22. October 2014

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Garber says talk of personal rift with Klinsmann ‘absurd’


BRIDGETOWN Barbados (Reuters) – Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber said there is no personal rift with Juergen Klinsmann and that he plans to have a discussion with the national team coach about the best way to work together.

Garber reacted strongly last week to Klinsmann’s comments that players who returned from Europe to MLS might suffer a drop in form describing them as “damaging” and “detrimental” to the sport in the U.S.

“Somehow this turned into a personal Klinsmann versus Garber debate and I have seen some of those headlines, which I think are absurd and very unintended,” Garber told Reuters in an interview.

“What I intended to do was support our league and our players and our clubs and to ensure that everybody associated with this sport was aligned with the vision that comes from our (U.S. Soccer) federation president that a strong league is a necessary component for national team success,” he added.

“I have had a number of email exchanges with Juergen and I plan to talk to him. I consider him a very balanced, thoughtful guy and we will continue to work together to do everything we can in partnership with the federation to grow the sport,” he added.

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While Garber said that “water cooler talk” and “talk radio chatter” about the sport was good for the game he said he wanted to move his discussion with Klinsmann out of the public domain.

“My remarks were never intended to be personal and I think they came out that way – those things happen. I will be a passionate supporter of the league and Juergen will be very passionate about his ideas and neither of us should sway from that but it is time for it to leave the media space and get into meetings that we can have to start getting the game built from the bottom up,” he added.

“At times we are going to disagree and I would accept that and I am sure Juergen would say the same thing, but it is time for this to get out of the public domain and get into meetings where Juergen and his technical staff and our technical staff can sit down and figure out how can we get a plan together to make MLS better, bigger and stronger and how do we help our national team move up the rankings and ultimately at some point winning the World Cup,” said Garber, speaking on the margins of the Soccerex Americas Forum.

As well as being national team coach, Klinsmann is also technical director of U.S Soccer and Garber said a close alliance between the league and the federation was vital to creating success.

“I believe that a strong league and strong federation is the formula that will drive overall success — we have seen it in Germany, we have seen it in Spain and I think it is the formula that will drive success in the United States.”

(Reporting By Simon Evans; editing by Toby Davis)

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22. October 2014

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Olympics-Kosovo granted provisional Olympic recognition by IOC


BERLIN (Reuters) – Kosovo is on track to take part in its first ever Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 after the region in the Balkans was granted provisional recognition by the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday.

It could now achieve full membership as early as the IOC session in December, the IOC said in a statement on Wednesday.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after NATO went to war to halt the massacre and expulsion of Albanians by Serbian forces waging a two-year counter-insurgency under late strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

Belgrade refuses to recognize Kosovo, saying the territory, which has a majority Albanian population, is a heartland of the Serbian nation.

“The Executive Board noted that the National Olympic Committee of Kosovo has met the requirements for recognition as outlined in the Olympic Charter,” it said in a statement.

“These include the sport and technical requirements as well as the definition of “country” as defined in Rule 30.1 – “an independent State recognized by the international community.” Kosovo is recognized as a country by 108 of the 193 UN Member States.”

It will vote on its full membership at its session in Monaco in December.

“The decision was taken by the Executive Board in the interests of the athletes in Kosovo and to remove any uncertainty they may have. It will allow them to take part in qualifications for the Olympic Games Rio 2016 and in future editions of the Games,” it said.

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The decision was welcomed by Kosovo’s Olympic Committee, formed in 1992 with more than 30 affiliated national federations with 13 of which being Olympic sports federations.

“Allowing Kosovo players to play in Olympic games is the greatest news for Kosovo sport,” Besim Hasani, the head of Kosovo’s Olympic Committee told Reuters.

“Kosovo has good players and when we will go to play in Olympics I am sure we will return with medals. Our sport was blocked for more than 25 years.”

The issue to discuss Kosovo’s potential membership had triggered the ire of the Serbian Olympic Committee (OKS) earlier on Wednesday, who had said it had been informed that Kosovo will be granted full membership.

“The Serbian Olympic Committee has been informed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of an official initiative by the unilaterally recognized Republic of Kosovo for full IOC membership,” it said in a statement.

“For four years now, the Serbian Olympic Committee has successfully blocked attempts by the unilaterally declared Republic of Kosovo to gain IOC membership through various channels, while the Serbian authorities have also been timely informed of these attempts.

“We have information that the IOC is now prepared to support the initiative although we have stated several times, in cooperation with the Serbian government institutions, that such activities are unacceptable.”

Olympic membership through a national Olympic Committee allows athletes to compete in the summer and winter Games while also accessing IOC funds for the development of sport in their region.

There are currently 204 NOCs over five continents that includes nations as well as some territories.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, Additional reporting by Fatos Bytyci in Pristina; Editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar)

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22. October 2014

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Federer opens Basel campaign in style, Nadal progresses


(Reuters) – Roger Federer began his pursuit for a sixth Swiss Indoors Basel title with an explosive 47-minute 6-2 6-1 victory over Gilles Muller on Wednesday after Rafael Nadal reached the quarter-final with a 6-1 6-1 win against Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

Top seed Federer hit 12 winners in a 24-minute first set and the Swiss 17-time grand slam champion continued his domination in the second set without losing a single point on his serve.

Such has been his form since falling as low as world number eight in March that the 33-year-old could end the season top of the rankings.

“It was a very easy match. He couldn’t do anything on my serve. He was struggling with the return,” Federer told reporters.

“I’m happy I had a quick match, because I have a lot of matches in the coming weeks. Gilles’ game completely fell apart and his level dropped. It was a great first round for me.”

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Nadal, playing through appendicitis, was equally impressive, needing just 57 minutes to dispatch France’s Herbert.

The former world number one, who could miss the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals next month depending on surgery, broke his opponent’s serve five times in a second seamless victory in three days.

“I’m still very tired during the matches,” Nadal told a press conference. “But physically I’m improving. I feel much better than a few days ago.

“I’m surprised that I advanced that easy to the quarter-finals. I didn’t expect that before the tournament.”

(Writing by Tom Hayward, editing by Stephen Wood)

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22. October 2014

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Ebola survivors in Liberia are symbols of hope and help


DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Ebola survivors in Liberia are quickly becoming an important part of the fight against the deadly virus that has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa since being detected in the region in March.

Once rejected by their communities, survivors are now being seen as part of the solution as scientists try to find a way to use the antibodies in their blood to help treat victims.

Sheldon Yett, Country Director for the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) in Liberia, said survivors were still stigmatized, but people were starting to see them as a real sign of hope and help.

In the capital Monrovia, Ebola survivors are helping in Liberia’s first state-run interim care center for Ebola orphans. There are some 3,700 Ebola orphans in the region today, according to UNICEF.

“Ebola plays on the most basic of human emotions; children just want a hug, but fear has meant that even loved ones have kept them at arms’ length. Ebola survivors can provide that support, knowing that they have a natural immunity to the virus,” Yett told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone from Monrovia.

Meinu Kpetermani, a survivor working at the Willing Hearts center, monitors the children’s temperature and reports to the caretaker if any child has a fever or shows other symptoms of Ebola.

“Ebola survivors are doctors, nurses and social workers. We come from all walks of life. We can make a real contribution to society if people are willing to use our skills,” said Kpetermani, a nurse who contracted Ebola in September.

 

SURVIVORS’ ANTIBODIES

The World Health Organization, now largely responsible for coordinating the development of a treatment and vaccine for Ebola, said on Tuesday that a serum based on antibodies in survivors’ blood might be ready as early as December.

“The partnership that is moving the quickest will be in Liberia where we hope that in the coming weeks there will be facilities set up to collect the blood, treat the blood and be able to process it for use,” WHO assistant director general Marie Paule Kieny told a news conference in Geneva.

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In the past, Ebola outbreaks occurred mainly in remote parts of Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo and were managed through contact tracing, isolation and rehydration therapy. There is currently no widely available vaccine or treatment.

The West Africa Ebola outbreak is the largest in history and has infected more people than the 25 previous outbreaks over 40 years combined. The WHO has reported more than 9,000 cases, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Kieny warned that supply of a new serum may not meet demand, and that extreme care must be taken to avoid infecting Ebola victims with other diseases such as HIV or hepatitis. Drugs and vaccines may not be ready till January 2015, she said.

EBOLA SURVIVORS TOP 1,000

The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which has been leading the fight against Ebola, said this week it had released the 1,000th Ebola survivor treated in its clinics in West Africa, Liberian James Kollie.

Kollie, like many other survivors, now faces a struggle to avoid being rejected in his home town of Hengbelahun, in Lofa County’s Kolahun District, just across the border from the original source of the outbreak in Guinea.

“They are afraid of me. They say I still have Ebola and I want to kill them,” Kollie, 16, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by skype from Foya in Liberia, where his father is an outreach worker for MSF.

Kollie’s father, Alexandre Kollie, said many people in their community didn’t believe Ebola existed, including his own wife, who died of Ebola in Monrovia while he was working in Foya.

“Ebola had come to Liberia so I tried to talk to my family about the virus and to educate them, but my wife did not believe in it. I called my wife begging her to leave Monrovia and bring the children north so we could be together here. She did not listen. She denied Ebola.”

James Kollie, who also lost his two sisters to Ebola, said he would like to work with his father, telling people how to avoid the disease. “It’s important that you wash your hands with chlorinated water and avoid body contact to keep Ebola out of your community.”

(Reporting By Misha Hussain, editing by Tim Pearce)

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22. October 2014

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GSK eyes prime FTSE 100 slot for standalone HIV drugs business


LONDON (Reuters) – GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L), battered by weak U.S. drug sales and a bribery scandal in China, is looking to float its fast-growing HIV drugs business as part of a recovery plan that includes a fresh round of cost cutting.

As a standalone company ViiV Healthcare would be among the top 40 companies in London’s FTSE 100 index, outranking such household names as retailer Marks and Spencer (MKS.L), GSK Chief Executive Andrew Witty told reporters.

Analysts at Jefferies said they valued the HIV and AIDS division at about 17 billion pounds ($27 billion).

Announcing third-quarter results, Britain’s biggest drugmaker said the new restructuring program would save 1 billion pounds in annual costs within three years, with half of that achieved by 2016.

GSK also put a floor under its dividend by pegging the 2015 payout to the same level as this year’s 80 pence a share.

“Glaxo has announced that it is giving itself a shot in the arm, with a more streamlined approach to its business model,” said Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers.

Shares in the company closed 2.6 percent higher, clawing back some of this year’s decline.

While the European healthcare sector .SXDP has risen 14 percent this year on optimism over new drugs and a spate of deal-making, GSK stock has lost a similar amount on falling sales and earnings forecasts, despite April’s far-reaching asset swap deal with Switzerland’s Novartis (NOVN.VX).

A central concern for investors has been GSK’s ability to pay its dividend in the face of slowing growth. The company finally broke a run of steadily rising payouts by announcing an unchanged third-quarter dividend, but softened the blow by saying it would return an additional 4 billion pounds to shareholders next year through a special share scheme.

A run of weak quarters and a fine of nearly $500 million for bribery in China has heaped pressure on Witty. The most pressing concern, however, is the sharp fall in sales of GSK’s 15-year-old respiratory medicine Advair, particularly in the United States, where price pressure is acute, and the slow uptake of new respiratory drugs Breo and Anoro.

Witty acknowledged that the company is going through a “painful” period but said the respiratory business was set to return to growth in 2016.

PIPELINE ISSUES

The weak showing in respiratory medicine, a field GSK has dominated for decades, comes on top of recent disappointments with high-risk experimental drugs in heart disease and cancer. However, the company said its pipeline is expected to produce a sustained flow of new drugs over the next 5-10 years.

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In the face of these challenges, investors are keen for GSK to unlock value and Witty said the decision to explore an initial public offering (IPO) of a minority shareholding in ViiV Healthcare showed the company’s financial flexibility.

“It signals a patient but enduring commitment to explore avenues to create shareholder value,” Witty said.

GSK has a stake of nearly 80 percent in ViiV Healthcare, with Pfizer (PFE.N) and Shionogi (4507.T) holding the rest.

Witty did not give a timetable for a ViiV Healthcare IPO and said there was no rush to sell, since the business would continue to grow strongly for the foreseeable future. Its newest HIV medicine is Tivicay, which has been a big success.

Some analysts have suggested GSK could go further in breaking itself up, with speculation of potential spin-offs for consumer health and vaccines. The vaccines unit has an experimental Ebola vaccine that GSK is racing to develop.

Witty said he would remain “extremely pragmatic”, noting the company had already announced plans to divest certain older off-patent drugs.

OUTLOOK UNCHANGED

GSK stuck to its financial outlook for the full year, predicting core earnings per share (EPS) “broadly similar to 2013″ in constant exchange rate terms. That outlook was already pared back in July from a previous forecast of an increase of 4-8 percent.

Third-quarter sales were 5.65 billion pounds, down 10 percent from a year earlier. Core EPS – the measure most followed by investors – were flat at 27.9 pence.

Analysts had forecast sales of 5.75 billion pounds and core EPS, which excludes certain items, of 23.9 pence, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The earnings beat was helped by lower sales, administrative and research costs, as well as a reduced tax rate.

(1 US dollar = 0.6231 British pound)

(Additional reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by David Goodman)

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22. October 2014

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Official WHO Ebola toll near 5,000 with true number nearer 15,000


GENEVA (Reuters) – At least 4,877 people have died in the world’s worst recorded outbreak of Ebola, and at least 9,936 cases of the disease had been recorded as of Oct. 19, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday, but the true toll may be three times as much.

The WHO has said real numbers of cases are believed to be much higher than reported: by a factor of 1.5 in Guinea, 2 in Sierra Leone and 2.5 in Liberia, while the death rate is thought to be about 70 percent of all cases. That would suggest a toll of almost 15,000.

Liberia has been worst hit, with 4,665 recorded cases and 2,705 deaths, followed by Sierra Leone with 3,706 cases and 1,259 deaths. Guinea, where the outbreak originated, has had 1,540 cases and 904 deaths.

On Friday the WHO put the toll about 300 lower with more than 745 fewer cases.

In the past week, transmission of the disease was most intense in the capital cities of Monrovia and Freetown, while Guinea’s capital Conakry reported 18 confirmed cases, its second highest weekly total since the outbreak began.

Although Ebola has been contained in Nigeria and Senegal, the disease is spreading towards Ivory Coast in both Liberia and Guinea, including in Guinea’s Kankan district on a major trade route with Mali. Kankan saw its first case in the past week.

However, the WHO said the Liberian district of Lofa had seen a third consecutive week of decline in the number of cases, which reports from observers suggested was a result of disease control measures.

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Among the thousands of cases are 443 health care workers, 244 of whom have died. The WHO said it was undertaking extensive investigations to determine why so many had caught the disease.

“Early indications are that a substantial proportion of infections occurred outside the context of Ebola treatment and care,” it said.

A U.N. plan to stop the epidemic, known as 70-70-60, involves isolating at least 70 percent of cases and safely burying at least 70 percent of those who die by Dec. 1, a 60-day deadline from the start of the plan. That is supposed to rise to 100 percent by the 90-day deadline on Jan. 1.

The number of isolation beds had increased substantially to 1,126 but remained only 25 percent of the 4,388 expected to be needed in 50 Ebola treatment units. There were also firm commitments from foreign medical teams to staff only 30 units.

Without those beds in those units, families have to care for sick relatives at home and risk infection.

The WHO also estimates 28 laboratories are needed in the three worst-hit countries, with 12 now in place, and 20,000 staff will be needed to keep track of people who have had contact with Ebola patients and may be at risk.

The three worst-hit countries will also need 230 dead-body-management teams by Dec. 1, it said. They have 140.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

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22. October 2014

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UK’s Lloyds to cut 9,000 jobs over next three years: sources


LONDON (Reuters) – Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L) will next week announce plans to cut 9,000 jobs over the next three years, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.

The cuts amount to about 10 percent of Lloyds’ workforce and will be announced as part of Chief Executive Antonio Horta-Osorio’s strategy review next Tuesday, the sources said.

Horta-Osorio’s new three-year plan is expected to include the closure of some branches as the bank responds to a growing number of transactions being executed online, and the automation of some back-office functions.

The cuts are on top of the 30,000 jobs which the bank has axed since its a 20.5 billion pound ($33 billion) government bailout during the financial crisis of 2007 to 2009.

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Horta-Osorio has turned around the bank’s fortunes since joining Lloyds as chief executive in 2011, returning the bank to profit and enabling the government to start selling its shares.

The government still holds a 25 percent stake in the bank but could look to sell more shares if Lloyds is giving permission by Britain’s financial regulator to start paying dividends for the first time since its bailout.

Lloyds declined to comment.

(Reporting by Matt Scuffham, editing by David Evans)

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22. October 2014

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JPMorgan was alerted of hiring concerns in China before U.S. probe: WSJ


(Reuters) – JPMorgan Chase Co (JPM.N) executives in New York were aware of potential problems tied to its recruitment practices in China well before U.S. regulators launched a probe into the issue, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources and documents it reviewed.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is examining the extent to which JPMorgan executives at its headquarters were involved in overseas hiring, the report said.

A JPMorgan executive in Asia alerted the bank’s New York officials in 2011 of concerns that the bank had hired a son or daughter of a senior Chinese government official, a recruitment that helped it win an investment-banking assignment, according to company emails reviewed by the Journal.

JPMorgan officials proposed changes to its hiring practices in Asia and the changes formed a part of a set of anticorruption measures approved by its board directors on the bank’s audit committee in late 2011, according to the report.

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Chief Executive Jamie Dimon also knew of the anticorruption measures as they were unveiled, according to the report.

U.S. authorities have not accused the bank of any wrongdoings yet.

A JPMorgan spokesman declined to comment on the story.

(Reporting by Amrutha Gayathri in Bangalore; Editing by Savio D’Souza)

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22. October 2014

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Boeing profit jumps 18 percent, but cash is scarce


(Reuters) – Boeing Co (BA.N) reported an 18 percent increase in quarterly profit and raised its full-year core earnings forecast for the third time, reflecting booming commercial aircraft demand and increasing profitability in its defense business.

But shares of the Chicago-based aerospace and defense giant slipped 4.3 percent, as analysts viewed the profit gain as a given and were more concerned that costs of the 787 Dreamliner are creeping higher, while the company’s cash generation, a key measure for investors, was low.

Last year, Boeing blew past its cash forecast, booking $9.7 billion in operating cash flow before pension contributions, compared with a forecast of more than $8.5 billion.

But this year Boeing has a lower forecast of more than $7 billion, and in the first nine months has booked only $4.6 billion. For comparison, it had already booked $8.3 billion at the nine-month stage in 2013.

“Where’s the cash?” RBC Capital Markets Analyst Robert Stallard asked in the headline of a note to clients.

During a conference call with analysts and journalists, Boeing Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith said cash flow would be “very strong” in the fourth quarter. He didn’t provide details, and Boeing’s official forecast rose to “more than $7 billion” from “about $7 billion.”

Smith also “laid out some pretty clear operating reasons for why the 787 is not going to see a massive or rapid shift in cash returns over the next year or so,” Stallard told Reuters. Boeing is stocking up on parts for its 787-9 model, and would try to do the same with the -10 variant, as a way to lower the risk of production snafus, and that will consume cash, Smith said.

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The deferred production costs of the high-tech plane now appear likely to reach $26 billion, up from the $25 billion Boeing had forecast, analysts suggested. Smith didn’t contest the number but said he didn’t see the cost reaching $27 billion.

Boeing shares fell to $121.68 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

In the quarter ended Sept. 30, Boeing earned $1.36 billion, or $1.86 per share, up from $1.16 billion, or $1.51 per share, a year earlier.

Core earnings, which exclude some pension and other costs, rose to $2.14 per share from $1.80, easily topping analyst forecasts of $1.97, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Revenue rose 7 percent to $23.78 billion.

Commercial aircraft operating margins narrowed to 11.2 percent from 11.6 percent, reflecting the effect of deliveries of lower-margin 787 and 747 aircraft, Boeing said.

For 2014, the company upped its core earnings forecast to $8.10 to $8.30 per share, from $7.90 to $8.10.

Sales fell 2 percent to $7.9 billion at Boeing’s defense, space and security business, reflecting continued pressure from government spending cuts. But Boeing boosted profit 27 percent and operating margins 2.4 percentage points by cutting costs.

(Reporting by Sweta Singh in Bangalore and Alwyn Scott in Seattle; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila, Jonathan Oatis, Bernard Orr)

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22. October 2014

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Bumgarner dominant as Giants end Royals record streak


KANSAS CITY Missouri (Reuters) – Madison Bumgarner had his fun, while the Royals vowed to bounce back after the San Francisco Giants brought Kansas City’s perfect postseason to an emphatic end with a 7-1 win in Tuesday’s World Series opener.

Giants ace Bumgarner delivered a dominating seven innings of work and Hunter Pence slammed a two-run homer in the first inning that pushed the Royals into an early hole they were unable to claw out of at their Kauffman Stadium home.

“(Bumgarner) was on top of his game,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy told reporters. “He had his fastball going but his secondary pitches were good too.”

With the Royals back in the Fall Classic for the first time in 29 years, fans arrived early to tailgate and barbeque, and filled the stadium ready to party and watch their team add to an unbeaten 8-0 playoff run.

But the Giants, bidding for a third title in five years, played party poopers snapping an 11-game Royals postseason win streak that stretched back to their 1985 World Series triumph.

“It would have been nice to go 12-0,” said Royals veteran Alex Gordon about sweeping through to a World Series title. “I mean that would have been pretty cool, but it’s not bad to have a major league record of 8-0.

“We’ll be satisfied with that and move on and start a new streak.”

Game Two of the best-of-seven is on Wednesday in Kansas City.

Making his first start since the American League Championship Series opener on Oct. 10, rusty Royals righty James Shield could not find his rhythm and labored through three-plus innings in which he was pounded for five runs on seven hits.

“I don’t think the layoff had anything to do with the ball game tonight,” said Royals manager Ned Yost. “I think what had a lot to do with the game tonight was Madison Bumgarner.”

Bumgarner, the MVP of the National League Championship Series, was sensational.

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The big lefty surrendered just one run on three hits, striking out five and walking one.

The Giants struck quickly against Shields with five hits in the opening frame, including a two-run shot from Pence and an RBI-double from Pablo Sandoval to jump in front 3-0 and quiet the crowd of 40,000.

The Royals had the stadium rocking again in the third, but Bumgarner worked his way out of a jam after an error by shortstop Brandon Crawford and a double by Mike Moustakas put runners on second and third with none out.

“That is one of my favorite things to be able to do in baseball, to work through a situation like that,” said Bumgarner.

The 25-year-old struck out Alicdes Escobar and contact hitter Nori Aoki and then got Eric Hosmer to ground out to snuff the threat without a run.

“My team mates picked me up way more often than I get a chance to pick them up,” he said about Crawford’s error. “Those strikeout situations, we were going for them and trying to keep them off the board. That’s nice.”

Pence led off the fourth with a double and scored on a line drive single to center from Michael Morse that chased Shields from the game.

Reliever Danny Duffy issued a bases loaded walk to Gregor Blanco to push across another Giants run to make it 5-0.

The Giants padded the lead in the seventh with Joe Panik and Sandoval driving in runs before Kansas City finally got on the scoreboard off Bumgarner in the bottom of the inning.

Salvador Perez homered over the wall in left, the solo shot ending Bumgarner’s postseason record of 32 and two-thirds scoreless innings pitched on the road.

“Tonight, that was the last thing on my mind,” Bumgarner said about the streak. “We’re up 7-0, so I’m just trying to compete and go after guys and be aggressive.”

(Additional reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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22. October 2014

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IOC to discuss possible Kosovo Olympic recognition: spokesman


BELGRADE (Reuters) – The International Olympic Committee will discuss the possibility of granting Kosovo Olympic recognition on Wednesday, an official said, a move that has angered Serbian Olympic officials.

“We can confirm that Kosovo will be addressed at the Executive Board (later on Wednesday),” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told Reuters.

The Serbian Olympic Committee (OKS) said it had been informed that Kosovo will be granted full membership, the OKS said on its official website (www.oks.org.rs).

“The Serbian Olympic Committee has been informed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) an official initiative by the unilaterally recognized Republic of Kosovo for full IOC membership,” the body said.

“For four years now, the Serbian Olympic Committee has successfully blocked attempts by the unilaterally declared Republic of Kosovo to gain IOC membership through various channels, while the Serbian authorities have also been timely informed of these attempts.

“We have information that the IOC is now prepared to support the initiative although we have stated several times, in cooperation with the Serbian government institutions, that such activities are unacceptable.”

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Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 but Belgrade refuses to recognize it, saying the territory, which has a majority Albanian population, is a heartland of the Serbian nation.

Olympic membership through a national Olympic Committee allows athletes to compete in the summer and winter Games while also accessing IOC funds for the development of sport in their region.

Athletes also march with the flags of their nation at the opening and closing ceremonies.

“Such course of action would amount to a precedent which has not occurred in recent history, given that no national Olympic Committee has been admitted into the IOC without the country previously being granted United Nations membership.”

There are currently 204 NOCs over five continents that includes nations as well as some territories.

(Reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic and Karolos Grohmann; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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22. October 2014

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World number one Williams walloped by Halep


SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Simona Halep handed an out of sorts Serena Williams the joint heaviest defeat of her long and illustrious career as the Romanian beat the world number one 6-0 6-2 at the WTA Finals on Wednesday.

As well as Halep played in moving her opponent back and around Singapore’s purple Indoor hardcourt, the 33-year-old American only had herself to blame for the defeat after her serve fell apart and the errors flowed.

The loss halted the double defending champion’s winning streak at the season-ending event at 16 matches and leaves her needing to beat Eugenie Bouchard, who plays Ana Ivanovic later on Wednesday, to make it through to the last four from the Red Group.

“It was actually embarrassing I think describes the way I played. Yeah, very embarrassing,” Williams told reporters, before heaping praise on Halep.

“I’ve seen her play a lot. Like I said, she’s never played like this before.”

Williams gave no indication of the struggles that awaited her as she boomed down an ace to start the match between the two players who were impressive in claiming straight set victories in their opening Red Group matches.

That ace would be one of only nine points the 18-times grand slam champion would win in the opening set as her game fell apart to give Maria Sharapova hope of overhauling her to finish the season as world number one.

Halep, serving supremely, needed only 12 minutes to race 4-0 ahead with Williams looking almost in shock and her routine failure to send simple groundstrokes over the net.

The American, looking for a fifth WTA Finals title, also tossed in six double faults with the few second serves that did make it over getting rough treatment from Halep.

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The Romanian, runner-up at the French Open earlier this year, grew in confidence as Williams offered little hope of a recovery. Halep, who beat Bouchard in her opener on Monday, smashing an ace to take the set 6-0 at the third opportunity.

The last time Williams lost a set 6-0 was in Madrid last year at the hands of Anabel Medina Garrigues, but she bounced back to win the match and the tournament. That scenario never looked like repeating itself on Wednesday.

Jumping around in between points and screaming at herself in an attempt to snap out of the hole, she finally got herself on the board in the ninth game as she held serve to make it 2-1.

She then rallied on the impressive Halep serve to force a break point but the 23-year-old Romanian snuffed it out with another ace and went on to make the key hold for 3-1.

Rather than feel the heat as the victory line approached, Halep reveled.

She stepped away from her traditional counter-punch game and went on the front foot, landing attacking ground strokes to move Williams around the court as she moved 5-2 ahead with the American despondent.

She claimed the famous win on her first match point, when Williams dumped another forehand into the net as she matched her career worst two game total from a 1998 defeat by Joannette Kruger in Oklahoma City.

“The biggest match of my life. I’m really happy,” Halep said after becoming only the second woman to beat Williams in straight sets in a WTA Finals match after Kim Clijsters in 2002.

(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/sportsNews/~3/-bAiBH3F1Qc/story01.htm

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