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Tokyo leads Asian equities rout as traders flee to safety

 
‎09 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎08:48:57 AMGo to full article
Tokyo shares have tumble more than five percent, extending a global sell-off as a stronger yen dented exportersTokyo stocks led a rout across Asian markets Tuesday, while Japanese government bond yields turned negative, the dollar dived against the yen and gold jumped as fears about the global economy sent investors scrambling to safety. The latest round of blood-letting came on the back of worries about the financial sector as the global economy slows down, without the support of the Federal Reserve's easy monetary policies. London, Paris and Frankfurt all finished down more than 2.5 percent, with the German DAX ending below 9,000 for the first time since October 2014.
 
 

US responses to NKorea nuke, missile tests will upset China

 
‎09 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎07:39:58 AMGo to full article
In this Jan, 27, 2016, file photo, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, poses with Chinese President Xi Jinping prior to their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. North Korean nuclear and rocket tests are drawing quick responses from the U.S. that will upset a supposed partner against Pyongyang's weapons development _ China. New efforts to toughen missile defense in South Korea and sanctions legislation moving swiftly through Congress could both hurt Chinese interests. The Chinese are concerned the missile defense system could be used against them, and the U.S. sanctions could hit Chinese companies that trade with North Korea. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool, Fiile)WASHINGTON (AP) — North Korean nuclear and rocket tests are drawing quick responses from the U.S. that will upset a supposed partner against Pyongyang's weapons development — China.
 
 

Asia stocks extend global sell-off, Japan down 5.1 percent

 
‎09 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎05:51:10 AMGo to full article
Trader Jonathan Corpina works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. U.S. stocks moved broadly lower in early trading Monday, putting the market on track for its second sizeable loss in a row. Technology, financial and energy stocks were among the biggest decliners. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)Asian markets tumbled Tuesday as renewed jitters about the global economy set off a wave of selling in banking stocks.
 
 

Chinese visit temples, fairs to ring in Year of the Monkey

 
‎08 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎06:20:32 PMGo to full article
Dragon and lion dancers perform amidst exploding firecrackers in celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year Monday, Feb. 8, 2016 at Manila's Chinatown district in Manila, Philippines. This year is Year of the Monkey in the Lunar calendar. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)BEIJING (AP) — Chinese and others around Asia flocked to temples and fairs to pray for good health and fortune on Monday, the first day of the Lunar New Year.
 
 

Obscure at home, 'Texas Daddy' is a right-wing darling in Japan

 
‎08 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎06:03:15 PMGo to full article
Former telephone company employee Tony Marano is seen at a speaking engagement in ToykoAUSTIN, Texas (Reuters)- Somewhere in the Dallas area, a retired man sitting in a home office is making social media videos backing Japanese right-wing views that have made him a celebrity among hawks in the Asian country. Hardly known in the United States, Tony Marano, 66, is called the "Texas Daddy" in Japan, where he has spawned a small industry that includes books, speaking tours, T-shirts emblazoned with his cartoon likeness and scores of videos, some of which have been viewed more than 300,000 times. "I am just expressing my opinion," said Marano in an accent that gives away his Brooklyn upbringing.
 
 

Image of Asia: On patrol at holy confluence of Indian rivers

 
‎08 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎04:07:03 PMGo to full article
Horse mounted policemen patrol as thousands of Indian Hindu devotees gather to perform rituals at the Sangam, the confluence of rivers Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati on "Mauni Amavasya" or new moon day, the third and the most auspicious date of bathing during the annual month long Hindu religious fair "Magh Mela" in Allahabad, India, Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims take dips in the confluence, hoping to wash away sins during the month long festival. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)In this photo by Rajesh Kumar Singh, police on horses patrol as thousands of Hindus perform rituals at the Sangam, the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati rivers, during the Magh Mela in Allahabad, India. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims will bathe in the confluence during the annual festival, hoping to wash away their sins. Monday is the morning of the new moon, or "Mauni Amavasya," the most auspicious and most popular day for the ritual.
 
 

Obama: North Korea rocket launch concerning but not a surprise

 
‎08 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎03:12:33 PMGo to full article
U.S. President Barack Obama said he was concerned but not surprised about North Korea's rocket launch over the weekend, saying his administration is pressing China and working with South Korea to pressure North Korea's regime and block its efforts. In an interview aired on Monday, Obama told CBS he was not surprised at the launch, adding: "We have been concerned about North Korea's behavior for a while. The interview was conducted on Sunday, when North Korea launched a long-range rocket that it said carried a satellite but stoked fears about its nuclear weapons capabilities.
 

Top Philippine diplomat and China critic resigns over health

 
‎08 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎03:02:53 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2016 file photo, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario greets British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond prior to their bilateral meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs in suburban Pasay city, south of Manila, Philippines. The Philippines' top diplomat, who was behind a bold government move to challenge the validity of China's vast territorial claims in the South China Sea at an international tribunal, has resigned due to health reasons, officials said Monday, Feb. 8. President Benigno Aquino III has accepted del Rosario's resignation, which will take effect on March 7, presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma Jr. said. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines' top diplomat, who was behind a bold government move to challenge the validity of China's vast territorial claims in the South China Sea at an international tribunal, has resigned due to health reasons, officials said Monday.
 
 

Russian authorities detain 7 on suspicion of terrorist plot

 
‎08 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎12:47:12 PMGo to full article
MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's state security service says it has detained seven people in the country's Ural mountain region on suspicion of terrorist activities.
 

North Korea rocket launch may spur U.S. missile defense buildup in Asia

 
‎08 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎12:11:05 PMGo to full article
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) watches a long range rocket launch into the air in North KoreaBy Andrea Shalal and David Brunnstrom WASHINGTON (Reuters) - North Korea's latest rocket launch might kick off a buildup of U.S. missile defense systems in Asia, U.S. officials and missile defense experts said, something that could further strain U.S.-China ties and also hurt relations between Beijing and Seoul. North Korea says it put a satellite into orbit on Sunday, but the United States and its allies see the launch as cover for Pyongyang's development of ballistic missile technology that could be used to deliver a nuclear weapon.
 
 

AP PHOTOS: Editor selections from Asia

 
‎08 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎10:25:16 AMGo to full article
In this Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016 photo, rescue workers search a collapsed building from an early morning earthquake in Tainan, Taiwan. A powerful, shallow earthquake struck southern Taiwan before dawn Saturday. (AP Photo/Wally Santana, File)In images from Asia last week, a baby boy was rescued from an apartment building in Taiwan toppled by an earthquake, while people in Seoul watched news of North Korea's rocket launch.
 
 

Controversial minister to become Australia's rights envoy

 
‎08 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎09:18:55 AMGo to full article
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The former Australian immigration minister who began the widely condemned policy of sending asylum seekers to Pacific island detention camps will become Australia's first special envoy for human rights, the government said Monday.
 

Asia stocks flat as investors fret over global economy

 
‎08 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎06:23:22 AMGo to full article
American flags fly at the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street, July 6, 2015. World stock markets were uneven Friday, Feb. 5, 2016, as investors awaited U.S. job numbers that could influence how much the Fed raises interest rates this year. Japanese shares sagged on the strengthening yen. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)TOKYO (AP) — Asian stock markets were little changed Monday in thin holiday trading as investors fretted about a global economic slowdown after data showed U.S. employers added fewer jobs last month.
 
 

North Korean rocket puts object into space, angers neighbors, U.S.

 
‎08 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎01:26:59 AMGo to full article
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) watches a long range rocket launch into the air in North KoreaBy Ju-min Park and Louis Charbonneau SEOUL/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - North Korea launched a long-range rocket carrying what it called a satellite, drawing renewed international condemnation just weeks after it carried out a nuclear bomb test. South Korea and the United States said they would explore whether to deploy an advanced missile defense system in South Korea "at the earliest possible date." The U.S. Strategic Command said it had detected a missile entering space, and South Korea's military said the rocket had put an object into orbit. North Korea said the launch of the satellite Kwangmyongsong-4, named after late leader Kim Jong Il, was a "complete success" and it was making a polar orbit of Earth every 94 minutes.
 
 

Russia says Lavrov discussed North Korea rocket launch with Japan's Kishida

 
‎07 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎04:31:57 PMGo to full article
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday discussed a rocket launch by North Korea in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Russia's foreign ministry said. Russia stressed the importance of diplomacy in defusing tension in Northeast Asia during the phone call, the statement said.
 

Global outrage over North Korea rocket launch

 
‎07 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎04:09:41 PMGo to full article
Picture taken from North Korean TV and released by South Korean news agency Yonhap on February 7, 2016 shows North Korea's rocket launch of earth observation satellite Kwangmyong 4North Korea hailed an "epochal event" but its latest long-range rocket launch Sunday sparked international anger and plans for talks on a US missile defence system for the peninsula. Pyongyang's state TV announced the nation successfully put a satellite into orbit, "legitimately exercising the right to use space for independent and peaceful purposes". Many others saw an exercise which clearly defied multiple UN resolutions -- a disguised test of a ballistic missile which could one day deliver a warhead as far as the US mainland.
 
 

China school sees monkey business in New Year

 
‎07 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎04:00:48 PMGo to full article
A monkey looks out from behind a curtain during a rehearsal at a monkey training school in a zoo in Dongying, eastern China's Shandong provinceMacaques in frilly dresses turn backflips and answer maths questions for crowds of screaming children at a Chinese monkey school, where trainers teach them to waltz and play rock drums. Shows featuring performing simians, popular in China and throughout Asia, are expecting a boost in the Lunar New Year of the monkey, which begins on Monday. "It's like a human school, but using monkeys," said Takeshi Soma, the Japanese "headmaster" of the facility, at a zoo in Dongying in the eastern province of Shandong.
 
 

Korean skier earns applause at 2018 Olympics test event

 
‎07 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎11:31:28 AMGo to full article
JEONGSEON, South Korea (AP) — South Korean skier Kim Hyeon-tae had a modest goal in his World Cup debut: to finish within five seconds of the winner.
 

Anti-Islam groups rally across Europe; clashes in Amsterdam

 
‎06 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎08:09:44 PMGo to full article
Mounted Dutch riot police disperses demonstrators during a Pegida demonstration against islamization in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)DRESDEN, Germany (AP) — Protesters rallied against Islam and immigration in several European cities Saturday, sometimes clashing with police or counter-demonstrators amid growing tensions over the massive influx of asylum-seekers to the continent.
 
 

Firebrand monks a powerful force in Myanmar despite setback

 
‎06 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎07:54:23 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2015 file photo, Nationalist Buddhist monk Wirathu, center, marches in Mandalay, the second largest city in Myanmar. A new report by U.S. researchers warns that the divisive religious group known as Ma Ba Tha, which counts the hardline monk Wirathu among its senior members, is likely to be a force for some time to come as its anti-Muslim prejudices resonate in the broader Burmese society despite its failure to sway recent national elections. (AP Photo/Hkun Lat, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — Dark-skinned and bearded men jump a young woman after she prays at a Buddhist shrine. They push her to the ground and rape her. Then they cut off her ear and slit her throat.
 
 

Watson bought by Bangalore for $1.4 million at IPL auction

 
‎06 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎03:53:28 PMGo to full article
FILE- In this Jan. 31, 2016 file photo, Australia's Shane Watson, center, celebrates with Cameron Bancroft right, after taking the wicket of India's Shikhar Dhawan during their T20 International cricket match in Sydney, Australia. Australia allrounder Shane Watson was the costliest buy at the Indian Premier League auctions Saturday after he was picked up for $1.4 million by Royal Challengers Bangalore. Watson went for five times his base price and will join the likes of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle who have been retained by Bangalore.(AP Photo/Rob Griffith, file)BANGALORE, India (AP) — Australia allrounder Shane Watson was the costliest buy at the Indian Premier League auctions Saturday after he was picked up for $1.4 million by Royal Challengers Bangalore.
 
 

Rough seas, harsh winter, border limits add to migrant woes

 
‎06 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎11:06:14 AMGo to full article
Refugees walk towards the border with Serbia from the transit center for refugees near northern Macedonian village of Tabanovce, Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. Macedonia accepts people only from war-affected zones who declare Austria or Germany as their final destination. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)PRESEVO, Serbia (AP) — Rasul Orwani thought he had faced the worst after braving cold, rough seas in a rickety wooden boat to travel from Turkey to Greece, then came the Balkans.
 
 

Monkey Year inspires kung fu, predictions of fire, disease

 
‎06 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎11:04:51 AMGo to full article
In this April 29, 2015 photo, actor Zhang Jinlai in a Monkey King costume poses next to a wax figure base on his stage performance during a ceremony at the Madame Tussauds in Beijing. The Year of the Monkey gives a little-needed excuse to reference the much loved Monkey King character from the 16th century adventure novel “Journey to the West.” The supernatural Monkey King, also known as Sun Wukong, accompanied a monk on a journey to retrieve sacred scriptures and the story has inspired countless TV shows and movies over the years. Unashamedly trying to capitalize on the new zodiac year, yet another Monkey King adaptation will be released on the first day of the lunar new year - Feb. 8. (Chinatopix via AP) CHINA OUTBEIJING (AP) — The new Chinese year is the one to go bananas over. On Feb. 8, the zodiac calendar enters the Year of the Monkey — the ninth of 12 animal signs. Plastic monkeys are adorning shopping centers and office buildings, and government departments have been giving out toy monkeys.
 
 

Jansrud wins downhill at test event for Pyeongchang Olympics

 
‎06 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎08:47:34 AMGo to full article
Winner Kjetil Jansrud of Norway waves as he is introduced at an award ceremony following a men's World Cup downhill race, also a test event for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre in Jeongseon, South Korea, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)JEONGSEON, South Korea (AP) — Kjetil Jansrud confirmed he's the skier to beat on the downhill course for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, winning the test event by a comfortable margin Saturday.
 
 

UN chief: 34 groups now allied to Islamic State extremists

 
‎06 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎06:03:34 AMGo to full article
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Thirty-four militant groups from around the world had reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State extremist group as of mid-December — and that number will only grow in 2016, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report Friday.
 

U.S., India in talks to settle solar power trade dispute

 
‎06 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎12:23:42 AMGo to full article
A worker walks through the installed solar modules at Naini solar power plant in AllahabadBy David Lawder WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and India are in talks that could settle a long-running solar power trade dispute, delaying the announcement of a ruling by the World Trade Organization, an Obama administration official said on Friday. Washington filed the WTO challenge three years ago, claiming that India's national solar power program illegally discriminated against imported solar panels and related products though its domestic content requirements. The WTO in recent weeks has twice delayed the public announcement of a ruling in the case, rescheduling it for next Wednesday.
 
 

Obama, Park press Beijing on N.Korea sanctions

 
‎06 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎12:18:48 AMGo to full article
People watch a news report on North Korea's planned rocket launch as the TV shows file footage of North Korea's Unha-3 rocket which launched in 2012, at a railway station in Seoul on February 3, 2016The campaign to win China's backing for deeper sanctions against North Korea gained in intensity Friday, with the US and South Korean presidents making their case directly to Xi Jinping. Presidents Barack Obama and Park Geun-Hye spoke to their Chinese counterpart by phone in separate calls to demand punitive measures following a recent nuclear test. The White House and its allies want to respond with a UN resolution that would slap more sanctions on the North.
 
 

DraftKings makes long delayed push into UK

 
‎05 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎10:34:25 PMGo to full article
BOSTON (AP) — Daily fantasy sports giant DraftKings is making its long-anticipated international push with a launch Friday in the United Kingdom even as its industry continues to tangle with U.S. policymakers.
 

France, Germany pile pressure on Turkey to stem migrant tide

 
‎05 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎10:14:10 PMGo to full article
Migrants and refugees keep themselves warm near a fire at a gas station near the northern Greek village of Idomeni as they wait to cross the Greek - Macedonian border on February 5, 2016The massive flow of migrants into Europe must be slowed with the help of Turkey and better screening of asylum applicants on arrival on the continent, the interior ministers of France and Germany said Friday. Speaking in Athens, the ministers warned again of a real "danger" of Europe's Schengen border-free zone collapsing if its outer frontiers were not better protected by, among other things, boosting Greece's capacity to sort "genuine" refugees from economic migrants. Most come from Turkey, which Europe accuses of doing too little to prevent migrant families setting out for Greece in overloaded boats that often sink, costing hundreds of lives since the crisis accelerated last summer.
 
 

Zimbabwe lawyer wants probe of Mugabe's ability to hold office

 
‎05 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎09:59:17 PMGo to full article
President Robert Mugabe, who turns 92 later this month, has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980A Zimbabwean lawyer on Friday asked the country's highest court to order an investigation to determine President Robert Mugabe’s fitness to hold office, after a series of blunders that prompted speculation about his health. The papers filed by lawyer Tinomuda Chinoka seek to order the speaker of parliament and the president of the senate to conduct the investigation. "Having a president that may lack capacity to carry out the job threatens democracy, undermines the constitution and puts in jeopardy the very foundation, security and future of the nation," read the papers filed with the Constitutional Court.
 
 

Sheikh Salman's FIFA bid gets African boost

 
‎05 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎09:01:21 PMGo to full article
Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa is the president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC)Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa's bid to take over as FIFA president received a massive boost on Friday with the Asian football chief getting the powerful backing of the African continent. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) agreed to support the Bahraini's bid to succeed Sepp Blatter as president of world governing body FIFA in an election in Zurich later this month. "The executive committee decided that CAF will give full support to Sheikh Salman with his candidacy for FIFA presidency," CAF first vice-president Suketu Patel said after an executive committee meeting during the African Nations Championship tournament in Kigali.
 
 

African confederation backs Sheikh Salman in FIFA election

 
‎05 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎08:39:09 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Thursday, April 30, 2015 file photo, Asian Football Confederation President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa leaves the AFC Congress in Manama, Bahrain. The Confederation of African Football said Friday it is backing Sheikh Salman of Bahrain in this month's FIFA presidential election. The decision also means CAF has turned its back on the only African candidate in the five-man field, South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, file)KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — Sheikh Salman's bid to succeed Sepp Blatter got a major boost Friday when the African soccer confederation announced it was backing the Bahraini royal for FIFA president.
 
 

Factbox: What business thinks about Britain's EU referendum

 
‎05 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎08:00:26 PMGo to full article
Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to renegotiate Britain's ties with Europe and then give voters a referendum on European Union membership by the end of 2017. Following are the views of business leaders: AEROSPACE AND AIRLINES Chief executive of airline easyJet Carolyn McCall said: "We will do everything we can to make sure that consumers understand that they are far better off within the EU when it comes to connectivity and low fares." "We think it would be very difficult for our government to negotiate with 27 other member states to get the flying rights that we have today within the EU." Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary: "We're very actively supporting the campaign to keep the UK in the European Union.
 

Holy trees spark debate on future of Olympic downhill course

 
‎05 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎05:45:03 PMGo to full article
Kjetil Jansrud of Norway skies during the second training session for a World Cup downhill as a test event of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre in Jeongseon, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)JEONGSEON, South Korea (AP) — The long-term future of the downhill course for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics is coming under the spotlight this weekend at the Alpine skiing test event for the games.
 
 

Conservationists hope Year of Monkey brings species luck

 
‎05 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎05:20:46 PMGo to full article
Conservationists, including renowned primatologist Dr Jane Goodall, are hoping the Year of the Monkey will shine a light on the threats the species are facing worldwide, namely in Asia. Hunted for food, traditional medicine and the pet trade, primate populations in Asia, particularly China, are under pressure. "And I hope that it will be a year where we can really draw attention to the wonderful monkeys and apes of China and the rest of Asia because they badly need our help, we really need to step up conservation.
 

Big spending Chinese clubs show global ambitions

 
‎05 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎05:15:12 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Aug. 22, 2015, file photo, Atletico Madrid's Jackson Martinez, top, goes for a header with Las Palmas' Aythami Artiles during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Atletico Madrid and Las Palmas at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Spain. Guangzhou Evergrande of the Chinese Super League said Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, that it has signed Martinez for what is believed to be a new record sum in the Asian transfer market. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, File)The European transfer window is not so European any more, with Chinese clubs outspending the continent's richest clubs in January to prove that the country is now a genuine power in attracting the world's best players.
 
 

Image of Asia: Testing downhill course for Olympic skiers

 
‎05 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎04:30:21 PMGo to full article
Switzerland's Nils Mani skis during the second training session for a World Cup downhill event, also a test event for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, at the Jeongseon Alpine Center in Jeongseon, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)In this photo by Mark Schiefelbein, Switzerland's Nils Mani skis during the second training session for a World Cup downhill event in Jeongseon, South Korea, that also is a test event for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics. The Jeongseon Alpine Center is rare in that it has only the competition course, a training run and a slalom course and the venue will be restored to its natural state when the games end. The area forest is a pilgrimage site for women who pray for fertility at certain sacred trees, and the local Gangwon province decided on the forest restoration in agreement with environmentalists years earlier. Some ski officials say a permanent facility would be used by Koreans and would help grow the sport.
 
 

World stocks turn lower after mixed US job report

 
‎05 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎03:52:17 PMGo to full article
A man walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 at a securities firm in Tokyo, Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. Asian stock markets were uneven on Friday as investors awaited U.S. job numbers that could influence how far the Fed raises interest rates this year. Japanese shares sagged on the strengthening yen. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)LONDON (AP) — World stock markets turned lower on Friday after a mixed U.S. jobs report showed a slowdown in the pace of hiring in the world's largest economy but a decrease in the overall rate of unemployment.
 
 

French activists denounce abuse of authority after attacks

 
‎05 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎01:44:47 PMGo to full article
A man identified only as Younes, 29, who says he is unjustly under house arrest, answers the Associated Press in Goussainville, north of Paris, Thursday Feb.4, 2016. French police have rounded up hundreds of suspects and searched nearly 3,000 homes under a state of emergency since the November extremist attacks on Paris, but much of the action involves drug cases or similar crime instead of terrorism. Rights activists say that's an abuse of authority, and strongly oppose a new government effort to permanently expand police powers. (AP Photo/Nadine Achoui-Lesage)PARIS (AP) — French police have rounded up hundreds of suspects and searched more than 3,000 homes under a state of emergency since the November extremist attacks on Paris — but much of the action involves drug cases or similar crime, not terrorism.
 
 

India's Shami picked for World T20 despite nursing injury

 
‎05 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎12:15:35 PMGo to full article
NEW DELHI (AP) — Pace bowler Mohammed Shami was picked by India on Friday for the Asia Cup and World Twenty20 even though he was still recovering from a hamstring injury.
 
 
 
 

 

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Insight - Back to its roots: how Zika may threaten Africa

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎03:50:29 PMGo to full article
PRAIA/LONDON: Florzinha Amado is eight months pregnant and trying to stay calm about whether the Zika virus infection she contracted at 21 weeks could have harmed her unborn child.

    But Amado isn't Brazilian. She lives on the volcanic archipelago of Cape Verde, 570 km (350 miles) west of Senegal, and is one of 100 pregnant women in the capital of Praia who have contracted Zika there.

The exterior of Agostinho Neto Hospital, in Praia, Cape Verde

Their fears, and those of West African authorities seeking to prepare the region's defences, are shared by global health experts who say it could have unknown consequences in countries ill-equipped for another public health emergency following the Ebola epidemic.

    Zika, a mosquito-borne virus, was first identified by two Scots, virologist George Dick and entomologist Alexander Haddow, in a forest near Entebbe in Uganda in 1947.

The disease itself is mild and 80 percent of those infected do not feel ill, but it has shot to the top of the global health agenda after an outbreak in Brazil was suspected of causing a spike in birth defects.

    And now, nearly 70 years after its discovery in mainland Africa, it is threatening to return to its roots - this time apparently in a changed form causing large-scale outbreaks.

    "Cape Verde has historical links with Brazil and it seems very likely it has got there from Brazil," said Nick Beeching of Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, a Zika expert for the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.

    According to new data from Cape Verde's health ministry, more than 7,000 cases of Zika have been recorded in the country since the beginning of the epidemic in October 2015, with heavier than normal rains last summer boosting mosquito numbers.

Beeching believes it is highly probable Zika will soon be back on the African mainland, thanks to regular flight connections from the Atlantic islands, potentially triggering a new chain of transmission.

Regional health officials told Reuters they were most worried about Zika being exported to Senegal or Guinea Bissau, which shares the same Portuguese heritage as Cape Verde.

A regional meeting on Zika took place in Dakar on Feb. 9, with African and Western partners discussing preparations for possible imported cases, according to officials.

    Abdoulaye Bousso, the coordinator of the health emergency operations centre in Senegal, said his country had an active surveillance programme with several "sentinel sites" being established as early warning points for an outbreak.

    "We do not have cases in the country currently but the risk is there," he said.

MANY MOSQUITOES

Africa is fertile ground for Zika. Researchers have found more than 20 different mosquito species carrying the virus there, although whether they all transmit the disease effectively to humans is unclear.

Ultimately, how much damage Zika may cause on this vast continent will depend on the level of immunity among African populations - and that hinges, crucially, on the extent to which Zika's genetic make-up has mutated on its round-the-world trip.

    A warning from World Health Organization experts in a paper published online on Feb. 9 that the virus "appears to have changed in character" is heightening concerns.

    The exact nature of the shift has yet to be unravelled but Mary Kay Kindhauser and colleagues said Zika had altered as it moved through Asia - from an infection causing limited cases of mild illness to one leading to large outbreaks and, from 2013 onwards, linked to babies born with neurological disorders and abnormally small heads.

Jimmy Whitworth, a British-based researcher now at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who studied Zika in Uganda back when it was still a "virological curiosity", said the ground was shifting and the risks increasing.

"There are a few genetic differences between the African and Asian lineages, and it looks like the Asian lineages may be better able to transmit and flourish in a human population," he told Reuters.

What this means on the ground is uncertain. In theory, there may be some cross-protection between different Zika strains, which could protect Africans from the latest version.

But Beeching noted that dengue fever, a closely related mosquito-borne virus, had four recognised strains and there was only limited and temporary cross-protection between them. "We just don't know how Zika will spread if it gets to Africa," he said.

Another big question is why there is no apparent link in Africa between Zika and birth defects, since the continent has been home to sporadic cases of Zika for decades, if not centuries or millennia.

It may be that any past cases of small heads in newborns, known as microcephaly, or of the neurological condition Guillain-Barre syndrome may have been missed in Africa given its limited healthcare infrastructure.

But Whitworth hopes to go back and take a retrospective look, since countries including Malawi, Kenya and Uganda have good population records, head measurement data and serum banks that should make checks possible.

Back in Cape Verde's Central Hospital in Praia, clinical director Maria do Ceu says there is so far no evidence from scans of any microcephaly among the country's infected mothers-to-be, who are due to deliver their first babies this month.

Amado is optimistic. "The doctor encouraged me to do morphological ultrasound and told me that I am okay," she said. "It happened suddenly. I started having blotchy skin and then I went to the maternity ward. I was followed up and thank God everything is fine."

(Writing and additional reporting by Kate Kelland in London, with Emma Farge in Dakar; Editing by Pravin Char)

 

Daimler to invest US$2.9 billion for next generation diesel engine

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎03:50:26 PMGo to full article
FRANKFURT: Daimler said they will spend 2.6 billion euros (US$2.9 billion) by 2019 on developing next generation diesel engines to help the luxury carmaker meet new pollution measuring standards.

"We are spending the money on engine development and production capacities," Bernhard Heil, vice president of product group powertrain at Daimler AG said.

A Daimler sign name is pictured behind the podium during the company's annual news conference

Part of the 2.6 billion euros has already been invested. Daimler will introduce selective catalytic reduction (SCR) on its smaller front wheel drive cars by 2019, replacing current nitrous oxide trap exhaust systems, the company said.

Currently only large Mercedes-Benz cars use SCR systems, which require adblue injection systems.

(Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Arno Schuetze)

 

Back to its roots: how Zika may threaten Africa

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎03:50:20 PMGo to full article
PRAIA/LONDON: Florzinha Amado is eight months pregnant and trying to stay calm about whether the Zika virus infection she contracted at 21 weeks could have harmed her unborn child.

But Amado isn't Brazilian. She lives on the volcanic archipelago of Cape Verde, 570 km (350 miles) west of Senegal, and is one of 100 pregnant women in the capital of Praia who have contracted Zika there.

The exterior of Agostinho Neto Hospital, in Praia, Cape Verde

Their fears, and those of West African authorities seeking to prepare the region's defenses, are shared by global health experts who say it could have unknown consequences in countries ill-equipped for another public health emergency following the Ebola epidemic.

Zika, a mosquito-borne virus, was first identified by two Scots, virologist George Dick and entomologist Alexander Haddow, in a forest near Entebbe in Uganda in 1947.

The disease itself is mild and 80 percent of those infected do not feel ill, but it has shot to the top of the global health agenda after an outbreak in Brazil was suspected of causing a spike in birth defects.

And now, nearly 70 years after its discovery in mainland Africa, it is threatening to return to its roots - this time apparently in a changed form causing large-scale outbreaks.

"Cape Verde has historical links with Brazil and it seems very likely it has got there from Brazil," said Nick Beeching of Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, a Zika expert for the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.

According to new data from Cape Verde's health ministry, more than 7,000 cases of Zika have been recorded in the country since the beginning of the epidemic in October 2015, with heavier than normal rains last summer boosting mosquito numbers.

Beeching believes it is highly probable Zika will soon be back on the African mainland, thanks to regular flight connections from the Atlantic islands, potentially triggering a new chain of transmission.

Regional health officials told Reuters they were most worried about Zika being exported to Senegal or Guinea Bissau, which shares the same Portuguese heritage as Cape Verde.

A regional meeting on Zika took place in Dakar on Feb. 9, with African and Western partners discussing preparations for possible imported cases, according to officials.

Abdoulaye Bousso, the coordinator of the health emergency operations center in Senegal, said his country had an active surveillance program with several "sentinel sites" being established as early warning points for an outbreak.

"We do not have cases in the country currently but the risk is there," he said.

MANY MOSQUITOES

Africa is fertile ground for Zika. Researchers have found more than 20 different mosquito species carrying the virus there, although whether they all transmit the disease effectively to humans is unclear.

Ultimately, how much damage Zika may cause on this vast continent will depend on the level of immunity among African populations - and that hinges, crucially, on the extent to which Zika's genetic make-up has mutated on its round-the-world trip.

A warning from World Health Organization experts in a paper published online on Feb. 9 that the virus "appears to have changed in character" is heightening concerns.

The exact nature of the shift has yet to be unraveled but Mary Kay Kindhauser and colleagues said Zika had altered as it moved through Asia - from an infection causing limited cases of mild illness to one leading to large outbreaks and, from 2013 onwards, linked to babies born with neurological disorders and abnormally small heads.

Jimmy Whitworth, a British-based researcher now at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who studied Zika in Uganda back when it was still a "virological curiosity", said the ground was shifting and the risks increasing.

"There are a few genetic differences between the African and Asian lineages, and it looks like the Asian lineages may be better able to transmit and flourish in a human population," he told Reuters.

What this means on the ground is uncertain. In theory, there may be some cross-protection between different Zika strains, which could protect Africans from the latest version.

But Beeching noted that dengue fever, a closely related mosquito-borne virus, had four recognized strains and there was only limited and temporary cross-protection between them. "We just don't know how Zika will spread if it gets to Africa," he said.

Another big question is why there is no apparent link in Africa between Zika and birth defects, since the continent has been home to sporadic cases of Zika for decades, if not centuries or millennia.

It may be that any past cases of small heads in newborns, known as microcephaly, or of the neurological condition Guillain-Barre syndrome may have been missed in Africa given its limited healthcare infrastructure.

But Whitworth hopes to go back and take a retrospective look, since countries including Malawi, Kenya and Uganda have good population records, head measurement data and serum banks that should make checks possible.

Back in Cape Verde's Central Hospital in Praia, clinical director Maria do Ceu says there is so far no evidence from scans of any microcephaly among the country's infected mothers-to-be, who are due to deliver their first babies this month.

Amado is optimistic. "The doctor encouraged me to do morphological ultrasound and told me that I am okay," she said. "It happened suddenly. I started having blotchy skin and then I went to the maternity ward. I was followed up and thank God everything is fine."

(Writing and additional reporting by Kate Kelland in London, with Emma Farge in Dakar; Editing by Pravin Char)

 

Football: Ex-top cop wins Thai FA presidency

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎03:50:10 PMGo to full article
BANGKOK: A colourful ex-police chief backed by Leicester City's billionaire owners was elected on Thursday (Feb 11) as president of the embattled Football Association of Thailand, in a vote prompted by the suspension of the scandal-mired former boss.

Somyot Poompanmoung, the colourful ex-head Thailand's police, scooped up 62 of the available 72 votes from football clubs and officials, according to an AFP reporter.

Former Thai national police chief Somyot Poompanmoung (C) arrives at a stadium where voting took(Photo:AFP)

He was the frontrunner in a rowdy and often acrimonious campaign that brought to light massive public discontent with the game's administrators in the football-mad country.

Somyot, 61, was supported by a number of big Thai football clubs as well as his friend Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the billionaire owner of table-topping English Premier League outfit Leicester.

He will succeed Worawi Makudi, a former FIFA insider and Thai football's Teflon man who for years fended off endless scandals with lawsuits and bravado.

Worawi, a FIFA executive committee member for 18 years until last May, could not run in Thursday's election after being suspended by the game's governing body over an alleged breach of its ethical code. He denies any wrongdoing.

Instead Worawi is widely believed to have backed former Thai national team coach Charnvit Pholchivin, who on the big day received just four votes.

SQUABBLE
 

Other candidates included Nataphol Teepsuwan, who is the chairman of Bangkok FC, another ex-policeman and an Football Association of Thailand (FAT) administrator.

"After today's election, I want everyone to work together and hope the conflicts will disappear so Thai football can move forward," Natapol told reporters ahead of the vote.

Observers say the squabble within Thai football mirrors the military-run country's recent political quarrels where elections have simply been ignored or annulled by powerful elites.

Worawi's rivals have pilloried his tenure while the candidates have questioned each other's eligibility to run the game.

Attempts to suspend the election have also been made, the last one rejected by a court late on Wednesday.

The jocular Somyot, who enjoys a kickaround and recently told AFP "he always wins", has vowed to clean up the sport, allocate funds fairly and raise the standards of refereeing.

He wants to establish a national level academy system and says his links with Leicester City will help boost the quality of Thai coaches and backroom staff.

Somyot, who was appointed after a 2014 coup, is tipped to pursue career in politics once elections have been restored to the military-run country.

Sport is a lever to power in the spin-dryer politics of Thailand. The owner of one of Thailand's best clubs, Buriram FC - who also backed Somyot - is a powerful former politician.

A football fan who attended the vote said he was desperate for Somyot to win. "I want sincere people to run the game so that all of problems can be cleaned up and Thai football can reach a better standard," Jakphol Lakthong told AFP.

Worawi was a long-time ally of the shamed suspended FIFA chief Sepp Blatter.

But he has finally been sidelined, a victim of heightened scrutiny by FIFA since a corruption scandal billowed out of the governing body's Zurich headquarters last year.

While heading the FAT he faced down fraud and bribery allegations as well as a petition by tens of thousands football fans urging Thailand's military government to kick him out.

 

Golf - Euro Tour chief happy with response to new slow play policy

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎03:40:12 PMGo to full article
LONDON: Chief executive Keith Pelley is pleased at the early response to his new European Tour Pace of Play policy and has again said that slow rounds of golf are simply unacceptable.

Referees are now allowed to combat slow play with a 'monitoring penalty' that began at last month's Abu Dhabi Championship and continued at the Qatar Masters and the Dubai Desert Classic.

In Abu Dhabi the time for an average round was cut by five minutes compared to 2015 and in Qatar it was reduced by 10 minutes in round one and four minutes in round two compared to 2012, the last time that event had similarly windy conditions.

In Dubai there was a reduction of two minutes in average rounds compared to 2015. The new policy is only being implemented in the opening two rounds of each tournament when there are more players competing ahead of the halfway cut.

"We said before our new measures were introduced in Abu Dhabi that we wanted to take the lead on pace of play and it is terrific to see the policy has had an immediate effect," Pelley said in a news release on Thursday.

"We are continually striving to make our product even more appealing and entertaining for our fans and this is a good starting point. Our players are now more aware than ever that slow play is unacceptable."

The 'monitoring penalty' allows referees to more effectively identify slow players and gives them an additional method of encouraging all competitors to keep to the scheduled pace of play.

If they do not respond to the promptings, referees can officially time players and eventually enforce a one-stroke penalty if indiscretions continue.

Ninety-five groups were 'monitored' in the Middle East and five players were given penalties, among them world number one Jordan Spieth during the first round in Abu Dhabi.

Competitors who have been told they are being 'monitored' must then play a shot within 40-50 seconds. Spieth was informed on his ninth tee that he had received a warning.

The five players will be fined an undisclosed amount the next time they receive a monitoring penalty this season with the fines increasing for each subsequent offence.

Pelley, who took over as chief executive from George O'Grady last year, has pledged to try and reduce round times by 15 minutes.

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

 

Hollywood stars stud Saint Laurent's awards-season LA show

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎03:35:25 PMGo to full article
LOS ANGELES: French design house Saint Laurent drew A-list celebrities to its catwalk fixture in Los Angeles on Wednesday, presenting its autumn 2016 creations just as the city hosts major film and music award ceremonies.

Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Hollywood stars Sylvester Stallone and Jane Fonda sat in the front row as creative director Hedi Slimane unveiled Saint Laurent's fall 2016 menswear and part of its womenswear in a show the luxury label called "a tribute to the strong music scene in Los Angeles".

Television host DeGeneres and her wife actress de Rossi pose as they arrives for the Saint Laurent

Stella McCartney, who like Saint Laurent unveils her main collections in Paris, presented her pre-fall line last month in Los Angeles, where the fashion spotlight centres on who is wearing what on the red carpets rolled out during awards season.

Other brands to showcase collections there last year included Tom Ford and Burberry.

Wednesday's Saint Laurent show, which also drew big music names such as Sam Smith and Lenny Kravitz, comes just a few days before this year's Grammy Awards. With the Golden Globe Awards just gone, the season ends with the Oscars on Feb. 28.

In a nod to the 1970s and 1980s, the men strutted down the catwalk in slim suits, fringed or studded leather jackets - some waist-length, fedora hats, caps and gold shoes.

The women showed off heavily embroidered designs - sequined or crystal encrusted - as well as velvet or metallic-like fabrics. From tiger-print coats to leopard-patterned tops and dresses, animal prints featured heavily on the clothes, some of which also had furry collars and cuffs.

For women, trousers were wide-legged and calf-length, culotte-like, while dresses were synched at the waist with big belts.

While heavy in metallics, Slimane's colour palette also included royal red, black, dabs of white and moss green.

Saint Laurent has said the second part of its fall 2016 womenswear will be presented at Paris Fashion Week next month.

(Reporting by Rollo Ross in Los Angeles; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Louise Ireland)

 

US jobless claims fall more than expected, near cycle lows

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎03:35:16 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON: The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, suggesting the labor market remained on solid footing despite slowing economic growth and a stock market rout.   

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 269,000 for the week ended Feb. 6, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week's claims were unrevised.

Man fills out a form at a booth at a military veterans' job fair in Carson

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims slipping to 281,000 in the latest week. The drop last week pushed down claims to near their post-recession lows around 256,000, pointing to very low layoffs despite an uncertain economic outlook and equities turmoil.

A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing last week's claims data and no states had been estimated.

Claims drifted higher at the start of the year. That had raised concerns that the headwinds of a strong dollar, weak global demand and spending cuts in the energy sector, which have constrained growth, could be spilling over to the labor market.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a bettermeasure of labor market trends as it smoothes week-to-week volatility, fell 3,500 to 281,250 last week.

Claims have now been below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with strong labor market conditions, for 49 straight weeks - the longest spell since the early 1970s.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Wednesday highlighted the labor market strength, but told lawmakers that tightening financial market conditions and uncertainty over China posed risks to the domestic economy.

The government reported last week that nonfarm payrolls increased 151,000 in January, while the unemployment rate fell below 5 percent for the first time in eight years.

A report on Tuesday showed Americans growing more confident in the labor market, with the number of people voluntarily quitting their jobs hitting a nine-year high in December.

The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 21,000 to 2.24 million in the week ended Jan. 30. The four-week average of the so-called continuing claims slipped 6,250 to 2.25 million. 

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

 

UK govt will impose contracts on doctors to end strikes

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎03:30:32 PMGo to full article
LONDON: Britain's government said on Thursday (Feb 11) it would impose new contracts on junior doctors to force an end to strikes over changes to their working conditions.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the House of Commons that the decision had been taken after negotiations with doctors' union the British Medical Association (BMA) failed.

Demonstrators stand with placards outside Salford Royal Hospital in Manchester, northwest England,(Photo:AFP)

The announcement came after nearly three years of negotiations and the day after a second 24-hour strike led to nearly 3,000 operations being postponed in England.

Hunt said he would be "proceeding with the introduction of a new contract" seen as "safer for patients and fair and reasonable for junior doctors" on the recommendation of the chief of the government's negotiating team.

Junior doctors are recently qualified doctors often aged in their twenties and thirties who work in the National Health Service (NHS) while completing their professional training.

Hunt said they would now receive a 13.5-per cent increase in basic salary which he insisted would lead to three-quarters getting an overall pay rise, despite a lower pay premium for working on Saturdays under the new contracts.

He also announced a review on how to improve morale among junior doctors.

Prime Minister David Cameron's centre-right government argues that the reforms are needed to help create a "seven days a week" NHS where the quality of care is as high at the weekends as on weekdays.

Johann Malawana, chairman of the BMA's junior doctor committee, said they "cannot and will not" accept the contract and would "consider all options open to us". "Junior doctors already work around the clock, seven days a week," he said.

"If the government want more seven-day services then, quite simply, it needs more doctors, nurses and diagnostic staff, and the extra investment needed to deliver it."

 

Brazil links three deaths to suspected Zika-related complications

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎03:25:10 PMGo to full article
BRASILIA: Brazilian health authorities believe three adults died last year of suspected complications related to the Zika virus, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

Researchers found the virus in the body of a 20-year-old woman who died in April from respiratory problems, a ministry spokesman said, confirming a report in O Estado de S. Paulo and Folha de S. Paulo newspapers.

The virus was previous detected in adults who died in June and October of suspected Zika complications, he said.

The little understood virus was previously believed to cause only minor symptoms, including a fever, rash and muscle aches, and often no symptoms at all. There is scant evidence in the limited studies on the disease of it being linked to fatalities.

Brazil is also investigating a potential link between Zika infections and more than 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly, a condition marked by abnormally small skulls in newborns and stunted brain development.

Researchers have identified evidence of Zika infection in 17 of these cases, either in the baby or in the mother, but have not confirmed that the virus can cause microcephaly.

(Reporting by Silvio Cascione Editing by W Simon)

 

Attacker shoots at offices in Saudi Arabia, six dead

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎03:20:21 PMGo to full article
RIYADH: An attacker opened fire at an education department in southern Saudi Arabia on Thursday, killing six employees, a senior Saudi official said.

Authorities are treating the attack, which took place in the Jizan region, as criminal and the attacker has been arrested, Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman General Mansour Turki said.

He said two people had also been wounded.

(Reporting by Katie Paul, Writing by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

 

Brazil links three deaths to suspected Zika-related complications

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎03:20:13 PMGo to full article
BRASILIA: Brazilian health authorities believe three adults died last year of suspected complications related to the Zika virus, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

Researchers found the virus in the body of a 20-year-old woman who died in April from respiratory problems, a ministry spokesman said, confirming a report in O Estado de S. Paulo and Folha de S. Paulo newspapers.

A technician of Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) inspects an Aedes aegypti mosquito through a micr

The virus was previous detected in adults who died in June and October of suspected Zika complications, he said.

The little understood virus was previously believed to cause only minor symptoms, including a fever, rash and muscle aches, and often no symptoms at all. There is scant evidence in the limited studies on the disease of it being linked to fatalities.

Brazil is also investigating a potential link between Zika infections and more than 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly, a condition marked by abnormally small skulls in newborns and stunted brain development.

Researchers have identified evidence of Zika infection in 17 of these cases, either in the baby or in the mother, but have not confirmed that the virus can cause microcephaly.

(Reporting by Silvio Cascione Editing by W Simon)

 

Football: Messi returns for Barcelona after kidney stone treatment

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎03:18:00 PMGo to full article
BARCELONA: Lionel Messi returned to training with Barcelona on Thursday (Feb 11) after receiving treatment for kidney stones which affected his participation in December's Club World Cup.

The Argentine superstar had tests "to assess the development of kidney stones," Barca reported.

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is closing in on 300 La Liga goals(Photo:AFP)

Messi missed Wednesday's 1-1 Copa del Rey semi-final second-leg draw with Valencia, with the Catalan side prevailing 8-1 on aggregate.

The five-time World Player of the Year is due to start Sunday's Liga clash with Celta Vigo at the Camp Nou where he needs only two goals to become the first player in the Spanish league to score 300 goals.

"With the renewed presence of Leo Messi in training Barca is already focussing on the next Liga outing," the club said.

Messi suffered renal colic, a problem commonly caused by kidney stones, in Japan in December forcing him to miss eventual winners Barcelona's semi-final against China's Guangzhou Evergrande.

He recovered in time to line up in the final where Barca beat Argentina's River Plate 3-0 as he scored the opening goal.

 

Greeks at frontline of migrant crisis angry at Europe's criticism

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎03:00:12 PMGo to full article
ABOARD THE AGIOS EFSTRATIOS, Aegean Sea: Greek Captain Argyris Frangoulis lifts his binoculars and with eyes fixed on the Aegean Sea horizon, steers his patrol boat out near the Turkish border to a dinghy full of stranded refugees.

He zeroes in on the target and gasps - "My God!" - another grey rubber motor boat packed with about four times as many people as it can hold, many of them young children and babies.

"Everybody safe, OK?" he yells at the passengers, mainly Syrians and Afghans, approaching the coast guard vessel bewildered and in near-silence. "Stay calm and do not panic!"

About 50 people are pulled aboard one by one, smiling but too exhausted to speak. By the time they stagger wearily to the boat's rear, a dinghy is spotted in the distance. Then another, and another, crammed almost entirely with women and children.

By midday, the Agios Efstratios, a gunboat with 29-member crew who work in shifts, had plucked more than 600 people from sea and ferried them to the port of Lesbos, the island on the frontline of Europe's migration crisis.

From Greece's islands, the refugees and migrants travel to the mainland and then to the northern border with non-European Union member Macedonia. Most of them are trying to reach Germany.

The influx has led some in the EU to accuse Greece of failing to make use of available EU funds and personnel to ensure people arriving in the Schengen zone of open border travel are documented. Some EU members have suggested Greece should be suspended from Schengen if it does not improve.

But the criticism and threats have been met with anger in Greece. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday said the EU was "confused and bewildered" by the migrant crisis and said the bloc should take responsibility like Greece has done, despite being crash-strapped.

Most Greeks, including the coast guard, the army, the police were "setting an example of humanity to the world," Tsipras said.

For those at the frontline, foreign criticism is even more painful.

"We're giving 150 percent," said Lieutenant Commander Antonis Sofiadelis, head of coast guard operations on Lesbos.

Once a dinghy enters Greek territorial waters, the coast guard is obliged to rescue it and transport its passengers to the port.

"The sea is not like land. You're dealing with a boat with 60 people in constant danger. It could sink, they could go overboard," he said.

RELIEF AFTER EVERY RESCUE

More than a million people, many fleeing war-ravaged countries and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, reached Europe in the past year, most of them arriving in Greece.

For the crews plying a 250-km-long coastline between Lesbos and Turkey, the numbers attempting the crossing are simply too big to handle. It is but a fraction of a coastline thousands of kilometers long between Greece and Turkish shores.

"The flow is unreal," Sofiadelis said.

Lesbos has long been a stopover for refugees. Locals recall when people fleeing the Iraqi-Kurdish civil war in the mid-1990s swam across from Turkey.

Yet those numbers do not compare to what has become Europe's biggest migration crisis since World War Two and which has continued unabated despite the winter making the Aegean Sea even more treacherous.

After days of gale force winds and freezing temperatures, more than 2,400 people arrived on Greece's outlying islands on Monday, nearly double the daily average for February, according to United Nations data.

Sofiadelis, the Lesbos commander, said controls should be stepped up on the Turkish side, while Europe should provide assistance with more boats, more staff and better monitoring systems such as radars and night-vision cameras.

Greek boats, assisted by EU border control agency Frontex, already scan the waters night and day.

By late morning on Monday, Captain Frangoulis and his crew - including a seafaring dog picked up at a port years ago - have been at sea for more than 24 hours.

Each time his crew spot a boat that could be carrying migrants "our stomach is tied up in knots," Frangoulis said. "There's this fear that everything must go well, everyone boards safely, no child falls in the sea, no one's injured."

Though fewer than 10 nautical miles separate Lesbos from Turkish shores, hundreds of people have drowned trying to make it across.

Patrol boats, as well as local fishermen, have often fished out corpses from the many shipwrecks of the past months, the bodies blackened and bruised from days at sea.

After every rescue operation, a sense of relief fills the crews. Once the Agios Efstratios docked at the Lesbos harbour on Monday, Frangoulis' beaming crew helped passengers disembark, holding up crying babies in their arms.

"There's no room for sentimentalism. We execute commands," Frangoulis said of the rescue operations.

"Beyond commands, we're human. We'll lose heart, we'll cry, we'll feel sad if something doesn't go well. There isn't a person who won't be moved by this," he said.

(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky.)

 

Pulis sweats over West Brom's injury build-up

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎03:00:10 PMGo to full article
REUTERS: West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis said he had growing concerns over the club's worsening injury situation after defender Gareth McAuley limped off during Wednesday's dramatic FA Cup penalty-shootout win over Peterborough United.

McAuley sustained a hamstring injury to join Craig Dawson, Jonny Evans, Chris Brunt, Callum McManaman and James Morrison on the sidelines.

"We're more concerned with injuries, that's our biggest problem at the moment," Pulis told his post-match news conference.

"They were going to have a day off on Thursday but we'll bring them all in so we can assess the damage and move on from there. Everyone is in."

Goalkeeper Ben Foster, who has recently returned from a cruciate knee ligament injury, saved from Martin Samuelsen and Lee Angol to secure a 4-3 win on penalties on Wednesday, and Pulis paid tribute to the England international.

"Ben was very good. Usually I change the goalkeeper in cup competitions, but Ben needs games and he was desperate to play," Pulis said.

West Brom, who are 14th in the table, travel to ninth-placed Everton in the league on Saturday.

(Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

 

Young cancer patients tell others to 'never give up'

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎02:56:25 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Eight-year-old Emma and Xander, 12, were diagnosed with different forms of cancer in 2015. While Xander has completed his chemotherapy and is preparing to go back to school in a few months, Emma is still undergoing the intensive phase of her chemotherapy. Despite the challenges they have been through, the bright-eyed duo have a message for other cancer patients: To never give up. 

 

 

ICCD Main Pic

Every year, 250,000 adolescents below the age of 20 around the world are diagnosed with cancer. While the bulk of these cases occur in developing countries, childhood cancer is the leading non-communicable disease (NCD) cause of death in developed countries. In Singapore, it is the second major cause of death among children.
 

There were between 180 to 200 childhood cancer cases here in 2015 - a figure that has remained fairly constant over the years, according to Associate Professor Quah Thuan Chong, Head Consultant of the Division of Paediatric Haematology and Oncology at the National University of Singapore.
 

“When I first started out, a third of patients still didn’t get through. When we had patients who relapsed or didn’t do so well, the only thing we could tell the mother was ‘I’m sorry we can’t do anything more’. The only thing you could offer was yourself, your time,” said Assoc Prof Quah.
 

But with technological advances in understanding cancer and new treatments which are milder and more effective, Singapore has a survival rate of about 80 per cent in childhood cancer patients, as compared to 67 per cent a few decades ago.
 

“Now I’m glad to say that I have been seeing these kids for more than 30 years, and I can show them my other patients who are in their 40’s and are perfectly normal, married with kids, and their kids are perfectly normal too,” he said.
 

ICCD PoemA poem written by one of the Children's Cancer Foundation's beneficiaries. 

WHAT CAUSES CHILDHOOD CANCER 
 

Unlike adult cancers, most childhood cancer cases are not attributable to environmental or cultural causes. Instead, Assoc Prof Quah said they are due to “genetic accidents”.
 

“We now understand that genes in our cells undergo mutation all the time, but very few people get cancer during the first 20 years of life because most of the mutation happens in cells which have nothing to do with cancer - it takes a chance event which is largely unpredictable,” he said.
 

“This mutation allows the cell to grow out of control, so over time, maybe one to two years later, the number of cells have grown large enough for us to be able to detect."
 

In Singapore the top five common types of cancer in children are leukaemia, brain cancers, lymphomas (cancer of white blood cells, usually in the lymph nodes), germ cell tumours (cancer of cells in the ovaries or testes), and sarcomas (soft tissue cancer).
 

In other cases, some children can inherit mutated genes, which can give rise to cancer, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2. The former was made famous by actress Angelina Jolie when she had a double mastectomy after discovering her faulty gene.
 

ICCD Tree
 

Through play and art therapy, children at the CCF are given an outlet to deal with any psychological or emotional trauma.
 

RAISING AWARENESS AND SUPPORT 

One of the purposes of International Childhood Cancer Day is to raise awareness for children to receive affordable and quality care. In Singapore, most childhood cancer cases are referred to the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF), a non-profit organisation that offers support services to children and their families.
 

Some of their services include counseling, therapy, financial assistance, back-to-school support, palliative and, in some cases, bereavement support.
 

Still, some industry workers feel that more could be done to support the cause: “There is scope and room to give more attention to children’s cancer even though the number of diagnoses actually is not as great as the adult cases,” said Ms Lim Boon Chee, senior social worker and art therapist at CCF.
 

“Every year we have international childhood cancer day, but we realise that we don’t place that much emphasis on this day compared to breast cancer awareness weekend or other adult cancer days. It’s actually a very low key event,” she said.
 

Some of the things that she feels can be improved on include education on symptoms for early detection and making information on services that are available for children and their families more available.
 

“I think it’s good for families to share what they have gone through so others can understand,” Ms Lim said.

Assoc Prof Quah agreed. “(Parents) need a lot of support because these parents are mostly young parents - they just started out in life, and children need more support too because they don’t understand things," he said.

ICCD Happy Pic
 

"You may ask whether their world dark or not, but it's not always dark. Sometimes they draw in their hopes and dreams," Ms Lim on the type of artwork created during art therapy sessions. 

BE CAUTIOUS, NOT “KIASU”: CONSULTANT
 

Assoc Prof Quah has the same view that personal stories are the best way to raise awareness of childhood cancer. “The human mind is very much susceptible to stories which they can visualise and empathise with,” he said.
 

But he cautioned against giving too much hype to childhood cancer awareness. “There are 'kiasu' parents and kiasu doctors too. Sometimes I feel my job is to keep them out of the range of kiasu doctors. For example, many doctors know that if the child has enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, it could be cancer. But even though you may see 1,000 kids with such a presentation, maybe only two of them are cancer cases,” he said.
 

He shared an anecdote back in 1984 after his department had completed the second bone marrow transplant. A news report was written, giving an account of the mother’s discovery of the boy’s leukemia when she noticed unusual bruising on her child’s body.
 

“After that for two to three weeks, I got a lot of calls saying: ‘My son has quite a lot of bruises - do you think he has leukemia?’” he said.
 

Instead, Assoc Prof Quah teaches his trainee doctors to be vigilant when assessing cases, and to be alert for red herring cases - instances where potential signs or pains in the body are mistaken for injuries. “If a child has a lump that you cannot account for, and has had no history of a fall and yet there is pain, then you want to be careful,” he said.
 

“To me, if there is too much awareness, parents might get unnecessarily scared. So for me the solution is to work harder on the doctors so they don’t miss signs,” he said.  

 

Italy opens tax probe on Google managers-sources

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎02:55:11 PMGo to full article
MILAN: Italian prosecutors are investigating at least three managers at Alphabet Inc's Google as part of a probe into the company's suspected evasion of taxes worth 227 million euros (US$257 million), investigative sources said on Thursday.

Lawmakers across Europe are looking for ways to change tax rules which allow multinationals to shift untaxed profits into low-tax jurisdictions.

Meanwhile, tax authorities in some countries, including Italy, are also trying to use existing tax rules to force companies to pay more tax on the profits generated by sales in their countries.

In response to a request for comment on the investigation, Google said in a statement, "Google complies with the tax laws in every country where we operate. We continue to work with the relevant authorities."

It made the same statement in response to reports last month that the Italian authorities were accusing the company of evading paying 227 million euros in taxes between 2009 and 2013.

The individuals under investigation by a prosecutor in Milan sit on the board of Google Ireland, the company's regional base, the sources said.

Italy believes the company failed to declare some 100 million euros in revenues over five years which would have fallen into a 27 percent corporate tax bracket, investigative sources said in January.

Finance police also suspect the company should have disclosed some 600 million euros of royalties which would have led to a tax demand for some 200 million euros.

During a parliamentary hearing in London on Thursday, Google declined to confirm Italy's tax claims and a similar discussion in France.

Google has based its regional headquarters in Dublin, where corporate tax rates are much lower than in Italy. The firm says its Italian presence merely provides consulting and marketing services for Google Ireland, the Middle East and Africa.

In January Google agreed to pay the British government 130 million pounds (US$188 million) in back taxes in a deal which was widely criticised as being too little.

Last year Apple, which also has its European base in Ireland, agreed to pay Italy's tax office 318 million euros to settle a tax dispute, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said.

The European Union is now expected to bring forward new rules on tax and financial disclosure to curb corporate avoidance which the European Parliament estimates costs the bloc 70 billion euros a year.

(US$1=0.8828 euros)

(US$1 = 0.6915 pounds)

(Reporting by Manuela D'Alessandro in Milan and Tom Bergin in London; Writing by Isla Binnie; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

 

The graveyard shift: More than just a handyman

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎02:51:10 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Beneath the glamourous facade and glittering lights of Marina Bay Sands lies a silent army of staff that works round-the-clock to keep the hotel up and running.

One of them is Mr Jeffrey Tan, who is part of the Service Request Team at the hotel. Besides attending to the complaints of the customers, the team is responsible for the general upkeep and maintenance of the hotel facilities.

handyman 1

“One of the most common problems we have to deal with during the night shift is the dropping of keycards into toilet bowls. When this happens, I will need to retrieve the card from the toilet bowl,” shared Mr Tan.

“It would be great if guests can be more careful as it is a very tedious process,” he added.

Mr Tan and his team work non-traditional hours to meet the demands of the constant stream of guests at the hotel. They are on monthly rotating shifts, working the night shift for a month and the morning shift for the following month.

When asked if rotating shifts affect his social life, he shared that it is a problem that can be solved easily. “Sometimes my rotating shift goes into a Saturday or Sunday. So when I finish in the morning, I will just call my family or friends and meet them for breakfast or for lunch,” said Mr Tan.

Personally, Mr Tan prefers working the night shift. He enjoys the peace and quiet when he runs errands during the day while most are at work.

Watch this video to find out more about Mr Tan’s story:

 

Mr Jeffrey Tan’s story is the second episode of The Other Sight of Singapore, a web series that profiles Singaporeans who work rotating shifts or night jobs. The series finds out what their job entails and how they adapt to working non-traditional hours.

 

Futures slump as global growth worries resurface

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎02:45:59 PMGo to full article
REUTERS: U.S. stock index futures plunged on Thursday, with risk-averse investors piling into safe haven assets as another sharp fall in oil prices and cautious comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen raised fresh doubts about the health of the economy.

* Yellen on Wednesday acknowledged tightening financial conditions and uncertainty about China and the risks that posed to the U.S. economy, but still kept open the possibility of further interest rate hikes.

* The dollar hit a 16-month low against the yen on Thursday as investors scrambled to buy gold and top-rated bonds and dumped stocks.

* Yellen, whose comments were taken to mean no near-term interest rate hikes, is scheduled to resume her testimony before Congress at 10:00 a.m ET on Thursday.

* A fresh reading on the U.S. labor market is due at 8:30 a.m. A report is expected show jobless claims fell to 281,000 last week.

* Wall Street, which had traded higher for much of the session after Yellen's comments on Wednesday, ended flat as a drop in oil prices weighed on energy and material stocks.

* Oil prices were down yet again on Thursday, with U.S. crude tumbling nearly 3 percent.

* Shares of Twitter were down 8.2 percent at US$13.75 premarket after the company reported its first quarter with no increase in users since it went public.

* Cisco was up 3.7 percent at US$23.35 after reporting a bigger-than-expected quarterly profit.

* Tesla said it expects to become profitable in 2016. The stock, which rose more than 10 percent after-hours on Wednesday, was up 2.2 percent at US$147.30 premarket on Thursday.

* Expedia soared 10.2 percent to US$104 after it forecast higher 2016 profit. Peer TripAdvisor was also up 10.4 percent at US$60 after its profit beat estimates.

Futures snapshot at 7:10 a.m. ET:

* Dow e-minis were down 313 points, or 1.97 percent, with 67,813 contracts changing hands.

* S&P 500 e-minis were down 37.25 points, or 2.02 percent, with 434,335 contracts traded.

* Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 90 points, or 2.27 percent, on volume of 62,707 contracts.

(Reporting by Aastha Agnihotri and Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)

 

Ex-SS guard, 94, on trial in Germany over Auschwitz killings

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎02:45:32 PMGo to full article
DETMOLD: A 94-year-old former Auschwitz guard went on trial Thursday (Feb 11) for complicity in the murders of tens of thousands of people at the Nazi concentration camp.

Reinhold Hanning was taken to court in the western town of Detmold seven decades after the defeat of the Nazis, charged with at least 170,000 counts of accessory to murder over his role at the camp in occupied Poland.

A visitor approaches a barbed wire fence and watch tower of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp(Photo:AFP)

The trial is the first of three scheduled this year against former SS men, as Germany races to prosecute ageing Third Reich criminals.

Christoph Heubner, vice president of the International Auschwitz Committee representing victims, said it was an opportunity to make up "for the failures of Germany's justice system".

Among the 6,500 former SS personnel at Auschwitz who survived the war, fewer than 50 have been convicted. Holocaust survivor Angela Orosz, who will testify against Hanning, told AFP that all Auschwitz staff "were part of this killing machine".

"Without these people and their active support for the Holocaust, what happened in Auschwitz, the murder of 1.1 million people in just a few years, would not have been possible," said Orosz, who was born in Auschwitz just over a month before it was liberated on January 27, 1945.

Due to the strong interest in the trial, Thursday's hearing was held at the chamber of commerce, which can hold more people. An hour before it was due to open, a queue of at least 50 people had formed outside, where a blue banner reading "Let's not forget" was also draped.

After the charge sheet is read out Thursday against Hanning, the court is to hear from three German plaintiffs - Holocaust survivors Leon Schwarzbaum, Erna de Vries and Justin Sonder.

It was unclear if Hanning would speak.

'NOT TOO LATE'

Hanning faces between three and 15 years in jail, but in view of his advanced age and the period required for any appeals, he is unlikely to serve time.

"Even today, it is not too late to look at what happened", said 90-year-old Sonder, who lost 22 members of his family under the Nazi regime and was sent to Auschwitz when he was 17 years old.

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, agreed.

"There are still a few old men out there with blood on their hands. For seven decades, they did not have to answer for their crimes.

"As long as it's possible to bring any of them to justice, it must be done," he said.

Hanning stands accused of having watched over the selection of which prisoners were fit for labour, and which should be sent to gas chambers. He is also deemed to have been aware of the regular mass shooting of inmates at the camp, as well as the systematic starvation of prisoners.

"Through his capacity as a guard, he facilitated... the several thousand killings of inmates by the main perpetrator," prosecutors said.

Hanning has admitted to working in Auschwitz but denies a role in the killings.

NEW LEGAL BASIS

Thursday's trial came on the heels of last year's high-profile case against Oskar Groening, dubbed the "Bookkeeper of Auschwitz".

Groening was sentenced in July to four years in prison, even though he had previously been cleared by German authorities after lengthy criminal probes dating back to the 1970s.

But the legal foundation for prosecuting ex-Nazis changed in 2011 with the German conviction of former death camp guard John Demjanjuk, solely on the basis of his having worked at the Sobibor camp in occupied Poland.

At least two other cases are due to be heard this year before German courts.

One of them concerns former SS medic, Hubert Zafke, 95, who is charged with at least 3,681 counts of complicity in killings. Zafke was a medical orderly at the camp in a period when 14 trains carrying prisoners - including the Jewish teenage diarist Anne Frank - arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Another former guard at Auschwitz, 93-year-old Ernst Remmel, is set to stand trial in April.

 

France's Hollande to announce government shake-up

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎02:44:14 PMGo to full article
PARIS: France's deeply unpopular President Francois Hollande is expected to announce a government reshuffle on Thursday (Feb 11) as he seeks fresh political momentum ahead of a run for a second term in office in 2017.

Top of his list of priorities will be to name a new foreign minister after the veteran Laurent Fabius bowed out of politics to take up a position at the country's Constitutional Council.

French President Francois Hollande attends a signing ceremony with his Zambian counterpart at the(Photo:AFP)

Hollande, whose popularity has once again plunged after a brief surge in the wake of the November militant attacks in Paris, will also be looking to cabinet choices that will widen his voter base with just 15 months to go until he seeks re-election.

Hollande "must increase his political base at all costs", said a source close to the president, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We can't face a presidential election without a Socialist family rallied behind their candidate and without the ecologists," said a source close to the president.

France's Greens Party (EELV) refused to take part in government in 2014 after Manuel Valls - considered to be on the right of the Socialist Party - was named prime minister, and have been divided ever since over whether they should return to the fold.

The outspoken Valls is expected to retain his position - making the task of finding an ecologist happy to work with him all the more complex. His predecessor Jean-Marc Ayrault, 66, is tipped to return to government as foreign minister.

Ayrault, a former prime minister, is a fluent German speaker and his understanding of the language and culture will be seen as an advantage in dealing with Berlin and the most pressing issues facing the European Union, such as the migration crisis.

Hollande is also said to be considering Segolene Royal, the high-profile environment minister and his ex-partner, for foreign minister.

TORRID FIRST TERM
 

The 61-year-old Hollande, elected in 2012, has had a torrid first term, as his country has faced record unemployment, a stagnating economy and its worst-ever terror attacks.

He already carried out a major government shake-up in 2014 after the Socialists took a drubbing in municipal elections.

Regional elections at the end of 2015 did not go much better, with the centre-right Republicans of former president Nicolas Sarkozy coming out in front.

The most unpopular French president in history, Hollande saw his star rise after the jihadist attacks against Charlie Hebdo newspaper and a Jewish supermarket in January 2015.

It rose again after he took a tough line on security following the attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers that killed 130 people in Paris in November.

However this time his rise was short-lived, as praise for his post-attacks approach quickly turned to criticism both from within his own party and the conservative opposition.

Efforts to enshrine tough new security measures into the constitution, and a hotly contested reform to strip convicted terrorists of their French nationality, have been deeply divisive.

REBELLIOUS FRINGE
 

Many among Hollande's Socialist Party see this as yet another shift to the right, and former justice minister Christine Taubira was so opposed to the nationality measure that she quit in January.

Efforts to kickstart a flagging economy with a raft of reforms last year led to a similar criticism of a shift in ideology, with a rebellious fringe of the Socialists accusing the Valls government of being too pro-business.

The dissent in the corridors of power has left voters cold, with an opinion poll by the Liberation newspaper published this week showing some 75 per cent of French people are opposed to Hollande being re-elected.

Record unemployment figures of about 10 per cent are also haunting Hollande, who vowed at the start of his mandate that he would not run again if he failed to improve the jobless rate.

In another blow to Hollande's hopes to unite the left ahead of the 2017 election, the leader of the radical Left Party, Jean-Luc Melenchon, who won 11 per cent of votes in 2012, announced Wednesday he would run for president.

"I don't think this is convenient for the left or the ecologists," said government spokesman Stephane Le Foll.

 

Prison riot in northeast Mexico kills dozens - media reports

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎02:40:14 PMGo to full article
MEXICO CITY: Dozens of people were killed in a prison riot in northeastern Mexico early on Thursday, local media reported, just days ahead of a planned visit by Pope Francis to another prison in Mexico´s far north.

Milenio TV said at least 50 people were killed in the predawn riot, and that some prisoners may have escaped. It said relatives of prisoners had heard gunshots in the early hours and that a blaze had broken out.

People stand outside Topo Chico Prison while waiting for news on their jailed family members in Mon

Television images showed police vehicles patrolling the streets near the prison. Milenio reported that inmates' relatives who had been within the jail's premises for conjugal visits had seen inmates with burns, and that authorities were scouring for escapees.

The Nuevo Leon state government said on Twitter the situation had been brought under control, but gave no details on what had happened at the Topo Chico prison.

The incident is the latest in a series of deadly riots in recent years to rock the country’s overcrowded prisons, which often house inmates from different drug gangs.

Pope Francis is set to begin his first visit to Mexico as Pontiff on Friday. Next week, he is set to visit a prison in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, which was once one of the most violent cities in the world.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Simon Gardner and Bernadette Baum)

 

Spain's acting PM could ask EU for deficit target flexibility

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎02:40:13 PMGo to full article
MADRID: Spain's acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Thursday he was open to asking the European Commission for some flexibility on the country's public deficit target, straying from his usual insistence in meeting the EU-agreed goals.

"Spain has to keep following the roadmap for (economic)stability agreed with the European Union, but also it could use the flexibility that European law allows," he told a news conference.

Spanish acting PM Rajoy gestures as he arrives for a meeting with fellow party deputies at the Parl

The commission said last week Spain risked missing the 2016 the deficit target of 2.8 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), forecasting a budget shortfall of 3.6 percent.

(Reporting by Blanca Rodriguez; Writing by Angus Berwick; Editing by Paul Day)

 

Drone batteries left to charge overnight ‘major suspect’ in Parry Avenue fire

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎02:35:15 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Drone batteries left to charge overnight are a "major suspect” in the case of a fatal fire that broke out at 6A Parry Avenue last June, a Coroner’s court heard Thursday (Feb 11).

The fire killed 74-year-old Ian Johnson, an Australian, and Singaporean Angeline Tan Poh Chu, 64. Their bodies had been “reduced to a charred state” by the fire that had burned through the roof of the house by the time the Singapore Civil Defence Force and police arrived.

Parry Avenue fire (1)

Mr Johnson, a business partner and friend of Mdm Tan’s husband Tang Hui Jen, had travelled to Singapore for a business meeting, and had been staying at the Parry Avenue house.

One of the family’s two domestic helpers, Noemi Corpuz, was the first to be awoken by the smell of smoke at about 3am on Jun 9, 2015. Ms Corpuz found the sofa area on the first floor living room on fire, and rushed to the second floor to alert the Tangs' son, Mr Alvin Tang, his wife, their two children and the other helper, Any Pangilinan, to the fire by knocking on the door of their bedrooms.

Ms Corpuz returned to the first floor, where she roused the Tangs' grandfather from sleep, and brought him to safety via the back door. But none of the family on the second floor had fled the house, so Ms Corpuz used her mobile phone to call Mr Alvin Tang’s wife, Ms Liew Ee Lin, to alert her to the fire.

Mdm Liew said she could not understand what the panicking Ms Corpuz was saying, but was able to smell smoke and woke her husband. The couple climbed out of their bedroom window and jumped onto the roof of a shed located at the side of the house.

Their two sons also managed to escape, with the help of Ms Pangilinan, who climbed out of the children’s bedroom onto the air-conditioner compressor, and lowered the boys onto the first floor before she jumped down herself.

Mr Alvin Tang and Mdm Liew then helped their children, the two domestic helpers and their grandfather climb over the wall into their next-door neighbour’s property. They were aided by the domestic helper of their neighbour, Romiyati, who extended a step-ladder to receive them.

Mr Tang Hui Jen later testified that he and Mdm Tan had been awoken by a burning smell, and had covered their faces with wet towels. The elder Tang said he told his wife to stay put in the toilet of the master bedroom while he took a pail of water to put the fire out. But upon realising the ferocity of the fire, he jumped from the balcony of the bedroom onto the porch below.

It was then he realised his wife was still in their room. Her body was later recovered from the toilet, and Mr Johnson’s body was found in the corridor near the guest bedroom. A forensic pathologist testified that the two died from extensive burns.

Their bodies had been “reduced to a charred state” and could only be identified via DNA matching and dental records, State Coroner Marvin Bay said. Mdm Liew’s two cats also died in the fire. They had been caged so as to keep them away from a battery charger.

The fire was eventually put out hours later at 6.45am. Two firemen sustained minor smoke inhalation and heat-related injuries.
 

DRONE BATTERIES SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN LEFT TO CHARGE OVERNIGHT: MAKER
 

Mr Tang Hui Jen, who sustained a fracture from his jump off the balcony, testified that he saw Mr Johnson place three drone batteries on the carpeted floor of the living room to charge overnight. The two were friends of 30 years, and in business to promote a drone product in Singapore, which they had procured from a German company.

The managing director of the German company gave evidence in court that that the drone batteries were “resilient and not easily damaged” but should not have been left to charge overnight. He also added that if the battery was “damaged by forceful means … or handled improperly, the battery might explode”.

CCTV footage from the house across the road from 6A Parry Avenue showed faint flashes “leading to an apparent explosion” around 2.55am, Mr Bay said. However, the investigation into the cause of the fire also revealed the living room had been “crowded by assortment of electrical devices, appliances and furniture items”, including an electrical reclining sofa, CCTV system and an electronic organ, added Mr Bay.

Though the evidence against the drone batteries is “primarily circumstantial”, Mr Bay called for the charging of batteries of drones and other similar devices to be done “in the presence of persons who can intervene” in the event of an emergency, such as when the battery is overcharged or damaged.

The State Coroner also lauded the actions of the helpers of the two households of 6A and 8 Parry Avenue, whose “courage, quick-thinking, resolve and immediate action” had saved the family and mitigated the potential of further loss of life at the house.

 

Pro-government forces seize camp outside Yemen capital

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎02:35:10 PMGo to full article
CAIRO: Yemeni pro-government forces backed by Saudi-led air strikes seized control of a military camp 60km (40 miles) from Sanaa on Thursday, local officials and residents said, as troops advance towards the capital held by Iran-allied fighters.

Forces loyal to Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi are battling the Houthi movement and loyalists of the country's former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The war has killed thousands of people and caused a humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Since March a mostly Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been carrying out air strikes and fighting the Houthis on the ground. Riyadh launched its offensive after the militia, which hails from northern Yemen and adheres to the Zaydi branch of Shi'ite Islam, took over large parts of Yemen and forced the central government to flee into exile.

Pro-government forces seized the Fardhat Nahm camp outside Sanaa in battles with Houthi fighters that left a number of people dead and wounded, local officials and residents said, without giving precise figures.

Aircraft from the Arab coalition carried out dozens of strikes during the battles in the area, they said. The camp is located on one of the defence lines for the capital.

The Houthis rose to dominate Yemeni politics in a matter of months in 2014, becoming the main powerbrokers and seizing control of the capital and government institutions. The movement's ability to fight this war was significantly bolstered when it became allies with former arch foe Saleh and thousands of fighters loyal to him.

(Reporting by Mohammad Ghobari, Writing by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

 

Incyte to stop testing Jakafi in some cancers

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎02:35:09 PMGo to full article
REUTERS: Incyte Corp said it would discontinue some of the trials testing its already approved blood cancer drug, Jakafi, after the treatment's effectiveness was found to be insufficient.

The company's shares were down 14 percent at US$62 in premarket trading on Thursday.

Incyte said it would stop a late-stage study in pancreatic cancer and mid-stage studies in breast and lung cancer, two weeks after pulling the plug on another mid-stage trial in colorectal cancer.

However, the company said it will continue to evaluate the drug in hematology indications.

Jakafi, the company's biggest revenue generator, is approved to treat patients with polycythemia vera, a bone marrow disorder; and mylofibrosis, a type of blood cancer.

The drug raked in net product revenue of US$601 million in 2015, a 68 percent jump from a year earlier.

Jakafi works by inhibiting the enzymes, Janus Associated Kinase (JAK) 1 and 2, that are involved in regulating blood and immunological functioning.

Incyte said on Thursday the decision to test the drug in solid tumors, such as pancreatic cancer, followed a mid-stage study, which suggested survival benefit in patients.

"Unfortunately, the larger studies did not confirm this hypothesis," Chief Drug Development Officer Rich Levy said.

(Reporting by Amrutha Penumudi in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

 

Pentagon chief seeks more help in anti-IS fight

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎02:26:53 PMGo to full article
BRUSSELS: US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Thursday (Feb 11) sought more help from dozens of defence ministers from the US-led coalition against Islamic State militants, as Russia mounts its own air campaign in Syria.

More than 18 months after the United States and the quickly assembled alliance began bombing IS targets, Carter is hoping renewed alarm over terror attacks around the globe and the militants' growing footprint in Libya will lead to greater military and financial commitments from partners at a meeting in Brussels.

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter speaks at The Economic Club of Washington in Washington, DC,(Photo:AFP)

He has taken a two-pronged approach to winning support, using a combination of private diplomacy and public shaming, accusing some unspecified members of the 66-nation coalition of doing "nothing at all" to help the fight.

Speaking at NATO headquarters on Thursday ahead of the coalition meeting, Carter said the "the capabilities that will be required to carry out the campaign plans... will be clearly delineated" to defence ministers.

"We will be sharing with them the operational campaign plan for the defeat of ISIL... which we need to get done as soon as possible," Carter said.

Thursday's meeting in the NATO headquarters will see Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland, who is overseeing the anti-IS effort, give an overview of the situation on the ground.

A senior US defence official said Washington is looking not just for pledges of military support and cash, but ideas too.

"The secretary will, frankly, give a call to his fellow ministers to be creative, to speak up to contribute to the thought leadership in the campaign," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There's no monopoly on good ideas."

The assessment comes after the coalition has carried out more than 10,000 air strikes in Iraq and Syria at a cost to the United States of nearly US$6 billion.

The effort has dealt some significant blows to the militants: the Pentagon estimates IS has lost about 40 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq, and about 10 percent of the land it claimed in Syria.

BEARING FRUIT

But despite losing control of the Iraqi city of Ramadi, assaults to recapture key IS-held Mosul and Raqa in Syria are still many months away, and thousands of IS fighters have streamed into Libya.

Russia is meanwhile carrying out its own air campaign, which Moscow insists is also targeting IS, but which the West says is in fact aimed at rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.

His efforts to solicit broader commitments appear to be bearing some fruit. Canada, for instance, announced Monday it would triple the number of special forces training Kurdish militia in northern Iraq to about 210. Slovenia has said it would start sending military trainers to work with local forces trying to push back the IS group.

"There are a number of other (countries) who are in the final throes of trying to figure out if they can also make that leap," the official said, noting that several other nations are "very seriously" considering additional contributions, but first need parliamentary approval.

In all, 27 coalition members who have contributed militarily to the 18-month fight will join Carter's delegation in Brussels. Another 21 coalition countries are attending as observers.

The summit comes at the conclusion of a two-day meeting for NATO defence ministers that focused on new commitments to boost the alliance's presence along eastern Europe and act as a deterrent against aggression from Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Additionally, Carter said NATO was willing to support a German, Greek and Turkish request for help in monitoring Turkey's Aegean Sea coast for migrant smugglers ferrying refugees, mostly fleeing the Syrian conflict.

 

Manchester United raise full-year profit forecast

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎02:25:10 PMGo to full article
REUTERS: English Premier League football club Manchester United showed its commercial strength when it raised its core earnings expectations for the year as it posted a 26.6 percent rise in quarterly revenue.

The upgrade comes despite another mixed season on the field when United have failed to qualify for the knock-out stages of the lucrative European Champions League.

United said it expects adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of 178 million pounds to 188 million pounds for the year, compared to its earlier outlook of 165 million to 175 million.

The club, league winners a record 20 times and currently fifth in the Premier League, said revenue in the three months to Dec. 31 rose to 133.8 million pounds.

United, majority owned by the American Glazer family, are currently six points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City.

Clubs need to finish in the top four of the Premier League to gain access to the Champions League in the following season.

Despite a tricky transition period since the retirement of manager Alex Ferguson in 2013, United's ability to grow revenues off the pitch has increased.

Commercial revenue in the quarter jumped 42.5 percent and broadcasting revenue rose by 31.3 percent. However matchday income was down 1.6 percent.

The club's global appeal, which it says stretches to 659 million followers, continues to prove lucrative, with two sponsorship deals signed in the quarter.

United is to pay a quarterly dividend of US$0.045 per share.

(Reporting by Aastha Agnihotri in Bengaluru; editing by Jason Neely and Keith Weir)

 

Out of this world: A view of lightning hitting Earth from space

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎02:21:39 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Looking at lightning from the ground can be frightening - it has the power to start bushfires and kill trees without warning. But watching lightning strike Earth from a different perspective can be a breathtaking experience. 

British astronaut Tim Peake on Wednesday (Feb 10) tweeted a timelapse video showing lightning striking Earth while flying from North Africa over Turkey towards Russia. The video starts with a view of the Earth's horizon before parts of it are illuminated due to electrostatic discharges. 

Lightning crashes

 


 

 

"Amazing how much lightning can strike our planet in a short time," Mr Peake said. 

In 2015, the European Space Agency also released a short video of lightning strikes taken 400km above earth in 2012 by an astronaut on the International Space Station travelling at 28,800km per hour. 

 

Everton's Martinez to make late call on Stones return

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎02:20:10 PMGo to full article
REUTERS: Centre back John Stones could return to the Everton side to face West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, but manager Roberto Martinez might be tempted to hold him back after his team kept back-to-back Premier League clean sheets for the first time this season without him.

Phil Jagielka and Ramiro Funes Mori provided a formidable partnership in the 3-0 league wins over Stoke City and Newcastle United and Martinez may opt to retain them at Goodison Park on Saturday even if Stones recovers from a hamstring strain.

Having fought off big-money bids for the stylish Stones last year, Martinez also quelled speculation that Jagielka could leave the club by the end of the month.

The England centre back is reportedly a target for the cash-rich Chinese Super League where the transfer window closes on Feb.26, but Martinez said the 33-year-old was going nowhere.

"We're not in a situation to lose players. Jagielka is our club captain and has been great in the last two games," the Spaniard told reporters on Thursday.

Martinez also refused to rule out a top-four finish for Everton despite the club lying 12 points adrift of the Champions League and said he understood Romelu Lukaku's frustration with their league position.

The Belgian striker had said on Wednesday that the team needed to show more "nastiness" to swing results in their favour, but Martinez insisted that progress was being made despite the club sitting in eighth place in the table.

"We don't try to hide the fact we want to reach the top four. That won't happen overnight but we are giving big roles to young players," Martinez added.

"Romelu accepts that challenge and that we need to become better. This is probably the most open league that I've been involved in over seven seasons.

"What's important is the type of momentum that we've got now. The answer is very much how strong we can be in the final third of the season."

Martinez said new 13.5 million pounds signing Oumar Niasse could make his debut, probably off the bench.

West Brom, who have slipped to 14th place in the table, travel to Everton hoping to register a first league win since Jan.2 .

(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru, editing by Mitch Phillips)

 

Turkish security operations against militants in southeast town complete - interior minister

 
‎11 ‎February ‎2016, ‏‎02:15:15 PMGo to full article
ISTANBUL: Operations by Turkish security forces against Kurdish militants in the town of Cizre have been successfully completed but a curfew will remain in place, Interior Minister Efkan Ala said on Thursday in comments broadcast live by TRT television.

Authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew on Cizre on Dec. 14 in a bid to root out armed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants who had dug trenches and erected barricades to keep security forces at bay.

Dozens of militants, soldiers and police officers and civilians have been killed in the clashes in the mainly Kurdish town of Cizre is situated near the Syrian and Iraqi borders.

(Reporting by Gulsen Solaker and Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Nick Tattersall)

 

 

 

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