Cameroon World Cup Squad Refuse to Board Plane to Brazil

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Cameroonian international players missed their scheduled flight to Brazil on Sunday morning and reports from L’Equipe state that they are staging a protest over promised bonuses that they have not received from the Cameroonian Football Association.

The players who had been on strike suspended their protest on May 23rd in order to get match preparation ahead of the World Cup, but the players have not come to a satisfactory agreement with the CFA since their strike was suspended. The Prime Minister of Cameroon, Philemone Yang, was publicly humiliated by the squad after they refused to accept the Cameroonian flag from him to take to Brazil in a pre-tournament ceremony, as is tradition.

EuroSport is reporting that a deal is on the table where the players would receive up to 50 percent of the Fifa allocated prize money should they reach the final. While that might seem a good deal, players are upset that they would receive only six percent of the prize money should they not get out of the group stage.

The Cameroon FA is no stranger to player protest, having dealt with a similar issue in 2002 and again in 2011 when the squad refused to play in a match that had been scheduled against Algeria.

There is a possibility that the Indomitable Lions will miss out on the tournament altogether, unless an agreement can be reached soon.

Oliver Stone to make Snowden film

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Oliver Stone is to make a film about fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, based on a book by a British journalist, it was announced Monday.

Luke Harding, the author of “The Snowden Files: The Inside Story Of The World’s Most Wanted Man”, said on Twitter that the US film-maker has bought the movie rights to the book.

Harding, who writes for British newspaper The Guardian, said Stone would write and direct the film with his long-term producing partner Moritz Borman.

“I’m thrilled and delighted,” the journalist said.

Stone, an Oscar-winning director whose films include “Wall Street”, “JFK”, and “Nixon”, said he was looking forward to making the film.

“This is one of the greatest stories of our time. A real challenge,” he said.

The Guardian said Stone had begun writing the screenplay, while Borman was “fast-tracking it as a major European co-production” to start filming before the end of the year.

Harding and other Guardian journalists are due to act as production and story consultants.

“The story of Edward Snowden is truly extraordinary, and the unprecedented revelations he brought to light have forever transformed our understanding of — and relationship with — government and technology,” said Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian’s editor-in-chief.

“We’re delighted to be working with Oliver Stone and Moritz Borman on the film.”

Snowden is wanted by the American authorities for leaking series of US intelligence secrets, and is currently living in Russia. His US passport has been revoked.

Snowden has said he is open to the possibility of clemency or amnesty and would like to return home one day.

But he maintains he carried out a patriotic act by exposing huge surveillance dragnets he said infringed the US Constitution.

Washington says Snowden is welcome to return home but only to face trial for exposing sensitive top secret information it says aided US enemies.

The Stone film is not the only one being made about Snowden, based on a Guardian writer’s book.

Sony Pictures Entertainment said last month it has acquired the rights to the new book by Glenn Greenwald, who led the Pulitzer Prize-winning team at The Guardian that covered the story.

James Bond franchise producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli will make the movie version of “No Place to Hide”, described as “a political film that will resonate with today’s moviegoers.”

Asia shares edged lower ahead of US jobs figures

Asian shares dipped Thursday as investors brushed off another record close on Wall Street ahead of the release of closely watched US jobs data.

The euro also faced further selling pressure owing to expectations the European Central Bank will further cut interest rates and unveil other monetary easing measures to fend off deflation and support the economy.

Tokyo and Hong Kong were flat, Sydney slipped 0.51 percent, Shanghai eased 0.18 percent and Seoul was 0.56 percent lower.

US shares ticked up on Wednesday after broadly upbeat data. The Institute for Supply Management said activity in the services sector, accounting for 80 percent of the US economy, surged in May.

Also, the Federal Reserve´s “Beige Book” report said all 12 districts of the country saw increasing economic activity in recent weeks. That compares with April´s report, which showed two districts saw a decline in activity.

However, payrolls company ADP said the US private sector created a net 179,000 new jobs in May, its lowest level in four months.

The S&P 500 rose 0.18 percent to end at another record high, while the Dow edged up 0.07 percent and the tech-rich Nasdaq gained 0.41 percent.

On currency markets the euro edged lower prior to the ECB policy meeting later Thursday when it is widely expected to cut rates to historic lows. The bank is under pressure to tackle anaemic price rises and the threat of deflation.

Official data Tuesday showed eurozone inflation slowed to 0.5 percent in May, from 0.7 percent in April and far weaker than the ECB´s target of just below 2.0 percent.

There is speculation that it could introduce a number of unconventional measures, such as lowering the deposit rate to negative levels and begin asset purchases similar to that carried out by the Fed.

The euro bought $1.3596 against $1.3599 in New York, while it slipped to 139.46 yen from 139.68 yen.

The dollar was quoted at 102.60 yen compared with 102.74 yen.

Oil prices dip on hopes of Ukraine crisis easing

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Oil prices dipped in Asia Thursday after Russian President Vladimir Putin held out a hand to crisis-hit Ukraine, raising hopes of an easing in the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War. US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate for delivery in July, eased 33 cents to $102.31 a barrel while Brent North Sea crude for July was down 17 cents at $108.23 in afternoon trade.

“Benchmark prices fell due to the easing of tensions between Ukraine and Russia,” said Sanjeev Gupta, head of the Asia-Pacific oil and gas practice at consultancy firm EY.

Speaking to French media Wednesday, Putin said he was ready to meet Ukraine´s newly elected president Petro Poroshenko as well as Western European leaders at the sidelines of World War II ceremonies in Normandy, France. Group of Seven leaders, meeting without Putin as Russia was ejected from the G8 grouping in March, however urged Moscow to stop destablising Ukraine or face further sanctions.

The West has accused Russia of fomenting unrest in neighbouring Ukraine since the ousting of pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovych in February. Moscow denies the allegation.

Investors fear a full-blown conflict in the ex-Soviet state, a conduit for a quarter of European gas imports from Russia, will disrupt supplies and send energy prices soaring.

Analysts said oil prices were also under pressure as dealers digested a mixed US supply report.

The Department of Energy on Wednesday said commercial crude stocks fell 3.4 million barrels last week, far more than expectations for a fall of 100,000.But gasoline stocks rose 200,000 barrels and distillate stocks jumped two million barrels; the latter was far above the 700,000 rise projected by analysts.

The surprisingly higher stocks of gasoline and other refined products suggested “weak demand during the Memorial Day weekend, which was the unofficial kickoff of the annual US summer driving season,” Singapore´s United Overseas Bank said in a note to investors.

De Villiers named Cricketer of the Year

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Just over a day after being passed over for his country´s Test captaincy, AB de Villiers was named South African Cricketer of the Year on Wednesday night.

De Villiers edged out four other candidates, including new Test captain Hashim Amla, for the top award.
The other nominees were fast bowler Dale Steyn, batsman JP Duminy and rising prodigy Quinton de Kock.De Villiers also collected the award for Test Cricketer of the Year.

It was the first time De Villiers, 30, had won the top award. Amla was the winner in 2013.
De Villiers was in prolific run-scoring form during the year which started in June 2013. He was South Africa´s leading run-scorer in Tests, in which he scored 804 runs at an average of 67.00, and one-day internationals, in which he hit 789 runs at an average of 43.83 with a strike rate of 99.24.

De Villiers was pipped for the first time in six years for the One-Day International Cricketer of the Year award, which went to De Kock, who hit three centuries in successive matches against India and racked up 664 runs at an average of 55.33.

Leg-spinner Imran Tahir was named Twenty20 International Cricketer of the Year. He was South Africa´s leading wicket-taker in the shortest form of the game and starred in the World T20 in Bangladesh, taking 12 wickets at an average of 10.91. (AFP)

Costa undergoes Chelsea medical – reports

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Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa has completed a medical examination with a view to joining Premier League giants Chelsea, according to reports in the British media on Wednesday.

The BBC and The Guardian both claimed that the Brazil-born player, who is currently preparing for the World Cup with Spain in the United States, is now close to completing a move to Stamford Bridge.

Costa, 25, is expected to cost Chelsea around £32 million ($53.6 million, 39.4 million euros).The rugged centre-forward scored 27 league goals and eight Champions League goals last season for Atletico, who won La Liga and were beaten 4-1 by Real Madrid in the Champions League final in Lisbon.

He notably scored from the penalty spot during Atletico´s 3-1 Champions League semi-final victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Costa began his European career with Portuguese club Sporting Braga and initially joined Atletico in 2007. After loan spells with Celta Vigo and Albacete and a season at Real Valladolid, he returned to Atletico in 2010, spending another period on loan at Rayo Vallecano in early 2012.

His time in Spain enabled him to acquire Spanish nationality and despite having made two friendly appearances for Brazil in March 2013, he decided to commit himself to Spain later that year.

Costa made his Spain debut in a friendly against Italy in March this year, playing for the full 90 minutes in a 1-0 victory at Atletico´s Vicente Calderon Stadium.

He is expected to lead the line for Spain at the World Cup in Brazil, although he is battling an ongoing hamstring problem that forced him off in the early stages of last month´s Champions League final. (AFP)

Sharapova overpowers Bouchard in Paris

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Maria Sharapova reached the final of the French Open for the third straight year at Roland Garros on Thursday, digging deep to see off the youthful challenge of Canada´s Eugenie Bouchard.

The 27-year-old, seventh seed once again did it the hard way, battling back from a set down to edge the 20-year-old from Montreal 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in a match full of beefy baseline shot-making.

It was the 19th time in a row that the never-say-die Sharapova had won a three-set match on clay, dating back to a loss against Justine Henin at Roland Garros in 2010.

On Saturday she will take on the winner of the other semi-final opposing fourth seed Simona Halep of Romania and Andrea Petkovic of Germany.

For the fast-rising Bouchard, it represents the second time she has reached a Grand Slam semi-final, after this year´s Australian Open, and the second time she has failed to go a step further, having lost to eventual champion Li Na in Melbourne. “She played an unbelievable match. Her level was extremely high today and I am just fortunate to be the winner,” Sharapova said. “I would prefer to win in two sets, but she started so well. It was tough losing the first set, but that´s not when the match is over.”

Both players had been guilty of slow starts earlier in the tournament, but the quality from both was high from the start as the sunshine returned to light up the centre court.

Bouchard broke first to lead 3-1, but amid some hefty baseline shot-making, the Russian was soon back on level terms at 4-4.Bouchard, the WTA Newcomer of the Year in 2013, then produced an inspired game to stun her girlhood idol Sharapova, breaking serve and then holding to take the first set 6-4 in 44 minutes. But Sharapova is seldom as dangerous as when she is behind, especially on clay, as shown in her two previous matches when she dropped the opening set to Samantha Stosur and then Garbine Muguruza.

Seeking a fifth Grand Slam title, having completed a career Grand Slam sweep in Paris two years ago, Sharapova jumped out into a 4-1 and then 5-2 lead in the second set. But as so often in the past, Sharapova´s wobbly serve let her down and she let slip four set points, twice due to double faults, as Bouchard battled back to level at 5-5.

Sharapova was in big trouble, but once again she found a way of digging her way out of it, holding serve and then levelling the score by bagging her sixth set point in the following game.

Once again, Sharapova´s drive and determination allowed her to dominate the deciding set with Bouchard struggling to stay with the Russian superstar now in overdrive.

Sharapova grabbed a vital break in the third game to lead 4-1 and raced away with the tie as Bouchard wilted, although the Russian still needed five match points to get the job done.(AFP)

Halep sets up Sharapova Paris showdown

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Simona Halep became the first Romanian woman to reach a Grand Slam final in 34 years Thursday when she beat Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) to set-up a French Open title clash against Maria Sharapova.

The 22-year-old fourth seed swept to victory in 90 minutes. The last Romanian in a final at a major was Halep´s manager Virginia Ruzici, who was champion at Roland Garros in 1978 and then finished runner-up two years later to Chris Evert.

The former world junior number one had never previously got beyond the second round in Paris, but the woman voted the most improved player of 2013 has raced through the tournament without losing a set.

Despite her higher ranking, Halep will start as the outsider against seventh seed Sharapova in Saturday´s final.

The Russian is in her third Roland Garros championship match having won the title in 2012 and holds a 3-0 winning record over Halep although the Romanian pushed her to three sets in the Madrid claycourt final earlier this year. “It´s very emotional to win and reach my first Grand Slam final,” said Halep. “Andrea´s a great player but I think I was a little bit stronger. I tried my best and did everything I could to win the match.”

She knows she will have to step up her performance against four-time major winner Sharapova who made the final for the third year in succession with a three-set win over Canada´s Eugenie Bouchard. (AFP)

Yemen says 500 Qaeda militants killed in 5-week offensive

Yemeni forces have killed 500 suspected Al-Qaeda militants in an all-out offensive against them in their southern strongholds that began on April 29, the army spokesman said Thursday.

Forty soldiers were killed and another 100 wounded in the operation in the provinces of Shabwa and Abyan, in which 39 militants were captured, Colonel Saeed al-Fakeih told reporters. “We will press on with our war against Al-Qaeda, especially in the regions that (militants) fled to,” he said.

The army launched the offensive against Al-Qaeda in Shabwa and neighbouring Abyan in a bid to expel its forces from smaller towns and villages that escaped a previous sweep in 2012.Troops and militia have entered a series of towns, but analysts say their advances could be the result of a tactical retreat by the militants in coordination with local tribes.

Taking advantage of a collapse of central authority during a 2011 uprising that forced veteran strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh from power, Al-Qaeda seized large swathes of the south and east.

They remain deeply entrenched in Hadramawt province further east, where they have carried out a series of spectacular attacks in recent months.

China´s richest man buys star Madrid skyscraper

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China´s richest man Wang Jianlin has bought a historic Madrid skyscraper which has stood empty for years from Spain´s biggest bank Santander for 265 million euros ($360 million), the bank said Thursday.

The 25-story tower of offices and apartments, completed in 1953 under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, dominates one end of the Plaza de Espana square in western Madrid.

It has stood empty since 2006, a symbol of the 2008 real estate collapse that thrust Spain into a double recession that wiped out millions of jobs.

Spanish officials had expressed hope that the sale of the building would breathe new life into the neighbourhood, a key part of the city.Santander said it sold the white and red brick Edificio Espana to Renville Invest, a subsidiary of Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda which is chaired by Wang.

The bank paid 389 million euros for the red and white brick building in 2007, just before Spain´s decade-long building boom went bust, but in a statement it said the impact of the sale on its results and capital would be “immaterial”.

Wang, formerly a senior member of China´s ruling Communist Party, was ranked the richest man in China and 26th richest in the world, with personal wealth estimated at $14 billion, business magazine Forbes reported in February.