Gatlin stuns Bolt to win 100m world title

World Athletics Championships
Athletics – World Athletics Championships – men’s 100 metres final – London Stadium, London, Britain – August 5, 2017 – Silver medalist Christian Coleman of the U.S. celebrates. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

August 5, 2017

By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) – Justin Gatlin ruined Usain Bolt’s farewell party when the 35-year-old American won the world 100 meters title on Saturday, beating the Jamaican superstar into third and sparking a chorus of boos from a London crowd unhappy with his doping past.

What was meant to be a glorious celebration of the departure of the sport’s greatest showman turned into a condemnation of its biggest pantomime villain as Gatlin, twice banned for drug offences, rolled back the years to win a second world title 12 years after his first and 13 after claiming Olympic 100m gold.

As so often before Bolt made a terrible start but for once could not make it up as Christian Coleman, the 21-year-old American who beat him in the semi-finals, looked set for victory.

But Gatlin, who stumbled at the death to lose the 2015 world final to Bolt by a hundredth of a second, on this occasion timed his surge and dip to perfection to win in 9.92 seconds.

Coleman, who has run over 40 races this year but turned professional only a few weeks ago, took silver in 9.94.

Bolt, straining every sinew, fought all the way to the line but the pace and grace that took him to his world record of 9.58 eight years ago has withered with age and perennial injury battles and this time he ran out of track.

“It’s just one of those things,” Bolt said. “My start is killing me. Normally, it gets better during the rounds but it didn’t come together.”

When the results flashed up on the giant screen the crowd immediately began repeating the booing with which Gatlin’s name had been greeted since the heats on Friday.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, his first response was to put his finger to his lips to indicate silence.

The crowd reacted by chanting Bolt’s name and the Jamaican hugged Gatlin and told him he did not deserve the disrespect.

“I tuned it out (the boos) through the rounds and stayed the course. I did what I had to do,” said Gatlin, who served a four-year ban from 2006 for a second doping offence – which he always denied.

“The people who love me are here cheering for me and cheering at home.

“It is Bolt’s last race and he’s the man so it’s not about beating him. I have had many victories and many defeats down the years, he’s pushed and inspired me to be the athlete I am today.

“It’s surreal really to come across the line first – it’s still his night.

“We are rivals on the track but in the warm-down area we joke and have a good time. The first thing he did was congratulate me and say that I didn’t deserve the boos. He is an inspiration.”

FIRST BRONZE

As always, the ever-popular Bolt gave generously of his time after the race to fans and media alike, despite the unfamiliarity of finishing third for the first time in a major championship.

The Jamaican had been seeking a fourth 100m world title to go with his four over 200m, four relay golds and eight Olympic crowns and a capacity 56,000 crowd had turned out fully expecting to celebrate it.

“I needed to be in a better place after 30 meters but I just wasn’t in that super-shape I needed to be in,” said Bolt, who turns 31 this month.

“I gave it my best shot but my body’s telling me it’s time to go.”

He still has another chance to add to the medal tally in the 4x100m relay next week – when he will be desperate to avenge Saturday’s defeat in what, if the Americans manage to get the baton round, should be a last-leg showdown with Gatlin.

Also in the U.S. team will be Coleman, who looked set for a remarkable victory running in the lane alongside Bolt until the man 14 years his senior snatched it from lane eight of nine.

Coleman, however, was not about to complain.

“Both of us have done well, I’m really happy for him to get the gold and I’m delighted with silver,” he said.

Of Bolt, he added: “He’s a man who has taken the sport to a whole new level.

“He’s been an icon of mine as I’ve grown up. It’s an honor to toe the line with him.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Exclusive: N.Y. regulator subpoenas Wells Fargo over unwanted auto insurance

FILE PHOTO: Wells Fargo branch in the Chicago suburb of Evanston Illinois
FILE PHOTO: A Wells Fargo branch is seen in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, U.S. on February 10, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

August 2, 2017

By Karen Freifeld

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York state’s banking and insurance regulator has issued subpoenas to two Wells Fargo & Co units after the bank admitted to charging several hundred thousand borrowers for auto insurance they did not ask for or need, causing many delinquencies.

The New York Department of Financial Services is demanding Wells’ loan contracts with New York borrowers, its financing agreements with auto dealers, and agreements between Wells units and insurers, according to copies of the subpoenas that were issued on Tuesday and seen by Reuters.

Unwanted auto insurance is the latest chapter in a months-long scandal over sales practices at Wells, where employees also created as many as 2.1 million deposit and credit card accounts in customers’ names without their permission.

The New York regulator is also seeking documents showing how and when Wells learned its so-called collateral protection insurance may have been unnecessarily or wrongfully issued.

The bank has to provide the information by Aug. 22.

The regulator sent a separate request for information to National General Insurance Co, which was identified as an underwriter of the insurance in a report into the matter prepared for Wells by consultancy Oliver Wyman. The New York Times obtained a copy of the report.

A Wells spokeswoman declined to comment and National General did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wells first became aware of potential problems a year ago, when the auto lending business began receiving an unusually high number of complaints, Franklin Codel, head of consumer lending, said in an interview last week.

The bank said it would refund about $80 million to an estimated 570,000 customers who were wrongly charged for auto insurance from 2012 to 2017, including roughly 20,000 whose vehicles were repossessed.

The subpoenas, each of which is nine pages long, were sent to Wells Fargo Bank NA in Saint Louis Park, Minnesota, and Wells Fargo Insurance Services USA Inc in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The subpoenas also request the Wyman consulting firm’s report and any other analyses of policies issued to New York customers.

Separately, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office issued a subpoena to Wyman, according to a person familiar with the matter. A spokeswoman for the firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Editing by Carmel Crimmins and Tom Brown)

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Deadly protests mar Venezuela ballot as voters snub Maduro assembly

Demonstrators clash with riot security forces while rallying against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas
Demonstrators clash with riot security forces while rallying against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, Venezuela, July 28, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

July 30, 2017

By Alexandra Ulmer and Anggy Polanco

CARACAS/SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela, (Reuters) – Deadly protests rocked Venezuela on Sunday as voters broadly boycotted an election for a constitutional super-body that unpopular leftist President Nicolas Maduro vowed would begin a “new era of combat” in the crisis-stricken nation.

Opposition parties are sitting out what they call a rigged election aimed at consolidating Maduro’s power, leaving streets deserted and polling stations largely empty and dealing a blow to the legitimacy of the vote.

Anti-Maduro activists wearing hoods or masks erected barricades on roads and scuffles broke out with security forces who moved in quickly to disperse the demonstrators. Authorities said seven people were killed in the unrest and the opposition said the true death toll was around a dozen people, which would make Sunday one of the deadliest days since massive and sustained protests kicked off in early April.

Maduro, widely reviled for overseeing an economic collapse during four years in office, has pressed ahead with the vote to create the all-powerful assembly despite the threat of U.S. sanctions and months of opposition protests in which around 120 people have been killed.

Critics say the assembly will allow Maduro to dissolve the opposition-run Congress, delay future elections and rewrite electoral rules to prevent the socialists from being voted out of power in the once-thriving OPEC nation.

In what could be the spread of more aggressive tactics, a bomb exploded in Caracas and injured seven police officers.

The opposition has vowed to redouble its resistance and U.S. President Donald Trump has promised broader economic sanctions against Venezuela after the vote, suggesting the oil-rich nation’s crisis is set to escalate further.

“Even if they win today, this won’t last long,” said opposition supporter Berta Hernandez, a 60-year-old doctor, in a wealthier Caracas district. “I’ll continue on the streets because, not long from now, this will come to an end.”

Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader narrowly elected in 2013, has accused right-wing governments of trying to sabotage “21st century Socialism” created by his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez.

“The ’emperor’ Donald Trump wanted to halt the Venezuelan people’s right to vote,” said Maduro, as he rapidly voted at 6 a.m. in a low-income area of the capital Caracas that has turned on the government.

“A new era of combat will begin. We’re going all out with this constituent assembly.”

But with polls showing some 70 percent of Venezuelans oppose the vote, the country’s 2.8 million state employees are under huge pressure to participate — with some two dozen sources telling Reuters they were being threatened with dismissal. Workers were being blasted with text messages and phone calls asking them to vote and report back after doing so.

The opposition estimated participation was at around a paltry 7 percent by mid-afternoon, but warned the government was gearing up to announce some 8.5 million people had voted.

‘SLAP MADURO’

Fueling anger against Maduro is an unprecedented economic meltdown in the country of some 30 million people, which was once a magnet for European migrants thanks to an oil boom that was the envy of Latin America.

But after nearly two decades of Socialist Party rule, currency and price controls have asphyxiated businesses.

Millions of Venezuelans now struggle to eat three times a day due to product shortages and runaway inflation that has put basics like rice or flour out of reach.

“Sometimes I take bread from my mouth and give it to my two kids,” said pharmacy employee Trina Sanchez, 28, as she waited for a bus to work. “This is a farce. I want to slap Maduro.”

To show the massive scale of public anger, the opposition earlier this month organized an unofficial referendum over Maduro’s plan.

More than 7 million voters overwhelmingly rejected the constituent assembly and voted in favor of early elections.

But democratic pathways to political change have been systematically blocked. The opposition’s bid last year to hold a recall referendum against Maduro was nixed, regional elections have been postponed and the president has repeatedly ignored Congress.

As global condemnation mounted, the United States last week sanctioned 13 Socialist Party leaders, in part as a response to the election. Neighboring Colombia, as well as Argentina, Panama and Peru, have said they will not recognize the results of Sunday’s vote.

BOMB BLAST

In Sunday’s gravest incident, a bomb went off as a group of police officers on motorbikes sped past Caracas’ Altamira Plaza, an opposition stronghold. The state prosecutor’s office said seven officers were injured and four motorbikes incinerated.

Clashes were also reported in the volatile Andean state of Tachira, whose capital is San Cristobal, where witnesses told Reuters an unidentified group of men had showed up at two separate street protests and shot at demonstrators.

Authorities confirmed nine deaths over the weekend, including two teenagers and a candidate to the assembly killed during a robbery in the jungle state of Bolivar. The state’s Socialist Party governor, Francisco Rangel, said the death was a “political hit job” and blamed it on the opposition.

Supporters of “Chavismo,” the movement founded by Chavez, Maduro’s more charismatic predecessor who enjoyed high oil prices for much of his mandate, said they wanted to halt the unrest.

“The (opposition) wants deaths and roadblocks and the government wants peace,” said Olga Blanco, 50, voting for candidates to the assembly at a school in Caracas.

The assembly is due to sit within 72 hours of results being certified, with government loyalists such as powerful Socialist Party No. 2 Diosdado Cabello and Maduro’s wife and son expected to win seats.

“We have decided to be free, nothing else matters,” said Cabello, who could be the next assembly president amid rumors of power struggles within the ruling party.

(Additional reporting by Andreina Aponte, Girish Gupta, Corina Pons, Jaczo Gomez and Carlos Garcia in Caracas, Maria Ramirez in Puerto Ordaz, Mircely Guanipa in Punto Fijo, Francisco Aguilar in Barinas, and Marianna Parraga in Houston; Writing by Brian Ellsworth, Girish Gupta and Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Sandra Maler)

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S&P 500 declines with transports; oil extends recent rally

Traders work on the floor of the NYSE in New York
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

July 27, 2017

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The S&P 500 ended lower following a drop in technology and transportation shares on Thursday, while oil prices extended their recent rally.

The S&P 500, along with the Nasdaq, reversed gains from earlier in the session, while MSCI’s 47-country All World share index eked out a record high.

The Dow Jones transportation average, often seen as a gauge of the U.S. economy’s health, fell 3.1 percent and hit its lowest point in nearly two months, while the S&P technology index was down 0.8 percent, making it the day’s worst-performing major group. The Nasdaq biotech index was down 1.9 percent.

Tech has been the best-performing sector this year, leading the S&P 500’s 10.6 percent run in 2017.

“The general sentiment of the market coming into the day was that transportation stocks are telling us something that we’re not paying attention to,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York.

“You’ve got a general feeling a lot of good news is priced into this market,” Hogan said.

The Dow industrials set a record closing high, helped by a jump in Verizon.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 85.54 points, or 0.39 percent, to 21,796.55; the S&P 500 lost 2.41 points, or 0.10 percent, to 2,475.42; and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 40.56 points, or 0.63 percent, to 6,382.19.

“Biotech and tech are getting hit because they’ve been the outperformers. When people get nervous, they take money out of the outperformers first,” said Ken Polcari, director of the NYSE floor division at O’Neil Securities in New York.

The biggest one-day drop in AstraZeneca shares, following a drug study failure, dominated trading in Europe, though a handful of results helped broader indexes nudge higher. The pan-European STOXX 600 ended down 0.11 percent.

In the U.S. Treasury and foreign exchange markets, investors continued to evaluate the Federal Reserve’s recent statement that it is closer to paring its balance sheet.

The U.S. central bank said on Wednesday it expected to start winding down its massive holdings of bonds “relatively soon,” despite striking a cautious tone on low inflation.

Many analysts and traders expect the Fed to announce its balance sheet reduction plans when its policymakers meet in September.

U.S. Treasury bond prices were weighed down by government and corporate debt supply. The Treasury Department sold $28 billion in seven-year notes to fair demand, the final sale of $88 billion in coupon-bearing supply this week.

U.S. benchmark 10-year Treasury notes fell 8/32 in price to yield 2.31 percent, up from 2.28 percent on Wednesday.

The U.S. dollar rose against the euro after U.S. data showing that new orders for key U.S.-made capital goods unexpectedly fell in June.

The euro fell 0.4 percent against the dollar, slipping below the $1.17 mark. It had earlier risen to $1.1776, its highest since January 2015.

In the oil market, a rally in U.S. gasoline futures spurred further gains this week that came after key OPEC members pledged to reduce exports and the U.S. government reported a sharp decline in crude inventories.

Brent crude futures were up 52 cents to settle at $51.49 a barrel, while U.S. crude was up 29 cents to $49.04.

(Additional reporting by Marc Jones in London, Sinead Carew in New York, Wayne Cole in Sydney; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Nick Zieminski and Jonathan Oatis)

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IMF maintains global growth forecasts; China, euro zone revised higher

FILE PHOTO: A man rides his motorcycle past shipping containers at the Port of Shanghai
FILE PHOTO: A man rides his motorcycle past shipping containers at the Port of Shanghai February 14, 2011. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

July 24, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund kept its growth forecasts for the world economy unchanged for this year and next, although it revised up growth expectations for the euro zone and China.

In an updated World Economic Outlook released on Monday in Kuala Lumpur, the IMF said global gross domestic product would grow 3.5 percent in 2017 and 3.6 percent in 2018, unchanged from estimates issued in April.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in Washington that she thought the global recovery was “quite well anchored.”

“The fact that its sources are diversified around the world is also giving us expectations that it’s here to last longer than just 2017 and 2018,” Lagarde said at a Center for Global Development event.

If the United States, Europe and Japan make structural and fiscal reforms to boost their economies’ efficiency and invest in infrastructure, growth could be extended further, she added.

The IMF shaved its forecasts for U.S. growth to 2.1 percent for 2017 and 2018, slightly down from projections of 2.3 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively, just three months ago. The Fund reversed previous assumptions that the Trump administration’s planned stimulus measures would boost U.S. growth, largely because no details of those plans have been made public.

Maurice Obstfeld, the IMF’s economic counsellor and director of research, said the global economy has been the subject of considerable protectionist rhetoric, such as President Donald Trump’s threats to impose tariffs on steel imports, but such talk had yet to translate into action.

“What will happen in the future, we don’t know. These threats are in our downside thinking. They’re not built into our baseline (forecast) because hopefully they don’t happen, but there are risks,” Obstfeld told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.

The IMF said growth in the euro zone was now expected to be slightly stronger in 2018 and pointed to “solid momentum”.

It upgraded 2017 GDP growth projections for the euro zone to 1.9 percent, up 0.2 percentage point from April. The IMF said euro zone growth would be slightly stronger at 1.7 percent, a 0.1-point change from just three months ago.

It said the expected higher growth in the euro zone indicated “stronger momentum in domestic demand than previously expected”.

The IMF revised down its 2017 forecast for GDP growth in the United Kingdom by 0.3 percentage point to 1.7 percent, citing weaker-than-expected activity in the first quarter. It left its 2018 forecast unchanged at 1.5 percent.

The IMF said it expected slightly higher growth in Japan this year of 1.3 percent, revised up from a forecast of 1.2 percent in April. It cited stronger first-quarter growth buoyed by private consumption, investment and exports.

Its forecast for Japan’s 2018 growth was unchanged at 0.6 percent.

For China, the IMF expected stronger growth of 6.7 percent in 2017, up 0.1 point from the April forecast. It said China’s growth would still moderate in 2018 to 6.4 percent, but noted that estimate was up 0.2 percentage point from the April forecast on expectations that Beijing would maintain high levels of public investment.

But Obstfeld expected China’s economic expansion to slow over the second half of 2017 as Chinese authorities looked to manage rapid credit growth and non-performing loans.

“In the first two quarters of this year, growth has come in very high. Part of this is the general upsurge in world growth and the upsurge in trade in Asia. But there is also a component that has been fuelled by expanding domestic credit, and that’s the part that worries us,” Obstfeld said.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and David Lawder in Washington; Additional reporting by Joseph Sipalan in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by Eric Meijer and James Dalgleish)

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Golf: Journeyman Collins shoots 60 in PGA Tour event in Alabama

FILE PHOTO: PGA-The Greenbrier Classic - First Round
FILE PHOTO: White Sulphur Springs, WV, USA; Chad Collins on the 16th fairway during the first round of The Greenbrier Classic golf tournament at The Old White TPC. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

July 21, 2017

(Reuters) – Journeyman Chad Collins flirted with golf’s magic number before settling for an 11-under-par 60 in the second round at the Barbasol Championship in Alabama on Friday.

Collins reeled off six consecutive birdies from the 11th hole, and walked to the 17th tee needing one more to record only the 10th sub-60 round on the PGA Tour.

But he missed a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-three 17th, and then drove into rough at the par-four 18th at the Robert Trent Jones Trail Grand National course in Opelika and could not get his approach anywhere near the hole.

“It was an awesome day,” Collins told PGATour.com after posting a 15-under 127 total for a five-stroke clubhouse lead over fellow American Brian Gay.

“I gave (shooting 59) a run. I’m not too disappointed at all about 60.

“You’ve got to make a lot of putts to shoot rounds like that. You’ve got to hit it well too and I did both of those. It’s a nice breath of fresh air …to be in this situation come the weekend.”

Collins, 38, has played 179 events in his PGA Tour career, with a third place his best finish. Coming off 11 missed cuts in his past 12 starts, he seemed an unlikely candidate to shoot 60.

“It’s been a struggle this year up until this point but to see myself in this situation is nice and I’m really looking forward to the weekend,” he said.

“I’ve gained a little bit of confidence ball-striking wise and I’ve gained in confidence with the putter…

“It’s a grind with the heat and a tough course if you’re not striking the ball well. You’ve just got to hang in there and plug along.”

Jim Furyk has the lowest ever score on tour, a 58, and there have been eight rounds of 59.

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; editing by John Stonestreet)

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Poland moves closer to passing contested Supreme Court reform

Members of Poland's lower house of parliament attend the first reading of a bill introduced by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party that calls for an overhaul of the Supreme Court in Warsaw
Members of Poland’s lower house of parliament attend the first reading of a bill introduced by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party that calls for an overhaul of the Supreme Court in Warsaw, Poland June 18, 2017 Agencja Gazeta/Slawomir Kaminski/via REUTERS

July 18, 2017

By Pawel Sobczak and Marcin Goettig

WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s parliament moved closer on Tuesday to giving itself the power to appoint Supreme Court judges, ignoring opposition assertions that the move would politicize the judiciary.

Lawmakers from the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party and their coalition partners passed the bill in its first reading and moved immediately to the second and final reading, amid frequent opposition cries of “Shame!” and “Cowards!”.

Opposition deputies vowed to extend the all-day debate as long as possible into the night to delay the bill’s passage into law.

Since winning an election in 2015, PiS has sought to increase the government’s influence over courts and prosecutors as well as state media, prompting the European Union to launch a review of the rule of law in one of its newest members.

PiS says the judicial reform is needed to make the courts accountable and ensure that state institutions serve all Poles, not just the “elites” that it portrays as the support base for the opposition.

“PiS … will carry out this reform to the end,” Prime Minister Beata Szydlo told the assembly.

Opposition parties say the bill violates the constitutional separation of powers and could potentially give the ruling party influence over election results through the Supreme Court that validates them – charges that PiS rejects.

President Andrzej Duda, who is backed by PiS and usually supports its legislation, said Poles were “not satisfied with how the justice system functions”.

But he threw up a surprise obstacle by saying he would not sign the bill into law unless parliament agreed to increase the majority needed to appoint the panel that would pick future judges.

The bill will retire all the Supreme Court judges unless they get the approval of a judicial appointments panel whose members will mostly be nominated by parliament.

PEACEFUL PROTEST

Last Friday, parliament passed a law ending the terms of current members of the panel, the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), and giving parliament the power to choose 15 of its 25 members.

But Duda on Tuesday insisted that appointments to the KRS should require a three-fifths majority in parliament – a condition that would make it difficult for PiS and its partners to push through appointments to the panel on their own.

Opposition parties say shortening the judges’ terms is unconstitutional.

“If the president seriously wanted to stop what’s going on, he should veto (all) the bills,” said Borys Budka, deputy leader of the main opposition party, Civic Platform (PO).

Several thousand people gathered in front of the presidential palace in a peaceful protest against the reforms, holding candles in their hands.

The parliament building had been cordoned off with barriers and guards since Sunday, when thousands protested against the Supreme Court legislation in Warsaw and other cities.

The tensions have echoes of a standoff in December when opposition leaders blocked the podium of the debating chamber for a month ahead of a budget vote, after objecting to PiS plans to curb media access to parliament.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive, was due to discuss the judicial bills in Brussels on Wednesday, having expressed concerns for months about the direction of reforms in Poland.

The separation of powers between executive and judiciary is a fundamental democratic principle for the EU, but in many member states the effectiveness of separation can be as much a matter of political culture as of formal structures.

The PiS government remains broadly popular, benefiting from record-low unemployment, a robust economy and increased social welfare spending.

(Additional reporting by Warsaw bureau; Writing by Lidia Kelly and Justyna Pawlak; additional reporting in Brussels by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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After deadly shooting, Israel says Jerusalem’s Noble Sanctuary to reopen Sunday

Muslim women pray in front of the Dome of the Rock, on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, during Laylat al-Qadr in Jerusalem's Old City
Muslim women pray in front of the Dome of the Rock, on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, during Laylat al-Qadr in Jerusalem’s Old City June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

July 15, 2017

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel will reopen the Noble Sanctuary-Temple Mount compound on Sunday, a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday, after the holy site had been shut down over a deadly shooting attack.

Two Israeli policemen were shot dead by three Arab-Israeli gunmen on the outskirts of the compound on Friday. Its closure by police hours before Friday prayers prompted anger among Muslim worshippers and Arab states who called for one of the city’s holiest sites to be reopened without delay.

(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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Cycling: Boiling-hot Kittel claims fifth Tour stage win

Cycling - The 104th Tour de France cycling race
Cycling – The 104th Tour de France cycling race – The 178-km Stage 10 from Perigueux to Bergerac, France – July 11, 2017 – Quick-Step Floors rider Marcel Kittel of Germany sprints for the win. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

July 12, 2017

By Julien Pretot

PAU, France (Reuters) – German Marcel Kittel was once again a cut above the rest as he claimed his fifth victory in this year’s Tour de France, winning a crash-ridden 11th stage in emphatic style on Wednesday.

The Quick-Step Floors rider, who now has 14 stages to his name, left it late to launch his sprint but easily beat Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data).

Boasson Hagen raised his arms as if he had won but was comprehensively beaten by Kittel and Groenewegen after 203.5km from Eymet.

Britain’s Chris Froome retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey on a relaxed day for Team Sky’s defending champion, but some of his rivals did not have a quiet day.

Three of the main contenders crashed as last year’s runner-up Romain Bardet, third overall, Jakob Fuglsang (fifth) and twice winner Alberto Contador (12th) hit the deck in separate incidents.

Fuglsang was involved in a crash at the feed zone and sustained small fractures in his wrist and elbow but he will start on Thursday, his Astana team said. Astana’s Dario Cataldo was forced to abandon the race because of a wrist injury after the Italian also fell.

Frenchman Bardet, meanwhile, avoided serious injury.

“I escaped unhurt but now I’m happy that the flat stages are over,” said Bardet, who is expected to attack in Thursday’s 12th stage, a 214.5-km trek featuring three major climbs and a summit finish in Peyragudes.

Contador, who slipped down the general classification after a bad day in the Jura mountains on Sunday, fell off his bike 25km from the finish but managed to make it back to the peloton with the help of his Trek-Segafredo team mate Jarlinson Pantano.

He suffered bruises to his hip and elbow. Contador’s fall was the latest in a series of crashes on the Tour for the Spaniard, who was forced to abandon the race in 2014 and 2016.

“I never believed in bad luck, but this Tour is putting me to the limit, especially psychologically,” he said.

“But those who think I will give up don’t know me.”

At that point, the main pack was traveling at full speed as the sprinters’ teams rode hard at the front to catch the last fugitive of the day, Maciej Bodnar of Poland.

The exhausted Bora-Hansgrohe rider was reined in 250 meters from the line before Kittel stole the show yet again.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Iraqi Prime Minister congratulates armed forces for Mosul ‘victory’

Iraqi Federal police celebrate in West Mosul
Iraqi Federal police celebrate in West Mosul, Iraq July 9, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

July 9, 2017

By Stephen Kalin

MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Mosul on Sunday and congratulated the armed forces for their “victory” over Islamic State after nearly nine months of urban warfare, bringing an end to jihadist rule in the city.

Islamic State’s defeat in Mosul three years after taking the city is a major blow for the hardline Sunni Islamist group, which is also losing ground in its operational base in the Syrian city of Raqqa from where it has planned global attacks.

The group, however, still controls territory in Iraq and is expected to revert to more conventional insurgent tactics such as bombings as its self-proclaimed caliphate falls apart.

The battle for Mosul – by far the largest city to fall under the militants’ control – has left large areas in ruins, killed thousands of civilians and displaced nearly 1 million people.

“The commander in chief of the armed forces (Prime Minister) Haider al-Abadi arrived in the liberated city of Mosul and congratulated the heroic fighters and Iraqi people for the great victory,” his office said in a statement.

State television later showed Abadi touring Mosul on foot alongside residents of Iraq’s second-largest city.

Air strikes and exchanges of gunfire could still be heard in the narrow streets of Mosul’s Old City, where the group has staged its last stand against Iraqi forces backed by a U.S.-led international coalition.

Abadi met commanders in west Mosul who led the battle, but he has yet to issue a formal declaration that the entire city has been retaken from the group which is also known as ISIS.

Abadi’s spokesman, Saad al-Hadithi, said victory would not be formally declared until the few remaining Islamic State militants were cleared from Mosul.

Still, France and Britain, members of the coalition that has conducted air strikes and provided training and assistance to Iraqi forces on the battlefield, welcomed the defeat.

“Mosul liberated from ISIS: France pays homage to all those, who alongside our troops, contributed to this victory,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.

“I congratulate Prime Minister Abadi, and the Iraqi forces who have been fighting on the ground with great bravery and care against a brutal opponent,” British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said in a statement.

While celebrating “the removal of the death cult from Mosul”, Fallon said the military operation was not over.

“This barbaric group remains dug in west of the Euphrates and clearing operations in and around Mosul will be needed because of the threat from improvised explosive devices.”

In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton, when asked whether the battle for Mosul was complete, replied: “Situation not resolved, but we are monitoring.”

“FIGHT TO THE DEATH”

Iraq still faces uncertainty and long-term stability will be possible only if the government contains ethnic and sectarian tensions which have dogged the country since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The fall of Mosul exposes fractures between Arabs and Kurds over disputed territories, and between Sunnis and the Shi’ite majority.

The group vowed to “fight to the death” in Mosul, but Iraqi military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool told state TV that 30 militants had been killed attempting to flee by swimming across the River Tigris that bisects the city.

Cornered in a shrinking area, the militants resorted to sending women suicide bombers among the thousands of civilians who are emerging from the battlefield wounded, malnourished and fearful, Iraqi army officers said.

The struggle has also exacted a heavy toll on Iraq’s security forces.

The Iraqi government does not reveal casualty figures, but a funding request from the U.S. Department of Defense said the elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), which has spearheaded the fight in Mosul, had suffered 40 percent losses.

The Department of Defense has requested $1.269 billion in U.S. budget funds for 2018 to continue supporting Iraqi forces, which collapsed in the face of the few hundred militants who overran Mosul in 2014.

Backed by coalition air strikes, an array of Iraqi forces gradually clawed back territory from Islamic State until reaching Mosul, the group’s de facto capital in Iraq, last October.

It is almost exactly three years since the ultra-hardline group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, proclaimed a “caliphate” spanning Syria and Iraq from the pulpit of Mosul’s medieval Grand al-Nuri mosque.

Abadi declared the end of Islamic State’s “state of falsehood” a week ago, after security forces retook the mosque – although only after retreating militants blew it up.

The United Nations predicts it will cost more than $1 billion to repair basic infrastructure in Mosul. In some of the worst affected areas, almost no buildings appear to have escaped damage and Mosul’s dense construction means the extent of the devastation might be underestimated, U.N. officials said.

(Writing by Isabel Coles; Additional reporting by Maher Chmaytelli and Maya Nikolaeva; Editing by Michael Georgy and Robin Pomeroy)

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