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ADB to lend Bangladesh $45 million for water resource project

‎06 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎04:12:53 PMGo to full article
A farmer carries a stack of jute to be dried in ManikganjThe Asian Development Bank (ADB) is part-funding expansion of a water resources project in southwest Bangladesh that has sharply increased agriculture production and benefited nearly 200,000 people, it said on Tuesday. ADB is providing a $45 million loan and the government of the Netherlands is expected to give a grant of $7 million. The new funds will help renovate or build gated water retention structures and flood embankments, and re-excavate clogged drainage and irrigation canals.Sustainable water resources management is crucial for poverty reduction in Bangladesh, where more than 80 percent of poor people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture or fisheries for their livelihoods.

Image of Asia: At work in Beijing's polluted skies

‎06 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:07:59 PMGo to full article
In this photo by Mark Schiefelbein, window washers use cables to lower themselves from a skyscraper while working on a polluted day in Beijing. Air quality readings in the city on Tuesday were at levels considered hazardous by international measuring standards.

'Twinsters' premiere brings orphaned siblings tale to birthplace

‎06 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎12:44:46 PMGo to full article
An image from the documentary "Twinsters"A documentary tracing the remarkable story of orphaned twin sisters, separated at birth, who only discover each other due to a chance encounter on social media, has screened its international premiere in the Korean city where the girls were born. “We had to bring our crazy story here because this is where it all started,” explained Samantha Futerman - one of the stars of "Twinsters", which she also co-directs. The documentary has been a hit at the Busan International Film Festival, with packed Q & A sessions following its screenings over the weekend and has been lauded on social media.

Hong Kong students and staff march to defend academic freedom

‎06 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎12:07:38 PMGo to full article
Hundreds of staff and students of the University of Hong Kong stage a silent protest inside their campus in Hong KongAbout 1,000 students and staff at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) held a silent protest on Tuesday against what they say is Beijing's interference in academic freedom. The rally came a week after a prominent law professor was barred from taking up a senior post at the university, in what some viewed as Beijing tightening its grip a year after student-led protests rocked the Chinese-ruled city. Dressed in black or wearing academic gowns, the protesters marched through their campus and were joined by pro-democracy activists including Benny Tai, one of the leaders of the protests in the former British colony last year.

Neighbors turn up the heat on Indonesia over forest fires

‎06 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎11:13:50 AMGo to full article
In this Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, file photo, a Malaysian police officer wears a mask as he stands in front of the Petronas Twin Towers shrouded by haze in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Scientists predict the haze this year is on track to surpass 1997 levels when pollution soared to record highs in an environmental disaster that cost an estimated $9 billion. A bad bout of haze resembles wintry fog, but laced with tiny particles of ash that are particularly harmful to the elderly, children and those with chronic heart and lung conditions. (AP Photo/Joshua Paul, File)SINGAPORE (AP) — For weeks now, the quality of life in parts of Southeast Asia has been left to sheer chance — the direction of the wind. Every day, it alone determines which city will be shrouded by peaty white smoke blowing from burning forests in Indonesia.

Devastation in Philippine bird paradise

‎06 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎09:47:56 AMGo to full article
Patches of tropical rainforest in the southern Philippines harbour some of the world's rarest birds, such as this Philippine leaf bird, but nature lovers toting long-lens cameras now share them with people wielding chainsaws, traps and torchesPatches of tropical rainforest in the southern Philippines harbour some of the world's rarest birds, but nature lovers toting long-lens cameras now share them with people wielding chainsaws, traps and torches. "Back in the 1990s, I'd take them to one area and they would see all the endemics in one day," said local guide Felizardo Goring, referring to species found only in the Philippines. The 183,000-hectare (452,000-acre) forest is a vital habitat for dozens of endangered bird species, including the electric-blue celestial monarch, according to British-based environment group Birdlife International.

Price lauds Presidents Cup debutant 'funny man' Lahiri

‎06 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎09:18:10 AMGo to full article
International Team player Anirban Lahiri of India tees off on the 18th hole during a practice session ahead of the 2015 Presidents Cup at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon on October 6, 2015Captain Nick Price paid tribute Tuesday to Anirban Lahiri -- the first Indian to play in the Presidents Cup and the joker in the pack of his International team. "He brings a great sense of humour to the team," Price told a news conference at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, venue for the 11th Presidents Cup which is being hosted for the first time in Asia and begins Thursday.

United States, 11 Pacific Rim countries reach trade deal

‎06 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎06:57:05 AMGo to full article
In this Nov. 10, 2014 file photo, U.S. President Barack Obama, center, speaks during his meeting with leaders of the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries, in Beijing. Sitting with Obama are, from left, Vietnam Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Hoy Hoang, Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Mike Froman, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and Singapore Sec. of Ministry of Trade and Industry Ow Foong Pheng. The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, agreed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an ambitious and controversial trade pact that cuts trade barriers, sets labor and environmental standards and protects multinational corporations' intellectual property. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries reached a contentious trade pact that cuts trade barriers, sets labor and environmental standards and protects the intellectual property of multinational corporations. Now each country must sell the deal to skeptical lawmakers.

AFP award recognises Thai journalist for recording lese-majeste cases

‎06 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎06:49:03 AMGo to full article
Thai journalist Mutita Chuachang, pictured at Prachatai's Bangkok office on October 5, 2015, has won the 2015 AFP Kate Webb Prize for her reporting of royal defamation casesThai journalist Mutita Chuachang has won the 2015 Agence France-Presse Kate Webb Prize for her powerful and persistent reporting of royal defamation cases that have multiplied under the country's military rulers. The prize honours journalists working in difficult conditions in Asia, and is named after a crusading AFP reporter who died in 2007 at the age of 64 after a career covering wars and other historic events. Mutita, 33, was recognised for her dogged efforts to record cases of alleged lese majeste for the online newspaper Prachatai, which publishes in Thai and English.

Chile declares huge Easter Island marine reserve

‎06 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎06:20:46 AMGo to full article
With its new marine reserves Chile now has a million square kilometers of sea under protection from commercial fishing -- "one of the biggest in the world"Viña del Mar (Chile) (AFP) - Chile declared huge new marine reserves in the Pacific in water off Easter Island on Monday as it hosted a major conference on protecting the world's oceans and fisheries. The host's announcement came as the United States unveiled two smaller protected areas and a major global initiative to better police over-fishing and track illegal catches. Chile's President Michelle Bachelet opened the Our Ocean conference by declaring a 243,630-square-mile (631,368-square-kilometer) sanctuary around iconic Easter Island.

Asia stocks rise on hopes for Japan stimulus, Fed hike delay

‎06 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎05:36:39 AMGo to full article
Stock traders work at the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Oct. 5, 2015 in New York. World stocks rose Monday after weak U.S. jobs data prompted expectations the Federal Reserve might postpone an interest rate hike. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)HONG KONG (AP) — Japan led Asian stocks higher Tuesday on hopes for new stimulus from its central bank while investors were also buoyed by the prospect that the Federal Reserve will wait until next year to raise interest rates.

India leads Asia's dash for coal as emissions blow east

‎06 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎04:31:56 AMGo to full article
Miners work at Magadh coal mine in Chatra districtBy Krishna N. Das and Tommy Wilkes MAGADH, India (Reuters) - Deep in the thickly forested hills in its east, India last month started production at what it hopes will in five years be Asia's biggest coal mine. At the open-cast mine, which involves the clearing of more than 18,000 hectares (44,500 acres) of land, noisy excavators are busy digging for coal that will feed a huge power plant being built nearby to fuel India's energy-hungry economy. India is opening a mine a month as it races to double coal output by 2020, putting the world's third-largest polluter at the forefront of a pan-Asian dash to burn more of the dirty fossil fuel that environmentalists fear will upend international efforts to contain global warming.

California closes loophole in ivory trade

‎06 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎01:35:03 AMGo to full article
California Governor Jerry Brown speaks at a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and five United States governors to discuss clean technology and economic development in Seattle, WashingtonBy Sharon Bernstein SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - It will be illegal to sell almost all ivory products in California under a measure signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown that closes a loophole in the state's nearly 40-year-old ban on the sale of elephant ivory. "When people realize that there's an ivory trade, they just want to stop it," said Elly Pepper, a wildlife advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which helped write the bill. "California is one of the top three ivory markets in the country." California banned ivory sales in 1977, but the law allowed an exception for ivory imported or sold before then.

With free trade deal, Obama solidifies US pivot to Asia

‎06 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎12:59:09 AMGo to full article
US President Barack Obama, pictured in Tokyo on November 14, 2009, said "As America's first Pacific president, I promise you that this Pacific nation will strengthen and sustain our leadership in this vitally important part of the world"The conclusion of an oft-delayed free trade agreement with Asia-Pacific nations is timely for Barack Obama, as it embodies the American president's earlier commitment: a pivot towards the globe's most populous continent. With dithering in the Middle East and in particular Syria triggering an avalanche of criticism, Obama can claim a genuine diplomatic success fewer than 16 months before the end of his presidency, provided that he can overcome the obstacle known as the US Congress. The centerpiece of his foreign policy, the rebalance or "pivot" to Asia popularized by Hillary Clinton when she served as secretary of state, is intended to devote more diplomatic, security and economic resources and attention to the continent after a decade monopolized by Middle East crises and costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Over 1,800 migrants rescued from six boats adrift off Libya

‎06 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎12:55:20 AMGo to full article
Migrants carry a raft after being rescued by the Libyan coastguard, at a naval base near the capital Tripoli on October 5, 2015Over 1,800 migrants were rescued Monday from six vessels found adrift in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Libya, Italy's coast guard said. A total of 1,830 people were brought ashore in six different operations to save passengers in four stricken boats and two rubber dinghies, the coast guard said. Three Italian vessels and one ship each from Britain and Ireland, which are taking part in the EU Navfor Med mission, were involved in the rescue effort.

Anti-immigration Finns Party should consider leaving government: deputy chair

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎11:01:42 PMGo to full article
Finland's anti-immigration Finns Party should vote on whether to remain in the ruling coalition, one of its deputy leaders said on Monday as tensions grew over handling of an influx of asylum seekers. Sebastian Tynkkynen, one of three vice chairmen, said the three-party coalition government was ignoring its commitment to keeping the number of asylum seekers at 2014 levels - 3,600. Following a big spike in arrivals last month, the Helsinki government has raised its estimate for the number of asylum seekers expected to reach the Nordic country this year to about 50,000.

El Nino could spark large-scale dengue fever epidemic

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎10:35:14 PMGo to full article
Insecticide fumes cover a neighbourhood in New Delhi as sanitation workers spray the area in an effort to control mosquitoes that spread dengue fever in the Indian capital on October 2, 2015The weather phenomenon known as El Nino could lead to an epidemic of dengue fever cases in southeast Asia, international researchers said Monday. Cases of dengue fever have been shown to rise along with the ocean warming trend, which occurs some years but not others. The current El Nino, which has already begun and is forecast to last into next year, is expected to be among the most intense in 20 years, researchers say.

Canada PM Harper welcomes TPP access to Japan market

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎09:32:27 PMGo to full article
In this April 15, 2015 file photo, Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, CanadaCanadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised Monday a "historic" accord creating the world's largest free trade area, saying access to Japan would be a boon for Canadian farmers and resource sectors. Twelve Pacific rim countries sealed the trade deal encompassing 40 percent of the global economy following marathon talks in Atlanta, Georgia. "Canadian exporters will gain almost tariff-free access to almost 800 million consumers in the Asia Pacific region," Harper told a press conference.

German interior minister calls for limit to number of refugees

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎08:59:05 PMGo to full article
STUTTGART/BERLIN (Reuters) - Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere called on Monday for the government to restrict the number of refugees coming to Germany, adding pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel who has refused to support an upper limit. The conservative leader's popularity has slumped to its lowest level in nearly four years, reflecting growing public concern in one of Europe's richest country over the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees. The unprecedented influx is testing the limits of Germany's abilities and willingness to grant shelter as federal states struggle to cope with record inflows of people fleeing from war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Think Europe's halting GMOs? It could be heading for more

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎08:09:27 PMGo to full article
To match Special Report USA-GMOS/REGULATORSBy Sybille de La Hamaide and Barbara Lewis PARIS (Reuters) - The large number of European countries opposing GMO cultivation may have given the impression the bloc is putting a brake on GMOs but with new crops queuing for approval and key countries leaving the door open, output is more likely to grow than wane. Nineteen out of 28 EU member states have requested opt-outs for all or part of their territory from cultivation of Monsanto's MON810, the sole GMO crop already approved for cultivation, or for pending applications. Although widely grown in the Americas and Asia, public opposition is strong in Europe against GMO crops, which have had their DNA altered, often by introducing genes from a different species to boost their resistance to pests or herbicides.

3 share Nobel medicine prize for tropical disease drugs

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎07:47:04 PMGo to full article
The portraits of the winners of the Nobel Medicine Prize 2015 (L-R) Irish-born William Campbell, Satoshi Omura of Japan and China's Youyou Tu are displayed on a screen during a press conference of the Nobel CommitteeSTOCKHOLM (AP) — The Nobel prize in medicine went Monday to three scientists hailed as "heroes in the truest sense of the word" for saving millions of lives with the creation of the world's leading malaria-fighting drug and another that has nearly wiped out two devastating tropical diseases.

Workers tear shirts off Air France managers in jobs protest

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎07:29:08 PMGo to full article
Air France director of Human Ressources, Xavier Broseta, center (back to the camera), protected by security guards tries to flee the Air France headquarters at Roissy Airport, north of Paris, France, during scuffles with union activists, Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Union activists protesting proposed layoffs at Air France stormed the headquarters during a meeting about the job cuts, zeroing in on two managers who had their shirts torn from their bodies, scaled a fence and fled under police protection. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)PARIS (AP) — Union activists protesting nearly 3,000 proposed layoffs at Air France stormed the headquarters during a meeting Monday, zeroing in on two managers who had their shirts torn from their bodies, scaled a fence and fled under police protection.

Legal troubles, market realities threaten Uber's global push

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎07:20:01 PMGo to full article
Photo illustration of logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone over a reserved lane for taxis in a street in MadridBy Leila Abboud and Jeremy Wagstaff PARIS/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Uber Inc's aggressive global expansion is looking costlier and riskier than ever as the company struggles with regulatory and competitive obstacles in major markets. The Uber Pop service, known as Uber X in the U.S., which enables people to offer rides in private cars, is now banned outright in most of Western Europe. In Australia, Uber is popular but mostly illegal, with several big court challenges looming.

Rare Tintin drawing fetches $1 million in Hong Kong

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎06:31:29 PMGo to full article
The record for a Tintin piece was set by a 1937 comic strip sold at an Artcurial auction in Paris in May for $3.4 millionA rare drawing of comic book hero Tintin by Belgian cartoonist Herge fetched over $1 million at auction in Hong Kong Monday as experts say comic art is becoming as collectible as paintings. The artwork is an illustration from the cartoonist's "The Blue Lotus" book, published in 1936, which sees Tintin and sidekick Snowy the dog on an adventure in Shanghai. It sold for HK$9.6 million ($1.2 million) and French auction house Artcurial said it had been bought by an Asian collector.

Rescuers say wreckage of missing Indonesian plane is found

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎05:37:07 PMGo to full article
A member of the National Search And Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) examines a map of Sulawesi Island, at the crisis centre searching for the missing DHC-6 Twin Otter plane owned by Aviastar Mandiri airline, at Sultan Hasanuddin airport in Makassar, Indonesia, Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Indonesian rescuers say the wreckage of the small plane carrying 10 people that went missing three days ago has been found. (AP Photo)MAKASSAR, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian rescuers said Monday they have found the wreckage of a small plane carrying 10 people that went missing on a domestic flight three days ago.

AP PHOTOS: Editor selections from Asia

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎02:19:30 PMGo to full article
In this photo taken Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, protesters holding yellow umbrellas gather to observe a moment of silence to mark the first anniversary of "Umbrella Movement" outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong. A year ago, Hong Kong's famously busy streets were shut down by pro-democracy activists who occupied them for 79 days in what became known as the "Umbrella Movement." The protests were led by students and other activists who took to the streets to voice their opposition against Beijing's plan to restrict elections for top leader of the semiautonomous Chinese city. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)Umbrellas were a theme in images of daily life Asia last week, with protesters in Hong Kong marking the one-year anniversary of the pro-democracy "Umbrella Movement" that shut down parts of the bustling city for weeks. The moniker caught on after protesters used umbrellas to fend off pepper spray used by riot police.

Modi and Merkel vow trade talks and 2 billion green energy euros

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎01:26:31 PMGo to full article
India’s Prime Minister Modi gestures as German Chancellor Merkel watches during a photo opportunity ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New DelhiBy Andreas Rinke and Douglas Busvine NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India and Germany pledged on Monday to revive efforts to reach an Indo-European free trade pact after talks fell apart this year, and struck deals to promote clean energy and make it easier to do business. Although Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Narendra Modi made no mention in conversations with journalists of resuming talks on a free trade agreement between India and the European Union, it was perhaps the most significant "deliverable" of her trip to New Delhi. Asia's third-largest economy has been relatively insulated from a slump in global trade, but Modi still needs to boost exports for his pitch to investors to "Make in India" to create skilled jobs for millions of young Indians.

France's Alstom lands contract for Indian metro link

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎12:48:32 PMGo to full article
Alstom says it has inked an accord with Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation (LMRC) to provide 20 four-car Metropolis trains fitted with air conditioning for a 23-kilometre (14-mile) line comprising 22 stationsFrance's Alstom said Monday it had won a 150-million-euro ($170 million) contract to provide metro trains and signalling for the northern Indian city of Lucknow. The French manufacturer said it had inked an accord with Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation (LMRC) to provide 20 four-car Metropolis trains fitted with air conditioning for a 23-kilometre (14-mile) line comprising 22 stations. "This is an important project for Lucknow's inhabitants and its visitors as they will soon be able to commute from the north to the south of the city onboard a metro that is safe, fast, reliable and environmentally friendly," said Dominique Pouliquen, Senior Vice-President for Alstom Transport Asia-Pacific.

Kyrgyz polls tarnished by ballot secrecy concerns

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎12:24:25 PMGo to full article
Western monitors said on Monday weekend polls in Kyrgyzstan, a country struggling to build Central Asia's first parliamentary democracy, allowed lively campaigning but were marred by lack of impartial media coverage and concerns over ballot secrecy. The parliament has broader powers than those in Kyrgyzstan's autocratic regional neighbours. "The elections were characterized by a lively campaign, but the amount of impartial information available to voters in the news was limited," monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the European Parliament said in a report.

Malaysia PM urges Indonesia to tackle fires, haze drifts to Thai sky

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎12:12:53 PMGo to full article
An Indonesian soldier drags a hose while fighting a peatland fire in Ogan Ilir, South Sumatra province on the island of SumatraMalaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has called on Indonesia to take action against people setting fires that have caused choking smoke to drift across the region, with the sky over southern Thailand the latest to be clouded by the pollution. Indonesia has come under pressure in the past few weeks to contain the annual haze crisis, which is caused by slash-and-burn agriculture on Sumatra island and its part of Borneo island. "If this is done by people or by farming companies, Indonesia needs to take decisive action against the perpetrators," Najib said on Twitter late on Sunday.

Malaysian PM urges Indonesia to act on smoke-belching fires

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎11:00:52 AMGo to full article
Motorists commute on a road shrouded in haze in Gombak, Malaysia, on October 3, 2015Malaysia's premier has urged Indonesia to act against those to blame for raging fires that have blanketed Southeast Asia in smog for weeks, as Malaysian schools closed again Monday over health concerns. The regional environmental crisis has caused flights and major events to be cancelled, and forced tens of thousands of people in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore to seek treatment for respiratory problems. "They (plantation companies) are operating there, we want Indonesia to take action," Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was quoted as saying by state news agency Bernama late on Sunday.

Schoolhouse on the prairie symbol of Mongolia-N.Korea ties

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎08:51:32 AMGo to full article
Mongolian children in the village of Altanbulag, some 50 kilometres from capital Ulan Bator, study in a school built by North KoreaFor more than 50 years children on the windswept steppes of Mongolia have studied in a school built by a surprising benefactor: isolated, impoverished, often implacable North Korea. An image of the hermit state's founder Kim Il-Sung hangs in a classroom in the yellow, two-storey building, symbolising a time when the countries marched largely in lockstep as Communist cogs in the machinery of Cold War confrontation. Former Soviet satellite Mongolia rode the wave of revolution that swept across Eastern Europe in 1989 and has become a vibrant democracy.

Ivory Coast seeks to save forests from illegal cocoa boom

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎08:01:20 AMGo to full article
A farmer works on a cocoa plantation in the protected Gouin-Debe forestBy Ange Aboa ABIDJAN (Reuters) - In Mont Peko National Park, thousands of leafless Iroko and Samba trees tower over a sea of lush plantations like headstones, a testament to the heavy environmental cost Ivory Coast has paid for a dramatic rise in its cocoa production. Ivorian officials say 99 percent of the park's 34,000 hectares have been destroyed by cocoa farmers taking advantage of the chaos wrought by a decade-long political crisis in the West African nation. With the years of turmoil over, the government of President Alassane Ouattara is preparing to re-exert state authority by expelling tens of thousands of farmers from parks and reserves in an attempt to save the dwindling forests.

China dissident artist Ai Weiwei finds Beijing studio bugged

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎07:58:21 AMGo to full article
BEIJING (AP) — Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei found several hidden listening devices in his Beijing studio after he returned from a trip to Germany, his friend Liu Xiaoyuan confirmed Monday.

Search area expanded to locate missing Indonesian plane

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎06:48:46 AMGo to full article
Military personnel walk past a Twin Otter plane similar to the on that is reported missing on Friday, at Sultan Hasanuddin airport in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015. An air and ground search is underway Saturday for a small passenger plane that went missing with 10 people on board during a domestic flight in eastern Indonesia. (AP Photo/Masyudi S. Firmansyah)MAKASSAR, Indonesia (AP) — Six planes and four ships embarked Monday on a widening search for a plane with 10 people on board that went missing in eastern Indonesia three days ago.

World Bank trims East Asia growth forecasts

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎06:13:47 AMGo to full article
HONG KONG (AP) — The World Bank on Monday trimmed its growth forecast for developing East Asian economies, reflecting risks from China's slowdown and a looming U.S. interest rate hike.

'Li Na factor' not enough for China

‎05 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎05:36:48 AMGo to full article
Former tennis star Li Na speaks to the public during the Wuhan Open opening ceremony in China's Hubei province on September 27, 2015Li Na's Grand Slam wins did miraculous things for tennis in China but a cultural shift away from central planning towards individual development is needed if the country is to emerge as a powerhouse, experts say. Tangible evidence of tennis's growth in China comes in the form of the Wuhan Open's new, 15,000-seat stadium, opened by Li last month, which has a similar capacity to Wimbledon's Centre Court. Steady crowds and the presence of 12 Chinese players in the women's top 200 -- behind only Russia, the United States and the Czech Republic -- also demonstrate tennis's upward trajectory.

Majority of EU nations seek opt-out from growing GM crops

‎04 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎05:06:57 PMGo to full article
Nineteen EU member states have requested opt-outs for all or part of their territory from cultivation of a Monsanto genetically-modified crop, which is authorized to be grown in the European Union, the European Commission said on Sunday. Under a law signed in March, individual countries can seek exclusion from any approval request for genetically modified cultivation across the 28-nation EU. The law was introduced to end years of stalemate as genetically modified crops divide opinion in Europe.

Jin, 17, heads for USPGA Masters as Asia amateur cut short

‎04 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎09:11:08 AMGo to full article
Jin Cheng of China plays a shot during the Dongfeng Nissan Cup, at the Foison Golf Club in Guangzhou, in December 2014Hong Kong (AFP) - Third-round leader Jin Cheng won a place at the US Masters after a passing typhoon caused the cancellation of the final round of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Hong Kong on Sunday.

Malaysia shuts schools as choking smog worsens

‎04 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎09:02:18 AMGo to full article
Thick haze covers Kuala Lumpur, on September 29, 2015Malaysian authorities on Sunday ordered most of the country's schools shut for two days because of possible health risks posed by the thick haze from Indonesian forest fires. "The haze that is happening is beyond our control," said Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid. Close to half of Malaysia's 52 pollutant monitoring stations around the country registered "unhealthy" air quality on Sunday.

Conservationists rally in South Africa, other countries

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:24:29 PMGo to full article
Demonstrators walk through the streets of Nairobi, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, participating in a Global March to support wildlife Elephants and Rhinos. Kenya is a leading wildlife safari destination that has been grappling with declining wildlife numbers, some thousands of people walked 10 kilometers in the capital Nairobi. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A vehicle carrying a rhino sculpture led anti-poaching marchers in Johannesburg on Saturday. Kenya's environment minister joined conservationists at a similar rally in Nairobi, the capital. In London, activists in elephant costumes demanded an end to the ivory trade.

Yemen's prime minister visits Bab al-Mandab strait

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:23:26 PMGo to full article
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen's prime minister visited an area leading to the Bab al-Mandab strait, the strategic southern entrance to the Red Sea and the gateway to the Suez Canal, after anti-rebel forces pushed Shiite rebels out of the immediate area, government spokesman Rajeh Badi said Saturday.

FIBA Asia 3rd place match: Iran beats Japan 68-63

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎02:11:04 PMGo to full article
Gaku Arao of Japan, 17, attempts to pass out the ball past the defence of Ranidel de Ocampo of the Philippines, 33, as Joji Takeuchi of Japan, left, looks on during a semifinal match in the FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha in south China's Hunan province Friday Oct. 2, 2015. Philippines won by 81-70 and will face the host country China in the final. (Chinatopix Via AP) CHINA OUTCHANGSHA, China (AP) — Captain Mohammadsamad Nik scored 35 points Saturday to lead Iran to a 68-63 win over Japan in the third-place match at the FIBA Asian basketball championships.

Jin leads by 1 into final round of Asia-Pacific Amateur

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎09:43:28 AMGo to full article
HONG KONG (AP) — Jin Cheng of China pitched to a half-foot on the par-5 18th and made birdie for a 1-under 69 to take a one-stroke lead over two Australians after three rounds of the typhoon-threatened Asia-Pacific Amateur on Saturday.

Indonesia search underway for plane missing with 10 aboard

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎06:53:25 AMGo to full article
A man inspect a white board with details about a plane that went missing on Sulawesi Island , at the crisis center at Sultan Hasanuddin airport in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. Transportation Ministry spokesman Julius Barata said a plane lost contact 11 minutes after taking off in good weather from Masamba in South Sulawesi province. No distress signal was received. (AP Photo/Masyudi S. Firmansyah)JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — An air and ground search was underway Saturday for a small passenger plane that went missing with 10 people on board during a domestic flight in eastern Indonesia.

Vatican upends Davis affair with news of audience with gays

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎04:48:01 AMGo to full article
Kentucky's Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis makes remarks after receiving the "Cost of Discipleship" award at a Family Research Council conference in WashingtonVATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican turned the tables Friday on the pope's meeting with Kim Davis: Not only did it distance the pontiff from her claims that he endorsed her stand on same-sex marriage, it said the only "real audience" Francis had in Washington was with a small group that included a gay couple.

Long season takes its toll on WTA Asia swing

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎04:32:10 AMGo to full article
Maria Sharapova of Russia, seen in action during the Wuhan Open tournament in China's Hubei province, on September 28, 2015After the final Gland Slam of the year in Flushing Meadows, there is a migration to Asia as part of the Women's Tennis Association's Asian swing, but the tight end of season schedule may be a bridge too far for some players. The line up for the last tournaments of the year has been hit by withdrawals as the players zip across the vast continent between Japan, China and Singapore with barely a break. Maria Sharapova retired from Wuhan and withdrew from the China Open with an injury, leaving a question mark over whether she will make it to the WTA Final in Singapore, while world number one Serena Williams announced an early close to her season.

Stock market shakes off an early stumble, ends higher

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎01:16:56 AMGo to full article
Trader Gregory Rowe works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. A weak report on the U.S. jobs market is sending the stock market and the dollar sharply lower in early trading. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)NEW YORK (AP) — News of slower hiring last month jolted markets early Friday, driving government bonds up and the dollar down. The stock market, after slumping in early trading, finished the day with a solid gain.

Presidents Cup, US capsules

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎10:35:02 PMGo to full article
A capsule look at the American team for the Presidents Cup, to be played Oct. 8-11 at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon, South Korea. Listed in the order they made the team:

Facts and figures for the 11th Presidents Cup

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎09:49:27 PMGo to full article
INCHEON, South Korea (AP) — Facts and figures for the 11th Presidents Cup matches:


Channel NewsAsia 



Germany fetes 25 years of unity with call for refugee welcome

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:28:54 PMGo to full article
BERLIN: Germany on Saturday (Oct 3), celebrated 25 years since its joyful reunification, with its leaders urging the nation to muster the same strength and solidarity to face a record refugee influx.

The silver anniversary of the day communist East Germany and the capitalist West reunited as one country comes with Europe's top economy standing at a crossroads.

(L-R) Frankfurt mayor Peter Feldmann, German President Joachim Gauck, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Hesse state governor Volker Bouffier, walk along a street during the celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the German Unification in Frankfurt, Germany on Oct 3, 2015. (Photo: AP/Michael Probst)

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck, both of whom grew up under communism, attended ceremonies in the business capital Frankfurt with the resonant slogan "Overcoming Borders".

In the keynote speech, Gauck focused on the refugee crisis and called on Germans to recapture the same can-do spirit that gripped the country in the heady months between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the remarriage of east and west.

"Today we celebrate the courage and self-confidence of that time. Let us use this memory as a bridge," said Gauck, who was a dissident pastor in East Germany.

"In 1990 too, there was the legitimate question: 'Are we up to this challenge?' Then too, there was no example from history to follow. And nevertheless, millions of people took on the national task of unification and made Germany into a country that was more than the sum of its parts."


Merkel, who will mark 10 years in power in November, is grappling with the arrival this year of up to one million people fleeing war and hardship.

Buoyed by a robust economy and job market, voters have largely backed her policy of extending help.

Volunteers have greeted hundreds of thousands with open arms and mountains of donated essentials in moving scenes that Merkel has said made her "proud of this country".

However as the numbers have grown, Merkel's popularity has slipped as she comes under fire from critics at home and abroad for her willing acceptance of the burden on Europe.

Merkel on Saturday said the migrant crisis represented an epochal test for the European Union. "Twenty-five years on, we are facing great challenges with the issue of refugees," she told reporters in Frankfurt.

"Now too, we Germans will not be able to solve the problem on our own but only with Europe, with a fair division of the burden, and with the rest of the world."

She said earlier in her weekly podcast that this must include a range of measures including a pan-European effort to protect external borders, development aid and conflict resolution in the refugees' countries of origin, and smoother distribution of newcomers within the EU.

Some countries have resisted Berlin's bid for the mantle of European leadership, however, with Hungary's hardline Prime Minister Viktor Orban even accusing Merkel of "moral imperialism".

Gauck expressed understanding for the fears of eastern European countries that do not have experience in integrating foreigners, unlike that acquired over generations in the west.

"We have seen that the change in attitudes toward refugees and immigrants can only come through a long, and also contentious, learning process," he said.

"This recognition should make it easier to respect the experiences of other nations."


On Oct 3, 1990, just under a year after the Berlin Wall was pulled down in a bloodless revolution, the reunification treaty bringing the two halves of the country together came into effect amid jubilant scenes. Ever since, this date has been a public holiday to mark Germany's national day.

The anniversary festivities will carry on throughout the weekend in Frankfurt, with pop bands, fireworks and an art installation on the Main River illuminating 25 bridges. And Berlin will stage a street party at the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of German unity.

Yet divisions persist.

Sixty-six per cent of Germans say reunification was the right decision. But 71 per cent of westerners and 83 per cent of easterners argue that "major differences" endure between the two halves, opinion research firm YouGov said.

Unemployment remains higher in the eastern states than in the west, but the spread has shrunk to nine per cent versus six per cent.

Social differences abound too, with far more eastern children born out of wedlock and enrolled in daycare.

A schism can be seen on the issue of refugees too, with vandals' attacks on refugee shelters disproportionately focused in the east, where populist anti-migrant groups have gained a foothold.

- AFP/ec


Multiple events in Singapore cancelled due to haze

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:26:02 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Multiple events were cancelled on Saturday (Oct 3) due to the deteriorating air quality in the Republic.

Day one of the finals at the FINA/airweave Swimming World Cup, slated to start that evening, were among them. Organisers of the two-day event say the upward trend in the 3-hour PSI readings prompted the cancellation, for the safety of all, including athletes and spectators.

FINA/airweave Swimming World Cup Singapore day one of finals cancelled due to haze. (Photo: Ngau Kai Yan)

The heats of the international event had also been rescheduled in the morning.

The Corporate Community Games also cancelled its opening ceremony, as well as events such as the dragon boat competition. This, after the 3-hour PSI at 7am was 172, while the 24-hour PSI was in the Unhealthy range.

Also cancelled was a zombie apocalypse challenge - FOX The Walking Dead Mission Survive - meant to be held in the Marina Bay area.

Meanwhile, a heritage trail challenge organised by CapitaLand was also affected. Organisers had informed participants of the cancellation via SMS at about 5am on Saturday.

- CNA/ek


New changes introduced to Green Homes @ North West programme

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:24:14 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: New changes have been introduced to the existing Green Homes @ North West programme to encourage households to take small progressive steps towards becoming a certified ideal Green Home.

It is part of an initiative jointly organised by the National Environment Agency (NEA), North West Community Development Council (CDC), and Singapore Environment Council (SEC).

The launch of the enhanced Green Homes @ North East. (Photo: Afifah Ariffin)

This includes two new criteria and a three-tier ranking awarded to home owners who fulfil the various criteria of a Green Home. The new criteria calls for home owners to allow natural ventilation in common living spaces, as well as choosing a television with a five-tick energy efficiency rating.

The previous five criteria included owning electrical appliances with the three-tick rating on the new energy label, using an instantaneous water heater and having a recyclable collection corner.

Households which fulfil any three of the seven criteria will be awarded Silver and four criteria for Gold, while those that fulfil all seven criteria will be awarded Platinum. The launch of the enhanced Green Homes @ North West was attended by MPs from the various constituencies in the North West district on Saturday (Oct 3).

They are Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Acting Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, Mayor of North West District Teo Ho Pin, Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin, as well as fellow MPs from the North West District, Dr Lee Bee Wah, Mr Vikram Nair, and Mr Henry Kwek.

Since November 2013, the existing programme has reached out to home owners of 19,000 Build-to-Order (BTO) units in the district. It now aims to target some 40,000 owners of new and existing housing units.

"Environmental ownership is one of the key efforts in terms of promoting green Singapore, and also the world,” said Dr Teo. “We live in a world with limited resources and all of us can play a part to make it sustainable. One of the most sustainable habits is actually to go Green Living lifestyle. We hope that through all these green living habits, our residents can adopt a green living lifestyle and from there adopt Green Living in North West."

Dr Teo added: "In the past, we had five criteria. So we thought that by increasing the criteria, first we can provide some challenges to our residents to keep their homes green. At the same time also, we can encourage more of them to participate in Green Home @ North West. The whole idea is to encourage ownership among our home owners to actually adopt green living habits."

- CNA/ek


Football: Real's Bale and Ramos fit for derby but Rodriguez out

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:12:53 PMGo to full article
MADRID: Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos are fit to return for Sunday's derby at Atletico Madrid but James Rodriguez has been ruled out, coach Rafa Benitez said.

Atletico are likely to provide Benitez with his strongest test to date as boss at Real.

Real Madrid coach Rafa Benitez reacts before their Spanish first division soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at San Mames stadium in Bilbao, northern Spain, September 23, 2015. REUTERS/Vincent West

Although Diego Simeone's side have not hit top form, they have the quality to cause problems for Real and will be highly motivated with local bragging rights at stake.

Real's 4-0 defeat by Atletico at the Calderon last season played a significant part in their decision to ditch former coach Carlo Ancelotti and bring in Benitez, who is considered to be more of a disciplinarian.

Benitez hoped to have players back from the treatment room for the crunch game and was handed a boost with the returns of Bale and Ramos, but Rodriguez has suffered a setback in his recovery from a thigh injury.

“Both (Bale and Ramos) have been passed fit but it is another thing to have the necessary rhythm to play and so while I have seen them train well, we will make a decision on them tomorrow," the coach said.

“I have spoken with Gareth and he is fine. Footballers always have the hope of playing and we will have to consider the situation...

"He (Rodriguez) has a knock and pain in the same area as before. On Thursday in training he had problems again so he will not make this match."

Benitez has made a steady start as Real coach, but his side will be under pressure to rebound from a 0-0 draw at home to Malaga last weekend.

Injuries to other players have placed an even greater emphasis on Cristiano Ronaldo to deliver.

The Portuguese has responded and became Real’s joint all-time top scorer with a double in a 2-0 win away to Malmo in the Champions League last Wednesday, matching Raul’s total of 323 goals.

“His records are there for everyone to see and they continue to improve,” said Benitez.

“I have congratulated him and hopefully he will continue scoring goals. It is important to see him there in the history of Madrid.”

Real have 14 points from six games, two more than Atletico Madrid and two off leaders Villarreal who are away to Levante on Sunday. Barcelona have 15 points and face Sevilla on Saturday.

(Reporting by Tim Hanlon in Barcelona, editing by Toby Davis)

- Reuters


Rugby: Samoa and Japan primed for 'wrestling' match

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:12:26 PMGo to full article
MILTON KEYNES, England: Supporters flocking into Stadium MK for the Rugby World Cup clash between Samoa and Japan on Saturday could be forgiven for thinking they were attending a mixed martial arts event if they took Eddie Jones literally.

"They want to wrestle and we don't want to wrestle," was Japan coach's interpretation of the pivotal Pool B fixture.

Japan's head coach Eddie Jones attends the press conference following the captain's run team training session in Milton Keynes, north of London, on Oct 2, 2015 on the eve of their match against Samoa during the Rugby World Cup 2015. (Photo: AFP/Bertrand Langlois)

Warming to his task using boxing parlance, Australian Jones added: "They want to put us up against the ropes, we want to be coming jib and jab style, moving. It's as simple as that. We want to win points with jabs, they (Samoa) want to win with knockouts."

After 80 minutes, whoever is lying beaten on the canvas, or turf to be more precise, can say goodbye to their quarter-final hopes.

Samoa have won two of their last three meetings but Japan came out on top the last time they met in 2012.

Both sides are on four points after two matches following a win and a defeat and need a victory to keep in touch with South Africa and Scotland who meet later on Saturday in Newcastle.

Expect Japan to test out fleet-footed Samoa fullback Tim Nanai-Williams, who has been trying to shake off a knee strain.

“He’s a brilliant player. He’s got dancing feet," warned Jones who has made five changes to the team that lost 45-10 to Scotland.

Japan fullback Ayumu Goromaru needs 18 points to reach 700 in internationals.

Samoa have made five changes to the line-up that started against South Africa, with Johnny Leota, Tusi Pisi, Fafili Levave, Kane Thompson and Ole Avei coming in.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

- Reuters


Suicide bombings in Nigerian capital kill 15 - officials

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:10:28 PMGo to full article
ABUJA: At least 15 people were killed and 41 injured in two suicide bomb attacks late on Friday on the outskirts of Nigeria's capital Abuja, officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But the use of suicide bombers bears the hallmark of Boko Haram militants, who have been trying to carve out an Islamist state in northeast Nigeria since 2009, killing thousands and displacing 2.1 million people.

Police bomb squad personnel gather debris for analysis at the scene of a bomb blast in Nyanya, on the outskirts of Abuja, Nigeria, October 3, 2015. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

They were the first bomb attacks in the capital since a blast at a bus station killed at least 71 people in April 2014. Authorities blamed Boko Haram for that attack.

In Friday's attacks, one of the bombs went off near a police station in the satellite town of Kuje, not far from the capital's airport.

The second blast occurred in a crowded area in the suburb of Nyanya, not far from the site of the April 2014 attack.

"Preliminary investigations revealed the bomb blasts were carried out by two suicide bombers, a male and a female," Abuja police said in a statement.

Attacks by the Boko Haram Islamist group have lately been concentrated in Nigeria's northeastern‎ Borno state, the birthplace of the insurgency, and northern parts of neighbouring Adamawa state.

Since losing most of the territory it took over earlier this year, the militant group has reverted to hitting soft targets such as markets, bus stations and places of worship as well as hit-and-run attacks on villages, mainly in Borno state.

(Reporting by Julia Payne, Felix Onuah and Camillus Eboh; Editing by Gareth Jones)

- Reuters


New technology to enhance lives of seniors in the pipeline: Yaacob Ibrahim

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:08:39 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: A total of 25 senior activity centres across the island will soon benefit from different types of technology to help them with mental and physical exercises. This includes items such as those in the form of a tablet, a senior-friendly application or a robot.

There will also be activities to boost their memory.

File photo of an elderly person in Singapore. (Photo: Xabryna Kek)

This was announced by Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim at the opening of the Silver IT Fest at Nanyang Polytechnic on Saturday (Oct 3).

It aims to promote IT literacy and enhance the lives of seniors. Plans are also underway to identify challenges faced by seniors and carry out technical trials at certain eldercare facilities.

For example, more than 800 patients benefitted from the remote monitoring trial conducted by the National University Hospital over the past year. It allows those with hypertension or diabetes to check their vital signs at home. The readings are then transmitted wirelessly to healthcare providers to ensure timely assessment by hospitals.

The project was supported by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) and the Health Ministry.

"This is certainly a positive shift from the current practice where patients have to physically visit a hospital and wait to see a doctor for a change in prescription,” said Dr Yaacob. “I understand this remote monitoring service has already benefitted more than 800 patients since it began in 2014. As chronic diseases become more prevalent with a growing population, IT has immense potential to make healthcare more accurate and reliable and at the same time more convenient and comfortable for our seniors."

The collaboration, called Smart Eldercare, includes partners from the IDA, A*STAR, NTUC Health and St Luke's Eldercare.

- CNA/ek


FINA Swimming World Cup finals cancelled due to haze

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:04:04 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Day one of the finals for the FINA/airweave Swimming World Cup Singapore 2015 scheduled for 6pm on Saturday (Oct 3) has been cancelled due to the haze situation in Singapore.

Organisers said: “Considering the guidelines and regulations suggested by NEA (National Environment Agency), and the deteriorating haze situation today, we have decided to cancel the finals scheduled for this evening.”

FINA Swimming World Cup finals scheduled for Saturday (Oct 3) have been cancelled due to haze. (Photo: Shivaanan Selvasevaran)

"Spectators who have purchased tickets for this evening's session will be eligible for a refund," organisers added. Those with season passes will be notified on refunds by Thursday.

Ticketholders queue at OCBC Aquatic Centre for refunds. (Photo: Ngau Kai Yan)

"With the haze caused by the fires in Indonesia, the health and safety of all athletes, guests, officials, spectators, volunteers and staff remain as our top priority," said Organising Committee of the Cup's chairman Ang Peng Wee.

Following the cancellation, the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) said they may consider any class action suits against any Singapore-listed company linked to the burning of forests in Indonesia.

"The haze caused by the raging fires in Indonesia not only poses a threat to our health, but it also destroys the months of hard work put into preparing for programmes and events like the FINA/airweave Swimming World Cup Singapore 2015, which was to be held at the OCBC Aquatic Centre this evening," said SSA Vice President of Finance Jose Raymond.

"The investment put into the event, through sponsors, time spent by our staff and volunteers, and the effort taken by athletes and officials to travel to Singapore have been wasted beyond measurement," added the former CEO of the Singapore Environment Council. "The Singapore Swimming Association, along with FINA deeply regrets cancelling day one of the finals.

"On our part, the SSA will seek legal advice and may consider joining other parties and individuals in any class action suit which is brought against any Singapore-listed company which is linked to the burning of forests in Indonesia which is now causing one of the worst haze episodes to affect the region and in particular Singapore."

Saturday morning's heats went ahead, but the men's 1,500-metre and woman's 800-metre freestyle events were cancelled, also due to the haze. The 3-hour PSI at 5pm on Saturday was 222, while the 24-hour PSI was 144-182, in the Unhealthy range.

Hazy skies over the OCBC Aquatic Centre. (Photo: Ngau Kai Yan)

Singapore Swimming Association President Lee Kok Choy says those who were scheduled to swim Saturday evening would be disappointed at the cancellation.

"We are disappointed, because of the haze caused by forest fires in Indonesia," he said. "Some of them managed to swim in the morning, and that went quite well, but those who were scheduled to swim in the evening will be quite disappointed I'm sure."

Among them was Singapore swimmer Danny Yeo who was set to compete in the 100m and 400m freestyle.

"I am pretty disappointed as I wanted to improve my times from the heats this morning in the finals, but I understand that it is for the safety of the swimmers and completely understand that it had to be cancelled," he said.

Executive Director of FINA Cornel Marculescu says the schedule for Sunday "is still unchanged depending on weather condition".

More information can be found on their website.

- CNA/ek


Rugby: Ireland wary of Italy's returning talisman Parisse

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:01:04 PMGo to full article
LONDON: Ireland are wary and ready for the threat a returning Sergio Parisse poses to their World Cup ambitions, Paul O'Connell said on Saturday, describing the Italian captain as one of the greatest players he has played against.

Ireland can qualify for the quarter-finals with a match to spare if they beat Italy on Sunday and named their strongest line-up as they seek to progress to a group decider against France.

Italy's N 8 Sergio Parisse dives to score a try during the rugby union test match Italy vs Samoa in Ascoli Piceno. (AFP/Gabriel Bouys)

Italy have really struggled without Parisse, only narrowly beating Canada last time out, and they must upset the odds against the Six Nations champions to avoid being eliminated from the tournament.

But O'Connell said none of that mattered with the talismanic number eight fit to play his first game in the tournament, likening the 110-capped Parisse to former team mate Brian O'Driscoll in how he can make a team believe in themselves.

"We've looked at him a lot during the week, we kind of guessed he was going to be back. He'll be a big galvanising force for them," O'Connell told a news conference at London's Olympic Stadium.

"He has everything - he catches high balls, he chases high balls, he chips, he makes turnovers on the ground, intercepts, he's a phenomenal carrier, has great footwork, he's a brilliant passer, he pressurises the referees. He does it all.

"He's right up there with any of the great players I've played against."

Like Parisse, Irish centre Robbie Henshaw also belatedly joins the tournament and will partner Keith Earls in midfield - the seventh different combination Ireland have used in seven games - though most were in warm-up games designed to test such scenarios.

Well-acquainted with the Italian game plan from their annual Six Nations tussles, Ireland know the pressure will come up front rather than behind the scrum as they face their first serious test of the competition after easy wins over Canada and Romania.

"I've no doubt we will be battered up front and pushed to the limit, they're always physical games against Italy. Do we need it? I don't know if we need it but we certainly expect to get it," O'Connell said.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

- Reuters


Merkel urges Europe to protect external borders amid refugee crisis

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:00:20 PMGo to full article
BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe needed to protect its external frontiers as it faces the greatest influx of refugees since World War Two: a crisis that she said was "testing Europe's mettle".

Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe this year from the Middle East, Africa and Asia, many fleeing war or poverty.

German officials walk to attend a church service marking the 25th anniversary of the reunification of Germany at Paulskirche Church in Frankfurt

Speaking in a weekly video podcast released on Saturday, Merkel said Europe needed to contribute to dealing with this global challenge.

"And for Europe, this means we of course need to, above all, protect our external borders across Europe - and protect them together - so that immigration to Europe is orderly," she said.

"But it also means we must take on more responsibility for countries where the causes for people to flee are, or where there are a lot of refugees, such as in Lebanon, Jordan or Turkey," Merkel added.

Many of those on the move are heading to Germany, which is Europe's largest economy and has relatively liberal asylum laws and a generous system of benefits.

A poll on Thursday showed Merkel's popularity slump to its lowest level in nearly four years, reflecting growing concern about the flood of migrants.

More than 200,000 people are estimated to have arrived in Germany in September alone - roughly the same as for all of last year - and the government estimates that 800,000 or more might come over the course of 2015.

In her podcast, Merkel said Germany needed to make clear that those who needed protection would get it but those who were only coming here for economic reasons would have to leave again.

"We need to be even more resolute about that and make that clear," she said.

She also said integrating the new arrivals was a "big task" and people should be able to express their concerns about it.

Merkel said Greece's external border with Turkey - a frontier that many migrants have crossed on perilous boat journeys - was an issue. Talks with Turkey were needed and in fact had already begun, she said.

It will also be necessary to provide more development aid and spend more on refugees via UN programmes, she added.

(The story has been refiled to fix typographical error in first paragraph.)

(Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Larry King)

- Reuters


Rugby: New Zealand struggling to find right tempo, says Smith

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎02:59:32 PMGo to full article
CARDIFF: Too slow against Namibia and too fast against Georgia, New Zealand are finding it hard to find the right balance in their game, according to centre Conrad Smith.

The All Blacks booked their place in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals with a laboured 43-10 win over Georgia on Friday that was riddled with basic errors.

All Black Conrad Smith on Jun 6, 2014. (Photo: AFP/Fiona Goodall)

"We obviously want to play with a lot of tempo, play at speed, but we sort of made things harder for ourselves and then we just made errors," Smith told reporters.

"The boys are trying hard and it's difficult in these games when you are expected to win and win easily and you have opposition that are doing their best to stop you," Smith added.

"They (Georgia) did a really good job and the frustration built in our team and unfortunately we didn't quite click."

The All Blacks ran in seven tries against Georgia including a hat-trick for Julian Savea and a scorching effort by fellow winger Waisake Naholo.

"There were some moments where there was some good stuff in the game," Smith said.

"We were almost going to crack things open but it wasn't to be so we have to move on."

New Zealand tried to play at a quick tempo following the 58-14 win over Namibia which developed into a frustrating arm wrestle.


"That's the difficult thing," Smith said.

"You look at last week, that was obviously the approach we took. The game ground to a halt almost so we thought if that's going to happen why don't we look at ways to get things going."

The defending champions' approach to the knockout matches will be very different.

"These are pool games and we are trying to get things out of them but it's not the way we are going to play in a knockout game," Smith said.

In between the tries against Georgia, the All Blacks were guilty of several knock-ons and loose passes while their scrum was rattled by the powerful Eastern Europeans.

"The pace we were trying to play at had a bit to do with that, one or two errors crept in," Smith said.

"It's funny how that adds its own pressure and suddenly that snowballs.

"You just have to get through these games. No one is ever going to be happy, if we post a big score then everyone will say there is no point playing that game because in a knockout it would be totally different."

New Zealand play Tonga in their final Pool C game on Friday and another win would set up a quarter-final against the Pool D runners-up, likely to be Ireland or France.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

- Reuters


Poland starting to build large coal-energy group - PM Kopacz

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎02:55:24 PMGo to full article
WARSAW: Poland has started to build a large fuel-energy group with its decision to transfer the European Union's largest coal miner to a state-controlled fund to avoid the miner's bankruptcy, Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said.

With just three weeks until a parliamentary election, government efforts to save to country's coal sector, which has been hurt by low prices, are in the spotlight.

Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz (R) and European Parliament President Martin Schulz arrive at a European Union leaders extraordinary summit on the migrant crisis, in Brussels, Belgium September 23, 2015. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Trying to comply with European Union rules on unwarranted state subsidies to ailing companies and at the same time save the loss-making Kompania from bankruptcy, the government decided to transfer Kompania to the TF Silesia fund.

"Kompania Weglowa safely enters ... TF Silesia, which provides financial guarantees for years," Kopacz told Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper in an interview published on Saturday.

"This is the start of building a large fuel-energy concern, which will be created by combining our power plants, energy groups and coal, which is their fuel," Kopacz said.

The European Commission, EU's executive arm, said on Thursday it had not been informed about the details of the transfer of Kompania and had not taken any decisions.

Poland has proposed a "single energy union" for the EU to reduce the bloc's reliance on Russian gas and a potential clash with the Commission on coal could make it harder for Warsaw to garner support for the union.

Poland's treasury minister told TVP Info broadcaster on Saturday the government's plan for Kompania minimises the risk the miner would have to return the state support.

That would most likely lead to its bankruptcy, leaving Kompania's 40,000 workers in the lurch.

Trade union Solidarity, the biggest in Poland, has said the government plan for Kompania made a "mockery" of miners, arguing it would most likely be opposed by the EU Commission.

Analyst warned this week that Poland's plan for

tying up state-run utilities and coal mines risks damaging the utilities' profits, their minority shareholders and Poland's reputation among investors.

State-controlled mines have lost more than US$850 million since the start of 2014 as coal prices fell to decade lows.

The government, in power since 2007, has avoided a deep restructuring of the coal sector for fear of strikes.

(Reporting by Marcin Goettig; Editing by Alison Williams)

- Reuters


Ukraine warring sides announce start of small arms withdrawal

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎02:52:09 PMGo to full article
KIEV: Warring sides in Ukraine on Saturday (Oct 3) began withdrawing tanks and smaller weapons from a buffer zone in the war-torn east a day after the leaders of France and Germany met Vladimir Putin for peace talks.

The announcement of the beginning of the small-weapons withdrawal came after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko voiced cautious optimism over the future of a peace deal but said the war was not over.

Pro-Russian rebels drive tanks during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Donetsk, Ukraine on May 5, 2015. (Photo: REUTERS/Igor Tkachenko)

"There is a truce," he told reporters after more than four hours of talks in Paris. "The war will be over when the last patch of Ukrainian land is liberated. As long as there is occupied territory the war is not over."

Both government forces and rebels from the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic said on Saturday that the withdrawal of tanks and smaller weapons would begin imminently.

But their fellow rebels from the neighbouring Donetsk People's Republic said they would follow suit after October 18 if the ceasefire holds.

"This work has started this morning," Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters, adding that the actual pullback would begin Saturday afternoon. "We expect the same from the militants who rushed to say that some tank column had already begun moving. But no one knows where it is heading."


Moscow-backed rebels and government forces had this week agreed to withdraw tanks as well as light weapons from a buffer zone beginning on Saturday to shore up the brittle ceasefire.

The pullback builds on a Western-backed peace deal agreed in the Belarussian capital Minsk in February.

Rebels from the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic announced earlier Saturday that they had already started pulling back their tanks.

"People's militia of the Lugansk People's Republic has begun a withdrawal of tanks from the line of contact in accordance with the Minsk deal," said the official news agency of the rebel region.

The deal will take more than 40 days to implement and see each side's mortar shells and rockets with a calibre of less than 100 millimetres moved 15 kilometres (nine miles) away from the so-called line of contact.

Rebels from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic said they would wait however to see if the ceasefire holds.

"This will be after the 18th on condition that everything is quiet," a senior separatist commander, Eduard Basurin, told local reporters. "It is up to the OSCE, which is a guarantor, to determine the time."


Ukraine's Poroshenko met Friday with the leaders of Russia, France and Germany in Paris in the latest push to end a conflict that has claimed more than 8,000 lives since April 2014.

Over the past few weeks fighting has all but stopped but even if small weapons are withdrawn, a number of other sticking points remain, including first and foremost rival elections planned by Kiev and the rebel regions.

After the Paris French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the leaders had agreed that rebel votes planned on Oct 18 and Nov 1 could not go ahead. "We don't want elections to take place in eastern Ukraine that do not respect the Minsk deal," Hollande said.

Rebels and Moscow did not immediately comment on the announcement, however.

The rebels, who seek greater autonomy within a united Ukraine, want to hold local elections on their own terms, which include barring all pro-Kiev candidates and holding the polls on separate days to those planned in the rest of Ukraine.

In a blow to Poroshenko, Hollande also called for "amnesty" and "immunity" for all election candidates, including the rebels.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of covertly supporting the rebels with troops and weapons, a claim Moscow denies.

Putin has over the past days shifted Western attention away from the Ukraine conflict by ramping up Moscow's military presence in war-torn Syria, an ally since Soviet times, and launching air strikes against Islamic State militants.

- AFP/ec


Only 5 percent of Russian strikes hitting Islamic State - Britain

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎02:50:28 PMGo to full article
LONDON: Only one in 20 Russian air strikes in Syria are aimed at Islamic State targets, Britain's defence secretary said on Saturday, warning that Vladimir Putin was instead killing civilians to shore up President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia earlier this week announced its decision to launch strikes on Syria, in a dramatic escalation of foreign involvement in a civil war more than four years old.

It bombed the country for a third straight day on Friday, but it has mainly hit areas held by rival insurgent groups rather than the Islamic State fighters it said it was targeting, drawing an increasingly angry response from the West.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Saturday Putin was making the situation worse by helping the "butcher Assad" and urged world leaders to work towards a political transition in Syria.

In an interview with the Sun newspaper, British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the vast majority of Russian air strikes were not aimed at the militant group at all.

"Our evidence indicates they are dropping unguided munitions in civilian areas, killing civilians, and they are dropping them against the Free Syrian forces fighting Assad," he said. "He's shoring up Assad and perpetuating the suffering."

Cameron has said he sees a strong case for conducting British air strikes against Islamic State in Syria, but he wants to make sure he has enough support in parliament to gain approval.

Cameron lost a parliamentary vote on the use of force in Syria in 2013. Consequently, British bombing so far has only targeted Islamic State in neighbouring Iraq.

"It is absolutely clear that Russia is not discriminating between ISIL (Islamic State) and the legitimate Syrian opposition groups, and as a result they are actually backing the butcher Assad and helping him and really making the situation worse," Cameron told broadcasters.

"We should be using this moment now to try to force forward a comprehensive plan to bring political transition in Syria, because that is the answer for bringing peace to the region."

Defence Secretary Fallon said the British government had made progress in persuading lawmakers from the opposition Labour party to back strikes in Syria and said Putin's involvement would not stop the government from seeking parliamentary backing.

"We can't leave it to French, Australian and American aircraft to keep our own British streets safe," he said.

(Reporting by Kate Holton, editing by Larry King)

- Reuters


US, allies hit Islamic State with 27 air strikes - statement

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎02:50:25 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON: The U.S.-led coalition targeted Islamic State insurgents in 27 air strikes in Iraq and Syria on Friday, the Combined Joint Task Force said on Saturday.

Seventeen of the attacks were in Iraq with six of them focussed near Ramadi. In all, eight areas were targeted and Islamic State tactical units, fighting positions, weapons and other assets were hit, the task force said in a statement.

In Syria, 10 strikes near five cities hit similar targets.

(Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by Alison Williams)

- Reuters


Japanese citizen shot dead in Bangladesh, second foreigner killed this week

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎02:50:24 PMGo to full article
DHAKA: Police in Bangladesh said they have detained four people in connection with the shooting death on Saturday of a Japanese citizen, the second foreign national killed in the South Asian nation within a week.

Kunio Hoshi, 65, a Japanese citizen but born in Bangladesh, was attacked by unidentified assailants in Kownia in Rangpur district, 335 km (210 miles) north of the capital, Dhaka, and died on the way to hospital, police said.

The killing bore some similarities to the shooting death of an Italian working in Bangladesh, Cesare Tavella. Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack, the first such claim the militant group has made in Bangladesh.

"This killing was also carried by three masked men who came by motorcycle and used a pistol, so the motives may be same," Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told Reuters.

"We have detained four persons and are trying to know the motive for the killing," Farukh Hossain, an additional superintendent of police of Rangpur district, told Reuters. "We take both the killings seriously and hopefully will be able to identify the killers along with their motives," Home Minister Asaduzzaman said.

He said that "Killings of foreign citizens is aimed only to let down the image of our success and achievements inside and outside the country."

Attacks on foreigners are rare in Bangladesh. But it has seen a rising tide of Islamist violence over the past year, in which four online critics of religious militancy hacked to death, among them a U.S. citizen of Bangladesh origin.

After Tavella's death, concerns that foreigners might be targeted prompted Western embassies to curtail the movements of diplomats in Bangladesh.

Police said one of the four detained people was a rickshaw puller and another is owner of a residence close to where the attack took place.

After the incident, the Japan Embassy in Bangladesh issued an alert for Japanese citizens in Bangladesh.

"We have encouraged them to exercise a maximum level of vigilance," an embassy official said.

(Reporting by Serajul Quadir; Editing by Richard Borsuk, Larry King)

- Reuters


Tennis: Venus wins Wuhan Open as Muguruza retires

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎02:46:26 PMGo to full article
WUHAN, China: Venus Williams won her biggest title in five years at the Wuhan Open on Saturday (Oct 3) after Garbine Muguruza retired, making her the fifth player to pull out mid-match in the late-season tournament.

Williams took the first set and was three games up in the second when the Spaniard stopped play at 53 minutes, handing the American veteran the 47th title win of her career, and her first victory at a WTA Premier Five event since she beat Victoria Azarenka in 2010 in Dubai.

Venus Williams of the US poses with her trophy after winning the women's singles final match against Garbine Muguruza of Spain at the Wuhan Open tennis tournament in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province on Oct 3, 2015. (Photo: AFP/Fred Dufour)

Wimbledon finalist Muguruza - ranked world number eight, 16 places ahead of American veteran Williams - had a tough semi-final against Germany's Angelique Kerber, winning in straight sets but falling during the closing tie break and injuring her ankle.

But the 21-year-old said it was exhaustion not injury that made her pull out. "It's a sad day I had to retire. Sometimes your body's not recovered," the 21-year-old said on court after the match.

Muguruza called her coach Sam Sumyk - who was wearing a t-shirt bearing the phrase "It's not my fault" - on court during the first set but no words of advice could change the slow pace of the match.

"I had my chances. But I knew with Venus, it's hard with her serve, with her shots, if you're not 100 per cent," the Spaniard said.

Williams, who turned pro the year that Muguruza was born, was also struggling during the final with leg pain and had both of her thighs wrapped.

But she said that experience gained during her more than two-decade long career allowed her to put the injury out of her mind.

"By the time I'm on the court, I've blocked it (pain) out if I've decided I'm going to play. At that point I'm in the match and not anywhere else," Williams said.


Williams had a gruelling semi-final the day before against her sister Serena's nemesis Roberta Vinci - who beat Serena in the US Open semi-final, denying her a chance at the first calendar Grand Slam since 1988.

The title winner conceded that she would have had a tough match against Muguruza if her young opponent had been on form.

"I probably wouldn't have had many chances if you (Muguruza) had been feeling well," Williams said in an on court interview.

The 2006 women's final at the Australian Open was also won on a retirement, with German Justine Henin-Hardenne handing France's Amelie Mauresmo her first Grand Slam victory when she pulled out in the second set.

Novak Djokovic took his third consecutive title at last year's ATP World Tour Finals when Roger Federer withdrew hours before the match blaming his decision on pain and his age.

Maria Sharapova led the charge of the walking wounded at Wuhan, retiring in the second set of her first match since Wimbledon.

The world number three was followed by two-time major-winner Azarenka, Tokyo finalist Belinda Bencic and Coco Vandeweghe during her quarter-final meet with Angelique Kerber.

The title win at Wuhan will put Williams inside the top 15 when the new rankings are released on Monday, after entering Wuhan as number 24.

The former world number one was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in 2011, and while she continues to play some tournaments, she has struggled with her health and slipped down the rankings.

Williams could now qualify for the season-ending WTA championships in Singapore, which she has not reached since 2009.

Muguruza will also achieve a career high of five in the world rankings after making the finals at Wuhan, and is sure to qualify for Singapore, barring any major upsets in next week's China Open in Beijing.

- AFP/ec


Vatican fury as top priest comes out on eve of bishops meet

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎02:43:55 PMGo to full article
VATICAN CITY: The Vatican reacted furiously on Saturday (Oct 3) after a priest employed as a senior official publicly declared his homosexuality on the eve of a synod of bishops that is due to touch on the divisive issue of the Church's relationship to gay believers.

In a statement, a spokesman for Pope Francis said Polish priest Krzystof Charamsa's action had been "very serious and irresponsible", and that he would be automatically kicked out of his post as a theologian in the Vatican.

Father Krysztof Olaf Charamsa, who works for a Vatican office, gives a press conference to reveal his homosexuality, on Oct 3, 2015 in Rome. (Photo: AFP/Tiziana Fabi)

Flanked by his Catalan boyfriend and sporting his priest's collar, Charamsa told a news conference in Rome he had been compelled to speak out against the hypocrisy and paranoia that he says shapes the Church's attitude to sexual minorities.

While appearing resigned to the fact that his life as a priest is over, he said: "I'm out of the closet and I'm very happy about that."

Visibly moved at times but always smiling, the 43-year-old added in Italian: "I want to be an advocate for all sexual minorities and their families who have suffered in silence."

In an indication that Charamsa had planned the move for some time, he presented a 10-point "liberation manifesto" against "institutionalised homophobia in the Church", which he said particularly oppressed the gay men who, according to him, make up the majority of priests.

He also revealed plans for a book about his 12 years at the heart of a Vatican bureaucracy only just recovering from a scandal under previous pope Benedict XVI over the influence of a "gay lobby" among senior clergy.

"I dedicate my coming out to all gay priests," Charamsa said. "I wish them happiness even if I know that most of them will not have the courage to make the gesture I have made today."

"To my Church, I want to say that I reject and I denounce the current atmosphere of exasperating homophobia. Open your eyes to the suffering of gay people, to their desire for love."


Charamsa, 43, timed his announcement for maximum media impact, coming as it did on the eve of a synod that is the second and final round of a review of Catholic teaching on the family.

Although the issue of homosexuality forms only a tiny part of the synod's agenda, it has dominated the run-up to the three-week meeting and become a lightning rod for a broader debate between reformists and conservatives in the Church.

It was the timing of Charamsa's action rather than the substance of what he said that infuriated his superiors.

In its statement, the Vatican said "the decision to make such a pointed statement on the eve of the opening of the Synod appears very serious and irresponsible, since it aims to subject the Synod assembly to undue media pressure."

"Msgr. Charamsa will certainly be unable to continue to carry out his previous work in (Vatican body) the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical universities, while the other aspects of his situation shall remain the competence of his diocesan Ordinary (local bishop)."

Catholic attitudes to sexuality were already making headlines this weekend after the Vatican confirmed that Francis had hugged an old gay friend and met his partner during his recent visit to the United States.

The highly symbolic gesture, indicative of Francis's personally tolerant attitude towards gays, came a day before he met prominent gay marriage opponent Kim Davis - another private encounter that the Vatican said did not indicate support for her stance.

Last year's first round of the synod also sparked global headlines when a draft working document included a passage saying that loving same-sex relationships had qualities that the Church should recognise. But after a backlash from conservatives, that ground-breaking phrase was excised from the final conclusions.

Official Catholic doctrine holds that homosexuality is an "intrinsic disorder", but this teaching is interpreted in different ways and a distinction has always been drawn between homosexual feelings and acts, which, as with all sexual acts outside of marriage, are considered a sin.

It is this that makes Charamsa's defrocking or resignation as a priest inevitable, according to Vatican experts. "I place myself in the hands of God," he said on Saturday.

Increasingly, progressive theologians have come to accept that sexuality is innate, a premise that makes it harder to maintain a stance of outright condemnation.

But that view is not shared by conservatives who hold that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice and that the task of the Church is to help gays to live celibate lives.

- AFP/ec


Air quality may see 'slight improvement' on Sunday: NEA

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎02:40:49 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: The drop in air quality on Saturday afternoon (Oct 3) was “due to haze from our surrounding region being blown in by the prevailing southerly winds”, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) in a media advisory.

NEA added that the haze conditions are expected to continue for the rest of Saturday, but there might be a slight improvement on Sunday. “The prevailing southerly winds are forecast to shift gradually to blow from the southeast,” it said.

Hazy conditions in Singapore on Oct 3, 2015. (Photo: Ngau Kai Yan)

The 24-hour PSI for the next 24 hours is expected to be between the high end of the Unhealthy range and the low end of the Very Unhealthy range, and may drop to the mid-level of the Unhealthy range if the haze conditions improve.

A total of 32 hotspots were detected in Sumatra, mainly in the southern region, said the NEA, adding that the low count was "due to cloud cover over parts of Sumatra".

- CNA/ek


Saudi forces arrest two foreigners at illegal bomb factory - SPA

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎02:40:24 PMGo to full article
RIYADH: Saudi Arabian security forces arrested two foreign citizens in a raid on an illegal explosives factory at a Riyadh home, the interior ministry said on Saturday, according to state news agency SPA.

One of those arrested was a Syrian man, Yaser Mohammed Al Barrazi, who the interior ministry said was preparing to carry out attacks. The other was a Filipino woman accused of helping him.

The ministry did not provide details about the suspects' affiliation, but said they were part of a "deviant group".

Two explosive belts and bomb-making equipment were found in the raid, in the al-Fayhaa district of Riyadh. Another location, thought to be a staging post for suicide bombers in the al-Jazirah district, was also raided, but nothing was found there.

The raids were the second major security operation in the capital in the past month. Security forces captured two militants and seized weapons and a explosive vest in raids on September 15.

Saudi Arabia has grappled with an uptick in radical Sunni militancy linked to Islamic State this year, and has arrested hundreds of alleged sympathisers.

In neighbouring Bahrain, whose Sunni ruling family is close to Saudi Arabia, the authorities this week discovered a large bomb-making factory and arrested suspects they said were linked to Shi'ite power Iran. Iran denied any involvement.

(This story removes misattributed reference to woman as "captive" in paras 2 and 3)

(Writing by Reem Shamseddine and Sam Wilkin; Editing by Larry King)

- Reuters


Vatican sacks priest after he comes out as gay

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎02:20:26 PMGo to full article
VATICAN CITY: The Vatican dismissed a priest from his post in a Holy See office on Saturday after he told a newspaper he was gay and urged the Catholic Church to change its stance on homosexuality.

Monsignor Krzystof Charamsa was removed from his position at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's doctrinal arm where he had worked since 2003, a statement said.

General view of St.Peter's square in the Vatican City, May 17, 2015. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Charamsa, 43, and a Polish theologian, announced he was gay and had a partner in a long interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper on Saturday.

He later held a news conference with his partner, a Spanish man, and gay activists at a Rome restaurant. They had planned a demonstration in front of the Vatican but changed the venue several hours before it was due to have started.

The Vatican said Charamsa's dismissal had nothing to do with his comments on his personal situation, which it said "merit respect".

But it said giving the interview and the planned demonstration was "grave and irresponsible" given their timing on the eve of a synod of bishops who will discuss family issues, including how to reach out to gays.

It said his actions would subject the synod, which Pope Francis is due to open on Sunday, to "undue media pressure".

The issue of homosexuality and the Church has dominated the aftermath of the pope's visit to the United States last week.

In Saturday's interview, Charamsa said his partner had helped him come to terms with his sexuality and knew he would have to give up the priesthood, although the Vatican statement made no reference to this outcome.

"It's time for the Church to open its eyes about gay Catholics and to understand that the solution it proposes to them - total abstinence from a life of love - is inhuman," he was quoted as saying.

The Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is not a sin but that homosexual acts are.

The Vatican has been embarrassed by controversy over the pope's meeting with Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who went to jail in September for refusing to honour a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and issue same-sex marriage licences.

The Vatican said on Friday that "the only real audience" the pope had during his visit to Washington was with a small group that included a gay couple.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Gavin Jones and Helen Popper)

- Reuters


China works to preserve Xinjiang's historical Buddhist caves

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎02:18:23 PMGo to full article
BAICHENG: China’s far-flung Xinjiang region may be better-known today for being the heartland of the Uighur Muslim minority, but it also has a treasure trove of Buddhist temples and art due to its location along the ancient Silk Road.

The Kizil Caves in Xinjiang for instance is the earliest major Buddhist cave complex in China. Despite being uncovered in the last century, most of the caves remain closed to the public.

A sleeping Buddha statue at the Kizil Buddha Caves in Baicheng County, Xinjiang, China. (Photo: CNA/Jeremy Koh)

Only top Chinese leaders are allowed to enter due to the caves’ fragile environment, but tourists can visit about eight of the other 230 known cave temples in the area, although photography’s forbidden.

Most of the caves are in bad condition.

According to locals, the Muslim population living in the area, and more recently the Red Guards from China's Cultural Revolution, were responsible for much of the destruction of the caves' interiors, while in the early 20th century German archaeologists removed large pieces of murals from the caves.

More than US$32 million have been spent over the past decade to restore the caves.

“Our academy is mainly focusing on preventative protection, because there are only a few types of materials in the world that we can use to protect the sites - chemical materials,” said Xu Yongming, president of Kucha Academy of Xinjiang. “But I think these will threaten the long-term preservation of the murals.”

A mural is seen in the Kizil Buddha Caves in Baicheng County, Xinjiang, China. (Photo: CNA/Jeremy Koh)

Sun Lianqiang is one of those restoring the murals. He spends up to eight hours a day in cramped conditions touching up the artwork.

“These paintings are a few thousand years old, and I feel a deep sense of responsibility, and I’m afraid of doing something wrong, so every step of the way, there’s a huge pressure,” said Sun.

Some of the paintings were done as early as the 3rd century, which makes them more than 2,000 years old, so besides preserving the artwork here, the authorities are also capturing images of these artwork to form an online depository.

“The main goal is still to record all the information,” said Xu. “Since 2005, we’ve done stuff like virtual tours, cave modelling and virtual modelling, so in the event that the cave is damaged, we can reconstruct it based on our online depository.”

Authorities hope that these efforts will help restore the caves as close as possible to their former glory. Thus giving more people the chance to view and admire one of the remaining legacies of the ancient Silk Road.

- CNA/ec


At least 39 civilians, 14 fighters killed since start of Russian air strikes - monitor

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎02:15:18 PMGo to full article
BEIRUT: At least 39 civilians, including eight children and eight women, have been killed in Russian air strikes in Syria in the past four days, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday.

It said 14 fighters had been killed - 12 from the Islamic State militant group around the eastern city of Raqqa, and two from the Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said the figures only included those which had been verified.

(Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Alison Williams)

- Reuters


First Iran haj dead flown home nine days after stampede

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎02:06:11 PMGo to full article
TEHRAN: The first bodies of Iranians killed in a stampede at the haj arrived home from Saudi Arabia on Saturday (Oct 3) after a controversial nine-day delay and questions over the final death toll.

President Hassan Rouhani and other top officials laid white flowers on coffins at a sombre ceremony in Tehran for the 104 pilgrims - among 464 Iranians declared dead in the Sep 24 crush.

Iranian officials pray as they touch the coffin of a dead haj pilgrim who was killed in a deadly stampede in Mina near Mecca in Saudi Arabia at Mehrabad airport in Tehran, Iran, on Oct 3, 2015. (Photo: AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran has accused Saudi Arabia of incompetence in its handling of safety at the haj, further souring relations already strained by the civil war in Syria and conflict in Yemen.

"If it were proved that some (authorities) were guilty in this accident, we will not forgive," Rouhani said as the bodies emerged in red caskets from a cargo plane at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran.

The president was accompanied by the heads of Iran's judiciary and parliament as well as the chief of staff of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's office.

"Our language in this accident was one of brotherhood and respect and the language of diplomacy was used when necessary," Rouhani said. "If needed, the language of authority will also be used."

Iran has been deeply critical of the slow pace at which the Saudi authorities have identified the dead.

More bodies were expected to be flown home later on Saturday but Iran's health minister said not all of the Iranian dead had yet been found and many were thought to be lying unidentified in sealed containers.

"We hope with Saudi cooperation, we can find the bodies of these victims which might be among the corpses from other countries," Hassan Hashemi told the official IRNA news agency.

Iranian families face a further delay in receiving their loved ones for burial as DNA testing has been deemed necessary.

"The ID tags on the coffins do not match the victims' identities and the existing lists in Mehrabad Airport," the ISNA news agency cited an unnamed official as saying.


The tragedy will be marked with memorial ceremonies in Tehran and in provincial capitals on Sunday.

Khamenei, Iran's supreme guide, demanded on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia apologise to the bereaved and to the world's Muslims

"The slightest disrespect towards tens of thousands of Iranian pilgrims in Mecca and Medina and not fulfilling their obligation to transfer holy bodies will have Iran's tough and fierce reaction," he said.

Rouhani called for a fact-finding commission into the disaster as all Islamic countries deserved to know the cause.

Saudi authorities have yet to provide a breakdown of the nationalities of the 769 pilgrims they say died, but many countries have provided their own individual tolls.

Tallies of the dead from foreign officials and media from 24 countries put the dead at 1,036, well in excess of the Saudi figure.

With many more pilgrims still listed as missing, Iranian officials say the real death toll is between 2,000 and 4,000, and many of the dead have yet to be identified.

It took a week before Iran was able to confirm 464 of its nationals had died as officials spent days scouring Saudi hospitals for the missing without success.

It is the highest confirmed death toll among foreign nationalities by far. Egypt has 126 dead and 110 missing, and Indonesia has 91 dead.

While Iran has been vocal, official reaction elsewhere in the Muslim world has been more restrained, although survivors and bereaved families have criticised safety measures in place at the haj.

- AFP/ec


Coordinating Ministers in Govt is a good move: S Jayakumar

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎01:51:51 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Former cabinet minister S Jayakumar says having more Coordinating Ministers in Government is a good move, given the cross-cutting issues the country's leadership has to deal with.

Professor Jayakumar was the Coordinating Minister for National Security between 2005 and 2010.

Retired Senior Minister S Jayakumar. (AFP/OMAR TORRES)

In an exclusive interview with Channel NewsAsia, he said agencies and ministries cannot operate as independent silos. They need good coordination, with everyone pulling together.

Professor Jayakumar said the challenge is in coordinating the different Government agencies and ensuring they do not lose sight of the overall national interest. Even without an official appointment, there had always been a senior Cabinet member informally tasked with the role, he added.

"PM Lee has always stressed this need of whole-of-government approach,” he said. “So even without appointing formally Coordinating Ministers before, he has designated different ministers from time to time, to ensure coordination in certain areas.

“I give you an example: Climate change. It involves so many aspects - economic aspects, environmental aspect, legal aspects and foreign affairs - and he wanted me to coordinate all the different agencies without a formal appointment of Coordinating Minister. And after I stepped down, DPM Teo Chee Hean continued to play that role. So you see there are many issues which require coordination."

For more insights into the role of a Coordinating Minister, tune in to Spotlight, Sunday (Oct 4) at 10.20pm SG/HK on Channel NewsAsia.

- CNA/ek


Syrian opposition, rebel groups united against UN Syria 'working groups' plan

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎01:50:17 PMGo to full article
ANKARA/GENEVA: A U.N. plan towards ending the civil war in Syria would not work in its current form, Syria's western-backed opposition and rebel groups said in a rare show of unity on Saturday, a day after the government said it was ready to take part in the initiative.

In July, U.N. special envoy to Syria Staffan De Mistura unveiled the idea of inviting warring parties to form four U.N.-led working groups on how to implement a roadmap to peace, since the groups were not ready to hold formal peace talks.

In a rare instance of the coalition's political and military components finding agreement, the statement was signed by the political offices of powerful Islamist factions such as Ahrar Al Sham and those backed by the United States, such as Division 101.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Friday that President Bashar al-Assad's government was ready to participate in de Mistura's initiative, although he said any outcome would be non-binding.

"We consider that the "work groups" initiative in its current form and its unclear mechanisms provides the perfect environment to reproduce the regime," the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces said in a statement.

It said the plan ignored "the majority" of the relevant U.N. resolutions on Syria, including those on ridding the country of its chemical weapons and allowing unfettered humanitarian access.

The statement was issued after the coalition held meetings in Istanbul this week to discuss de Mistura's plans.

This week Moscow launched its first air strikes on Syria amid claims that rebel groups backed by governments opposing Syria's President Bashar al-Assad rather than Islamic State militants were being targeted.

A source involved in Syrian negotiations said the opposition had condemned Moscow launching its first air strikes on Syria.

An announcement that the groups would meet in mid-October was likely to be put off, the source said, on condition of anonymity.

The statement from the opposition groups reiterated that Assad and the "pillars of his regime" have no place in a future Syria or a transitional government.

De Mistura has said the working groups could be a step toward a "Syrian-owned framework document" that would provide for a transitional governing body, procedures for national dialogue, a constitution drafting process and transitional justice issues.

(Reporting by Dasha Afanasieva and Tom Miles; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

- Reuters


Migrants break into Channel Tunnel, rail services disrupted

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎01:45:22 PMGo to full article
LILLE/LONDON: Around 200 migrants tried to get into the Channel Tunnel from the French side overnight, clashing with staff and police and forcing a temporary suspension of rail services, a spokesman for Eurotunnel said.

Rail services resumed on Saturday morning but traffic was slow due to continued safety checks, the company said.

Migrants gather on the road as others board lorries that queue on the access road to reach the ferry terminal in Calais, France, October 3, 2015. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

The incident was the latest in a series involving migrants who are camped around the northern French port of Calais in the hope of reaching Britain.

The migrants broke into Eurotunnel's French terminal at 0030 local time (2330 BST), with 120 entering the tunnel before being intercepted by French police as far as 15 kilometres inside the tunnel, the company and police said.

"Such a large group had no chance of reaching the UK, so this was clearly an organised attack aimed at drawing media attention to the desperate situation of the migrants who are stuck in Calais," Eurotunnel said in a statement.

Rail services resumed as of 0600 GMT, with passenger services operating in both directions, but were subject to some delays, Eurotunnel said.

Calais is one of the flashpoints in a much wider pan-European immigration crisis. European countries are struggling to agree on how best to tackle the huge inflows of people fleeing conflicts or poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

Migrants in makeshift camps outside Calais known as the "jungle" regularly try to reach Britain by hiding in lorries and trains.

A tightening of security at Calais' sea port in recent months prompted increased attempts to access the Channel Tunnel, leading to the deaths of several migrants.

France and Britain have pledged to step up security at the tunnel after incidents this summer caused tensions between the two EU member states.

(Reporting by Pierre Savary and Kate Holton, writing by Gus Trompiz, editing by Gareth Jones)

- Reuters


Investors brace for stocks to fall again ahead of earnings

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎01:42:01 PMGo to full article
NEW YORK: The global market volatility of the past month that sent U.S. stocks to their worst quarter in four years shows no signs of letting up just because the calendar turned to October.

Investors say they are bracing for another leg down in the S&P 500 stock index despite its positive showing last week by increasing cash and other defensive positions in their portfolios.

Traders working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (AFP/Jewel Samad)

"Do I think we go into a bear market? No. Can we inch toward it? Absolutely," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.

With the backdrop of slowing jobs growth in the U.S. and the collapse of global commodity prices, third quarter corporate results will take on a heightened significance when companies begin reporting them next week, analysts said. Alcoa Inc, traditionally the first company to report its results, is scheduled to announce its third quarter earnings after the market closes on Oct. 8.

Overall, corporate earnings are expected to fall by 4.1 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data. That figure is skewed, however, by an expected 65 percent fall in energy sector results.

"The single most determinant variable is going to be earnings at this point," said Mark Freeman, chief investment officer at Dallas-based Westwood Holdings Group. He has been raising his cash levels, and at the same moving more of his portfolio into healthcare and technology companies that show signs of growth.

"The market continues to narrow and narrow. We're not about to fall into a bear market, but I'm starting to think the raging bull market is over," he said.

A weaker than expected U.S. employment report for September on Friday diminished inflation expectations, and the prospects for a dim U.S. corporate earnings season, are all factors fanning worries that the economic recovery could be derailed.

Concerns about the global economy has fueled a series of deep declines and snap-back rallies over the last month, as investors look for surer footing. The S&P index had fallen more than 10 percent from the record high it reached May 20, and after starting with a selloff on Friday, closed up 1.42 percent, still down 8.6 percent from its recent high.

Investors pulled US$22 billion out of U.S. equity funds in the third quarter, while putting a record US$17 billion into U.S. Treasury funds, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Those investors have had few places to hide. Of the 21 major financial asset benchmarks tracked by Reuters, only two - the U.S. dollar and 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds - have posted positive returns so far this year, leaving investors with the worst financial market returns since the financial crisis in 2008.

The yield of the benchmark 10-year Treasury fell below 2.0 percent on Friday for the first time since late August on concerns about growth in the U.S. economy.

"There are some wicked winds swirling around from a macro perspective and you can't afford to be complacent," said Alan Gayle, head of asset allocation at Atlanta-based RidgeWorth Investments, who said he has been raising the cash levels in his portfolios until the market stabilizes.

The Federal Reserve's decision in September to delay raising interest rates from financial crisis-era levels is exacerbating the uncertainty behind the market's large swings, said Jonathan Golub, chief U.S. market strategist at RBC Capital Markets.

"The market wants to see the economic conditions normalize. It's starting to think that something is broken here and it makes them uncomfortable," he said.

Fedwatchers suggest Friday's lackluster jobs report would cause the Fed to further delay raising interest rates until 2016, prolonging market volatility into next year.

To be sure, some investors say that heightened volatility is welcome.

"This can create wonderful opportunities, and we're actively looking to take advantage of egregious pricing," said Connor Browne, managing director of equities at fund manager Thornburg Investment Management.

(Reporting by David Randall, Caroline Valetkevitch and Sinead Carew; Editing by Clive McKeef, Linda Stern and Chizu Nomiyama)

- Reuters


Nine dead, dozens wounded in air strike on Kunduz hospital

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎01:40:11 PMGo to full article
KABUL: A suspected US air strike on a hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz on Saturday (Oct 3) left nine MSF staff dead, in a bombardment the charity said continued for more than 30 minutes after Washington was informed.

Dozens more were seriously wounded at the facility, a key medical lifeline that has been running "beyond capacity" during fighting that saw the Taliban seize control of the northern provincial capital for several days.

Smoke rises near an Afghan military base during fighting between Taliban militants and Afghan security forces in Kunduz on Oct 1, 2015. (Photo: AFP/Wakil Kohsar)

The strike early Saturday left the building engulfed in flames, with photos posted by Doctors Without Borders showing their staff shocked and dazed.

"At 2.10am (2040 GMT) local time ... the MSF trauma centre in Kunduz was hit several times during sustained bombing and was very badly damaged," the organisation, known by its French initials, said.

"It is with deep sadness that we confirm so far the death of nine MSF staff during the bombing ... 37 people were seriously wounded ... There are many patients and staff who remain unaccounted for."

It said the bombing continued for more than 30 minutes after American and Afghan military officials in Kabul and Washington were first informed. "All parties to the conflict, including in Kabul and Washington, were clearly informed of the precise location (GPS coordinates) of the MSF facilities," the statement added.

The Afghan defense ministry expressed sadness but in a statement said "a group of terrorists armed with light and heavy weapon... were using the hospital building as a position to target Afghan forces and civilians".

NATO conceded US forces may have been behind the strike but has not so far commented on MSF's specific claims. "US forces conducted an air strike in Kunduz city at 2.15am (local time) ... against individuals threatening the force," a NATO statement said.

"The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility. This incident is under investigation."

Saturday's bombing came after Taliban insurgents overran the northern Afghan city on Monday. It was the first major city to be captured by militants since 2001.

MSF said some 105 patients and their caregivers, as well as more than 80 international and local MSF staff were in the hospital at the time of the bombing.


The blackened building was filled with the smell of burning flesh and some bodies were charred beyond recognition, said Qiamudeen, a 31-year-old shopkeeper whose neighbour was killed in the strike.

"I was shocked, emotional and in tears when I reached the hospital," Qiamudeen, who goes by one name, told AFP.

Another resident said he was anxiously trying to contact six friends, all doctors and nurses at MSF. "I don't have any news from them and they may have been killed," he told AFP.

He said many people were too afraid to leave their homes to check on wounded relatives because of sporadic firefights between troops and Taliban militants. The Afghan government insists the city is firmly in their control.


The MSF trauma centre in Kunduz is the only medical facility in the whole northeastern region of Afghanistan that can deal with major injuries.

"We are deeply shocked by the attack, the killing of our staff... and the heavy toll it has inflicted on healthcare in Kunduz," MSF director of operations Bart Janssens said.

"We do not yet have the final casualty figures, but our medical team are providing first aid and treating the injured patients. We urge all parties to respect the safety of health facilities and staff."

The International Committee of the Red Cross said the strike was "an appalling tragedy".

"Such attacks against health workers and facilities undermine the capacity of humanitarian organisations to assist the Afghan people at a time when they most urgently need it."

Kunduz is facing a humanitarian crisis, with thousands of civilians caught in the crossfire between government forces and insurgents. At least 60 people are known to have died and 400 wounded in recent fighting.

As violence spreads in neighbouring Badakhshan, Takhar and Baghlan provinces, concerns are mounting that the seizure of Kunduz was merely the opening gambit in a new, bolder Taliban strategy to tighten the insurgency's grip across northern Afghanistan.

The Taliban's offensive in Kunduz, their biggest tactical success since 2001, marks a major blow for Afghanistan's Western-trained forces.

In a statement, the Taliban accused "barbaric American forces" of deliberately carrying out Saturday's strike, which "killed and wounded tens of doctors, nurses and patients".

US-led NATO forces ended their combat mission in Afghanistan last December, though a 13,000-strong force remains for training and counter-terrorism operations.

- AFP/rw/ec


Tennis: Hibino wins first title in Tashkent

‎03 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎01:16:44 PMGo to full article
TASHKENT: Japan's Nao Hibino upset rising Croatian star Donna Vekic 6-2, 6-2 to win her first WTA Tour title in Tashkent on Saturday (Oct 3).

The 20-year-old from Aichi had already caught the eye by defeating defending champion Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia 6-2, 6-2 in the semis.

And she was dominant throughout against the 19-year-old Vekic, who three years ago reached the final in Tashkent only to lose to Irina-Camelia Begu.

Hibino has seven second-tier ITF titles to her name but this was her first appearance in a WTA Tour final.

- AFP/ec


FAS assisting Balestier Khalsa-SRC match bribery probe

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎04:11:41 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is assisting authorities in investigations into an alleged bribery case linked to a League Cup match between Balestier Khalsa FC and Singapore Recreation Club (SRC) last year.

FAS said in a statement on Friday (Oct 2) that the match involved took place on Jul 19, 2014. The S.League which Balestier Khalsa is a part of, has been informed as as well.

Balestier Khalsa FC playing in an S.League match in September 2015. (Photo: Balestier Khalsa FC's Facebook page)

FAS said it has always adopted a "zero-tolerance policy" towards all forms of corruption, including match-fixing.

Said FAS: "We take a very serious view on this matter ... We would like to reiterate that any player or official found guilty in a court of law for football corruption offences, or on sufficient proof being established before the FAS Council, will be dealt with severely and with the full extent of our laws, including the imposition of a permanent suspension from taking part in football management, membership and/or the activities of the FAS."

Investigations are ongoing, the association added.

- CNA/hs


Two dead in Sydney shooting, attack not linked to terrorism: Police

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎04:11:15 PMGo to full article
SYDNEY: The New South Wales Police Force confirmed two people have died after “a number of shots were fired” outside the NSW police headquarters building on Charles Street in Sydney’s business district of Parramatta Friday (Oct 2).

Police confirmed two dead

A file photo shows the Sydney Opera House. Two people died in a shooting incident in Sydney on October 2, 2015. (Photo: William West/AFP)

A civilian police employee, who has not been identified, was leaving the building in Parramatta, western Sydney, around 4.30pm (0630 GMT) when he was shot once by a gunman at close range, police commissioner Andrew Scipione said.

The gunman - whose identity has also been withheld - remained on the street and later discharged more shots at an officer guarding the headquarters before being killed in an exchange of gunfire with other policemen. The attack did not appear to be linked to terrorism, said authorities.

"An employee of the NSW (New South Wales state) police force has been callously murdered here today," Scipione told reporters near the crime scene.

"This is a very sobering time for us and I have viewed a number of pieces of footage, I can tell you that this was a brutal... terrible crime."

Scipione said the employee was "deliberately targeted" by the gunman - who was wearing a "long pair of long trousers and a flowing top" and appeared to be operating alone - although he did not give further details. He said it was also possible the gunman remained on the street after shooting the employee as he wanted to "commit suicide by cop".

The shooting came as Australians started to mark the so-called grand final long weekend, with thousands expected to pack public venues as top teams from the National Rugby League and Australian Football League square off in the season's last matches.

"I can assure you that we shouldn't be letting an event like this disturb what we do as a nation," Scipione said, but added that police were assessing whether heightened security was needed in some Sydney spots over the long weekend.

The commissioner said although there was as yet no link to terrorism, homicide investigators assisted by the counter-terrorism unit were "keeping an open mind" about why the attack took place.

"At this stage we've got nothing to link this event to any terrorist-related activity but we could not say that that wasn't the case. I want to ensure that we don't jump to conclusions."

Australia has stepped up its efforts in countering terrorism, lifting its terror threat alert to high in September last year, conducting several raids and enacting numerous national security laws.

In December 2014, Iranian-born self-styled cleric Man Haron Monis and two hostages were killed following a 17-hour siege at a central Sydney cafe.

- CNA/AFP/Reuters/pp/yt


Gauge of US investment plans down more than initially thought

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎04:10:20 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON,: A gauge of U.S. investment plans slipped more in August than initially estimated, giving a cautionary sign for the economic outlook.

New orders for non-military capital goods outside of aviation fell 0.8 percent in August, the Commerce Department said on Friday.

The frame of a 2015 Ford Mustang vehicle moves down the production line at the Ford Motor Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Flat Rock, Michigan, August 20, 2015. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

The government had previously reported that this gauge, which is a leading indicator of business investment, had fallen 0.2 percent during the month.

Shipments of this category of goods also fell, declining a sharper-than-initially reported 0.4 percent and giving a bearish signal for third-quarter economic growth.

New orders for overall U.S. factory goods fell 1.7 percent in August, Friday's report showed. Analysts had expected new orders for factory goods to fall 1.2 percent.

((Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Andrea Ricci))

- Reuters


Wal-Mart cuts 450 jobs at home office in reorganization: memo

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎04:05:22 PMGo to full article
REUTERS: Wal-Mart Stores Inc is cutting 450 jobs at its headquarters in Arkansas as part of a reorganization of the retailer's management structure, according to an internal memo circulated to staff on Friday.

The cuts are aimed at making the world's largest retailer by revenue a "more nimble organization" and is part of a review that will lead to "pulling back in some areas and investing in others," Chief Executive Doug McMililon said in the memo, which was seen by Reuters.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Atlanta; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

- Reuters


Global weakness weighing on US job growth: White House adviser

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎04:05:20 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON: Economic weakness overseas is spilling onto America's shores and weighing on U.S. job growth, a top White House economic adviser said on Friday after the government reported that non-farm employment expanded by just 142,000 in September.

"There is no doubt that the events happening in the rest of the world are affecting the U.S. economy," Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Jason Furman told CNBC. "Broadly, we're really happy to see the unemployment rate where it is but the events in the rest of the world, they matter for us here in the United States."

(Reporting by Timothy Ahmann and Megan Cassella; Editing by Bill Trott)

- Reuters


'Sense of regret' in Vatican over pope meeting with gay marriage opponent

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎04:00:23 PMGo to full article
VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis' meeting last week with an American woman at the centre of a row over gay marriage was not something he had sought and should not be seen as an endorsement of her views, the Vatican said on Friday.

One Vatican official said there was "a sense of regret" that the pope had ever seen Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who went to jail in September for refusing to honour a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and issue same-sex marriage licences.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis celebrates her release from the Carter County Detention center in Grayson, Kentucky in a September 8, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Chris Tilley/Files

The encounter in Washington was originally kept secret and has sparked widespread debate since it became public this week, proving something of a misstep for the pontiff.

Looking to smother the fierce controversy, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Davis was one of "several dozen" people who had been invited by the Vatican ambassador to see Francis during his visit to the U.S. capital.

"The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects," Lombardi said in a statement.

"The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature (Vatican embassy) was with one of his former students and his family," the statement said.

The meeting with Davis disappointed many liberal Catholics but delighted conservatives, who saw it as a sign that the pope was clearly condemning a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage.

Davis said on Wednesday that the pope had thanked her for her courage and told her to "stay strong", adding that knowing that he agreed with what she was doing "kind of validates everything".

While Lombardi declined to take questions on the incident, his assistant, Canadian priest Father Tom Rosica, laid the blame on the Vatican embassy in Washington, saying it had underestimated the impact of Davis's presence at the reception.


"I'm not sure that they (the embassy) realised how significant it would be," he told reporters.

Rosica said he did not believe the pope was even indirectly involved in inviting Davis, adding that the greeting was very brief and that she and her husband were part of a line of guests at the Washington embassy before the pope left for New York.

He said the pope was most likely not fully aware of how controversial a figure Davis had become.

"I would simply say her case is a very complex case. It has all kinds of intricacies. Was there an opportunity to brief the pope on this beforehand? I don't think so. Was an in depth process done? No, probably not," he said.

Asked if the pope had been set up intentionally by someone in the embassy, Rosica said: "No, reading all of the information, listening to all of the facts, these things happen."

Rosica said he also doubted that the Davis and her husband spent 15 minutes with the pope, as her lawyer had reported, saying "there simply was not enough time".

Davis has said her beliefs as an Apostolic Christian prevent her from issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples. Her church belongs to a Protestant movement known as Apostolic Pentecostalism.

Rosica said he hoped the Davis incident and its aftermath would not distract from the significance of the U.S. trip.

"The visit was extraordinary ... so to allow this to kind of overshadow it would be very unfortunate. This is not the centrepiece of the papal visit. This is one small part of it, but it is a loaded centrepiece."

(Reporting by Philip Pullella, Editing by Crispian Balmer and Ralph Boulton)

- Reuters


Amicus says likely to delay marketing application for lead drug

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎04:00:20 PMGo to full article
REUTERS: Amicus Therapeutics said it was not likely to submit a marketing application for its lead drug by the end of the year after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked the company better compile their data on the drugs trials.

The biotechnology company's stock slumped as much as 59 percent to US$5.69 in early trading on Friday.

Amicus's drug, migalastat, is being developed as an oral treatment for patients with Fabry disease, an inherited disorder that causes an abnormal build-up of fat in blood vessel walls.

The accumulation damages cells, leading to pain, kidney failure, heart attack and stroke.

Amicus on Friday said the FDA asked it to better integrate the data it has from various trials on the drug.

Late-stage data on the drug announced in August last year showed the drug was as effective as enzyme replacement therapies (ERTs) — the standard of care.

(Reporting by Natalie Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)

- Reuters


Greece urges health precautions after suspect cholera case on Kos

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎04:00:19 PMGo to full article
ATHENS: Greek health authorities urged the public to take health precautions on Friday after a suspected cholera case was discovered on Kos island, a tourist destination and entry point for migrants from the Middle East and Asia.

An official for the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention told Reuters a 79-year-old Dutch tourist was transferred from Kos for tests and treatment in an Athens hospital with symptoms of cholera, including bad diarrhea and high fever, but the diagnosis was not yet confirmed.

Syrian refugees camp by the port as the passenger ship "Eleftherios Venizelos" is docked on the Greek island of Kos, August 15, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

"We are proceeding with more examinations to avoid the danger of a contagious disease," the center said in a statement.

It told citizens to wash their hands and observe strict hygiene rules before consuming food and water.

Kos has seen an influx of thousands of migrants and refugees from countries including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan who cross the Aegean Sea from nearby Turkey. In September, Iraq's first major cholera outbreak since 2012 rose to at least 121 cases.

Cholera is extremely rare in Greece, with the last confirmed case reported in 1993 and before that in 1986, according to World Health Organization Data.

"There are fears that a case may have been transmitted through the migratory wave," the center official said.

Cholera is spread mainly through contaminated water and food and, if untreated, can cause death by dehydration and kidney failure within hours. It affects people of all ages, but children are at the highest risk.

There are two cholera vaccines approved by the World Health Organization, but they both require two doses at least a week apart – a factor which reduces their effectiveness if an outbreak of cholera has already begun.

(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris, Renee Maltezou and Lefteris Papadimas in Athens and Kate Kelland in London)

- Reuters


US job growth fades in September; jobless rate at 5.1%

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:58:46 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON: The US job market faltered in September and hiring in prior months was slower than thought, the Labor Department said on Friday (Oct 2) in a report pointing to a slowing economy.

The September jobs report gave a downbeat picture of the labour market as the Federal Reserve considers its first interest rate hike in more than nine years, and suggested the economy was being impacted by concerns about China's economic slowdown, which has roiled financial markets.

File photo: Job seekers wait in line to meet prospective employers at a job fair in New York City. (Photo: AFP/Spencer Platt)

Job growth came in at 142,000 jobs in September, well below analysts’ estimates of 205,000. The already-weak August jobs number of 173,000 was revised sharply lower to 136,000, surprising analysts who generally had anticipated an upward revision. The July number also was lowered, making a combined 59,000 fewer jobs than previously reported.

"Today's employment report has most likely removed even the last small chance for a rate hike as early as this month," said Harm Bandholz, chief US economist at Unicredit.

In a broader look at the slowdown, the three-month average was a tepid 167,000 jobs a month, underlining an economy that was losing momentum in the third quarter. Just a month ago, the average had been 221,000, showing resilience to the turmoil triggered by China's shock currency devaluation in mid-August.

There were other signs of persistent weaknesses that the Fed views as showing slack in the jobs market. The labour force participation rate, already extremely low, weakened further to 62.4 per cent from the 62.6 per cent of the prior three months.

"Adding to the negative tone of today's report is the fact that the 0.2 percentage point drop in the participation rate to a 38- year low did not spur a further decline in the unemployment rate," Bandholz said.

Some 579,000 people dropped out of the workforce, helping to leave the unemployment rate in September unchanged at a seven-year low of 5.1 per cent, as expected. The number of unemployed people also was little changed at 7.9 million.

Muted wage growth, an indicator of weak hiring demand, also slowed a bit. Average hourly earnings fell by one cent to US$25.09, following a gain of nine cents in August.

"Job growth clearly is fading and has been fading for some time," said Robert Brusca of FAO Economics.

- AFP/ms


Parisse returns to lead Italy against Ireland

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:55:26 PMGo to full article
LONDON: Italy captain Sergio Parisse returns to the team among five changes for the Rugby World Cup Pool D match against Ireland at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday.

The talismanic number eight replaced Samuela Vunisa and will take over as skipper from hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini, who misses the match due to a thigh injury.

Flanker Simon Favaro makes his first World Cup start after playing 19 minutes as a replacement in the opening 32-10 defeat by France.

Italy beat Canada 23-18 in their second game and sit third in the group but they must overcome Ireland to retain a chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals.

Team: 1-Matias Aguero, 2-Andrea Manici, 3-Lorenzo Cittadini,

4-Ouintin Geldenhuys, 5-Josh Furno, 6-Francesco Minto, 7-Simone Favaro, 8-Sergio Parisse (captain); 9-Edoardo Gori, 10-Tommaso Allan, 11-Giovanbattista Venditti, 12-Gonzalo Garcia, 13-Michele Capagnaro, 14-Leonardo Sarto, 15-Luke McLean.

Replacements: 16-Davide Giazzon, 17-Michele Rizzo, 18-Dario Chistolini, 19-Alessandro Zanni, 20-Mauro Bergamasco, 21-Guglielmo Palazzani, 22-Carlo Canna, 23-Tommaso Benvenuti.

(Reporting by Ed Osmond; editing by Justin Palmer)

- Reuters


Real jump the gun on Ronaldo scoring record

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:55:24 PMGo to full article
MADRID: Real Madrid paid homage to Cristiano Ronaldo as their outright leading scorer on Friday even though the official statistics show he has yet to overhaul former Spain striker Raul.

Real, and some Spanish media, believe an effort five years ago that was deemed a goal by centre back Pepe should have been awarded to the Portugal captain and he therefore has 324 goals, one more than Raul.

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (C) poses with team mates during a ceremony at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain October 2, 2015. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

The disputed goal came in a La Liga game at Real Sociedad in September 2010 when Ronaldo's shot arrowed towards the Sociedad wall, looped up off Pepe's back and over goalkeeper Claudio Bravo into the net.

"I would never have imagined when I put on this shirt for the first time that I would be the team's best goal scorer," Ronaldo said at a presentation at the Bernabeu stadium where he received a trophy marking his achievement.

"I am very happy," added the 30-year-old. "Firstly, I want to thank my team mates because without them it would never have been possible."

Ronaldo's next chance to officially break the record is Sunday's La Liga match at Atletico Madrid.

He needed a mere 308 matches across seven seasons to equal Raul's tally of 323, amassed in 741 games over 16 years.

(Drops extraneous word in second paragraph)

(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Clare Fallon)

- Reuters


Legless powerlifter presses on in ‘most difficult para-sport’

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:53:09 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Nearly 30 years after losing his left leg to cancer, powerlifter Kalai Vanen will make his debut at December’s ASEAN Para Games, representing Singapore in what he believes to be “the most difficult para-sport” of all.

Whereas able-bodied powerlifting involves the deadlift, squat and bench press disciplines, para-powerlifters perform only a modified version of the bench press.

Para-powerlifter Kalai Vanen who will be competing at the ASEAN Para Games in December 2015. (Photo: Ngau Kai Yan)

“You lie flat on a bench, so you can’t use your lower body for support,” Vanen explained to Channel NewsAsia on Fri (Oct 2) before a training session at Fengshan Community Club.

“And it requires a bit of precision, because we’re required to bring the bar to the chest, keep it motionless and press and make sure our arms lock out evenly,” added the 56-year-old.

“I’ve been lifting weights since school, as a young boy… this requires a different set of muscles, a technique I’ve never tried and it’s a whole new learning experience.”

kalai vanen short phone clip

Vanen, who works as a personal trainer, only started powerlifting in February. This is the first time the sport will feature at the bi-annual Games, to be hosted by Singapore from Dec 3 - 9.

“A little bit nervous,” laughed the father-of-two.

Vanen is likely to contest the under 97kg category at the Games. He and fellow personal trainer Melvyn Yeo who has cerebral palsy make up Singapore’s para-powerlifting team. Both are coached by Muhammad Hidayat, 25.

“Kalai is very competitive,” said Hidayat. “He always looks forward to what weight he can carry. Even if his ability is not there yet, his desire is always there. He always says he wants to be champion.”

“Kalai will do well at the Games. He’ll definitely break his personal record (150kg). Provided he trains really hard, with focus ... maybe a bronze medal?”


Doctors first discovered a tumour in Vanen’s leg when he was 22 and signed on as an army officer, but he only had it amputated seven years later because “it was difficult to mentally let go”, he admitted.

Vanen was training even as he prepared for the amputation. (Photo courtesy of Kalai Vanen)

The loss of a limb, however, did not stop Vanen from taking up para-water skiing in his 30s and he even went on to represent Singapore at the world championships in France.

What followed was a hiatus from sport as he worked as an insurance agent and helped his wife with her real estate company. But upon entering mid-life, he found himself back in the business of sweat and grime as a personal trainer with a long list of distinguished certifications both global and local. He even does Crossfit training.

“The last thing you want to think of is your age. It’s whether you like to do it, whether you can train to do it, and if somebody is able to teach you, why not?” Vanen said. “If I’m not injured, and as long as I’m motivated, I’ll carry on.”

Vanen training for the World Disabled Water Ski Championship in France, 1993. (Photo: Kalai Vanen's Facebook)

These days, his clientele consists of the able-bodied, but he hopes to work with people with disabilities or other para-athletes one day.

“Disabled people first use sport as recreation or rehabilitation,” said Vanen. “Eventually it’s up to parents or coaches to recognise that someone has potential to be involved in competition.”

The prospect of injury, he argued, is minimised with proper training and technique. Of greater concern to Vanen is the level of recognition accorded to para-athletes.

“There’re not many of us. As you know, sports doesn’t really pay you, maybe now there’s a bit more support and recognition for athletes, but beyond that it’s self-motivation,” he said.

“They should pay us a million dollars like they pay the other athletes,” Vanen laughed. “Even Malaysians get one million (ringgit)... I’ll take that with the exchange rate. S$300,000 also can!”

Under Singapore’s Multi-Million Dollar Awards Programme, athletes stand to earn S$1 million for an individual Olympic gold medal, while Malaysia’s National Sports Council offers MYR1 million for the same achievement. At the last Paralympics in 2012, the Singapore National Paralympic Council offered S$200,000 for an individual gold medal.

Vanen, who dreams of qualifying for the Paralympics in Brazil next year, added: “Though I said that jokingly, I am hoping that disabled athletes get the same recognition as their able-bodied counterparts.”

“The sum of money is just a symbol of the recognition that all disabled athletes look for.”

- CNA/jo


Drone targets Islamic State position near Syria's Raqqa - Observatory

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:50:28 PMGo to full article
BEIRUT: A drone targeted an Islamic State position near the Syrian city of Raqqa on Friday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Raqqa city is a major operations hub for Islamic State in Syria and the area has been targeted by a U.S.-led coalition bombing the jihadist group in Syria.

A frame grab taken from video released by the Russian Defence Ministry October 1, 2015, shows Russian jets hitting a target in Syria, which the Kremlin says includes a list of well-known militant organizations and not only Islamic State. REUTERS/Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Handout

Russian warplanes that have started operations in support of President Bashar al-Assad this week also bombed the Raqqa area on Thursday, the Russian defence ministry said.

There was no immediate information on casualties and it was not clear who was operating the drone.

(Writing by Tom Perry; editing by John Stonestreet)

- Reuters


Wall St. tumbles after disappointing jobs data

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:50:22 PMGo to full article
REUTERS: Wall Street opened sharply lower on Friday after data showed a less-than-expected rise in nonfarm payrolls in September, raising doubts that the economy is strong enough to allow the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this year.

The three major indexes were down more than 1.5 percent.

U.S. employers added 142,000 jobs, compared with 136,000 in August and below the 203,000 that economists polled by Reuters had expected. August figures were also revised sharply lower.

The jobless rate held steady at 5.1 percent but average hourly wages fell by a cent to US$25.09 during the month, and were up only 2.2 percent from the same month in 2014.

This is the last payrolls data before the Fed meets later this month.

"It's an absolutely weak report all around," said Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets.

"So if you have a weak report here in combination with some of the other weakness that we are seeing across the globe, the odds (of a rate hike) get dinged for December."

U.S. interest rates futures rose sharply after the jobs report. Odds of a December rate hike fell to a little over 27 percent, compared with 44 percent shortly before the report.

At 9:35 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 254.08 points, or 1.56 percent, at 16,017.93, the S&P 500 was down 29.58 points, or 1.54 percent, at 1,894.24 and the Nasdaq composite was down 70.53 points, or 1.52 percent, at 4,556.55.

Nine of the 10 major sectors were lower, with the financial index's 1.83 percent fall leading the decliners. The utilities index was the only index in the black.

Shares of major U.S. banks including JPMorgan , Citigroup , Bank of America and Wells Fargo were all sharply down.

Bonds prices rallied and the dollar fell 1 percent against a basket of major currencies after the report.

The CBOE Volatility index , known as the "fear gauge", jumped 7.5 percent to 24.31, above its long-term average of 20.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq closed slightly higher on Thursday in a choppy start to the fourth quarter as investors waited for the jobs report and the quarterly earnings season.

Financial markets have been roiled by worries about the global economy. The Fed's decision to keep rates unchanged added to the uncertainty.

A small hike in rates could help calm volatile equity markets and start giving the Fed some ammunition to deal with any future economic slowdowns.

Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer is scheduled to speak in Boston at 1:30 p.m.

Micron Technology was up 3.9 percent at US$15.35 after the chipmaker posted better-than-expected quarterly earnings.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 2,197 to 477. On the Nasdaq, 1,927 issues fell and 374 advanced.

The S&P 500 index showed no new 52-week highs and 40 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 3 new highs and 83 new lows.

(Reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Additional reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

- Reuters


Tennis: Venus downs Vinci to avenge heartbroken Serena

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:49:19 PMGo to full article
WUHAN, China: Venus Williams beat Roberta Vinci in a closely fought three set match Friday (Oct 2), settling a score on behalf of her sister Serena, to reach the Wuhan Open finals.

The seven-time Grand Slam-winner was a match point down to the Italian at one stage, but eventually saw her off in a final set tie break.

Venus Williams of USA returns a shot to Johanna Konta of Britain during the women's singles quarter-final match of the Wuhan Open tennis tournament in Wuhan, in China's Hubei province. (AFP PHOTO/FRED DUFOUR)

"I mean (there were) a lot of ups and downs. I hope that on a day when I'm playing how I'd like it's a more straightforward match. She's definitely tricky. She finds a way to hang in there," said Williams.

Williams looked comfortable going into the third set, securing a 4-1 lead over Vinci. But the shock US Open finalist pushed back, evening the score before finally falling to the American veteran 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4).

"I'm of course really sad because I lost. But if I think all the tournament (it) is okay. I played incredible, won four matches here, (a) semi final, 7-6 in the third against Venus," said a stoic Vinci.

It was Vinci's second consecutive semi-final meet against a member of the Williams family, after downing world number one Serena in the US Open, an upset that denied her a calendar-year Grand Slam and a record-equalling 22nd major title.

"If I could I would give this win to Serena at the US Open, but it doesn't work like that in tennis," Williams said on court after the match.

Williams - who with 46 career titles has more wins to her name than the other semi-finalists combined - will face Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza on Saturday. Muguruza downed Germany's Angelique Kerber in two sets 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), despite falling during the second set tie break and injuring her ankle.

The 21-year-old Spaniard and world number eight entered the semi-finals as the highest ranked player, after retirements and shock defeats cleared out the top seeds. Muguruza will rise to a career-high of number five having made the semi-finals, and would reach number four if she takes the title Saturday.

Williams will re-enter the top 20 after her semi-final performance, and still has an outside chance of qualifying for the season finale in Singapore if she wins at Wuhan and has a strong performance in next week's China Open.

- AFP/yt


PM Lee's swearing-in address highlights sense of renewed purpose: Analysts

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:38:36 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's speech at the Cabinet swearing-in ceremony on Thursday (Oct 1) reflected a sense of renewed purpose, and was "upbeat" and "inspirational", according to political analysts Channel NewsAsia spoke with.

They added that the speech also spells out a longer-term vision for Singapore, compared to the 2011 swearing-in address, where the mood reflected a need to focus on resolving issues such as housing and immigration.

The newly-sworn in Cabinet in a group photo with President Tony Tan. (Photo: Justin Ong)

Observers noted that Mr Lee’s speech highlighted a sense of purpose and mission for the new Government, especially when it comes to leadership renewal.

“His speech last evening was a constant reiteration of leadership renewal and succession. Not just about putting newer and younger faces but getting this team ready for challenges ahead,” said Professor Eugene Tan from Singapore Management University.

“He's acutely aware that fourth generation does not have that long gestation period that many of his colleagues and Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's cabinet had. So the task ahead is great. When we look at the overall context of the speech, renewal was something he wanted to continue to emphasise and I think in that was an appeal to Singaporeans to support that fourth generation.”

Mr Lee's speech also focused on setting out the "next chapter" for Singapore. He spoke at length about the future economy, as well as lifelong learning and creating a more liveable city.

"There was a constant use of 'you' 'we' and 'us', talking about co-authorship of the Singapore story, the next lap,” said Prof Tan. “All this indicated that over the last four to five years, the deep engagement has gone down well with Singaporeans, and so I think his Government will probably want to continue to build on that."

Mr Lee said the Government will roll out more focused discussions with the public on Singapore's future. These will build on the "Our Singapore Conversation" initiative announced in 2012. Professor Tan said “Our Singapore Conversation” had provided the government a good platform and experience in getting Singaporeans' views on policy matters.

Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies Dr Gillian Koh added that the conversations resulted from the 2011 General Election.

"While the Government might seem or feel it is well intentioned in the way it crafts policy, it must not lose touch of where people are at. So even when you talk about jobs and wages, it cannot be at a macro level where you say, 'How many jobs do we want and how many in which industry', but you have to go back down to the people whom you are creating those jobs for,” she explained. “Do they want those jobs, do they feel excited about it? Do they feel they have skills for it? Or do they want to do something completely different? Where will the two meet?”

Dr Koh also said that Mr Lee's reference to the SG50 musical in his speech could illustrate the Government's acceptance of a diversity of voices.

"He talked about a community effort to put on a musical celebrating SG50,” she said. “Everybody could choose their roles, they could express their creativity and their interests in different ways, but that it does add to one great project, one great outcome. That's the same way, and that there is no need for there to be group think, that there is one way ahead alone."

Dr Koh said there is a recognition that the strength in diversity, will pull the nation towards making Singapore special - a theme that Mr Lee has often emphasised.

- CNA/xq


Indonesia forest fires could become worst on record: NASA

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:29:58 PMGo to full article
JAKARTA: Forest fires blanketing Southeast Asia in choking haze are on track to become among the worst on record, scientists warn, with a prolonged dry season hampering efforts to curb the crisis.

Malaysia, Singapore and large expanses of Indonesia have suffered for weeks from acrid smoke billowing from fires on plantations and peatlands that are being illegally cleared by burning.

A forest fire is seen from a helicopter operated by the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB) over Langgam District, Riau province on the island of Sumatra on September 23, 2015. (REUTERS/Regina Safri/Antara Foto)

The crisis grips the region nearly every year during the dry season, flaring diplomatic tensions among the neighbours as flights are grounded, schools close and pollution levels reach hazardous highs.

But the current outbreak is one of the worst and longest-lasting in years, with an El Nino weather system making conditions drier than usual in Indonesia and keeping much-needed rain at bay.

Scientists at NASA now warn this year's outbreak is on a trajectory similar to 1997 -- widely regarded as the most serious haze event on record -- and could exceed those unprecedented levels.

"Conditions in Singapore and southeastern Sumatra are tracking close to 1997," Robert Field, a Columbia University scientist based at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was quoted as saying by the US science agency.

"If the forecasts for a longer dry season hold, this suggests 2015 will rank among the most severe events on record."

Herry Purnomo, a haze expert at the Indonesia-based Centre for International Forestry Research, agreed the situation was akin to 1997, describing the magnitude of this year's fires as "horrendous".

"I believe the impact of the fires this year will be as bad as 1997, in terms of the cost," he told AFP.

Indonesia has deployed more than 20,000 troops, police and other personnel to Sumatra and Kalimantan to fight the fires through waterbombing and chemically-induced rainfall, and hopes rain will arrive within a month to finally douse the blazes.

Indonesia has faced pressure from its neighbours to address the problem since it first emerged nearly 20 years ago.

Authorities this year say tens of thousands of people across Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia have been forced to seek medical treatment for respiratory problems.

The fires also contribute significantly to climate change. The NASA-linked Global Fire Emissions Database has estimated around 600 million tonnes of greenhouse gases have been released as a result of this year's fires - roughly equivalent to Germany's entire annual output.

- AFP/pp


Pulau Ubin far from sleepy: Researchers

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:26:03 PMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Pulau Ubin is just a short boat ride from mainland Singapore, but it could not be more different, with its rustic charm and laidback vibes. The island officially has 38 residents and efforts to document its living heritage have uncovered quite a few gems.

Recent research centred around the island has shown that there is still a demand for an alternative way of life. And that in itself has brought changes to the island's economy.

Mr Quek Kim Kiang who makes a living catching crabs on Pulau Ubin (Photo: Kimberly Spykerman)

The boat ride to Pulau Ubin (Photo: Kimberly Spykerman)

"One of the things that surprised us is how thriving Ubin is," said anthropologist Vivienne Wee. "It's not at all a declining society. People even come here to work. There are people running grocery stores, caretakers with the Tua Pek Kong Temple, bus drivers. They're all living in (mainland) Singapore, but coming here.

"So there is a thriving economy. And some of them did work in Singapore before, but they've chosen to come back here and work. So it's not that there are no economic opportunities."

Among the stories Dr Wee's team have uncovered is that of drinks seller Wang Ya San, who was born on Pulau Ubin. Her daughter, who shuttles between her home in Tampines and Pulau Ubin, also runs a mobile drinks stall on weekends.

"Life here is more tranquil," said Ms Wang's daughter, Ms Ivy Choo. "My mother has grown up here and is used to the environment. She loves it, that's why she stays here."

Crab catcher Quek Kim Kiang (Photo: Kimberly Spykerman)

There is also 63-year-old Quek Kim Kiang, who has lived on the island for over 20 years. He makes a living catching crabs from the island's mangrove swamps using a traditional hooking technique and sells these crabs for about S$25 a kilogramme. Mr Quek even has a nine-year-old disciple, who comes regularly from the mainland to learn the art of crab-catching.

Said Mr Alvin Tan, assistant chief executive of Policy and Development at NHB: "The project is important because it allows NHB to document and to distil the island's living heritage - in terms of the people's memories, their way of life, the various trades being practised here - so that we can in a sense, document them and preserve them, and hopefully pass them on to future generations."

NHB added that a 20-minute documentary showcasing the island's residents is in the pipeline. Dr Wee's team expects to complete all research work by December or January. The team began work in April. To date, the project has documented different aspects of Pulau Ubin's rich heritage including Kampong life, island economy, and important events - like the annual Tua Pek Kong Festival.

NHB said the findings will be shared with Government agencies and the "Friends of Ubin" network to come up with more "sensitive strategies and initiatives" to sustain the island's rustic charm.

One of the resident dogs on Pulau Ubin (Photo: Kimberly Spykerman)

- CNA/hs


US jobs data disappoints in September

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:25:27 PMGo to full article
REUTERS: U.S. employers slammed the brakes on hiring over the last two months and wages fell in September, raising new doubts the economy is strong enough for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates by the end of this year.


*Payrolls outside of farming rose by 142,000 last month and August figures were revised sharply lower to show only 136,000 jobs added in August, the Labor Department said on Friday.

*That marked the smallest two-month gain in employment in over a year and could fuel fears that the China-led global economic slowdown is sapping America's strength.



“Kind of a 1-2 punch certainly to the economic bulls out there and also those that were anticipating a Fed hike earlier rather than later. Market participants in general will look at this number and say this probably pushes out the probability of a Fed tightening to beyond the October meeting.

“Over the last couple of months, when we have a risk-off trade which is happening at the moment, you typically see dollar weaker versus euro and sterling, and emerging market currencies trading weaker versus the dollar. I wouldn't be surprised to see that kind of trade continue, assuming this risk-off trade (holds) today and perhaps going forward. It is going to be an interesting and volatile day.”


“It was a bit of a surprise because not only was it much weaker than expected but July and August were revised down and not up, so it clearly suggests the economy is a bit weaker than expected. But the takeaway isn’t a faltering economy, it’s that we’ve seen growth slow before and the underlying strength in consumer spending is likely to continue to push growth at about the 2 percent pace we’ve seen throughout the six years of the expansion.

"Everyone was hoping the rebound in the second quarter would follow on into stronger growth and unfortunately that is not the case. While stocks are clearly down in response, there are two other things to pay attention to: One is it makes it much less likely the Federal Reserve starts to hike short term interest rates over the next few months, but I don’t think it removes the Fed’s intent to move rates above zero at some point in the future. The second thing is even with downward revisions and slower growth, this isn’t a precursor to a recession, it is more of the same slow, sluggish, erratic growth that we’ve seen.”


“It’s an absolutely weak report all around, even some of the things we like to look at beneath the surface don’t really ring in a positive way. It’s a soft report.

“Like any good central banker they are not going to let one report dictate, but the reality is for this Fed they are considering a broader array of inputs, not just U.S. data, so if you have a weak report here in combination with some of the other weakness that we are seeing across the globe, the odds (of a rate hike) get dinged for December.”


"This is a weak report that will probably push back the timing of the Fed rate hike to 2016. The dollar will suffer the most against the yen in the short term, although not really against commodity currencies because I would imagine this data would be negative for risk sentiment."


“The economy isn’t as insulated as many would like to believe. The August number was revised lower. The September number was below expectations. Average hourly earnings didn’t improve. The manufacturing workweek shrank. You can’t throw lipstick on this pig of a report.”


STOCKS: U.S. stock index futures dropped sharplyBONDS: U.S. bond prices ralliedFOREX: The dollar fell sharply against the dollar and yen

(Americas Economics and Markets Desk; +1-646 223-6300)

- Reuters


Bayern's Robben still doubtful for Dortmund derby

‎02 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:25:23 PMGo to full article
BERLIN: Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben has recovered from his thigh injury sustained in September but it is still unclear if he can help the undefeated Bundesliga leaders in their clash against rivals Borussia Dortmund on Sunday, coach Pep Guardiola said.

Dutchman Robben was injured in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Iceland last month and has yet to train with the team but Guardiola refused to rule him out of the game against visitors Dortmund, who are in second place, four points off Bayern.

Arjen Robben of the Netherlands (C) fights for the ball with Birkir Bjarnason of Iceland during their Euro 2016 qualifying soccer match in Amsterdam, the Netherlands September 3, 2015. REUTERS/Michael Kooren

"He has not trained with us. Of course I need to see him but he is in the last phase of his (recovery) process," The Spaniard told reporters on Friday. "But I do not know if he can play on Sunday."

Bayern have been in sparkling form even without wingers Robben and Franck Ribery, who has not played since March, with new signings Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman shooting out of the blocks.

The Bavarians, eyeing a record fourth straight Bundesliga title, have won all seven of their league games so far and also crushed Dinamo Zagreb 5-0 on Tuesday to top their Champions League group.

Dortmund, also undefeated, kicked off their campaign with five victories but have stumbled to two consecutive draws in their last two Bundesliga matches.

While football fans across the country and some 200 more nations will be watching Germany's top two teams battle it out for domestic supremacy, Guardiola did not want to place too much importance on this one game.

"It is still only October and only three points are available," he said. "Nothing has been decided. This is no final, it is about three points. After the match nothing will have been decided."

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

- Reuters




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