‘Powerful explosion’ rocks Syrian city of Aleppo

“Initial details indicate that the Aleppo blast was targeting the local branch of the ruling Baath party and there is no information until now on the number of victims that fell in the explosion,” said British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Rami Abdel Rahman, of the Observatory said unidentified gunmen shot dead a guard outside the Baath party office as they drove by in a vehicle soon after the explosion.

“The blast was powerful but we do not know what was the origin of the explosion,” said Abdel Rahman. “We can confirm one death – the guard of the Baath party office.”

He said there was a chance that the explosion was caused by a sound bomb.

Earlier, state TV said the army foiled a would-be suicide attack a day after twin bombings in Damascus left scores dead.

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Hourly billing for lawyers should end, says top judge

Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls, said an alternative to hourly billing for legal work is needed urgently.

He said businesses that base their charges simply on costs “do not deserve to succeed” or even “survive”.

Lord Neuberger said some form of fixed costs for legal work would be a more viable alternative.

In a speech to the Association of Costs Lawyers, he said: “Hourly billing at best leads to inefficient practices, at worst it rewards and incentivises inefficiency.”

He said it penalises those who are able to bring cases to a close quickly, adding: “It also penalises the able, those with greater professional knowledge and skill,

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Greek leaders fail to form coalition as poll shows radical leftist would win new election

The latest round of talks failed after the left wing leader who wants to renegotiate the country’s critical EU bailout refused to join forces with parties that support the austerity measures.

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Radical Left Coalition or Syriza, said his presence in the proposed coalition was merely being sought by more established, pro-bailout parties as a “Leftwing accomplice”.

Evangelos Venizelos, the leader of the socialist Pasok party, admitted the talks had failed and said he would return his mandate to form a government to the president today.

A slim chance remains that an emergency “national unity” government could be formed if the president can convince the parties to work together.

But given the rancour on display, a new election next month is a more likely outcome, a scenario that would weaken confidence in Greece’s ability to meet its debts to international creditors and stay in the euro.

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JP Morgan’s $2bn loss was an ‘accident waiting to happen’

Staff from the bank’s investment banking arm privately told the management – including chief executive Jamie Dimon – that the bank’s Chief Investment Office (CIO) was an “accident waiting to happen”.

Bill Winters, the former co-chief executive of JP Morgan’s investment banking division, is understood to have been among senior staff at the bank who made clear their concerns about the risks being taken by the CIO.

Mr Winters and other staff from the investment bank raised their worries, saying the unit did not fully understand the risks it was taking and was not properly managing its positions.

In a further blow on Friday night, JP Morgan’s credit rating was cut one notch by Fitch, while S&P lowered the bank’s outlook to negative from stable.

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Full state pension for stay-at-home mothers

Millions of mothers who have chosen to take time out of work will no longer be penalised once they are pensioners, Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has announced.

However, the overhaul is expected to hit wealthier workers, as the state second pension will be scrapped.

At the moment, people who do not work for 30 years do not qualify for the full basic state pension. Under the reforms, mothers and carers will be treated as if they had worked throughout their lives, benefiting them by £2,000 a year.

Mr Duncan Smith said women would be the “major winners” in the reformed system, which will mean that everyone who works or looks after others will receive a flat-rate payment worth at least £140 a week.

The measure will be applied to women who retire from 2015, giving an average of £40 extra a week to mothers who took time out of work. Currently, they receive a reduced entitlement for each year out of employment.

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