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Archive for December 14th, 2009|Daily archive page

Shocked golf world, sponsors ponder life without Tiger

In World on December 14, 2009 at 4:46 am

ORLANDO, Florida (AFP) – Tiger Woods faced more fallout from his sex scandal Sunday as stunned rivals said they looked forward to his return after an indefinite break in his golfing career and corporate sponsors pondered their future cooperation with the billionaire athlete.

Copies of Us Weekly magazine featuring the story on Tiger Woods and an interview with alleged mistress Jaimee Grubbs (AFP file)

Woods announced Friday he was taking a hiatus from professional golf and admitted he had cheated on wife Elin after reports that 10 women had claimed to have had sexual relationships with the 14-time major champion.

“It’s a shock. It was most definitely a shock to everybody to hear what has been going on,” third-ranked US golfer Steve Stricker said. “Hopefully he gets it straight. Staying away is a great thing to get his family life in order.”

World number one Woods, who has a son and daughter with Elin, said he wanted to work on being a better husband, father and person.

Australian golf legend Greg Norman said those should be his priorities for now.

“It’s not a good position to be in,” Norman said. “He has to sort out his private life first and foremost. There’s a lot of heartache for him. There may be some fallout. There are individuals who may have to change.

“The important thing is he gets it right and does what he has to do to get himself back out on the golf course. Tiger will come out of this.”

A major concern is how a prolonged absence by the game’s greatest player will hit the sport. Television viewership was down 50 percent when he was out with a knee injury and a tough economy has already cut into golf sponsorships.

“The game of golf is bigger than anybody,” Norman said. “Golf is hurt without him in the field but the game will go on.”

Woods sponsor Gillette announced Saturday it would phase him out of advertisements while he takes a break from golf, calling it a supportive move.

“As Tiger takes a break from the public eye, we will support his desire for privacy by limiting his role in our marketing programs,” a Gillette statement said without announcing a timetable for the resumption of use of Woods’ image.

Accenture took down an image of Woods on its website and AT&T, which backs the PGA event operated by Woods’s foundation, said in a statement, “We are presently evaluating our ongoing relationship with him.”

However, Nike, which is Woods’ largest corporate partner with a deal estimated at 40 million dollars a year, stood by him. “He is the best golfer in the world and one of the greatest athletes of his era,” Nike spokeswoman Beth Gast said.

Women such as a show club hostess, pancake restaurant waitress, porn star and cocktail waitress have alleged affairs with Woods, whose squeaky-clean image was shattered, raising concerns of sponsors pulling away from golf.

“I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children. I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness,” Woods said.

The Woods scandal also makes fans and sponsors take a second look at all golfers.

“We’re still a very morally sound sport,” US veteran Jerry Kelly said. “The corporate world, they love Tiger and they love attaching to that superstar athlete, but there’s a lot to be gained from the PGA.”

Woods became a billionaire mainly through endorsements but his TV allure, as a Superman-like player rarely overtaken when leading late, brought sponsors and huge prize money to the PGA, already hit by cuts due to the struggling economy.Related article: Tiger Woods facts

“We’re definitely going to miss him,” Stricker said. “We all know what he brings when he comes to an event — increased awareness and increased crowds.”

Stricker pondered the now-shattered notion so many Woods fans had that he was as impressive out of the spotlight as he was when winning golf titles.

“It’s unfair how we have built him up over the years,” Stricker said. “On the course he’s one of a kind. No one really knows what he was like off the course. He’s a tough guy to get around. He has his own little group.

“Hopefully he gets his priorities straight and gets back soon. There’s no doubt we need him. We need him out here because of sponsorships and just the awareness of our tour in general.”

US PGA veteran Brad Faxon agreed that Woods is vital to the PGA’s future.

“We’re all hoping Tiger comes back and he fixes everything he needs to fix because we need him out here,” Faxon said. “He’s such a dynamic personality and I know (people) want to have him out on tour as soon as we can get him.”

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Dubai stocks maintain profits after break

In World on December 14, 2009 at 4:45 am

DUBAI (AFP) – The Dubai stock market strengthened on Sunday, building on a 7.0 surge it made before its weekend on Thursday, lifted by property giant Emaar’s decision to abandon a merger with state-owned entities.

By midday, the Dubai Financial Market index was trading 3.76 percent up at 1,702.45 points, after it had opened 0.9 percent up.

Emiratis follow stock market activity at the stock exchange in Dubai (AFP file)

The value of trades also increased by midday from 16.3 million dirhams (4.4 million dollars) to 814.7 million dirhams (222 million dollars).

Emaar Properties, the largest Middle East real estate firm by market capitalisation, saw its shares rocket on Thursday by 14.84 percent, narrowly missing the maximum-allowed daily increase of 15 percent.

On Sunday, Emaar shares were trading more than 8.0 percent up.

“Now with the overhang cleared, we believe investors should direct their focus back to Emaar?s fundamental value as a standalone entity,” EFG-Hermes investment bank said in a report on Sunday, referring to Emaar’s decision last week to cancel a merger with the property arm of government-owned Dubai Holding.

“Given the positive nature of this announcement coupled with Emaar?s prominence on the DFM, we believe there could be some positive reaction, albeit likely to be short-lived,” it added.

The shares of leading construction firm, Arabtec, were also up over 7.0 percent, while the stocks of budget airline Air Arabia were up just over 1.0 percent.

Dubai Islamic Bank shares meanwhile appeared to shrug off a rate downgrading by Moody’s as they surged by nearly 10 percent. Emirates NBD bank, also downgraded, seemed to react negatively, dropping by over 4.0 percent.

The recovery followed days of severe battering for leading shares, dropping almost the maximum-permitted 10 percent, as the market remained shaky over Dubai’s debt woes.

The market trades on Monday on the eve of the maturity of 3.5 billion dollars of Islamic bonds issued by Nakheel, the huge property arm of government-owned Dubai World — whose liabilities amount to 59 billion dollars.

Dubai rocked world markets in late November when it requested a freeze on debt payments by Dubai World, in order to restructure the group. Gulf markets also took the news badly.

The economy minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sultan al-Mansouri, said on Saturday that the oil-rich economy will continue to grow, even though at lower rates than earlier years.

He said the gross domestic product of the UAE, which grew 6.2 percent in 2007 and 7.4 percent in 2008, is estimated to witness a growth of 1.3 percent in 2009 and 3.2 percent in 2010.

Meanwhile, the market in Abu Dhabi was up 4.4 percent by midday at 2,612.10 points. All sectors were in the green, with real estate surging over 8.0 percent and banking up almost 6.0 percent.

In Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab bourse opened slightly up, but then slipped by 0.14 percent at around 0830 GMT.

All sectors were marked in red, except for petrochemicals which was up 0.29 percent and energy and utilities, which increased 0.06 percent.

Qatar stocks traded 0.98 percent up by midday after gaining 1.99 percent on Thursday, the last day of trading for the week.

Kuwait Stock Exchange was up 1.15 percent.

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Top British banker admits ‘mistakes’ on bonuses

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2009 at 4:44 am

LONDON (AFP) – A top British banker said “mistakes were made” within the industry as bank employees racked up huge bonuses, in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

Bob Diamond (AFP file)

Bob Diamond, the president of British banking group Barclays, said banks had done a “pretty poor job” of handling the bonus process, adding that his company would be deferring up to 60 percent of payouts — more than double the usual level.

It comes after Britain announced on Wednesday it was slapping a one-off 50-percent tax rate on bonuses above 25,000 pounds (27,600 euros or 40,700 dollars) amid public fury at 70 percent government-owned Royal Bank of Scotland awarding some 1.5 billion pounds in bonuses for senior staff.

“We (the whole banking sector) have done a pretty poor job of managing how the (bonus) process works. We do agree that many functions should have a higher portion of fixed and a lower portion of variable,” Diamond said.

He added: “Clearly there were mistakes made and I’ve made mistakes.

“This isn’t about anyone saying I don’t have to be part of the solution. It is quite the opposite, it is about saying I do want to be part of the solution.”

Diamond also suggested that in future, the government should not have to step in to prop up banks that have got themselves into trouble.

“In principle we should not have institutions that are too big too fail or too complex to fail,” he told the weekly broadsheet.

“We need a regulatory framework that allows us to address failing institutions. Big and systemic are not synonymous and big and failure should not be in the same sentence.

“We saw significant failures during the crisis in narrow banking — narrow investment banking and narrow retail banking.

“We feel strongly that Barclays and others that have the integrated universal banking model, if we took that away it would add risk to the system, it wouldn’t take risk away.”

A YouGov poll of 2,044 adults on Thursday and Friday for The Sunday Times newspaper found that 79 percent supported the windfall tax on bankers’ bonuses, with 11 percent against.

Some 24 percent felt finance minister Alistair Darling was telling the truth about the economy.

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Police say 31 prisoners escape Philippine jail

In World on December 14, 2009 at 4:44 am

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (AFP) – Thirty-one people, including Muslim guerrillas linked to beheadings, escaped in a jailbreak that left two people dead in the strife-torn southern Philippines on Sunday, officials said.

One guard and an outsider assisting in the escape were killed in a brief gunbattle at the provincial jail on the island of Basilan before dawn, said regional police deputy director Senior Superintendent Rolando Purruganan.

Members of the southern Philippine rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, man a checkpoint in the town of Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao province in September (AFP file)

Deputy provincial governor Al Rasheed Sakalahul said that Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerillas were likely behind the incident, as one of those freed was a MILF commander linked to the beheadings.

A MILF spokesman could not be contacted for comment on the accusation. If confirmed, this would amount to a violation of a ceasefire between the MILF and the government.

Over 100 outsiders took part in the jailbreak with some climbing ladders to shoot at jail guards while others broke into the jail and forced the cell doors open said Sakalahul.

They broke through a hole in the rear wall of the prison through which they fled into nearby forests, Purruganan added.

Two members of the separatist MILF who beheaded 10 of 14 Philippine Marines in an ambush in Basilan in July 2007 were amongst the escapees, the police official said.

Sakalahul also said that members of the Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim extremist group that is active in Basilan, were among those who escaped although he could not give details.

The Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history and intelligence agencies have linked it to the al-Qaeda network.

It still operates in the forests of Basilan — last week the group beheaded one of three hostages and then abducted a school official on the island.

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Philippine tribal gunmen free all 47 hostages

In World on December 14, 2009 at 4:43 am

PROSPERIDAD, Philippines (AFP) – Tribal gunmen in the southern Philippines on Sunday released 47 hostages they had been holding for three days, after authorities agreed not to arrest them and animals were sacrificed.

The ending to the ordeal was a rare piece of good news for the lawless south, following a political massacre last month that left 57 people dead and the beheading of a man last week in an unrelated abduction.

One of the tribal gunmen watches as hostages eat their breakfast at their mountain lair in the town of Prosperidad, Mindanao on December 12 (AFP photo)

The vice governor of Agusan del Sur, where the mass kidnapping took place, told reporters that government negotiators had signed a deal not to arrest the kidnappers, a key factor in ending the stand-off.

“Yes at last! Yahoo!,” vice governor Santiago Cane said in a mobile phone text message to the media after he picked up the hostages from the gunmen’s hideout in a cleared patch of jungle on a mountaintop.

The hostages, aged 17 to 62, were driven down the mountain in an army truck to a hospital in Prosperidad, the provincial capital, looking weary.

“Thank you very much, thank you very much,” one of the hostages said in front of reporters before military escorts took him and others away for medical check-ups and a debriefing.

Cane and other government officials had earlier Sunday met kidnap leader Ondo Perez in a restaurant to broker a deal after the hostages had spent three nights sleeping outside at the gunmen’s lair.

In a more bizarre effort to placate the kidnappers, negotiators also Sunday brought in tribal leaders to sacrifice animals as part of a ritual demanded by Perez in overnight talks.

One black pig and three chickens were slaughtered, while 10 boiled eggs and 10 bottles of local wine were offered to the gods.

After the ceremony, Cane took Perez to a local restaurant where he met in private with Governor Valentina Plaza and the deal was struck to give the kidnappers immunity from police action.

“All members of (the government) crisis committee signed a document in front of Perez where they stated that all members of the group won’t be arrested or detained,” Cane said.

Instead, the issue will be referred to elders of Perez’s Manobo tribe for settlement — which is allowed under local laws governing indigenous groups in the Philippines.

Perez and his band of 13 gunmen, former communist guerrillas and members of the mountain-dwelling Manobo tribe, raided a school in a small farming village in Mindanao’s Agusan valley region on Thursday, taking 75 hostages.

Twenty-eight hostages, including 18 children, were later freed and Perez had said the rest would follow on Sunday. But this was delayed by negotiations over his various demands.

The kidnapping appeared to have been driven by a feud between rival families within the Manobo tribe.

Perez had demanded that Calpito Icuag, a senior member of the rival family, have his bodyguards disarmed. He also demanded the arrest of another clan member, Joel Tubay.

The governor had assured him that Icuag’s bodyguards had already turned over their guns to the military, and that a special task force was hunting Tubay, a government spokesman said.

Tubay, who has an outstanding arrest warrant for murder, remained in hiding and had refused to turn himself in.

In addition, Perez wanted murder charges against him dropped.

It was not immediately clear if those charges had been dropped as part of the deal that set the hostages free.

The southern Philippines’ Mindanao region — where Muslim and communist insurgents mix with warring clans, pirates and corrupt officials — is infamous for its lawless nature.

But the recent explosion of violence in Mindanao has shocked the country.

President Gloria Arroyo lifted martial law over Maguindanao, another province in the region, on Saturday after eight days of emergency rule triggered by the massacre last month of 57 people.

The massacre was allegedly carried out by the heads of a Muslim clan that had ruled the area since 2001.

Meanwhile, Al Qaeda-linked militants on the island of Basilan are still holding three hostages after beheading another captive on Wednesday.

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Police release Copenhagen climate protesters

In World on December 14, 2009 at 4:42 am

Police officers detain a protestor during the climate march in Copenhagen on December 12. Danish police said they have released almost all of the nearly 1,000 climate protesters (AFP photo)

COPENHAGEN (AFP) – Danish police said Sunday they had released almost all of the nearly 1,000 climate protesters arrested during a weekend mass rally in Copenhagen.

Only 13 were still in detention on Sunday afternoon. Two Danes and a French national were brought before a court and charged with violence against police.

Tens of thousands of people took part in the Saturday march to the heavily guarded conference centre where world powers are struggling to hammer out a deal to combat global warming.

Police spokesman Henrik Jacobsen said police moved in to make the “preventive” arrests “to ensure that the large legally-announced demonstration would not be disturbed by troublemakers.”

Most of the main Copenhagen rally was peaceful, but police moved in when hundreds of youths clad in black threw bricks and smashed windows. Riot police surrounded the troublemakers and made them sit on the ground with their hands behind their backs before being taken away on buses.

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Aston Villa stun Man United

In Vietnam Sports on December 14, 2009 at 4:42 am

Aston Villa snapped a 27-game winless streak in league play against Manchester United on Saturday as Gabriel Agbonlahor scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win at Old Trafford.

Agbonlahor’s tally came 21 minutes into the game when he headed home a cross from Ashley Young, and the Villa defense held out despite some heavy pressure in the second half from United.

Sir Alex Ferguson (R) reacts during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford on December 12, 2009

The win is also the first at Old Trafford for Villa since 1983, and it moves the club into third place ahead of Sunday’s match between Arsenal and Liverpool.

United could have joined leaders Chelsea at the top of the table with a win after the Blues were held to a 3-3 draw by Everton earlier in the day, but they instead dropped three points behind Carlo Ancelotti’s men.

A good start by United was undone in the 21st minute when Villa struck against the run of play.

Young threw a left-wing cross towards the front of goal, and after escaping the marking of Wes Brown, Agbonlahor nodded the ball past goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak.

United almost leveled the contest nine minutes later when Patrice Evra’s cross was brought down by Wayne Rooney at the near post and smashed off the underside of the crossbar from six yards.

Ryan Giggs then had a chance shortly before halftime when his initial effort from 12 yards was blocked, but he drove the rebound past the post.

Villa sat back and defended for most of the second half, and although United had a huge edge in possession, they were let down by the final ball on numerous occasions.

Nemanja Vidic was finally able to put a ball past goalkeeper Brad Friedel when he headed Rooney’s corner kick on target, but Stewart Downing was on hand to clear the ball off the goal line with 10 minutes to play.

Friedel then produced the biggest save of the match in the 86th minute when he got just enough of the ball to tip a shot from Dimitar Berbatov past the post.

United’s final chance came early in stoppage time when Michael Carrick attempted a shot from inside the area that sailed wide of the near post.

Tottenham slipped to fifth in the table after a surprising 1-0 loss at home against Wolverhampton, while Younes Kaboul scored in stoppage time to help last-placed Portsmouth grab a 1-1 draw at Sunderland.

Ten-man Manchester City earned a 3-3 draw at Bolton as Carlos Tevez scored his second goal of the match in the 77th minute to erase a brace from Ivan Klasnic, Burnley and Fulham finished 1-1 at Turf Moor, Lee Bowyer scored the lone goal in Birmingham’s 1-0 victory over West Ham, Hull City and Blackburn played to a 0-0 stalemate and Stoke City held on for a point against Wigan as Hugo Rodallega failed to convert from the penalty spot in the 90th minute.

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VN students in Japan raise funds for storm victims

In Vietnam Society on December 14, 2009 at 4:40 am

The Vietnamese Students’ Association in Japan, in coordination with the Japan-Vietnam Association (JVA), held a music gala on December 12 to raise money for the victims of typhoon Ketsana.

Themed “Itinerary on Vietnam ”, the gala featuring special art performances imbued with the cultural identities of each region attracted hundreds of Vietnamese students and people who are living and working in Japan as well as international friends.

Speaking at the event, JVA Vice President Katsunari Suzuki praised Vietnamese students’ activities over the past years, helping boost the multi-faceted exchange between Vietnam and Japan .

Around 400,000 JPY (over 4,000 USD) raised from the gala will be transferred to Vietnamese charity funds in support for the storm victims in central provinces.

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