Wozniacki powers to Pan Pacific title in Tokyo

September 24, 2017

By Chris Gallagher

TOKYO (Reuters) – Caroline Wozniacki ended her string of final failures by beating Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-0 7-5 in Tokyo on Sunday to win her second straight Pan Pacific Open title.

The former world number one, who has now won the event three times, was contesting her seventh final of the season after losing the previous six.

The 27-year-old Dane, seeded third, burst out of the gate behind a strong service game with two aces in a 21-minute first-set rout, looking fresh after her straight-sets triumph over world number one Garbine Muguruza the previous day.

By contrast, Pavlyuchenkova’s grueling three-set semi-final win over Angelique Kerber appeared to have taken its toll and she struggled with accuracy, registering three double faults in the set.

After being swept aside in the opener, Pavlyuchenkova was far more competitive in the second and held her serve throughout until Wozniacki converted her third match point to break once more and seal victory in the 12th game of the set.

“It was my seventh final of the year and obviously after a while it gets harder and harder to get that last one,” Wozniacki said in a courtside interview at the Ariake Coliseum, which will host the tennis events at the 2020 Olympics.

“But I went out there and I just stayed focused and stayed aggressive, especially in the beginning and then it was going my way,” added Wozniacki, now ranked sixth in the world.

Overall, Wozniacki sent down six aces and failed to register a double fault or offer up a single break point, while her unseeded opponent coughed up five double faults without managing an ace.

Wozniacki’s 26th career title also ensured that the Dane maintained her streak of winning at least one WTA tournament every year since 2008 as she became the fourth player to have captured the Pan Pacific Open title three or more times.

The 26-year-old Pavlyuchenkova had been seeking her third title of the year and the 11th of her career.

(Reporting by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Peter Rutherford/John O’Brien)

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Germany votes as history beckons for Merkel, and far-right

September 24, 2017

By Paul Carrel

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germans began voting in a national election on Sunday that is likely to see Chancellor Angela Merkel win a historic fourth term and a far-right party enter parliament for the first time in more than half a century.

Merkel’s conservative bloc is on track to remain the largest group in parliament, opinion polls indicated, but a fracturing of the political landscape may well make it harder for her to form a ruling coalition than previously.

With as many as a third of Germans undecided in the run-up to the election, Merkel and her main rival, centre-left challenger Martin Schulz of the Social Democrats (SPD), urged them on Saturday to get out and vote.

“We want to boost your motivation so that we can still reach many, many people,” the chancellor, 63, said in Berlin on Saturday before heading north to her constituency for a final round of campaigning.

In regional votes last year, Merkel’s conservatives suffered setbacks to the hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which profited from resentment at her 2015 decision to leave German borders open to over one million migrants.

Those setbacks made Merkel, a pastor’s daughter who grew up in Communist East Germany, wonder if she should even run for re-election.

But with the migrant issue under control this year, she has bounced back and thrown herself into a punishing campaign schedule, presenting herself as an anchor of stability in an uncertain world.

Visibly happier, Merkel campaigned with renewed conviction: a resolve to re-tool the economy for the digital age, to head off future migrant crises, and to defend a Western order shaken by Donald Trump’s U.S. election victory last November.

“GRAVEDIGGERS OF DEMOCRACY”

Both Merkel and Schulz worry that a low turnout could work in favour of smaller parties, especially the AfD, which is expected to enter the national parliament for the first time. On Friday, Schulz described the AfD as “gravediggers of democracy”.

An INSA poll published by Bild newspaper on Saturday suggested that support was slipping for Merkel’s conservatives, who dropped two percentage points to 34 percent, and the SPD, down one point to 21 percent – both now joined in an unwieldy “grand coalition”.

The anti-immigrant AfD rose two points to 13 percent, putting it on course to be the third-largest party.

Should she win a fourth term, Merkel will join the late Helmut Kohl, her mentor who reunified Germany, and Konrad Adenauer, who led Germany’s rebirth after World War Two, as the only post-war chancellors to win four national elections.

The AfD’s expected entry into the national parliament is likely to herald an era of more robust debate in German politics — a departure from the steady, consensus-based approach that has marked the post-war period.

Coalition building after the election will be an arduous process that could take months as all potential partners are unsure whether they really want to share power with Merkel. All major parties refuse to work with the AfD.

Electoral arithmetic might push Merkel to renew her grand coalition with the SPD, or she might opt for a three-way alliance with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and environmentalist Greens.

Voting opened at 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) and will continue until 6 p.m. (1600 GMT), when exit polls will give a first indication of the outcome.

(Additional reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Stephen Powell and Kevin Liffey)

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Hopes for Mexico quake survivors dim as search enters sixth day

September 24, 2017

By Noe Torres and Alexandra Alper

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Emergency workers searched by floodlight in smashed buildings for survivors of Mexico’s deadliest earthquake in 32 years amid fading rescue prospects, five nights after the disaster and as President Enrique Pena Nieto urged Mexicans to turn their attention to rebuilding.

The search continued in a ruined office building in Mexico City’s hip Roma neighborhood and a five-story apartment in historic Tlalpan after Tuesday’s 7.1 quake toppled dozens of buildings and killed over 300 people.

The temblor, Mexico’s worst since a 1985 quake killed thousands, may have left some 30,000 badly damaged homes in the adjacent states of Morelos and Puebla and economic losses of $4 billion to $8 billion.

But authorities called off efforts in the upper-middle class Linda Vista zone, after pulling ten bodies from the rubble, while work at the Tlalpan-based apartment building was briefly halted on Saturday due to a magnitude 6.2 earthquake that shook southern Mexico and spread fear in the capital.

“In Tlalpan, there is still a possibility of finding people alive. It’s URGENT,” read a meme passed around Saturday on social networks.

The government’s response to the disaster is under close scrutiny ahead of a presidential election next year.

Frustration has grown among the thousands left homeless by Tuesday’s quake with critics saying the government reaction pales in comparison to an outpouring of volunteer support, from rescue work to food donations.

When Tuesday’s quake hit, Mexico was already reeling from a Sept. 7 earthquake that killed at least 98 people and was the strongest in the country in 85 years.

Aftershocks on Saturday spread fear among Mexico’s traumatized population, and a plume of ash spewed from the Popocatepetl volcano in another reminder of the country’s volatile geology.

President Enrique Pena Nieto sought to hit back against the criticism, highlighting government aid for survivors on a tour Saturday of Jiquipilas in the poor Southern state of Chiapas, which was badly hit by the Sept. 7 quake.

“Be assured that the federal government is here, the state and local governments, supporting you, hand in hand, to rebuild,” he said.

But many Mexicans are wary of politicians using the quake to score political points, ahead of 2018 elections that are seen as a referendum on the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s patchy record since returning to power in 2012.

Francisco Honoraro, a 46-year-old farmer in Mexico City’s fertile Xochimilco district, is living on the streets while he waits for authorities to assess damage to his home, which is currently propped up by wooden beams after the quake.

“This is going to become political, a campaign issue and a source of profit: If you support me and you vote for me, we will help you,” he said.

(Additional Reporting by Michael O’Boyle, Sharay Angulo and Anthony Esposito, Writing by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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U.S.-backed forces capture big gas field in Syria’s Deir al-Zor: senior commander

September 24, 2017

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN (Reuters) – U.S.-backed forces said on Saturday they had seized a major natural gas field in Syria’s Deir al-Zor province from Islamic State militants in rapid advances since the start of an operation earlier this month to capture areas east of the Euphrates river.

Commander Ahmed Abu Khawla told Reuters that the Conoco gas field was the first of its kind taken by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, since it began an offensive earlier this month to capture the eastern province.

“This is the first gas or oil field in the campaign which we have liberated,” said the commander of the group whose campaign is in parallel with an ongoing battle for the nearby Raqqa city.

The Conoco field is named for the American company which discovered the gas reserves and built a processing plant there. It has been the target of U.S. strikes and was used to supply cooking gas canisters for household use. Before the conflict it supplied gas to power stations.

In Deir al-Zor, Islamic State is battling two separate offensives, one launched by the SDF and the other by the Syrian army and its allies.

Syrian troops supported by Iranian-backed militias have also crossed to the eastern side of the river, increasing their presence in an area where U.S.-backed militias have also advanced.

The assaults by the Russian-backed Syrian army and the U.S.-backed SDF have at times raised fears of clashes that could stoke tensions between the competing world powers.

Islamic State’s last major stronghold, the cities, towns and farms in the fertile strip along the Euphrates are fast becoming the focus of Syria’s war.

Abu Khawla said the Syrian army and their allies were within four km (2.5 miles) of the SDF positions.

Russia said on Thursday it had warned the United States it would target areas in Syria where U.S. special forces and U.S.-backed militia were operating if its own forces came under fire from them, something it said had already happened twice.[L5N1M235E]

The Russian warning underscored growing tensions over Syria between Moscow and Washington. While both oppose Islamic State, they are engaged, via proxies, in a race for strategic influence and potential resources in the form of oilfields in Deir al-Zor province.

The Syrian army’s command said in a statement its forces captured at least 44 villages and towns since launching two weeks ago an assault into Deir al-Zor city that ended a militant siege which had lasted three years.

On Saturday the army also announced it took Maadan town, in southern Raqqa along the provincial boundary with Deir al Zor province.

Army commanders however say militants in Hweija Sakr, southeast of the river are slowing their advance, hiding amid thick vegetation and waging hit and run ambushes and suicide bombings.

Islamic State’s Amaq newsagency said they had killed and injured at least seventy army fighters in a suicide bombing attack on an army convoy in the area.

Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State, denied that Washington was in a race with Moscow over the oil-rich province, saying contacts with the Russian military were intensifying to avoid confrontation.

“From the coalition’s perspective it has not been a race, we are not in the land-grabbing business,” Dillon told Reuters.

U.S.-backed forces were avoiding the eastern bank of Deir al-Zor city right now where the Syrian army was fighting the jihadists and seeking to expand control in the area northeast of the river still held by the militants, Dillon said.

The eventual goal was to move toward the Iraqi border near the main militant strongholds of al-Mayadeen, about 80 km (50 miles) west of the Iraqi border and al-Bukamal, both large urban centres where the Euphrates flows through.

“The SDF are not moving toward the banks of the Euphrates river right now (near the city of Deir al-Zor). They are moving east toward the Iraqi border … and continuing to push and expand into ISIS-held territory,” he added.

“Our goal as I have said a dozen times is fighting ISIS. We don’t have a fight with the (Syrian) regime. We are not in a fight with the Russians. We are there to fight ISIS and that’s what we are going to do,” the U.S. army spokesman said.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; editing by Mark Heinrich, Stephen Powell and Mary Milliken)

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Auditor says he was forced to quit Vatican after finding irregularities

September 24, 2017

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican’s first auditor-general, who resigned without explanation in June, has broken his silence, saying he was forced to step down with trumped-up accusations after discovering evidence of possible illegal activity.

Speaking to reporters from four media organizations including Reuters in the office of his lawyers in Rome, Libero Milone also said he believed that some in the Vatican wanted to slow down Pope Francis’s efforts at financial reform.

He said he could not give details of the irregularities he had found because of non-disclosure agreements. Reuters was unable to independently verify his assertions, which the Vatican strongly contested.

The Holy See’s deputy secretary of state, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, told Reuters in an interview that Milone’s claims were “false and unjustified”.

“He went against all the rules and was spying on the private lives of his superiors and staff, including me,” Becciu said. “If he had not agreed to resign, we would have prosecuted him.”

Domenico Giani, the Vatican’s police chief, told Reuters there had been “overwhelming evidence” against Milone. Neither Becciu nor Giani provided details to support their assertions.

The 69-year-old left the Vatican two years after being hired with great fanfare to introduce more transparency into the sometimes murky finances at the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

At the time of his resignation, with three years left on his contract, neither the Vatican nor Milone, formerly chairman and CEO of the global accounting firm Deloitte in Italy, gave any explanation for his departure. A Vatican statement at the time said only that it was “by mutual agreement”.

“I WAS IN SHOCK”

Milone, who had also worked for the United Nations and the car giant Fiat, said Becciu had ordered him to resign on the morning of June 19. Milone was told that he was being dismissed on the basis of a seven-month investigation by Vatican police.

“The facts presented to me on the morning of the 19th were fake, fabricated,” he said. “I was in shock. All the reasons had no credible foundation.”

Both Becciu and Giani, the police chief, said Milone had been given a choice: resign or face public prosecution by the Vatican’s courts. “In a certain sense, we were protecting his reputation,” Becciu said.

Milone said he had been accused of misuse of funds for hiring an outside firm to check the security of computers in the Vatican offices where he worked with a staff of 14, including two deputy auditors-general.

A document from the Vatican prosecutor authorizing the search of his offices on the day of his resignation, which Milone’s lawyers showed to reporters, said he had carried out investigations “in clear violation” of the statutes of his department.

It was not clear which statutes were said to have been violated. Article two of the statutes says the auditor-general has “full autonomy and independence”, including to “receive and investigate any reports on anomalous activities” of Vatican entities.

“My work has to be independent. It is very difficult to act with independence when departments blocked our activity or tried to control it,” he said.

The search warrant also said he had looked into the affairs of high-ranking Church members without authorization.

Milone said this referred to him looking into suspicions about the possible conflict of interest of an Italian cardinal, whom he declined to name. His investigation found nothing, but Milone said he believed he was being punished for starting it in the first place.

COMPUTER INFECTED

He said his troubles had begun on the morning of Sept. 27, 2015, when he suspected that his office computer had been tampered with. He contacted an external company that had done work for him before to check for surveillance devices “because there are no such specialized people” in the Vatican.

The company discovered that his computer had been the target of an unauthorized access, and that his secretary’s computer had been infected with spyware that copied files.

Reuters was not able to independently determine which company had been hired or its findings.

Becciu said there was proof that the outside contractor had been helping Milone to spy on others.

Milone said that, after about 12 hours of questioning by Vatican police, he had decided to sign a resignation letter in order to “protect my family and my reputation”.

Asked why he had waited three months before telling his side of the story, Milone said he had wanted to think “and let things settle”.

“I wrote to the pope in mid-July and gave him my point of view, explaining that the whole thing was a set-up,” he said, adding that the pope had not replied.

Becciu said the pope had been told of the investigation and the evidence before Milone was asked to resign.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Amazon affiliate to buy $27.6 million stake in Indian retailer Shoppers Stop

September 24, 2017

MUMBAI (Reuters) – An affiliate of Amazon.com Inc has agreed to buy a 1.79 billion-rupee ($27.6 million) stake in Indian retailer Shoppers Stop Ltd, the Indian company said in a filing.

Amazon.com NV Investment Holdings LLC, a foreign portfolio investor, will subscribe to about 4.4 million shares, equivalent to an about 5 percent stake, in the Indian retailer at 407.78 rupees apiece on a preferential basis, Shoppers Stop told the stock exchanges late on Saturday.

On Friday, Shoppers Stop shares had closed 3 percent lower at 418.10 rupees on the National Stock Exchange.

The Amazon affiliate will not take a board position, Shoppers Stop, which operates large department stores and other retail outlets, said in the filing.

(Reporting by Devidutta Tripathy; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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Thai junta leader, backers fuel suspicions of plans to stay in power

September 24, 2017

By Panarat Thepgumpanat, Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Panu Wongcha-um

BANGKOK (Reuters) – In his dark suit, Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha cut an incongruous figure guiding a rice tractor across a muddy paddy field in front of cameras and watching villagers.

The prime minister’s latest photo opportunity won applause from farmers watching in straw hats and his visit to Suphan Buri on Monday brought a call from a local political bigwig for him to stay in power for another decade.

Political activities in Thailand have been suspended since Prayuth’s 2014 coup, but Thai politicians are asking whether what looks like campaigning is exactly what it seems.

The trips to the countryside, a new Facebook account and a chorus of political groups offering support are raising suspicions of a plan to keep Prayuth in power even if long-promised elections happen next year.

“It’s not beyond expectations that he is out campaigning in the provinces to prepare to become prime minister again,” said Chaturon Chaisang, a leader of the Pheu Thai party, which under various names has won every election for a generation.

Since August, Prayuth has visited six provinces, including places traditionally considered important battlegrounds for elections. Such trips with his cabinet will now be monthly.

In the previous three years, he had only taken two such trips outside Bangkok.

“I am not here to make people love me, but I want everyone to love the country,” Prayuth, 63, told farmers in Suphan Buri, 100 km (60 miles) north of Bangkok.

Said 60-year-old farmer Samruay Tongpratet: “If the prime minister can truly help the poor then he can stay as long as he wants.”

Prayuth’s office declined to comment on any plan to keep him in power.

CREMATION AND CORONATION

Politics will not resume until well after the cremation next month of the revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died last October, and the subsequent coronation of his son, King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

In the meantime, Prayuth has the field to himself.

“That’s why he needed to hold these mobile cabinet meetings in the provinces, act more like a politician, hold rallies, and meet the people,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, noting the signs that Prayuth wants to stay longer.

Last month, Prayuth set up a Facebook page with pictures of him walking with his arm around a farmer’s shoulder and giving alms to monks. It now has nearly 11,000 likes.

A poll in June showed that 53 percent of Thais would like Prayuth to serve another term.

Although Thailand’s economic growth lags other countries in Southeast Asia and dissent is strongly repressed, surveys show that Prayuth’s backers welcome the stability since the coup.

Whether that calm survives electioneering is another question after over a decade of turmoil between colour-coded factions that Prayuth said he sought to end with his coup.

On one side is the ‘yellow’ Democrat Party, which is popular with middle-class voters and has strong support in Bangkok and parts of the south.

On the other side is the ‘red’ movement of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose parties appeal to poorer voters, particularly in the populous northeast.

Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was overthrown by Prayuth in the 2014 coup and last month fled Thailand ahead of a verdict in a corruption trial – eliminating a charismatic party figurehead who might also have rallied opposition to Prayuth.

‘OUTSIDE PRIME MINISTER’

Although he cannot technically stand for election because he would have needed to resign by July, a new constitution drawn up at the junta’s behest does offer him a route.

He could be chosen as an “outside prime minister” – foreseen under the constitution if the winning party fails to get enough votes for its candidate in the 500-member lower house of parliament.

In such a case, the upper house would also have a say – its 250 members will be picked by the military. Prayuth would still need support from at least half the lower house, however.

Although neither of Thailand’s two main political parties has said it would endorse him, smaller players are mobilizing.

Paiboon Nititawan, a former member of a now-defunct reform council, has set up an office for a new People’s Reform Party to back Prayuth.

Suchart Chantharachotikul, a classmate of Prayuth from military school, told Reuters he is coordinating smaller parties to form a grouping to back the junta leader.

“Prayuth’s military government isn’t perfect, but they took care of problems like unrest. It wouldn’t be so strange if he stays on for another four years,” Suchart said.

A composer of sentimental ballads, Prayuth has dropped hints in his music of a longer term political future. His latest song, “Bridge”, repeats a message that he will stay as long as it takes to steer Thailand through troubled waters.

“My two hands won’t let you go,” says one refrain.

(Writing by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Bill Tarrant)

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China to push for greater cooperation on graft, terrorism at Interpol meeting

September 24, 2017

By Ben Blanchard and Christian Shepherd

BEIJING (Reuters) – China will push for greater international cooperation in the fight against corruption and terrorism when it hosts Interpol’s general assembly next week, according to diplomatic sources familiar with the matter, against a backdrop of concerns China is using the body for its own goals.

Last year, the global police cooperation agency elected a senior Chinese public security official, Vice Public Security Minister Meng Hongwei, as its president, prompting rights groups to ask whether Beijing could try and use the position to go after dissidents abroad.

Beijing has tried for many years to enlist the help of foreign countries to arrest and deport back to China citizens it accuses of crimes including corruption and terrorism.

The three Beijing-based sources, who are familiar with the planning for the Interpol meeting, said China is likely to make these two areas its focus for the general assembly.

Beijing has faced reluctance, in Western countries in particular, when it asks for the repatriation of those wanted for alleged crimes in China. Governments and judiciary in these countries have been concerned that the Chinese don’t produce evidence acceptable for Western courts, and that defendants might be mistreated and won’t get a fair trial in China amid concerns that allegations can be politically motivated.

Western diplomats familiar with Chinese requests say China sometimes misunderstands that in Western countries it needs to process its demands through the courts.

“They’re often quite surprised to hear that we can’t simply hand them over,” said one diplomat, declining to be named given the sensitivity of the matter.

But China’s security officials have been working to understand the legal requirements of developed countries and international bodies so their requests for expedition become more palatable.

ISLAMIST MILITANTS

Beijing has also been attempting to build intelligence sharing relationships with Western countries in the fight against Islamist militants, diplomats say. China is itself battling what it says are Uighur extremists operating in its far Western region of Xinjiang.

Speaking last week, Li Shulei, who leads China’s efforts to find and return those suspected of corruption who live abroad, called for a strengthened international anti-graft cooperation framework.

“We must build a new order to fight international corruption… cut off escape routes for corrupt elements,” he told a meeting in Beijing.

China has given few details about Interpol’s general assembly, which opens in Beijing on Tuesday with a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

On the question of Meng’s influence in Interpol, the diplomats say that the position is largely ceremonial. The Lyon, France-based Interpol says its Secretary General Jürgen Stock, a German national, is the organization’s full-time chief official overseeing the day-to-day work of international police cooperation.

In 2014, China issued Interpol “red notices” for its 100 most-wanted corruption suspects who have fled overseas as part of XI’s sweeping campaign against corruption. Almost half have come back to China to date, some voluntarily, according to the government.

Interpol says “red notices” are requests to provisionally arrest suspects pending extradition, and are not international arrest warrants.

INTERPOL’S CONSTITUTION

It is up to a member state to act upon an Interpol red notice. They can be ignored if a government decides there is insufficient evidence to act upon them, diplomats say. 

There are no figures for how many red notices are ignored. Red notices themselves are often not made publicly available and it is up to the country issuing them to decide if they are publicized or not. 

Requests are carefully examined to ensure they comply with Interpol’s constitution, which bans “any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character”, Interpol said in a statement to Reuters.

“Interpol cannot insist or compel any member country to arrest an individual who is the subject of a Red Notice. Nor can Interpol require any member country to take any action in response to another member country’s request,” it said.

China has attracted criticism from rights groups for targeting in particular exiled Uighurs from Xinjiang, and accusing them of terrorism, including Dolkun Isa, the general secretary of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress.

China’s Ministry of Public Security, which is helping to organise the Beijing meeting, did not respond to requests for comment on concerns about China’s role in Interpol.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Interpol operated under the principles of professionalism and neutrality to jointly fight and prevent crime and China respected that.

IN EXILE

In April, Interpol issued a global “red notice” at Beijing’s request for Guo Wengui, a billionaire currently exiled in Manhattan, who has made claims of high-level corruption within the Communist Party.

Guo has said the red notice showed China was exerting its influence, given it had the head of Interpol, “to prevent ordinary Chinese people from blowing the whistle on official corruption while overseas”.

Maya Wang, Hong Kong-based China researcher for Human Rights Watch, said that China’s vice police chief heading Interpol can be seen as part of an overall push by Beijing to flex its international muscle.

“We have reason to worry that the internal information being shared by Interpol with the police chief may impact on particularly vulnerable minorities like the Uighurs, who have sometimes been involved in terrorism but often are targeted for political disloyalty,” said Wang, who acknowledged that so far there is little concrete evidence that this has happened.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Christian Shepherd; Editing by Tony Munroe and Martin Howell)

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A’s Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during anthem

September 24, 2017

(Reuters) – Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell joined the list of athlete protesters on Saturday when he became the first MajorLeague Baseball player to kneel during the national anthem.

Maxwell placed his hand over his heart and faced the flag as the anthem played prior to his team’s game against the Texas Rangers.

The Athletics issued a statement on Twitter that read: “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive. We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Entering Saturday the 26-year-old Maxwell has played in 71 games this season, batting .244 with three homers and 21 RBI.

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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New Zealand Labour leader says will not yet concede election

September 24, 2017

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said on Sunday it would be difficult to complete coalition talks before all votes were tallied in an election that left both major parties needing the nationalist New Zealand First party to form a government

Speaking outside her home in Auckland, Ardern told media that her centre-left party would not concede, despite lagging almost 10 points behind the incumbent National Party, which received 46 percent of the vote in Saturday’s election.

A final tally of all votes, which will include overseas ballots, will not be released until Oct. 7.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has declined to say which party he will favor to form a coalition government and reiterated that he will not rush into a decision.

(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Paul Simao)

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