19. September 2014

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NFL teams speed up response to domestic violence woes


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The National Football League is showing signs of getting off the sidelines in the brouhaha over domestic violence and taking up a new playbook.

The Arizona Cardinals suspended Jonathan Dwyer after his arrest on charges of head-butting and breaking the nose of a woman. The Baltimore Ravens invited fans to trade in jerseys of former star player Ray Rice, who has been indefinitely suspended for punching out his wife.

If teams have learned anything from the abuse scandal convulsing America’s most popular sports league, it may be that acting decisively and quickly against domestic violence is the best way to win in the court of public opinion.

Dwyer is the latest player caught up in the controversy. He was arrested Wednesday on charges of aggravated assault and left an Arizona jail on Thursday.

The team wasted no time in deactivating Dwyer on Wednesday, taking cues from other clubs that kept their players on the field despite similar charges, only to back peddle and take them off the field.

“The Cardinals have the benefit of being fourth in line, so it does benefit them in that sense,” said Robert Boland, a former domestic abuse prosecutor who is now a professor of sports management and law at New York University.

One team that reacted slowly was the Baltimore Ravens, which was caught in the early days of the crisis after Rice beat his then-girlfriend in a casino elevator in February. He was kept on the team with a two-game suspension until a security video surfaced last week showing the punch that knocked his now-wife out cold.

The team invited fans to exchange their Rice jerseys on Friday and Saturday at Baltimore’s MT Bank Stadium for that of another player, the team said.

It is too early to say if the NFL and embattled commissioner Roger Goodell are turning the corner on the crisis.

Sponsors and women’s groups continued to voice concern over the league’s handling of the spate of cases and urged the NFL to respond more forcefully.

On Thursday evening in Atlanta, site of the day’s only nationally televised NFL game, national women’s advocacy group UltraViolet will have a plane fly over the stadium with a banner saying “#GoodellMustGo” for the game between the Falcons and the Tampa Bay Bucaneers.

PUBLIC KEEPS WATCHING FOOTBALL

Boland said the NFL is on a “surrealistic bumpy ride,” at a time when it should be celebrating the first month of the season and a new television package on Thursday night.

“I don’t want to say the NFL is not taking a hit because this is certainly a very bad cycle for them,” Boland said. “On the other hand, the NFL is still the biggest platform to advertise on and be a sponsor of.

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“Not today, because it’s too big of a cycle, but at some point during the course of the year, they’ll be able to turn this into a positive.”

Other players accused of domestic abuse are Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers and Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers.

Peterson, a former NFL most valuable player and one of its marquee players, has been accused of injuring his 4-year-old son when whipping him with a tree branch.

Both Peterson and Hardy have been placed on the league’s exempt list, sidelining both players with pay until their legal troubles are over. San Francisco continues to have McDonald in the line-up, choosing to let the legal process play out.

According to a NBC News/Marist poll released on Thursday, 86 percent of Americans say the recent clamor about domestic abuse in the NFL has not changed how much professional football they watch and only 29 percent believe Goodell should resign.

The poll of 606 adults was conducted Sept. 16-17 and has a margin of error of plus-minus 4.0 percentage points.

While Goodell remained out of public view this week, a key sponsor spoke up in his favor. The chief executive of soft-drink giant PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi, said Wednesday evening that Goodell appears to be handling the incendiary issue correctly.

That is in contrast to the messages from Anheuser-Busch and brokerage firm TD Ameritrade, also big NFL sponsors, which criticized the league’s handling of the cases.

Verizon Communications, another sponsor, said Thursday that the NFL asked it several weeks ago for input on how to tackle the issue of domestic violence.

“We have been working behind the scenes to develop and implement programs that will address the problem at its root,” said Verizon Chief Executive Lowell McAdam, who gave an early endorsement to Goodell last week.

Michael Cramer, director of the Texas Program in Sports and Media at the University of Texas-Austin, said the NFL has the opportunity to emerge stronger from the crisis.

“Roger Goodell has the chance to step up and say, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ and if the players don’t like playing in a league that has these rules, they shouldn’t apply,” said Cramer.

“Do I think this is a long-term issue? No. Concussions are more of an issue. You can stop this behavior and make sure that people are not in the league. I’m not sure you can stop concussions because of the nature of the game.”

(Editing by Mary Milliken and Leslie Adler)

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19. September 2014

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In Barry Bonds appeal, U.S. judges take swings at Justice Department


SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Several U.S. appeals court judges appeared skeptical on Thursday about the Department of Justice’s attempt to preserve a criminal conviction against baseball home run king Barry Bonds that resulted from a steroids probe.

The case involves testimony Bonds gave to a grand jury in 2003 about whether he used steroids to help him bash more long balls. Last year, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirmed a conviction against him for obstruction of justice.

However, the full 9th Circuit voted to rehear the case. At a hearing on Thursday in San Francisco, more than half of the judges on the 11-member panel peppered the government with questions about whether Bonds’s testimony actually amounted to a crime.

“I find your reading of the statute absolutely alarming,” Judge William Fletcher said.

In 2003, Bonds told grand jurors about his childhood when asked whether his former trainer, Greg Anderson, had given him self-injectable substances.

Bonds had been testifying under a grant of immunity, and denied knowingly using steroids or any performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) provided by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, known as BALCO, or by Anderson.

After talking about his friendship with the trainer, Bonds, the son of former baseball star Bobby Bonds, had testified: “I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts. I became a celebrity child with a famous father. I just don’t get into other people’s business because of my father’s situation.”

The slugger was convicted on one obstruction charge in April 2011, and the jury deadlocked on three perjury counts. His sentence of two years of probation and 30 days of home confinement was put on hold pending the appeal of his conviction.

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In court on Thursday, Judge Susan Graber said Bonds eventually answered truthfully at the grand jury. “I don’t see how there’s sufficient evidence” for an obstruction conviction, she said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Merry Jean Chan said what matters for obstruction of justice is “corrupt intent,” and Bonds consistently evaded questions while testifying.

“That is common behavior in civil litigation,” said Fletcher, adding: “Maybe all of the bar is in big trouble.”

After seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bonds played for the San Francisco Giants from 1993 until he retired in 2007 as Major League Baseball’s career home run leader with 762. He also holds the single-season record with 73 homers in 2001.

But suspicions over PEDs tarnished his legacy, and he has not been admitted into the sport’s Hall of Fame. Bonds and pitching great Roger Clemens are the most prominent players to have been tried in connection with baseball’s so-called Steroid Era.

Bonds had testified that he received flaxseed oil, creams, vitamins and protein shakes from Anderson. A ruling could come at any time.

The case in the 9th Circuit is United States of America vs. Barry Lamar Bonds, 11-10669.

(Reporting by Dan Levine, editing by G Crosse)

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19. September 2014

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China’s Li Na announces her retirement from tennis


BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Li Na, Asia’s only grand slam singles champion, announced her retirement from tennis on Friday, citing the effect of long-term injuries, especially her knees.

“It has been a difficult year, and I have had to face a lot of things, such as making the decision to end my professional tennis career,” Li said in a statement.

The 32-year-old won the 2011 French Open and this year’s Australian Open. Known affectionately as “Big Sister Na” and “Golden Flower” in China, she said it was the right time to leave the court.

“As a professional tennis player, leaving the field of competition at this moment is for me the correct decision,” she added.

The pain in her right knee had become hard to deal with, Li said.

“Competition is fierce in the sport of tennis, and requires athletes to be at their best. As for me, I can no longer get back to being 100 percent,” she added.

The Chinese Tennis Association, in a statement released by the official Xinhua news agency, said it respected her decision and wished her the best.

“We also thank Li Na for the passionate and proud, shining moments she gave to Chinese tennis in her competitive career,” it said.

For many young people in China, Li is a role model, with her steely determination, broad smile and English language skills emblematic of a confident and rising country.

Sport and politics remain tightly woven in China, where elite athletes are handpicked from a young age to be nurtured by the state. Only a handful are allowed to manage their own careers.

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Li, who was identified as a potential badminton talent as a child, was steered into tennis before her teenage years, but had to be coaxed back into the game in 2004 after walking away to study media at university.

Despite growing adulation from her success, including becoming China’s first WTA title-winner in 2004 and first grand slam quarter-finalist at Wimbledon two years later, Li has proved a reluctant standard-bearer for Chinese tennis.

After numerous clashes with local media and Chinese tennis authorities over training routines and pay, in 2009 the strong-willed Li was permitted with four other top women to manage her own career and keep a greater share of her winnings.

China has a history of placing enormous expectations on athletes who have reached international acclaim and each live broadcast is usually viewed as a barometer of global standing or national pride.

In 2008, when defending champion Liu Xiang was forced to drop out of the 110 metres hurdles at the Beijing Olympics due to an injury, his withdrawal was met with tears, anger and accusations that the athlete had let the nation down.

Li is among a handful of top women players whose success in an individual game inevitably conflicted with their country’s Soviet-style sports system.

Shortly after returning to training from two years out of the game, she won her country’s first WTA tour title on home soil in Guangzhou and two years later was in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.

During her career, she won nine WTA events, including the two grand slam titles, and reached number two in the world rankings.

She earned more than $16 million in prizemoney and much more in endorsements and sponsorship, becoming one of the world’s highest-earning female athletes.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard, Li Hui and Hou Xiangming)

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19. September 2014

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U.S. says Medicare Advantage enrollment at all-time high


(Reuters) – Elderly Americans have enrolled in privately managed Medicare health plans in record numbers even as average premiums continue to rise, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said on Thursday.

The agency said the average Medicare Advantage premium would increase by $2.94 a month next year, to $33.90 per month, but 61 percent of enrollees will not see any premium increase at all.

Based on Medicare Advantage bids, CMS projects that plan enrollment will grow to just over 16 million in 2015 from 15.6 million this year, an increase of 3.17 percent, spokesman Raymond Thorn said in an emailed statement. 

CMS said in April that it would raise its average reimbursement for Medicare Advantage plans by 0.4 percent. Insurers calculated that, due in part to mandates under the Affordable Care Act, reimbursement rates will effectively drop by 4 percent or more for 2015.

CMS is required under the ACA and by other laws to cut Medicare Advantage spending rates to the level of government administered fee-for-service Medicare.

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“Next year will be a pivotal year for the Medicare Advantage market — the confluence of payment pressures and realignment in the provider markets is likely to have a significant impact on plan participation decisions and benefit design,” Dan Mendelson, chief executive officer at consulting firm Avalere Health said in a statement. “Growth in Medicare Advantage has become a de-facto version of Medicare reform, and will continue to be so in the future.”

CMS estimates that from 2010 to 2015, enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans will increase 42 percent and premiums will decrease by 6 percent.

Avalere attributes the shift to more enrollees opting for lower-premium plans that restrict pharmacy options and have higher out-of-pocket costs for consumers.

Private insurers manage Medicare benefits for about 15 million of the 50 million elderly or disabled Americans eligible for the program. Health insurers with large Medicare Advantage businesses include Humana Inc and UnitedHealth Group Inc.

(Reporting by Deena Beasley; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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19. September 2014

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Cerner and Athenahealth say integrating with Apple’s mobile health service


SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Cerner Corp and Athenahealth Inc, two leading U.S. electronic health record providers, said on Thursday they are working with Apple Inc to develop applications that leverage Apple’s mobile health service HealthKit.

Cerner and Athenahealth representatives said they are building integrations with HealthKit and working with Apple. Previously, Apple announced a partnership with rival electronic health record company Epic Systems. Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

The goal is to help doctors monitor patients with chronic conditions from home and identify health risks. HealthKit gathers data from various applications and devices, including blood pressure cuffs, accelerometers and glucose measurement systems, and makes it easier for doctors to view it all in one place.

Across the United States, hospitals are rolling out pilots using HealthKit to improve preventative care, and potentially cut costs.

Cerner, Epic and Athenahealth are central to these plans, as the patient-generated data is ultimately stored in the electronic health record.

Both Athenahealth and Cerner have developed mobile applications targeted at patients. HealthKit-compatible versions of these apps will be available on the App Store when Apple fixes a bug that forced health developers to pull their apps on Wednesday.

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Apple said it was working to address the bug. The HealthKit apps will be available by the end of the month.

An Apple spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday about the company’s new HealthKit partners.

Athenahealth vice president Abbe Don said the company will use HealthKit to help patients with chronic conditions like diabetes. Cerner senior director Brian Carter said care teams, including doctors and nurses, will be able to access data from HealthKit with patients’ consent.

Carter said they will work closely with “focused smaller organizations” to prove the value of the service. He said the initial integration will focus on wellness and preventing the onset of chronic conditions.

Athenahealth’s Don said the company will test its “proof of concept” application with one client, Hudson Headwaters Health Network, a non-profit health center based in New York. Don said medical device makers are also working on HealthKit integrations for use in early trials.

“There is an awful lot we can do with HealthKit,” she said.

(Reporting by Christina Farr; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Cynthia Osterman)

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19. September 2014

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U.N. to deploy Ebola mission as death toll reaches 2,630


NEW YORK/PARIS (Reuters) – The United Nations Security Council on Thursday declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a “threat to international peace and security” as the death toll hit 2,630 and France became the latest Western nation to step up its support.

French President Francois Hollande announced the deployment of a military hospital to the remote Forest Region of southeastern Guinea, where the outbreak was first detected in March.

Since then the virus has infected at least 5,357 people, according to World Health Organization (WHO), mostly in Guinea, neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia. It has also spread to Senegal and Nigeria.

With fragile West African healthcare systems overrun by the outbreak, Hollande said France’s response would not be limited to contributing to 150 million euros ($194 million) in aid promised by European Union nations.

“We must save lives,” Hollande told a news conference. “I have asked the defense minister to coordinate this action and to include military doctors and the civil protection agency plus air support.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday he will create a special mission to combat the disease and deployed staff in the worst-affected states.

“The gravity and scale of the situation now require a level of international action unprecedented for a health emergency,” Ban said. He added that he will appoint a special envoy to head the U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, which will push a “rapid and massive mobilization” of people, material and financial resources.

“This international mission … will have five priorities: stopping the outbreak, treating the infected, ensuring essential services, preserving stability and preventing further outbreaks,” Ban told an emergency session of the Security Council.

SPEED IS OF ESSENCE

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said a surge of support could help turn things around for the roughly 22 million people in the hardest-hit countries, whose lives and societies have been shattered by the disease.

“In the hardest hit countries, an exponentially rising caseload threatens to push governments to the brink of state failure,” Chan said during the session of the 15-member council.

The Security Council also adopted a resolution that also calls on states “to lift general travel and border restrictions, imposed as a result of the Ebola outbreak and that contribute to the further isolation of the affected countries and undermine their efforts to respond.”

Joanne Liu, international president for medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres called on member states and others to follow the lead of countries that have committed to join the fight against Ebola.

“We need concrete action on the ground now. Speed is of the essence,” Liu said.

“Although dangerously late, the pledges such as those of the U.S. and UK are ambitious, but they must be implemented now. We do not have months or even weeks to wait. Thousands of lives are at stake,” she said, adding that other countries must commit to deploying assets and staff as soon as possible.

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U.S. President Barack Obama, calling the disease a threat to global security, promised this week the deployment of 3,000 U.S. troops to help contain the epidemic. Britain also announced on Wednesday it would provide a further 700 treatment beds in Sierra Leone, its former colony.

One of the most deadly diseases, there is no known cure for the hemorrhagic fever, though development of several treatments and vaccines is being fast-tracked.

ATTACK ON JOURNALISTS, OFFICIALS

The WHO warned on Thursday there were no signs yet of the outbreak slowing, particularly in the three countries hardest hit. It said a surge in Liberia was being driven by an increase in the number of cases in the capital, Monrovia, where 1,210 bed spaces were urgently needed – five times the current capacity.

A U.S. C-17 military aircraft landed in Monrovia international airport on Thursday with a team of engineers to assess the capacity of the runway to handle large planes.

The U.S. plan will include the construction in Liberia – the country hit hardest by the outbreak – of 17 Ebola treatment centers with 100 beds each, plus training thousands of healthcare workers.

French forces will be based in an area where authorities are battling fears and stigma about the highly contagious disease.

Highlighting these difficulties, eight bodies, including those of three journalists, were found after an attack on a team trying to educate locals on the risks of the Ebola virus in a remote area of southeastern Guinea, a government spokesman said.

“The eight bodies were found in the village latrine. Three of them had their throats slit,” Damantang Albert Camara told Reuters by telephone in Conakry on Thursday.

In a rare piece of good news, the latest data showed no new deaths in Sierra Leone in the one day since the previous update.

The government in Sierra Leone has locked down the country, limiting movements for three days from midnight on Thursday. It said extreme measures are needed to contain the outbreak.

“Avoid touching each other, avoid eating bush meat, avoid visiting the sick, avoid attending funerals, report illnesses and deaths to the nearest health facility,” President Ernest Bai Koroma said in an address to the nation ahead of the start of the lockdown.

“We know some of the things we are asking you to do are difficult. But life is better than these difficulties,” he said.

However, many people fear the decision will bring more hardship to a nation that is already one of the poorest on earth and critics also question whether it will even be effective.

(Additional reporting by Umaru Fofana in Freetown; Kate Kelland in London, Tom Miles in Geneva, John Irish in Paris, Bate Felix and Daniel Flynn in Dakar; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Daniel Flynn and David Stamp)

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19. September 2014

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Sterling soars on Scottish vote, Asian shares tread water


TOKYO (Reuters) – The British pound rose sharply after a early results from the Scottish independence vote reinforced expectations Scotland would remain in the United Kingdom, while Asian shares gave up some of their earlier gains on Wall Street’s strength.

Sterling GBP=D4 was last up 0.6 percent at $1.6496 after rising as high as $1.6525, a marked turnaround from a 10-month low of $1.6051 touched just last week.

The result in the small borough of Clackmannanshire was reported as 46.2 percent in support of independence, with 53.8 percent against. Orkney came out as 67.2 percent against, to just 32.8 percent for the “Yes” camp.

“It’s not final, but the results appear to be leaning toward ‘No,’ and this indirectly lifted the dollar against the yen,” said Masashi Murata, currency strategist for Brown Brothers Harriman in Tokyo.

Sterling’s rise against the yen took the Japanese currency down over two full yen to reach 180.66 yen GBPJPY=, its lowest since late 2008.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was narrowly positive, supported by cheer on Wall Street, where both the benchmark SP 500 .SPX and the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI set intraday record highs.

Sentiment was also underpinned by news that Alibaba Group Holding (BABA.N) priced its IPO at $68 a share, the top end of the expected range, raising $21.8 billion on Thursday in one of the largest-ever stock offerings.

Japan’s Nikkei stock average .N225 surged 1.5 percent, getting a tailwind from a weaker currency as the dollar pushed to a new six-year high of 109.46 yen JPY=.

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The dollar index .DXY, which tracks the U.S. unit against a basket of six major peers, stood at 84.331 after it climbed as high as 84.743 on Thursday, its strongest level in more than four years.

The euro edged down to $1.2907 EUR= after refreshing a 14-month low on Thursday, when it fell as low as $1.2834.

Risk sentiment was tempered by geopolitical clouds on the horizon. The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved a bill requested by President Barack Obama to train and moderate Syrian rebels fighting Islamic State militants, which now goes to Obama to sign into law.

Obama said the strong bipartisan support showed Americans were united in the fight against Islamic State militants.

“The emergence of the militant group ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and recent increase in efforts to fight it, has ushered in a new era of geopolitical risk” in the Middle East and North Africa, strategists at Barclays wrote in a client note.

“We think the stage seems set for a prolonged period of heightened regional uncertainty, with risks potentially spilling over into global oil markets and other economies and financial markets in the region,” they said.

Spot gold XAU= shed 0.2 percent to $1.221.76 an ounce after touching $1,216.01 in the previous session, its lowest since Jan. 2 on speculation about an earlier-than-expected U.S. interest rate hike.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Eric Meijer)

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19. September 2014

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Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus includes chips from Qualcomm, Skyworks: iFixit


SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Apple’s (AAPL.O) iPhone 6 Plus uses chips from Qualcomm (QCOM.O), Skyworks Solutions (SWKS.O), Avago Technologies (AVGO.O) and other companies, according to gadget repair firm iFixit, which pried one of the devices open in Melbourne early on Friday.

Apple said it received a record 4 million first-day pre-orders for the new phones, double the number for the iPhone 5 two years ago, underscoring investors’ expectations the new handset will maintain the Silicon Valley company’s stellar growth.

The company is releasing a 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. They will support more than 200 telecoms carriers worldwide, with sales launching in Australia on Friday morning and then in the United States and other countries.

Like previous iPhones, the iPhone 6 Plus uses a Qualcomm (QCOM.O) 4G LTE modem, according to iFixit.

Dissembling the device in a Mac repair shop after lining up overnight to buy a phone, iFixit technicians also discovered a Murata (6981.T) wifi module, a Broadcom (BRCM.O) touchscreen controller, and chips from Skyworks, Avago and TriQuint (TQNT.O).

News that a supplier has been chosen – or rejected – for one of Apple’s products can sometimes cause drastic swings in stock prices. Apple doesn’t disclose which companies make the components that go into its smartphones. It also imposes strict rules forbidding its suppliers from discussing Apple-related business with investors and the media.

Shares of GT Advanced Technologies Inc (GTAT.O), a mineral crystal specialist, slumped 13 percent on Sept 9 after some investors were surprised the US company’s scratch-resistent sapphire glass was not being used on the new iPhones.

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The phones launched on Friday are Apple’s first to include NFC radio chips used for the new Apple Pay mobile payment platform. The NFC chip in the iPhone 6 Plus comes from NXP Semiconductors (NXPI.O), according to iFixit, in line with most investors’ expectations.

NXP also supplies a motion co-processor, key to making the iPhone’s sensors work without draining its battery, iFixit said.

As in other iPhones, Apple has designed its own main processor with technology licensed from ARM Holdings (ARM.L) and in this device it is the A8 chip.

The iPhone 6 Plus opened by iFixit also included a NAND flash memory chip, used for storing music and photos, made by SK Hynix (000660.KS). Apple in the past has depended on multiple companies to supply its memory chips.

Raymond James analysts expects sales of iPhone 6 and larger iPhone 6 Plus to top 9 million in the first weekend.

As well as Apple’s stores, ATT Inc (T.N), Sprint Corp (S.N), T-Mobile US Inc (TMUS.N) and Verizon Wireless in the United States will start selling the phones on Friday.

(Editing by Miral Fahmy)

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19. September 2014

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Japan government cuts economic view, warns of stalling consumption


TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s government cut its overall economic assessment for the first time in five months as private consumption is struggling to recover from the slump caused by April’s sales tax hike, clouding the outlook for a sustained recovery.

The government on Friday cut its view on private consumption, which accounts for about 60 percent of the economy, saying that consumer spending is seen pausing although a pick-up trend remains intact.

The assessment followed a run of weak indicators, including falling household spending, which raised doubt about the strength of an expected bounce in the current quarter – a crucial factor for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision in December on whether to proceed with a second tax rise next year.

On Thursday, Japan reported exports declined in August while a survey showed confidence among manufacturers fell the most in nearly two years this month.

“The Japanese economy is on a moderate recovery, while weakness can be seen in some areas,” the Cabinet Office said in its monthly economic report for September.

That compared with the prior month’s assessment that the economy was on a moderate recovery and that a decline in demand – rooted in the sales-tax hike – was easing.

It was the first downgrade since April in the government’s economic assessment, which had been raised in July.

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In contrast, the Bank of Japan has maintained its economic view this month, saying the economy continues a moderate recovery despite a decline in demand after the sales-tax hike.

“There’s no gap in view between the government and the BOJ as we both see a moderate recovery continuing,” said a Cabinet Office official, who is in charge of compiling the report.

The government flagged the risk of a prolonged impact of the tax hike, as well as weaker overseas economies, hurting the Japanese economy in future.

The Cabinet Office official blamed adverse weather this summer as well as lingering impact from the tax hike for dampening private consumption.

Sales of durable goods such as cars and household appliances are languishing, while restaurants and department stores are struggling to lure customers, the official said.

Still, steady improvement in the job market and rising wages are expected to underpin private consumption and the broader economy from now on, the official added.

In its monthly economic report for September, the government left its cautious assessment unchanged for other key components such as capital spending, exports and industrial output.

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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18. September 2014

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Frustrated Alonso defends Ferrari brand and seeks unity


SINGAPORE (Reuters) – A frustrated Fernando Alonso reiterated his commitment to Ferrari on Thursday and took a verbal swipe at brand-damaging rumors in Italy suggesting he might swap seats with Sebastian Vettel to join Red Bull next year.

The twice Formula One champion stressed his respect and loyalty to Ferrari in a heartfelt outburst aimed at unifying the team as it steers passage through a period of management upheaval and disappointing results.

Talking to reporters ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix, a week after long-serving Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo confirmed he was stepping down next month, Alonso said he hoped Sergio Marchionne, who succeeds him, could revive the team and end a title drought dating back to 2008.

“I’ve been commenting about my future for now 13 months I think, so I have nothing new to say,” said the Spaniard.

“Sometimes, Italy creates these strange rumors, which are not helping Ferrari, which we are all here to do. It’s a much bigger brand than any individual person, or even Formula One in general.

“I respect a lot Ferrari and try to create a good group, a good atmosphere in the team – from going out to dinner, to playing basketball, to playing poker, whatever – to have a very united team, because it’s what we need and what the people expect from us driving for Ferrari and working for Ferrari.

“We know these things come from Italy, (but) it’s not really clear what is the purpose.”

VETTEL STAYING

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Team principal Stefano Domenicali stood down in April to be replaced by Marco Mattiacci in the first major change to the management structure before Montezemolo’s departure after 23 years as president.

“There has been some days for the team with a lot of changes over the year,” said Alonso. “The team principal changed in April, the head of engine leaving in the summer, now the president also steps away after being so successful in Formula One.

“He (Montezemolo) was our leader for many years. Definitely it was a great time for Ferrari. I wish him good for that and for new projects. With a new president, I wish him good luck for hopefully a very successful future.”

Vettel, whose hopes of another title have been blown away by Mercedes’ success this year with team mate Daniel Ricciardo also outdriving him, stressed he was staying at Red Bull.

“I am driving for Red Bull. I have a contract so nothing has changed,” said the four-time champion German.

“It is impossible to predict the future, but surely I have been with Red Bull for a long time and have a very, very strong link to them in that regard. That hasn’t changed.”

Ferrari are without a win in 13 races this year and face the prospect of suffering their first winless season since 1993.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Tim Collings)

http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/sportsNews/~3/0d433uWkzDU/story01.htm

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18. September 2014

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Voigt sets new hour record


LONDON (Reuters) – German rider Jens Voigt has beaten the hour record at the velodrome in Grenchen, Switzerland, covering a distance of 51.115 km in an hour, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI)said on Thursday.

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The Trek Factory Racing rider beat the previous record of 49.700 km set by Czech rider Andrej Sosenka in 2005.

(Writing by Tim Collings, editing by Mark Meadows)

http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/sportsNews/~3/dK0j0Y9gFfg/story01.htm

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18. September 2014

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R&A allows women members after overwhelming ‘yes’ vote


LONDON (Reuters) – After 260 years of exclusion, women will be allowed to join the Royal and Ancient golf club after an overwhelming members’ vote opened the doors to the famous St Andrews clubhouse and paved the way for them to play a role in the governance of the game.

More than 75 percent of the club’s 2,400 worldwide members, voting in person and via proxy and postal votes, took part and 85 percent were in favor of the change.

“This vote has immediate effect and I can confirm that The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews is now a mixed membership club,” RA chief executive Peter Dawson said in statement on Thursday.

“This is a very important and positive day in the history of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.”

Founded in 1754, the Royal and Ancient’s members play on the St Andrews links course regarded as the “home of golf” and host to the British Open a record 28 times.

Although women have been able to play on the course, which staged the women’s British Open last year, they were, until Thursday’s vote, generally not allowed in the clubhouse and played no significant part in the sport’s rulemaking arm, the RA.

That body, separated from the club 10 years ago, controls golf around the world apart from in the United States and Mexico, runs the British Open and is made up almost entirely of RA club members.

As recently as last year Dawson said he did not feel there was a need for change but, in the face of sustained criticism and rising concern from sponsors, the RA announced in March that it would ballot its members and recommend a yes vote.

“I think it is great news,” Laura Davies, Britain’s most successful female golfer, told Reuters.

“Back when I turned pro I would never have imagined that this could ever happen. I think it is a huge step forward for the RA and women’s golf and everyone will be delighted with the result.”

Leading Scottish player Catriona Matthew was also happy with the outcome of the vote, held on the same day as the referendum on Scottish independence which is expected to produce a much closer result.

“This was certainly an easier result to predict than the other vote going on up here today,” she told Reuters.

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“I think it is brilliant news and a great start to such an important day in Scotland.”

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Augusta National, home of the U.S. Masters, finally ended its men-only membership in 2012, when former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and financier Darla Moore became the first female members, and the RA’s new position was quickly welcomed across the Atlantic.

“This decision is certainly a step in the right direction and one that better captures the current diversity and inclusiveness of our great game,” the Ladies’ PGA Tour said in a statement.

Ted Bishop, president of the PGA of America, agreed, saying his organization “loudly applauds” the decision.

Helen Grant, Britain’s minister for sport, said she hoped other clubs “that still have outdated same-sex policies” would follow suit.

Three other clubs on the British Open rota – Muirfield and Royal Troon in Scotland and Royal St George’s in England – remain men-only. Muirfield and Royal St George’s said on Thursday they were both planning to review their single-sex policy, though Royal Troon, which also has a ladies-only club on the course, said there were no plans to change.

The disquiet felt by sponsors may have helped force the RA’s hand and after saying last year that his company was in an “uneasy position”, Giles Morgan, HSBC bank’s head of sponsorship and events, was pleased and relieved at the change of tack.

“As a partner of the RA and a long-term international sponsor of golf, we welcome this news with open arms,” he said.

“HSBC is committed to growing the game at all levels and fundamental to this is our commitment to the value of diversity and our support of women’s golf which is a cornerstone of our global golf portfolio.”

RA members also agreed to fast-track “a significant initial number” of women to become members in the coming months, and though officials did not release any potential names, several high-profile former players and administrators have been suggested.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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

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18. September 2014

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Falls indoors may signal frailty, linked to shorter survival

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Women in their eighties who fell indoors, rather than outdoors or from a height like a ladder, died sooner than their peers, a new French study finds. Indoor falls could be an indicator of frailty and a sign that protective measures should be taken, say the authors. The study was […]

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18. September 2014

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Sedentary lifestyle linked to depression

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – A new analysis of previous studies ties too much sitting at the computer or lying around watching TV to a greater risk of depression. Based on dozens of studies covering hundreds of thousands of participants, Chinese researchers found that sedentary behavior was linked to a 25 percent higher likelihood of […]

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18. September 2014

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Eight bodies found after attack on Guinea Ebola education team

CONAKRY (Reuters) – Eight bodies, including those of three journalists, were found after an attack on a team trying to educate locals on the risks of the Ebola virus in a remote area of southeastern Guinea, a government spokesman said on Thursday. Your ads will be inserted here byAdSense Now!.Please go to the plugin admin […]

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