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16 Jan
2017

Australian Open tennis follows mixed year for defending champions

AUSTRALIA (WNF) - Angelique Kerber and Novak Djokovic return to Melbourne to defend their titles at the 2017 Australian Open tennis tournament after confidence-eroding setbacks in 2016.
The event billed as “Melbourne’s biggest party” and a “blockbuster free weekend of entertainment” will kick off the tournament for a second year. It will serves up more Aussie bands, according to the organisers. The inaugural concert attracted over 250,000 people.

Six times Australian Open champion Djokovic, seeking to break Roy Emerson’s record of six Australian Open titles, comes into the tournament after losing to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon 2016 and to Stan Wawrinka in the 2016 United States Open.

Kerber, the Australian Open and Wimbledon champion in 2016, had late-year upsets in Hong Kong, then Beijing. The defeat of world’s number one Kerber by Daria Gavrilova sends the Russian-born Australian into the 2017 tournament in her home country with the confidence to pull off new upsets.

The year’s contestants won’t include 2008 champion Maria Sharapova, whose sentence for drug use runs until Apr 2017.

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam winner, was initially banned by the International Tennis Federation for two years after testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open. On appeal, her sentence was reduced in Oct 2016 by six months. Meldonium, a heart disease drug also known as mildronate, became a banned substance on 1 Jan 2016. Sharapova argued that she was unaware the drug had been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) banned list and could not "accept" the "unfairly harsh" ban. #21878 Published: 10/20/2016

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17 Jan
2017

Second trial opens for accused shooter in racist attack on Charleston church

UNITED STATES (WNF) - The state trial opens in Charleston, South Carolina, for Dylann Roof, the man accused in a shooting in a predominantly black church in the city on Jun 17, 2015. Prosecutors will seek the death penalty. He is also being tried in a federal court.
The state trial was postponed from July to January at the request of Roof's lawyers.

The shooting left nine worshippers dead and reignited debate over the Confederate battle flag of America’s Civil War, which has strong associations with racism. Roof, 21, who is white, is charged with nine counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder and a weapons charge.

The debate precipitated the removal of the distinctive flag, which has single corner-to-corner navy bands crossing against a red background, from the state legislature grounds. Roof shouted racist epithets during the massacre and posed in front of the flag in online photos in advance of the shooting.

Authorities reported that the victims were attending an evening Bible study. Roof joined them for about an hour before he drew a gun and began shooting. Among the victims was the church pastor and state senator, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney. #21125 Published: 05/26/2016

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17 Jan
2017

Boeing 737 airliner introduced 50 years ago – its success a test

UNITED STATES (WNF) - Boeing turned 100 in Jul 2016, and its flagship aircraft, the 737, turns 50 in Jan 2017. The landmarks salute the company’s success as it struggles to keep investors happy; production has not kept pace with orders for the 737 twin jet narrow-body airliner. The updates, the 737 MAX and 737 Next Generation, account for some of the lag. The company plans to ramp up production.
The 737 was introduced to the world at a ceremony in Seattle, Washington, on Jan 17, 1967. The festivities included a christening by flight attendants representing the 17 airlines that had ordered the new plane. It made its maiden flight from Boeing Field on Apr 9, 1967.

Boeing announced in Mar 2014 that it would increase production on the 737 programme to 52 planes per month in 2018, and that it expected to build more than 620 planes per year, its highest-ever rate. The same news release reported that the company had more than 4,000 unfilled orders across the 737 family.

Covering the maiden flight of the 737 MAX in Jan 2016, Britain’s Financial Times noted that Boeing was grappling with several issues related to the manufacturing of its commercial aircraft. Investors marked the U.S. aerospace group’s shares down almost 9 per cent after Boeing said that, because of these challenges, it expected a decline in the number of jets delivered to airlines and leasing companies in 2016 compared with 2015. It would be the first such decline since 2010, according to the newspaper, and Boeing’s proposed production cuts were accompanied by profit guidance for 2016 that fell short of analysts’ expectations. One of the explanations for the lag in production was the retooling necessary on the production line for the new 737 models.

The 737 MAX offers more fuel-efficient engines, better aerodynamics and more space for passengers, according to Boeing. #21634 Published: 05/03/2016

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17 Jan
2017

World Economic Forum tackles threats against globalisation

SWITZERLAND (WNF) - The 47th World Economic Forum in Davos will wrestle with the apparent backlash against globalisation while offering five-star opportunities at the annual, invitation-only event for networking and deal making.
Some 40 world leaders will be among the 2,500 invitees from government, international organisations, civil society, academia, media and the arts. The New York Times observes that to attend the World Economic Forum, one typically has to be an influential celebrity, a wealthy financier or a top leader of a large institution — a country, perhaps, or at least a multinational corporation. But every year, a few dozen start-up founders receive one of the coveted 2,500 invitations and, with it, a chance for some stratospheric networking.

The newspaper reported that two big deals dominated the 2016 agenda in Davos: Argentina’s negotiations with holdout creditors and Saudi Arabia’s potential sale of a piece of its national energy leviathan, Saudi Aramco.

As noted by the Financial Times in 2011, “political leaders from all over the world tacitly agree to set aside their differences and to speak a common language” at Davos. They campaign to attract foreign investment and trade, and even the most intractable differences are temporarily smothered by the globalisation consensus, according to the newspaper.

The programme is designed around the theme, Responsive and Responsible Leadership, which recognises that the benefits of globalisation have been uneven. The backlash is manifest in Britain’s vote to exit the European Union, the growing strength of far-right populist parties in Europe, and the potential retreat of the United States as a leader of the globalisation movement following the 2016 presidential election. #21901 Published: 11/09/2016

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18 Jan
2017

Departing president enacts rule to protect abortion rights

UNITED STATES (WNF) - A rule that stops state governments from defunding abortion providers for political reasons goes into effect two days before President Barack Obama leaves office. He enacted it to curb Republic attacks on abortion rights, one of the most divisive issues in America.
The rule will bar states from withholding federal funds from health clinics that provide abortions.

Nearly half of all state legislatures have tried to cut funding from Planned Parenthood, the best known provider, because some of its locations provide abortion services.

The rule might not protect abortion rights for long. President-elect Donald Trump is widely expected to crack down on Planned Parenthood funding after taking office, according to The Hill. The publication reports that Republican leaders in Congress are already eyeing legislative language to defund the organization in a spending bill in 2017. #21968 Published: 12/16/2016

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19 Jan
2017

Ninety-day state of emergency due to end

TURKEY (WNF) - The state of emergency President Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposed in the days after the coup attempt of July 15, and renewed in October, is due to end. It is almost certain to be extended again – along with the president’s crackdown.
A blast at an Istanbul stadium in December that killed 38 people increases the likelihood that the restrictions will be extended.

Erdogan predicts he will need the state of emergency for a year to stabilise the country. His mass arrests of government officials, police, judges, journalists and teachers since the coup attempt have drawn international condemnation, but have not slowed his purge. His main targets are individuals and organisations with suspected links to terrorist organisations and to the United States-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. Erdogan blames the Turkish former iman for orchestrating the failed attempt to depose him.

Reuters reported in October that thousands more academics, teachers, health workers, prison guards and forensics experts were among the latest to be removed from their posts. The news agency notes that more than 100,000 people had already been sacked or suspended and 37,000 arrested since the abortive putsch. Erdogan says it is crucial for wiping out the Gulen network from the state apparatus

Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) have criticised the reprisals, according to In a Deutsche Welle, accusing the government of capitalising on the coup to stifle dissent in the country. In the report by the broadcaster, the party's chief, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, called Erdogan's plans a "counter coup" to target democracy. #21896 Published: 11/02/2016

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19 Jan
2017

Stars at Sundance Film Festival to include Nate Parker – and protégé?

UNITED STATES (WNF) - The stars who crowd the ski resort of Utah’s Park City each year for the Sundance Film Festival are likely to include Nate Parker, maybe with a protégé. Parker is the writer-director-producer-star of the Oscar-tipped sensation of Sundance 2016, The Birth of a Nation.
Fox Searchlight bought the movie, which won the Jury and Audience Award, for a Sundance record of U.S. $17.5 million.

Variety magazine reports that at the Sundance Night Before Next event in August, Parker acknowledged the help he received from the Sundance Institute, which sponsors the festival, in making his film. Now, he's "paying it forward" as he explained. His Birth of a Nation fellowship will sponsor a filmmaker of colour, 18 to 25 years old, for the next five years to participate in the Sundance Ignite programme. The programme is a year-long fellowship with the Sundance Institute that allows aspiring filmmakers to attend the festival and mingle with the industry heavyweights.

The 10-day festival brings more than 40,000 people to Park City and nearby venues each January to celebrate the work of independent storytellers in film. Thousands of films are screened in 13 separate venues. #21903 Published: 11/09/2016

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20 Jan
2017

Obama's last day in office is latest Guantanamo prison camp deadline

UNITED STATES (WNF) - From his first days in office in 2009, President Barack Obama vowed to shut the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The latest deadline is his last day in office, but the Republican-led Congress can’t stomach the idea. Obama is said to be considering bypassing Congress, raising questions about the future of this 45-square-mile chunk of Cuba. Havana wants every inch of it, but it is also being eyed as a transnational peace park or conservation area.
The U.S. government has used Guantanamo for over 14 years to hold suspected terrorists, many without charge, and a few remain. Both chambers of Congress have repeatedly passed legislation banning any effort to move detainees to the mainland. The White House hasn't ruled out the possibility of the president using executive action to close the camp if an agreement with Congress isn't reached.

Obama argues that keeping the detention centre open is contrary to U.S. values and does not advance the country’s national security. He also insists that concerns about their transfer to the U.S. being a terror threat are misplaced. “We're already holding a bunch of really dangerous terrorists here in the United States because we threw the book at them,” he said recently, “and there have been no incidents."

An article on the history of Guantanamo in New Yorker magazine reported in March that Joe Roman, a conservation biologist at the University of Vermont in the United States, and James Kraska, a professor of international law at the U.S. Naval War College, have proposed what they call a “third path” for re-purposing the land as “a state-of-the-art marine research institution and peace park” managed jointly by the United States and Cuba. #21622 Published: 04/20/2016

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20 Jan
2017

President-elect Donald Trump inaugurated View graphicView graphic

UNITED STATES (WNF) - Donald J. Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington DC amid tight security. Thousands of demonstrators are expected to protest the surprise appointment
The Inauguration Day ceremonies will supply the solemnity, with events that include the swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol, a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue and multiple evening balls.

Concern that Trump’s business background might not have prepared him for the overwhelming threats and challenges facing him adds a sobering note to the occasion.

With hordes of people arriving for the inauguration and for rallies and protests, the authorities’ main concern will be disruption and chaos stretching right through the adjoining weekend. Chris T. Geldart, director of the local Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency told DC radio station WTOP that officials began planning for the inauguration in April, and that more than 3,000 law enforcement officers from around the nation will assist the DC police. He also expects the National Guard to be on hand in the thousands to support the other enforcement agencies.

The National Park Service, which manages The National Mall and other sites favored for demonstrations, will be hard at work allotting spaces that keep apart Trump supporters and the demonstrators arriving to protest against his policies.

Groups protesting Trump policies began organizing within hours of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s unexpected loss to her Republican rival. Their biggest event is the Women’s March on Washington on Jan 21, which has also been referred to as the Million Woman March. #21917 Published: 11/17/2016

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Jan
2017

Adama Barrow inaugurated as president after Gambian election upset

GAMBIA (WNF) - The tiny West African nation made history in December with its first peaceful transfer of power since independence from Britain in 1965, and President-Elect Adama Barrow will take office in the third week of January. (January 21, 2017
He defeated Yahya Jammeh, who came to power in a coup in 1994 and has held power since, in the December presidential election. The long-time leader, who once vowed to bury opposition figures “nine feet deep,” conceded defeat but his opponents do not expect him to go quietly. They suspect that he has “bunkers and treasure” at his farm near the Senegal border and could start a rebel movement from there, according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper, and there is already talk of prosecuting him for war crimes.

Barrow, a property developer with no former political experience, won the presidential nomination in 2016 to lead an opposition coalition of seven parties. According to the AFP news agency, it was the largest alliance of its kind since independence.

Gambia’s newly elected president Barrow says he will free the country’s political prisoners, reverse the former administration’s decision to leave the International Criminal court and lead a transition government for only three years. On the electoral campaign trail, he promised to revive the country's economy, which has forced thousands of Gambians to make the perilous journey to Europe. #21952 Published: 12/07/2016

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22 Jan
2017

Socialists choose presidential candidate

FRANCE (WNF) - The Socialists hold a primary contest for the party’s candidate in the 2017 presidential election. President Francois Hollande will not be one of the rivals of frontrunner Manuel Valls in the crowded field.
Hollande decided not to run because of his record-low approval ratings.

Ex-prime minister Valls is widely expected to win the first round in the field of at least 12 candidates.

If no candidate wins 50 per cent of the vote, a second round will be held on Jan 29 between the two candidates with the most votes.

The Bloomberg news service reports that disenchantment with Socialist government policies is so high that even Hollande alternatives, such as Valls or Lille Mayor Martine Aubry, could lose to centre-right candidate Francois Fillon or far-right party leader Marine Le Pen in the first round.

The Socialists’ chances would improve if the left-leaning parties came together to field a single candidate, but the prospects for agreement are considered to be low. #21710 Updated: 12/08/2016 UPDATED DEC 2016 TO INCLUDE DATE, FILLON WIN

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23 Jan
2017

Aerodynamic discs now known as Frisbees arrived 60 years ago

UNITED STATES (WNF) - The Wham-O company first marketed the Frisbee, then known as the Pluto Platter, on Jan 23, 1957, in California. Sixty years on, some 60 manufacturers produce the flying plastic discs and Frisbee games have become an Olympic sport. The characteristic flinging of the discs has entered the language as “Frisbee-ing.”
The design was patented in Dec 1957, and Pluto Platters were renamed Frisbees in 1958.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognized flying disc sports, including Ultimate Frisbee, in Aug 2015. The BBC, which reported the IOC decision, notes that Ultimate, as it is commonly known, is the most popular of the games and originated in the United States in the 1960s. Played indoors or outdoors, Ultimate is a non-contact, mixed-team game that is particularly popular with university students.

The 30-year-old World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) looks after the interests of the sport, which includes Ultimate Frisbee, Disc Golf and Freestyle. The discs, which have a curved lip and measure roughly 8-10 inches across, are played in organised games in some 58 countries.

According to the History.com account, students from universities near the Frisbie Pie Company in Bridgeport would fling empty pie tins to each other, yelling “Frisbie!” as they let go. In 1948, two inventors, Walter Frederick Morrison and his partner Warren Franscioni, invented a plastic version of the tin that could fly further and more accurately than the pie plates. The modern design was patented in Dec 1957 by Ed Headrick, who invented Frisbee Golf. There is also Freestyle Frisbee, with choreographed routines set to music and multiple discs in play. #21638 Published: 05/11/2016

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23 Jan
2017

Executive board shortlists candidates for WHO Director-General

SWITZERLAND (WNF) - The 140th meeting of the World Health Organization Executive Board in Geneva will shortlist candidates for WHO Director-General and compile the agenda for the agency’s 70th General Assembly in May.
Reuters reports that the six candidates to replace Director-General Margaret Chan, whose tenure ends in June are: Britain’s David Nabarro, UN special envoy for Ebola during the crisis in 2014-15; Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia, a former health minister; former Pakistan minister Sania Nishtar; French former health minister Philippe Douste-Blazy; Italy’s Flavia Bustreo, who is a WHO assistant director-general; and a former health minister of Hungary, Miklós Szócska. The agency’s 194 member states will select one of the finalists at the May assembly.

The headaches of the moment for the WHO agenda in May include the Zika virus crisis, inadequate numbers of health professionals in developing countries at a time of great need for them, antibiotic-resistant bacteria – so-called superbugs – and underfunding. The New York Times, reporting on the Syrian refugee crisis and the underfunding of United Nations agencies, noted that WHO is only 27 per cent funded following years of cutbacks. Underfunding in 2014 is also blamed for slowing the WHO response to the Ebola crisis. #21844 Published: 09/28/2016

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