31. October 2014


FINA stands by decision to honor Putin

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Swimming’s world governing body has defended a decision to award it highest honor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying it had nothing to do with politics.

FINA has been criticized over the timing of the decision with relations between Russia and the NATO alliance under strain, but the body’s executive director Cornel Marculescu told Reuters that the award was related only to sport.

“Our constitution is very clear,” Marculescu said. “(there is) no discrimination for the political region or anything like that.

“Our award was only related to the sport, not with the rest.”

FINA president Julio Maglione announced earlier this month that Putin had been awarded the FINA Order — swimming’s top accolade — for his role in bringing international swimming events to Russia.

Russia has been a regular stopover on swimming’s annual World Cup circuit for the past decade and also hosted World Cup diving meets.

Next year, Russia will host FINA’s world championships, in Kazan, swimming’s last major international event before the 2016 Rio Olympics.

FINA released a statement explaining its decision at the time of the award: “In the case of President Vladimir Putin, FINA recognized his important support in the organization of major FINA events in Russian soil, thus bringing additional development to the FINA disciplines and providing increased value to Aquatics within the Russian society and worldwide.”

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But FINA’s decision has also attracted some criticism.

A German MP, Frank Steffel, told the local Die Zeit newspaper that FINA’s decision was “insensitive”, while swimming website swimvortex.com published a letter of complaint from the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA).

According to the letter, the ASCA were angry that the award had been given at a time when Russia is facing the risk of being suspended from international competition after a series of positive drug tests.

Marculescu, in Singapore for this weekend’s final round of the FINA World Cup series, said he was surprised by the criticism.

“It’s not the first time we have given this kind of award to people in the highest position, the president of countries, or the mayors of cities,” he told Reuters.

“In general, every place where we have a big championship, we give this award.

“It’s nothing special, it’s nothing that’s not to going happen anymore, it’s part of our policy to thank you for everything you have done for us.”

(Editing by John O’Brien)


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31. October 2014


Le Clos confident of beating Phelps again in Rio

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Chad le Clos, one of the few men to have beaten Michael Phelps at the Olympics, has thrown down the challenge to his old rival, urging him to get back into training so they can have a rematch at Rio in 2016.

The South African pulled one of the biggest upsets of the 2012 London Olympics when he got his hands on the wall ahead of Phelps after a dog fight to win the gold medal in the 200 meters butterfly.

When Phelps retired after London, Le Clos easily won the 100-200m butterfly double at last year’s world championships, but the prospect of another showdown with the greatest swimmer of all time has got him excited.

“I really, really hope that he and his team decide to swim in Rio, I really believe it will be great,” Le Clos told Reuters on Friday.

“It’s added motivation for me… with Michael back, it’s really sparked my fire, so to speak.”

Phelps and Le Clos had another ferocious battle in London, with the American coming out on top in the 100m butterfly, an event he has won at three successive Olympics.

But the 22-year-old Le Clos has been working hard on his speed since then to avenge that loss and believes he can not only win both events next time, but can also break both world records, currently held by Phelps.

“I believe by Rio, I should be in peak condition,” said Le Clos, currently in Singapore for the final round of swimming’s annual World Cup series.

“I don’t think he will be worse in Rio, I think he’ll be back where he wants to be.

“He’s a champion in all respects but I believe I can beat him again.”

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Phelps returned to swimming last year and quickly set about making up for lost time, suggesting he was on course for Rio.

He qualified for the U.S. team for next year’s world championships in Russia but lost his place and was suspended for six months by USA swimming after being arrested for drunken driving.

He is currently undergoing treatment and is not certain of making it to Rio though few doubt he will be on the blocks in Brazil, looking to add to his record tally of 18 golds.

Cornel Marculescu, the executive director of world governing body FINA, told Reuters that Phelps would be welcomed back to the sport with open arms.

“Michael Phelps is an icon, he’s demonstrated everything he can demonstrate, he’s the best Olympic athlete of all time,” Marculescu said.

“If he comes back and swims, we’ll be very happy, we’ll welcome him and I’m sure all the swimmers will be very happy to race against him again.

“Any person has an accident but he is Phelps, he’s always going to be Phelps, he has the biggest number of achievements.

“I don’t think we have to characterize him by one accident.”

(Editing by John O’Brien)


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31. October 2014


Front-nine blitz puts Hurley on top

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – American Billy Hurley III grabbed a two-shot halfway stage lead at the CIMB Classic after his front-nine birdie binge at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club on Friday.

The former US Navy officer sunk six birdies for an outward 30 in his second successive round of 67 to go 10-under-par 134 in the tournament sanctioned by the PGA and Asian Tour.

Compatriot Kevin Streelman carded a bogey-free 68 to lie second, one shot ahead of a pack of seven that included Englishman Lee Westwood, who shot a hole-in-one en route to the day’s low of 65, Spaniard Sergio Garcia (68) and defending champion Ryan Moore (69).

“I even played a little bit better probably than the score is on the front side,” said Hurley who dropped a double bogey on the second and birdied the seventh.

“I hit a lot of really good putts that kind of just hit the edge. There are 36 holes of golf left. You know, a two-shot lead is better than a one-shot lead, but it’s not quite as good as a four-shot lead. You always want to have more,” added Hurley, eyeing his maiden PGA Tour win.

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Westwood charged into contention with the shot of the day when he aced the par-three 11th.

“Obviously I hit a great shot at 11 that was the highlight of the round,” said the Ryder Cup player who also rolled in five birdies.

“You need a bit of luck but at the same time you’ve got to hit well and straight.

“I went back out after the rain delay and birdied two of the last three and had a really good chance at 17 as well…so pleased with the way I finished, and 65 has got me right into the tournament,” said Westwood.

Playing partner Garcia hit six birdies in his round, while South Korean Noh Seung-yul also remained three shots behind after hitting six birdies and three bogeys.

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty; Editing by Toby Davis)


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31. October 2014


AbbVie sales blow past forecasts, fueled by Humira

(Reuters) – AbbVie, which this month walked away from a $55 billion deal to buy Dublin drugmaker Shire, on Friday reported quarterly revenue and earnings well above Wall Street expectations, fueled by soaring sales of its Humira arthritis drug.

The Chicago drugmaker, which significantly boosted its full-year earnings forecast, said it earned $506 million, or 31 cents per share, in the third quarter. That compared with $964 million, or 60 cents per share, in the year-earlier period.

Company sales rose 7.8 percent to $5.02 billion, topping the average analyst estimate of $4.83 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Excluding special items, AbbVie earned 89 cents per share. Analysts, on average, expected 77 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales of Humira, the world’s top-selling drug, jumped almost 18 percent to $3.26 billion. They accounted for 65 percent of total AbbVie sales, underscoring the company’s dependence on the medicine and its need for other products to broaden its drug portfolio.

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A few other products showed strong growth, including thyroid hormone replacement drug Synthroid, whose sales rose 24 percent to $200 million.

But many others suffered sales declines, including its cholesterol treatments and its AndroGel testosterone gel, whose sales have been hurt by growing concerns that such medicines may increase the risk of prostate cancer.

AbbVie raised its full-year profit forecast to between $3.25 and $3.27 per share, from its prior view of $3.06 to $3.16.

Abbott had hoped to buy Shire and locate the combined company in Britain to take advantage of its lower tax rate relative to the United States.

In its earnings report, AbbVie made no mention of intentions to pursue other mergers but said it had abandoned the deal after changes to tax law announced last month by the U.S. Treasury “introduced an unacceptable level of risk” to the economics of the deal.

(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and James Dalgleish)


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31. October 2014


China to send elite army unit to help fight Ebola in Liberia

BEIJING (Reuters) – China will dispatch an elite unit of the People’s Liberation Army to help Ebola-hit Liberia, the Foreign Ministry said on Friday, responding to U.N. calls for a greater global effort to fight the deadly virus in West Africa.

Washington has led the international drive to stop the spread of the disease that has killed nearly 5,000 people, sending thousands of troops and committing about $1 billion, but Beijing has faced criticism for not doing enough.

The PLA squad, which has experience from a 2002 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), will build a 100-bed treatment center in Liberia, the first such facility in the three countries most impacted by Ebola to be constructed and run by a foreign country, said Lin Songtian, director general of the ministry’s Department of African Affairs.

The center will be open for operation in a month’s time, he told a briefing in Beijing. China will also dispatch 480 PLA medical staff to treat Ebola patients, he said.

It’s the first time China has deployed a whole unit of epidemic prevention forces and military medical staff abroad, Lin said.

China is Africa’s biggest trade partner, tapping the continent’s rich vein of resources to fuel its own economic growth over the past couple of decades. Some critics have rounded on Beijing for not helping more in Africa’s hour of need.

China has so far donated 750 million yuan ($123 million) to 13 African countries and international organizations to combat Ebola, according to the government.

“China’s assistance will not stop until the Ebola epidemic is eradicated in West Africa,” Lin said.

The White House this week responded to criticism that as the global superpower it was not doing enough by taking a veiled swipe at the contributions of Russia and China.

“When we have a situation like this on the global scene, people aren’t wondering what the Chinese are doing to respond to it. People aren’t picking up the phone and wondering if Vladimir Putin is going to commit Russian resources to this effort,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told a media briefing.

“People want to know what the United States of America is doing about it.”

Howver, U.S. envoy to the United Nations Samantha Power, who was traveling in region this week, welcomed the arrival of an AirChina cargo plane with anti-Ebola supplies to Liberia on Wednesday. She said in a tweet that it was heartening to see U.S. soldiers and Liberians working together with Chinese to unload supplies from the plane.

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China said in July that more than half its foreign aid of over $14 billion went to Africa. In comparison, the United States spent about $46 billion in fiscal 2015 on foreign aid programs.

China has also dispatched hundreds of aid workers to Africa to combat Ebola including health experts and medical staff.

Sihuan Pharmaceutical Holdings Group Ltd., a Chinese drug maker with military ties, has sent several thousand doses of an experimental Ebola drug to Africa and is planning clinical trials there.

Lin said several thousand Chinese nationals live in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and about a million Chinese nationals live on the African continent.

U.S. and Chinese troops staged their first disaster relief exercise last November in a signal that China is increasingly eager to use its growing military muscle for humanitarian causes as it works to win international support.

China dispatched a state-of-the-art hospital ship to the Philippines last year after one of the world’s biggest typhoons that killed thousands there.

The United Nations has called on foreign governments to ramp up efforts to help the Ebola-hit states of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, requesting they send hundreds more medical personnel to the impoverished states to help.

Foreign efforts have been complicated by public health policy issues at home. Some U.S. states have slapped mandatory quarantines on health workers returning from Ebola-hit states, while Australia this week imposed a blanket ban on visas from the three affected states.

Health experts have decried the measures as draconian, and say such policies may discourage badly needed foreign doctors and nurses from volunteering to help.

Medical professionals say Ebola is difficult to catch and is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person and is not transmitted by asymptomatic people. Ebola is not airborne.

(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)


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31. October 2014


WHO says two suspected Ebola cases in Mali, 57 contacts sought

GENEVA (Reuters) – Two people are suspected of having Ebola after coming into contact with a two-year-old girl who died of the disease in Mali last week, according to data from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

An epidemiological presentation by both agencies, given on Thursday and seen by Reuters on Friday, breaks down the girl’s journey from Guinea to Mali with her grandmother, five-year-old sister and her uncle, and shows she may have had contact with 141 people in all, 57 of them yet to be identified.

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One of the 84 contacts who have so far been traced is suspected of having Ebola but has not been tested, the presentation shows. Another four suspected cases have been tested. Three showed negative results, with one result yet to come in.

(Reporting by Tom Miles, editing by Stephanie Nebehay and John Stonestreet)


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31. October 2014


Exxon, Chevron results boosted by refining as oil prices slip

(Reuters) – A surge in refining profits boosted quarterly results at Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) and Chevron Corp (CVX.N), helping to offset declining oil and gas production and falling crude oil prices.

Both companies reported better-than-expected third-quarter profits on Friday, with executives touting the importance of owning massive refineries alongside oil and gas wells. Refining profits tend to rise when oil prices fall, though low prices dent the profitability of wells. Having both in a company stable can allow for a bit of insurance during price swings.

“Exxon Mobil’s quarterly results demonstrate the strength of our integrated business model,” Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson said in a statement after his company posted results.

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Chevron, the second-largest U.S. oil producer after Exxon Mobil, said production sagged as new wells failed to offset declines at old wells. Still, the fall in crude oil prices in recent months – down about 25 percent since July – helped profit at the company’s refining unit jump nearly fourfold.

“It was a common theme for both companies,” said Brian Youngberg, an oil company analyst with Edward Jones in St. Louis. “Refining exceeded expectations and basically offset lower oil prices and the lack of production growth.”

Shares of Chevron dipped 0.1 percent to $117.18 while Exxon edged up 0.3 percent at $94.75.

(Reporting by Anna Driver in Houston and Ernest Scheyder; in Williston, North Dakota; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)


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31. October 2014


UBS cannot arbitrate with Nasdaq over Facebook IPO: court

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A divided U.S. appeals court on Friday rejected UBS AG’s (UBSN.VX) bid to compel Nasdaq OMX Group Inc (NDAQ.O) to arbitrate a dispute over how the exchange operator handled Facebook Inc’s (FB.O) May 2012 initial public offering.

By a 2-1 vote, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld a lower court judge’s conclusion that UBS’ claims were not subject to arbitration.

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UBS claimed that Nasdaq’s mismanagement of the IPO caused the Swiss bank to unintentionally amass tens of millions of Facebook shares, ultimately resulting in more than $350 million of losses.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by James Dalgleish)


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31. October 2014


U.S. consumer sentiment at highest since July 2007

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. consumer sentiment rose in October to its highest level since in more than seven years on growing optimism about the economy and more favorable personal financial expectations, a survey released on Friday showed.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s final October reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment finished at 86.9, the highest level since July 2007, up from 84.6 at the end of September.

The late October reading was up slightly from its initial figure of 86.4, which was also the expected reading of economists polled by Reuters.

“The gains in confidence over the past three months point toward improved holiday spending by consumers,” survey director Richard Curtin said in a statement.

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“Overall, five years after the start of the recovery, consumers have finally begun to adopt the expectations and behaviors that have driven past expansions.”

The survey’s barometer of current economic conditions dipped to 98.3 from the 98.9 in September and was below the forecast of 98.9.

The survey’s gauge of consumer expectations rose to 79.6 from the preliminary 78.4 reading and the 75.4 at the end of September, topping the expected 78.2.

The survey’s one-year inflation expectation fell to 2.9 from the 3 percent view in September, but ticked up from the 2.8 percent expectation in the preliminary reading. The survey’s five-to-10-year inflation outlook held steady at 2.8 percent.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)


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31. October 2014


Royals’ success warms outgoing commissioner Selig’s heart

KANSAS CITY Missouri (Reuters) – In a way, it was fitting for Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s last World Series in charge to finish in Kansas City.

Selig, 80, is ending a 22-year reign as overseer of the game in January, and several of the innovations he instituted paid dividends at the 2014 Fall Classic.

In his early days in charge, small market owners clamored for change, complaining that only a handful of wealthier clubs had a chance to win the World Series.

Selig, who had been owner of the small-market Milwaukee Brewers, leveled the playing field a bit by introducing revenue sharing, luxury tax on the highest-spending clubs and adding wild cards to the playoff format.

All were factors in Kansas City’s return to the World Series after a 29-year absence to play fellow wild card San Francisco Giants, who prevailed 4-3 in the best-of-seven championship.

“This is a wonderful story, it really is,” Selig told a small group of reporters when asked about the Royals after receiving an honorary Hank Aaron Award before Game Four for his contributions to the game. “You’ve all heard me say how much I believe in the hope and faith theory.”

Selig has long stressed that fans need a basis for optimism when spring and a new baseball season roll around.

“The message to me was that 25 teams could not win,” he recalled. “This was about 1998.

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“So the fact that Kansas City is playing, I would be less than honest if I didn’t tell you it’s sort of a manifestation (of the economic changes).

“I don’t think we’d be drawing 74-plus million people and having these attendance years if we didn’t have lot of franchises like Kansas City, after they went through a terrible drought, as did Pittsburgh.

“Watching the emotion in Pittsburgh’s ball park last year, sitting at home watching it, I had tears in my eyes,” he said about the electric atmosphere as they battled in the Division Series following a 21-year postseason absence.

“Because I know what they had gone through and I knew about all the heartache. And the same thing being in Kansas City. Of course it made me feel very good. It’s what we all set out to do and it’s working.”

Selig acknowledged that other franchises are struggling economically, including Tampa Bay and Oakland, which he blames in part on sub-par stadiums.

During his tenure 20 of the 30 major league ball parks have been built, stimulating interest and boosting revenues.

“No system is perfect. I guess what I would say to you is if you looked at baseball today and you looked at it in 1992 — I’d let you draw your own conclusion.”

Baseball had revenues of just over $1 billion at that time with the figure now approaching $9 billion thanks also to profits from Major League Advanced Media and the launch of the MLB Network.

(Editing by Frank Pingue)


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31. October 2014


Murray in Tour Finals, Djokovic and Federer win

PARIS (Reuters) – Andy Murray’s recent resurgence continued when the Briton qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals by reaching the Paris Masters quarter-finals with a 6-3 6-3 win against Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov on Thursday.

After dropping outside the world top 10 following his U.S. Open quarter-final exit, Murray began a late push for a spot in the London showpiece event, which features eight of the best players this season.

The eighth seed showed he was up to the task by seeing off ninth-seeded Dimitrov, who is now eliminated from the race for the Nov. 10-16 event at London’s O2.

Murray will take on world number one Novak Djokovic for a semi-final spot after the Serbian beat Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-3 7-6(2) after 92 minutes in Thursday’s late match.

“There were no downs really in the match,” Murray told reporters after becoming the fifth player to book his place in the season finale.

“Some of the matches that I’ve had against the top, top players I had some periods in the match where my level had dropped off a little bit, and the best players capitalize on those moments.

“I didn’t have any of them today. I played well from start to finish and I made it very difficult for Grigor.”


Second seed Roger Federer dismissed French qualifier Lucas Pouille 6-4 6-4 and now faces Milos Raonic, who can still qualify for the Tour Finals after the Canadian fired 23 aces in his 7-5 7-6(7) win over Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut.

Federer, who has won five of his 10 finals this year, extended his current winning run to 14 matches as he kept his eye firmly on the world number one spot, which he can achieved by winning in Paris if Djokovic does not reach the final.

However, third seed Stan Wawrinka was knocked out in the third round when he lost 6-7(2) 7-5 7-6(3) against South African Kevin Anderson, suffering his fourth defeat in five matches.

The Swiss, who has already booked a place in the Tour Finals, had lost his opening matches in the three previous tournaments he had entered.

A solid performance in the second round in Paris against Austrian Dominic Thiem was followed by an erratic display against the 14th seeded Anderson, who served 18 aces.

Wawrinka saved two match points to force a tiebreak in the decider, but was unable to match Anderson, who upped his level to book a quarter-final spot against Czech Tomas Berdych.

Berdych kept his Tour Finals hopes alive with a 7-5 6-3 win over Spain’s Feliciano Lopez as did sixth seed Kei Nishikori who beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1 4-6 6-4.

The Japanese can make the season-ending event if he beats fourth seed David Ferrer in the Paris quarter finals, with the Spaniard having thrashed compatriot Fernando Verdasco 6-1 6-2.

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1 Novak Djokovic 9190 – qualified

2 Roger Federer 8700 – qualified

3 Rafa Nadal* 6835 – withdrew

4 Stan Wawrinka 4895 – qualified

5 Andy Murray 4475 – qualified

6 Kei Nishikori 4445

7 Tomas Berdych 4285

8 Marin Cilic** 4150 – qualified

9 David Ferrer 4045

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - –

10 Milos Raonic 4020

* Nadal has withdrawn due to appendicitis

** Cilic qualifies as U.S. Open champion

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis and Ken Ferris)


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31. October 2014


Saints beat Panthers to take divisional lead

(Reuters) – The New Orleans Saints cracked open a scrappy game late in the first half to forge to a 28-10 win over the Carolina Panthers on Thursday, wrestling top spot in the NFC South from their opponents in the process.

Running back Mark Ingram claimed two touchdowns and 100 yards in the win for New Orleans while quarterback Drew Brees added 297 yards passing and a touchdown. He also ran for a score.

With both sides failing to fire offensively for the opening 26 minutes, two Saints touchdowns in the last three minutes of the first half produced the gap needed to secure the win over their divisional opponents.

New Orleans improved to 4-4 on the season, snapping a seven-game road losing streak, to push ahead of the 3-5-1 Panthers.

After the Panthers had failed to get points out of two forced turnovers and the Saints had also squandered a chance after a Cam Newton interception the stalemate was broken after Junior Galette sacked Newton near his own endzone that allowed the Saints to set up Ingram for a three-yard touchdown run.

With time running out in the first half Brees marched the Saints 85 yards, capped off by a Jimmy Graham one-yard reception touchdown with three seconds left in the first half for a 14-0 lead.

“The biggest thing was early adversity and just overcoming that and knowing we had to battle back and find a way to get points,” Brees told reporters.

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“The defense came up with a big turnover for us to get the first seven in and the two-minute drive at the end of the half was huge from a momentum standpoint and then we just preached finish.

“We had to come out and feel like we won the second half and I feel like we did that. Defensively when they needed to step up they did and offensively when we needed to respond we did so it was a great team effort.”

The home side had sparked hope of a comeback by getting an early Newton rushing touchdown in the third quarter but Brees jumped over the pack from one-yard with four minutes to go in the period to restore the 14-point lead.

A potential Carolina touchdown to Brandon Williams was overturned early in the fourth quarter and while the Panthers slotted a field goal they never truly threatened again and were put out of their misery with Ingram’s second touchdown with just over five minutes left.

(Writing by Ben Everill in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)


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31. October 2014


U.S. envoy to report temperature twice daily after West Africa visit

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power returned to New York on Thursday after a brief visit to Ebola-stricken West Africa and will report her temperature twice daily to the New York state health department for the next 20 days. Traveling on a U.S. government plane, Power’s delegation did not […]

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31. October 2014


Nurse defies Ebola quarantine with bike ride; negotiations fail

CAPE ELIZABETH Maine (Reuters) – A nurse who treated Ebola patients in Sierra Leone but has tested negative for the virus went for a bike ride on Thursday, defying Maine’s order that she be quarantined in her home and setting up a legal collision with Governor Paul LePage. Attorneys for Kaci Hickox, 33, said they […]

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31. October 2014


New Zealand’s Fonterra says China lifts ban on baby formula ingredients

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand’s Fonterra Co-Operative Group, the world’s biggest dairy exporter, said the Chinese government has lifted a ban on the last two products that were embroiled in last year’s contaminated infant formula scare. It said the ban on New Zealand producers exporting whey powder and base powder containing whey for infant formula […]

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