Monthly Archives: July 2016

Football: Griffiths puts struggling Celtic in Champions League driving seat

PARIS: Leigh Griffiths levelled 12 minutes from time to give struggling Celtic a 1-1 draw at Astana in their Champions League third qualifying round first leg clash on Wednesday (Jul 27).

The result gave Brendan Rodgers’ side the upper hand ahead of their return clash in Glasgow next week, but the Kazakh side were unfortunate not to have finished with the advantage.

Astana hit the woodwork twice while Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon pulled off a number of fine saves.

Yuri Logvinenko headed Astana in front in the 19th minute when the defender was first to a corner.

But Scottish striker Griffiths equalised after 78 minutes with a shot from the edge of the box to give his team hope of making the play-off round.

Before Celtic levelled, the Kazakh champions saw Azat Nurgaliyev hit the crossbar while Junior Kabananga had also seen a shot come back off the post.

“A huge amount of credit goes to the players,” Rodgers told the BBC. “I think we were all written off before the game. But we are not getting too carried away. We’ve got another game against a very good side.”

Griffiths’ goal was Celtic’s only strike on target while Astana had seven attempts.

The result came after a second qualifying round which had seen the Scottish champions beat Gibraltar’s part-timers Lincoln Red Imps 3-0 but only after embarrassingly losing the first leg 1-0.

Monaco’s goalkeeping woes continued as the French side fell 2-1 at Fenerbahce with Italian keeper Morgan De Sanctis forced off injured after 13 minutes.

Already without number one goalkeeper Danijel Subasic through injury, 18-year-old Loic Badiashile stepped in between the posts in Turkey.

The hosts took the lead in Istanbul after Nigerian striker Emmanuel Emenike got the first of his two goals on 39 minutes. But Radamel Falcao got Monaco back into the tie three minutes later.

Monaco dominated the start of the second period, but it was Emenike who doubled the hosts advantage on 61 minutes when against the run of play he picked up a volley and coolly shrugged off three Monaco defenders.

The return legs take place on Aug 2-3.

Champions League third qualifying round, first leg results:

Astana (KAZ) 1 Celtic (SCO) 1
Rosenborg (NOR) 2 APOEL (CYP) 1
FC Astra (ROM) 1 FC Copenhagen (DEN) 1
Trencin (SVK) 0 Legia Warsaw (POL) 1
Fenerbahce (TUR) 2 Monaco (FRA) 1
Olympiakos (GRE) 0 Hapoel Beer-Sheva (ISR) 0

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Kremlin says allegations it hacked U.S. Democratic Party 'made-up horror stories'

MOSCOW: The Kremlin on Wednesday (Jul 27) dismissed allegations Russia had hacked Democratic Party emails as “horror stories” dreamt up by U.S. politicians, saying it never interfered in other countries’ election campaigns.

“Moscow is at pains to avoid any words that could be interpreted as direct or indirect interference in the election process,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters.

“… We see that the Russian card is in the red corner on the writing table of all Washington politicians during the election campaign, and that very often they make it a trump card in their game.”

Peskov was responding after U.S. President Barack Obama in an interview with NBC News said it was possible Russia would try to influence the U.S. presidential election after a leak of Democratic National Committee emails that experts have blamed on Russian hackers.

“This reminds me of a company where they tell each other horror stories and then start being frightened of their own stories,” said Peskov.

The Kremlin on Tuesday said unidentified individuals in the United States were trying to cynically exploit fear of Russia for electoral purposes.

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Wawrinka battles past Youzhny in Toronto

TORONTO: Stan Wawrinka survived a thriller against Mikhail Youzhny in the second round of the Rogers Cup on Tuesday, fighting back in both sets to prevail 7-6(3) 7-6(8).The Swiss second seed trailed 5-4 in the first set and had to break Youzhny’s serve to force a tiebreak.

He then fell behind 3-0 in the second before launching a comeback that saw him fight through set point in a heated tiebreak and ultimately pull through to close out the match.

Wawrinka, who had failed to advance past the second round in his last two tournaments, now has a third-round matchup with American Donald Young. Earlier in the day, Gael Monfils, fresh off his tournament win in Washington, cruised by Portugal’s Joao Sousa 6-3 6-3 to ease into the second round. The 10th seeded Frenchman won 50 percent of his return points against Sousa and hammered down eight aces to extend his win streak to six matches. “I think I’ve put in good work with my team. What I try to do is keep working with them and then see the results later,” said Monfils, two days after his first tournament win in two-and-a-half years.

“I like to think when I’m in my top game and with consistency, I can beat a lot of players at the top.” Czech fifth seed Tomas Berdych, playing his first match since losing in the Wimbledon semi-final to eventual champion Andy Murray, secured his spot in the third round with a 4-6 6-1 6-4 win over Croatia’s Borna Coric. Top seed Djokovic, the only member of the “Big Four” in Toronto, will play his first singles match since Wimbledon when he takes on Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Additional reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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Bulgaria softens tone but still points finger at Russian aircraft

SOFIA: Bulgaria toned down its criticism of Moscow on Tuesday, saying Russian aircraft had not been involved in violations of its air space but once again blamed Russia for not observing international norms in aviation.

Bulgarian Defence Minister Nikolay Nenchev said on Sunday there had been a rise in violations of its air space by Russian military and commercial aircraft in the past month, calling the alleged breaches a “provocations toward Bulgaria and its air forces”. Russia rejected the allegations.

Nenchev said Russian military aircraft had entered what he termed “Bulgaria’s area of responsibility” in NATO airspace four times in the past month while Russian passenger planes breached the air space six times in this period, adding the planes had turned off their transponders.

Russia said on Monday its aircraft flying over the Black Sea had followed international rules and confined themselves to neutral zones.

However, while Bulgaria’s Defence Ministry said on Tuesday it was not seeking confrontation with anyone, it maintained there had been “cases of non-observation of the international norms”.

“They did not have their transponders turned on and missed to declare their flight plans. There are also cases of flights of aircrafts without distinguishing signs,” it said.

Russia said on Monday it had kept the transponders on the aircraft at all times.

Bulgaria, a former Communist state and once staunch ally of Moscow, is almost entirely dependent on Russian energy supplies, and many Bulgarians feel a deep affinity for their giant neighbour across the Black Sea.

“We express concerns about keeping the mutual respect and trust among the Black Sea countries in the realisation of flights in the international airspace over the inland water areas of the Black Sea,” the ministry said.

(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Alison Williams)

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Henderson looking to put injury woes in the past

REUTERS: Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson is ready to put his injury troubles behind him and said he was feeling in prime shape ahead of the new Premier League season.

Foot and knee injuries restricted the 26-year-old to just 17 league appearances last season as Jurgen Klopp’s side finished eighth in the table.

The England international made one appearance in the 2016 European Championship and said he had no lingering injury worries.

“My foot is feeling good to be honest,” Henderson told LFC TV. “I feel probably the best I’ve felt in a long time so hopefully that will continue and I’ll have a good pre-season and it will get even better.

“It’s a massive season for everyone and I feel I need to get back and prove myself again but I look forward to doing that.”

(Reporting by Nivedita Shankar in Bengaluru; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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Ecclestone's mother-in-law kidnapped in Brazil – reports

SAO PAULO: The mother-in-law of Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone has been kidnapped in Sao Paulo and criminals are demanding 120 million reais (27.8 million pounds) in ransom, according to reports in a leading Brazilian news magazine.

Aparecida Schunck, the mother of Ecclestone’s wife, Fabiana Flosi, was seized on Friday night, Veja and other news organizations reported.

It did not give more details, and local police could not be reached to confirm the reports.

Ecclestone, whom Forbes magazine estimates is worth US$ 3.1 billion – along with his family – and one of the most powerful men in sport, married Flosi in 2012, three years after meeting her at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Ecclestone, who is now 85, divorced his then wife of 25 years, Croatian model Slavica Radic, in order to marry the young Brazilian. The couple now live in England.

Kidnapping was common in Brazil a decade ago with several people seized each day, often for sums of just a few hundred dollars.

A crackdown by police, including the formation of a special anti-kidnap division, reduced the number considerably, and the crime has become much rarer.

Brazil is currently in the midst of its worst economic crisis in almost a century.

(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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Turkey takes extra security measures for Champions League game

ANKARA: Turkey has taken additional measures to ensure the safety of the AS Monaco team visiting Istanbul this week for a Champions League qualifying game against Fenerbahce after a failed coup attempt in the country, the sports minister said on Monday.

“Monaco demanded some extra security measures. We took these measures. We will make sure that their safety has the utmost guarantee,” Sports Minister Akif Cagatay Kilic told Reuters.

Kilic said Turkey would react negatively to a potential Monaco demand to postpone the game, pointing to France hosting the Euro 2016 tournament under a state of emergency after militant attacks.

“So we should have withdrawn the Turkish national team from the tournament? There is nothing negative going on in Turkey now. Everything has been taken under control swiftly,” he said.

French fans will not be allowed into Turkey if French authorities make a decision not to let in Turkish fans for the second leg on Aug. 3, Kilic said.

He also criticised comments by foreign sportsmen leaving Turkey, citing security concerns after the failed coup attempt on July 15.

“Those who want to leave Turkey should not have made such statements. This upsets us. But it’s their own decision. They are acting as if there is no terror risk in the countries they go to.”

(Reporting by Ercan Gurses; Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Daren Butler and Ed Osmond)

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Turkey detains 42 journalists in crackdown as Europe sounds alarm

ISTANBUL: Turkey ordered the detention of 42 journalists on Monday, broadcaster NTV reported, under a crackdown following a failed coup that has targeted more than 60,000 people, drawing fire from the European Union.

The arrests or suspensions of soldiers, police, judges and civil servants in response to the July 15-16 putsch have raised concerns among rights groups and Western countries, who fear President Tayyip Erdogan is capitalising on it to tighten his grip on power.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker questioned Ankara’s long-standing aspiration to join the EU.

“I believe that Turkey, in its current state, is not in a position to become a member any time soon and not even over a longer period,” Juncker said on French television France 2.

Juncker also said that if Turkey reintroduces the death penalty – something the government has said it must consider, responding to calls from supporters at public rallies for the coup leaders to be executed – it would stop the EU accession process immediately.

Turkey abolished capital punishment in 2004, allowing it to open EU accession talks the following year, but the negotiations have made scant progress since then.

Responding to Juncker’s comments, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Haberturk TV that Europe cannot threaten Turkey regarding the death penalty.

Erdogan has declared a state of emergency, which allows him to sign new laws without prior parliamentary approval and limit rights as he deems necessary. The government has said these steps are needed to root out supporters of the coup and won’t infringe on the rights of ordinary Turks.

NTV reported that among the 42 journalists subject to arrest warrants was well-known commentator and former parliamentarian Nazli Ilicak.

State-run Turkish Airlines fired more than 100 employees, including management and cabin crew, Turkish media reported.

U.S. CLERIC

Erdogan has accused U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has many followers in Turkey, of masterminding the coup plot. In his first decree since the state of emergency was declared, Erdogan ordered the closure of thousands of private schools, charities and foundations with suspected links to Gulen, who denies involvement in the coup.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, says the coup may have been orchestrated by Erdogan himself.

Turkey wants the United States to extradite the cleric. Washington has said it will do so only if there is clear evidence.

Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said that ties with Washington will be affected if it fails to extradite Gulen. He said he would hold meetings with political and judiciary officials during a coming visit to the United States.

Erdogan has accused Gulen, his former ally, of attempting to build a “parallel network” of supporters within the military, police, judiciary, civil service, education and media with the aim of toppling the state.

“They are traitors,” Erdogan told Reuters in an interview last week. He described Gulen’s network as “like a cancer” and said he would treat them like a “separatist terrorist organisation” and root them out, wherever they may be.

Gulen denies the allegations.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Saturday that authorities had taken around 13,000 people into custody over the coup attempt, including 8,831 soldiers. He promised they would have a fair trial.

Rights group Amnesty International said it had received credible evidence of detainees being subjected to beatings and torture, including rape, since the coup attempt.

Erdogan has extended the maximum period of detention for suspects from four days to 30, a move Amnesty said increased the risk of torture or other maltreatment of detainees.

The government has said there would be no backtracking on human rights and has ruled out torture and curfews in the state of emergency.

ANKARA’S FRUSTRATION

Ankara is increasingly expressing frustration over what it says in the lack of solidarity from Western partners in the aftermath of the coup.

Western countries pledged support for democracy in Turkey, but have also expressed concern over the scale of subsequent purges of state institutions.

Last week, the minister for EU affairs chided Western countries for not sending any representatives to demonstrate their solidarity with Turkey since the failed coup.

On Sunday, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin took to the opinion pages of the New York Times to defend Turkey’s actions.

“Several thousand military officers and their accomplices in law enforcement and the judiciary have been suspended or arrested for having links to the coup. Their removal from public posts makes the Turkish government stronger and more transparent,” he wrote, adding that at least 1,200 rank-and-file soldiers have been released so far.

He also dismissed claims that Erdogan had orchestrated the coup in order to launch a crackdown.

“The claim that this was a fake coup is no more credible than the laughable claim that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by the United States.”

(Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Istanbul; Ece Toksabay in Ankara and Geert De Clercq in Paris; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Michael Georgy and David Stamp)

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Scandal rocks Democratic Party truce on eve of convention

PHILADELPHIA: US Democrats scrambled on Sunday (Jul 24) to contain damaging revelations of an insider effort to hobble Bernie Sanders’s White House campaign that threatened an uneasy truce on the eve of the party’s convention.

Democrats converge on Monday on Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love”, to elevate Hillary Clinton as the party’s nominee who will battle Republican Donald Trump in 2016’s presidential election.

After a hard-fought primary campaign, the party had been heading to the Democratic National Convention far more unified than the Republicans, whose fissures were laid bare this week as they confirmed brash billionaire Trump as their flag-bearer.

“In Philadelphia we will offer a very different vision for our country,” Clinton pledged. “One that is about building bridges, not walls, embracing the diversity that makes our country great.”

Her quest received a boost Saturday when she introduced Tim Kaine of Virginia as her running mate, a savvy Spanish-speaking US senator with a bright smile but “a backbone of steel”, according to Clinton.

But even as the party basked in the lovefest that was the first Clinton-Kaine rally, there was a whiff of scandal that could badly rattle party unity.

A cache of leaked emails from Democratic Party leaders’ accounts includes at least two messages suggesting an insider effort to hobble the upstart Sanders campaign that had competed with Clinton – including by seeking to present him as an atheist to undermine him in highly religious states.

The Vermont senator on Sunday repeated calls for the resignation of the Democratic National Committee’s chairwoman, whose leadership was already under fire and whose impartiality was called into question by the leaks.

“Debbie Wasserman Schultz should not be chair of the DNC,” Sanders told ABC’s “This Week.” “And I think these emails reiterate that reason why she should not be chair.”

CNN reported on Sunday that party officials had decided Wasserman Schultz would not speak at or preside over the party’s four-day convention in a last-ditch bid to appease a furious Sanders camp. “She’s been quarantined,” it quoted a top Democrat said of Wasserman Schultz.

‘OUTRAGEOUS’

Sanders, along with First Lady Michelle Obama, is one of the headliners on day one of the Democratic convention which “gavels in” at 4pm (2000 GMT) Monday in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center.

Former president Bill Clinton is the star on Tuesday, while President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden take the stage Wednesday.

While Sanders has publicly endorsed his former rival, many of his most fervent supporters are organising protests in Philadelphia, with the largest expected on the convention’s opening day.

Several thousand protesters converged on the streets of Philadelphia near City Hall on Sunday, many of them Sanders supporters and people supporting renewable energy and anti-fracking efforts

Many in the Sanders camp have voiced disappointment with Clinton’s choice of a centre-left running mate, and the email revelations were only set to fuel the resentment.


Activists march through downtown before the start of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) on Jul 24, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

Clinton is “disingenuous, not real,” Laurie Cestnick, coordinator for the Occupy DNC Convention protest group, told AFP. “We’ve come to see that she’s part of a corrupt system.”

One of the incriminating emails appeared to show a top party official conspiring to present Sanders – who is Jewish – as an atheist in order to undermine him in particularly religious states.

“I think it’s outrageous, but it is not a great shock to me,” Sanders told CNN on Sunday. “I mean, there’s no question to my mind and I think no question to any objective observer’s mind that the DNC was supporting Hillary Clinton,” he said.

Trump pounced on the leaks as he tries to scoop up disaffected voters who feel Sanders – a self-described democratic socialist initially dismissed as a fringe candidate – was denied a fair shot at the nomination.

“Looks like the Bernie people will fight. If not, their BLOOD, SWEAT and TEARS was a total waste of time. Kaine stands for opposite!” Trump tweeted.

‘CORRUPT SYSTEM’

Sanders delegates were further frustrated when their efforts to end the party’s use of superdelegates – grandees who are free to vote for whomever they choose at the convention – mostly failed during a series of rules committee votes, according to The Washington Post.

But Sanders delegates won a compromise victory when the committee agreed to look at reducing the number of superdelegates in the nomination process, something Sanders has long demanded.

There was a decidedly anti-Hillary sentiment among the activists flocking Sunday into Philadelphia, where police were intensifying security operations. “Hillary is more of a warmonger than Trump!” yelled one woman as she passed out flyers.

But others in the city echoed Clinton’s message as she seeks to become the first female commander in chief, eight years after Obama made history as the nation’s first black president.

“We shouldn’t be fearful, we’re Americans,” delegate Patti Norkiewicz of Florida told AFP, two days after Trump offered a dark vision of a nation besieged by chaos and violence. “We should be proud, united, and we’re allowed to disagree,” she said.

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Rio scrambles to be ready as athletes, soldiers arrive

RIO DE JANEIRO: Tens of thousands of armed troops fanned out across Rio de Janeiro and local organizers faced a rebellion by Australia about unfinished living accommodations as athletes began to move in Sunday for the first Olympics ever in South America.

Australia’s Olympic team, complaining about uninhabitable rooms in the Olympic Village, refused to check in. Kitty Chiller, the head of the country’s delegation, complained of “blocked toilets, leaking pipes and exposed wiring.”

In the final stretch before the Games start Aug. 5, more than 60,000 troops took positions across the city, part of an overall contingent of more than 85,000 soldiers, police and other security forces that will be deployed for the event at a time of heightened fears after recent massacres in Germany, France and the United States.

Meanwhile, authorities rerouted traffic in Barra de Tijuca, site of many game venues and the Olympic Village, which will house more than 11,000 athletes, coaches and staff.

Olympic organizers are still scrambling to finish everything from a beach volleyball venue to a new subway line, set to open just days before the opening ceremony. At the village, where lines formed Sunday as athletes began checking in, work crews were still making last minute repairs.

Australia’s refusal to move in follows local media reports that some team delegations, concerned over similar issues, had sought to hire their own maintenance crews in order to make their quarters suitable.

Mario Andrada, a spokesman for the local organising committee, on Sunday said organizers are aware of the problems with some rooms, particularly affecting teams from Australia, New Zealand and Brazil.

“There are some electrical issues and some leaks,” he said, noting that a team of about 500 workers is currently addressing the problems. “It’s one of those things with new buildings, but it should not have happened.”

The complaints are not unlike those before other big spectacles in Brazil, like the 2014 World Cup, for which stadium crews were still wielding paintbrushes and screwdrivers even minutes before kickoff.

The new subway line, which will connect the popular seaside neighbourhoods of Copacabana and Ipanema to Barra de Tijuca, has suffered repeated delays and is still undergoing tests despite a scheduled inauguration next Saturday. Even then, the new line will operate only with partial service until after the Olympics.

Where authorities have left little to chance is security.

The massive deployment, over twice that in place for the 2012 London Olympics, is meant to deter the sort of violence and street crime that are common in Rio, a chaotic metropolis of 12 million people.

Behind the scenes, Brazilian intelligence and police are coordinating with foreign counterparts to share intelligence and assess threats posed by terrorism.

Last week, after a tip from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, police arrested 11 Brazilians who investigators say were sympathetic to the Islamic State militant group and had discussed the possibility of attacking the Games.

(Additional reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Editing by Mary Milliken)

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