By Lanre Ola MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Islamist insurgents attacked the outskirts of northeast Nigeria's main city Maiduguri on Sunday, engaging in a gun battle with soldiers that killed at least eight people, witnesses and a security source said. Militant group Boko Haram has killed thousands since it launched its revolt in Maiduguri five years ago and wants the city to become the capital of a separate Islamist state. Everybody is panicking and trying to flee the area," said Idris Abubakar, a resident of Polo on the western outskirts of the city. Growing violence by the insurgents is a major headache for President Goodluck Jonathan who faces elections on Feb. 14 that analysts say are too close to call.
Greece'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 French Finance Minister 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. Amid the flurry of diplomacy, Tsipras spoke with European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi on Saturday night and has booked in meetings with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, French President Francois Hollande and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker this week.
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.