Keane, McCarthy included in Ireland Euro 2016 squad

The Republic of Ireland’s record goalscorer Robbie Keane made the final 23-man squad for the Euro 2016 named by manager Martin O’Neill on Tuesday after the team’s 2-1 friendly defeat to Belarus in Cork.The LA Galaxy striker’s place appeared to be under…

The Republic of Ireland's record goalscorer Robbie Keane made the final 23-man squad for the Euro 2016 named by manager Martin O'Neill on Tuesday after the team's 2-1 friendly defeat to Belarus in Cork.

The LA Galaxy striker's place appeared to be under threat after suffering a calf problem, but he was named alongside fellow forwards Shane Long and Daryl Murphy.

O'Neill and his assistant Roy Keane also decided to pick Sheffield Wednesday's Keiren Westwood as the third-choice goalkeeper ahead of Millwall stopper David Forde, who started Ireland's qualifying campaign as number one.

Westwood is the only keeper in the squad who plays regular first-team football at club level, as Darren Randolph and 40-year-old Shay Given were both back-ups last season at West Ham United and Stoke City respectively.

Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter impressed in a 1-1 friendly draw with the Netherlands on Friday, but misses out after picking up a thigh injury in training on Monday.

His club teammate Eunan O'Kane, Everton midfielder Darron Gibson, Oxford United youngster Callum O'Dowda and striker David McGoldrick were the others to be cut from the 29-strong provisional squad.

Southampton's Long is likely to lead the line for O'Neill's side at the Euros, with Murphy picked ahead of Ipswich Town teammate McGoldrick despite having never scored in his 20 international appearances.

The other good news for Ireland supporters is that Everton centre midfielder James McCarthy has been named on the list despite struggling with a thigh injury.

Ireland play Sweden, Italy and Belgium in Group E in the tournament France.

Republic of Ireland 23-man squad for Euro 2016

Goalkeepers: Shay Given (Stoke City/ENG), Darren Randolph (West Ham United/ENG), Keiren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday/ENG)

Defenders: (Cyrus Christie (Derby County/ENG), Seamus Coleman (Everton/ENG), Richard Keogh (Derby County/ENG), Shane Duffy (Blackburn Rovers/ENG), John O'Shea (Sunderland/ENG), Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa/ENG), Stephen Ward (Burnley/ENG), Robbie Brady (Norwich City/ENG)

Midfielders: Aiden McGeady (Sheffield Wednesday/ENG), David Meyler (Hull City/ENG), Jeff Hendrick (Derby County/ENG), Stephen Quinn (Reading/ENG), James McCarthy (Everton/ENG), Glenn Whelan (Stoke City/ENG), Jonathan Walters (Stoke City/ENG), Wes Hoolahan (Norwich City/ENG), James McClean (West Bromwich Albion/ENG)

Strikers: Shane Long (Southampton/ENG), Daryl Murphy (Ipswich Town/ENG), Robbie Keane (Los Angeles Galaxy/USA)

Depp’s estranged wife files domestic violence police report

Actress Amber Heard filed a police statement Tuesday accusing her estranged husband Johnny Depp of domestic violence, saying she had endured “years of physical and psychological” abuse.Heard’s attorneys said in a statement that the actress had refused …

Actress Amber Heard filed a police statement Tuesday accusing her estranged husband Johnny Depp of domestic violence, saying she had endured "years of physical and psychological" abuse.

Heard's attorneys said in a statement that the actress had refused to file a police report after a May 21 argument with Depp that left a bruise on her face out of concern for his career and to protect her privacy.

"Johnny's team has forced Amber to give a statement to the LAPD to set the record straight as to the true facts, as she cannot continue to leave herself open to the vicious false and malicious allegations that have infected the media," the statement by attorneys Samantha Spector and Joseph Koenig said.

"Amber has suffered through years of physical and psychological abuse at the hands of Johnny," they added.

"Amber can no longer endure the relentless attacks and outright lies launched against her character in the court of public opinion since the tragic events of May 21."

Depp's representatives could not be immediately reached for comment and a spokesman at the Los Angeles police department declined comment, saying that an investigation was underway.

Heard, 30, filed for divorce from Depp, 52, last week and subsequently obtained a restraining order that requires the "Pirates of the Caribbean" star to stay away from her.

She appeared in a Los Angeles court on Friday with a black eye that she said was the result of Depp hurling a cell phone at her face during the May 21 incident.

Heard and Depp met on the set of the 2011 film "The Rum Diary," when the actor was still in a relationship with French actress Vanessa Paradis, mother of his son Jack and daughter Lily-Rose.

They married in February last year.

Depp's former partner Paradis and their daughter Lily-Rose rushed to his defense over the weekend, describing him as a gentle person.

"My dad is the sweetest most loving person I know, he's been nothing but a wonderful father to my little brother and I, and everyone who knows him would say the same," the 17-year-old said in a message posted on Instagram.

Paradis for her part described her former partner as "a sensitive, loving and loved person," in a letter posted by the celebrity website TMZ.

A representative for Depp told the media last week that he would not respond "to any of the salacious false stories, gossip, misinformation and lies about his personal life. Hopefully, the dissolution of this short marriage will be resolved quickly."

SoftBank to sell part of stake in China’s Alibaba for $7.9 bn

Japanese mobile carrier SoftBank said on Wednesday that it will sell at least $7.9 billion of its stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.Softbank, which now holds 32.2 percent of the Chinese company, has “approved of a series of capital raising tran…

Japanese mobile carrier SoftBank said on Wednesday that it will sell at least $7.9 billion of its stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Softbank, which now holds 32.2 percent of the Chinese company, has "approved of a series of capital raising transactions which involve monetising a portion of the shares of Alibaba," the firm said in a statement.

‘I have difficulty understanding it’: Erdogan wants to mend ties with Russia, but doesn’t know how

Preview Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his country wants to “normalize relations with Russia,” but appeared bemused as to how to actually bring that about.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his country wants to “normalize relations with Russia,” but appeared bemused as to how to actually bring that about.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Injured Diarra replaced in France Euro 2016 squad by Schneiderlin

Lassana Diarra has become Euro 2016 hosts’ France’s latest injury casualty after the midfielder was ruled out of the tournament with a knee problem, the French Football Federation (FFF) announced on Tuesday.The 31-year-old Marseille player, who was nom…

Lassana Diarra has become Euro 2016 hosts' France's latest injury casualty after the midfielder was ruled out of the tournament with a knee problem, the French Football Federation (FFF) announced on Tuesday.

The 31-year-old Marseille player, who was nominated for the French Ligue 1 player of the season award, is replaced in the squad by Manchester United's Morgan Schneiderlin.

Diarra hardly trained all week with the France team at Clairefontaine outside Paris and left the pitch at half-time in Monday's 3-2 pre-tournament friendly win over Cameroon in Nantes.

"Taking stock of the situation, Lassana Diarra honestly expressed to the coach on Tuesday night his inability to compete in the Euro to the best of his ability," the FFF said in a statement.

Diarra's withdrawal is the latest blow to France coach Didier Deschamps' plans, having already seen centre-backs Raphael Varane and Jeremy Mathieu pull out injured, while he did not select Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho after he failed a drugs test in March.

France, European champions in 1984 and 2000, are currently at a training camp in Austria.

They will stay in Austria until June 4 where they will play a final preparation friendly against Scotland. The hosts kick off their Euro campaign against Romania at the Stade de France on June 10.

Deschamps confident Griezmann will bounce back for France

France coach Didier Deschamps on Tuesday played down any worries of the effect Antoine Griezmann’s missed penalty in Atletico Madrid’s Champions League final defeat will have on his key player for Euro 2016.The forward struck the crossbar from the spot…

France coach Didier Deschamps on Tuesday played down any worries of the effect Antoine Griezmann's missed penalty in Atletico Madrid's Champions League final defeat will have on his key player for Euro 2016.

The forward struck the crossbar from the spot early in the second half with Atletico trailing to city rivals Real Madrid on Saturday, before they went on to lose on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

Griezmann was the last member of the 23-man France squad to meet up with his teammates at their training camp in Austria, after Deschamps gave him some time off to recover from the final.

"Honestly, I won't be speaking to him about the feeling that he must have had by missing a penalty and losing in the Champions League final before such a big event (Euro 2016)," Deschamps said.

"I gave him three days to get over it and I'm sure he will arrive with a smile, good humour and desire."

Hosts France open the European Championship finals against Romania on June 10, before also facing Albania and Switzerland in Group A.

Brazil eases visa rules ahead of Rio Olympics

Brazil is lifting visa requirements for tourists from Australia, Canada, Japan and the United States starting Wednesday to encourage travel to the Rio Olympics, the government said.The tourism ministry said Tuesday that it was throwing the doors open t…

Brazil is lifting visa requirements for tourists from Australia, Canada, Japan and the United States starting Wednesday to encourage travel to the Rio Olympics, the government said.

The tourism ministry said Tuesday that it was throwing the doors open to tourists from the four countries because they are already a good market, have strong interest in the Olympics and pose a low security risk.

"These tourists will boost the country's economy by spending in hotels, restaurants, car hire, travel agencies and many other sectors," Tourism Minister Henrique Eduardo Alves said in a statement.

"In this period, our attractions will be on global view. If we do our part, many of these tourists will return after the Olympics bringing friends and relatives," he said.

The Olympics, the first to be held in South America, start August 5.

Expect no sanctions reprieve from Russia visit – Juncker

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Tuesday warned against expecting any announcement on the lifting of EU sanctions on Russia when he visits the country in mid-June.EU leaders must decide by the end of June whether to prolong the sanction…

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Tuesday warned against expecting any announcement on the lifting of EU sanctions on Russia when he visits the country in mid-June.

EU leaders must decide by the end of June whether to prolong the sanctions they imposed on Russia over the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which run out in July.

Juncker will attend an economic forum in Saint Petersburg on June 16, where he will meet with President Vladimir Putin.

But during a visit to Paris Tuesday he downplayed the prospect of any breakthrough on lifting the sanctions on Russia's banking, defence and energy sectors.

"My visit to Saint Petersburg, which has a more economic than political focus, will not be an occasion for the European Union to announce any sort of change in our attitude towards Russia," he said.

"I will not change the European Union's general assessment of Mr Putin's actions," he said.

Juncker has backed the position taken by the G7 summit in Japan last week that the lifting of sanctions depends on Russia implementing the Minsk accords, which set out a roadmap towards peace in eastern Ukraine.

On Tuesday, he said he had repeatedly told Putin "that the sanctions remain as they are until the Minsk accords have been implemented."

No warrant needed to get cell phone location: US court

Police don’t need a warrant to obtain mobile phone location data for a criminal investigation, a US appeals court ruled Tuesday in a case closely watched for digital-era privacy implications.

The case decided by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Virginia is among several pending in the courts on “location privacy,” or whether using the digital data violates constitutional guarantees against unreasonable searches.

The case, which could still be appealed to the Supreme Court, represents a setback for a coalition of groups fighting for a right to location privacy, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Gun Owners of America and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

The judges ruled 12-3 in the case, overturning an earlier three-judge panel’s decision in the same circuit that found police violated the rights of the defendants in investigating a series of armed robberies.

Judge Diana Motz, writing for the majority, said a warrant is not needed to get location data because cell phone users “voluntarily” give that data to carriers whenever they make a call or send a text message.

The judge wrote that the constitution’s Fourth Amendment, protecting against unreasonable searches and seizures, does not apply in this case, because the phone users have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

“The Fourth Amendment does not protect information voluntarily disclosed to a third party because even a subjective expectation of privacy in such information is not one that society is prepared to recognize as ‘reasonable,'” the opinion read.

– Dissenting view –

But Judge James Wynn, in a dissenting opinion, said the majority stretched the view on what is being voluntarily handed over.

“Even if cell phone customers have a vague awareness that their location affects the number of ‘bars’ on their phone… they surely do not know which cell phone tower their call will be routed through,” Wynn wrote.

The dissenting opinion said the authorities went too far by obtaining 221 days of data and some 29,000 location-identifying data points.

“In my view, the sheer volume of data the government acquired here decides this case,” Wynn said.

“By acquiring vast quantities of defendants’ location information, spanning months, without defendants’ consent, the government infringed their reasonable expectations of privacy and thereby engaged in a search. Because that search was warrantless, it violated the Fourth Amendment.”

The ruling allows police to obtain location data from cellular carriers with a court order, with a lower standard than a warrant.

The major carriers receive tens of thousands of such requests each year, according to transparency reports.

Such court orders are “much faster, much easier” than warrants which require specific details of likely criminal activity, said Jadzia Butler of the Center For Democracy & Technology, one of the privacy groups participating in the case.

Butler said it was not clear if case would be appealed but said that “this is an incredibly important issue that the Supreme Court should look at.”

“I don’t think the average member of society expects to be handing over location data every time they take out their cell phone,” she said.

Police don't need a warrant to obtain mobile phone location data for a criminal investigation, a US appeals court ruled Tuesday in a case closely watched for digital-era privacy implications.

The case decided by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Virginia is among several pending in the courts on "location privacy," or whether using the digital data violates constitutional guarantees against unreasonable searches.

The case, which could still be appealed to the Supreme Court, represents a setback for a coalition of groups fighting for a right to location privacy, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Gun Owners of America and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

The judges ruled 12-3 in the case, overturning an earlier three-judge panel's decision in the same circuit that found police violated the rights of the defendants in investigating a series of armed robberies.

Judge Diana Motz, writing for the majority, said a warrant is not needed to get location data because cell phone users "voluntarily" give that data to carriers whenever they make a call or send a text message.

The judge wrote that the constitution's Fourth Amendment, protecting against unreasonable searches and seizures, does not apply in this case, because the phone users have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

"The Fourth Amendment does not protect information voluntarily disclosed to a third party because even a subjective expectation of privacy in such information is not one that society is prepared to recognize as 'reasonable,'" the opinion read.

- Dissenting view -

But Judge James Wynn, in a dissenting opinion, said the majority stretched the view on what is being voluntarily handed over.

"Even if cell phone customers have a vague awareness that their location affects the number of 'bars' on their phone... they surely do not know which cell phone tower their call will be routed through," Wynn wrote.

The dissenting opinion said the authorities went too far by obtaining 221 days of data and some 29,000 location-identifying data points.

"In my view, the sheer volume of data the government acquired here decides this case," Wynn said.

"By acquiring vast quantities of defendants' location information, spanning months, without defendants' consent, the government infringed their reasonable expectations of privacy and thereby engaged in a search. Because that search was warrantless, it violated the Fourth Amendment."

The ruling allows police to obtain location data from cellular carriers with a court order, with a lower standard than a warrant.

The major carriers receive tens of thousands of such requests each year, according to transparency reports.

Such court orders are "much faster, much easier" than warrants which require specific details of likely criminal activity, said Jadzia Butler of the Center For Democracy & Technology, one of the privacy groups participating in the case.

Butler said it was not clear if case would be appealed but said that "this is an incredibly important issue that the Supreme Court should look at."

"I don't think the average member of society expects to be handing over location data every time they take out their cell phone," she said.

Istanbul locked down on anniversary of 2013 demos

Turkish police on Tuesday detained several activists and imposed a heavy security blanket in Istanbul on the third anniversary of protests that posed the biggest challenge to the rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.The May-June 2013 protests began as a grassr…

Turkish police on Tuesday detained several activists and imposed a heavy security blanket in Istanbul on the third anniversary of protests that posed the biggest challenge to the rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The May-June 2013 protests began as a grassroots movement to stop plans for the redevelopment of Gezi Park in central Istanbul but snowballed into a wave of nationwide wave of anger against Erdogan.

The demonstrations eventually fizzled out after a heavy-handed police response and the security forces have since reacted harshly with water cannon and tear gas to even the smallest anti-government rallies.

Hundreds of armed police were deployed in Taksim Square next to Gezi Park, with access to the centre of the square and the park barred to the public throughout the day, an AFP correspondent said.

Despite the centre of the square being fenced off with metal barriers, hundreds of opposition activists held a march in the evening down the Istanbul's main shopping avenue Istiklal Street nearby.

The protest largely went off peacefully but police scuffled with a splinter group of dozens of people, making arrests, the correspondent said.

Similar protest rallies were also held in the capital Ankara and the southern resort of Antalya but there were no reports of major unrest.

Meanwhile, police detained 16 activists at the offices of the city's architects chamber near the Ottoman-era Yildiz Palace, which had opposed the Gezi Park development and strongly backed the protests, local media reports said.

Those detained included the chamber's general secretary Mucella Yapici and lawyer Can Atalay, both prominent figures in the Gezi movement. Reports said they had failed to obey an eviction order.

An AFP reporter saw them being taken away in a police bus. They were later released and took part in the Istiklal protest rally.

Eight people were killed in the nationwide unrest which followed the Gezi Park protests. Erdogan, who was prime minister at the time, famously rubbished the protesters as "hooligans".

The low-key anniversary came a day after Erdogan laid into the western media for being allegedly "blind, deaf and dumb" to a police crackdown on demonstrators in strike-hit France, despite broadcasting "uninterrupted" coverage of Turkey's 2013 protests.

In apparent response to his words, pro-Erdogan bloggers on Twitter launched a campaign urging people to beware of France as it stages the upcoming Euro football championships in France, under the hashtag #FranceisnotsecureforEuro2016.

Ireland beaten by Belarus in final Euro 2016 warm-up game

The Republic of Ireland ended their preparations for Euro 2016 on a sour note, as they were beaten 2-1 by Belarus in Cork on Tuesday night.Mikhail Gordeychuk gave the visitors a 20th-minute lead with a wonderful curling strike, and Maksim Volodko’s def…

The Republic of Ireland ended their preparations for Euro 2016 on a sour note, as they were beaten 2-1 by Belarus in Cork on Tuesday night.

Mikhail Gordeychuk gave the visitors a 20th-minute lead with a wonderful curling strike, and Maksim Volodko's deflected effort doubled the advantage with 25 minutes to go.

The Irish gave themselves hope of not ending their Euro preparations with defeat, as Stephen Ward drilled home after being teed up by substitute Shane Long, but a late rally was to no avail.

Martin O'Neill made wholesale changes to the side that were held to a 1-1 draw by the Netherlands in Dublin on Friday, naming an entirely different starting XI as the fringe players were given a chance to impress before the coach named his final 23-man squad after the match.

After a slow start to the encounter, Belarus forged ahead in fine style.

Igor Stasevich picked out winger Gordeychuk, and the BATE Borisov man's long-range shot flew past the outstretched hand of Shay Given and nestled in the far top corner.

Ireland's keeper did pull off an excellent save nine minutes before half-time though, springing to his right to turn Volodko's rising shot over the bar.

The home side started the second half brightly, but striker Daryl Murphy could only steer a header over when unmarked.

Ireland finally forced Belarus goalkeeper Sergey Chernik into serious action just before the hour mark, with the 27-year-old beating away a Ciaran Clark header, before getting up quickly to keep out Jeff Hendrick's follow-up effort.

O'Neill's men were caught out soon afterwards though, as marauding left-back Volodko cut inside, before seeing his right-footed shot strike Ireland defender Richard Keogh before spinning into the net.

The introduction of Long helped Ireland stretch the Belarusian defence, and the Southampton striker held the ball up well before picking out Burnley full-back Ward, who hammered the ball into the bottom corner with his favoured left foot.

The hosts piled forward in search of an equaliser with 21-year-old Oxford United midfielder Callum O'Dowda impressing off the bench on debut, but they failed to create any chances of note as Belarus held on.

Big donors wary, but some ready to back Trump candidacy

Republican mega-donor Frank VanderSloot backed a Donald Trump rival in the US presidential primaries, but despite strong reservations, he says he’s now ready to support the controversial tycoon as the “best bet” to defeat Hillary Clinton.Like VanderSlo…

Republican mega-donor Frank VanderSloot backed a Donald Trump rival in the US presidential primaries, but despite strong reservations, he says he's now ready to support the controversial tycoon as the "best bet" to defeat Hillary Clinton.

Like VanderSloot, a billionaire Idaho businessman, many establishment Republicans have eaten crow over their predictions that Trump would never become the party standarbearer, but now back the brash political neophyte who has electrified the conservative voting base even while antagonizing many in the party.

Others, however, are vowing to never support Trump and his insult-laden campaign, complicating his ability to raise the finances necessary to mount a winning 2016 bid.

Trump mostly used his own money to prevail in his bruising primary battle against 16 rivals, but he has acknowledged he may need to raise $1 billion or more to compete in the general election.

Enter the mega-donors, including VanderSloot, who recalled thinking Trump's campaign was a "joke" when he first launched his presidential bid last June.

"But honestly given the two choices that we have at this moment, he's the best one," said VanderSloot, whose $1.2 billion net worth made him Idaho's richest man in 2014, according to wealth intelligence firm Wealth-X.

"I am worried but full of optimism," VanderSloot acknowledged in a telephone interview, saying he could support Trump financially if asked to do so.

"Donald Trump could be the best thing that ever happens to this country. Now, am I certain of that? No. But he's by far the best bet at the moment, and he's prepared to move the needle."

Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee announced last week they were launching a committee to raise funds.

Among its vice chairs are New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and building materials magnate Diane Hendricks.

VanderSloot, who made his fortune heading wellness company Melaleuca, has expressed concern about Trump's shallow foreign policy experience.

"It's just a little scary but again, we know the direction that the other two candidates would take us," he said, referring to former secretary of state Clinton and Democratic rival Senator Bernie Sanders.

Most Republicans, including VanderSloot, view Barack Obama's presidency as an economic blight, and say a Clinton victory would lead toward European-like socialism.

Trump would use his business background, VanderSloot argued, to help the economy return to more free-market principles, despite his protectionist rhetoric.

"If he stays conservative, he can get things done," VanderSloot said.

Trump's "frivolous attacks" on those who oppose him are troubling, and "I do not like that at all," he added.

"On the other hand, he's been effective with it. So that gives us some hope that maybe you can get a leader who will lead."

- 'Disaster' -

Some mega-donors are already on board, including casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who is poised to shell out up to $100 million in support of Trump, The New York Times reported.

Others were firmly resisting, including hedge fund manager Paul Singer who has signaled he will not support Trump -- or Clinton, for that matter -- and TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, who has donated nearly $30 million to Republicans since 2012.

"I cannot think of a worse candidate, or for that matter human being, than Donald Trump" for president, said Charles Foster, founder of prominent immigration law firm Foster Global Immigration Solutions and a onetime donation bundler for Jeb Bush.

"It's a disaster," he told AFP.

"I could not conceive of ever, under any circumstances, supporting him in any way. I will support anybody other than Donald Trump."

That includes Clinton.

"I don't agree with her on certain policy issues, but she is so much better as a human being, with more common sense, competency, intelligence," Foster said.

While backing Clinton would be too extreme for many of his fellow Republican donors, Foster noted that he knows of very few Bush or Ted Cruz supporters prepared to back Trump, whom he described as "a narcissistic, demeaning bully."

VanderSloot said opting for Clinton would be a mistake, and warned that Republicans must support congressional Republican candidates come November.

"If you have Donald Trump losing, and the Republicans lose the Senate, in my opinion it's over, the hope of this country is over," VanderSloot said.

Twitter moves to curb nastiness at Periscope

Twitter on Tuesday moved to further stifle abusive commentary at its live video streaming application Periscope.A new tool introduced by the one-to-many messaging service lets people viewing Periscope broadcasts quickly report what they feel are inappr…

Twitter on Tuesday moved to further stifle abusive commentary at its live video streaming application Periscope.

A new tool introduced by the one-to-many messaging service lets people viewing Periscope broadcasts quickly report what they feel are inappropriate comments.

Small groups of randomly selected viewers will then be polled, with votes determining whether they agree that comments are abusive or "spam."

Those found guilty as charged will be temporarily suspended from commenting further in the related Periscope broadcast, according to Twitter.

Repeat offenders will eventually be blocked from commenting for the remainder of a broadcast.

"One of the unique things about Periscope is that you're often interacting with people you don't know; that immediate intimacy is what makes it such a captivating experience," Periscope chief executive and co-founder Kayvon Beykpour said in a statement.

"But, that intimacy can also be a vulnerability if strangers post abusive comments."

Beykpour depicted the new tool as a way to transparently tap into the viewing community to help "moderate bad actors."

Periscope allows anyone to broadcast live to a global audience and enables viewers to interact in real time.

The use of impromptu juries of viewers to judge abuses will work in tandem with pre-existing tools for reporting or blocking nastiness, according to Twitter.

Twitter and other Internet titans face the challenge of letting people connect and share online while preventing bullying, threats, and other foul behavior.

The Internet was expected to facilitate better exchanges between the public and news media. But vile and hateful comments changed all that.

Dalai Lama says Europe has accepted ‘too many’ refugees

Preview Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, thinks that Europe has accepted too many refugees, saying that they should stay only temporarily and return to rebuild their home countries once the conflicts there have been resolved.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, thinks that Europe has accepted too many refugees, saying that they should stay only temporarily and return to rebuild their home countries once the conflicts there have been resolved.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Trump ‘unfit to be president’, US union chief tells FRANCE 24

As France braces for rolling transportation strikes this week in protest against the government’s controversial labour reforms, FRANCE 24 spoke to Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the largest US federation of trade unions.

As France braces for rolling transportation strikes this week in protest against the government’s controversial labour reforms, FRANCE 24 spoke to Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the largest US federation of trade unions.

Ivory Coast confronts brutal past as Simone Gbagbo goes on trial

The trial of Simone Gbagbo, the former first lady of Ivory Coast, on charges of crimes against humanity opened Tuesday in the Ivorian city of Abidjan as the West African nation faces a pivotal moment in confronting its violent past.

The trial of Simone Gbagbo, the former first lady of Ivory Coast, on charges of crimes against humanity opened Tuesday in the Ivorian city of Abidjan as the West African nation faces a pivotal moment in confronting its violent past.

Aurier innocent until proven guilty, say Paris Saint-Germain

Paris Saint-Germain insisted that their player Serge Aurier was innocent until proven guilty after he spent more than 24 hours in custody for an alleged assault on a police officer.The 23-year-old Ivory Coast international is alleged to have insulted a…

Paris Saint-Germain insisted that their player Serge Aurier was innocent until proven guilty after he spent more than 24 hours in custody for an alleged assault on a police officer.

The 23-year-old Ivory Coast international is alleged to have insulted and hit a police officer, a charge the player denied before himself filing a complaint about police treatment.

PSG said it would make no comment on the incident before a judiciary decision.

Aurier was summoned to a September 26 hearing over the attack.

The incident occurred after Aurier was challenged by police because his Porsche Cayenne was causing traffic problems after he left a nightclub.

Aurier was "aggressive" and "quite contemptuous" when police tried to breathalyse him. It was then he allegedly "elbowed" the policeman in the throat, a source said.

Reigning French champions PSG briefly suspended Aurier in February after he appeared in a video on social media insulting coach Laurent Blanc.

Aurier later admitted he had made a "stupid mistake" and apologised.

With an estimated transfer value of between 20-25 million euros, Aurier was a key element of PSG's drive towards a fourth consecutive French league title and the Champions League quarter-finals in the just-completed season.

He is under under contract with the club until June 2019.

A new, water-logged history of the Moon

After the Apollo missions scooped up rocks from the Moon’s surface and brought them home, scientists were convinced for decades that they had proof our nearest celestial neighbour was drier than a bone.How wrong they were.New technology detected water …

After the Apollo missions scooped up rocks from the Moon's surface and brought them home, scientists were convinced for decades that they had proof our nearest celestial neighbour was drier than a bone.

How wrong they were.

New technology detected water in those dusty samples nearly a decade ago, and a new study, published Wednesday, tells us how and when that water -- lots and lots of it -- likely wound up on the Moon.

In a word, asteroids.

After the Moon was born of a collision between Earth and a Mars-sized planet some 4.5 billion years ago, it was bombarded with water-rich asteroids known as carbonaceous chondrites for tens of millions of years, perhaps longer.

So was Earth, which is one reason the findings, published in Nature Communications, are of more than academic interest.

"The Moon can be viewed as a giant time capsule, preserving a record of the impact history of Earth and Moon since their formation," explained lead author Jessica Barnes, a researcher at The Open University in southern England.

On our on planet, that record has been largely erased by tectonic plates moving continents like pieces on a board game.

- Giant ball of magma -

Even if scientists today are sure there is water trapped on the Moon, they do not know how much, said co-author Roman Tartese, a researcher at the Minerology Institute of France's National Museum for Natural History.

"If we extrapolate from the Apollo samples, the lunar interior could contain on the order of 1,000 trillion tonnes," he told AFP.

If there is that much, it will likely be locked inside minerals in the form of hydroxyl (OH) molecules, he added.

On the surface, up to a billion tonnes of frozen water -- enough to fill a million Olympic pools -- is probably lodged inside deep craters around the north and south lunar poles, where the Sun's rays never penetrate.

Recent research concluded that it "has been trapped there for three or four billion years," Tartese said by email.

Water on the Moon could have very practical implications.

If future scientific missions can extract oxygen from these molecules, astronauts could live -- and breath -- inside bases on the lunar surface.

And the hydrogen, once separated from the oxygen, could be used as fuel for rockets or space-based mining operations.

"This may seem like science fiction," Tartese said.

"But it is one of the reasons several space agencies -- including the European Space Agency and NASA -- are currently developing robotic missions to explore new regions to better estimate the quantity of ice."

It is also possible, the researchers said, that some of the water on the lunar surface may have been ejected by volcanic eruptions, bubbling up from what was once a molten interior.

The Moon, in fact, probably began as "an enormous ball of magma" progressively cooled and hardened, said Tartese.

IMF economists question faith in neoliberal doctrine

Leftists have long made a sport of blasting neoliberalism, the market-guided economic doctrine championed by the International Monetary Fund, as boosting poverty and inequality.

Now that view is coming from inside the IMF itself. A new assessment from Fund economists suggests the neoliberal approach to creating sustainable growth in developing countries can have its own lasting ill effects.

Their views offer support to legions of critics in countries like Greece and Portugal that have endured tough IMF-designed “austerity” programs to straighten out their finances.

“The benefits of some policies that are an important part of the neoliberal agenda appear to have been somewhat overplayed,” they said in an article in the June edition of the Fund’s Finance & Development magazine.

“Instead of delivering growth, some neoliberal policies have increased inequality, in turn jeopardizing durable expansion.”

The authors, three members of the IMF research department, said the traditional approach to helping countries build their economies through tight government spending, privatization, freer trade and open capital flows can have “prominent” costs in terms of greater inequality.

“Increased inequality in turn hurts the level and sustainability of growth,” they said.

“Even if growth is the sole or main purpose of the neoliberal agenda, advocates of that agenda still need to pay attention to the distributional effects.”

While the three say “there is much to cheer in the neoliberal agenda,” they single out two key tenets as problems: removing all restrictions on capital movement; and implementing budget austerity on governments with unsustainable deficits and debt.

The economists acknowledge the great benefits to a developing country of incoming capital.

But they say that freed of constraints, foreign capital can be short-term and capricious, causing great volatility in markets and “raising the odds of a crash.”

In 150 cases since 1980 of emerging economies which experienced a sharp surge in capital inflows, 20 percent ended with a financial crisis, they said.

On top of that, financial openness leads to “appreciable” increases in inequality in a country’s population, they said.

Austerity policies, which often aim to curb the size of the state, not only “generate substantial welfare costs” but also “hurt demand — and thus worsen employment and unemployment.”

“The costs of the tax increases or expenditure cuts required to bring down the debt may be much larger than the reduced crisis risk engendered by the lower debt.”

“In practice, episodes of fiscal consolidation have been followed, on average, by drops rather than by expansions in output,” they added.

Leftists have long made a sport of blasting neoliberalism, the market-guided economic doctrine championed by the International Monetary Fund, as boosting poverty and inequality.

Now that view is coming from inside the IMF itself. A new assessment from Fund economists suggests the neoliberal approach to creating sustainable growth in developing countries can have its own lasting ill effects.

Their views offer support to legions of critics in countries like Greece and Portugal that have endured tough IMF-designed "austerity" programs to straighten out their finances.

"The benefits of some policies that are an important part of the neoliberal agenda appear to have been somewhat overplayed," they said in an article in the June edition of the Fund's Finance & Development magazine.

"Instead of delivering growth, some neoliberal policies have increased inequality, in turn jeopardizing durable expansion."

The authors, three members of the IMF research department, said the traditional approach to helping countries build their economies through tight government spending, privatization, freer trade and open capital flows can have "prominent" costs in terms of greater inequality.

"Increased inequality in turn hurts the level and sustainability of growth," they said.

"Even if growth is the sole or main purpose of the neoliberal agenda, advocates of that agenda still need to pay attention to the distributional effects."

While the three say "there is much to cheer in the neoliberal agenda," they single out two key tenets as problems: removing all restrictions on capital movement; and implementing budget austerity on governments with unsustainable deficits and debt.

The economists acknowledge the great benefits to a developing country of incoming capital.

But they say that freed of constraints, foreign capital can be short-term and capricious, causing great volatility in markets and "raising the odds of a crash."

In 150 cases since 1980 of emerging economies which experienced a sharp surge in capital inflows, 20 percent ended with a financial crisis, they said.

On top of that, financial openness leads to "appreciable" increases in inequality in a country's population, they said.

Austerity policies, which often aim to curb the size of the state, not only "generate substantial welfare costs" but also "hurt demand -- and thus worsen employment and unemployment."

"The costs of the tax increases or expenditure cuts required to bring down the debt may be much larger than the reduced crisis risk engendered by the lower debt."

"In practice, episodes of fiscal consolidation have been followed, on average, by drops rather than by expansions in output," they added.

France honours Trappist monks killed in Algeria, 20 years on

Mayor Anne Hidalgo unveiled a plaque Monday in Paris to commemorate the deaths of seven French monks who were kidnapped and beheaded in Algeria during the country’s civil war. FRANCE 24 takes a look back at the tragedy.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo unveiled a plaque Monday in Paris to commemorate the deaths of seven French monks who were kidnapped and beheaded in Algeria during the country's civil war. FRANCE 24 takes a look back at the tragedy.

‘Banning headscarf at work is ok, if crucifix goes as well,’ EU Court advisor says

European companies can prohibit Muslims from wearing headscarves at work as long as they also forbid other religious symbols, according to a top legal adviser to the European Court of Justice. Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview European companies can prohibit Muslims from wearing headscarves at work as long as they also forbid other religious symbols, according to a top legal adviser to the European Court of Justice.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Durant to take his time amid NBA free agent frenzy

Kevin Durant was still digesting Oklahoma City’s Western Conference finals defeat when the simmering subject of his free agent future reached full boiling point.”I’m just embracing my team-mates and just reflecting on the season,” Durant said Monday ni…

Kevin Durant was still digesting Oklahoma City's Western Conference finals defeat when the simmering subject of his free agent future reached full boiling point.

"I'm just embracing my team-mates and just reflecting on the season," Durant said Monday night after the Golden State Warriors rallied to eliminate the Thunder -- who had led the best-of-seven series three games to one.

"I'll think about that stuff, I don't know when. But we just lost an hour ago, 30 minutes ago, so I don't know."

Durant, the 27-year-old former NBA Most Valuable Player, will be the most coveted prize of the free agency period that starts on July 1.

Western Conference rivals Golden State and San Antonio -- who fell to the Thunder in the second round of the playoffs -- are potential suitors.

They can offer a maximum contract worth $25.9 million or a maximum deal worth $111 million over four years.

The Thunder can offer $149 million over five years to keep their star, or he could opt to return to Oklahoma City for one more year, before re-entering the free agency pool in 2017 -- when the salary cap will increase again and thus further raise his salary expectations.

Durant's impending free agency was a hot topic even before the season began, with Washington Wizards fans hoping his Washington-area roots could prompt him to move East.

Durant, who has spent his entire NBA career with the same club, didn't sound like a player looking for a way out after Oklahoma City's 55-win season.

He has a superstar team-mate in Russell Westbrook, and together they led the Thunder past the 67-win Spurs and within a hair's breadth of beating the 73-win Warriors.

Oklahoma City's playoff performance, after an erratic regular season, amply demonstrated the development of first-year coach Billy Donovan and such emerging players as Steven Adams and Dion Waiters.

"When we were losing eight out of 12, we were getting criticized for not being where other teams were," Durant said. "But I thought we peaked at the right time and got better at the right time. We laid it all out there. Everybody left their soul out on the court. We have no regrets."

AFP, RFI reporter threatened over Burundi crisis coverage

The Burundi correspondent of Agence France-Presse and Radio France Internationale, who was tortured last year by security forces, received threats on social media Tuesday after being accused by authorities of “promoting crime and violence” with his cov…

The Burundi correspondent of Agence France-Presse and Radio France Internationale, who was tortured last year by security forces, received threats on social media Tuesday after being accused by authorities of "promoting crime and violence" with his coverage of the country's crisis.

Esdras Ndikumana, winner of France's diplomatic press prize in 2015, is considered one of the leading specialists on Burundi and is highly regarded across Africa.

Fearing for his life, the 55-year-old was forced to flee Burundi in August 2015 but continues to cover developments in the country from abroad.

On Monday night, General Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni -- minister of public security and second most powerful figure in the Burundian government -- launched an attack on the journalist, targeting him by name in a statement.

"The ministry forcefully condemns everyone who, knowingly getting ahead of the normal course of inquiries, devotes themselves to attributing every criminal act to whoever they want to justify their preferences, interests and thinly-veiled political convictions -- like the journalist Esdras Ndikumana and certain activists on social media -- with the goal of dividing Burundians and promoting crime and violence," Bunyoni said.

Following the statement, two pro-government civil society figures on Tuesday issued serious threats against Ndikumana on Twitter.

"AFP deems unacceptable these personal attacks on its correspondent Esdras Ndikumana, which target and imperil a journalist providing irreproachable coverage of news in Burundi under very difficult circumstances," said AFP's Global News Director Michele Leridon.

Burundi has been plunged into a deep crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced in April 2015 that he was running for a third term. He was re-elected last July.

Marked by assassinations on both sides, attacks against the police and summary executions, the violence has left more than 500 people dead and forced more than 270,000 Burundians to flee the country, according to the UN.

Burundi's government has silenced independent journalists at home and regularly lashes out at the international media, accusing the press of being part of a "conspiracy" to overthrow it.

Ndikumana, who began working as Bujumbura correspondent for AFP in 2001 and for RFI in 2002, fled the country last August after being arrested by the security services.

He was beaten and tortured in detention.

RFI, AFP and Ndikumana have filed a criminal complaint over his mistreatment. So far, the complaint has not led to an investigation.

Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and YouTube adopt EU hate speech rules

US tech giants have signed an agreement with the European Commission to tackle the spread of illegal hate speech online that requires them to address complaints within 24 hours. Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview US tech giants have signed an agreement with the European Commission to tackle the spread of illegal hate speech online that requires them to address complaints within 24 hours.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Denmark to declassify being transgender as mental disorder

Denmark will next year declassify “being transgender” as a mental illness, lawmakers from the parliament health committee decided on Tuesday.”It is completely inappropriate to call it a sickness,” the committee’s deputy chairman Flemming Moller Mortens…

Denmark will next year declassify "being transgender" as a mental illness, lawmakers from the parliament health committee decided on Tuesday.

"It is completely inappropriate to call it a sickness," the committee's deputy chairman Flemming Moller Mortensen told AFP.

"There is a longstanding wish from the trans community in Denmark to have it removed" from the health ministry's clinical guidelines on illnesses, he added.

The move, which would come into force on January 1, is also intended to put pressure on the World Health Organization (WHO), which has yet to remove transsexualism from its list of mental disorders.

Denmark has "no more patience" with the WHO, which will discuss the issue later this year, Mortensen said.

Amnesty International hailed the Danish decision, saying it made Denmark "a role model for transgendered people's rights".

"Amnesty would also like to commend the government for its effort in the WHO, where it has worked to have the disease classification system changed," the group's Denmark chief Trine Christensen said in a statement.

Rights group LGBT Denmark also welcomed the move.

"To remove transgender from the section of mental disorders means removing an institutionalised stigmatisation of trans people," spokeswoman Linda Thor Pedersen said.

Icahn takes ‘large’ stake in Botox maker Allergan

Activist investor Carl Icahn revealed Tuesday a big stake in Botox maker Allergan, voicing confidence in the Ireland-based company’s chief executive.”We have recently acquired a large position in Allergan and are very supportive of CEO Brent Saunders,”…

Activist investor Carl Icahn revealed Tuesday a big stake in Botox maker Allergan, voicing confidence in the Ireland-based company's chief executive.

"We have recently acquired a large position in Allergan and are very supportive of CEO Brent Saunders," Icahn said in a brief statement. He did not disclose the size of the stake.

Shares in Allergan dipped 0.2 percent in afternoon trade to $235.54.

Icahn typically buys shares in a company to influence its management strategy or when he sees a strong growth potential.

He recently sold a stake in tech giant Apple and won a push to put allies on the board of directors at insurer American International Group.

In April, Allergan and Pfizer, the largest US drug maker, called off a $160-billion tie-up due to a fresh tightening of US rules on cross-border tax inversions, in which a company relocates its headquarters to a foreign country for tax advantages.

Icahn helped Saunders become CEO of Forest Laboratories a few years ago.

In mid-2014, Forest was acquired by Ireland-based Activis. Less than a year later Activis bought US-based Allergan and adopted that name.

The string of mergers yielded "massive gains" for Forest shareholders, Icahn said.

"While we at that time disposed of our position in Forest, we still have always maintained great respect for Brent," he said. "We have every confidence in Brent's ability to enhance value for all Allergan shareholders."

Allergan's key products include Botox, for the medical treatment of spasticity and cosmetic treatment of wrinkles; Namenda, to enhance cognition; and Asacol, to treat ulcerative colitis.

Allergan expects to close the sale of its generics-drugs business Allergan Generics to Israeli firm Teva Pharmaceutical Industries soon, in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $40.5 billion when it was announced in July 2015.

France to take urgent action as transport unions strike 11 days prior to Euro 2016

The French government has opened its check book in an attempt to cool labor disputes that have flared up due to proposed reforms, with trade unions promising to shut down transport networks just 11 days before the country is to host the E…

Preview The French government has opened its check book in an attempt to cool labor disputes that have flared up due to proposed reforms, with trade unions promising to shut down transport networks just 11 days before the country is to host the Euro 2016.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Doping clouds IOC meet ahead of Rio Olympics

With the International Olympic Committee striving to keep drug cheats out of the Rio Games amid a series of doping scandals, this week’s meeting of IOC top brass should be closely watched. The Summer Games in the Brazilian city are just two months away…

With the International Olympic Committee striving to keep drug cheats out of the Rio Games amid a series of doping scandals, this week's meeting of IOC top brass should be closely watched.

The Summer Games in the Brazilian city are just two months away, but much remains uncertain, especially the fate of Russian athletes.

Russia has been at the centre of a widening doping crisis, which has led the IOC to retest samples from past competitions.

So far, re-analysis has found 31 new doping failures from the 2008 Games in Beijing and another 23 from London 2012. At least 14 Russian athletes are implicated.

Any athlete whose guilt is confirmed on a second test will be barred from Rio and the IOC said more positive tests could be revealed in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Russia's athletics federation is facing an outright ban from Rio following a November suspension by governing body the IAAF, enforced after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accused the federation of "state-sponsored" cheating.

Meeting at its Lausanne, Switzerland headquarters from Wednesday to Friday, the IOC's executive board will receive a briefing on the re-testing campaign and from WADA chief Craig Reedie on the main findings of the Russia probe.

The goal is "to keep the dopers away from the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro," IOC President Thomas Bach said last week. "This is why we are acting swiftly now."

- 'Right' to be at Rio -

Russia's pole vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva said this week that athletes from several major countries -- including the United States, Britain and Germany -- were guilty of cheating and that the blanket ban against Russia violated her rights.

"We know that there's a systematic doping usage there. But Russia has never suggested to ban their national federations," she said in an interview with the Russia Today network.

"I gave my samples for doping control around the world and they were always clean," the two-time Olympic champion said. "Nobody has the right to bar me from competing wherever I want."

Securing the right to compete in Rio has become a "point of honour", she told the network.

The IAAF will decide on June 17 whether to readmit Russia.

WADA is also now investigating claims by the former head of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory Grigory Rodchenkov that Russian secret service and government officials subverted samples at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics to cover up failures by Russian competitors.

Russia has denied any wrongdoing but the scandals have increased pressure for tough action.

- Rio ready? -

The scramble to finish Olympic venues in time for the opening ceremony has become a common storyline ahead of recent Games.

But Brazil has faced a string of unique challenges, including an unprecedented political crisis that led to the suspension of president Dilma Rousseff and an epidemic of the mosquito-born Zika virus, which has raised fears that fans and possibly some athletes might stay away.

IOC director for the Rio Games, Christophe Dubi, told AFP that organisers will have to race to deliver the cycling velodrome and that while most of the stadiums are ready some retain problems, like the swimming pool, which has an issue with ventilation.

Rio organising chief Carlos Nuzman will be in Lausanne on Thursday to brief the board on the city's readiness to host the Games, which open on August 5.

Saudi intercepts missile from Yemen: coalition

Saudi Arabia intercepted a ballistic missile fired from Yemen on Monday night, the military coalition supporting the Yemeni government against rebels said.It was the second missile launch from Yemen since UN-brokered peace talks began in Kuwait on Apri…

Saudi Arabia intercepted a ballistic missile fired from Yemen on Monday night, the military coalition supporting the Yemeni government against rebels said.

It was the second missile launch from Yemen since UN-brokered peace talks began in Kuwait on April 21 between the Huthi Shiite rebels and the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

"From time to time there are breaches of the ceasefire, but we have to focus on finding a political solution for the Yemeni crisis," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said after a Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh on Tuesday.

"We must support a peaceful solution and we support the Kuwait talks."

Fighting has continued despite a ceasefire that paved the way for the talks in Kuwait. Analysts have said the Saudis appear to want a way out of the war.

The Saudi-led Arab coalition in March last year began air strikes and other military aid in support of Yemeni forces resisting the Huthis.

The rebels, who still hold the capital Sanaa, had seized much of the country and are backed by Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran.

The Huthi rebels are allied with elite troops loyal to Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The missile launches are designed to "sabotage efforts of the international community to make the peace negotiations a success", the Saudi-led coalition said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia has deployed Patriot missile batteries to counter tactical ballistic missiles which have been fired occasionally during the war.

The coalition warns that it could retaliate if such strikes continue.

‘Shield’ actor Michael Jace convicted of murdering wife

Actor Michael Jace was convicted of second-degree murder Tuesday for gunning down his wife in front of their two young children in an affluent neighborhood of Los Angeles.Jurors took three hours to reach the verdict, meaning they accepted April Jace’s …

Actor Michael Jace was convicted of second-degree murder Tuesday for gunning down his wife in front of their two young children in an affluent neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Jurors took three hours to reach the verdict, meaning they accepted April Jace's killing was not premeditated, but believed it to be more serious than voluntary manslaughter.

The 53-year-old American, famous for his part in police drama "The Shield" and big-screen roles including in "Forrest Gump," faces up to 40 years in jail when he is sentenced on June 10.

Deputy district attorney Tannaz Mokayef told jurors in her summing up on Friday that Jace was "obsessed" with his wife, who had been trying to leave him amid his allegations that she had been unfaithful.

Jace's defense team accepted that he had shot his wife in the back and twice in her legs on May 19, 2014, but maintained he was guilty only of voluntary manslaughter, sometimes called a "crime of passion."

"He snapped. If you find there was something that provoked this man... and it created some kind of passion in him, that's manslaughter," his attorney Jamon Hicks told jurors.

The couple's 10-year-old son Nehemiah, testified that he had seen his father bring his mother -- a keep-fit enthusiast -- into the hallway of their home in the Hyde Park area, where she fell down.

"Then my dad said, 'If you like running, run to heaven,' and then he shot her," the boy told the jury.

In a recorded interview played in court, Jace told police he was holding the gun when his wife returned home from a baseball game with their sons.

She lunged at him, he said, and he had intended "just (to) shoot her in the leg" and not kill her, adding that he had been drinking.

The couple had exchanged 164 text messages on the day of the shooting, the court was told, including one in which Jace's wife of nine years said she was "afraid to come home."

The actor, who split from his previous wife, Jennifer Bitterman, in 2002, filed for bankruptcy in 2011, citing debts of more than $500,000. Neighbors reported he had struggled to find work since the end of "The Shield."

In addition to "Forrest Gump," Jace appeared in "Boogie Nights" and "Planet of the Apes."

Pakistan cricket captain says Amir over spot-fixing scandal

Pakistan’s one-day captain Azhar Ali threw his support behind Mohammad Amir on Tuesday for the team’s forthcoming tour of England, saying the spot-fixing episode is behind the pacer.Amir, 24, is seen as Pakistan’s main weapon for the team’s tour of Eng…

Pakistan's one-day captain Azhar Ali threw his support behind Mohammad Amir on Tuesday for the team's forthcoming tour of England, saying the spot-fixing episode is behind the pacer.

Amir, 24, is seen as Pakistan's main weapon for the team's tour of England, where they will play four Tests, five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 between July and September.

Amir has returned strongly since his five-year ban for spot-fixing was lifted in September last year, taking five wickets in the two one-day internationals against New Zealand in January and as many wickets in 11 Twenty20 games.

Ali said the sordid episode is firmly behind his bowler.

"The 2010 case is past (for Amir) and now we need to look forward," said Ali, when asked if the case still haunts Amir.

Amir, along with then Test captain Salman Butt and pace partner Mohammad Asif, was charged for taking illegal money in return for deliberate no-balls during the Lord's Test in August 2010.

The three were briefly jailed in the UK before returning to Pakistan to serve out the rest of their ban.

"It's been a while now since the case, Amir has gelled with us well. It could have been tough had he come straight for such a tour but now after playing with us for long, things have settled for him," said the captain.

Ali said the toughest phase of Amir's comeback has since passed but noted that his return to England could spur additional stress.

"I know England was the place where the incident (in 2010) happened but hopefully he can handle the pressure the same way he did on his comeback (in January)."

However, the captain said the team is prepared to back Amir and would deal with any issues if they arise.

"But still if anything happens we as a team will handle it. We have full faith in him to deliver," said Ali of the left-arm bowler who took 17 wickets in the 2010 series and was the man of the series for Pakistan.

Pakistan will play two warm-up games in the first week of July before the first Test starts at Lord's from July 14.

Boxing to decide on professional fighters for Rio Olympics

Boxing’s governing body will decide on Wednesday whether to let professional fighters into the Olympic ring from the Rio de Janeiro Games in August.But the International Boxing Association (AIBA) will also have to answer questions about its dope testin…

Boxing's governing body will decide on Wednesday whether to let professional fighters into the Olympic ring from the Rio de Janeiro Games in August.

But the International Boxing Association (AIBA) will also have to answer questions about its dope testing policies when it gathers before an International Olympic Committee executive meeting in Lausanne that will be dominated by doping scandals.

AIBA members are to hold a special congress to decide whether to let professionals into the Olympics.

While the boxing revolution is unlikely to see the likes of former heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko or top American fighters compete for gold in Rio it would boost the card for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

For most professionals, it is already too late to take part in a qualifying contest for the Rio Games. The last tournament is in Venezuela in July.

Letting in professionals is "part of the evolution of boxing", said a senior AIBA official ahead of Wednesday's vote which is expected to easily pass.

Ukraine's Klitschko won a gold medal at Atlanta in 1996 and had indicated he would like a new try in Rio. But he has made his July 9 rematch with Britain's Tyson Fury for the world heavyweight title his priority.

Boxing has undergone major changes in recent years. Women were allowed into Olympic competition in 2012 and headguards will no longer be compulsory from Rio.

Philippine legend Manny Pacquiao, who won world titles at eight different categories, also hinted he was interested but said this week he would concentrate on his burgeoning political career.

But not all boxers back the new proposal. Former Olympic and world heavyweight title holder Lennox Lewis said it would be "preposterous" to let professionals into the same ring as amateurs.

AIBA president Wu Ching-Kuo will have to face questions at the IOC executive about boxing's doping practices, as the Olympic movement confronts mounting accusations over banned substances.

A World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report found that the AIBA has not carried out any out-of-competition tests in the year ahead of Rio and hardly any in the past three years, the British magazine Private Eye reported.

The report was quoted as saying that the AIBA's actions fell "considerably short" of WADA's requirements.

WADA spokesman Ben Nichols would not comment directly on the substance of the Private Eye report but confirmed that the agency's inspection team had given AIBA recommendations aimed at "improving and enhancing" its anti-doping program.

AIBA had started working on the implementation of the recommendations, the WADA spokesman added.

UN alarmed about Iraqi families used as ‘human shields’

The United Nations raised alarm Tuesday concerning the fate of 300-400 Iraqi families rounded up by Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, possibly for use as human shields in the battleground city Fallujah.UN officials have received “credible reports tha…

The United Nations raised alarm Tuesday concerning the fate of 300-400 Iraqi families rounded up by Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, possibly for use as human shields in the battleground city Fallujah.

UN officials have received "credible reports that families are being concentrated into the center of the city by Daesh and they are not allowed to leave these concentration points," said UN deputy representative to Iraq Lise Grande, using a term for the IS group.

"That would suggest that Daesh could be using them or may intend to use them as some kind of human shield," she told reporters.

"They are at extreme risk if there is a military confrontation."

Iraqi forces launched an offensive a week ago to recapture Fallujah, which became an IS group stronghold after its fighters seized the city in January 2014.

The United Nations has raised concerns with the Iraqi government, which has slowed down the pace of its operation to try to protect the trapped families.

The government is "fully aware" of the need to protect civilians during the assault, Grande said.

"The operation is moving more slowly than it might otherwise," she added.

Only 5,000 civilians of the 50,000 trapped in the city have managed to escape, many of whom walked for hours and came under fire as they fled, Grande said.

Fallujah and Mosul -- the capital of the northern province of Nineveh -- are the last two major cities the IS group holds in Iraq.

Italy appeals court upholds 16-year sentence for Concordia captain

Florence’s appeals court on Tuesday upheld the 16-year jail term for Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship that sank off Italy in 2012 leaving 32 people dead.Schettino was not in court when the verdict was read out by pres…

Florence's appeals court on Tuesday upheld the 16-year jail term for Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship that sank off Italy in 2012 leaving 32 people dead.

Schettino was not in court when the verdict was read out by presiding judge Grazia D'Onofrio shortly after 8:30pm (1830 GMT).

He will not be jailed immediately pending a possible further appeal.

Schettino was sentenced in February 2015 to 16 years and one month in prison after a judge ruled that his recklessness was to blame for the fate of the giant ship, which struck underwater rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio.

He was convicted of multiple manslaughter, causing a maritime accident and abandoning ship before all passengers and crew had been evacuated, earning him the nickname "Captain Coward" in the press.

The ship had been carrying more than 4,200 people, including 3,200 tourists. The bodies of two of the victims have never been found.

Schettino's lawyers had insisted the accident and its deadly consequences were primarily due to organisational failings for which the ship's owner, Costa Crociere, its Indonesian helmsman and the Italian coastguard should have shared the blame.

Costa Crociere avoided potential criminal charges by accepting partial responsibility and agreeing to pay a one million euro ($1.2 million) fine.

Berg preferred to Guidetti to partner Ibrahimovic in Sweden attack

Sweden coach Erik Hamren said Tuesday that Marcus Berg was the preferred option ahead of fellow striker John Guidetti to play alongside star Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Euro 2016.Hamren opted to stick with the same list of 23 players he had already announced…

Sweden coach Erik Hamren said Tuesday that Marcus Berg was the preferred option ahead of fellow striker John Guidetti to play alongside star Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Euro 2016.

Hamren opted to stick with the same list of 23 players he had already announced on May 11 for the tournament which starts in France on June 10.

"I find that it works well with the two (Berg and Guidetti), even if I see Marcus Berg being a little bit ahead at the moment," Hamren told a press conference.

"Marcus was good at the end of the season in Greece and he scored."

Panathinaikos striker Berg is expected to play in Sweden's final warm-up game on Sunday against Wales.

Guidetti failed to find the net in Monday's 0-0 friendly draw against Slovenia in Malmo, for which Ibrahimovic was rested.

The only uncertainty concerns midfielder Albin Ekdal, who hurt his back in a fall in a nightclub earlier this month.

The Hamburg player will miss at least the first game against the Republic of Ireland on June 13, Hamren said.

Sweden will also take on Italy on June 17 and Belgium on June 22 in Group E at the tournament in France.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Andreas Isaksson (Kasimpasa/TUR), Robin Olsen (FC Copenhagen/DEN), Patrik Carlgren (AIK)

Defenders: Ludwig Augustinsson (FC Copenhagen/DEN), Mikael Lustig (Celtic/SCO), Andreas Granqvist (Krasnodar/RUS), Erik Johansson (FC Copenhagen/DEN), Victor Nilsson Lindelof (Benfica/POR), Martin Olsson (Norwich/ENG), Pontus Jansson (Torino/ITA)

Midfielders: Jimmy Durmaz (Olympiakos/GRE), Albin Ekdal (Hamburg/GER), Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig/GER), Oscar Hiljemark (Palermo/ITA), Kim Kallstrom (Grasshopper/SUI), Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland/ENG), Oscar Lewicki (Malmo), Pontus Wernbloom (CSKA Moscow/RUS), Erkan Zengin (Trabzonspor/TUR)

Strikers: Marcus Berg (Panathinaikos/GRE), John Guidetti (Celta Vigo/ESP), Emir Kujovic (Norrkoping), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris SG/FRA).

Mourinho promises not to get personal with Guardiola

Newly-appointed Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said Tuesday he will not let his rivalry with Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola get in the way of his bid for the English Premier League title.Mourinho and Guardiola will arrive in Manches…

Newly-appointed Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said Tuesday he will not let his rivalry with Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola get in the way of his bid for the English Premier League title.

Mourinho and Guardiola will arrive in Manchester for next season with a shared past and pressure to succeed. And Mourinho believes that if they focus on their long-standing rivalry, another team will be crowned champion next season.

The pair went head to head in an often bitter rivalry between 2010 and 2012 when the Portuguese was in charge of Real Madrid and Guardiola coached Barcelona.

"My experience doesn't allow me to play the innocent. I rubbed shoulders with Pep for two years in a league where the champion was him or I, Real Madrid or Barcelona. In such a situation, the individual duels are meaningful because they can have an influence," admitted the Portuguese.

"But in the English league, if I focus on him and on Manchester City and if he focuses on United, someone else will be the champion," Mourinho said on the sidelines of a conference at Lisbon University.

"In England there have been four different champions over the past four years. That says a lot about the competitiveness (of the Premier League)," said Mourinho, comparing the situation with the German, French or Spanish leagues, dominated in recent seasons by Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona respectively.

"Contrary to other championships, where the top names are always the top names, this is not the case in England," he said.

Mourinho, 53, sacked by Chelsea in December, last week signed a three-year deal with United with an option for a fourth.

Guardiola, 45, arrives at City fresh from the Bundesliga where he won the league in each of his three years as coach of Bayern.

The Portuguese, who has won 22 honours as a coach, believes his arrival will not be a big deal for the Premier League.

"I'm already sort of part of the furniture. The level will improve thanks to new coaches and new players who may arrive and bring something different," Mourinho added in quotes to the Lusa news agency.

Spanish PM’s tax cut pledge ignites election campaign

Spain’s opposition on Tuesday blasted Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government for campaigning for a June general election on promises to lower taxes as well as slashing the public deficit.Rajoy has said he is eyeing more tax cuts if re-e…

Spain's opposition on Tuesday blasted Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government for campaigning for a June general election on promises to lower taxes as well as slashing the public deficit.

Rajoy has said he is eyeing more tax cuts if re-elected at the June 26 general election even as the European Commission mulls sanctions against Madrid for breaking deficit rules.

The head of the main opposition Socialists, Pedro Sanchez, accused the prime minister of "lying", saying Spain's fiscal situation does not allow for taxes to be reduced.

"He will once again trick Spaniards," said Sanchez, who plans to raise taxes to balance the budget.

New anti-austerity party Podemos, which also wants to raise taxes so as to increase social spending, also lashed out at Rajoy.

"Fresh tax cuts are a danger for public services and it will commit us to budget cuts in the future," Podemos economist Nacho Alvarez told top-selling Spanish daily newspaper El Pais.

Podemos has formed an alliance with its smaller far-left rival Izquierda Unida to run together in the elections and polls show it is poised to surpass the Socialists in the upcoming election to finish second.

Meanwhile Albert Rivera, the head of new market-friendly party Ciudadanos which is seen as a natural ally for the conservatives, advised Rajoy "to not make promises he can't keep".

Rajoy's Popular Party (PP) has made its handling of the economy the focus of its campaign.

The PP credits its reforms for returning Spain to growth in 2013 after a property bubble burst in 2008.

The party came in first in an inconclusive December 20 general election but lost its absolute majority in parliament and was unable to form a governing coalition with other formations.

Both Ciudadanos and the Socialists refused to join forces with the PP, whose image has been tainted by a string of corruption scandals and austerity measures.

No other party was able to cobble together a coalition, leading to the repeat election next month.

- July decision on fine -

Rajoy, in power since December 2011, has also vowed to continue to reduce unemployment.

Under his watch the unemployment rate has fallen from 27 percent at the height of Spain's economic crisis to just below 21 percent, although it remains the highest in the European Union after Greece's.

The Spanish economy, the eurozone's fourth largest, expanded by 3.2 percent last year, well above the European average.

But despite the return to growth Spain's public deficit came in at 5.0 percent of gross domestic product last year, far higher than the target of 4.2 percent Madrid agreed with Brussels and vastly above the 3.0 percent limit set by eurozone rules.

The European Commission will decide in July -- after the elections -- if it slaps Spain with a fine for violating its deficit rules.

Rajoy has promised Brussels to take steps to reduce the deficit if he is re-elected, according to a letter that was made public by El Pais.

The PP, which reduced taxes in 2015 just before the december election, argues tax cuts will raise consumer spending and boost job creation.

"The goal of reducing the deficit is perfectly compatible with the reduction of income taxes," Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said.

Polls predict the result of the June election will be similar to that of the December election with the PP in first place, followed by the Socialists and Podemos neck and neck with Ciudadanos in fourth place.

Many analysts predict that this time round the Socialists and Ciudadanos will allow the PP to form a minority government.

US soldier wounded in Syria: Pentagon

A US soldier deployed in Syria to advise rebel groups fighting the Islamic State group was wounded over the weekend, the Pentagon said Tuesday.US military spokesman Jeff Davis said the soldier was wounded by “indirect fire” — a term that typically ref…

A US soldier deployed in Syria to advise rebel groups fighting the Islamic State group was wounded over the weekend, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

US military spokesman Jeff Davis said the soldier was wounded by "indirect fire" -- a term that typically refers to rocket or artillery fire -- north of Raqa, the jihadists' de facto capital.

He was "not on the front line," Davis said.

Davis said it is the first American casualty in Syria that he is aware of since US military advisory deployed there at the end of last year.

The United States has sent more than 200 special forces personnel to northeastern Syria to advise and assist rebel groups fighting the Islamic State group.

American soldiers are focusing on aiding the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition dominated by the Kurdish militia YPG.

Fighting is currently raging in northern Raqa eight days after the start of an SDF offensive, with support from air strikes by a US-led international coalition.

Another US soldier was injured last weekend in northern Iraq near the city of Erbil, also by indirect fire, Davis said.

Spain asylum system ‘obsolete’: Amnesty

Amnesty International called Tuesday on Spain to reform an asylum system it labelled “inefficient, obsolete and discriminatory”, blasting the “embarrassing” low number of refugees that have been taken in.After interviewing more than 80 asylum seekers a…

Amnesty International called Tuesday on Spain to reform an asylum system it labelled "inefficient, obsolete and discriminatory", blasting the "embarrassing" low number of refugees that have been taken in.

After interviewing more than 80 asylum seekers and refugees and visiting several reception centres, the rights group concluded these faced big -- often years-long -- waits for their cases to be dealt with, coupled with inadequate financial aid that forced some onto the streets.

"There are governments like ours that don't have the will to take in (refugees), that welcome them in dribs and drabs, despite public opinion that on the whole wants to take them in, as do most regional public administrations," Amnesty Spain director Esteban Beltran told reporters.

Spain gave protection to 1,030 asylum seekers in 2015 -- be it refugee status or subsidiary protection, one step down -- meaning that they were allowed to stay in the country, according to the Eurostat statistics agency.

That figure pales in comparison to more than 26,000 in neighbouring France and 5,605 in Bulgaria.

Germany meanwhile saw a record influx with over 475,000 asylum requests filed and over 140,000 accepted so far.

Spain is also one of the European countries with the lowest rate of asylum applications.

Last year, some 1.3 million people coming mostly from conflict-ridden Syria and Iraq asked for asylum in the European Union.

So far this year, some 204,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean to the continent, according to the UN refugee agency.

- Lucky few -

And while Spain has pledged to take in more than 17,000 refugees from camps inside and outside the European Union, these have only just started to trickle in.

Amnesty warned that even these lucky few were facing an uphill struggle.

The system sees asylum seekers stay in reception centres for up to nine months.

They are then cast out into the wider world, receiving financial help for rent and other necessities for six more months, and up to 11 for the most vulnerable.

And it ends there, apart from the odd exception.

But "there are people who wait years for their application to be settled," says Virginia Alvarez, head of home affairs for Amnesty Spain.

In the meantime, says Amnesty, some are forced onto the streets as their funds run out -- or try their luck in other countries.

The NGO added that the system is discriminatory, with Syrian asylum seekers' applications often seen to be dealt with more quickly than people from sub-Saharan Africa for instance.

"The system can't keep going like this," said Beltran, calling on whatever new government that emerges after June elections to reform it.

French economy minister owes back-taxes: media

France’s Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron will have to pay back-taxes after authorities found he had undervalued a family property, two local media outlets claimed on Tuesday. The former Rothschild banker, who has sought to position himself as a possib…

France's Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron will have to pay back-taxes after authorities found he had undervalued a family property, two local media outlets claimed on Tuesday.

The former Rothschild banker, who has sought to position himself as a possible candidate for next year's presidential election, denied being the target of any tax demand.

"I am up to date with the tax administration and the high authority on transparency in public life," he said during a visit to a factory in northern France.

News site Mediapart and newspaper Canard Enchaine claim a tax audit has found that Macron is liable for a tax on the rich which affects anyone with property worth at least 1.3 million euros ($1.4 million).

The Canard Enchaine said discussions with the tax authority had lasted more than 18 months and hinged on the value of his wife's home in northern France.

The home was valued by the tax office at 1.4 million euros, rather than the 1.2 million euros stated by the minister.

The minister "has finally admitted that he should pay (the tax)" and resubmitted his tax declaration for 2013 and 2014, Mediapart said, adding that the increased bill and penalties would probably amount to less than 10,000 euros.

Quizzed on Tuesday, Macron said he was in favour of transparency but also respected privacy over tax matters, "like all citizens".

He claimed there had been a concerted campaign in recent weeks to dig up dirt "in order to destabilise me".

The minister made waves last month by setting up his own political movement, "En Marche" (On the Move), seen as a possible first step towards a run at the presidency in place of the deeply unpopular Francois Hollande in 2017.

Cabinet colleagues have called for him to get into line.

Macron's office did not comment when contacted by AFP, but one close ally, Socialist MP Pascal Terrasse, said he was "the target of an attack because he is shaking things up".

Macron earned nearly 2.4 million euros during his time at Rothschild between 2011 and 2012, according to the transparency body.

Lavrov: Russia demands that Turkey withdraw its troops from Iraqi territory

Preview The presence of Turkish armed forces in Iraq without invitation is unacceptable, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a Tuesday interview, in which he also questioned why the West has turned a blind eye to Ankara’s violation of Iraqi sovereignty.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview The presence of Turkish armed forces in Iraq without invitation is unacceptable, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a Tuesday interview, in which he also questioned why the West has turned a blind eye to Ankara’s violation of Iraqi sovereignty.
Read Full Article at RT.com

France coach Deschamps condemns Giroud boos

France coach Didier Deschamps on Tuesday hit out at supporters who booed striker Olivier Giroud during the Euro 2016 hosts’ 3-2 friendly win against Cameroon in Nantes on Monday.”It is certainly a minority and it is really unfair,” said Deschamps after…

France coach Didier Deschamps on Tuesday hit out at supporters who booed striker Olivier Giroud during the Euro 2016 hosts' 3-2 friendly win against Cameroon in Nantes on Monday.

"It is certainly a minority and it is really unfair," said Deschamps after the Arsenal striker, 29, was whistled by a section of the home crowd when the teams were announced but scored his country's second goal during the match at the Stade de la Beaujoire.

"Olivier is there and, until proof to the contrary, he is scoring goals for us, which is what we ask of him.

"I am counting on him and the rest of the team are too. Solidarity with the other players is important and the first to stick up for him has been (Andre-Pierre) 'Dede' Gignac, who plays in the same position.

"Olivier is there and will stay there, and he will be one of the players who will have a role to play for us," added Deschamps, who was speaking shortly after the French squad arrived in Austria for a four-day Alpine training camp.

Giroud played 65 minutes of Monday's match and scored his 15th international goal as he won his 48th cap.

He is likely to have a leading role to play for his country at the European Championship in the absence of Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, who has been left out of the squad due to the Mathieu Valbuena sex-tape blackmail scandal.

France are next in action on Saturday when they face Scotland in Metz, their final friendly before they open Euro 2016 against Romania on Friday, June 10.

Zimbabwe axe cricket coach, captain before India games

Zimbabwe fired national cricket coach Dav Whatmore and captain Hamilton Masakadza Tuesday following their poor showing at the 2016 World Twenty20 tournament in India.”Head coach Davenell Whatmore has had his contract terminated with immediate effect,” …

Zimbabwe fired national cricket coach Dav Whatmore and captain Hamilton Masakadza Tuesday following their poor showing at the 2016 World Twenty20 tournament in India.

"Head coach Davenell Whatmore has had his contract terminated with immediate effect," Zimbabwe Cricket spokesman Darlington Majonga said in a statement.

Zimbabwe, who failed to get beyond the preliminary round at the World T20, host India in June with three one-day and two T20 internationals scheduled.

Majonga said the sacking followed a review of Zimbabwe's recent performances.

Bowling coach and former South Africa star Makhaya Ntini takes over from Whatmore on an interim basis while another ex-Protea, Lance Klusener, will be the batting coach, Majonga said.

Former Australia batsman Whatmore was appointed in April last year on a four-year contract.

Born in Sri Lanka, Whatmore coached his native country to the 1996 World Cup title.

"Following the review, the board has also relieved Zimbabwe top-order batsman Hamilton Masakadza of the captaincy for all three formats of the game," Majonga said.

"His deputy, Graeme Cremer, will act (as captain) in the interim."

Iraq forces fear protracted IS last stand in Fallujah

The tightening siege of Fallujah is trapping jihadists in the city and Iraqi fighters predict that the Islamic State group could make a longer and bloodier last stand than usual.By the time Iraqi forces picked their way through a dense network of roads…

The tightening siege of Fallujah is trapping jihadists in the city and Iraqi fighters predict that the Islamic State group could make a longer and bloodier last stand than usual.

By the time Iraqi forces picked their way through a dense network of roadside bombs and booby traps and reached the hearts of Ramadi and Tikrit last year, most enemy fighters had vanished.

While many of IS's most senior commanders, including the foreign leaders, are reported to have fled Fallujah, Iraqi troops expect to encounter more than a small residual IS force.

As the elite counter-terrorism service (CTS) began to creep into Fallujah, the tens of thousands of other forces who have been shaping the battlefield finished sealing off the city.

On Monday, a force led by the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force cut off Fallujah from Jazirat al-Khaldiyah, an area to the west which IS has been transiting through to reach its other positions across the country.

"This time is different... because now they have no routes along which to bring in supplies and reinforcements or to escape," said Mohammed Salem, a senior Hashed officer involved in the operation near Saqlawiya.

"It could result in this battle dragging on though," he said.

Saif Salem, a member of the Furqat Imam Ali Shiite militia, just returned from the front line, caked in yellow dust from head to toe.

"Daesh (IS) are besieged. They can't escape at this stage. Their only option is a suicide holdout," said the young fighter from Najaf.

"This is what we face now but our morale is high and theirs is fragile. They want to drag us into the city in order to try to leave by blending in with the population," Salem said.

Abu Wahib, the top IS commander for the whole province of Anbar, in which Fallujah is located, was killed in a US-led coalition air strike on May 6.

A few days later, a commander described as the group's military leader in Fallujah, Maher al-Bilawi, was also killed.

- IS 'not that strong' -

A resident in the city contacted by phone told AFP there was sense of panic among jihadists, who have been rounding up men and ever younger boys, presumably as forced recruits to beef up their defence of Fallujah.

Besieged or not, David Witty, a retired US army special forces colonel, said he expected IS, a Sunni extremist group, to put up more of a fight than it did for other cities.

"After all, this place has been a symbol since 2004 of Sunni resistance to both the Baghdad government and the US," he said.

"If IS is unable to retain (Fallujah), it could be a significant psychological blow to the organisation," said Witty, a former advisor to CTS.

It was in Fallujah in November 2004 that Al-Qaeda in Iraq, a previous incarnation of the Islamic State group, inflicted some of the worst losses on the US military since the Vietnam War.

It took 10,000 highly trained US forces equipped with the best technology more than six weeks to gain the upper hand back then.

As the jihadists lost areas around Fallujah and elsewhere in Anbar in recent weeks, some fighters have regrouped inside their old stronghold.

Estimates vary but at least 1,000 IS fighters are believed to be hunkering down inside Fallujah, including in a network of tunnels, waiting for Iraqi forces to walk into the mousetrap.

By the time Iraqi forces had fully retaken Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, early this year, much of the city had been levelled.

Yahya Rasool, spokesman of the Joint Operations Command in charge of the fight against IS, does not believe IS fighters are willing or able to make a heroic last stand.

But there are an estimated 50,000 civilians left in Fallujah and that could also be a slowing factor in the battle, he said.

"Daesh are not that strong," he told AFP. "Their spirit is broken, but the priority that was made clear to us in the armed forces is to preserve the lives of civilians and the city's infrastructure."

W. Sahara independence group says its chief Abdelaziz has died

The Polisario Front which demands the Western Sahara’s independence from Morocco said its secretary general Mohamed Abdelaziz died on Tuesday “after a long illness”, Algeria’s APS news agency reported.Abdelaziz, 69, had been leader of the Algeria-backe…

The Polisario Front which demands the Western Sahara's independence from Morocco said its secretary general Mohamed Abdelaziz died on Tuesday "after a long illness", Algeria's APS news agency reported.

Abdelaziz, 69, had been leader of the Algeria-backed Polisario since 1976 after the group was founded three years previously to struggle for independence for the former Spanish colony.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Tuesday decreed eight days' national mourning, state television reported.

It added that the president had opened a meeting of the cabinet by observing a minute's silence in tribute to the independence leader.

"This is a great loss for the Sahrawi people", Polisario official Mohammed Keddad told AFP.

"He sacrificed his life for the liberation of Western Sahara. He embodied the wisdom and a sincere and firm commitment to its liberation", he added.

Polisario leaders were meeting, and a statement would be issued later Tuesday or on Wednesday, an official told AFP.

The United Nations has been trying to broker a Western Sahara settlement since 1991 after a ceasefire was reached to end a war that broke out when Morocco deployed its military in the territory in 1975.

Local Sahrawi people are campaigning for the right to self-determination, but Morocco considers the territory as part of the kingdom and insists its sovereignty cannot be challenged.

- Referendum push -

In March this year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met Abdelaziz and also said he would spare no effort in trying to find a political solution in the Western Sahara.

When he met Ban at a refugee camp in Tindouf in Algeria, Abdelaziz appeared to be in poor health.

He was born in 1946 in Marrakesh in Morocco, the kingdom where he is seen as a traitor to his country.

A man of the desert, he spent much of his life with Polisario fighters or Sahrawi refugees at camps in the Tindouf region of southwest Algeria.

He was from the Reguibi, one of the three Sahrawi tribes, and was educated in southern Morocco, where his father was in the Royal Moroccan army.

In the late 1960s, Abdelaziz first met Sahrawi nationalist militants in Rabat and Casablanca, at Moroccan universities.

With Mustapha Sayed El Ouali, he became a founder of the Polisario Front in May 1973 and one of its main military leaders.

Speaking Arabic, French and Spanish in addition to the Sahrawi Hassanya dialect, Abdelaziz was as comfortable in a traditional blue gandoura robe as in a Western suit or plain military fatigues with no badges of rank.

Repeated bids by United Nations mediators to hold a referendum on self-determination for the Sahrawis in the vast desert but mineral-rich territory have failed.

In 2007, Morocco proposed a plan for autonomy under its sovereignty, but this is rejected by the Polisario Front which demands a referendum on self-determination.

New Gulf body to tighten economic bonds

Gulf Arab states grappling with lower oil revenues on Tuesday formed a new agency to tighten economic cooperation in the region.The Economic and Development Affairs Authority “will boost coherence, integration and coordination between member states in …

Gulf Arab states grappling with lower oil revenues on Tuesday formed a new agency to tighten economic cooperation in the region.

The Economic and Development Affairs Authority "will boost coherence, integration and coordination between member states in all economic and development sectors," the Gulf Cooperation Council said in a statement after a summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The GCC was founded in 1981 to more deeply integrate the Gulf countries, but analysts say progress has been slow.

The collapse of global oil prices has forced the Gulf monarchies to make unprecedented fuel and energy subsidy cuts and plan to introduce indirect taxation. They have also scaled back spending on large projects.

Oil prices have fallen from more than $100 a barrel in early 2014 to around half that level.

The newly formed body "will look into matters such as completing the customs union and the common market of the GCC states," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a news conference after the summit.

He said the authority "can solve these issues urgently and effectively" to promote cooperation.

US President Barack Obama said after a summit with the GCC in Riyadh last month that the six-nation council will establish a "high-level economic dialogue" with the United States.

It will "focus on adjusting to lower oil prices, increasing our economic ties and supporting GCC reforms," Obama said.

Along with Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter and largest Arab economy, the GCC includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

‘Environmental terrorism’: Horror wolf beheadings condemned in Spain (GRAPHIC PHOTOS)

Preview Images of a decapitated wolf’s head tied to road-sign in Spain have outraged conservationists, bringing the topic of hunting back into the national spotlight.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Images of a decapitated wolf’s head tied to road-sign in Spain have outraged conservationists, bringing the topic of hunting back into the national spotlight.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Yarmolenko, Konoplyanka lead Ukraine squad for Euro 2016

Ukraine coach Mykhaylo Fomenko on Tuesday named his final 23-man squad for Euro 2016, which is led by Dynamo Kiev forward Andriy Yarmolenko and Sevilla’s Europa League winner Yevgen Konoplyanka. The 67-year-old coach cut his squad from a provisional li…

Ukraine coach Mykhaylo Fomenko on Tuesday named his final 23-man squad for Euro 2016, which is led by Dynamo Kiev forward Andriy Yarmolenko and Sevilla's Europa League winner Yevgen Konoplyanka.

The 67-year-old coach cut his squad from a provisional list of 29 players after Ukraine beat Romania 4-3 in a friendly on Sunday.

The roster includes 19-year-old Oleksandr Zinchenko, who scored his first goal with the national team against Romania, breaking Andriy Shevchenko's record as the youngest goalscorer in Ukraine's history.

Zinchenko, who plays for Russian side Ufa, was picked as well as defender Bogdan Butko and striker Yevgen Seleznyov, who until recently were playing in the Russian league.

Butko and Seleznyov were initially omitted from the provisional roster, stirring debate about whether Ukraine's tense political relations with Moscow had influenced the selection.

Ties between Moscow and Kiev are in tatters over Crimea's annexation in March 2014 and the subsequent pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

Fomenko parted ways with Zorya Lugansk's Mykyta Kamenyuka and Ivan Petryak, midfielders Oleg Gusyev of Dynamo Kiev, Maksym Malyshev of Shakhtar Donetsk and Yevgen Shakhov of Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk.

Dynamo Kiev striker Artem Kravets, who is currently on loan at German club Stuttgart, was also cut.

Ukraine will be competing in their second European Championship in France from June 10 to July 10 in Group C alongside Germany, Poland and Northern Ireland.

Fomenko's squad will face Albania in a friendly on Friday, their last test before the tournament.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Andriy Pyatov (Shakhtar Donetsk), Denys Boyko (Besiktas/TUR), Mykyta Shevchenko (Zorya Lugansk)

Defenders: Vyacheslav Shevchuk, Yaroslav Rakitskyi, Oleksandr Kucher, Bogdan Butko (all Shakhtar Donetsk), Yevgen Khacheridi (Dynamo Kiev), Artem Fedetskyi (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk)

Midfielders: Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Kairat/KAZ), Taras Stepanenko, Viktor Kovalenko (both Shakhtar Donetsk), Ruslan Rotan (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Yevgen Konoplyanka (Sevilla/SPA), Sergiy Rybalka, Denys Garmash, Sergiy Sydorchuk, Andriy Yarmolenko (all Dynamo Kiev), Oleksandr Karavayev (Zorya Lugansk), Oleksandr Zinchenko (Ufa/RUS)

Strikers: Roman Zozulya (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Pylyp Budkivskyi (Zorya Lugansk), Yevgen Seleznyov (Shakhtar Donetsk)

Spain go with Lucas, no Isco or Saul, for Euro 2016

Real Madrid midfielder Isco and Atletico’s Saul Niguez on Tuesday missed the cut for Vicente Del Bosque’s final 23-man Spain squad for Euro 2016 that does include Reals’ Lucas.”We tried to balance out the squad,” Del Bosque said at a press conference a…

Real Madrid midfielder Isco and Atletico's Saul Niguez on Tuesday missed the cut for Vicente Del Bosque's final 23-man Spain squad for Euro 2016 that does include Reals' Lucas.

"We tried to balance out the squad," Del Bosque said at a press conference at the Austrian city of Salzburg.

"I believe that with the 23 chosen, we can cope with any emergency."

Close encounter between Mars and Earth

Mars and Earth got unusually cozy Monday night, drawing closer to each other than they have in more than a decade.The two planets passed at 120.7 million kilometers (75 million miles) away from each other, which NASA said will not happen again until Ju…

Mars and Earth got unusually cozy Monday night, drawing closer to each other than they have in more than a decade.

The two planets passed at 120.7 million kilometers (75 million miles) away from each other, which NASA said will not happen again until July 31, 2018.

The average distance between Earth and Mars is 225 million kilometers (140 million miles), with the neighboring planets sometimes reaching distances as far as 402.3 million kilometers (250 million miles) when they are diametrically opposite the Sun.

The last time Mars and Earth came this close was in 2005.

In 2003, the celestial bodies were within 56.3 million kilometers (35 million miles) -- the nearest they had been in 60,000 years.

Stargazers will have to wait until 2287 to see Mars at that distance again, according to NASA.

Mars has shone particularly bright since mid-May, as it approached and aligned with the Earth and the Sun.

The Red Planet will stay big and bright through mid-June, after which its intensity will diminish.