Triple champion Taymazov stripped of 2008 gold for doping

A highly decorated wrestling champion from Uzbekistan and two Olympic silver medallists in wrestling and weightlifting were stripped of their medals on Wednesday for taking banned substances, the IOC said.The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is re…

April 5, 2017

Ex-All Black Ali Williams fined for buying cocaine

A French court on Wednesday fined former New Zealand international ace Ali Williams 1,500 euros ($1,600) for buying cocaine outside a Paris nightclub.The 35-year-old former lock was arrested alongside Australian international James O’Connor in February…

April 5, 2017

Gene sleuths open line of attack on coral-killing starfish

The beast goes by the Latin monicker of Acanthaster planci, but it is known to us as the crown-of-thorns — a venomous starfish that is ravaging our precious coral reefs.One of many threats to coral, the large, spine-studded species — named after the …

April 5, 2017

Israel approves controversial law on house demolitions

Israel’s parliament on Wednesday voted in favour of a controversial law against illegal constructions that detractors say will mostly target Arab homes built without required, but hard-to-get, permits.The law, which has the backing of Prime Minister’s …

April 5, 2017

Germany clears extradition of Tunisia jihadist suspect

A German court Wednesday ruled that a Tunisian suspect in the 2015 jihadist attack on a Tunis museum can be extradited, provided he won’t face the death penalty or ill-treatment.The man — identified only as Haykel S., 36, by local media — has been na…

April 5, 2017

Trump strategist Bannon dropped from National Security Council: official

Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, has lost his seat on the powerful National Security Council in a high-level shakeup, a US official confirmed Wednesday.Trump’s elevation of Bannon to a permanent spot on the NSC had been widely c…

April 5, 2017

Senator ends 15-hour speech opposing Trump’s court pick

Democratic US Senator Jeff Merkley delivered one of the longer speeches in Senate history by holding the floor for more than 15 hours into Wednesday to oppose President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.Senate Republican leaders have scheduled a cru…

April 5, 2017

Scotland’s Bennett has knee surgery

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…

April 5, 2017

Mexicans build lives back home with US earnings

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…

April 5, 2017

Kittel wins but Boonen stars on Belgian bow

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…

April 5, 2017

South Africa’s ANC backs Zuma in reshuffle dispute

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.

April 5, 2017

Russia ‘should plan for US pulling out of Int’l Space Station’

US-Russian relations may deteriorate to the point where the US chooses to pull out of space cooperation, particularly the International Space Station (ISS) program, an expert warned, adding that Moscow may find a replacement in Beijing or…

April 5, 2017