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Microsoft to buy creator of Minecraft for $2.5 billion

Microsoft agreed Monday to buy the creator of Minecraft, the world-building computer game, for $2.5 billion, in a move meant to add the immensely popular title to its stock of content.

Last week, Microsoft was reported to be in talks to buy the firm in an effort to ensure that one of the most popular games was available for the computing giant’s family of devices.

As part of the deal, employees of Mojang, the Swedish developer that created Minecraft, will join Microsoft Studios, which already publishes games like the blockbuster “Halo.”

“Gaming is a top activity spanning devices, from PCs and consoles to tablets and mobile, with billions of hours spent each year,” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, said in a statement. “Minecraft is more than a great game franchise — it is an open world platform, driven by a vibrant community we care deeply about, and rich with new opportunities for that community and for Microsoft.”

The deal is expected to close late this year.

—Michael J. De La Merced, The New York Times

Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah is released on bail

CAIRO — An Egyptian court on Monday released the left-leaning activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah from prison on bail in a rare example of leniency in the thousands of cases of political dissenters arrested since the military takeover last year.

Abdel-Fattah, a pioneering Egyptian blogger from a prominent family of writers and activists, has been jailed under four different rulers: former President Hosni Mubarak; the military council that removed Mubarak from power; the ousted president Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood; and the current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, the former general who led the takeover.

In this case, Abdel-Fattah was jailed for violating a new law severely restricting public demonstrations. He was initially sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. On Monday, however, the judge hearing a retrial of that case surprised the courtroom by abruptly recusing himself, citing unspecified potential “embarrassment,” and releasing Abdel-Fattah on $700 bail. Two other defendants were also released on bail.

A lawyer involved in the case suggested that the judge, Mohammad Ali Al Feqi, may have been reacting to an uproar after the last session of the trial when prosecutors were briefly allowed to show the courtroom a confiscated home movie of Abdel-Fattah’s wife dancing — an invasion of privacy irrelevant to the case.

—Merna Thomas, The New York Times

Paris airports quiet as Air France pilots strike

PARIS — Air France canceled roughly half of its flights Monday, upending the travel plans of tens of thousands of passengers and warning that disruptions were likely to worsen Tuesday after a strike by the airline’s pilots.

The airline, part of the French-Dutch group Air France-KLM, said it expected to cancel around 60 percent of flights Tuesday amid a dispute with French pilots over the group’s plans to shift a large part of its European operations to a low-cost subsidiary where most crew members would be paid less and be based in other European countries. Pilots’ unions have threatened to extend the strike through Friday.

Alexandre de Juniac, the chief executive of Air France-KLM, warned that a long dispute threatened to derail the airline’s tentative recovery and risked damaging the Air France brand.

“Air France should be profitable this year if this strike does not impact its progress,” de Juniac said.

He added that the airline was anticipating losses of 10 million euros to 15 million euros ($13 million to $19.5 million) for each day of the pilots’ walkout.

Air France said that about 65,000 passengers faced cancellations or delays Monday and that it had already alerted tens of thousands more of the possibility of further disruptions later in the week.

According to the airline, roughly 60 percent of its 3,800 French pilots were expected to take part in the walkout, although union leaders have put the figure at closer to 75 percent.

—Nicola Clark, The New York Times

Nominee for European post voices concern about US tech giants

BRUSSELS — Google should be blocked from expanding into making goods like cars and televisions, the European Union’s nominee for digital economy commissioner said over the weekend.

The nominee, Günther Oettinger, a fellow German and political ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, suggested that U.S. technology giants like Google threatened to reap the rewards from developing innovative products, consigning European businesses to delivering parts and services.

‘’It must not happen that Google makes future products such as cars or televisions and that European companies are left in the role of suppliers,’’ Oettinger said in an interview posted Sunday on the website of Welt am Sonntag, a German newspaper.

If confirmed as commissioner for the digital economy, it would be within Oettinger’s scope to propose Europe-wide rules affecting Google in areas like copyright, online privacy, Internet governance and mobile telecommunications. His remarks indicated that he shares the widespread sentiment in Europe that the power of U.S. technology companies must be curtailed.

‘’Companies that are up today can already be gone tomorrow,’’ warned Oettinger, who said he was concerned by the competitive threat posed by big companies like Google. ‘’Think of the loss of importance of Nokia or of Siemens in the category of mobile devices,’’ he said.

—James Kanter, The New York Times