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Belichick: No idea how footballs deflated...Japan facing IS deadline...Bribery, kickback accusations



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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick says he doesn't know how footballs became deflated during Sunday's AFC championship game. The NFL is investigating accusations that the Patriots cheated by using underinflated footballs in the game that sent them to the Super Bowl. Belichick told reporters this morning that, in the future, his team will make sure to inflate footballs to a level that will prevent them from going under allowable air pressure during games. Belichick declined to answer questions.

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The head of the European Central Bank says the bank will keep a stimulus program in place until concerns over chronic falling prices have eased. The ECB announced today it will start making monthly purchases of government and private bonds in March. The effort is aimed at boosting borrowing to keep Europe's economy from falling into recession.

TOKYO (AP) — Japan says is trying all possible ways to contact the Islamic State group as it tries to secure the release of two Japanese men the extremists are holding hostages. The militants have threatened to kill the hostages unless they receive $200 million from Japan. Based on the video's release time, that deadline would expire sometime Friday. Japan lacks strong diplomatic connections in the Middle East, and Japanese diplomats left Syria as the civil war there escalated, adding to the difficulty of contacting the group.

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans are pushing legislation toward passage that would tighten restrictions on federal financing of abortions. However, it's not the bill many in GOP had hoped to approve. Republican leaders had wanted to defy a White House veto threat and approve legislation criminalizing most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, last night they postponed the confrontation indefinitely after concluding they were short of votes.

NEW YORK (AP) — New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been arrested on public corruption charges. Prosecutors allege in a criminal complaint that Silver "obtained about $4 million in payments characterized as attorney referral fees solely through the corrupt use of his official position." Silver's attorney calls the charges "meritless" and says his client looks forward to responding to them in court.

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The Associated Press

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