Paddington Bear author Michael Bond dies aged 91

28 Jun

British children’s writer Michael Bond, the creator of the much-loved fictional character Paddington Bear, has died at the age of 91, his publisher HarperCollins said on Wednesday.Bond’s famous series about a friendly teddy bear from darkest Peru sold …

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Novak Djokovic passes first grass test at Eastbourne

28 Jun

Top seed Novak Djokovic passed his first grass court test of the season on Wednesday, defeating Canadian qualifier Vasek Pospisil 6-4, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals at Eastbourne.The Serb is playing a pre-Wimbledon event for the first time since 2010…

Poland charges protest leader with embezzlement

28 Jun

Polish prosecutors said Wednesday that they had charged the founder of the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD), a movement focusing on mass anti-government protests, with embezzlement and faking invoices.The KOD and its founder, Mateusz Kijows…

Hong Kong protesters stage sit-in ahead of Xi visit

28 Jun

Pro-democracy protesters climbed a statue in Hong Kong Wednesday and staged a sit-in ahead of a visit by President Xi Jinping to mark 20 years since the city was handed back to China by Britain.Xi’s visit this week comes at a time when fears are growin…

NATO says cyber attacks a call to arms

28 Jun

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned the alliance must step up its defence against cyberattacks, saying they could potentially trigger their Article 5 mutual defence commitment.Computer users around the world were scrambling Wednesday to reboot systems a…

Brexit to blow 20 bn euro hole in EU budget: commissioner

28 Jun

Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union could leave the remaining 27 countries with a 20-billion-euro hole in their budget to fill, a commissioner said Wednesday.EU Budget Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, of Germany, called on the bloc to improve …

Japan-EU trade negotiations at crucial moment: Japan FM

28 Jun

Japan and the European Union are at a crucial moment in their attempt to sign a free trade deal, Japan’s foreign minister said Wednesday, with tariffs on European cheese a key sticking point.The comments from Fumio Kishida come after four years of talk…

Rotterdam container terminal goes manual amid cyberattack

28 Jun

One of Europe’s largest container terminals was Wednesday forced to return to using manual operations to thwart a wave of cyberattacks targeting global computer systems.”We are open and working. We have two terminals, so instead of normal computerised …

EU extends Russia economic sanctions

28 Jun

The European Union on Wednesday formally rolled over damaging economic sanctions against Russia for another six months, saying Moscow had failed to live up to its Ukraine ceasefire commitments.EU leaders endorsed the move last week, charging that Russi…

Japanese airline forces wheelchair user to crawl on board

28 Jun

Japanese low-cost carrier Vanilla Air asked a man paralysed from the waist down to climb a ladder to enter the plane, saying safety rules prohibited him from being carried aboard. The incident triggered outrage, prompting the airline to a…

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China’s Alibaba boosts stake in SE Asia online sales

28 Jun

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba said Wednesday it would inject another $1 billion into Southeast Asia’s Lazada, as the cashed-up company increases its stake in the region’s nascent online shopping market.The investment will raise Alibaba’s holding in …

Six charged in UK over 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster

28 Jun

Four former senior policemen were among six people charged on Wednesday over the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster in England that killed 96 Liverpool football supporters.”I have decided that there is sufficient evidence to charge six individuals with…

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NATO says non-US 2017 defence spending to rise 4.3%

28 Jun

European NATO allies and Canada will increase defence spending this year by 4.3 percent, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday, amid pressure from President Donald Trump to spend more.”In 2017 we foresee an even greater annual real increase of…

Murray Wimbledon top seed for first time

28 Jun

Defending champion Andy Murray’s indifferent form of late did not prevent him being named top seed for Wimbledon for the first time on Wednesday.The 30-year-old Scot and world number one — who suffered a shock first round defeat at the hands of journe…

Top security for Tour de France

28 Jun

A crack unit of elite counter-terrorism officers will be among a deployment of 23,000 police ensuring safety at the Tour de France, which begins in Dusseldorf on Saturday, the French interior ministry said.But while the jihadist terror threat is high a…

Cyprus leaders grapple with decades-old feuds at peace talks

28 Jun

Rival Cypriot leaders resumed efforts Wednesday to solve one of the world’s longest-running conflicts in what the United Nations billed as the “best chance” to bring lasting peace to the Mediterranean island.Security was at the top of the agenda at the…

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Myanmar govt defends detention of journalists

28 Jun

Myanmar’s civilian government on Wednesday defended the detention of three journalists who were reporting on an armed ethnic group, an incident that has fuelled alarm at the erosion of press freedom. The journalists were among seven people detained by …

Eurozone households borrow more in May

28 Jun

Growth in borrowing by households in the eurozone hit an eight-year high in May, European Central Bank data showed Wednesday, as policymakers talked up new confidence in the single currency area.Loans to households grew 2.6 percent last month, the ECB …

Firms scramble to recover from wave of cyberattacks

28 Jun

Thousands of computer users across the globe scrambled on Wednesday to reboot after a wave of ransomware cyberattacks spread from Ukraine and Russia across Europe to the United States.The virus, which locked up files at companies and government agencie…

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Qatar says Garcia report ‘vindicates’ 2022 World Cup bid

28 Jun

Qatar World Cup organisers said on Wednesday that the surprise publication of FIFA’s Garcia report “vindicated the integrity” of its successful bid to host the 2022 tournament.

In a statement, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy also questioned the timing of the publication, which comes as Qatar faces political isolation from many neighbouring countries.

“We believe that the extent of our cooperation with this investigation and the conclusions drawn represent a vindication of the integrity of our bid,” read the statement.

“We will continue to dedicate ourselves toward delivering on the promises we made during our bid and hosting an historic first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East.”

Although the long-awaited report from US independent investigator Michael Garcia highlighted an array of potentially suspect financial dealings, there appeared to be no “smoking gun” which could end up denying Qatar the World Cup in five years’ time.

His report referred to a payment of £2 million ($2.6 million) allegedly sent by a consultant for Qatar, Sandro Rosell, to the 10-year-old daughter of a FIFA official.

The payment was described by an associate as the proceeds from a real estate deal.

But Garcia concluded that no proof existed to link Qatar to the payment.

Rosell, an ex-Barcelona president, is currently in prison under investigation for money laundering related to the sale of the Brazilian national football team’s television rights.

Garcia’s investigation also revealed that one former FIFA executive committee member thanked Qatar by mail for a transfer of several hundred thousand euros just after Qatar was awarded the 2022 tournament.

And it also documents that three executive members of FIFA were flown to Rio de Janeiro for a private party ahead of the vote to decide who would host the 2022 World Cup.

Garcia’s report was commissioned in 2012 and presented to FIFA in 2014.

Following his investigation, the adjudicatory chamber of FIFA’s ethics committee said there was not enough evidence to call into question Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup.

FIFA — which had previously only published a 40-page summary of the report – finally made the document public after it was obtained by German newspaper Bild.

Qatar’s statement added that “we question the timing of the leak”, which comes at a time of high political tension in the Gulf.

Countries led by Saudi Arabia announced earlier this month the suspension of ties with Qatar, accusing it of support for extremist groups — a claim Doha denies.

Racing: Cup-queen Payne tests positive for banned drug

28 Jun

History-making Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michelle Payne has been stood down from riding after testing positive for a banned substance, racing officials said Wednesday.Payne, 31, will go in front of an inquiry by Racing Victoria stewards Thursday aft…

Philips buys US cardiac-implant firm for 1.9 bln euros

28 Jun

Dutch electronics giant Philips Wednesday announced it was buying for 1.9 billion euros ($2.2 billion) a specialist US company manufacturing ground-breaking treatments for heart and vascular diseases to broaden its health portfolio.The Amsterdam-based …

Tiny bay makes waves in Slovenia-Croatia border row

28 Jun

Tourists tucking into their cuttlefish risotto have little idea that the local seafood delicacy was caught in waters subject to one of the EU’s longest-standing border feuds opposing Slovenia and Croatia.Nestled on a craggy peninsula, the southwestern …

Qatar slams Saudi refusal to negotiate

28 Jun

Qatar on Wednesday condemned Saudi Arabia’s refusal to negotiate the demands of the kingdom and its allies for ending a crippling embargo on the emirate.Speaking from Washington, where he held talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, …

Taiwan offers cancer treatment to China dissident Liu

28 Jun

Taiwan said Wednesday that it was willing to offer cancer-stricken Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo treatment after prison officials granted him medical parole, in a move likely to rile Beijing.The offer came a day after China rejected criticism over its t…

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ChemChina completes $43 bn takeover of Syngenta

28 Jun

ChemChina has completed its $43 billion takeover of Swiss pesticide and seed giant Syngenta, the companies said, in the biggest overseas acquisition so far by a Chinese firm. The deal combines Syngenta, a global leader in seeds and crop protection, wit…

Olympics: Soaring costs threaten Games future, IOC warns

28 Jun

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Wednesday praised Japanese organisers for slashing costs for the 2020 Tokyo Games, but warned that soaring Olympic budgets could see future bids dry up.Tokyo 2020 coordination commission chairman John Coates…

Table tennis: Ex-China coach sorry for players no-show

28 Jun

The former head coach of China’s all-conquering table tennis team has denied knowing three top Chinese players would stage a no-show at a major tournament in protest at his removal.Highly respected Liu Guoliang, a former Grand Slam champion who lost hi…

Hong Kong’s allure fading in mainland China

28 Jun

When Naomi Wu was a teenager, she and her friends would ride the train from mainland China to Hong Kong several times a year to shop for clothes and designer handbags.But the 23-year-old computer programmer, who lives across the border in Shenzhen, now…

S.Korean cars recalled in China as row hits sales

28 Jun

Chinese authorities have announced the recall of more than 44,000 South Korean-branded vehicles over “potential safety risks”, in another setback for the South’s automakers already hit by a diplomatic dispute.Authorities on June 23 announced a recall o…

Cricket: Shastri to apply for India coach job

28 Jun

Former captain Ravi Shastri will apply to become India’s head coach after the national cricket board extended the application deadline following Anil Kumble’s shock exit, reports said Thursday.”Yes, I have decided to apply for the job,” the cricketer-t…

Football: Oscar leads big names behaving badly in China

28 Jun

Oscar is suspended for eight games after a brawl. Carlos Tevez riles fans with a trip to Disneyland while his club are playing. Ezequiel Lavezzi and Hulk deny being anti-Chinese.

As the Chinese Super League (CSL) hits the halfway point of the season this weekend, the megabucks lavished on imported players has triggered unprecedented interest, but the headlines have been dominated by foreigners behaving badly.

While nobody is chasing them out of the country just yet, Brazilian international Oscar — who received the mammoth ban for sparking a mass brawl last week — is not even the latest acquisition to run into trouble.

Beijing Guoan’s Turkish striker Burak Yilmaz was sent off on Monday night after appearing to slap an opponent during a melee at the end of a bad-tempered scoreless home draw with Fabio Capello’s Jiangsu Suning.

Prior to the rush of blood in which he lashed the ball directly at two Guangzhou R&F opponents, attacking midfielder Oscar, who cost an Asian-record 60 million euros from Chelsea in the January window, appeared to have settled well into life at Shanghai SIPG with a string of highly-rated performances.

Far better than Argentine forward Tevez who has so far failed to ingratiate himself with fans at neighbouring Shanghai Shenhua and is rumoured to be eyeing a move away from China despite signing a contract reported to be worth a staggering 38 million euros ($40 million) a year in January.

Lavezzi, another Argentine forward on big money following his move last year from Paris Saint-Germain to Hebei China Fortune, was told by the Chinese Football Association (CFA) last month to “regulate his words and actions more” after promotional photos emerged of him in a slant-eyed pose, causing outrage on social media.

– Worth the money –

Forward Hulk, while flourishing with nine CSL goals on the pitch alongside fellow Brazilian Oscar at SIPG, was also hauled before the CFA last month over allegations that he punched the Guizhou Zhicheng’s assistant coach and made anti-Chinese comments in the players’ tunnel at half-time.

The burly striker and the club both denied the claims and the CFA said there was “no evidence” against Hulk after an investigation.

Yang Qinnong, 25, a diehard SIPG fan, said the money his club shelled out on Hulk and Oscar — at a combined cost of 116 million euros ($132 million) — had been worth it.

Yang said it would benefit Chinese players to come up against the likes of Oscar, but felt some big-name imports have the wrong attitude and were motivated by money.

“They think they are hot shots and think they don’t need to train and have self-discipline like others because they make more money than others and have more experience,” he said, supporting a ruling that caps the number of foreign players to three a match in China.

“I think certain limitations on foreign players is a good thing but it could make the CSL less attractive to watch,” he added.

– ‘Higher expectations’ –

Across Shanghai all is not well.

The 33-year-old former Manchester United and Manchester City striker Tevez scored just his second goal for Shenhua last weekend as they beat bottom club Yanbian Funde 2-0.

Shenhua, managed by former Chelsea and Tottenham midfielder Gus Poyet, are languishing in eighth place in the 16-team CSL, 21 points behind pacesetters Guangzhou Evergrande, and failed to reach the group stages of this season’s AFC Champions League.

Liu Yuan, a hardcore Shenhua supporter, accused the imports of failing to make an effort to blend in and were there only for the money.

“Foreign football players did not change their state of mind. They came to China seeking only a high salary,” he said.

Fang Hui, a 30-year-old football fan in Shanghai, said Chinese football was attempting a tough balancing act between attracting star names to raise the profile of the league while not squeezing local talent.

Fang, who says she does not support either of the Shanghai teams, added that foreign players were being unfairly singled out for criticism.

“Fans have higher expectations of foreign players,” she said.

“They would make a big deal when Tevez went to Disneyland in his own time (instead of going to a Shenhua game when he was injured) and once they do anything that is not so good fans think they’re not worth the money they are being paid.”

Race is on to turn flying car into reality

28 Jun

Aeronautics giants are treating the idea of a flying car with caution, as such a project raises more questions than it answers, experts say — it’s a child’s dream, a millionaire’s toy.But is it really the next big thing in transport? At this year’s Pa…