Spain governing party says its finances are clean


Spain's governing Popular Party said its financial arrangements are managed "in accord with legality and complying with tax obligations," responding to a press report about an alleged secret ledger.

Published in Thursday's edition of Madrid daily El Pais, the handwritten document attributed to former PP treasurers Alvaro Lapuerta and Luis Barcenas covers the period 1990-2009.

The entries detail contributions to the PP from businesses and payments to PP leaders, including current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The PP issued a statement denying the existence of any secret ledgers and stressing that the party's accounts have been submitted for inspection by the relevant authorities.




Blast at Mexican office building leaves 1 dead


One person was killed and 20 others injured here in an explosion at the headquarters of state-owned oil monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexican media outlets said.

The blast was apparently caused by an electrical fault, according to those accounts.

The explosion was very powerful, an injured Pemex employee told Efe at the scene. He said several co-workers told him about another person who lost his legs in the blast.

Unnamed first responders told the Milenio network that at least one person was killed and Televisa television also reported a fatality, but officials have yet to say anything about casualties.




Beckham signs with Paris Saint-Germain


English midfielder David Beckham signed a contract here to play the next five months with top French club Paris Saint-Germain for an undisclosed sum that he will donate to charity.

Three months after leaving Major League Soccer's LA Galaxy, the 37-year-old former England captain begins a new adventure with PSG, whose free-spending Qatari owners are determined to make one of Europe's best clubs.

Beckham, who becomes the oldest player in Ligue 1, told a press conference in Paris that while he doesn't expect to immediately join manager Carlo Ancelotti's starting lineup, he can still offer his teammates the benefit of his experience.

The charismatic, media-savvy star made 115 appearances with the English national squad and won six Premier League titles and one Champions League crown while playing for Manchester United.




Colombian guerrillas free 3 kidnapped petroleum engineers


Colombia's FARC rebels have freed the three petroleum engineers they had kidnapped in the country's southwest, a police spokesman told Efe.

The guerrillas were forced to release their captives due to pressure from police, air force and army elements, Maj. Johan Mercado said.

"Reports are they're well," Mercado said, adding that Luis Miguel Figueroa, Cesar Galiano and Embert Garcia are being transferred to an army battalion stationed in Villagarzon, a town in Putumayo province.

The trio of contractors working for Canadian-owned Gran Tierra Energy was abducted Wednesday, and authorities had been carrying out an intense search for the men in a mountainous area between Putumayo and neighboring Cauca province.




Brazil's jobless rate falls to record low in 2012


Brazil's average unemployment rate last year came in at 5.5 percent, the lowest level since stricter measurement criteria were adopted in 2002, the government said.

The unemployment rate was down more than half from a record high of 12.4 percent in 2003, according to the IBGE statistics agency.

Brazil's jobless figures are extrapolated from data collected in the country's six largest metropolitan areas.

Despite Brazil's economic slowdown in 2012, unemployment came in last month at 4.6 percent, the lowest one-month figure since the current methodology was adopted in March 2002, the IBGE said.




N.Y. Times blames Chinese hackers for cyber attack


Chinese hackers have "persistently" attacked the The New York Times' computers during the past four months in apparent retaliation for reporting on the personal finances of China's prime minister, the newspaper said.

The Times said the cyber attacks began in October after the paper published a story claiming that Premier Wen Jiabao's family had around $2.7 billion in "hidden riches."

While the hackers penetrated the daily's computer system and obtained some passwords, they did not gain access to any sensitive information, The Times said.

"Security experts hired by The Times to detect and block the computer attacks gathered digital evidence that Chinese hackers, using methods that some consultants have associated with the Chinese military in the past, breached The Times' network," the newspaper said.