10 things you need to know today: January 31, 2015

(Image credit: (AP Photo/Gregory Bull))

1. Mitt Romney will not run for president in 2016

In an 11 a.m. call on Friday with senior donors, Mitt Romney announced that despite heavy speculation that he would step into the 2016 race for president, he will not consider a bid after all. "I've decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee," he said. The announcement prompted several top GOP donors to throw their support behind Jeb Bush instead.

USA Today The New York Times

2. African Union to send 7,500 troops to Nigeria to help fight Boko Haram

African Union leaders agreed during a two-day summit in Ethiopia to send 7,500 troops to help push back the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. Boko Haram militants have killed thousands in the five years that they have expanded their reach through northeast Nigeria; and, insurgents have increased the frequency of their attacks in the leadup to Nigeria's Feb. 14 elections.

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The Associated Press

3. CDC: Disneyland measles outbreak likely came from overseas

Health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have announced that the measles outbreak that started in California's Disneyland likely came from overseas, probably brought either by a foreign tourist or an American returning home. So far, 94 people in eight states have become infected with the measles, and 67 of those cases are linked to Disneyland. The outbreak is "a wake-up call to make sure we keep measles from regaining a foothold in our country," Dr. Anne Schuchat of the CDC said, adding that the outbreak is occurring because some people aren't vaccinated against the disease.

NBC News

4. South African apartheid death squad leader to be freed on parole

South African apartheid death-squad leader Eugene de Kock, also known as "Prime Evil," was granted parole on Friday. The ex-cop will be released from prison after serving more than 20 years for the torture and murder of black South African activists in the 1980s and early 1990s. South Africa justice minister Michael Masutha said in a news conference that de Kock was released "in the interests of nation-building and reconciliation." He added that de Kock has expressed remorse and helped authorities recover the remains of some of his victims.

The Guardian

5. U.S. economic growth slowed in fourth quarter of 2014

U.S. gross domestic product expanded at a 2.6 percent annual rate in 2014's fourth quarter, a sharp decline from the third quarter, when the U.S. economy posted its strongest growth in more than a decade with a 5 percent GDP reading. Economists had estimated that America's economy grew by 3 percent during the last three months of 2014. "The consumer did the heavy lifting, and I don't think there is any reason to expect that to change in the first half of this year, because of the enormous tailwind from lower gasoline prices," Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody's Analytics, said.


6. Serena Williams defeats Maria Sharapova to win 6th Australian Open

Notching her sixth Australian Open victory and 19th Grand Slam title, Serena Williams powered through a nagging cough to defeat Maria Sharapova 6-3, 7-6 (5) on Saturday. The top-ranked tennis star's victory makes her the oldest winner of the Australian Open women's title, at 33 years old. The win also moves Williams into second place for most major wins; she is now just three major titles away from tying Steffi Graf's Open Era record of 22.

The Associated Press

7. Most Americans support government action to stop climate change

A new poll from The New York Times found that a majority of Americans, including almost half of Republicans, support government action to stop climate change. Seventy-seven percent of Americans said the federal government "should be doing a substantial amount to combat climate change." The poll, conducted in conjunction with Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future, surveyed 1,006 adults and found that two-thirds of the respondents said they were more likely to vote for presidential candidates whose campaign platforms included fighting climate change.

The New York Times

8. Russia unexpectedly cuts interest rates

Weeks after hiking interest rates to an 11-year high, Russia unexpectedly cut them again on Friday. The central bank lowered the benchmark rate from 17 percent to 15 percent, which spiked ruble sales, driving it down 4 percent against the dollar. In 2014, the central bank raised the rate six times, and officials and business leaders had warned that the economy would crash unless the rates came down. Earlier in January, an aide to President Vladimir Putin called doing business "impossible" at the current interest rate.

Bloomberg Business

9. George Zimmerman’s ex-girlfriend recants story, assault charges dropped

Prosecutors announced on Friday that they won't file a formal charge in an assault case against George Zimmerman because his ex-girlfriend, Brittany Brunelle, recanted her story. Florida State Attorney Phil Archer said there were no other eyewitnesses to the alleged event, in which Brunelle originally stated that Zimmerman threw a wine bottle at her and destroyed her cellphone. Zimmerman was arrested three weeks ago, but three days after his arrest, Brunelle asked in a statement that prosecutors not file charges, adding that she was "under no pressure and had been offered no money" to make the statement.

The Associated Press

10. Jay Z to buy music streaming service Aspiro for $56 million

Jay Z has purchased Scandinavian music streaming service Aspiro for $56 million. Project Panther Bidco Ltd., a company Jay Z controls, announced on Friday that it was purchasing Aspiro, "an innovative, high-quality company with strong future growth potential." The Norwegian media group Schibsted, Aspiro's main shareholder, said it had accepted the offer, and Aspiro's board is "united in recommending the bid."


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