AP Top News at 6:26 a.m. EST

Japan self-censors images, words linked to hostage crisis
TOKYO (AP) - Images or mentions of knives, ransom or blood - or anything else that can be seen alluding to the hostage crisis involving two Japanese in Syria - have been omitted. Some anime and other entertainment programs are altering, canceling or postponing episodes violating those sensitivities - typical of the kind of self-restraint shown here to avoid controversy. The fates of a Japanese journalist and Jordanian military pilot were still unknown Saturday after the latest purported deadline for a possible prisoner swap lapsed with no further messages from the Islamic State group holding them captive. Another Japanese hostage has purportedly been killed.


Mitt Romney bows out of 2016 race after a 3-week test run
WASHINGTON (AP) - He insists he could win, but Mitt Romney has stepped out of the 2016 presidential contest in favor of the "next generation of Republican leaders" following a three-week fact-finding effort that revealed significant resistance to a third campaign. The 2012 Republican presidential nominee on Friday formally ended his flirtation with another White House bid and encouraged his supporters to seek another candidate from the crowded field of prospective GOP contenders. Aides said it was a deeply personal and even painful decision for Romney.


Iraqi libraries ransacked by Islamic State group in Mosul
BAGHDAD (AP) - When Islamic State group militants invaded the Central Library of Mosul earlier this month, they were on a mission to destroy a familiar enemy: other people's ideas. Residents say the extremists smashed the locks that had protected the biggest repository of learning in the northern Iraq town, and loaded around 2,000 books - including children's stories, poetry, philosophy and tomes on sports, health, culture and science - into six pickup trucks. They left only Islamic texts.


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NYC to pay $5M to kin of man killed in 'Mafia cops' case
NEW YORK (AP) - Nicholas Guido was showing off his new car outside his mother's home on Christmas Day 1986 when he was gunned down because he'd been mistaken for a mobster with the same name. The bad information, prosecutors said, came from two decorated police detectives who would later be convicted of moonlighting as hit men for the mob. Twenty-nine years later, the city has reached a $5 million settlement with Guido's family in part of the fallout from one of the most stunning police corruption cases in New York history.


Is he dead? Philippines awaits answer of costly terror raid
MANILA, Philippines (AP) - The cellphone message of the Filipino police commandos to their base was triumphant: "Mike 1 bingo," a code meaning they have killed one of Southeast Asia's most-wanted terror suspects, Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan. But the euphoria among police generals monitoring the Jan. 25 dawn assault in a southern swampland was brief.


Beijing Winter Olympics bid highlights skiing, hockey growth
CHONGLI, China (AP) - Clad in neon-green from head to toe, Chinese snowboarder He Qiang is part of a growing cohort of middle-class enthusiasts in a country with little tradition of winter sports but that is now seeking to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. The 28-year-old escapes his office job in the Chinese capital for the skiing mecca of Chongli, nestled in mountains near the Great Wall where Beijing hopes to stage Nordic skiing and other events in its bid to become the first city to hold both winter and summer Olympics.


Dueling narratives surround 'Suge' Knight in deadly run-in
LOS ANGELES (AP) - As Marion "Suge" Knight sat jailed on suspicion of murder, dueling narratives cast him as attacker and victim in the hip-hop music mogul's latest and most serious run-in with the law. Sheriff's deputies said he hit and killed a man with his pickup truck, injured another and then fled. His lawyer said he was an innocent victim who accidentally ran over his friend and the other man as he tried to escape an attack.


Balloon crew makes history crossing Pacific Ocean
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A pair of American and Russian pilots has traveled farther and longer in a gas balloon than anyone in history, trying to eliminate any remaining debate over a century of records in long-distance ballooning. The Two Eagles pilots surpassed the distance and duration records that have held since the 1970s and 1980s, and were aiming Friday for a safe landing somewhere on a beach in Mexico's Baja California peninsula.


Bill Cosby's show in Ohio draws a few protesters
SANDUSKY, Ohio (AP) - Bill Cosby's stand-up tour has stopped in northern Ohio, where it drew several protesters before the show. The comedian himself received standing ovations before and after his performance. Police in Sandusky had extra officers at the theater while Cosby performed Friday night.


Serena Williams wins 6th Australian, 19th major title
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Serena Williams won her 19th Grand Slam title, continued her unbeaten run in six Australian Open finals and extended her decade-long domination of Maria Sharapova with a 6-3, 7-6 (5) win on Saturday night. After celebrating prematurely on her third match point, letting her racket go after serving what she thought was an ace but learning that it was a let, top-ranked Williams took a deep breath and fired another ace - her 15th of the set and 18th of the match - to seal it.

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