Monthly Archives: October 2016

Tottenham Hotspur vs Leicester City – the fans' view

LONDON: Tottenham Hotspur host the Premier League champions Leicester City on Saturday at White Hart Lane. Mauricio Pochettino’s side were the Foxes’ biggest title rivals for most of last season.

Here is what the fans have to say about the two clubs:

Gary Flavell, The Fighting Cock Podcast

“As a Spurs fan it was especially painful that Leicester won the Premier League because not only was it Leicester, but it was our best chance of winning it that I can remember, possibly since 1987.

“We go into Saturday’s game with that rivalry hanging over us. A lot of the rivalry stems from what happens on the football pitch and Spurs were their biggest challenge to winning the title last year. There’s bad blood between the two now.

“We haven’t won in five games across all competitions so we also desperately need a win. If Leicester play anything like they did last season then they are going to be very difficult to break down.

“I think Spurs will win 1-0. Leicester have struggled at times to break teams down and I think if we are cute in the way we play and force them to come out rather than sit and break, then we should be able to get something out of the game.

“In term of the quality of the players they have on the pitch, they didn’t have any right to win the league last year – although it’s great for football because it shows money isn’t everything. But man for man, you would take most of the Spurs players over Leicester players.

“In terms of defending from the front Spurs are probably one of, if not the best, in the league. But that said, we haven’t been clinical in the final third.

“The player that has impressed me the most this season is Victor Wanyama. He’s proved in every game that he is so much better than I thought he was. He’s been consistently brilliant for Tottenham this season.”

Di Statham, Leicester City Supporters Trust

“This feels like it’s going to be a tough game for Leicester. Spurs have a strong squad of good players. Their form is also up and down at the moment so it really depends which team turns up and they’re obviously missing Harry Kane’s goal scoring abilities up front.

“I suppose you could say that Spurs have also got something to prove after they got so close to winning the title last season and then we ran away with it.

“Both teams have got Champions League games the following week and in our case, one win next week means we’re guaranteed to be in the knock out stages of the competition which is a very big achievement for Leicester. It could be that both teams have one eye on that as well as on the game on Saturday.

“If we can get a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane we’ll be exceedingly happy. We haven’t won away from home in the league yet and we conceded three goals away to Chelsea and four goals away at Old Trafford against Manchester United. If we want to finish above mid table then we’ve got to start picking up points away from home.

“The one thing has impressed me the most is that the team still seem very much together. The fact that team spirit is still there and they’ll fight for each other is great.

“My concern at the moment is that our new signing Islam Slimani isn’t blending with Jamie Vardy. You wonder whether it’s going to have to be a case of rotation rather than playing them together, it’s not really clear whether they’re compatible yet. It’s not easy because as soon as Vardy or (Riyad) Mahrez gets the ball, there are two or three opposition players around them.

“The player that has impressed me the most so far this season is Danny Drinkwater. He’s our midfield dynamo and has replaced (N’Golo) Kante, although his movement isn’t quite like Kante.

“Drinkwater is there controlling the play from midfield on the quiet and he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. We keep hoping he’ll get a good run in the England team.”

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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First UK legal ruling on Brexit due Friday

LONDON: The High Court in Belfast will rule Friday (Oct 28) on Northern Ireland’s entitlement to veto the UK’s departure from the European Union – the first opinion by a UK judge on Brexit.

With other legal challenges under way in Britain, the outcome will be closely monitored by politicians and financial markets.

Ciaran O’Hare, a lawyer representing veteran victims’ rights campaigner Raymond McCord – one of a diverse group of individuals in the case – said the judge would give his ruling at 0900 GMT Friday, after three days of hearings earlier this month.

“We are delighted at such a quick turnaround but time is obviously of the essence,” O’Hare said.

He described the ongoing legal challenge as “a David versus Goliath battle” that would not end on Friday regardless of the outcome.

“Both sides will likely appeal to the Supreme Court but the ruling in Belfast is important because it would have to be taken into account,” he said.

The campaigners argue Brexit cannot be imposed on Northern Ireland because the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, an international treaty involving the neighbouring Republic of Ireland, gives Northern Ireland residents control over future constitutional change.

“The historical context is vital in our case: we believe the Good Friday Agreement gives us a veto,” O’Hare said.

In the Jun 23 referendum on EU membership, Northern Ireland voted 56 per cent in favour of the UK staying in the bloc, while across the entire kingdom, 52 per cent voted to leave.

McCord has joined a cross-party group of politicians and community activists taking the case, warning that the loss of EU funds could undermine the Northern Irish peace process, which is underpinned by the Good Friday Agreement.

“The EU has pledged funding until at least 2020 but the British government has given no undertaking it will continue to fund projects to bring the two communities together,” he told AFP at an earlier hearing.

Under the EU programme for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, the province will receive a total of 229 million euros (US$ 257 million) in funding by 2020 for initiatives regarded as crucial for building bridges across the sectarian divide in the region.

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Solo sailor Guo missing in the Pacific Ocean

REUTERS: Chinese sailor Guo Chuan has gone missing in the Pacific during his attempt to set a record for a solo non-stop crossing of the ocean, state media has reported.

“Guo was last heard just after 15:00 Tuesday Beijing time (0700 GMT) when his trimaran sailed 900 nautical miles off the west of Hawaii,” the 51-year-old’s support team was quoted as saying by the Xinhua news agency.

“A search aircraft, sent from Honolulu, found the main sail in water, broken off the vessel, but didn’t see Guo on the deck. All attempts to contact the sailor have failed.”

The U.S. Navy had sent two ships to the site of Guo’s vessel, his team added.

Guo, who set sail from San Francisco on Oct. 19, was aiming to complete his journey to Shanghai in 18 days. Italian Giovanni Soldini owns the speed record after completing the voyage in 21 days in 2015.

Guo already has two records to his name, having set the pace to beat in the 40-ft solo nonstop circumnavigation in 2013 and the Arctic Ocean Northeast Passage non-stop mark in 2015.

“We have been working hard for the past two weeks to refit the boat and finally today I am going to set sail,” Guo said prior to setting sail from San Francisco.

“I am very confident to go now. See you in Shanghai within 20 days.”

(Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru)

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Militants 'shave beards' as pressure builds on Mosul

KHAZIR, Iraq: Militants with the Islamic State group were shaving their beards and changing hideouts in Mosul, residents said, as a major Iraqi offensive moved ever closer to the city on Wednesday (Oct 26).

With pressure building on the 10th day of the Mosul assault, Western defence chiefs were already looking ahead to the next target – IS’s other major stronghold of Raqa in Syria.

Recent advances on the eastern front have brought elite Iraqi forces to within five kilometres (three miles) of Mosul, and several residents reached by AFP said the militants seemed to be preparing for an assault on the city itself.

“I saw some Daesh (IS) members and they looked completely different from the last time I saw them,” eastern Mosul resident Abu Saif said.

“They had trimmed their beards and changed their clothes,” the former businessman said. “They must be scared … they are also probably preparing to escape the city.”

Residents and military officials said many IS fighters had relocated within Mosul, moving from the east to their traditional bastions on the western bank of the Tigris river, closer to escape routes to Syria.

The sounds of fighting on the northern and eastern fronts of the Mosul offensive could now be heard inside the city, residents said, and US-led coalition aircraft were flying lower over it than usual.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi fighters have been advancing on Mosul from the south, east and north after an offensive was launched on Oct 17 to retake the last major Iraqi city under IS control.


RAQ IN ‘NEXT WEEKS’

The assault is backed by air and ground support from the US-led coalition – which also includes Britain and France – that launched a campaign against IS two years ago.

Iraqi federal forces, allied with Kurdish peshmerga fighters, have taken a string of towns and villages in a cautious but steady advance over the past week in the face of shelling, sniper fire and suicide car bombings.

About 3,000 to 5,000 IS fighters are believed to be inside Mosul, Iraq’s second city, alongside more than a million trapped civilians.

With the noose tightening on Mosul, officials from the 60-nation anti-IS coalition have increasingly pointed to the next phase of the fight.

Both US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter and British counterpart Michael Fallon said Wednesday they expected an offensive on Raqa to be launched within weeks.

“It starts in the next few weeks,” Carter told NBC News before arriving in Brussels for a two-day meeting of NATO defence chiefs. “That has long been our plan and we will be capable of resourcing both,” Carter said.

If Mosul falls, Raqa will remain as the only major city in either Syria or Iraq under IS control, the vestige of a cross-border “caliphate” the militants declared after seizing large parts of both countries in mid-2014.

An offensive against Raqa is likely to be far more complicated than the assault on Mosul however, because unlike in Iraq the coalition does not have a strong ally on the ground in Syria.

Syria’s five-year civil war has left the country in chaos, with militants, US-backed rebels, Syrian Kurds and President Bashar al-Assad’s forces all engaged on multiple fronts.


An Iraqi child at the Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria’s Hasakeh province on Oct 25, 2016. (Photo: AFP/Delil Souleiman)

‘WAVE OF DISPLACED’

Aid workers have warned of a major potential humanitarian crisis once fighting begins inside Mosul itself and civilians were already leaving in growing numbers.

An Iraqi minister said Wednesday that more than 3,300 fleeing civilians had sought help from the government the day before, the most for a single day so far.

There was “a big wave of displaced people … the greatest number since the start of the military operation,” Displacement and Migration Minister Jassem Mohammed al-Jaff said.

The number of people who fled their homes since the start of the offensive on October topped 10,000, the UN said late Wednesday.

The fighting has taken place in sparsely populated areas so far and while the numbers have been growing more rapidly this week, they are still a fraction of the huge displacement aid workers expect later.

At a camp near Khazir, the number of recently displaced people being bused in was higher than usual.

“We’re definitely better off here. We were being bombarded from all sides, by aircraft and tanks,” said a man who fled the village of Bazwaya and gave his name as Abu Ahmad.

The families joined a camp where hundreds of blue and white tents stood covered in the dust stirred up by the wind, as scores of aid workers distributed mattresses, blankets, food and water bottles.

The humanitarian community fears it will be overwhelmed when the million-plus people believed to still be trapped in Mosul find a way out.

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Ollivon gets France call-up for November tests

PARIS: France included RC Toulon’s Charles Ollivon in a 32-man squad on Wednesday to prepare for the November tests despite the player not featuring on coach Guy Noves’s initial elite list.

The 30-man elite squad was named at the start of the season to protect players who become available to Noves from 15 days before the Six Nations until eight days after it ends.

Number eight Louis Picamoles, who could not feature on the elite list because he plays in England, has also been included in the squad along with centre and wing Virimi Vakatawa.

Ollivon, who plays blindside flanker or number eight, provides cover for the injured Bernard Le Roux.

France face Samoa in Toulouse on Nov. 12 and meet Australia on Nov. 19 and New Zealand on Nov. 26 at the Stade de France.

Squad:

Uini Atonio (La Rochelle), Eddy Ben Arous (Racing 92), Sebastien Bezy (Toulouse), Djibril Camara (Stade Français), Camille Chat (Racing 92), Damien Chouly (Clermont), Jean-Marc Doussain (Toulouse), Gael Fickou (Toulouse), Alexandre Flanquart (Stade Français), Wesley Fofana (Clermont), Loann Goujon (Bordeaux-Begles), Kevin Gourdon (La Rochelle), Guilhem Guirado (Toulon), Yoann Huget (Toulouse), Paul Jedrasiak (Clermont), Remi Lamerat (Clermont), Wenceslas Lauret (Racing 92), Julien Le Devedec (Brive), Maxime Machenaud (Racing 92), Yoann Maestri (Toulouse), Maxime Medard (Toulouse), Maxime Mermoz (Toulon), Charles Ollivon (Toulon), Louis Picamoles (Northampton), Jules Plisson (Stade Français), Jefferson Poirot (Bordeaux-Begles), Baptiste Serin (Bordeaux-Begles), Rabah Slimani (Stade Français), Scott Spedding (Clermont), Francois Trinh-Duc (Toulon), Virimi Vakatawa (FFR), Sebastien Vahaamahina (Clermont)

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Top US general visits key hub in fight for Mosul

QAYYARAH, Iraq: A top US Army general on Tuesday (Oct 25) flew in to an airbase south of Mosul that will prove vital in Iraqi forces’ offensive on the Islamic State-held city.

US Army General Joseph Votel, who heads the military’s Central Command, arrived at the base, which boasts a newly repaired runway, on a cargo plane to see the facility and receive an update on the battle for Mosul, now in its second week.

Qayyarah West, located about 60km south of the city, has been resurrected after jihadists smashed it to pieces when they seized much of northern Iraq in 2014.

A dusty wasteland of twisted reinforcement bars, booby traps and smashed buildings until only a few months ago, much of the airfield has been restored by US Air Force engineers and turned it into a key military installation for Iraqi security forces pushing north.

IS were chased from the area around Qayyarah in July, and now about 500 Americans are stationed here, along with the Iraqis and other members of the US-led anti-IS coalition including France and a small British team.

Votel’s C-130 cargo plane touched down in total darkness, one of the first fixed-wing aircraft in years to land at the base.

“This is where supplies will come into, it’s where Iraqi forces will come into. Being able to sustain the fight for the Iraqi forces will be critical, and this airfield will play a very important role,” Votel told reporters travelling with him.

The four-star general was accompanied by Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, who heads the coalition effort supporting and training Iraqi security forces and Kurdish peshmerga units as they attack IS.

They said the campaign to recapture Mosul is continuing apace, but cautioned IS defences will grow stronger the closer Iraqi forces get to the city.

The Islamic State group “has used an extraordinary amount of indirect fire — mortars, artillery and rockets — and an exceptional number of VBIEDs over the last eight days,” Townsend said, referring to vehicle-borne suicide car bombs.

IS fighters have refined their use of suicide bombers in recent days, he said, and are hiding custom-armoured cars behind walls and inside structures.

Jihadist drivers then race these vehicles toward advancing Iraqi security forces at the last minute, instead of attempting to drive across open plains where they can be quickly destroyed by missiles.

FRENCH ARTILLERY 

Qayyarah is also being used to stage artillery units and HIMARS rocket launchers that aim north to help clear the way for Iraqi troops moving toward Mosul.

Early in Votel’s visit, the base reverberated with the sound of a French howitzer blasting out of the base.

Military officials say the Mosul operation is going quicker than planned in some places, and on Tuesday units of Iraq’s elite counter-terrorism force were just six kilometres (four miles) from Mosul, where IS two years ago proclaimed its “caliphate”.

As forces have closed in on Mosul, IS has set fire to oil wells, torched tyres inside the city and set up a defence system around it that includes burning oil trenches to blind their enemy’s air and satellite assets.

Soldiers at Qayyarah said some of them have worn respiratory masks, especially after IS set a sulphur plant ablaze.

But by Tuesday night, shifting winds meant the air at the base was reasonably clear.

What will become of the base after the presumed defeat of IS remains to be seen.

US officials stressed that whether the United States will maintain a military presence there is for the Iraqis to decide.

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Brazil great Carlos Alberto dies following heart attack

RIO DE JANIERO: Brazil great Carlos Alberto, who captained the 1970 World Cup-winning side and scored one of the most acclaimed final goals ever, has died aged 72 following a heart attack, local TV reported on Tuesday.

Right-back Alberto was capped 53 times by Brazil and won titles with Fluminense and Santos.

(Reporting Andrew Downie, writing by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Toby Davis)

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Don't scatter cremated ashes or keep them at home, Vatican says

VATICAN CITY: The Roman Catholic Church prefers burial over cremation and wants ashes of the dead to be kept in “sacred places”, not at home, divided among family members or scattered to the wind, the Vatican said on Tuesday.

A two-page instruction issuing new rules on cremation also said that there were even some cases where a Christian funeral could be denied to those who request that ashes be scattered.

“The conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic

residence is not permitted,” the instruction from the Vatican’s department on doctrine said, except in “grave and exceptional cases” to be decided by the local bishop.

For centuries, the Catholic Church prohibited cremation because it clashed with teachings about the resurrection of the body in the Last Judgment at the end of the world.

It started allowing cremation in 1963 but has always frowned on the practice.

“The Church insistently recommends that the bodies of the deceased be buried in cemeteries or other sacred places,” because it showed the dignity and respect for the human body, said the document approved by Pope Francis.

If cremation is chosen, “the ashes of the faithful must be laid to rest in a sacred place, that is, in a cemetery or, in certain cases, in a church or an area which has been set aside for this purpose,” it said.

“It is not permitted to scatter the ashes of the faithful departed in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way,

nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewellery or other objects,” the document said.

The Church could not permit or condone attitudes such as considering death as the “definitive annihilation of the person, or the moment of fusion with Mother Nature or the universe, or as a stage in the cycle of regeneration.”

A Christian funeral could be denied if a person requests scattering of ashes as a means to mock the faith, the document added.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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Egyptian military's role in economy likely to be reduced after two-three years – PM

CAIRO: The role of Egypt’s military in the economy is likely to decrease in two to three years, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said in a television interview with CBC.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former military general, has promised to revive the economy after assuming office in 2014 and has called in the army to help keep a lid on prices.

Over the past year, army vans have begun roaming the country selling cheap groceries and military outlets have popped up.

“I imagine it will be two to three years,” said Ismail when asked when the military’s role may decrease.

(Reporting by Ali Abdelaty; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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Taylor Swift helps US Grand Prix to a record crowd

AUSTIN, Texas: Sunday’s U.S. Formula One Grand Prix reversed a trend of declining audiences with its biggest crowd yet, according to organisers who said 269,889 attended over the three days at the Circuit of the Americas.

The numbers were boosted by singer Taylor Swift holding her long-awaited first concert of the year on Saturday night after race qualifying, with some 80,000 watching.

The race, now in its fifth edition, reported a three-day crowd of 224,011 last year with the previous record of 265,499 set on its debut in 2012.

In 2013 and 2014 the official figures were 250,324 and 237,406 respectively.

Bad weather hit revenues significantly last year, with Saturday’s final practice taking place behind closed doors due to flooded conditions and qualifying postponed to the Sunday.

That race turned out to be the title decider, with Britain’s Lewis Hamilton taking his third world championship with Mercedes.

State subsidies, which the circuit needs to keep the race on the calendar, are based on a formula for calculating how much economic activity the grand prix generates for Texas and attendances play a big part in that.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Ian Chadband)

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