Scotland’s Bennett has knee surgery

5 Apr

Scotland centre Mark Bennett has undergone knee surgery and could be out of action for up to a year, his club Glasgow said Wednesday.Bennett suffered a season-ending injury during Scotland’s crushing 61-21 loss away to England in the Six Nations last m…

Mexicans build lives back home with US earnings

5 Apr

The Botello brothers grew up in a small stone hut in a remote Mexican village until they went to the United States. Now, by local standards, they are rich.But they fear that US President Donald Trump will take away their future remittances — the dolla…

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Kittel wins but Boonen stars on Belgian bow

5 Apr

On his last race on Belgian soil Tom Boonen led the train that saw his Quick Step team-mate Marcel Kittel win his fifth victory at the Grand Prix de l’Escaut on Wednesday. The German sprint ace Kittel edged Italy’s Elia Viviani and Frenchman Nacer Bouh…

South Africa’s ANC backs Zuma in reshuffle dispute

5 Apr

South Africa’s embattled President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday won the backing of the ruling ANC party, which rejected calls for him to resign over a controversial cabinet reshuffle.

The African National Congress acknowledged growing calls for Zuma to step down, admitting to “serious and difficult disagreement” over the president’s sacking of respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan last week.

Zuma could either be ousted by the ANC recalling him, or a vote of no confidence in parliament that has been scheduled for April 18.

The party retains a large majority in parliament, and Zuma has easily survived previous confidence votes.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe told reporters Wednesday that although the party had “reflected” on the resignation demands, “we won’t recall President Jacob Zuma because opposition parties say so. It won’t work that way.”

Zuma has been under fire for several days — including from within his own camp — after dismissing Gordhan, a decision that caused the rand currency to plummet.

Gordhan’s removal triggered unprecedented criticism from Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as well as the party’s chief whip, its treasurer and several ANC allies.

Ramaphosa, who could succeed Zuma, described it as “totally unacceptable”.

South Africa’s powerful trade union federation Cosatu this week joined many anti-apartheid veterans, business leaders and civil action groups calling for Zuma to step down.

Mantashe — who was among those who had hit out at Zuma in recent days — blamed Gordhan’s sacking on “the irretrievable breakdown” in relations with the president.

Gordhan was at loggerheads with Zuma for months, receiving support from several ministers and major foreign investors, as well as many ordinary South Africans.

“The (party) has emphasised the need for unity of the ANC and the alliance in the interests of South Africa,” Mantashe said.

– Credit downgrade –

Gordhan had campaigned for budget discipline and against corruption, but Zuma’s allies accused him of thwarting the president’s desire to enact radical policies to tackle racial inequality.

Gordhan’s sacking contributed to a credit ratings downgrade to junk status on Monday by Standard & Poor’s, further fuelling calls for Zuma to step down.

The president has defended his change at the Treasury, saying that the government’s financial policies remained the same.

S&P said the cut to below investment grade reflected “heightened political and institutional uncertainties” following the purge of Gordhan and other critical ministers.

With the cabinet overhaul exposing deep divisions within the ANC, the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party hopes to benefit at general elections in 2019.

“No army anywhere in the world will subject their footsoldiers to be commanded by an enemy general,” Mantashe said in relation to the no confidence vote.

Peter Attard Montalto, analyst at Nomura bank, said in a briefing note that Zuma was “a master tactician who can play the internal machinations of the ANC much better than anyone else.”

The president has been accused of being in the sway of the wealthy Gupta business family, allegedly granting them influence over government appointments, contracts and state-owned businesses.

Since coming to power in 2009, Zuma has been hit by a series of corruption scandals, while the ANC suffered its worst ever results in local polls last year.

He is due to step down as head of the ANC in December, ahead of the 2019 general election.

The president is seen as favouring his ex-wife, former African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to succeed him — rather than Ramaphosa.

NASA’s Cassini probe of Saturn prepares for last plunge

5 Apr

NASA’s unmanned Cassini spacecraft is preparing for its final plunge into Saturn later this year, after two decades of helping Earth-bound scientists make new discoveries about the sixth planet from the Sun and its mysterious rings.For what NASA has de…

Growth in US services sector slows in March

5 Apr

The massive US services sector cooled in March after a strong February, the Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday.The ISM non-manufacturing index gave up 2.4 percentage points for the month to land at 55.2 percent, representing continued growt…

Angry Ford mechanic emerges as French debate star

5 Apr

France’s latest celebrated underdog is Philippe Poutou, a Ford factory worker and head of an anti-capitalist party who became one of the stars of the second presidential debate.The far-left candidate started on Tuesday night by refusing to take part in…

Dancing in the dark with Jammeh’s diehard supporters

5 Apr

They came to dance in green t-shirts adorned with Yahya Jammeh’s grinning face and to sing the old songs of adulation as though he never went away.The Gambia’s former ruling party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), could…

Kuwait signs new energy supply deal with Egypt

5 Apr

Kuwait said on Wednesday it has signed a new a multi-billion-dollar deal to supply Egypt with crude oil and petroleum products for the next three years.Under the deal, Kuwait will supply Egypt with two million barrels of crude per month and 1.5 million…

US model Bella Hadid ‘proud to be a Muslim’

5 Apr

US model Bella Hadid has spoken out against President Donald Trump’s attempted travel bans, saying she is proud to be a Muslim and the daughter of a refugee.Twenty-year-old Hadid is one of the most photographed and in-demand models of the moment, domin…

Ahmadinejad supports former deputy in Iran election

5 Apr

Former hardline Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday he would support a long-time ally in May’s presidential election. In his first press conference for four years, Ahmadinejad said he will back Hamid Baghaie, his former vice president …

eBay founder pledges $100 mn for global journalism

5 Apr

eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s philanthropic foundation pledged Wednesday to donate $100 million over three years to support “independent media and investigative journalism” worldwide, while tackling “misinformation and hate speech.”Among the first to b…

End is ‘nearing’ for ECB eurozone support: Bundesbank

5 Apr

The eurozone economy is robust enough for the European Central Bank to consider ending its current easy money policies, the head of Germany’s central bank said Wednesday.”Could it soon be time to take our foot off the gas? In my opinion, it’s getting …

Joshua is the favourite against Klitschko: George Foreman

5 Apr

Boxing legend George Foreman says Britain’s Anthony Joshua is his favourite to win this month’s clash of the heavyweight giants against Wladimir Klitschko.”If I were a gambler, I’d see Joshua as a 6-5 favourite. So I’d put him just in front,” the 68-ye…

Britain to help reform Saudi economy

5 Apr

Britain said Wednesday it would help Saudi Arabia to diversify its oil-dependent economy as British Prime Minister Theresa May visited the Gulf kingdom.May and Saudi King Salman would discuss “tax and privatisation standards to help Saudi Arabia divers…

Monsanto earnings rise behind higher seed sales

5 Apr

Monsanto reported higher second-quarter profit Wednesday behind increased sales in seeds and in its herbicide and crop-protection business.Net income for the agricultural giant for the quarter ending February 28 jumped 28.7 percent to $1.4 billion.Sale…

Saint Petersburg tourists undeterred after metro attack

5 Apr

Dutch tourist Nina Bollen counted off the string of attacks that have hit Western capitals as she stood in the courtyard of the world famous Hermitage museum in Saint Petersburg.”Paris, London, Berlin,” the student told AFP. “Terrorists strike everywhe…

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Job cuts strike grounds 60% of Alitalia flights

5 Apr

Italy’s flagship airline Alitalia was forced to cancel 60 percent of its flights on Wednesday due to a strike over plans for the troubled airline to slash over 2,000 jobs.The strike, called by several trade unions, had been expected and the company man…

Norway to build world’s first ship tunnel at sea

5 Apr

Norway on Wednesday unveiled plans to build the world’s first sea tunnel to pass through a mountain, avoiding dangerous waters that intimidated even the Vikings.Built to bypass the Stad peninsula, a storm-swept area in western Norway, the Stad ship tun…

New York’s Eleven Madison Park named world’s best restaurant

5 Apr

Contemporary New York eatery Eleven Madison Park was crowned the world’s best restaurant of 2017 at a glitzy ceremony in Melbourne Wednesday, edging out last year’s winner, Italy’s Osteria Francescana.Run by chef Daniel Humm, the Manhattan institution …

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Italy beckons for Asterix and Obelix

5 Apr

After decades battling Julius Caesar and his Roman legions, Gallic hero Asterix and his sidekick Obelix finally discover the rest of Italy in their latest adventure, its authors revealed Wednesday.”Asterix and the Race through Italy”, the 37th story in…

Berlusconi ‘bunga bunga’ bribe trial to open July

5 Apr

Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi will go on trial in July accused of witness tampering and pay-offs over his alleged “bunga bunga” sex parties, a court ruled Wednesday.At a preliminary hearing in Milan, a judge decided that Berlusconi’s …

First world survey finds 9,600 tree species risk extinction

5 Apr

The first ever global database of trees on Wednesday revealed that 9,600 tree species are threatened with extinction and identified a total of 60,065 in existence.Brazil is the country with the most diverse tree population, with 8,715 species, accordin…

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Dutch-Turks start voting in Erdogan referendum

5 Apr

Turkish voters based in The Netherlands started casting early ballots Wednesday in a referendum which could boost President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers, amid an ongoing diplomatic spat between Ankara and Europe.Polling stations to accommodate some 25…

Syria donors seek billions, in shadow of attack

5 Apr

The EU and UN on Wednesday rallied donor countries and aid groups to support a devastated Syria at a conference overshadowed by a suspected chemical attack blamed by the West on Damascus.The Brussels meeting, co-chaired by the European Union and United…

Syria ‘chemical’ attack: what we know

5 Apr

International outrage is mounting over a suspected chemical attack that killed scores of civilians in a rebel-held town in northwest Syria on Tuesday morning.AFP’s correspondent in the town of Khan Sheikhun saw lifeless bodies lying at a field hospital…