World Cup host Qatar signals change

Qatar officials on Thursday promised pay guarantees and better conditions for migrant workers building infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup as they hosted a Labour Day conference to address growing international concern.

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Leading critic Amnesty International, which attended the conference, welcomed Qatar’s openness in addressing the issue but called for it go much further and reform the whole system of restrictions it imposes on expatriates who make up 93 per cent of the workforce.

The conservative Gulf states have traditionally tolerated no May Day commemorations, but the Qatari Football Association said that Thursday’s conference had been timed to coincide with “Labour Day”.

Labour and Social Affairs Minister Abdullah al-Khulaifi told the conference that Qatar was taking steps to enforce prompt payment for all workers, as well as building better accommodation and boosting the number of safety inspectors at construction sites.

“Our (Islamic) religion has ordered us to treat workers in a humane way, and not to task them with unbearable jobs… most importantly, to pay them,” Khulaifi said.

The government approved a recommendation to make the electronic transfer of wages mandatory.

The government also plans to build two new “labour cities” in Doha’s industrial zone with a capacity to house 100,000 workers.

Five other compounds aree being built elsewhere in the emirate to accommodate 120,000 workers.

Amnesty’s head of global issues, Audrey Gaughran, urged Qatar to go further and reform the sponsorship system, under which a foreign worker cannot return home without an exit permit from his Qatari sponsor, among other restrictions.

“Exit permit is a flagrant breach of human rights,” she told the forum, insisting that it should not be left in the hands of a private employer.

The 2022 World Cup has been plagued by controversy ever since it was awarded to the tiny Gulf state.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has called for the tournament to be played during the northern hemisphere’s winter rather than in the searing heat of a Gulf summer.

But he has met fierce resistance from the big European leagues.

World Cup host Qatar signals change

Qatar officials on Thursday promised pay guarantees and better conditions for migrant workers building infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup as they hosted a Labour Day conference to address growing international concern.

南宁桑拿

Leading critic Amnesty International, which attended the conference, welcomed Qatar’s openness in addressing the issue but called for it go much further and reform the whole system of restrictions it imposes on expatriates who make up 93 per cent of the workforce.

The conservative Gulf states have traditionally tolerated no May Day commemorations, but the Qatari Football Association said that Thursday’s conference had been timed to coincide with “Labour Day”.

Labour and Social Affairs Minister Abdullah al-Khulaifi told the conference that Qatar was taking steps to enforce prompt payment for all workers, as well as building better accommodation and boosting the number of safety inspectors at construction sites.

“Our (Islamic) religion has ordered us to treat workers in a humane way, and not to task them with unbearable jobs… most importantly, to pay them,” Khulaifi said.

The government approved a recommendation to make the electronic transfer of wages mandatory.

The government also plans to build two new “labour cities” in Doha’s industrial zone with a capacity to house 100,000 workers.

Five other compounds aree being built elsewhere in the emirate to accommodate 120,000 workers.

Amnesty’s head of global issues, Audrey Gaughran, urged Qatar to go further and reform the sponsorship system, under which a foreign worker cannot return home without an exit permit from his Qatari sponsor, among other restrictions.

“Exit permit is a flagrant breach of human rights,” she told the forum, insisting that it should not be left in the hands of a private employer.

The 2022 World Cup has been plagued by controversy ever since it was awarded to the tiny Gulf state.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has called for the tournament to be played during the northern hemisphere’s winter rather than in the searing heat of a Gulf summer.

But he has met fierce resistance from the big European leagues.

Portugal eyes exit from bailout program

Portugal’s prime minister has given his clearest indication yet that the country will follow Ireland’s example by exiting its 78-billion-euros ($A117-billion) international bailout without a credit lifeline.

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“The path Portugal has followed until now will today allow us to go forward on our own means,” Pedro Passos Coelho said on Thursday during a speech in Lisbon to mark Labour Day.

A clean exit for Portugal would mark a remarkable turnaround from a year ago, when the country was gripped by a deep political crisis over its austerity measures that dented investor confidence.

Lisbon will officially announce its decision this weekend.

Portugal will be the second eurozone nation to emerge from European Union-IMF bailouts, which have forced crisis-hit governments to apply deeply unpopular cuts to rein in bulging public deficits.

But unlike Ireland, which exited its bailout in December, the country has already managed to return to debt markets before its aid program ends on May 17.

Lisbon on April 23 took its final step in its return to normal financing in international markets with its first regular issue of long-term debt since 2011.

In a sign of improving investor confidence, the yield on Portugal’s bonds dropped to its lowest point since 2006 this month at 3.6 per cent, down from more than 18 per cent at the height of the crisis.

“The stars are aligned very much that Portugal will opt for a Irish-style ‘naked exit’,” said David Schnautz, an analyst at Commerzbank.

“Even without explicit support in the form of a precautionary credit line or something similar, in case need be, the implicit support can very likely still turned into an explicit one.”

The decision comes after representatives of the so-called troika of international creditors – the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, the European Central Bank – finished their final evaluation of the country’s compliance with the terms of the bailout.

Germany, the eurozone’s largest economy, has already made it clear it would prefer Portugal to make an outright exit without any standby loans – particularly ahead of European elections next month.

Ayrton Senna remembered: Formula One, fans pay tribute 20 years on

 

They thronged the track to observe a minute’s silence at the Tamburello corner at 2.

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17 p.m., the moment the Brazilian’s Williams ploughed into the wall while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

Many carried flags and some pointed to the sky, as Senna did when he won, in remembrance before breaking into applause when the minute ended.

Austrian rookie Roland Ratzenberger had died the day before Senna, when he crashed during qualifying, and the two remain the last driver fatalities during a grand prix weekend.

The circuit near Bologna was opened to the public with tribute events scheduled in Imola, including a memorial football match and the naming of a square, over the next four days. According to organisers, some 20,000 people attended on Thursday.

A mass, attended by Ratzenberger’s parents, was held on Wednesday night.

“It’s so emotional for us because it’s a long time and still the love from the people is very alive,” Senna’s niece Paula, representing the family, told Reuters Television.

“It seems like Ayrton is living inside people’s hearts, so it’s beautiful.”

Current Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, as well as Senna’s friend and former McLaren team mate Gerhard Berger, were among those present at the track named after the late Enzo Ferrari and son Dino.

“For me he was an idol. I was a kid who rode karts, and back then I watched the news and saw that it was always him winning with his yellow helmet on,” said double world champion Alonso, who was 12 when Senna died. “That was what hit me the most.

“I had his poster on my wardrobe and it’s a shame that I never got to know him or race against him, but the number of people here at Imola… is a testament to his impact. He will always be immortal.”

Senna’s favourite Sao Paulo soccer team Corinthians donned replicas of his distinctive yellow, green and black helmet before the start of a Cup match against Nacional in Manaus on Wednesday.

Social media was flooded with tributes, recollections and an outpouring of affection for a driver held up as one of the greatest of champions, if not the greatest.

“He was the best and most charismatic race driver F1 has ever had,” said Austria’s triple champion Niki Lauda, now non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team. “He had personality, he was fast and he had charisma. No wonder that he won everything.”

Italian MotoGP great Valentino Rossi spoke on Twitter of Senna as “an inspiration, and even if 20 years have passed his spirit lives on in all racing riders and drivers.”

Jean Todt, the president of the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA), said in an address delivered on his behalf that the fight to improve safety would never cease and there could be no complacency.

“No matter how secure we may feel that injuries and fatalities are a thing of the past, the battle for completely safe racing is never won,” he said.

“The untimely deaths of these two superb sportsmen served as a wake-up call for all of us,” added the Frenchman.

“Perhaps the greatest legacy of Ayrton and Roland is that in the wake of that dark weekend in 1994, the pursuit of safer motor sport, in all its forms, received greater impetus than ever before.”

 

(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Death by stoning to take effect in Brunei

Brunei’s all-powerful Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah had announced on Wednesday that he would push ahead with the introduction of the new criminal code that has sparked rare domestic criticism of the fabulously wealthy ruler and international condemnation.

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The initial phase beginning Thursday introduces fines or jail terms for offences including indecent behaviour, failure to attend Friday prayers, and out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

   

There were no known events to mark Thursday’s implementation.

   

A second phase covering crimes such as theft and robbery is to start later this year, involving more stringent penalties such as severing of limbs and flogging.

   

Late next year, punishments such as death by stoning for offences including sodomy and adultery will be introduced.

   

The sultan — one of the world’s wealthiest men — had announced the implementation last year.

   

He first called for the penal code in the late 1990s and has increasingly voiced plans to strengthen Islam’s role in the already conservative, energy-rich Muslim country on Borneo island.

   

But the plans by the revered father-figure monarch triggered unprecedented criticism earlier this year on Brunei’s active social media, though the move appears to enjoy broad support, especially among Muslim ethnic Malays, who make up about 70 percent of the population.

   

The UN’s human rights office and various international rights and legal activist groups also have condemned the move as out of step with modern society.

   

Brunei is the first country in East or Southeast Asia to introduce a sharia penal code on a national level, joining several mostly Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran.

   

Attorney General Hayati Salleh late on Wednesday sought to ease concerns over the code’s implementation, stressing that sharia cases will face high burdens of proof before the tough penalties are imposed.

   

“It is crucial that we, and the international community, understand these distinctions and not focus solely on the punishments but rather, on the evidence-gathering process that is complicated and strict,” she said.

   

The monarch’s wealth — estimated three years ago at $20 billion by Forbes magazine — is legendary with reports of a vast collection of luxury vehicles and huge, gold-bedecked palaces.

   

The monarchy was deeply embarrassed by a sensational family feud between Hassanal and his younger brother Jefri Bolkiah over the latter’s alleged embezzlement of $15 billion during his tenure as finance minister in the 1990s.

   

Court battles and investigations revealed salacious details of Jefri’s un-Islamic jet-set lifestyle, including allegations of a high-priced harem of Western women and a luxury yacht he owned called “Tits”.

Unbeaten Mayweather says Maidana no pushover

Not only is the experienced American widely regarded as one of the best defensive fighters of all time but he is a natural welterweight whereas many critics believe that Maidana moved up too quickly from the 130-pound level to the 147-pound division.

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“Everybody thinks he’s just going to be a pushover, but I don’t think so,” Mayweather, 37, told reporters while preparing for Saturday’s showdown. “That’s why I’m training hard and I’m pushing myself to the limit every day.

“If he brings his best, maybe he will be the first guy that actually makes me dig in my bag of tricks and pull out my ‘A’ game.

“Hopefully he will make me bring out my ‘A’ game because my whole career all I had to use was a ‘D’ and ‘C’ game to beat every guy.”

Maidana, who won his most recent bout in December with a unanimous decision against the heavily favoured American Adrien Broner to claim the WBA welterweight title, is known for his all-round skill and blistering power.

Asked what he thought the Argentine slugger did best in the ring, Mayweather replied: “Well, he punches extremely hard if he has an 80 percent knockout ratio.

“That’s obviously his best attribute, but a lot of times when a guy’s swinging a lot of big shots and they’re not landing, you get fatigued like that.

“I may be the hardest puncher he ever fought. He hasn’t been hit by me yet, so we’ll just have to see if he’s the hardest puncher.”

STAYING PATIENT

Mayweather, who outboxed Saul Canelo Alvarez in his most recent bout in September to take the Mexican’s WBA and WBC super welterweight titles, has repeatedly spoken about the need for patience against Maidana.

“Maidana is hungry, he’s ready and he has a great knockout ratio,” said the brash American, who is nicknamed “Money” for his flamboyant and often extravagant lifestyle. “It’s all about keeping composure and sticking to the game plan.

“We’re going to take our time, go out there and if a guy leaves an opening on his face, we’re going to take it, if he leaves an opening on his body we’re going to take it.

“But we can’t just say we’re going to go in there and everything is going to go to the body. We’re going to take our time and pick the guy apart. I’m naturally the bigger guy because I’ve been at 147 almost 10 years now.”

Maidana, 30, has an impressive professional record of 35-3 with 31 knockouts and oozed confidence ahead of Saturday’s fight while readily conceding he is a big underdog.

“I know people think I’m going to lose, but I come to win and I’m not afraid of anybody or anything,” said the Argentine. “I have the support of the Latino people and I’m coming to win.”

Saturday’s fight, scheduled for 12 rounds, will unify the WBC welterweight title held by Mayweather and Maidana’s WBA welterweight crown.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)

UK denies claim Gerry Adams’ arrest is politically motivated

The British and Irish governments have denied that the arrest of republican leader Gerry Adams is politically motivated, as Northern Ireland police questioned him over a notorious IRA murder.

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The Sinn Fein president, who played a leading role in the peace process in the troubled British province, was arrested on Wednesday night over the killing of mother-of-10 Jean McConville in 1972.

Adams, 65, strongly denied involvement in one of the most infamous incidents of the so-called Troubles in Northern Ireland and questioned the timing of the arrest before local and European elections.

“While I have never disassociated myself from the IRA and I never will, I am innocent of any part in the abduction, killing or burial of Mrs McConville,” Adams said.

Police must charge or release him by Friday night.

McConville, 37, was snatched from her home in west Belfast in front of her screaming children, becoming one of more than a dozen so-called “disappeared” of the conflict.

Her body was found on a beach, shot in the back of the head, in 2003.

Sinn Fein was once the political arm of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the now disbanded paramilitary group which waged a bloody campaign over three decades for Northern Ireland to become part of Ireland.

The party now shares power with its old foe, the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), in a devolved government in Belfast and Sinn Fein member Martin McGuinness is deputy first minister.

McGuinness, a former IRA commander, accused a section of the police of trying to undermine the party with the “malicious” allegations and said the arrest was a “deliberate attempt to influence the outcome of the elections in three weeks time.”

The British and Irish governments, which worked together on the 1998 Good Friday peace accords that largely ended the violence, tried to calm rising tensions.

“There has been absolutely no political interference in this issue,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said.

His Irish counterpart, Enda Kenny, added: “All I can say is that I hope the president of Sinn Fein answers in the best way he can, to the fullest extent that he can, questions that are being asked about a live murder investigation.”

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, leader of the DUP, said the arrest proved that “no one is above the law”.

“It would be political policing if the police had information and didn’t follow it up because of the political profile of an individual,” Robinson said.

The IRA had wrongly accused McConville of being an informer for the British army, but finally admitted her murder in 1999.

Her son Michael, who was 11 years old when he watched his mother being dragged away, said he was pleased the police were “doing their job”, but admitted in a BBC interview that he still refused to name the people he saw, saying he still feared reprisals.

Nobody has been convicted of McConville’s murder.

Sopoaga fulfilling Super potential: coach

Highlanders five-eighth Lima Sopoaga is benefiting from regular rugby which could yet thrust him into the international frame according to coach Jamie Joseph.

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Sopoaga and All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith have started all eight games together in a resurgent Super Rugby campaign for the Highlanders who are seventh and revelling in a three-game winning streak.

The pair will again be key figures when they face the last-placed Stormers in Cape Town on Sunday (NZT).

Joseph is delighted Sopoaga, 23, is fulfilling his potential after three injury-plagued seasons with the southerners.

He started six games in 2011 and only two in each of the past two seasons as he has battled major shoulder and ankle problems.

“He’s had a bad run but he’s in good nick physically and mentally and he’s building on the good form he showed during the pre-season,” Joseph said.

“Players the same age like Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett have developed into good All Blacks (five-eighths) and I’m sure Lima will have that at the back of his mind.”

Joseph, who coached Sopoaga at NPC level in Wellington, lured the playmaker south and has enjoyed watching him race towards the Highlanders’ pointscoring record for a season.

With at least eight games remaining he is just 27 points short of the 150 points scored by former All Blacks pivot Tony Brown in 2000.

Sopoaga kicked six-from-six in their upset win over the Sharks in Durban last week, lifting his success rate this year to an excellent 88 per cent.

Of equal importance has been his maturity in controlling games, through clever option-taking and astute tactical kicking.

Joseph is wary of the Stormers, who he says are far better than their table position suggests.

The hosts have lost six of their last seven games but are boosted this week by the return from injury of bruising Springboks flanker Schalk Burger among four changes.

The Highlanders have made three starting changes from the team who stunned the Sharks 34-18.

Wing Trent Renata, flanker John Hardie and lock Josh Bekhuis replace Patrick Osborne, Shane Christie and Jarrad Hoeata respectively.

Former Crusaders prop Chris King will play his 100th game for the Highlanders.

Few surprises in first England squad

England’s first cricket squad since Peter Moores was re-appointed as head coach has several familiar faces in a 13-man party for the one-day international in Scotland.

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Nottinghamshire left-arm seamer Harry Gurney was the only uncapped player selected for the match in Aberdeen on May 9, although he did tour the West Indies with England earlier this year.

Two relative novices in batsmen Moeen Ali and Gary Ballance retained their places in a squad again captained by opener Alastair Cook.

This was the first squad chosen by the new England selection panel headed by former Test batsman James Whitaker that also includes Moores, Middlesex coach Angus Fraser and Nottinghamshire boss Mick Newell.

There were no favours for players at those counties with Middlesex fast bowler Steven Finn, back in the wickets after a wretched tour of Australia, was left out of this squad.

So too were Nottinghamshire batsmen Alex Hales and Michael Lumb, even though the former made England’s first Twenty20 hundred during the recent World Twenty20 in Bangladesh and the latter a hundred on his ODI debut in February.

Their county colleague Gurney was one of just three specialist seamers included alongside veteran paceman James Anderson, called up for one-day duty for the first time since the 2013 season in England, and Sussex’s Chris Jordan.

Stuart Broad continues to be sidelined with a knee injury while Tim Bresnan has yet to play first-team cricket for Yorkshire this season.

All-rounder Ben Stokes is still out with the broken wrist he suffered punching a dressing-room locker in the Caribbean and his absence has paved the way for a recall of Chris Woakes.

The batting has a more settled look with Cook supported by several seasoned internationals in Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara and Joe Root, who showed he’d recovered from a thumb injury playing for Yorkshire against Middlesex this week.

Lancashire’s Jos Buttler retained his place as England one-day international wicketkeeper with Kent’s James Tredwell holding on to the first choice off-spinner role that has been his since Graeme Swann’s retirement.

The squad will meet at England’s Loughborough practice base in the English Midlands for two days’ training before heading to Scotland and will not be available to play in the round of County Championship fixtures starting on May 4.

England squad: Alastair Cook (Essex, capt), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), James Anderson (Lancashire), Gary Ballance (Yorkshire), Ian Bell (Warwickshire), Ravi Bopara (Essex), Jos Buttler (Lancashire, wkt), Harry Gurney (Nottinghamshire), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Eoin Morgan (Middlesex), Joe Root (Yorkshire), James Tredwell (Kent), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire).

Few surprises in first England squad

England’s first cricket squad since Peter Moores was re-appointed as head coach has several familiar faces in a 13-man party for the one-day international in Scotland.

南宁桑拿

Nottinghamshire left-arm seamer Harry Gurney was the only uncapped player selected for the match in Aberdeen on May 9, although he did tour the West Indies with England earlier this year.

Two relative novices in batsmen Moeen Ali and Gary Ballance retained their places in a squad again captained by opener Alastair Cook.

This was the first squad chosen by the new England selection panel headed by former Test batsman James Whitaker that also includes Moores, Middlesex coach Angus Fraser and Nottinghamshire boss Mick Newell.

There were no favours for players at those counties with Middlesex fast bowler Steven Finn, back in the wickets after a wretched tour of Australia, was left out of this squad.

So too were Nottinghamshire batsmen Alex Hales and Michael Lumb, even though the former made England’s first Twenty20 hundred during the recent World Twenty20 in Bangladesh and the latter a hundred on his ODI debut in February.

Their county colleague Gurney was one of just three specialist seamers included alongside veteran paceman James Anderson, called up for one-day duty for the first time since the 2013 season in England, and Sussex’s Chris Jordan.

Stuart Broad continues to be sidelined with a knee injury while Tim Bresnan has yet to play first-team cricket for Yorkshire this season.

All-rounder Ben Stokes is still out with the broken wrist he suffered punching a dressing-room locker in the Caribbean and his absence has paved the way for a recall of Chris Woakes.

The batting has a more settled look with Cook supported by several seasoned internationals in Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara and Joe Root, who showed he’d recovered from a thumb injury playing for Yorkshire against Middlesex this week.

Lancashire’s Jos Buttler retained his place as England one-day international wicketkeeper with Kent’s James Tredwell holding on to the first choice off-spinner role that has been his since Graeme Swann’s retirement.

The squad will meet at England’s Loughborough practice base in the English Midlands for two days’ training before heading to Scotland and will not be available to play in the round of County Championship fixtures starting on May 4.

England squad: Alastair Cook (Essex, capt), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), James Anderson (Lancashire), Gary Ballance (Yorkshire), Ian Bell (Warwickshire), Ravi Bopara (Essex), Jos Buttler (Lancashire, wkt), Harry Gurney (Nottinghamshire), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Eoin Morgan (Middlesex), Joe Root (Yorkshire), James Tredwell (Kent), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire).