Barnes & Noble decides to keep Nook after all

Barnes & Noble is keeping its Nook Media digital business after planning to combine Nook and its college bookstores into a single company separate from its retail operations.

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Deaths shake Ukraine truce, Poroshenko wary of Russia threat

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine on Friday reported the first deaths in three days in east Ukraine, denting hopes a ceasefire will hold, and President Petro Poroshenko said Russia would pose a "military threat" even if the truce is solid.






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American atheist blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh

Avijit Roy, whose Mukto-Mona (Free-mind) blog championed liberal secular writing in the Muslim-majority nation, attacked along with his wife in Dhaka

A prominent American blogger of Bangladeshi origin was hacked to death with machetes by unidentified assailants in Dhaka, police said, with the atheist writer’s family claiming he had received numerous threats from Islamists.

The body of Avijit Roy, founder of Mukto-Mona (Free-mind) blog site which champions liberal secular writing in the Muslim-majority nation, was found covered in blood after the attack which also left his wife critically wounded.

Related: Murdered blogger Avijit Roy received Islamist threats before his death

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Mother reunited with stolen daughter 17 years after she was snatched

Zephany Nurse has been reunited with her birth family after unwittingly striking up a friendship with her biological sister at school

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​Moscow confirms India considering free trade zone with Eurasian Economic Union

Reuters / Jayanta Dey

"The question was raised by India, which is now considering a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union. This is a new level in our relationship. The possibility is being discussed," he told reporters Friday during an official visit to New Delhi.

On Thursday TASS reported that India will start negotiating a comprehensive free trade agreement with the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan within the next six months.

READ MORE: India to negotiate free trade zone with Russia-led Customs Union

The Eurasian Economic Union of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia started functioning in January 2015.

READ MORE: Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan sign ‘epoch' Eurasian Economic Union

The organization was created on the skeleton of the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus is aimed at improving regional economic cooperation. The group has a population of 171 million people and a GDP of nearly $3 trillion. In the near future the union is expected to be joined by Kyrgyzstan.

China has also said it is willing to join a free trade zone with Eurasian Economic Union.

READ MORE: China and Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union may set up free trade zone

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Avijit Roy, the blogger who wouldn’t back down in the face of threats

It is unclear whether men formerly arrested in Dhaka for online death threats against the Bangladeshi-American writer were free at time of machete attack

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Bangladeshi-American Writer Killed by Machete-Wielding Assailants

Avijit Roy was leaving a book fair in the Bangladeshi capital when he was attacked, the police said. His wife was in critical condition from a blow to the head.

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Mexico captures drug lord Servando ‘La Tuta’ Gomez

Boost for President Pena Nieto in fight against warring drug gangs and in wake of public revulsion over abduction of trainee teachers

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U.S. fourth-quarter growth rate revised down to 2.2 percent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. economic growth braked more sharply than initially thought in the fourth quarter amid a slow pace of stock accumulation by businesses and a wider trade deficit, but the underlying fundamentals remained solid.

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German MPs approve Greek bailout extension – live updates

The Bundestag has voted to extend Greece’s aid programme by four months by a big majority, after hearing that Greece must meets its commitments

So far, the EFSF has handed €141.bn in financial assistance to Greece. The last loan tranche, another €1.8bn, is available through June.

It’s official: The European Financial Stability Facility’s board of directors has extended the Greece bailout until June 30, says EFSF chief Klaus Regling. Read the full statement here.

#Greece's economy shrank by 0.4% in last quarter of 2014, revised to be a bigger contraction than the initial -0.2% in GDP via @BBCBusiness

The Greek government may be nervous of exposing splits within Syriza by holding a vote on the bailout extension, but failing to hold a vote will not look great:

Failing to put bailout extension deal to Greek parliament would be unwise and undemocratic #tripras

If bailout ext goes to parliament it'll pass by opposition votes. If it doesn't it can be dubbed 'undemocratic'- A test for #Syriza #Greece

Another update from Helena Smith in Athens:

Angst over the pending funding gap is VERY real. Government figures show that tax revenues have dropped precipitously (22.5%) as a result of the political turmoil gripping the country. Greeks have simply stopped paying. The country’s former deputy premier Evangelos Venizelos has just made a statement saying rather than conducting real negotiations, the new leftist-led government is waging a “war of impressions,”

“The country is in a strategic vacuum. Just one month after the election everything is in the air. Revenues, cash requirements, fiscal targets. How will the fiscal gap that exists be plugged? Where are we going regarding the debt? Sadly our array of negotiating mistakes has taken us way off from the point we were when the parliament was dissolved,” he said referring to the day snap polls were called in December.

#bundestag #grexit merkel's biggest majority on greece.but also biggest rebellion in her ranks while linke votes for syriza pals, also a 1st

Apparently 29 CDU/CSU MPs voted against extending Greece’s bailout, the biggest rebellion among Angela Merkel’s bloc yet.

Bundestag Greece vote. The stats are in: 29 CDU/CSU voted no (including a former minister). Up from 13 CDU/CSU no votes over 2nd bailout.

While Greek bailout extension was passed in Bundestag by record margin for a euro vote, a record number of CDU/CSU MPs, 29, voted against

The FT’s Jeeven Vasagar reckons Angela Merkel has suffered a “substantial rebellion”, with 32 German MPs voting against giving Greece more time.

He writes:

Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel faced dissent over her eurozone rescue policy on Friday after 32 legislators voted against extending Greece’s bailout.

While the four-month extension passed with a comfortable majority of 542 out of 587 lawmakers in the Bundestag who voted, there was a substantial rebellion within Ms Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and sister party the Christian Social Union. There were 13 abstentions.

Merkel now faces serious dissent from her party over Greece. How will it go in next vote, when stakes are higher? http://t.co/Wglpmo9hf8

Back in Greece, finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has caused quite a stir this morning by revealing that he was deliberately abstruse about targets and numbers in the list of reforms Athens proposed this week (Helena Smith writes).

“I use the term creative vagueness. I want to be the first minister of finance who will never refer to a number if I am not sure that I will attain it.”

“If we wanted real freedom from Europe, we would have to exit the euro but that would be catastrophic.”

A quick explainer:

The Bundestag vote means that Greece now has until the end of June to satisfy its lenders, and receive the final payment from its bailout programme, worth €7.2bn.

Our Europe editor sees ructions ahead:

#bundestag #grexit next time it votes on 3rd bailout (+debt forgiveness/repackaging?) will be a bit more interesting

Just as the German parliament was voting to extend Greece’s loan agreement, prime minister Alexis Tsipras was convening a meeting of his entire economics team at his office.

From Athens, Helena Smith reports:

Insiders are saying that the “emergency” talks Tsipras has called with his economic team are focusing on two things:

• 1) The financing gap that Greece faces imminently (it has to service IMF loans, which expire in March, of just under €2bn euro and has to redeem short-term debt amounting to €21.8bn by the end of June).

The fact that Germans approved this deal 542 votes v 32 and syriza cant even agree on whether there shd be a vote in Gr tells you who "won"

#Bundestag huge majority extends greek bailout. but 45 against or abstained must almost all have come from merkel cdu/csu ranks

This is the biggest majority for any vote on eurozone bailouts since the crisis began, reports Germany’s Spiegel news magazine.

Bundestag's approval of Greek bailout extension passed by largest margin of any eurozone crisis related vote to date (h/t @SPIEGELONLINE)

So, a pretty resounding majority in favour of the bailout extension - we don’t yet know who the rebels are, though.

CLOSE. *mops brow* RT @YanniKouts #BREAKING #Germany | Bundestag MPs vote for extension of #Greece's programme with 542 Yes, 32 against.

The Bundestag voted overwhelmingly in favour of the four-month extension of the Greek bailout. Of 587 votes cast,

542 - yes

Meanwhile in Greece, a spoof video clip hailing the charms of their finance minister has caused quite a stir.

Athens correspondent Helena Smith reports:

It got an airing on SKAI’s flagship news programme last night and is doing the rounds of social media like wild-fire. The one person who has NOT commented on it is Yanis Varoufakis himself. Recently the Greek finance minister told me that he didn’t have time to follow what the global media was saying of him.

“I’ve always had a healthy contempt for the media, especially the awful tabloid media, and whether they celebrate or disparage me, it doesn’t matter. I really don’t care. The media pulls you up and then they dump [on] you. The more you rise, the harder the fall but it doesn’t bother me at all. I am ready for it … the star system was always very low in my list of priorities (many might dispute that...).

Every time we thought we'd reached the top another peak of Yanis was perceived in the distance -- https://t.co/b40I83Ohjp

It is not clear when we will get the result. Watch this space.

Voting live in German Parliament on Greek extension follow at http://t.co/pliZymsUQr #Greece pic.twitter.com/H7abr0XxsE

They are counting the votes.

The debate is finally over, and MPs are voting right now:

The debate is nearly over. MPs will vote on the Greek bailout extension shortly.

In a lively debate in the German parliament, Thorsten Frei, of the CDU/CSU, hits back at the previous speakers from his party. He says this is not about approving a new bailout, but about seeing the existing Greek bailout through to its successful conclusion.

As an update, German MPs still debating in the lower house, expecting a vote around 1015GMT...

Klaus-Peter Willsch of the conservative CDS/CSU group is against extending the Greek bailout.

He argues that Greece needs to crack on with reforms. Noting the high rate of youth unemployment, he deplores that labour costs in Greece are still twice as high as in Poland and Slovenia. Would you buy a used car from Tsipras or Varoufakis, he asks.

It’s best to get unpleasant things over and done with.

Greece doesn’t need a Marshall plan. Greece [already] has a Marshall plan.

Solidarity is not a one-way street.

Schäfer calls for mutual understanding, rather than provocative statements (this is partly aimed at his parliamentary colleagues). He stresses

There is no German diktat for Athens. There is a debate.

Holding up a copy of mass daily Bild’s “Nein!” page, Axel Schäfer of the SPD says:

We do not support campaigns against other countries.

CSU general secretary Andreas Scheuer calls on Greece “to deliver” (reforms).

The German parliamentary debate continues. Solidarity (in Europe) is today’s watchword.

A quick recap from today’s debate on Greece’s aid package, now we’ve heard from all the main German political parties:

German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble has called on the Bundestag to support Greece’s four-month bailout extension.

We’re not talking about new billions for Greece, we’re not talking about any changes to this programme - rather it’s about providing or granting extra time to successfully end this programme.

Schneider: At some point we will have to debate about a new programme for Greece but this is not a matter for today, just the extension

This conflict is about the interests of a few super-rich people versus ordinary people in Greeks.

Brinkhaus also criticises the Greek government for inconsistency:

Brinkhaus: Not acceptable to sign something in Brussels and then go back to Athens and pretend something completely different has happened

“It’s really bad if someone leaves the [euro] project,” he concludes.

Brinkhaus says five countries received bailouts during the financial crisis, and regards four out of those five a success. Portugal said yesterday it would pay back its loans early.

This shows that it’s worth saying yes sometimes. And even with Greece things didn’t go too badly until December.

Angela Merkel is also in the chamber, sat alongside economy minister Sigmar Gabriel. He’s next to foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier:

Ralph Brinkhaus of the ruling CDU/CSU (conservatives) is next. He stresses that Greece’s problems were not caused by the troika but date back longer, and that Europe has been very generous in its help.

Hofreiter, of the Greens, says the litmus test is whether policies are helping ordinary Greeks. He adds that Greece should stay in Europe. If Greece regains some of its wealth there is a bigger chance it will repay its debts.

Hofreiter talks about the failure of Angela Merkel’s and Wolfgang Schäuble’s European policies. We need a European policy based on solidarity, he contends. He adds:

This conflict is about the interests of a few super-rich people versus ordinary people in Greeks.

Anton Hofreiter of the Greens is now speaking.

Schneider says:

We support growth, help to self-help and more social justice. But it must be clear that those who who have earned a lot and have wealth in Greece must pay.

It’s now up the Greeks themselves, we are extending our hands to them.

Schneider: We are still paying for the mistake made by Papandreou when he offered a referendum in 2011

Greece is not paying interest on its debt any more, Schneider says. [That is true, because of the restructuring.] It is important for the Greeks to realise they can help themselves.

Schneider: The interest rates Greeks pay are lower than in France and Portugal and not much higher than in Germany

Schäuble said earlier that “it’s not easy to make this decision” (on the bailout extension). Schneider of the SPD says he feels similar.

The Bundestag debate is due to last 105 minutes, followed by a vote on the bailout extension until 30 June for Greece. It started on time at 8am GMT.

Carsten Schneider of the SPD (Social Democrats) is next.

The Left party supports the four-month bailout extension for Greece to give the country “breathing space and the chance for a fresh start,” Gysi says, ending his statement.

Gysi of the German Left party contends:

We need a Marshall plan for southern Europe.

90% of the bailout money is going to French and German banks, Gysi says.

Here’s Bloomberg’s early take on Schäuble’s speech:

#Germany's Schäuble calls on lawmakers to vote for Greek extension. Says solidarity means everybody must make a contribution. (BBG)

#Schaeuble says new Greek program is not about ‘New Billions’; Current program payments won’t be made without German approval

Gregor Gysi, who heads up the parliamentary group of the Left party, is up next.

The newly elected left-wing government in Greece has called an end to cuts and austerity, he says. He describes it as a “kamikaze policy,” which led to high youth unemployment and recession. Syriza is the first government in Europe that has challenged neoliberal policies, he asserts.

With this kind of policy debts will never be repaid.

There is no logic. We must help rebuild Greece, so it can repay its debts.

France has implemented important structural reforms and Italy is on track to make good decisions, the German finance minister says. Greece within Europe cannot decide alone what the right path is. That concludes his statement. There is a lot of applause from MPs.

But, he says in a veiled dig at the new Greek government:

Solidarity doesn’t mean that you can blackmail each other.

Schäuble says Europe must stand together and makes an oblique reference to WWII. Applause from MPs.

We Germans must do everything to keep Europe together.

Schäuble says it will take Greece longer than other countries to win back the trust of financial markets. But he adds:

Greece has to do its bit. Solidarity has something to do with reliability.

Schäuble is explaining that Greece is simply being given more time to complete its bailout measures, and that it cannot change the terms unilaterally.

Schäuble says:

We are all democracies. Greece produced a clear vote [when it elected the Syriza government].

The Bundestag session has started. The finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, speaks first. He stresses that the four-month bailout extension is NOT about new billions of euros for Greece or changes to the bailout. Applause from German MPs

You can watch the Bundestag debate live here. It will start in a few minutes.

A large majority of Germans, across the political spectrum, doubt that Greece will implement its reform programme.

While the Bundestag is about to approve Greek loan extension, almost 3/4 of the Germans doubt reform implementation. pic.twitter.com/SBzhvj3gsU

Germany’s opposition Green party has also pledged to support Greece in today’s vote:

@YanniKouts @sven_kindler Almost whole Bundestag will, even most from Left - overwhelming yes-vote, but a no-mood with Christian Democrats.

There was isolated violence in the Greek capital last night, for the first time since last month’s general election.

“Dozens of activists hurled petrol bombs and stones at police and set cars alight after the march.

About 450 far-left protesters took to the streets of Athens on Thursday to voice their anger.

@graemewearden No clashes. Police kept distance. Six bus stops vandalised, four broken store-bank fronts + 2 cars + 3 trash bins torched

@graemewearden @Thalion_1 Was in Exarhia around 8:30,drove near the Polytechnic.Police in the streets but quiet.Don't know abt earlier/later

Even Germany’s president Joachim Gauck has waded into the Greece debate and come out in support of the four-month bailout extension. (Like the Queen, the German president traditionally stays above the political fray).

Gauck,75, told radio station MDR: “The parliament is willing to take responsibility and is taking on the issue with great seriousness.”

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of Greece’s debt crisis and other developments across the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.

Wolfgang Schäuble, the finance minister, told Merkel’s backbenchers that the new Greek government was manipulating eurozone largesse to “trample all over European solidarity”, Der Spiegel reported.

The Germans expect the Greeks, beneficiaries of a €240bn (£175bn) rescue, to be grateful. Instead they are seen to be impertinent. No sooner was the ink dry on the deal on Tuesday granting Athens a 17-week loan extension than its finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, upped the ante and demanded the massive debt burden be partly written off.

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