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SEOUL North and South Korea, locked for weeks in exchanges of angry rhetoric and heightened military readiness, traded more threats on Friday, with Pyongyang saying its military had trained to attack Seoul's presidential Blue House.

Isolated North Korea is renowned for its saber-rattling, and often makes threats of attack and even annihilation against South Korea and the United States.

However, its tone has been especially belligerent in recent weeks and personally aimed at South Korean President Park Geun-hye following her warnings of regime collapse in Pyongyang after it conducted a nuclear test and rocket launch earlier this year.

TOKYO Japanese manufacturers' confidence probably deteriorated to the lowest in nearly three years and it is expected to worsen in the coming quarter due to exporters concern over a strong yen and worries over the global economy, a Reuters poll showed.

Big firms are likely slash their capital spending plan for the new fiscal year beginning in April, according to the survey.

Firms tend to be cautious in their spending plans at this time of year, but concern over the outlook for profits makes it unlikely that they will become more ambitious in their capital expenditure budgets later in the year, analysts said.

WASHINGTON At least three major U.S. companies, AT&T Inc (T.N), Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc (HOT.N) and Marriott International Inc (MAR.O), are seeking to complete deals in Cuba as President Barack Obama prepares to visit Havana, a person familiar with the discussions said on Friday.

The flurry of deal-making could help Obama use his historic March 20-22 trip to showcase what he sees as the benefits of Washington’s diplomatic opening with the former Cold War foe after decades of hostility. It will be the first visit to Cuba by a U.S.

Energy Transfer Equity LP (ETE.N), the U.S. pipeline company that agreed to acquire Williams Companies Inc (WMB.N), has held talks to sell gas station and convenience store operator Sunoco LP (SUN.N), according to three people familiar with the matter.

While these discussions were preliminary, they underscore Energy Transfer's efforts to bolster its balance sheet after a plunge in oil prices made its pending acquisition of Williams more financially burdensome than it previously envisioned.

Energy Transfer held conversations to sell Sunoco earlier this year after it was approached by at least one interested company, the sources said this week, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations were confidential.

AUSTIN, Texas U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday made a passionate case for mobile devices to be built in a way that would allow the government to gain access to personal data if needed to prevent a terrorist attack or enforce tax laws.

Speaking at the South by Southwest festival in Texas, the president said he could not comment on the legal case in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation is trying to force Apple Inc. to allow access to an iPhone linked to San Bernardino, California, shooter Rizwan Farook.

But he made clear that despite his commitment to Americans' privacy and civil liberties, a balance was needed to allow some government intrusion if necessary.

VATICAN CITY Three years after the election of Pope Francis, Roman Catholic conservatives are growing increasingly worried that he is quietly unraveling the legacy of his predecessors.

Francis' popularity with most Catholics, and legions of non-Catholics, has given him the image of a grandfatherly parish priest who understands how difficult it sometimes is to follow Church teachings, particularly those on sexual morality.

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Conservatives worry that behind the gentle facade lies a dangerous reformer who is diluting Catholic teaching on moral issues like homosexuality and divorce while focusing on social problems such as climate change and economic inequality.

PALM BEACH, Fla. Former U.S. Republican presidential contender Ben Carson "buried the hatchet" and endorsed party front-runner Donald Trump on Friday, saying he believed the billionaire's pugnacious campaign style hid a more thoughtful private side.

"There are two different Donald Trumps: there's the one you see on the stage and there's the one who's very cerebral, sits there and considers things very carefully," Carson said as he became the second former Republican candidate to back Trump in the White House race.

The soft-spoken retired neurosurgeon, who dropped out of the race last week, addressed the issue of Trump's combative and sometimes crude public image, saying the American people would be "comforted" when they discover a gentler side.

Police searched for two shooters and a motive on Thursday after a backyard party ambush near Pittsburgh killed at least five people and injured three others.

Four women and one man were shot and killed, with three more people wounded in the attack late on Wednesday, in a residential neighborhood in Wilkinsburg, about 8 miles (13 km) east of the city, the Allegheny County Police Department said.

Dozens of shell casings littered the pavement of an alleyway near the site, where police were gathering evidence and talking to witnesses, according to media reports.

FRANKFURT The European Central Bank delved deep into its remaining arsenal of stimulus options on Thursday, cutting all three of its interest rates and expanding asset-buying to boost the economy and prevent ultra-low inflation becoming entrenched.

In moves that initially pushed the euro 1 percent down against the dollar before recovering, the ECB cut its deposit rate deeper into negative territory and increased monthly asset buys to 80 billion euros from 60 billion euros, above market expectations of an increase to 70 billion.

While the deposit rate was cut 10 basis points to 0.4 percent, the main refinancing rate was shaved to zero from 0.05 percent and its marginal lending rate -- used by banks to borrow from the ECB overnight -- fell to 0.25 percent from 0.3 percent.

GENEVA/BRUSSELS The United Nations and human rights groups warned on Tuesday that a tentative European Union deal to send back all irregular migrants to Turkey in exchange for political and financial rewards could be illegal.

"I am deeply concerned about any arrangement that would involve the blanket return of anyone from one country to another without spelling out the refugee protection safeguards under international law," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

He was speaking hours after the 28 EU leaders sketched an accord with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Brussels that would grant Ankara more money to keep refugees in Turkey, faster visa-free travel for Turks and a speeding up of Ankara's long-stalled membership talks.

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