Obama signs bill, ending govt shutdown
WASHINGTON (AP) — It's back to work for hundreds of thousands of furloughed government employees.
President Barack Obama has signed legislation ending the partial government shutdown and averting a U.S. default by allowing the Treasury to borrow normally at least through Feb. 7.
The government is funded through Jan. 15.
Relief around world as US avoids debt default
BEIJING (AP) — Relief is being felt around the world since President Barack Obama signed legislation to raise the debt limit.
A headline in the Times of India newspaper reads, "World heaves sigh of relief as U.S. barely averts debt default."
International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde welcomes the deal but says the shaky American economy needs more stable long-term finances.
Trains running Thursday in San Francisco Bay area
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Union workers with the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit agency have decided to report for work today as their representatives continue fighting for a new contract.
Federal mediators say progress is being made, and union chief negotiator Josie Mooney said before entering talks Wednesday, "We're going to do everything we can to avert a strike."
Booker wins Senate special election
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker is heading to Washington.
Booker has won a special election to fill the seat of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died in June at age 89. Booker defeated conservative Steve Lonegan after an aggressive two month race.
Lautenberg's term was only through 2014, so Booker would have to campaign again almost immediately to run for a full term.
NEW: Iraq: Bombing in ethnic minority village kills 13
BAGHDAD (AP) — Officials say a suicide bomber has blown up his explosives-laden car among houses in an ethnic minority village in northern Iraq, killing at least 13 people.
Police officials say the bombing happened on this morning in the Shabak village of al-Mowafaqiah near the restive city of Mosul, which is 225 miles northwest of Baghdad. They say the bombing also wounded 52 people.
Shabaks are ethnically Turkomen and Shiite by religion. Most Shabaks were driven out of Mosul by Sunni militants during the sectarian fighting a few years ago.
Hospital officials confirmed the casualties. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.
Mauritania, Haiti top new global slavery index
LONDON (AP) — A new report by an international charity organization says slavery is alive and well in the modern world.
The "Global Slavery Index" report by the Walk Free Foundation says Mauritania, Haiti and Pakistan have the most widespread instances of modern slavery.
Practices include forced and bonded labor, human trafficking, forced marriages, and the use of children in the military.
Using reports from governments and non-profit organizations as well as statistical estimates, the charity says that in Mauritania many people inherit slave status from their ancestors. Out of a population of only 3.8 million, the west African nation enslaves an estimated 140,000 to 160,000 people.
In Haiti about one in 10 children trapped in an exploitative system of child labor. Pakistan ranks third followed by India, where child labor and forced marriages are common.
In absolute terms, India, China, Pakistan and Nigeria have the highest numbers of people enslaved.
Sky News Arabia says crew missing in Syria
BEIRUT (AP) — Sky News Arabia says that it has lost contact with its team of reporters in the contested city of Aleppo in northern Syria.
The Abu Dhabi-based channel says reporter Ishak Moctar, cameraman Samir Kassab and a Syrian driver whose name is being withheld at his family's request have been missing since Tuesday morning.
Sky News Arabia chief Nart Bouran says the crew is on assignment primarily to focus on the humanitarian aspects of the conflict in Aleppo, where rebels and Syrian government troops have been locked in a bloody battle since mid-2012.
The channel is appealing for any information on the team's whereabouts and for help to ensure the journalists' safe return.
Sky News Arabia says Moctar is a Mauritanian national, while Kassab is Lebanese.
NEW: Bosnian police arrest 8 war crimes suspects
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Police in Bosnia have detained eight Serb men suspected of taking part in looting, expulsions and killing of civilians during the country's 1992-95 war.
The prosecutor's office in Bosnia says the men were arrested in the eastern town of Rogatica where the alleged crimes were committed in September 1992.
One of the arrested men is suspected of gunning down 20 Muslim civilians, including women and children, in a barn where they had been hiding from the Serb soldiers.
Some 100,000 people were killed in the Bosnia's 1992-1995 that broke out when the country joined several republics of former Yugoslavia and declared independence. Well-armed Bosnian Serb minority opposed the move and took up arms in its attempt to carve out parts of the country by expelling and killing non-Serbs.
Govt: Employees aided Madoff's 'elaborate fiction'
NEW YORK (AP) — Opening statements by defense lawyers are slated to begin in the New York fraud trial of five former employees of imprisoned financier Bernard Madoff.
Thursday's defense openings come a day after a prosecutor portrayed the ex-employees as greedy, lying thieves who assisted Madoff in history's biggest Ponzi scheme.
Defense lawyers are expected to strike back, saying their clients were duped by Madoff like everyone else. The 75-year-old Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence after admitting five years ago that he cheated thousands of investors out of nearly $20 billion.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Schwartz said Madoff could not have carried out the fraud without help. The trial of Madoff's longtime secretary, his director of operations, an account manager and two computer programmers is expected to last five months.
NEW: Survey: Emerging-market firms fail accountability
BERLIN (AP) — A survey of 100 of the fastest-growing companies in emerging market shows most are failing at public accountability.
Transparency International, the Berlin-based watchdog, says three quarters of the companies scored less than 5 on a scale where 10 is most transparent.
The survey looked at the amount of information companies disclose on holdings, anti-corruption measures and other factors. It found some 60 percent don't disclose information about political contributions.
Of the biggest emerging-market countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — Chinese companies had the weakest performance, with 2 out of 10, while Indian firms performed the best with 5.4.
Some individual companies fared well, with UAE's Emirate Airlines and four others scoring 100 percent in organizational transparency. China's Huawei Technologies and 10 others scored 0.
States enact laws to stock epinephrine at schools
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Twenty-seven states allow or require schools to stock epinephrine that's used to fight sometimes life-threatening allergic reactions caused by eating certain food products, such as peanuts, or bee stings.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 16 of those laws were enacted in 2013.
Charlotte Collins is senior vice president of public policy and advocacy for the allergy foundation and has been keeping track of which states are enacting laws to encourage schools to stock the devices.
She believes the trend was sparked by last year's death of a Virginia first-grader who had an allergic reaction on a playground after eating a nut. She went into cardiac arrest and died at a local hospital.
Millions to take part in global earthquake drill
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hoping to survive a real earthquake, many Californians and people in some earthquake prone areas of the world will drop, cover and hold on during an annual preparedness drill.
The Great ShakeOut was first held in California in 2008 and participation has since spread around the globe.
Some 24 million people, including 9 ½ million in California, have signed up to duck under their desks and cover their heads at 10:17 a.m. local time today.
Participating countries include Japan, Canada, Italy and Guam.
Powerful quakes have rattled the world in recent weeks, including a magnitude-7.1 jolt that killed over 100 people in the Philippines and damaged historic churches.
Drill organizers say the focus this year is on fires that may be sparked after a quake because of ruptured utility lines.
Woman gives birth in Philippine quake
CALAPE, Philippines (AP) — Talk about a difficult labor!
A very pregnant Eileen Rose Carabana was having contractions when a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck the central Philippine island of Bohol Tuesday.
She and her mother had to hike several miles down a mountain to the hospital.
And Carabana says as she delivered her baby in a hospital tent outside, there were several aftershocks. The 19-year-old gave birth to a healthy, 5.3-pound baby named James Lyndon.
SCHOOL CLOTHING FLAP
NEW: Court considers Calif. school's May 5 US flag ban
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court is hearing the case of three students who were sent home from a Northern California high school for refusing to remove shirts emblazoned with the American flag on Cinco de Mayo.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco will hear today's oral arguments after a lower court tossed out the case in 2011.
School officials argued that students' civil rights can be curtailed to ensure safety and limit disruptions. The lower court agreed and the students appealed.
The students wore the shirts on May 5, 2010. Mexicans celebrate that day as "Cinco de Mayo," and compare it to the United States' July Fourth observance. Unpleasant verbal exchanges and altercations marked the previous year's celebrations at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, 20 miles south of San Jose.