China’s e-commerce king Alibaba prepares for blockbuster U.S. share sale

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Alibaba Group, the king of e-commerce in China, is dangling a deal that could turn into one of the biggest IPOs in history.

In a long-awaited move Tuesday, Alibaba filed for an initial public offering of stock in the U.S. that could surpass the $16 billion that Facebook and its early investors raised in the social networking company’s IPO two years ago.

Alibaba’s paperwork says it will raise at least $1 billion, but finance professionals believe that is a notional figure to get the IPO process rolling and say that the Chinese company’s ambitions for the share sale are much richer.

"This is going to be the granddaddy of all IPOs," predicted Sam Hamadeh, CEO of PrivCo, which researches privately held corporations.

Although it’s not well-known in the United States, Alibaba is an e-commerce powerhouse that makes more money than Amazon.com Inc. and eBay Inc.combined. It has helped drive the rise of e-commerce in China, a transformation that has given millions of households greater access to clothes, books and consumer electronics in a society that in the 1980s still required ration tickets for some supermarket items.

Judgment Day: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer faces key decisions as windfall from Alibaba IPO looms

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer will face a $10 billion decision in a few months.


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She already has made many changes since taking over nearly two years ago, but all the internal reshuffling and deal-making has merely been a prelude to her biggest test.

The pivotal moment in Mayer’s tenure will come after Alibaba Group, China’s e-commerce leader, completes one of the biggest initial public offerings of stock in U.S. history. The IPO triggers a provision requiring Yahoo Inc. to sell about 40 percent of its stake in Alibaba. The sale is expected to generate a major windfall that will intensify the pressure on Mayer to revive Yahoo’s revenue growth after years of lethargy.

"This is Marissa’s moment of reckoning," says Moshe Cohen, a Columbia University business professor who has been tracking Yahoo’s ties with Alibaba.

Mayer acknowledged as much Wednesday during an appearance in New York at a conference hosted by TechCrunch.

Russia’s Putin: Troops
have pulled back from Ukraine border; insurgents should postpone vote

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin softened his tone in the confrontation with the West on Wednesday, declaring that Russia has pulled its troops away from the Ukrainian border and calling for a delay of Sunday’s referendum on autonomy in Ukraine’s restive east.

But there were no immediate signs that either move was truly happening or that they would cool the Ukrainian crisis. NATO and Washington said they saw no indication of a Russian pullback, and the pro-Russia insurgents behind the referendum have not agreed to go along with Putin’s proposal.

In a Moscow meeting with Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, Putin said Russian troops have been pulled back to their training grounds and locations for "regular exercises," but he did not specify whether those locations were in areas near its border with Ukraine.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman declined to say where the troops were now positioned.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the U.S. had "no evidence" of a pullback, and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters that the alliance had "not seen any sign that Russia is withdrawing its troops."

Syria rebels surrender to Assad’s forces strongholds in Homs, capital of the revolution

BEIRUT (AP) -- Carrying their rifles and small bags of belongings, hundreds of exhausted Syrian rebels withdrew Wednesday from their last remaining strongholds in the heart of Homs, surrendering to President Bashar Assad a bloodstained city that was once the center of the revolt against him.

For Assad, it is a powerful victory ahead of presidential elections. For the rebels, the dramatic exit after two years of enduring grueling assaults and siege captures their sense of abandonment amid world reluctance to help shift the balance of power on the ground.

"We ate grass and leaves until there was nothing left for us to eat," said opposition activist Abu Yassin al-Homsi, who was preparing to leave with the rebels later Wednesday. "We kept urging the international community to lift the siege but there was no response," he added.

The exit of some 1,200 fighters and civilians marks a de-facto end of the rebellion in the war shattered city, which was one of the first places to rise up against Assad’s rule, earning its nickname as "the capital of the revolution."

Gaining virtually full control of Syria’s third largest city is a major win for Assad on multiple levels. Militarily, it solidifies the government hold on a swath of territory in central Syria, linking the capital Damascus with government strongholds along the coast and giving a staging ground to advance against rebel territory further north.

Official: ‘Hundreds’ killed in Islamic extremist attack on Nigerian border

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) -- Islamic militants killed hundreds of people in an attack on a border town in Nigeria’s remote northeast, escalating the country’s violent insurrection in which more than 270 schoolgirls have been kidnapped.

As many as 300 people were killed when a band of extremists attacked the town of Gamboru Ngala, on Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, according to local press reports. The attack and hundreds of casualties were confirmed Wednesday by Borno state information commissioner Mohammed Bulama who spoke to The Associated Press by telephone Wednesday. Shops and homes were set ablaze and razed in the attack, he said.

The news of the attack adds to Nigeria’s growing crisis from the Islamic extremists’ violent campaign of bombings, attacks and abductions. The militant Boko Haram rebels are holding captive 276 teenage students, after abducting them from their boarding school in Chibok, also in northeastern Borno state.

In the attack on Gamboru Ngala the militants sprayed gunfire into the crowds of people at a busy market that was open Monday night when temperatures cool in the semi-desert region, reported ThisDay newspaper.

Nigerian federal Senator Ahmed Zannah said the attack lasted about 12 hours, according to the newspaper. The insurgents set homes on fire and gunned down residents who tried to escape from the flames, reported the paper.

Despite election risks for fellow Democrats, Obama to unveil major power
plant emission limits

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Within weeks, President Barack Obama’s administration is set to unveil unprecedented emissions limits on power plants across the U.S., much to the dismay of many Democratic candidates who are running for election in energy-producing states. Fearful of a political backlash, they wish their fellow Democrat in the White House would hold off until after the voting.

But Obama can’t wait that long.

Unlike the Keystone XL oil pipeline, whose review the administration has delayed, probably until after November’s elections, the clock is ticking for the power plant rules -- the cornerstone of Obama’s campaign to curb climate change. Unless he starts now, the rules won’t be in place before he leaves office, making it easier for his successor to stop them.

So even though the action could bolster Republican attacks against some of this year’s most vulnerable Democrats, the administration is proceeding at full speed. Obama’s counselor on climate issues, John Podesta, affirmed that the proposal will be unveiled in early June -- just as this year’s general election is heating up.

"Having this debate now will only injure Democrats," said Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime Democratic strategist. "Democrats are in trouble. The best thing when you’re in trouble is to avoid further controversy."

House GOP moves toward establishing select Benghazi probe, brushes aside Democratic concerns

WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans on Wednesday moved toward an election-year special investigation of the deadly attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Libya, brushing aside Democratic concerns over the panel’s scope and composition. The Obama administration, meanwhile, accused Republicans of "political motivation" after they issued a fundraising email linked to the Benghazi probe.

Ahead of a Thursday vote to rubber-stamp the establishment of the Benghazi select committee, House Speaker John Boehner vowed that the examination would be "all about getting to the truth" of the Obama administration’s response to the attack and not be a partisan, election-year circus. "This is a serious investigation," he said, accusing the president and his team of withholding the true story of how militants killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 11, 2012.

Democrats pondered a boycott while waiting for Boehner to respond to demand from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that he scrap his plan for a committee of seven Republicans and five Democrats. Democrats insisted membership should be evenly split, and urged time and cost constraints for a forum they likened to a "kangaroo court" designed only to drum up GOP support ahead of the November elections.

Under Boehner’s legislation, the select panel "can go on forever," Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., told reporters. "The amount of money they can spend is undefined and can be unlimited."

The committee’s establishment is assured in the GOP-run House. But Republicans, too, expressed an interest in securing Democratic participation. They’ve made Benghazi a central plank of their strategy to wrest control of the Senate from the Democrats later this year. An inquiry that can be presented as bipartisan would have greater credibility with voters beyond the conservative base.

Extremist leader surfaced in 2010 as Boko Haram leader, wants to bring down Nigerian state

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- Tugging on his winter hat, the Islamic militant leader declared with a sneer: "I will sell women."

His name is Abubakar Shekau, commander of Nigeria’s most feared terror group, Boko Haram. His threat to sell nearly 300 teenage school girls abducted from a school in remote northeast Nigeria came in a grainy video released this week.

The warning has vaulted the wanted terror leader into global headlines.

Even before the April 15 kidnapping, the U.S.government was offering up to a $7 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Shekau, whom the U.S. has labeled a specially designated global terrorist.

"He’s isolated, he’s increasingly extremist and he’s delusional enough to think he could bring down the Nigerian state," said J. Peter Pham, the director of the Africa Center at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, who wrote a 2012 report called "Boko Haram’s Evolving Threat."

Fire at ex-tennis star’s Florida home intentionally set; 2 adults, 2 teens killed

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Police in Florida say the fire at the home of a former tennis star was intentionally set and a family of four was killed.

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Col. Donna Lusczynski said Wednesday that two adults and two teenagers were killed in the mansion belonging to tennis player James Blake. He was not home at the time and was renting the house to the family.

Lusczynski said the scene was "unusual." She says officials don’t know how the fire was set.

She added that there were "various fireworks" throughout the home and that two of the bodies appeared to have "upper body trauma," but she didn’t give any more details.

Authorities say the bodies in the home have not been positively identified.