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Deadly bombing hits bus in southern Russia

MOSCOW — A suicide bomber attacked a bus in Volgograd, Russia, on Monday, killing at least five people and wounding more than 25, officials said, a case in which the violence of the turbulent North Caucasus apparently spilled into the Russian heartland.

Witnesses said an explosion tore through the bus at about 2 p.m., and officials quickly designated the bombing as a terrorist attack.

Video taken by a car’s dashboard camera and broadcast on the television channel Rossiya 24 showed a bright orange flame bursting from the center of the bus, which then virtually disappeared in a cloud of black smoke, as debris was hurtled across the three-lane roadway.

Local news agencies reported that investigators were focusing on the possibility that the attacker was a woman whose identity papers were found near the explosion. The local reports quoted officials who said the woman had been married to a leader of a rebel group in Dagestan, the predominantly Muslim republic in the North Caucasus where Russian security forces have been engaged in a fierce effort to suppress separatists.

Volgograd, previously known as Stalingrad, is about 520 miles north of Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, or just about halfway to Moscow.

—David M. Herszenhorn, The New York Times

Ruling near, J.C. Penney capitulates to Macy’s

Days before a judge was expected to rule in the long-running legal dispute between Macy’s and J.C. Penney over the right to sell branded Martha Stewart housewares, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and J.C. Penney scaled back the merchandising agreement at the center of the battle.

Under the revised agreement, J.C. Penney will not sell kitchen, bed and bath products designed by Martha Stewart that were sold under the label “JCP Everyday.”

But it will continue to market other Martha Stewart merchandise, including window treatments, lighting and rugs under the label “MarthaHome.” J.C. Penney will also return 11 million common shares that it acquired in the initial agreement and it will give up its two seats on the Martha Stewart board, according to the terms announced Monday.

Macy’s, which had sued both J.C. Penney and Martha Stewart charging that they breached an exclusivity agreement that Macy’s had with Martha Stewart covering all kitchen, bed and bath merchandise, declared immediate victory.

“It was a complete surrender,” Theodore M. Grossman of the Jones Day law firm, the lead counsel for Macy’s in the case, said after the agreement was announced. “Total victory.”

The agreement came after months of a trial before Judge Jeffrey K. Oing, of New York’s Supreme Court, who recently urged the parties to resolve their dispute and set a deadline of Friday for a possible ruling.

Even though the company’s previous chief executive, Myron E. Ullman III, was brought back to try to rescue the longstanding Penney’s chain, the company has continued to falter and stumble.

The company’s stock price is well below its 2007 share price of $49.63 on Oct 22, 2007. It was $6.42 a share on Monday.

—Hilary Stout, The New York Times

Pollution closes schools and roads in city in northeast China

BEIJING — School was canceled, traffic was nearly paralyzed and the airport was closed in the northeast Chinese city of Harbin on Monday as record pollution dropped visibility to less than 10 yards.

A dark, gray cloud that the local weather bureau described as heavy fog has shrouded Harbin, home to 10 million people, since Thursday, but the smoke thickened significantly Sunday, soon after the government started the coal-powered municipal heating system for the winter.

“You can’t see your own fingers in front of you,” the city’s official news site said. A resident of Harbin commented on Sina Weibo, the popular microblog, “You can hear the person you are talking to, but not see him.” Another resident added that he could not see the person he was holding hands with.

The airport in Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province, said on its official microblog Monday morning that dozens of flights had been delayed or diverted because the smog had reduced visibility so drastically. In the early evening, the airport said all flights had been canceled.

The Harbin government reported an air quality index score of 500, the highest possible reading and more than 10 times as polluted as the air in New York on Monday. Some Harbin neighborhood reporting stations showed that concentrations of PM2.5 — fine particulates that are 2.5 microns in diameter or smaller and especially harmful to health — were as high as 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter, according to the China News Service.

The Chinese government describes an air quality index between 301 and 500 as “heavily polluted” and urges people to refrain from exercising outdoors; the elderly and other vulnerable populations are supposed to stay indoors entirely. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency uses a similar index that labels any reading between 301 and 500 as “hazardous.”

Both scales reach their limit at 500. Foreign residents in Beijing declared an “airpocalpyse” last January when the U.S. Embassy reported an air quality index equivalent of 755. The World Health Organization has standards that judge a score above 500 to be more than 20 times the level of particulate matter in the air deemed safe.

On Monday, people in Harbin were covering their heads and mouths with scarves and masks to thwart the choking smell. Cars, with headlights on, were moving no faster than pedestrians and honking frequently as drivers struggled to see traffic lights yards away, the city’s official news site said.

—Mia Li, The New York Times