EU may fall apart due to failed neo-liberal policies – Noam Chomsky to RT

Preview The surge in right-wing and anti-establishment sentiments as a result of failed neo-liberal policies in Europe is likely to lead to collapse of the EU in “a tragic development,” prominent American linguist, scholar and activist Noam Chomsky told RT.
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Preview The surge in right-wing and anti-establishment sentiments as a result of failed neo-liberal policies in Europe is likely to lead to collapse of the EU in “a tragic development,” prominent American linguist, scholar and activist Noam Chomsky told RT.
Read Full Article at RT.com

NBA: Lue rips ’embarrassing’ Smith blunder

Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said Wednesday he had spoken to J.R. Smith over his “embarrassing” hug with a former team-mate during the NBA champions’ defeat to Milwaukee.Lue was left furious after Smith hugged Bucks bench player Jason Terry on …

Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said Wednesday he had spoken to J.R. Smith over his "embarrassing" hug with a former team-mate during the NBA champions' defeat to Milwaukee.

Lue was left furious after Smith hugged Bucks bench player Jason Terry on the sidelines late in the second half of Cavs blowout defeat.

With Smith's back turned, Bucks guard Matthew Dellavedova picked out a wide open Tony Snell who dunked unopposed to extend Milwaukee's lead.

"It was embarrassing moment," Lue said Wednesday of the play. "Me and J.R. talked about it. We're just going to move forward. We had a discussion about it, he felt embarrassed about it. It was an embarrassing play. We talked about it. We're moving on."

Smith on Wednesday blamed a "lack of focus" for the incident.

"One of the multiple things that compounded onto the loss was just as a team we haven't been as focused as we previously were," he said. "Winning and being who we are has a lot to do with that, but we've just got to overcome that and be better as a whole. It starts as individuals and then we can collectively become a group and team and have that mindset."

Lue meanwhile criticised Smith for attempting to tell a group of reporters he had no recollection of the incident while covering his face and head with a black ski mask.

"It wasn't right," Lue said. "I talked to him about that also. There's no need for that. Just address the media in the right way, move on. We got our butts kicked (Tuesday night). Give Milwaukee credit, they came out, they attacked us, they beat us. Now we've got to move on."

Action star Donnie Yen wants to be ‘good example’

Action star Donnie Yen placed his deadly hands and feet in cement at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre Wednesday, voicing hope that his career would inspire fellow Asians to take up acting.The martial artist — a multiple world champion in the wushu figh…

Action star Donnie Yen placed his deadly hands and feet in cement at Hollywood's TCL Chinese Theatre Wednesday, voicing hope that his career would inspire fellow Asians to take up acting.

The martial artist -- a multiple world champion in the wushu fighting style -- was being honored for a body of work mainly in Chinese cinema, although he also stars in the much-anticipated "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."

"Sometimes being an Asian actor is not easy. Unfortunately, for many years, Asian actors didn't have the same, equal opportunities," the 53-year-old Hong Kong resident told AFP at the ceremony.

"But I think that things have been changing," he added. "And I certainly would like to be one actor that set a good example."

Overshadowed over the years by Jackie Chan and other sought-after kung fu stars, Yen has been gradually breaking into Hollywood since appearing in Guillermo del Toro's "Blade II" in 2002.

In "Rogue One," due to be released on December 16, he plays a warrior monk who is part of a heroic band of rebels that steals plans for the Death Star.

He also stars opposite Vin Diesel in "xXx: Return of Xander Cage," which hits theaters on January 20.

Born in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, Yen came to Hong Kong -- where he lives now -- at the age of two and later moved to the United States, growing up in Boston's Chinatown.

- 'Ridiculous stereotype' -

Much of the star's inspiration comes from his mother, Bow Sim-Mark, a world famous wushu and tai chi master, at whose internationally-known Chinese Wushu Research Institute the young Yen learned kung fu.

When he became involved in gang violence in Boston at age 16, his worried parents sent him to Beijing, where he spent two years training with the famed Beijing wushu team, studying with the same masters as Jet Li.

Yen's turning point came when the veteran film director Yuen Wo-ping, the action choreographer for the "Matrix" trilogy, discovered him and helped him break into movies as the new kung fu hero.

Yen has spent years since then using his celebrity to wage a campaign to kick the Asian stereotype out of Hollywood.

In the mid-1990s, he turned down an offer from Francis Ford Coppola because of a script he said contained "a ridiculous stereotype about the Chinese."

He also rejected an offer to be in the "Tomb Raider" sequel, which China banned for making the country appear lawless and run by secret societies.

"I hope this ceremony, this achievement, will inspire many Chinese actors -- not just Chinese actors, but many young actors -- that they, too, can achieve the same dream if they put enough hard work into it," he said before sinking his hands into the cement.

"The force is with me and the force is with everybody."

Moscow’s ‘influence’ on US election a myth – Russian FM to Italian newspaper

Allegations that Russian hacking attacks aided the victory of Donald Trump are a myth, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Italian newspaper Corriere della sera. The interview also focused on sanctions against Moscow and NATO-Russ…

Preview Allegations that Russian hacking attacks aided the victory of Donald Trump are a myth, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Italian newspaper Corriere della sera. The interview also focused on sanctions against Moscow and NATO-Russia tensions.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Nice in pole as ton-up Cavani keeps PSG in hunt

Paris Saint-Germain hotshot Edinson Cavani bagged his 100th goal for the club in a 2-0 win over Angers on Wednesday to keep the reigning Ligue 1 champions on the heels of leaders Nice.Cavani scored from the spot, adding to Thiago Silva’s opener to roun…

Paris Saint-Germain hotshot Edinson Cavani bagged his 100th goal for the club in a 2-0 win over Angers on Wednesday to keep the reigning Ligue 1 champions on the heels of leaders Nice.

Cavani scored from the spot, adding to Thiago Silva's opener to round off a win for the Parisians, who trail Nice by a solitary point after the Cote d'Azure table-toppers handed Guingamp a first home defeat.

Uruguayan Cavani's big moment came after Hatem Ben Arfa strode forward on a mazy run only to be brought down by Romain Thomas.

The goal machine, having made it 19 goals in 18 matches so far this season, promptly earned a booking for taking off his shirt to reveal a T-shirt slogan paying homage to Brazilian side Chapecoense, the club decimated by an aircrash in Colombia.

Cavani joined PSG from Napoli in 2013 for a French record fee of 64 million euros ($67.8m) and now is the club's fourth top goalscorer -- now just one adrift of Dominique Rocheteau.

Out in front with 156 is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who left for Manchester United last summer.

Moroccan Younes Belhanda bagged the only goal for Nice, this season's surprise package, in the fifth minute with a sumptuous strike from the edge of the box.

Nice won in the absence of the injured Mario Balotelli, who has a calf problem.

The southerners badly missed Balotelli in their weekend draw with Bastia but on loan Dynamo Kiev star Belhanda's effort was enough to drag them over the line, to the relief of coach Lucien Favre.

"We knew it would be tough to take the points here," said Favre.

"Having got the first goal we didn't manage to get to 2-0. If you don't then you have to hold on to what you have -- and we did that.

"Everyone must pull together. There is a fine margin between success and failure."

Nice will meet PSG just before the Christmas break and Favre said that encounter would be crucial -- albeit they are not looking that far ahead.

"If we take the three points in that one then all well and good. (But) beforehand we have Toulouse, who are a tough opponent. May I remind you they are the only side to have beaten both Paris SG and Monaco, so that will be a big match."

Monaco, through at the expense of Tottenham to the last 16 of the Champions League, are third, three points off the pace, following their 1-1 draw Tuesday at Dijon.

Lyon stormed into fourth place albeit eight points behind Monaco, with a crushing 6-0 win at hapless Nantes, the eight-times champions, who suffered their worst top flight home reverse.

Nantes are second bottom and staring the droip in the face after an eighth league defeat in 15 games left only Lorient below them.

Nantes coach Rene Girard is hanging onto his job after the Canaries were outclassed with Lyon scoring at will through Corentin Tolisso, an Alex Lacazette penalty, Maxime Gonalons, Mathieu Valbuena, Mouctar Diakhaby and Nabil Fekir.

Marseille stay in midtable after a goalless draw at Saint Etienne in a battle of fallen giants while Bordeaux drew 1-1 at Bastaia, enough to stay in fifth spot ahead of Rennes on goal difference.

Colombia crash pilot reported ‘total electrical failure, no fuel’

The pilot of a plane that crashed in the Colombian mountains, killing 71 people, radioed the control tower in a panic to report he had run out of fuel, according to a recording aired Wednesday by Colombian media.”Ma’am, LAMIA 2933 has a total failure, …

The pilot of a plane that crashed in the Colombian mountains, killing 71 people, radioed the control tower in a panic to report he had run out of fuel, according to a recording aired Wednesday by Colombian media.

"Ma'am, LAMIA 2933 has a total failure, total electrical failure, without fuel," pilot Miguel Quiroga says in the recording, minutes before the charter flight crashed outside the city of Medellin.

The crash killed most of Brazilian football club Chapecoense and 20 journalists traveling with them to the finals of the Copa Sudamericana, South America's second-largest club tournament.

The recording was aired by several of Colombia's top broadcasters and featured on newspaper websites, but authorities have not confirmed its authenticity.

In the tape, the pilot had earlier asked for priority to land due to "fuel problems."

The request was granted by the control tower at Medellin's international airport. But the tower then lost contact with the plane, whose fuselage was found plastered on a hillside 50 kilometers (30 miles) outside the city.

Spain arrests 45 over suspected Georgian burglary ring

Spanish police have arrested 45 suspected members of a Georgian burglary ring that broke into more than 100 homes, a force spokeswoman said Wednesday after a coordinated nationwide sweep.In 26 searches carried out Tuesday, officers seized 75 watches, f…

Spanish police have arrested 45 suspected members of a Georgian burglary ring that broke into more than 100 homes, a force spokeswoman said Wednesday after a coordinated nationwide sweep.

In 26 searches carried out Tuesday, officers seized 75 watches, fake passports, "countless" items of jewellery, 14,000 euros ($15,000) in cash and 200 receipts for international money transfers.

The suspected right-hand man of the ringleader was detained in the southern city of Seville, two suspects were held in Barcelona, two more in the northern city of Barakaldo, one in the Mediterranean port of Alicante and the rest in Madrid.

The majority of those arrested are Georgian nationals. The suspects face being charged with burglary, membership of a criminal organisation, money laundering and falsifying documents.

New York’s Lincoln Center to remember Leonard Cohen

New York’s Lincoln Center on Wednesday announced a low-key memorial for legendary poet and singer Leonard Cohen next week, with the art complex simply to play his songs.Lincoln Center — the campus of premier US art institutions including the Metropoli…

New York's Lincoln Center on Wednesday announced a low-key memorial for legendary poet and singer Leonard Cohen next week, with the art complex simply to play his songs.

Lincoln Center -- the campus of premier US art institutions including the Metropolitan Opera and New York Philharmonic -- said the remembrance event will take place on Monday.

Recordings of Cohen's music, as selected by his fans and friends, will play for four hours starting at noon (1700 GMT) at Lincoln Center's outdoor plaza regardless of weather.

"There are no speakers and no live performances," Lincoln Center said in a statement.

The event is being put together by Hal Willner, a veteran music producer behind a 2005 tribute show for Cohen in Sydney that gave birth to the documentary film "Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man."

The remembrance event follows the model of a 2013 memorial for another rock great and friend of Cohen, Lou Reed, whose music was played on speakers outside of Lincoln Center without commentary.

Cohen, a poet and novelist who explored the meaning of love and spirituality on songs such as the frequently covered "Hallelujah," died on November 7 in Los Angeles.

His family has not announced plans for any public event and buried him quietly next to his parents in his native Montreal.

Since his death, fans have created makeshift memorials outside his home in Montreal as well as at New York's famously bohemian Chelsea Hotel, where Cohen had lived and which he immortalized in a song about a romantic tryst.

Brazil central bank cuts interest rate again

Brazil’s central bank cut its key interest rate Wednesday for the second month running, as data showed that the recession hitting Latin America’s largest economy continued into the third quarter.The central bank lowered the benchmark Selic rate by a qu…

Brazil's central bank cut its key interest rate Wednesday for the second month running, as data showed that the recession hitting Latin America's largest economy continued into the third quarter.

The central bank lowered the benchmark Selic rate by a quarter of a percentage point, to 13.75 percent -- still one of the world's highest.

"The available evidence indicates the pick-up in economic activity may be later and more gradual than previously anticipated," the bank said.

Earlier, the state statistics office said the ailing economy shrank a further 0.8 percent last quarter -- its seventh consecutive contraction.

Brazil's economy is in its deepest recession for decades and the country's credit rating has been reduced to junk status by all three main international rating agencies.

Center-right President Michel Temer, who took over this year after the impeachment of leftist leader Dilma Rousseff, has vowed to introduce strong austerity measures.

The market hopes the reforms will get the economy back on the rails, but the bank remains caught between wanting to stimulate economic growth and trying to dampen double-digit inflation.

Inflation dropped to 7.87 percent in October from 8.48 percent in September, continuing its downward progress. But it is still far above the target of 4.5 percent.

Last month the bank made its first interest rate cut in three years, lowering the Selic by 0.25 points to 14 percent.

Economists say its room to maneuver is limited. The new 0.25-point cut was in line with analysts' expectations.

The bank said external factors were making it difficult to rein in inflation.

A long-feared and now apparently imminent interest rate hike in the United States would strengthen the dollar against the Brazilian real.

And billionaire Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential election has unleashed "uncertainty about the direction of economic policy," the bank said.

Also restraining the bank is uncertainty about the future of Temer's austerity plan.

On Tuesday, the senate passed the first key measure, a 20-year spending freeze, against a backdrop of violent protests.

Even more controversial measures -- including pension reforms -- have yet to be debated.

Meanwhile, unemployment remained stuck at 11.8 percent between August and October.

Temer faces a huge task to wrestle Brazil back into the black. The economy shrank 3.8 percent in 2015 and market estimates are pointing to another slip, of almost 3.5 percent in 2016, with weak growth returning next year.

Brazil has been hit hard by falling world commodity prices, the bitter political struggle that led to Rousseff's impeachment, and a vast corruption scandal at state oil giant Petrobras.

Temer has warned of state "bankruptcy" if the country does not impose painful reforms.

Trump appoints ex-Goldman exec as Treasury Sec, bank’s stocks hit highest levels since 2007

Preview Goldman Sachs’ stock price jumped to levels not seen since before the financial crash, thanks to President-elect Donald Trump’s announcement of his intended Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman exec and hedge fund manager.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Goldman Sachs’ stock price jumped to levels not seen since before the financial crash, thanks to President-elect Donald Trump’s announcement of his intended Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman exec and hedge fund manager.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Southampton stun Arsenal in League Cup

Southampton dealt Arsenal a shock defeat in the English League Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday as goals from Jordy Clasie and Ryan Bertrand earned Claude Puel’s side a 2-0 win.Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had been hoping to win the competition for the…

Southampton dealt Arsenal a shock defeat in the English League Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday as goals from Jordy Clasie and Ryan Bertrand earned Claude Puel's side a 2-0 win.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had been hoping to win the competition for the first time, but instead his decision to make 10 changes backfired as Southampton ended his side's 19-game unbeaten run.

Southampton, who also eliminated Arsenal from the competition two seasons ago, reached the semi-finals after losing their last six last-eight ties in the competition.

Puel's side join Liverpool, Hull City and either Manchester United or West Ham United -- who were facing off in Wednesday's other quarter-final -- in the draw for the last four.

Dutch midfielder Clasie's blistering drive put Southampton ahead in the 13th minute at the Emirates Stadium.

England left-back Bertrand added a second seven minutes before half-time, gathering Sofiane Boufal's pass and rifling a shot into the bottom corner.

Mohamed Elneny was the only player to have kept his place from Arsenal's 3-1 win over Bournemouth on Sunday, but he succumbed to injury before half-time and was replaced by Granit Xhaka.

It was Arsenal's first defeat since a 4-3 loss at home to Liverpool on the opening weekend of the Premier League season.

Goose bumps and bruises as Victoria’s Secret models take to Paris catwalk

It took a fair bit of cheek — and not a little phlegm on a freezing Paris night — for the brash US lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret to hold its first-ever fashion show in the city that invented sexy underwear. And true to the brand’s brazen style, th…

It took a fair bit of cheek -- and not a little phlegm on a freezing Paris night -- for the brash US lingerie brand Victoria's Secret to hold its first-ever fashion show in the city that invented sexy underwear.

And true to the brand's brazen style, the spectacle featured a (slightly wounded) megastar, history-struck A-lister models -- and a jewel-encrusted multi-million-dollar "fantasy" bra.

Lady Gaga -- the star draw for the annual extragavanza famous for bringing kitschy Las Vegas glamour to the catwalk -- picked up a "couple of bruises from (the) dance rehearsal", she told her 64 million Twitter followers.

The show's mostly American models said they felt "goose bumps" -- and not just because of the sub-freezing temperatures.

They were also stepping out under the hallowed dome of the Grand Palais, the Art Deco temple where the luxury French label Chanel holds its couture shows.

Karl Lagerfeld, the forthright Chanel designer, was unfortunately not on hand to give his view of the proceedings.

Three of his favourite models -- Gigi and Bella Hadid, and Kendall Jenner from the Kardashian dynasty -- were among the brand's "angels", so called because the models wear wings on the runway.

The 35-year-old Brazilian beauty Adriana Lima struck a blow for older models, walking her 15th show on the pink-themed set.

The mother-of-two had earlier said she keeps in shape with porridge for breakfast and a buckwheat drink before bed. "Eating buckwheat before bedtime actually helps you burn calories while you sleep," she said.

- $3-million bra -

Another landmark was Jasmine Tookes becoming the "first black woman to sport the Victoria's Secrets Fantasy Bra in nine years", after Selita Ebanks and Tyra Banks.

She closed the show modelling the emerald- and diamond-encrusted "Bright Night Fantasy Bra", which costs $3 million (2.83 million euros).

The 25-year-old Californian had earlier batted away allegations that she had bleached her skin for the show.

"Are you kidding me! Who in the world does that?" she wrote on Instagram.

"Lighting is everything... not to mention I'm way darker in the summer and much lighter towards the winter. My skin tone changes all the time just like everyone else," she added.

Former Swedish professional basketball player Elsa Hosk also made her debut to promote the brand's new sportwear range.

Although Victoria's Secret has nearly 1,000 shops in the US with $7.6 billion sales last year, it is almost unknown in France, where there is a long tradition of high quality lingerie.

But several French fashion figures were notable absentees, including Balmain designer Olivier Rousteing, a favourite of singers Rihanna and Beyonce.

And in marked contrasted to the usual Paris fashion shows, even if the models were not wearing much they all had smiles on their faces.

"It was very much an America-style fireworks show that shouldn't be taken too seriously," one not overly impressed guest called Ronan told AFP.

The star-studded show, which will be broadcast in 190 countries from December 5, is being seen as an attempt by the label to break into the lucrative European market.

The hype surrounding the event began months ago, with the brand launching the hashtag #trainlikeanangel on social media, showing the models working out to get in shape for the catwalk.

Victoria's Secret has regularly faced criticism for presenting women with an unrealistic body imagine, with models admitting that they are on special diets for weeks before the show.

Raonic splits with Moya despite record year

Canada’s Milos Raonic parted ways with coach Carloa Moya on Wednesday despite a season which saw him reach his first Grand Slam final and finish at three in the world.The 25-year-old only teamed up with former French Open champion Moya in January befor…

Canada's Milos Raonic parted ways with coach Carloa Moya on Wednesday despite a season which saw him reach his first Grand Slam final and finish at three in the world.

The 25-year-old only teamed up with former French Open champion Moya in January before adding John McEnroe briefly to his coaching set-up in the summer.

The big-serving Canadian was runner-up to Andy Murray at Wimbledon in July.

He also made the semi-finals of the World Tour finals in London before ending 2016 at a career-high three in the world behind top-ranked Murray and Novak Djokovic.

"Thank you to Carlos Moya for helping me tremendously this year, alongside my team, to get the best out of me," tweeted Raonic.

"Under Carlos' direction and tutelage I have played my best yet to date. We will no longer be continuing our coaching relationship but remain close friends. I wish him all the best."

Army assault leaves bodies strewn in Aleppo streets

The Syrian army’s advance into rebel-held east Aleppo has deprived families of anywhere to hide and left shredded bodies of men, women and children strewn in the streets.Previously, civilians in the eastern sector of the city could try to take shelter …

The Syrian army's advance into rebel-held east Aleppo has deprived families of anywhere to hide and left shredded bodies of men, women and children strewn in the streets.

Previously, civilians in the eastern sector of the city could try to take shelter from air strikes inside buildings, but now sudden artillery fire can pound the streets without warning, mowing down all those in its path.

"It's really raining shells," said the AFP correspondent in the battered city.

On Wednesday, the correspondent witnessed a shell crashing onto a main road, ripping off a little girl's hand and piercing her head with shrapnel.

With east Aleppo's ambulances either destroyed or lacking fuel, no rescue services were available.

Two young men on a moped tried to whisk 10-year-old Mona away to safety, but her family later told AFP that she died of her serious injuries.

Two weeks into the all-out assault and after a months-long siege, pro-government forces have seized control of around 40 percent of what had been rebel-controlled east Aleppo since 2014.

After wave after wave of air strikes, the army is pounding rebel areas with intensive bombardment.

The crude barrel bombs dropped by helicopters at least gave those on the ground a chance to take cover once the aircraft were sighted.

The relentless artillery barrage has punched gaping holes in the walls of the apartment buildings still standing and torn down balconies.

The UN's World Food Programme spokeswoman Bettina Luescher on Wednesday described the plight of civilians in east Aleppo as a "slow motion descent into hell".

- 'Impossible to cross' -

Many civilians in the stricken areas, especially Shaar district, have been left with no escape route to government-controlled parts of Aleppo.

"The shelling doesn't stop. It's impossible to cross," said one group trying to flee with their few possessions.

Videos posted online Wednesday by Syrian Civil Defence rescue group and the opposition Aleppo Media Centre show a blood-soaked street filled with corpses, human body parts and shoes.

A teenage boy appears, crying next to two bodies, one of them his mother who had been walking a few paces behind when the shell struck.

"The artillery hit a first time and we ran. That's when I saw my mother was dead," he says to the camera.

The teenager had been with his parents and a group of displaced persons seeking shelter in a government-controlled neighbourhood of the divided city.

"We're leaving because of the injustice, the air strikes, the bombardments, the lack of food," says the distressed father, as the bodies are wrapped in orange plastic.

More than 50,000 terrified civilians have fled rebel-held areas in four days.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor, the battle launched on November 15 has killed more than 300 civilians in east Aleppo, including 33 children.

Gun that shot poet Rimbaud sells for €435,500 at auction

The most famous gun in French literary history, the revolver with which Paul Verlaine tried to kill his lover and fellow poet Arthur Rimbaud, sold for 434,500 euros ($460,000) at auction in Paris on Wednesday.

The most famous gun in French literary history, the revolver with which Paul Verlaine tried to kill his lover and fellow poet Arthur Rimbaud, sold for 434,500 euros ($460,000) at auction in Paris on Wednesday.

Tens of thousands flee east Aleppo

More than 50,000 Syrians have joined a growing exodus of terrified civilians from east Aleppo, a monitor said Wednesday, as the UN Security Council was set for emergency talks on fighting in the city.

More than 50,000 Syrians have joined a growing exodus of terrified civilians from east Aleppo, a monitor said Wednesday, as the UN Security Council was set for emergency talks on fighting in the city.

Boost in events, money coming on 2017 LPGA Tour

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan unveiled a 2017 tour schedule Wednesday that features a $4.35 million (4.1 million euros) prize money boost and more tournaments than the 2016 campaign.There will be four new LPGA events but three others that will not return…

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan unveiled a 2017 tour schedule Wednesday that features a $4.35 million (4.1 million euros) prize money boost and more tournaments than the 2016 campaign.

There will be four new LPGA events but three others that will not return from this year for 34 tournaments in all plus the Solheim Cup US-Europe women's team showdown with a record total purse of $67.35 million.

In all, 11 of 30 returning events will raise prize money offerings, including four of the five women's golf majors.

The US Women's Open will jump from $4.5 million to $5 million next year, when it will be staged at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey -- a layout owned by US President-elect Donald Trump.

"Our goal has been to consistently move the needle forward in providing increased financial opportunities for our members,"Whan said. "We are excited to see these increases for 2017 and we look forward to continuing to grow overall prize money in future years.

"While we receive credit for being a global tour, we're just as proud that we've added more events in North America since 2011 then we have abroad."

The number of US events will fall, however, with events lost in Florida, San Francisco and Alabama and added in Indianapolis and Oneida, Wisconsin.

The Scottish Ladies Open, co-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour, and New Zealand Women's Open, won by Kiwi teen star Lydia Ko three of the last four years, were also added to the LPGA lineup.

The New Zealand event begins a run of seven LPGA events in the Asia-Pacific region before the season-ending Tour Championship in Naples, Florida.

The Lorena Ochoa Invitational will become a match-play event starting next year with the world's 64 top players competing in Mexico City. The event will also move from November to May.

Americans will seek to defend the Solheim Cup from August 18-20, 2017, at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa.

Fans mass at Brazil football stadium to mourn dead players

Thousands of Brazilians who had been expecting to spend Wednesday night cheering their beloved Chapecoense football team in its hour of glory were instead gathering at the home stadium to mourn dead players.The reality of late Monday’s crash in the Col…

Thousands of Brazilians who had been expecting to spend Wednesday night cheering their beloved Chapecoense football team in its hour of glory were instead gathering at the home stadium to mourn dead players.

The reality of late Monday's crash in the Colombian mountains of a charter plane carrying the team to a regional championship final against Atletico Nacional in Medellin had yet to sink in fully.

Fans in the provincial city of Chapeco in southern Brazil donned the club's green and white shirt and tried to absorb the sudden absence of a team that had been about to crown its dream season with a shot at the Copa Sudamericana title.

"Chapeco is not a big city. We would meet (the players) in the street, anywhere. It's hard to keep going. It was already hard yesterday. The city is devastated," said teacher Aline Fonseca, 21.

"We're not putting on loud music, not listening to anything," Fonseca said.

The first bodies are not expected to be flown back from Colombia, where they are being identified, until later this week.

However, the fans will be meeting in the stands in the Chapecoense stadium, which has been draped in black ribbons, at the exact moment when the team was meant to have been kicking off against Atletico Nacional in Medellin for the first leg of the final in the continent's number two tournament.

The crash of the charter plane close to its destination killed 71 people, including 20 Brazilian sports journalists traveling to cover what would have been a remarkable occasion for a club that rose from the lower leagues to contend in the top tier.

- Mass wake -

If it hadn't been for the tragedy, much of this city of 200,000 would have been glued to the television watching their heroes take on the fancied Colombian club.

They were also preparing for the decisive second game, which was due to be held in the city of Curitiba rather than Chapeco, because the stadium was more suitable.

Instead, team officials and family members were bracing to receive the bodies by the end of the week.

Club leaders said they hope to organize a mass wake for the bodies at the stadium, with as many as 100,000 people cramming in.

"Our desire is for a collective wake to be held here," said club official Gelson Della Costa at a press conference, adding that the families' permission was being sought.

Although the plans have not been finalized and there isn't even a fixed date for the bodies' return, emergency services did a dry run Wednesday of the route that the coffins would take from the airport to the stadium.

"It's still hard to believe. I think we'll only really take it in when the dead arrive. We are in deep sorrow," said Valemar Jardine, 50, who runs a newsstand.

For the vice president of the football club, though, reality has already set in -- brutally.

"It was very difficult on entering the meeting room in the morning and seeing all the empty seats of our companions, and knowing that I was also on the list to travel but didn't go in the end," said Ivan Tozzo, his voice trembling.

UN panel rebuffs Britain over Assange ruling

A UN panel has rejected Britain’s request to review a ruling that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is being arbitrarily detained, according to a statement released late Wednesday in Geneva.Having initially issued its opinion in favour of Assange in Feb…

A UN panel has rejected Britain's request to review a ruling that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is being arbitrarily detained, according to a statement released late Wednesday in Geneva.

Having initially issued its opinion in favour of Assange in February, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said it was not changing course as the British request "did not meet the threshold of a review... and (was) thus not admissible".

Assange, 45, has been at the Ecuadoran embassy in London since 2012, having taken refuge to avoid being sent to Sweden where he faces rape allegations that he denies.

He fears Sweden would extradite him to the United States to answer for the leaking of diplomatic cables and other classified documents by his whistleblowing website. The disclosures caused huge embarrassment in Washington.

The UN panel, which is attached to the Human Rights Council, met between November 21-25 but only published its findings on Wednesday.

Assange said in a statement: "Now that all appeals are exhausted I expect that the UK and Sweden will comply with their international obligations and set me free. It is an obvious and grotesque injustice to detain someone for six years who hasn't even been charged with an offence."

The fate of the former computer hacker, who turned WikiLeaks into a vehicle for releasing classified documents on the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, remains unclear.

He was grilled over the longstanding rape allegation by an Ecuadoran prosecutor at the embassy for two days earlier this month. The questions were provided by Swedish officials but the answers were confidential.

Swedish prosecutors dropped a sexual assault probe into Assange last year after the five-year statute of limitations expired. But they still want to question him about the 2010 rape allegation, which carries a 10-year statute of limitations.

Assange insists the sexual encounters in question were consensual.

Four-day procession to honour Castro kicks off in Havana

The ashes of Cuban leader Fidel Castro began a four-day journey across Cuba on Wednesday to his final resting place, retracing the late communist leader’s revolution victory tour of 1959.

The ashes of Cuban leader Fidel Castro began a four-day journey across Cuba on Wednesday to his final resting place, retracing the late communist leader's revolution victory tour of 1959.

Hillary Clinton surprises gala for UNICEF, Katy Perry

Hillary Clinton surprised a New York gala with an unscheduled appearance to promote UNICEF and honor singer Katy Perry, one of the top celebrity supporters of her ill-fated presidential campaign.The United Nations Children’s Fund presented Perry an awa…

Hillary Clinton surprised a New York gala with an unscheduled appearance to promote UNICEF and honor singer Katy Perry, one of the top celebrity supporters of her ill-fated presidential campaign.

The United Nations Children's Fund presented Perry an award Tuesday night at its Snowflake Ball, a glitzy annual evening to benefit the international organization.

Clinton unexpectedly entered to introduce Perry, taking the stage to the sound of the pop superstar's "Roar," which the former secretary of state featured in campaign advertisements.

Clinton hailed Perry for humanitarian work and, to loud applause, called the singer "someone whose powerful voice and creative lyrics remind us when you get knocked down to get back up."

It was one of the first public appearances by Clinton since she lost the November 8 election to hotel mogul Donald Trump, who pulled off one of the biggest upsets in US political history.

Clinton, long active on child welfare, also appeared after the election in Washington to receive an award from the Children's Defense Fund, the advocacy group with which she has played a role for years.

At the New York gala, Clinton hailed UNICEF for providing food, education and medical care for millions of children over the organization's seven-decade history.

"Every single child deserves the chance to live up to his or her God-given potential," Clinton said, according to a video of the event.

Perry embraced Clinton and spoke in the style of a campaign stump speech, saying that the candidate had given her a new voice beyond music.

"Hillary has lit that voice inside of me and that light will never go out. It will continue to get brighter and brighter and brighter," Perry said.

"Thank you, Hillary. You motivate me and so many millions of people who appreciate you," she said.

The 32-year-old pop singer -- the world's most followed person on Twitter -- was among a slew of famous musicians to campaign for Clinton along with Jay Z, Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen, Lady Gaga and Jon Bon Jovi.

Trump ultimately won the election with support from white working-class voters in battleground states, even as Clinton triumphed in the popular vote.

Globalization fears see EU right-wing populist parties flourish – study

Preview Voters in the European Union are opting for right-wing populist parties due to a fear of globalization, a study by Germany’s renowned Bertelsmann Stiftung has found. The results come as populist and right-wing parties’ support across the EU grows.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Voters in the European Union are opting for right-wing populist parties due to a fear of globalization, a study by Germany’s renowned Bertelsmann Stiftung has found. The results come as populist and right-wing parties’ support across the EU grows.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Philip Morris looking towards cigarette phase-out

Tobacco giant Philip Morris is aiming to stop selling conventional cigarettes and replace them with a less harmful product, its chief executive said Wednesday.As the firm launched its smokeless iQOS cigarette in Britain, Andre Calantzopoulos told BBC r…

Tobacco giant Philip Morris is aiming to stop selling conventional cigarettes and replace them with a less harmful product, its chief executive said Wednesday.

As the firm launched its smokeless iQOS cigarette in Britain, Andre Calantzopoulos told BBC radio that the company would try to move smokers over to the new product.

The iQOS heats tobacco rather than burns it and it is claimed that smokers get the same hit of nicotine, but 90 percent less of the toxins present in cigarette smoke.

It is already available in Japan and Italy, and in Switzerland where Philip Morris International (PMI) is based.

"I believe that there will come a moment in time where we have sufficient adoption of this alternative product and sufficient awareness to start envisaging, together with governments, a phase-out period for cigarettes," said Calantzopoulos.

"I hope this time will come soon."

Marlboro maker Philip Morris is the world's second-biggest cigarette producer by market share, after the state-owned China National Tobacco Corporation.

PMI has spent $3 billion on creating the iQOS substitute cigarette, the BBC reported.

"For us, it's to offer our consumers the best product we can in a category that we all know is addictive and causes harm," Calantzopoulos.

"Once we have the alternative, as we have today, we offer them the alternative and will do everything we can to convince them to switch to these products."

Most global tobacco firms are looking to emerging markets to offset sliding demand in Western Europe, where high taxes, public smoking bans and health concerns have persuaded many people to give up or turn to e-cigarettes, battery-powered devices that heat a nicotine liquid.

Action on Smoking and Health, a British anti-smoking lobby, said the iQOS should be regulated like other tobacco products unless independent evidence can prove it is less harmful than regular smoking.

"If smokers switch to electronic cigarettes or other products that can be shown to cut the risks to their health, this could lead to a big improvement in public health," said ASH chief executive Deborah Arnott.

"But we need independent evidence to support any claims made by the tobacco industry.

"From past experience, nothing the tobacco companies say should be accepted at face value."

Worldwide, smoking claims around six million lives annually, mostly in low-income countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

GoPro cuts staff, shifts focus

Mini-camera maker GoPro announced plans Wednesday to cut 15 percent of its staff as its shifts its focus to its core manufacturing operations.GoPro, a onetime star of the sector with cameras used for social media and sports photography, said the cuts w…

Mini-camera maker GoPro announced plans Wednesday to cut 15 percent of its staff as its shifts its focus to its core manufacturing operations.

GoPro, a onetime star of the sector with cameras used for social media and sports photography, said the cuts would eliminate around 200 jobs.

The California group said it would eliminate its "entertainment" division that produced original video content.

"Consumer demand for GoPro is solid and we've sharply narrowed our focus to concentrate on our core business," said founder and chief executive Nicholas Woodman.

"We are headed into 2017 with a powerful global brand, our best ever products, and a clear roadmap for restored growth and profitability in 2017."

GoPro's stock has been under pressure from recent losses and sliding revenues since hitting a peak in 2014.

It was also hit with a recall of its newly introduced Karma drone, designed to carry its cameras.

The company earlier this year cut around seven percent of its workforce.

World Rugby OK with Jones-Cheika talk

England coach Eddie Jones and Australia counterpart Michael Cheika can continue their verbal jousting ahead of this weekend’s clash at Twickenham without fear of a Jose Mourinho-style punishment, the chief executive of World Rugby told AFP on Wednesday.

Jones and Cheika have both publicly questioned the other side’s scrum, in what appear to be attempts to influence South African referee Jaco Peyper, who will be in charge on Saturday.

“I was very interested in their scrummaging over there during the summer (in England’s 3-0 series win in Australia in June) and they are welcome to come to the meeting with the referee,” said former Wallaby boss Jones immediately after 14-man England’s 27-14 victory over Argentina at Twickenham last Saturday.

Cheika, who played alongside Jones at Sydney club Randwick, responded by slamming the scrum technique of England prop Dan Cole, sin-binned against the Pumas.

“He (Jones) has got to be looking at his own players,” said Cheika.

“They are the ones who have a prop with a yellow card and that same prop’s been infringing the law since his career started, probably if not all of this year.

“It’s up to the ref whether he gets influenced by that really after the guy’s been boring in and falling down all of June.”

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was recently given a £50,000 fine by England’s governing Football Association for putting “an additional layer of pressure” on referee Anthony Taylor before last month’s goalless draw against Liverpool at Anfield.

Taylor’s suitability to take charge of the game was widely questioned in the build-up, mainly on account of the fact he lives in Altrincham, near Manchester.

According to Mourinho, such talk was adding to the pressure on Taylor and making it “hard for him to have a very good performance.”

The Portuguese’s comments were arguably far less contentious than anything uttered by Cheika or Jones.

But World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper, in a telephone interview with AFP on Wednesday, did not believe his two fellow Australians had overstepped the mark.

– ‘Hard to control what coaches say’ –

Nor did he have plans to stop coaches meeting with a referee prior to a Test — even though Cheika said Tuesday: “I don’t think the refs like those meetings.”

“It’s hard to control what coaches say,” said Gosper. “We have enough rules in place that any comment coaches might want to make about officiating, there are channels for them to use.”

Many within rugby union contrast their sport’s respect for match officials with the ‘free-for-all’ that sees football referees often engulfed by a mob of angry players every time they make a decision.

Gosper himself came under fire after World Rugby issued a statement following Australia’s dramatic World Cup quarter-final win over Scotland at Twickenham last year that said South African referee Craig Joubert had make a mistake in awarding the Wallabies what turned out to be a match-clinching penalty with seconds to spare.

“We want the value preserved that there isn’t public criticism of the referee. It’s a standard we hold very highly,” Gosper said Wednesday.

Jones, Australia’s coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup final to England, made his comments about the Wallaby scrum following what was a ‘two-hour Test’ against the Pumas, even though matches are only supposed to last 80 minutes.

But in an international involving two red cards, French referee Pascal Gauzere — widely considered to have had a good game — found himself stopping the clock to call upon the television match official.

Having initially been deployed mainly to help referees determine whether a try had been scored, the TMO now often advises the on-field referee regarding foul play, offside and off-the-ball incidents.

All this leads to delays, with various angles studied in the most serious incidents.

“The TMO is always a work in progress. We’re trying to make sure it doesn’t take up too much time,” said Gosper.

Figures produced by World Rugby indicate the average length of time for a TMO referral is about 74 seconds, and there are about 2.4 referrals per game on average.

Nigel Owens, the referee for last year’s World Cup final, where New Zealand beat Australia, recently voiced concerns that excessive use of the TMO had encouraged players to question decisions.

“It’s not engraved in stone, changes (to what the TMO does) can be made,” Gosper told AFP.

“You do trade time for the correct decision to a certain extent but we want to get there as quickly as possible.”

England coach Eddie Jones and Australia counterpart Michael Cheika can continue their verbal jousting ahead of this weekend's clash at Twickenham without fear of a Jose Mourinho-style punishment, the chief executive of World Rugby told AFP on Wednesday.

Jones and Cheika have both publicly questioned the other side's scrum, in what appear to be attempts to influence South African referee Jaco Peyper, who will be in charge on Saturday.

"I was very interested in their scrummaging over there during the summer (in England's 3-0 series win in Australia in June) and they are welcome to come to the meeting with the referee," said former Wallaby boss Jones immediately after 14-man England's 27-14 victory over Argentina at Twickenham last Saturday.

Cheika, who played alongside Jones at Sydney club Randwick, responded by slamming the scrum technique of England prop Dan Cole, sin-binned against the Pumas.

"He (Jones) has got to be looking at his own players," said Cheika.

"They are the ones who have a prop with a yellow card and that same prop's been infringing the law since his career started, probably if not all of this year.

"It's up to the ref whether he gets influenced by that really after the guy's been boring in and falling down all of June."

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was recently given a £50,000 fine by England's governing Football Association for putting "an additional layer of pressure" on referee Anthony Taylor before last month's goalless draw against Liverpool at Anfield.

Taylor's suitability to take charge of the game was widely questioned in the build-up, mainly on account of the fact he lives in Altrincham, near Manchester.

According to Mourinho, such talk was adding to the pressure on Taylor and making it "hard for him to have a very good performance."

The Portuguese's comments were arguably far less contentious than anything uttered by Cheika or Jones.

But World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper, in a telephone interview with AFP on Wednesday, did not believe his two fellow Australians had overstepped the mark.

- 'Hard to control what coaches say' -

Nor did he have plans to stop coaches meeting with a referee prior to a Test -- even though Cheika said Tuesday: "I don't think the refs like those meetings."

"It's hard to control what coaches say," said Gosper. "We have enough rules in place that any comment coaches might want to make about officiating, there are channels for them to use."

Many within rugby union contrast their sport's respect for match officials with the 'free-for-all' that sees football referees often engulfed by a mob of angry players every time they make a decision.

Gosper himself came under fire after World Rugby issued a statement following Australia's dramatic World Cup quarter-final win over Scotland at Twickenham last year that said South African referee Craig Joubert had make a mistake in awarding the Wallabies what turned out to be a match-clinching penalty with seconds to spare.

"We want the value preserved that there isn't public criticism of the referee. It's a standard we hold very highly," Gosper said Wednesday.

Jones, Australia's coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup final to England, made his comments about the Wallaby scrum following what was a 'two-hour Test' against the Pumas, even though matches are only supposed to last 80 minutes.

But in an international involving two red cards, French referee Pascal Gauzere -- widely considered to have had a good game -- found himself stopping the clock to call upon the television match official.

Having initially been deployed mainly to help referees determine whether a try had been scored, the TMO now often advises the on-field referee regarding foul play, offside and off-the-ball incidents.

All this leads to delays, with various angles studied in the most serious incidents.

"The TMO is always a work in progress. We're trying to make sure it doesn't take up too much time," said Gosper.

Figures produced by World Rugby indicate the average length of time for a TMO referral is about 74 seconds, and there are about 2.4 referrals per game on average.

Nigel Owens, the referee for last year's World Cup final, where New Zealand beat Australia, recently voiced concerns that excessive use of the TMO had encouraged players to question decisions.

"It's not engraved in stone, changes (to what the TMO does) can be made," Gosper told AFP.

"You do trade time for the correct decision to a certain extent but we want to get there as quickly as possible."

2017 Formula One schedule avoids Le Mans clash

The European Grand Prix in Baku will be staged a week earlier in 2017 to avoid clashing with the famed Le Mans 24 Hour Race, motor racing’s governing body the FIA said on Wednesday.In a schedule reduced to 20 races, rather than the 21 of 2016, the Baku…

The European Grand Prix in Baku will be staged a week earlier in 2017 to avoid clashing with the famed Le Mans 24 Hour Race, motor racing's governing body the FIA said on Wednesday.

In a schedule reduced to 20 races, rather than the 21 of 2016, the Baku race will be staged on June 25, a week after Le Mans, which runs over June 17 and 18.

Missing from the programme for next year is the German Grand Prix. Nuremberg is financially unable to stage the race while 2016 host Hockenheim was not willing to take it on for two seasons back-to-back.

Nuremberg also passed up the opportunity in 2015.

The lack of a German race means newly-crowned world champion Nico Rosberg will not have the opportunity to race in front of his home fans in 2017.

Rosberg will start the defence of his Formula One world title in Australia on March 26 with Abu Dhabi again staging the season finale, on November 26.

Other tweaks see the British Grand Prix at Silverstone move to a week later on July 16, the same day as the Wimbledon tennis men's singles final.

Brazil's race at Interlagos in Sao Paulo is still to be officially confirmed as negotiations continue between the promoter and the sport's ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone.

2017 F1 championship schedule:

March 26: Australia (Melbourne)

April 9: China (Shanghai)

April 16: Bahrain (Sakhir)

April 30: Russia (Sochi)

May 14: Spain (Barcelona)

May 28: Monaco

June 11: Canada (Montreal)

June 25: Europe (Baku)

July 9: Austria (Spielberg)

July 16: Great Britain (Silverstone)

July 30: Hungary (Budapest)

August 27: Belgium (Spa-Francorchamps)

September 3: Italy (Monza)

September 17: Singapore

October 1: Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)

October 8: Japan (Suzuka)

October 22: United States (Austin)

October 29: Mexico

November 12: Brazil (Sao Paulo)

November 26: Abu Dhabi (UAE)

Zidane’s son scores on debut in Real Cup rout

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane’s son, Enzo, scored on his senior debut as the European champions brushed aside third tier Cultural Leonesa to progress into the last 16 of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.Enzo, 21, and the oldest of Zidane’s four sons, …

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane's son, Enzo, scored on his senior debut as the European champions brushed aside third tier Cultural Leonesa to progress into the last 16 of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.

Enzo, 21, and the oldest of Zidane's four sons, all of whom play at different levels in Real's youth teams, was introduced at half-time with Madrid already leading 3-1 on the night and 10-2 on aggregate.

And Enzo, who was previously coached by his father at Real's youth side Castilla before he took the top job at the Santiago Bernabeu in January, showed a glimpse of his father's talent with a fine low finish from the edge of the area just after the hour mark.

Iraqis chase IS jihadists in Mosul with local help

Lieutenant Ali Hussein listened intently as the elderly man explained where he thought the jihadist fighters were over the rattle of machinegun fire.”My neighbour shouted to me and told me he saw them,” the white-haired man said. The three jihadists we…

Lieutenant Ali Hussein listened intently as the elderly man explained where he thought the jihadist fighters were over the rattle of machinegun fire.

"My neighbour shouted to me and told me he saw them," the white-haired man said. The three jihadists were still thought to be in a nearby house.

Iraqi special forces were battling Wednesday to clear the Al-Bakr neighbourhood of Mosul as they thrust deeper into territory controlled by the Islamic State group.

Despite fighting their way into the district the day before, pockets of IS fighters were still putting up resistance.

Shots echoed down the residential street where the Iraqi forces were based and the smouldering wreckage of an armoured yellow truck bomb still packed with undetonated explosives stood at the corner of the block.

Hussein immediately turned to his troops and ordered them to follow the man's lead.

"Take bazookas and flamethrowers with you," he said.

"Be careful," he told them over the walkie-talkie as they disappeared down the street. "God bless you!"

A few minutes later the call came back that the house was empty.

- 'We've been waiting' -

As the Iraqi forces have pushed into Mosul many residents have stayed behind -- either taking a conscious decision to remain or unable to run the gauntlet to leave.

While the large numbers of civilians has hampered the use of air power against IS their presence has its upside for the Iraqi forces -- they provide valuable intelligence tip-offs on the ground.

"It is very important. It happens every time we liberate a district," Hussein told AFP.

"The most important thing about it is that there are sleeper cells of jihadists" whose whereabouts the locals can reveal.

Hussein said that the special forces were also building up a network of informants to supply information on IS movements in areas that they are yet to capture.

"When we enter a district we have informants. They contact their relatives in other districts so they become new informants for us when we enter those districts," he said.

As explosions rang out nearby some soldiers from the Najaf regiment that Hussein commands took shelter in a nearby civilian house where the family cut down oranges from a tree in the garden and offered them around.

Standing in the gateway of the house Amer Ali, 66, said residents were often all too happy to help the advancing Iraqi troops.

"We've been waiting for them with all our heart," Ali said. "We were in a big prison for two years."

Ali said that in the area around there were not many jihadists and that most withdrew ahead of the Iraqi army's entrance into the district.

But the elite Counter-Terrorism Service was taking no chances and commander Hussein told his men to go door-to-door through every house around.

UK experts give green light to ‘three-parent babies’

British scientists on Wednesday approved the use of so-called “three-parent baby” fertility treatments, paving the way for the country to become the first in the world to officially introduce the procedures.An independent panel of experts tasked with r…

British scientists on Wednesday approved the use of so-called "three-parent baby" fertility treatments, paving the way for the country to become the first in the world to officially introduce the procedures.

An independent panel of experts tasked with reviewing the safety of mitochondrial gene therapy said the practice should be "cautiously adopted" to prevent certain genetic diseases from being passed on to future generations.

British MPs voted in February to allow the creation of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) babies with DNA from three people.

However, the country's fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), said it would wait for Wednesday's report before green-lighting use of the treatments in clinics.

The technique would allow women who carry disease-causing mutations in their mitochondrial genes to give birth to genetically-related children free of mitochondrial disease.

- 'Designer babies' -

But opponents have questioned its ethics and say it opens the way to "designer babies".

The treatment involves the embryo receiving the usual "nuclear" DNA from the mother and father, as well as a small amount of healthy mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) from a female donor.

The review panel recommended its clinical use "in specific circumstances... where inheritance of the disease is likely to cause death or serious disease and where there are no acceptable alternatives."

Following the report, the HFEA is expected to authorise the procedure for clinical use when it meets on December 15.

The first women could receive the treatment as early as March or April next year, with a pioneering research centre in Newcastle, northeast England, expected to be the first where it would take place.

Health charities swiftly welcomed the announcement.

Robert Meadowcroft, head of Muscular Dystrophy UK, described it as "a major step" towards effective treatment for the 2,500 women in Britain affected.

"This pioneering technique could give women with mitochondrial disease the chance to have a healthy child, without the fear of passing on this condition which can lead to babies born with this condition having multiple disabilities and indeed life-limiting impairments," he said.

- 'Currently imperfect' -

But David Clancy, from the faculty of health and medicine at the University of Lancaster, said the technique was "currently imperfect".

As many as one in 30 women who receive the treatment could still give birth to a child with an inherited disease, he predicts.

"By the intervention that is MRT (mitochondrial replacement therapy), the evidence now suggests that, at some point, producing a child who will suffer from mitochondrial disease is a certainty. Are we, as a society, okay with that?" Clancy said.

Mitochondria are structures in cells which generate vital energy and contain their own set of genes called mDNA which is passed through the mother.

Mitochondrial diseases cause symptoms ranging from poor vision to diabetes and muscle wasting and health officials estimate around 125 babies are born with the mutations in Britain every year.

The first baby conceived using mitochondrial donation was born earlier this year in Mexico, where there are no rules on its use, but Britain would be the first to officially authorise it.

The treatment remains controversial in Britain and elsewhere, with religious leaders among its detractors.

The Roman Catholic Church opposes the move, pointing out that it would involve the destruction of human embryos as part of the process, while the Church of England has said ethical concerns "have not been sufficiently explored".

Oil prices surge nearly 10% in New York after OPEC deal

Oil prices soared nearly 10 percent in New York on Wednesday after OPEC member countries reached a deal to jointly cut output for the first time since 2008, putting an end to months of suspense on markets.On the New York Mercantile Exchange, a barrel o…

Oil prices soared nearly 10 percent in New York on Wednesday after OPEC member countries reached a deal to jointly cut output for the first time since 2008, putting an end to months of suspense on markets.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, a barrel of West Texas Intermediate light sweet crude for January delivery finished up $4.21, or 9.3 percent, at $49.44.

Bank regulators seek deal on crisis reforms

World banking supervisors said Wednesday they were closing in on finalizing controversial new regulations to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis.The Basel Committee, a forum of international financial authorities, held a meeting in Chile with…

World banking supervisors said Wednesday they were closing in on finalizing controversial new regulations to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis.

The Basel Committee, a forum of international financial authorities, held a meeting in Chile with regulators to set new global norms for banking stability.

"The committee has spent the past two days working towards an agreement to finalize these post-crisis reforms," chairman Stefan Ingves told the gathering in Santiago.

"We have made very good progress and the contours of an agreement are now clear."

The committee plans to oblige banks to strengthen their capital base to cushion them against financial shocks.

Ingves said he hoped the members of the forum would approve the new regulations, known as the "Basel III" reforms, in January.

"There will no doubt be increases and decreases in operational risk capital requirements for certain banks," Ingves said.

The reforms also aim to impose special obligations to regulate the debt ratio or "leverage" of "global systemically important banks," he said.

Disagreements have threatened to complicate the reforms.

The United States has been pushing for strict capital requirements.

European governments, regulators and finance groups fear stringent capital requirements will hobble their banks and economies.

Meanwhile US President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to eliminate the landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform law adopted in the post-crisis era.

German central bank board member Andreas Dombret said this month he hoped Trump would not derail the Basel reforms.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney said he expected "a handful of institutions" would be obliged to increase their capital base.

"But for the system as a whole it will be relatively modest," he told a news conference in London on Wednesday.

Zenit beat Ufa to keep tabs on leaders Spartak

Zenit St Petersburg bounced back from a disappointing defeat in their previous Premier League match at Krasnodar beating Ufa 2-0 on Wednesday to narrow the gap on leaders Spartak Moscow.The late goals by Brazilian Giuliano and Russian international for…

Zenit St Petersburg bounced back from a disappointing defeat in their previous Premier League match at Krasnodar beating Ufa 2-0 on Wednesday to narrow the gap on leaders Spartak Moscow.

The late goals by Brazilian Giuliano and Russian international forward Alexander Kokorin set Saint Petersburg side on their way to a hard-fought win to stay in second, three points adrift of Spartak.

CSKA Moscow, who beat visitors Orenburg by the same scoreline, sit third, five points further back.

Zenit started in lively fashion but Ufa created the first chance of the match on the counter-attack in the 14th minute, when forward Vyacheslav Krotov forced 'keeper Yury Lodygin into a diving save with a volley.

The home team also had an opportunity to score in the 36th minute but former Chelsea winger Yury Zhirkov fired the ball over from just 10 yards out.

In the 84th minute skipper Axel Witsel found unmarked Giuliano in the area and the Brazilian lifted Zenit ahead with a close-range angled shot.

Kokorin added his goal in the third minute of stoppage time beating Ufa 'keeper Andrei Lunev with a low shot after the mazy run from within his own half.

Elsewhere, reigning champions CSKA Moscow pinned visitors Orenburg back from the kick-off and Israeli international Bebars Natcho put them in front with a spotkick in the 26th minute after Orenburg back Vladimir Poluyakhtov handballed in his area.

After the break Orenburg's hopes went up in smoke as captain Dmitry Andreyev was sent off for a second bookable offence.

With 11 minutes left, substitute back Sergei Ignashevich hammered home a low effort from 25 yards out to secure CSKA a well-deserved win.

"We had just one objective for this match -- to win -- and we managed to cope with it," CSKA head coach Leonid Slutsky said.

Queen Elizabeth II’s sixth great-grandchild on the way

Queen Elizabeth II’s sixth great-grandchild is on the way, after Zara and Mike Tindall announced Wednesday they were expecting a second baby.The 90-year-old monarch and her husband Prince Philip are “delighted”, Buckingham Palace said.Zara Tindall, the…

Queen Elizabeth II's sixth great-grandchild is on the way, after Zara and Mike Tindall announced Wednesday they were expecting a second baby.

The 90-year-old monarch and her husband Prince Philip are "delighted", Buckingham Palace said.

Zara Tindall, the sovereign's eldest grand-daughter, is an equestrian who won the 2006 eventing world championships and a silver medal for Britain at the London 2012 Olympics.

The 35-year-old daughter of Princess Anne has no title and does not carry out royal duties.

Mike Tindall, 38, is a former England rugby captain who was in the 2003 World Cup-winning squad. The couple married in Edinburgh in 2011.

Their first child, daughter Mia, was born in January 2014.

A spokeswoman for the Tindalls said: "Mike and Zara are expecting another baby" and the couple were "thrilled".

The new baby will be 18th in line to the throne.

"The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and members of the royal family are delighted with the news," a palace spokesman said.

Tindall said on Twitter afterwards: "Just a quick one to say thank you for the messages. We are very very happy about the little one on its way. 2017 is already starting well!"

The Tindalls live on Anne's Gatcombe Park country estate in Gloucestershire, southwest England.

Queen Elizabeth's five great-grandchildren so far are Prince William's children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte; Savanna and Isla Phillips, the daughters of Zara's brother Peter; and Mia Tindall.

The queen sat with with all five earlier this year in a photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

Mike Tindall once revealed that George's first meeting with Mia was "carnage", with most of the prince's food going on the table rather than in his mouth.

Big Mac inventor dies at age 98

The man who invented the quintessential American fast-food burger, the Big Mac, and inadvertently set off a race to create ever more expansive fast-food menus, has died. Michael “Jim” Delligatti passed away Monday surrounded by family at his home in a…

The man who invented the quintessential American fast-food burger, the Big Mac, and inadvertently set off a race to create ever more expansive fast-food menus, has died.

Michael "Jim" Delligatti passed away Monday surrounded by family at his home in a Pittsburgh suburb, according to his family. He was 98 years old.

Delligatti laid claim to one of the most indelible inventions in American cuisine since sliced bread -- a double hamburger with two beef patties, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions, which is covered in a special sauce.

As owner of a McDonald's restaurant in western Pennsylvania nearly half a century ago, Delligatti convinced the company to venture away from its brief menu of simple burgers, fries and drinks, according to a 1993 profile of the Big Mac in the Los Angeles Times.

He got permission to try his new burger in 1967 and sales jumped 12 percent, the Times said. Within a few years, McDonald's was advertising the Big Mac nationwide.

"This wasn't like discovering the light bulb," he said. "The bulb was already there. All I did was screw it in the socket."

He said the idea came from rival burger restaurants in the mid-1960s.

After the Big Mac's invention, the company expanded its menu further, creating an age of new menu items such as the Egg McMuffin and Filet-o-Fish.

But, it was the Big Mac that became a cultural icon.

In a statement, McDonald's said Delligatti was a "legendary franchisee" who made a "lasting impression" on the company.

"We will remember Jim as an insightful franchisee, a knowledgeable businessman," the company said.

McDonald's says it sells hundreds of millions of the oversized burgers globally, although sales have slowed in recent years as millennials reportedly show less interest in super-sized fast food.

According to Delligatti's family he went on to own 48 McDonald's restaurants.

He is survived by his wife Ellie, two children, and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

‘Matching’ DNA could make for healthier 3-parent babies: study

Better matching the DNA of egg donors and recipient mothers-to-be may limit the risk of transferring disease-causing mutations to so-called three-parent babies, a study suggested Wednesday.While further work is needed, the study adds to the fast-growin…

Better matching the DNA of egg donors and recipient mothers-to-be may limit the risk of transferring disease-causing mutations to so-called three-parent babies, a study suggested Wednesday.

While further work is needed, the study adds to the fast-growing field of in-vitro fertilisation for women with damaged mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) -- the type inherited solely from our mothers.

An egg donor -- the third parent along with the couple who go on to give birth to and raise a baby -- should be selected whose mtDNA is genetically closely related to that of the recipient mother, the authors wrote in the journal Nature.

Every cell in the human body holds about 23,000 genes, almost all of them in the nucleus -- so-called nuclear DNA.

But 37 genes reside in tiny structures called mitochondria, which are the batteries of cells, turning sugar and oxygen into energy.

Nuclear DNA is transfer to offspring by both the father and mother, but mitochondrial DNA is inherited from the mother alone.

Some women have damaged mtDNA, which if transferred to their children can cause a variety of debilitating and untreatable diseases.

Women with mitochondrial mutations can have healthy children via in-vitro fertilisation, using a technique called mitochondrial replacement therapy.

The nuclear DNA is taken from their own egg, and placed with the father's sperm into a different egg, its nucleus removed, from a donor with healthy mitochondria which is left intact.

However, it sometimes happens in lab experiments that cells cultivated using this method revert to the mother's mutated mtDNA -- traces of which may have been carried over with her nuclear DNA.

The latest study looked at ways of preventing this.

Things were less likely to go wrong when the egg donor's mitochondrial DNA was "compatible" with that of the mother, it found.

Mitochondrial DNA can be divided into groups known as haplotypes, each with a common genetic ancestor.

"This research suggests that we're going to have the greatest success rates for producing an embryo free of disease-causing genetic mutations by making sure we are using the right combination of haplotypes," said the study's senior author Shoukhrat Mitalipov.

Further work is needed to develop a DNA matching technique, even before clinical trials can start.

Trials cannot be done in the United States, where most of the study authors are from, under a ban on mitochondrial replacement therapy.

The first baby created using mitochondrial replacement was born in Mexico earlier this year.

It was born from the same "spindle transfer" technique used in the latest study, which unlike the "pronuclear transfer" method does not entail the destruction of an embryo.

Only Britain has so far authorised 'three-parent babies" for women with disease-causing mitochondria.

US economy continues to expand, price pressures slight: Fed survey

The US economy continues to expand nationwide with only slight upward price pressures despite reports of tightening labor markets and higher wages, the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book survey said Wednesday.All but two of the 12 Fed districts report at lea…

The US economy continues to expand nationwide with only slight upward price pressures despite reports of tightening labor markets and higher wages, the Federal Reserve's Beige Book survey said Wednesday.

All but two of the 12 Fed districts report at least a slight increase in economic activity, with only New York seeing no growth at all, and six reporting "moderate" growth, but the strong dollar is weighing on manufacturing in some districts.

UN ruling to free WikiLeaks’ Assange to stand after British appeal rejected

Preview The United Nations has rejected a UK appeal against its previous ruling in favor of Julian Assange as “inadmissible,” thus requiring both London and Stockholm to end the WikiLeaks founder’s “arbitrary detention.”
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview The United Nations has rejected a UK appeal against its previous ruling in favor of Julian Assange as "inadmissible," thus requiring both London and Stockholm to end the WikiLeaks founder’s "arbitrary detention."
Read Full Article at RT.com

Palermo crash out of Italian Cup

Serie A strugglers Palermo joined fellow top flight side Empoli in crashing out of the Italian Cup following defeat to second division La Spezia on Wednesday.Palermo sit bottom of Serie A after registering a club record seventh consecutive defeat, a 1-…

Serie A strugglers Palermo joined fellow top flight side Empoli in crashing out of the Italian Cup following defeat to second division La Spezia on Wednesday.

Palermo sit bottom of Serie A after registering a club record seventh consecutive defeat, a 1-0 reverse at home to Lazio, at the weekend.

Coach Roberto De Zerbi has managed to avoid the wrath of the club's trigger-happy owner Maurizio Zamparini, although that was before the Sicilians' latest setback.

Palermo were held to a scoreless draw at the end of extra-time of their fourth round tie at their Barbera stadium, and capitulated to Serie B side La Spezia on penalty kicks.

La Spezia thereby secured a plum tie in the next round with high-flying Napoli at the San Paolo.

Empoli, who sit mid-table in Serie A, were ousted on Tuesday after Alejandro Rodriguez hit an extra-time winner for Serie B outfit Cesena.

On Tuesday Torino booked a last 16, San Siro date with AC Milan, given a bye, with a 4-0 win over Pisa while Chievo will meet Fiorentina away after ousting Novara 3-0.

Cup holders Juventus, plus Roma, Napoli, Inter Milan, Sassuolo and Lazio are not in action until January 11 and 18, when the last 16 ties are held.

Frontex seeks officers for European coastguard

The EU border control agency Frontex on Wednesday called on states to provide officers for a European coastguard, due to be launched next year to help cope with the upsurge in migrants trying to reach Europe.Confronted with Europe’s worst migrant crisi…

The EU border control agency Frontex on Wednesday called on states to provide officers for a European coastguard, due to be launched next year to help cope with the upsurge in migrants trying to reach Europe.

Confronted with Europe's worst migrant crisis since World War II, EU leaders have increased funding for the Warsaw-based agency responsible for policing the bloc's external borders and conferred upon it new responsibilities.

"Starting next year, Frontex will deploy three off-shore patrol vessels (OPVs) from Finland, Romania and France, which will have multi-national European crews for the first time," the Warsaw-based agency said in a statement.

The agency's maritime operations currently involve single-nation vessels manned by their own crews, or a total of around 15 vessels near the Greek islands of the Aegean Sea and another dozen or so off the coast of Italy.

The exact locations of next year's multinational patrols are yet to be decided, according to Frontex spokeswoman Ewa Moncure, who said the crews "will go where the situation requires them".

Members of the European Union (EU) and the passport-free Schengen zone have until December 15 to respond to the call.

Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri said the multinational approach will allow EU members to contribute vessels for longer periods of time since they will not need to provide as many core officers.

"The rest of the crew will come from other member states in a true spirit of European cooperation at sea," he said in the Frontex statement.

European court hears key online privacy case

The question of whether employers have the right to monitor workers’ online communications returned to the European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday ahead of a ruling that could have Europe-wide implications.The Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg-based …

The question of whether employers have the right to monitor workers' online communications returned to the European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday ahead of a ruling that could have Europe-wide implications.

The Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg-based court heard the case of Bogdan Barbulescu, a 37-year-old Romanian sales engineer.

His employer fired him in 2007 after discovering he was using Yahoo Messenger not only for work but also to chat with his fiancee and brother.

In January this year, the ECHR dismissed Barbulescu's argument that the company had violated his right to confidential correspondence but he succeeded in having the case referred back to the court.

Barbulescu maintains that his employer invaded his privacy by spying on his communications which, the court said, included messages "relating to personal matters such as his health and sex life".

A lawyer representing the Romanian government said the engineer had been well aware of the firm's rules prohibiting the use of company resources for personal purposes.

"He knew all about this ban because he had been informed about it," lawyer Catrinel Brumar said.

She said the company had no interest in the content of the messages, only in the fact that they were private.

But Emeric Domokos-Hancu, representing the applicant, argued he had been unaware his online exchanges were being monitored because the company had used "spyware" software.

In a written submission to the judges, the European Trade Union Confederation said the case was "of particular importance for workers' protection in the digital age".

The ruling was deferred and will be delivered in several months' time.

It will be definitive and will be eagerly awaited because the ECHR's decisions are binding on the 47 countries that have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights.

Brazilian graft judges threaten to resign over intimidation

Brazilian prosecutors running a giant corruption probe threatened to quit Wednesday over what they said was intimidation by members of the graft-plagued Congress, many of whom face investigation.Deltan Dallagnol, coordinator of the so-called “Carwash” …

Brazilian prosecutors running a giant corruption probe threatened to quit Wednesday over what they said was intimidation by members of the graft-plagued Congress, many of whom face investigation.

Deltan Dallagnol, coordinator of the so-called "Carwash" probe into a gigantic embezzlement and bribery scheme centered on state oil company Petrobras, said that a bill passed in the lower house in the early hours of Wednesday amounted to an attack on the judiciary.

"The lower house signaled the end of Carwash," he said in a press conference alongside other prosecutors who threatened to resign if the bill was made law.

The controversial law is ostensibly meant to crack down on undeclared election campaign funds, a common practice in Brazilian politics that has been linked to large-scale corruption.

However, lower house deputies also inserted measures opening the way to prosecute judges for abuse of authority. Judges and prosecutors have branded this as a way of reducing the judiciary's independence.

"It would not be possible to keep working on Carwash if this intimidatory law were approved," Dallagnol said.

The probe code-named Operation Car Wash has uncovered multi-billion dollar embezzlement and bribery involving Petrobras, Brazil's biggest construction companies like Odebrecht, and a host of political parties.

High ranking figures including former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and some of Brazil's richest men face charges or have already been convicted. Dozens of members of Congress have also come into prosecutors' crosshairs.

Now with executives from Odebrecht striking cooperation agreements with prosecutors there are expectations of a wave of new politicians coming under investigation.

Small US companies win big in post-election stocks rally

The Wall Street rally seen since the US presidential election has lifted most stocks, but the biggest winners have been small and midsized companies heavily tied to domestic growth.

The Russell 2000, a closely watched index of small and midsized US companies, has risen nearly 12 percent since November 7, more than three times the gain of the broad S&P 500 stock index during that period.

“The election lit a fire under small and mid-cap stocks,” said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities.

“Most of them are domestic companies and it is expected with a Trump presidency that domestic companies will outperform those with domestic and international operations.”

The rally in smaller stocks represents a big shift from the sentiment on Wall Street in the year or so prior to the election, when sluggish growth in the US pressured these stocks.

Tom Cahill, portfolio manager at Ventura Wealth Management, said, “They are rallying because of the idea that they are more leveraged to the US economy and they have less exposure to the stronger dollar because of their earnings here in the US.”

A strong dollar can hit multinational companies by making exports more expensive and forcing them to transpose earnings back into the US currency at a disadvantageous rate. The dollar is up about 3.23 percent compared with other major currencies since the election.

Smaller companies that only operate in the US don’t have these issues.

“Investors have learned some lessons from the election,” said Gregori Volokhine, president of Meeschaert Capital Markets. “One of them is to invest in companies less exposed to international trade.”

The Russell 2000 includes companies from across the economy ranging from the egg producer Cal-Maine Foods, to the crafts website Etsy, to Callon Petroleum, a smaller oil and gas company.

The index comprises only about eight percent of the US stock market and is known to outperform when markets are in rally mode.

Hugh Johnson of Hugh Johnson Advisors said, “In a bull market, when the economy and earnings are expanding and stocks are rising, small caps ordinarily do better because they’re more leveraged to earnings.”

The earnings growth rate for small companies is “much more spectacular” than for larger ones, Johnson said.

In addition, big companies that rely more on debt also are more likely to be affected by interest rates, which are expected to rise if Trump’s infrastructure spending plans are enacted and the Federal Reserve raises interest rates.

A shift towards higher interest rates also will benefit the Russell because it includes a “substantial” share of financial companies, Cahill said.

Financials account for 26.5 percent of the Russell 2000, compared with 13.3 percent of the S&P 500. Banks typically benefit from higher interest rates.

The Wall Street rally seen since the US presidential election has lifted most stocks, but the biggest winners have been small and midsized companies heavily tied to domestic growth.

The Russell 2000, a closely watched index of small and midsized US companies, has risen nearly 12 percent since November 7, more than three times the gain of the broad S&P 500 stock index during that period.

"The election lit a fire under small and mid-cap stocks," said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities.

"Most of them are domestic companies and it is expected with a Trump presidency that domestic companies will outperform those with domestic and international operations."

The rally in smaller stocks represents a big shift from the sentiment on Wall Street in the year or so prior to the election, when sluggish growth in the US pressured these stocks.

Tom Cahill, portfolio manager at Ventura Wealth Management, said, "They are rallying because of the idea that they are more leveraged to the US economy and they have less exposure to the stronger dollar because of their earnings here in the US."

A strong dollar can hit multinational companies by making exports more expensive and forcing them to transpose earnings back into the US currency at a disadvantageous rate. The dollar is up about 3.23 percent compared with other major currencies since the election.

Smaller companies that only operate in the US don't have these issues.

"Investors have learned some lessons from the election," said Gregori Volokhine, president of Meeschaert Capital Markets. "One of them is to invest in companies less exposed to international trade."

The Russell 2000 includes companies from across the economy ranging from the egg producer Cal-Maine Foods, to the crafts website Etsy, to Callon Petroleum, a smaller oil and gas company.

The index comprises only about eight percent of the US stock market and is known to outperform when markets are in rally mode.

Hugh Johnson of Hugh Johnson Advisors said, "In a bull market, when the economy and earnings are expanding and stocks are rising, small caps ordinarily do better because they're more leveraged to earnings."

The earnings growth rate for small companies is "much more spectacular" than for larger ones, Johnson said.

In addition, big companies that rely more on debt also are more likely to be affected by interest rates, which are expected to rise if Trump's infrastructure spending plans are enacted and the Federal Reserve raises interest rates.

A shift towards higher interest rates also will benefit the Russell because it includes a "substantial" share of financial companies, Cahill said.

Financials account for 26.5 percent of the Russell 2000, compared with 13.3 percent of the S&P 500. Banks typically benefit from higher interest rates.

Coca-Cola opens first factory in Gaza Strip

Coca-Cola formally has opened its first factory in the Gaza Strip, the company announced Wednesday, in a move that could create hundreds of jobs in the beleaguered Palestinian enclave.The bottling facility had been partially open for several months but…

Coca-Cola formally has opened its first factory in the Gaza Strip, the company announced Wednesday, in a move that could create hundreds of jobs in the beleaguered Palestinian enclave.

The bottling facility had been partially open for several months but began full operations after a ceremony Wednesday.

The $20-million (19-million euro) investment is the company's first plant in Gaza and will create around 120 jobs immediately, a statement said, with an eventual expansion to 270.

"The opening of our first Gaza plant is an important milestone," Zahi Khouri, said the founder and chairman of National Beverage Company (NBC) responsible for Coca-Cola in the Palestinian territories.

"Our new Gaza plant shows our ongoing commitment to investing and supporting progress in communities around the world,? Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola CEO, said in a statement.

There are three other NBC bottling facilities in the West Bank but the new Gaza plant could be a bonus for the struggling enclave's economy.

Between 2008 and 2014, the Gaza Strip, ruled by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, has gone through three wars with Israel.

The Jewish state maintains a crippling blockade on the Palestinian enclave which it says is necessary for security reasons.

The unemployment rate in the coastal territory is over 40 percent, with close to two-thirds of young people out of work.

The United Nations has estimated the Palestinian economy could double in size if the Israeli occupation ended.

The World Bank said in September that just 10.7 percent of the 11,000 houses that were totally destroyed in the 2014 war had so far been rebuilt and about 50 percent of partially and severely damaged houses were still awaiting repair.

World Rugby reveals record £345m annual revenue

World Rugby announced record annual financial results on Wednesday, with revenue of nearly £345 million ($430 million, 406 million euros) generated in 2015 mainly on the back of last year’s World Cup in England.

World Rugby said it now expected to put £245.8 million into the game in the next four-year cycle to 2020, surpassing by 22 percent the £201 million investment for the preceding 2013-16 period.

The results showed a profit for the year £189.5 million, with all funds received from the World Cup to be reinvested in the game through various programmes organised by World Rugby, rugby union’s global governing body.

Meanwhile rugby participation topped a record 7.73 million, almost double the figure at the start of the cycle.

“Rugby continues to experience record global participation growth,” said World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont.

The former England captain added: “These record financial results will underpin our game-wide investment programme that is a proven catalyst for year on year participation increases and will ensure that we can build a strong and sustainable global game in partnership with our unions and regional associations.”

World Rugby announced record annual financial results on Wednesday, with revenue of nearly £345 million ($430 million, 406 million euros) generated in 2015 mainly on the back of last year's World Cup in England.

World Rugby said it now expected to put £245.8 million into the game in the next four-year cycle to 2020, surpassing by 22 percent the £201 million investment for the preceding 2013-16 period.

The results showed a profit for the year £189.5 million, with all funds received from the World Cup to be reinvested in the game through various programmes organised by World Rugby, rugby union's global governing body.

Meanwhile rugby participation topped a record 7.73 million, almost double the figure at the start of the cycle.

"Rugby continues to experience record global participation growth," said World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont.

The former England captain added: "These record financial results will underpin our game-wide investment programme that is a proven catalyst for year on year participation increases and will ensure that we can build a strong and sustainable global game in partnership with our unions and regional associations."

Belgium holds 6 over August machete attack on policewomen

Belgian police arrested six people on Wednesday in connection with an August machete attack on two policewomen that was claimed by the Islamic State group.The federal prosecutor’s office said they were detained following raids on eight homes in the Cha…

Belgian police arrested six people on Wednesday in connection with an August machete attack on two policewomen that was claimed by the Islamic State group.

The federal prosecutor's office said they were detained following raids on eight homes in the Charleroi area south of the capital Brussels, with police seizing several bladed weapons, some of them similar to the one used in the attack.

A judge will decide whether to release or detain the suspects further as part of a terror investigation, a statement said.

During the August 6 incident, a machete-wielding man assaulted the two women outside the main police station in Charleroi before being shot dead by a third officer.

He was identified as an Algerian living illegally in Belgium.

The IS-linked Amaq news agency said one of the group's "soldiers" carried out the attack "in response to calls to target citizens" of countries involved in the US-led coalition bombing jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

Belgian prosecutors have said the man, identified only as K.B., "had a criminal record but was not known for terrorism."

Belgium has been on high alert since suicide bombers struck Brussels airport and a metro station near the European Union headquarters on March 22, killing 32 people.

Those attacks were claimed by IS, which controls parts of Iraq and Syria and has claimed numerous terror strikes in Europe over the last year, including attacks in Paris which left 130 people dead.

Trump could ‘inspire a ‘disaster movie’ says Spain’s Almodovar

Donald Trump would be the perfect protagonist for a disaster film, said Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, as a retrospective of his movies got underway in New York.”I think that Trump is going to provide a lot of creative inspiration, especially for co…

Donald Trump would be the perfect protagonist for a disaster film, said Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, as a retrospective of his movies got underway in New York.

"I think that Trump is going to provide a lot of creative inspiration, especially for comedians," said Almodovar at an event late Tuesday marking the launch of the film series at Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art.

The MoMA exhibition, encompassing every movie made by Almodovar, coincides with the release of "Julieta," his 20th feature-length film, which was also previewed at MoMA Tuesday. The movie opens in US theaters on December 21.

Almodovar, Spain's most celebrated living movie director, made it clear that he is no fan of the US president-elect, but said Trump's larger-than-life persona is the stuff of filmmaking lore.

"He seriously would inspire a disaster movie," Almodovar said.

"This kind of personality type have no parallel in real life. He's like a great fictional character," the director said.

"The bad thing is that we are all going to suffer, above all Americans will," he said.

"We have to put up with him, and in reality, he should be a seen as a huge disaster," Almodovar added. "Let's hope he goes away soon."

The two-time Academy Award winning director had far more charitable feelings towards Trump's vanquished Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

The former secretary of state, who Trump defeated in an upset win earlier this month, has the makings of a real "Almodovar girl," said the director, whose acclaimed films almost always have strong female leads.

A former enfant terrible of cinema, Almodovar got misty-eyed recalling a Met showing of his movie "What Did I Do to Deserve This?" in 1984, when he was just 35 years old and a fresh-faced upstart in film world.

"It's not just a privilege, but very emotional for me to be in the same place more than 30 years later," he said.

Celebrity-backed Palestinian cinema closes

One of the best-known cinemas in the Palestinian territories closed Wednesday after running out of money, organisers said, six years after a grand reopening ceremony backed by international celebrities.Demolition work had begun on the Cinema Jenin afte…

One of the best-known cinemas in the Palestinian territories closed Wednesday after running out of money, organisers said, six years after a grand reopening ceremony backed by international celebrities.

Demolition work had begun on the Cinema Jenin after it failed to attract enough customers in recent years, said Marcus Vetter, one of those behind the 2010 relaunch supported by rock musician Roger Waters and human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger.

The cinema, the last in Jenin in the northern West Bank, was also used as a cultural centre and theatre but is now expected to be replaced by a mall.

"It is a very disappointing and sad moment," Vetter, a German director, told AFP, explaining the heirs of the original owners had sold it for about 1.7 million euros ($1.8 million).

Built in 1957, Cinema Jenin was considered to be one of the largest and most impressive cinemas in the Palestinian territories but it shut down after the first intifada, or uprising, against Israel began in 1987.

The 2010 relaunch was the brainchild of Vetter and Ismael Khatib, a Palestinian who donated his 11-year-old son's organs to save Israeli children after the boy was shot dead by an Israeli soldier in 2005.

Khatib had made the gesture in an effort to promote peace efforts, but it was viewed as controversial by some Palestinians.

At the time the 335-seater cinema received celebrity backing, including a state-of-the-art sound system paid for by a 100,000 euro ($106,000) donation from Waters, a long-time pro-Palestinian campaigner.

- Conservative attitudes and fears -

Jagger attended the launch, which was hailed as a major moment for culture in the Palestinian territories.

Jenin, a conservative Muslim city, was a major base for the two Palestinian intifadas against Israel, the most recent of which ran from 2000-2005.

Juliano Mer-Khamis, a well-known actor from a mixed Jewish-Arab Israeli family who himself had been involved in the cinema, was shot dead in the city in 2011 by unknown gunmen.

Asked why the cinema failed to attract clients, Vetter said it was a mixture of conservative attitudes and fears that going to this specific theatre amounted to accepting Israel's nearly 50-year occupation of the West Bank.

"People were not ready to really go there. They were also maybe a little bit scared how it would be perceived if they go."

In 2012, the Israeli left-wing newspaper Haaretz said rumours of a so-called "lack of modesty" at a neighbouring guesthouse where volunteers stayed also damaged the cinema's reputation.

Dina Aseer, a leader at a local arts centre, said they used the cinema to teach young people Dabke, a national dance.

"We have a band of 25 and a Dabke school of 150 students and no place to go," she told AFP. "Cinema Jenin was our home."

Despite the closure, Vetter said he did not regret the project.

"You cannot imagine how much work it was to bring all the equipment there, to find the finance, to fight for it," he told AFP Wednesday.

"It was the story of a dream. And at least it's there, the story happened."

Russia confirms ready to cut oil output by 300,000 barrels per day

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, responding to a decision by OPEC Wednesday to reduce crude output to lift prices, said Russia was ready to cut its own oil production by 300,000 barrels a day next year.”Russia will progressively reduce its oil …

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, responding to a decision by OPEC Wednesday to reduce crude output to lift prices, said Russia was ready to cut its own oil production by 300,000 barrels a day next year.

"Russia will progressively reduce its oil production by 300,000 barrels a day in the first half of 2017," Novak was quoted by the state agency Ria-Novosti as saying, adding the move was conditional on the OPEC decision being "upheld."