2. October 2014

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Dallas Cowboys player investigated for alleged sex assault: ESPN


(Reuters) – A Dallas Cowboys player is under investigation for an alleged sexual assault that occurred in the team’s hotel last month, ESPN reported on Wednesday.

The sports channel named the player, as did other media, but quoted Grapevine Police Department spokesman Barry Bowling as saying he hadn’t been charged or arrested. ESPN did not provide details of the alleged Sept. 20 incident.

Reuters has not confirmed the player’s identity or the alleged crime.

The suspected assault occurred at the Gaylord Hotel a day before the team played the St. Louis Rams, ESPN reported.

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Calls and emails to law enforcement and National Football League representatives were not immediately returned.

The incident comes to light just a month after TMZ.com published a video from inside a New Jersey casino elevator showing former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice punching his now-wife Janay Palmer.

NFL Commissioner Roger Godell initially gave Rice a two-game suspension over the domestic violence incident, then indefinitely suspended the three-time Pro Bowler following the release of the video.

The league’s uneven response has raised questions about the credibility and integrity of the NFL and Goodell, one of the most powerful figures in sports.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Nick Macfie)

http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/sportsNews/~3/_C9K3KTIANk/story01.htm

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2. October 2014

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Oslo 2022 Games pullout no blow but changes needed


(Reuters) – Oslo quitting the race to stage the 2022 Winter Olympics has not hurt the International Olympic Committee but has underlined that changes are needed to make the Games more attractive to bidders, president Thomas Bach told Reuters on Thursday.

IOC head Bach said that Norway’s decision to pull out was mainly “a political one” given the country’s current minority coalition government.

Norway’s government withdrew Oslo’s bid for the Winter Olympics on Wednesday, leaving Kazakhstan’s Almaty and Beijing as the only two candidates, with the International Olympic Committee set to vote on the winning bid in July, 2015.

Oslo also became the fourth city after Stockholm, Krakow in Poland and Ukraine’s Lviv to pull out of the 2022 Games bidding process.

“We are really feeling sorry for the Norwegian athletes and sports movement who were very engaged in this bid, because they realized what a push it would have given for sport and healthy lifestyle in Norway,” Bach told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“On the other hand it is clear that we have some issues with the Olympic Winter Games, for geographical reasons and some other reasons. This is what we are addressing with the Olympic Agenda 2020.”

Bach shrugged off suggestions the IOC had been bruised by the repeated snubs, but accepted Games costs had been a factor.

“We haven’t even got a black eye. We should not forget we have two candidates (Beijing and Almaty) who are offering two very interesting approaches,” said the German, a former Olympic fencing champion who took over as president last year with the 2022 bidding process already under way.

CHEAPER OLYMPICS

Neither of the two, however, possess the sparkling winter sports pedigree of Norway whose athletes have won more Winter Games medals than any other nation.

Nor do they have a large local winter sports fan base, crucial for the success of the Winter Olympics.

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The IOC will seek to approve changes for reducing the cost of the Games and the bidding process, which alone can reach $100 million, at its session in Monaco in December when it puts ‘Agenda 2020′ to the vote.

The price tag of the Games has been the biggest concern, with this year’s Sochi Olympics costing a record $51 billion.

While Norway promised an event that would cost a tenth of the Sochi figure, campaigners still could not rally sufficient support.

Even the IOC’s own $880 million contribution to the 2022 Olympics could not entice the Scandinavians.

“We see with the 2022 bids that we are living in a time of world crisis, financial crisis and that there are of course — and that is legitimate — more questions being asked by the people about the financing of the Games,” said Bach.

“This is why on the agenda (in Monaco) we want to address the issue of reducing the cost of the Games, of reducing the cost of bidding.

“Legacy and sustainability issues must be in focus from the very beginning.”

Bach said that instead of cities having to fit IOC criteria, the focus should switch to the Games being part of a city’s growth plan.

“The proposal is to change the philosophy of bidding,” he said.

“In the past we have asked the cities in which way they would fulfill the conditions set,” said Bach. “So in the future we would prefer to ask the cities how they see an Olympic Games best fitting into their long term social, sports, ecological and economic development.”

(Editing by Ossian Shine)

http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/sportsNews/~3/jNH8M-Q69sA/story01.htm

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2. October 2014

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Thailand off course on Tour hosting plans


BANGKOK/PARIS (Reuters) – Thailand boldly announced they were in talks to host the Tour de France on Thursday, much to the surprise of organizers of the world’s greatest cycle race who said they were only discussing staging a low key one-day in the Southeast Asian nation.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand said they had been buoyed by fruitful talks with Jean-Etienne Amaury, Chairman of the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) who organize the Tour de France, last month in Paris and were working on how much of the great race they would stage.

“We are still talking with Tour de France organizers but we are looking at next fiscal year. So 2016, not 2015,” TAT governor Thawatchai Arunyik told Reuters.

“We’re not sure yet how many stages we will hold whether it is one or two stages or the whole competition. This is something that still needs to be discussed.

“Thailand is the perfect location for this highly prestigious competition, not to mention that cycling as a sport is enjoying enormous popularity here at the moment.”

ASO, however, believe something was lost in translation.

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“There are talks indeed but not to bring the Tour to Thailand,” a spokesman told Reuters upon hearing about the claims from the TAT.

“There are discussions to settle in Thailand via a criterium, just like we did in Japan with the ‘Saitama Criterium by Le Tour de France’.”

A criterium is a one-day race held on a circuit or though a city which often attracts the Tour de France winner but has little sporting value.

The Tour, however, first held in 1903, is one of the most grueling sporting tests, with professional cyclists completing last year’s 3,663.5-kilometre race (2,276 miles) in 23 days.

The race takes place through France but last year’s 101st edition began in England and also went through Belgium with more countries keen to host stages.

Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, Spain and Luxembourg have also hosted the start of the race in recent years before the riders make their way through France and finish at the traditional end point, the Champs Elysees in Paris.

(Editing by Patrick Johnston)

http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/sportsNews/~3/MBX0ajOUkvg/story01.htm

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2. October 2014

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Ebola deaths reach 3,338, but widely undercounted, WHO says


GENEVA (Reuters) – The death toll from the world’s worst Ebola outbreak on record reached 3,338 people out of 7,178 cases in West Africa as of Sept. 28, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.

It said the total number of new cases had fallen for a second week, but warned against reading any good news into the figures as they were almost certainly under-reported and there were few signs of the epidemic being brought under control.

“Transmission remains persistent and widespread in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with strong evidence of increasing case incidence in several districts,” the WHO’s update said.

Although the spread of the disease appears to have stabilized in Guinea, where the epidemic originated, “it must be emphasized that in the context of an outbreak of EVD (Ebola virus disease), a stable pattern of transmission is still of grave concern, and could change quickly,” it said.

The WHO data, based on figures from ministries of health, showed 710 dead in Guinea, 1,998 in Liberia and 622 in Sierra Leone.

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The WHO report said both Guinea and Sierra Leone reported cases in previously uninfected districts bordering Ivory Coast.

In Liberia, there remained “compelling evidence obtained from responders and laboratory staff in the country that there is widespread under-reporting of new cases, and that the situation in Liberia, and in Monrovia in particular, continues to deteriorate.”

Two U.S. Navy mobile laboratories had arrived in Liberia and would be operational by Oct. 5, while a Chinese team in Sierra Leone had begun testing up to 20 samples a day in Freetown.

In two other West African countries, Nigeria – where eight people died – and Senegal, there have been no further suspected cases in more than 21 days, the incubation period of the disease. The WHO deems an outbreak is over when two incubation periods have passed.

Last week the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimated there would be 8,000 cases reported in Liberia and Sierra Leone by Sept. 30, but said the true figure would likely be 21,000 after correcting for under-reporting.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/healthNews/~3/WBLwBvqg_wQ/story01.htm

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2. October 2014

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UK must channel aid to fight FGM in Sierra Leone: lawmakers


LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Britain must set up a program to tackle female genital mutilation in Sierra Leone, where the practice is seen as a prerequisite for marriage and even used as a political tool, a parliamentary committee said.

The International Development Committee said on Thursday it was astounded that Britain – which has put itself center stage in global efforts to eradicate FGM – had left Sierra Leone out of its £35 million program to help end FGM in Africa.

“It concerns us greatly that Sierra Leone – the UK’s largest per capita bilateral recipient of aid – does not currently have a single UK-funded program to curb female genital mutilation when this country has one of the highest prevalence in the world of this barbaric practice,” committee chairman Sir Malcolm Bruce said.

He called on Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) to act immediately.

Nearly 90 percent of women in Sierra Leone have undergone FGM, a ritual involving the partial or total removal of the genitalia. The vaginal opening is sometimes also sewn up.

An estimated 140 million girls and women worldwide are affected by FGM, most of them in Africa. Many countries are now trying to stop the practice which can cause serious physical and psychological problems.

However, experts say it is particularly difficult to tackle FGM in Sierra Leone because it is performed by secret women’s societies that wield enormous clout.

In the report, one children’s charity described some girls running away from home and living on the streets to avoid being mutilated.

“FINGER-WAGGING BRITS”

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British FGM campaigner Alimatu Dimonekene, who grew up in Sierra Leone, said politicians were complicit in the practice.

“It is a well-known fact that some politicians sponsor state cutting of girls as a form of gaining the trust of a community and in turn votes during election campaigns,” the report quoted her as saying.

“Any politician who criticizes the practice… is unlikely to win the election.”

One Sierra Leonean woman told the committee during its visit to the west African country that a government minister had threatened her after she spoke out about FGM.

International aid agency GOAL urged Britain to use its position as the largest donor in Sierra Leone to lobby for action at the highest government levels.

According to DFID, Sierra Leone was not included in the £35 million program partly because of its low political commitment.

International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone told the inquiry the FGM initiative should be led by African countries, adding, “we cannot turn into imperialist finger-wagging Brits”.

One FGM survivor quoted in the report suggested including FGM in the school curriculum to empower girls to say no and help dispel myths such as the belief that having sex with an uncut woman leads to impotence.

(Reporting by Emma Batha, Editing by Alisa Tang)

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2. October 2014

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Britain calls for international help on Ebola as London conference begins


LONDON (Reuters) – Britain made a plea for international help to deal with the world’s worst Ebola outbreak at the start of a conference in London on Thursday, with one charity warning that five people are being infected with the virus every hour in Sierra Leone.

Ebola has killed at least 3,338 in West Africa — mainly in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia — out of 7,178 cases as of Sept. 28, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says, and cases have been recorded elsewhere, including in the United States.

Sierra Leone’s president, Ernest Bai Koroma, canceled his attendance at the conference just hours before it started. His plane had technical problems, Britain’s Foreign Office said.

Speaking on Thursday before the “Defeating Ebola” conference began, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, called for countries to increase financial aid as well as other vital help including medical expertise, transport and supplies.

“We need help from the international community to provide us with the doctors and nurses, so we’re asking other countries to piggy back on the structure we’ve put in place,” he said.

“Britain’s got a footprint on the ground in Sierra Leone, we’ve got military engineers there, we’ve got a big DFID presence, we’ve got a plan to roll out a large number of additional Ebola treatment beds,” he said.

Although WHO said the total number of new cases had fallen for a second week, it warned of under-reporting and said there were few signs of the epidemic being brought under control.

“Transmission remains persistent and widespread in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with strong evidence of increasing case incidence in several districts,” WHO said.

The Save the Children charity warned the authorities faced the prospect of an epidemic “spreading like wildfire” across Sierra Leone, saying there had been 765 new cases reported in the country last week but there were only 327 beds available.

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“The scale of the Ebola epidemic is devastating and growing every day, with five people infected every hour in Sierra Leone last week,” the charity’s chief executive, Justin Forsyth, said.

“We need a coordinated international response that ensures treatment centers are built and staffed immediately.”

Although the charity praised UK efforts, a British parliamentary committee said on Thursday that cuts in aid from Britain to Libera and Sierra Leone had compromised the fight against the disease.

“In the midst of this devastating epidemic … it is wrong for the UK to cut its support to these two countries by nearly a fifth,” International Development Committee chairman, Malcolm Bruce, said in a report from the committee.

“The planned termination of further UK funding to the Liberian health sector is especially unwise.”

DFID said it had promised 120 million pounds ($200 million) towards helping health services in Sierra Leone.

(This story was refiled to add dropped word in first paragraph)

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Louise Ireland)

http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/healthNews/~3/y4nrCO8pniw/story01.htm

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2. October 2014

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Toyota keeps European sales target despite Russian market slump


PARIS (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp expects to ride out the worst effects of the slump in Russia’s car market, a senior executive said at the Paris auto show, and is sticking to its target of increasing sales to a million vehicles in Europe next year.

Though Russia’s car sales this year could drop to their lowest level since the financial crisis as Western sanctions over Ukraine weaken the economy further, Toyota says its focus on higher-end vehicles will help to keep its Russian numbers steady this year.

“There is a lot of uncertainty in Russia … people are more reluctant to spend money; this is why the entry market is much more affected than the premium market,” the Japanese company’s head of European operations, Didier Leroy, told journalists at the Paris show.

The fragility of the European market, where sales remain 20 percent below their 2007 peak, means that the Paris show is packed with new fuel-efficient small cars and compact SUVs designed to close the gap.

Toyota’s Leroy said that while Russia’s car sales in the premium segment were down 8 percent, the drop was at 25-30 percent for entry-level cars, hurting many of Toyota’s competitors.

Vehicles such as its Camry and Lexus have helped Toyota to boost its share of the declining Russian market by about 1 percent this year.

Toyota expects to lift European sales this year to slightly more than 865,000 vehicles from 847,530 in 2013, Leroy said, and the target to sell 1 million vehicles in the region in 2015 still stands.

However, rival carmakers that were too optimistic about the pace of this year’s upturn have already been forced to cut back production, including Ford and PSA Peugeot Citroen.

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NEW MODELS

Volkswagen, meanwhile, has loftier ambitions, with Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn saying on the eve of the show that the German carmaker is “well on the way” to achieving 10 million vehicle sales this year, four years earlier than originally planned.

Among the new models in Paris is Renault’s revamp of the elderly Espace people carrier as a crossover sport utility vehicle. It was launched on Thursday 30 years after the first model was unleashed on European consumers who hadn’t yet realized they wanted one.

Once the European market leader, the Espace is now one of the laggards of its category, far behind the Ford S-Max, which struck out in a sportier direction from its 2006 introduction and is unveiling another timely update in Paris.

“It’s a global shift affecting even family vehicles, and it is here to stay,” Societe Generale analyst Philippe Barrier said. “Designers are having to compromise as people look for something sportier.”

Daimler, meanwhile, said it will introduce 10 new hybrid vehicles by 2017, with Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche saying that electric cars have so far failed to gain widespread acceptance.

“They are an exciting concept but have a rather slow market adoption rate,” he said on the eve of the Paris show. “A plug-in hybrid is the easy-entry version for those who are still a little uncomfortable with electric cars.”

(Reporting by Agnieszka Flak, Laurence Frost, Andreas Cremer and Edward Taylor; Writing by David Goodman/editing by Keith Weir)

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2. October 2014

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Fiat needs more than the 500 to turn core brand around


PARIS (Reuters) – While rivals roll out new models and concept cars, Fiat has little to show at the Paris auto show besides another variant of its retro-styled 500 compact car, in what is starting to look like a worrying trend for the carmaker’s namesake brand.

Following the full takeover of U.S. unit Chrysler, the newly-named Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has set out an ambitious growth plan focused on its upmarket Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Jeep brands.

Analysts say it makes sense to concentrate on higher-margin premium vehicles that are selling strongly in the United States and emerging markets, but are concerned the group is neglecting a Fiat brand which still accounts for a large chunk of sales.

FCA sold 1.5 million Fiats last year, with deliveries of the mass-market brand accounting for 34 percent of the group total.

The 500X debuting in Paris should help lift sales by adding to the popular mini-SUV category. But the crossover car is unlikely to significantly change the face of Fiat’s core brand, starved of models and stuck with an aging line-up.

“The 500 is getting older and older, the success of its variants has been limited and they lack a competitive offering at a time when Volkswagen, Peugeot and Renault continue to launch new cars,” said Sascha Gommel, an analyst at Commerzbank. “Even if the European recovery was gaining momentum, Fiat would definitely lose out.”

BUMPS IN THE ROAD

Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne struck gold in 2007 when he chose the 500 hatchback to revive the flagging Fiat marque, selling more than a million in the six years after relaunch.

Sold in more than 100 countries the Fiat 500 — as Italian as a cup of espresso or actress Sophia Loren — was meant to be Marchionne’s answer to BMW’s Mini and help drive sales of other models within the Fiat family.

But a strategy that got off to a promising start hit a few bumps in the road, not least an economic crisis that pushed car sales in Europe into a six-year slump, from which the sector is only gradually recovering.

European sales of the 500 are still high but have come down from their 2008-9 peaks, despite customized features and electric and cabriolet versions. A rise in buyer incentives in the United States and Europe to boost sales also hints at problems and risks devaluing the product, analysts say.

Meanwhile, Fiat dealers say the 500 revamp has failed to rub off on other cars within the brand, some of which are looking tired. Fiat’s Punto hatchback is already nine years old.

“Mini did the classic rollout of keeping sales steady over the years by slowly and steadily introducing product variations, but Fiat is not that disciplined,” said Jane Nakagawa, managing director at Portia Consulting. “To the average consumer, the variations they have come out with were relatively invisible.”

Fiat’s global market share in the B-segment of small sub-compact cars has fallen from 9.3 percent in 2007 to 6.2 percent last year and is expected to dip below that level to 5.7 percent by 2018, according to forecaster IHS Automotive.

In the city car A-segment, under which Fiat’s popular 500 and Panda models fall, Fiat’s market share is seen falling from around 7 percent to just under 5 percent between 2007-18.

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MOVING ON

Fiat needed half the time it took Mini or Kia to breach the 40,000 sales mark in the U.S. market, but deliveries there peaked in 2012, and fell 18 percent last year.

The larger five-door 500L was hit by two recalls and the Serbian factory which produces the model was temporarily suspended last month due to “market conditions”.

“The 500L recall was a bump in the road and we are ready to move on,” said Jason Stoicevich, head of the Fiat brand for North America. He said Fiat was on track to have its best sales year in the United States this year since the brand was brought back there in 2011, with sales through September up 8 percent. Stoicevich is betting on the 500X to speak to U.S. consumers who like sport utility vehicles (SUVs), are looking for something larger than a city car, and want a sturdier car with all-wheel drive capability to withstand harsher weather.

“This is going to be a real game-changer,” he said. “It is the first vehicle we will put on the road here where there really is no reason for rejection in terms of either size or capability.” 

A TALL ORDER

As a group, FCA plans to invest 48 billion euros ($61 billion) over five years to boost sales by 60 percent to 7 million cars.

Its ambitions for Fiat are more modest in comparison: sales are seen growing by nearly 30 percent to 1.9 vehicles by 2018, with the brand focusing growth on the Americas and Asia, while aiming to keep deliveries flat in a struggling European market.

But some analysts think that will be a tall order, especially if Fiat has to compete with Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Jeep for the heavily indebted group’s stretched finances.

They also say Fiat’s five-year product pipeline of 27 new entries includes few surprises besides remakes of its popular 500, Panda, or Punto models. By 2017, the brand will only feature two or three models in the fast-growing compact SUV segment, they add.

FCA said during its strategy announcement it recognized the need to purify the DNA of the Fiat brand, and that it would develop products that are either “functional” or “aspirational”.

It also said it would leverage the 500 family to expand in the upper segment of the mainstream market.

“That entire brand has lots of magic sprinkled on their product,” said Portia’s Nakagawa, referring to the 500’s past successes and the new Panda, which has been selling well. “But they also need to make some hard choices about which models fit the idea of functional or aspirational, and which need to go.”

(1 US dollar = 0.7925 euro)

(Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Detroit and Laurence Frost in Paris; Editing by Mark Potter)

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2. October 2014

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Global stocks succumb to growth fears; ECB trillion euro question awaits


LONDON (Reuters) – World stocks and oil were knocked hard on Thursday after global manufacturing data and an Ebola health scare in the United States spooked markets, sending investors scurrying to the safety of U.S. bonds, the yen and gold.

European markets had been sucked into the storm, anxious about the European Central Bank’s monthly meeting where it is under pressure to launch an aggressive government bond purchase program to revive the euro zone’s stodgy recovery.

Investors flocked to the yen and safe-haven bonds following a slew of surveys on Wednesday that had shown German factory activity shrinking for the first time in 15 months, China’s manufacturing sector barely growing and the United States slowing more than expected.

Confirmation of a case of Ebola in the United States joined a growing list of bearish news stories, with geo-political tensions in Ukraine, the Middle East and Hong Kong, and growth concerns around China and the euro zone sapping risk appetite.

All that pushed MSCI’s 45-country world stock index .MIWD00000PUS to a five-month low as a fourth day of back-to-back falls left it down more than 5 percent in the last month.

There was little sign of the rout coming to end in Europe either. Britain’s FTSE.FTSE, Germany’s DAX.GDAXI and France’s CAX.FCHI saw 0.3-0.6 percent falls while Italy .FTMIB and Portugal .PSI20 were down more than 1 percent.

“The market is quite nervous,” said Alvin Tan, a strategist at Societe Generale in London.

“What we are most concerned by is the risk backdrop. The SP 500 appears to be in the process of breaking below the 100-day moving average and on top of that we see volatility picking up in not only equities but also currencies.”

On top of all the geopolitical and growth concerns, markets are also struggling with the fact the Federal Reserve is about to end years of pumping billions of dollars of stimulus into the U.S. and global economy each month.

After Wall Street had dropped 1 percent [.N] Japanese equities had led the selloff in Asia overnight. A rebound in the yen JPY= after a sudden loss of altitude for the high-flying dollar pushed Tokyo’s Nikkei .N225 down a sharp 2.1 percent to three-week lows. [.T]

TRILLION EURO QUESTION

Markets in both China and Hong Kong had been closed for public holidays but sustained civil unrest in Hong Kong is also weighing on investor confidence, although the city’s streets were calm for most of Thursday.

The risk-averse global mood had pushed 10-year U.S. Treasury yields US10YT=RR — the benchmark for world debt markets — into their biggest drop in just over a year on Wednesday. They were steady at 2.4 percent in European trading as German Bunds DE10YT=TWEB sat not far from all-time lows at 0.9 percent. [GVD/EUR]0#DEBMK=

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The dollar subsequently slipped back below 110 yen – a threshold breached for the first time since 2008 this week. It was last down 0.3 percent at 108.61 yen JPY= and on course for its biggest drop in over a month against major currencies.DXY.

The euro was a shade higher at $1.2638 EUR= having crawled away from a two-year low of $1.2571 hit earlier in the week.

Traders were focused on the European Central Bank meeting later in the session with the divergence in U.S. monetary policy from those of Europe and Japan now an established market theme.

ECB head Mario Draghi is set to give details at the bank’s 1230 GMT (0830 EDT) post-meeting news conference of a new plan to buy asset-backed securities and covered bonds, hoping this will finally revive the euro zone economy.

It hopes the plans will add a trillion euros to its balance sheet, but poor demand for a new round of cheap loans last month is raising the pressure for it too be more aggressive.

“In the longer term people are still hoping for full-scale quantitative easing,” said Robert Kuenzel, euro area economist at Daiwa Securities in London.

“But it is unlikely to come in the near future. I think the first line of defense is the TLTRO (cheap long-term loans to banks) and the covered bond and ABS purchase programs, but there is a risk that both of those components disappoint.”

OIL PLUNGE

With the focus on damage limitation, gold added to small gains to rise 0.5 percent to $1,219.27 XAU= an ounce. [GOL/]

In commodities though, Brent crude oil LCoc1 tumbled below $92 a barrel, extending a three-month losing stretch as weak economic signals from China and Europe and ample global supply continue to weigh. [O/R]

It has now lost 20 percent since June and sharp cuts in official selling prices from Saudi state producer Saudi Aramco on Wednesday gave the clearest sign yet that the world’s largest exporter is trying to compete for crude market share.

“This is a structural change in the oil market, with Saudi Arabia explicitly stating that they are willing to compete on price,” said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at SEB in Oslo.

“I think Brent will fall below $88 before we see the bottom of the market.”

(Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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2. October 2014

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Ex-NFLer Hernandez’s lawyers seek to have phone evidence tossed


FALL RIVER Mass. (Reuters) – Lawyers for ex-National Football League star Aaron Hernandez squabbled with prosecutors in court on Wednesday over whether law enforcement had legally seized his cellphone as evidence while investigating a shooting death last year.

Hernandez, a former New England Patriots tight end, is awaiting trial on charges of murdering semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd last year, and prosecutors want to use the phone as evidence in his trial, due to begin in January.

The player, who spoke quietly to his attorneys during Wednesday’s proceeding, has also been charged with shooting two men to death outside a Boston nightclub in 2012 after a dispute over a spilled drink. He will be tried separately on that charge.

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Hernandez’s attorneys have argued in court filings that authorities had no authority to seize the phone the day after police discovered Lloyd’s bullet-riddled body in an industrial park near Hernandez’s home.

They want Judge Susan Garsh to block prosecutors from using at trial the cellphone and related records, along with items taken from Hernandez’s house and car, arguing they fell outside the scope of warrants obtained by prosecutors.Joseph Collins, a Massachusetts state police trooper, said he picked up the phone in the lobby of a Boston office building where Hernandez’s attorney, Robert Jones, had his offices. The interaction was brief and cordial, Collins said, and there was no objection to his taking the phone.Another of Hernandez’s lawyers, Michael Fee, testified that he had told Patrick Bomberg, an assistant district attorney in Bristol County, “very squarely I don’t know what’s on that phone, and until we do there will be no voluntary surrender of that phone.”He said Bomberg told him authorities would seek a warrant for the phone.

“I said: ‘If you secure a warrant, that’s different, we’ll honor the warrant,’” Fee testified. “But there was no agreement we would blindly produce that phone under any circumstances.”

(Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney)

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2. October 2014

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Drama and controversy reign at Asian Games


INCHEON South Korea (Reuters) – Cries of foul play took over the Asian Games on Wednesday when an Indian female boxer refused to accept her medal and Malaysia lodged a formal complaint after one of its competitors failed a drugs test.

An Iraqi runner was also awarded a gold after a bizarre end to one of the key athletic events where he finished fourth but the first three finishers were all disqualified.

Multi-sports events are always filled with drama and controversy but even by the eccentric nature of the Asian Games, Wednesday’s developments were bordering on the bizarre.

The Indian boxer L Sarita Devi was left facing disciplinary action after being reported to Asian Olympic officials over her behavior.

Sarita refused to wear the bronze medal that was presented to her on Wednesday, taking it only in her hand before trying to drape it over a South Korean opponent who had beaten her in a fight the previous day.

When the presentation was over, Sarita left the medal behind, despite being told by the organizers to take it with her.

The International Boxing Federation took a dim view of her actions, submitting a formal report to the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) over her behavior.

“The whole incident looked like a well planned scenario by her and her team, and it is regretful to watch a boxer refuse the medal regardless of what happened in the competition,” AIBA supervisor David Francis said in a statement.

“In this regard, as the Technical Delegate, I had to request OCA to review this incident, so any boxer or athlete in other sports will not follow in her footsteps by respecting the spirit of fair-play and sportsmanship of the Olympic Movement.”

Malaysia was also in the spotlight after the team’s chef de mission said the south-east Asian nation would appeal the decision to suspend its martial arts gold medal winner Tai Cheau Xuen.

The OCA announced on Tuesday that Tai had tested positive to a banned stimulant and had been expelled from the event and stripped of her medal.

But the Malaysian Olympic Committee is disputing the result and appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). A decision on the appeal is expected within 48 hours.

“This involves the image of the country and the athlete involved,” Datuk Daniyal Balagopal Abdullah told the Malaysian news agency Bernama.

The OCA announced on Wednesday that a fifth athlete had tested positive. Syrian karate competitor Nour Aldin Al-Kurdi had tested positive for the banned steroid clenbuterol and had been disqualified from the Games, it said.

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Iraq’s Adnan Almntfage got a lucky break when he was promoted to the gold medal for the men’s 800 meters despite finishing the final in fourth place.

Mohammed Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia crossed the line first, just ahead of Abdulrahman Musaeb Bala of Qatar and Abraham Kipchirchir Rotich of Bahrain after a frantic two-lap race.

But Almntfage was later elevated to the gold medal position after Abdulaziz was disqualified for obstruction and Bala and Rotich were disqualified for lane infractions.

“I would like to say that the Bahraini, Qatari and Saudi opponents were very worthy opponents – however they made mistakes at the 200m mark,” said Almntfage.

“And these mistakes were against the rule of the competition, I hope these mistakes won’t happen again in such a competition.”

The off-field dramas overshadowed most of Wednesday’s competition, where 33 gold medals were decided.

China won just five medals – a modest haul by its lofty standards – but still remained perched at the top of the standings with a total of 294 medals, including 131 golds.

The host-nation South Korea won another eight golds to consolidate its second place position with 62 golds, setting the stage for Thursday’s men’s soccer final against its reclusive neighbors from North Korea.

Few soccer fixtures are painted with as much political intrigue and the final promises to stoke passions on both sides of the world’s most heavily militarized border.

North Korea won the women’s gold medal for a third time on Wednesday, beating 2011 World Cup winners Japan 3-1.

The Koreans took a 2-0 lead on goals from Kim Yun Mi and skipper Ra Un Sim before Japan hit back through captain Aya Miyama. Substitute Ho Un Byol scored a brave diving header in the closing minutes to seal the win.

Late in the second half, however, plain-clothed security personnel swooped on a man who unfurled a North Korean flag and hung it on barriers directly behind the Japanese goal.

Security yanked the flag down and whisked the man away for questioning.

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/sportsNews/~3/FTzO-eU6I4U/story01.htm

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2. October 2014

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Giants sink Pirates in NL Wild Card playoff


PITTSBURGH (Reuters) – A four-hit shutout by Madison Bumgarner and a grand slam by Brandon Crawford carried the San Francisco Giants to an 8-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Wild Card playoff on Wednesday.

Crawford launched a hanging curve from Pirates starter Edinson Volquez into the second deck in right field in the fourth inning to snap a scoreless tie. It was first post-season grand slam hit by a shortstop.

With Brandon Belt adding three RBIs with a pair of singles, left-hander Bumgarner sailed through the Pirates lineup giving up four hits, striking out 10 and walking one.

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The victory sent the Giants into the best-of-five NL Divisional Series against the top-seeded NL East champion Washington Nationals starting on Friday.

NL West winners the Los Angeles Dodgers host the NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals in the other divisional series.

(Writing by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/sportsNews/~3/lOrqBCluwV8/story01.htm

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2. October 2014

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UK must restore aid for Sierra Leone and Liberia: report

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Britain must restore planned cuts in its aid budget for Sierra Leone and Liberia in light of the Ebola crisis sweeping through West Africa, a parliamentary committee said on Thursday. The Department for International Development’s (DFID) bilateral budget for the two Ebola-stricken countries will drop by nearly a fifth from […]

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2. October 2014

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Dallas Ebola patient vomited outside apartment on way to hospital

DALLAS (Reuters) – Two days after he was sent home from a Dallas hospital, the man who is the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States was seen vomiting on the ground outside an apartment complex as he was bundled into an ambulance. “His whole family was screaming. He got outside […]

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2. October 2014

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Australia criticized for not sending medical staff to fight Ebola

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia on Thursday announced additional funds for tackling Ebola but ruled out sending medical staff to Sierra Leone, prompting criticism for medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières that it was failing to meet its commitment. The government said it would give an additional A$10 million ($8.79 million) to tackle Ebola, taking its total […]

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