Channel NewsAsiahttp://www.channelnewsasia.comChannel NewsAsia Singapore was established in March 1999 by MediaCorp, and is an English language Asian TV News channel. Positioned to Understand Asia, it reports on global developments with Asian perspectives. Channel NewsAsia brings viewers not only the latest news but also the stories behind the headlines.http://www.channelnewsasia.com/blob/373956/1358751401000/rss-feed-top-mcnilogo-gif-data.gifChannel NewsAsiahttp://www.channelnewsasia.com129137en-usChina puts temporary ban on North Korean coal importshttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/china-puts-temporary-ban-on-north-korean-coal-imports/3359090.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/china-puts-temporary-ban-on-north-korean-coal-imports/3359090.html?cid=cna_flip_070214Asia PacificSun, 11 Dec 2016 15:40:17 +0800BEIJING: China's Commerce Ministry said it will put a temporary ban on imports of North Korean coal as part of a U.N. Security Council resolution meant to deter Pyongyang from pursuing its nuclear weapons programme.

The 15-member Security Council late last month put new sanctions on North Korea aimed at cutting its annual export revenue by a quarter after it carried out its fifth and largest nuclear test so far in September.

North Koreans wash collected coal cinder in a river at the North Korean town of Sinuiju

"To implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 2321, according to the People's Republic of China's Foreign Trade Law, imports of coal produced in North Korea temporarily will be stopped," the ministry said in a short statement on its website on Saturday.

China, believed to be the only country buying North Korean coal, would slash its imports by some US$700 million (557 million pounds) compared with 2015 sales under the new sanctions, according to diplomats.

Despite its recent anger at Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests, Beijing remains North Korea's most important economic and diplomatic backer and it frequently comes under suspicion for not properly enforcing sanctions.

It said the ban will be in effect until the end of the year, though coal shipped before Dec. 11 that was yet arrive at Chinese customs would be exempt.

Over the first 10 months of this year, China imported 18.6 million tonnes of coal from North Korea, up almost 13 percent from a year ago.

Coal is one of North Korea's only sources of hard currency and its largest single export item.

North Korea has said any sanctions against its missile or nuclear programmes are a violation of its sovereignty and right to self-defence.

It is technically still at war with democratic South Korea because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The North regularly threatens to destroy the South and the South's main ally, the United States.

Pyongyang has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear and ballistic missile tests. It conducted its latest nuclear test on Sept. 9.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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Suicide car bomb at Somalia port kills at least four - policehttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/suicide-car-bomb-at-somalia-port-kills-at-least-four-police/3359040.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/suicide-car-bomb-at-somalia-port-kills-at-least-four-police/3359040.html?cid=cna_flip_070214WorldSun, 11 Dec 2016 14:55:47 +0800MOGADISHU: A suicide car bomb that went off at the entrance of Somalia's biggest port in its capital Mogadishu on Sunday has killed at least four people, police said.

"It was a heavily-loaded suicide car bomb. So far, we have counted four civilians dead and seven others injured," Major Abdullahi Ali, a police officer responding to the attack, told Reuters.

"Some people are missing and so the death toll may rise," he said, adding the blast had destroyed nearby shops.

The bodies of four victims could be seen strewn outside the facility, in a street filled with rubble from damaged tea shops, according to Reuters witnesses.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility though the al Shabaab militant group has been carrying out a series of deadly attacks in Somalia.

Mohamed Hussein, a port employee, told Reuters gunfire had followed the blast.

A port official, who did not want to be named, said activity at the port has been halted, while another employee, who also did not want to be named, said workers were sent home after the attack.

Al Shabaab's insurgency aims to drive out African Union peacekeepers, topple Somalia's western-backed government and impose its strict version of Islam on the Horn of Africa state.

(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Writing by Aaron Maasho; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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Pakistan coach Arthur plots demise of former team Australiahttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/pakistan-coach-arthur-plots-demise-of-former-team-australia/3359038.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/pakistan-coach-arthur-plots-demise-of-former-team-australia/3359038.html?cid=cna_flip_070214Sports NewsSun, 11 Dec 2016 14:55:22 +0800MELBOURNE: The merry-go-round of coaching jobs in international cricket inevitably leads to awkward reunions but few could be more thorny than Mickey Arthur's encounter with his old team Australia.

Three years after being sacked as the side's head coach, the South African will hope to guide Pakistan to a breakthrough test series win Down Under, with the first match starting in Brisbane on Thursday.

Pakistan Nets

Coaches rarely get to choose the manner of their exit but Arthur's dismissal was especially acrimonious, and the trigger for a high-profile severance claim against his former employers Cricket Australia.

He was less than two years into the post when his tenure began to unravel during the 2013 tour of India where Michael Clarke's team were whitewashed 4-0.

Four players were stood down for a test during the infamous 'homework-gate' scandal and months later, opening batsman David Warner punched England's Joe Root at a bar on a boozy night out during the Champions Trophy tournament in London.

With team discipline appearing in complete disarray, Arthur was dismissed three weeks before the Ashes and replaced by Darren Lehmann, who remains Australia's coach.

A resident of Perth for over six years, Arthur said he felt no extra motivation in beating the home side.

"We just want to win every test series we play," the 48-year-old told local media in Brisbane.

But he was aggrieved by the dismissal and the blow smarted for years.

A leak of his testimony during his legal challenge against Cricket Australia painted the team as dysfunctional and riven by a personality clash between captain Clarke and vice captain Shane Watson.

He later described his coaching environment as "suffocating" in a book last year and said Lehmann was the ultimate benefactor of his dismissal, given the autonomy that Arthur said he personally craved but was never afforded.

Three years on, Arthur faces an Australian team emerging from another crisis but with head coach Lehmann given the chance to right the ship.

CHANGED PERSONNEL

Arthur may have intimate knowledge of the Australian system, but the personnel have changed.

Of the team he coached to a fourth consecutive test loss in India in 2013, only captain Steve Smith, wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, Warner and spinner Nathan Lyon are likely to face Pakistan at the Gabba.

While coaching Pakistan to a 2-0 test series loss in New Zealand last month, Arthur would have noted with interest how South Africa were able to humble Australia 2-1 on home pitches, without pace spearhead Dale Steyn and regular captain AB de Villiers.

He would have recognised the criticism that rained down on the Australian team from pundits and former players and washed away chairman of selectors Rod Marsh and a string of under-performing players.

Most familiar to Arthur, however, may be Australia's ability to regenerate and come roaring out of the abyss.

Within a year of his sacking, Australia whitewashed England 5-0, enjoyed a rare series win in South Africa and re-captured the top ranking in tests.

Last month, a raw Australian team featuring four debutants thrashed the Proteas in the dead rubber test in Adelaide, giving home fans hope of another quick renaissance.

"Every team has got a cycle so it happens to every team," Arthur said of the home side's run of five losses from six matches.

Since taking the Pakistan job in May, Arthur has played a part in the south Asians' own revival, which has included taking the top test ranking for the first time in August following the 2-2 draw in England.

It was a brief reign and they have since slipped to fourth on the table behind third-ranked Australia after their disappointing New Zealand tour.

No team from the subcontinent has ever won a test series in Australia but Arthur has form breaking droughts, and led the Proteas to a first series win in the country in 2008.

"For these guys to come here and win would be amazing," he said. "We are under no illusions. Australia are a fantastic cricket team and, in these conditions, it's going to be very tough for them."

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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Kohli hits 235, India all out for 631http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/kohli-hits-235-india-all-out-for-631/3359034.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/kohli-hits-235-india-all-out-for-631/3359034.html?cid=cna_flip_070214Sports NewsSun, 11 Dec 2016 14:55:16 +0800MUMBAI: Virat Kohli scored 235 before India were all out for 631, a lead of 231 runs, in their first innings on the fourth day of the fourth and penultimate test against England on Sunday.

India's number nine batsman Jayant Yadav (104) hit his maiden test century, while leg-spinner Adil Rashid was the most successful bowler for England claiming 4-192.

Cricket - India v England - Fourth Test cricket match

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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Starc fires bouncer at Arthur before Brisbane testhttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/starc-fires-bouncer-at-arthur-before-brisbane-test/3359016.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/starc-fires-bouncer-at-arthur-before-brisbane-test/3359016.html?cid=cna_flip_070214Sports NewsSun, 11 Dec 2016 14:30:17 +0800MELBOURNE: Australia have been a "closer" team since former head coach Mickey Arthur made way for Darren Lehmann, according to pace spearhead Mitchell Starc.

Now directing Pakistan, South African Arthur is keen to steer the south Asians to a win against his old team when the three-test series starts in Brisbane on Thursday.

Cricket - Australia v South Africa - Second Test cricket match

Starc was never able to cement his position in the test side during Arthur's 19-month tenure from 2011-13, and said Australia were a better team under his successor Lehmann.

"I didn't have too much time with him ... he obviously had his different theories," Starc told local media in Brisbane on Sunday.

"He was a nice guy.

"Our team has changed immensely since he's been put out of the job ... we're a lot closer.

"Boof's (Lehmann) obviously brought his own coaching theories and concepts.

"The group has obviously changed personnel-wise as well, so we've developed massively as a squad since the time of Mickey Arthur, and I think all for the better."

Arthur was sacked three weeks before the 2013 Ashes, after a breakdown of team discipline during the 4-0 series loss away to India and later in England.

Australia have lost five of their last six tests to put Lehmann under pressure, but Starc said the straight-talking former test batsman was the right man to guide a rebuilding team which blooded four debutants in their last match against South Africa.

"(Arthur) probably rode the game a little bit more and I think at times found it hard to watch," Starc said of the South Africa's coaching.

"Whereas Boof instils a lot of confidence in you. He's got that laid-back, old-school attitude but doesn't sugar-coat anything.

"That's what this young group needs as well ... some hard truths sometimes."

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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Listening points for feedback ahead of Budget 2017http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/listening-points-for-feedback-ahead-of-budget-2017/3359002.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/listening-points-for-feedback-ahead-of-budget-2017/3359002.html?cid=cna_flip_070214Singapore Local NewsSun, 11 Dec 2016 14:17:37 +0800SINGAPORE: Feedback unit REACH and Singapore's finance ministry will be organising a series of listening points to gather views ahead of next year's Budget.

Nine REACH listening points will be set up in areas like malls, markets and community centres.

REACH logo

The first session was held in Bishan Junction 8 on Saturday (Dec 10) and another three sessions were held on Sunday morning at Ang Mo Kio, Marine Parade and Pasir Ris.

Members of the public can visit the booth which will be attended to by officers who will take down their concerns.

The first listening point took off in 2014 at Jurong Point shopping centre. Since then, the number of sessions has grown from 23 to 55 this year.

"They raised issues like how to make Singapore a good place to raise families, issues about jobs, their concerns about the daily cost of living. Some also mentioned about healthcare. Some also gave their views on how to contribute to volunteerism and help others in society," said REACH Director, Nooraini Hamzah.

The listening points are set up in areas with high pedestrian traffic to reach out to Singaporeans from all walks of life.

Once the feedback is collated, they will be conveyed to the relevant agencies.

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Indonesia counter-terrorism forces foil plot to bomb state palace: Policehttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/indonesia-counter-terrorism-forces-foil-plot-to-bomb-state/3358968.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/indonesia-counter-terrorism-forces-foil-plot-to-bomb-state/3358968.html?cid=cna_flip_070214Asia PacificSun, 11 Dec 2016 14:01:15 +0800JAKARTA:  Indonesian counter-terrorism forces on Saturday (Dec 10) arrested three people near the capital Jakarta suspected of planning a bomb attack on the presidential palace, a police spokesman said.

The arrests of two men and a woman are the latest in a security crackdown ahead of the New Year holiday season and come amid concerns of a rise in Islamic State-inspired radicalism in the world's largest Muslim-majority country.

Merdeka palace

Police raided a dormitory in Bekasi, a town about an hour outside Jakarta, and found an unexploded bomb.

"The plan was to use the bomb at the presidential palace during the change of guard," Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono said in a statement. He said an investigation was underway.

Police intercepted a letter the woman had intended to send to her parents stating her intention to carry out jihad, the police statement said.

Security forces carried out a controlled detonation of the bomb, local media reported.

Authorities say Islamic State has about 1,200 sympathizers in Indonesia and dozens are known to be fighting with the hardline Sunni militant group in Syria and Iraq.

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South Korea prosecutors charge two former senior Park officials - mediahttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/south-korea-prosecutors-charge-two-former-senior-park-officials/3358972.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/south-korea-prosecutors-charge-two-former-senior-park-officials/3358972.html?cid=cna_flip_070214Asia PacificSun, 11 Dec 2016 13:55:26 +0800SEOUL: South Korean prosecutors have indicted a former senior presidential aide and a former vice culture minister as part of an investigation of a corruption scandal that led to President Park Geun-hye's impeachment in parliament, media said on Sunday.

Park's former senior economic aide, Cho Won-dong, was charged with colluding with the president over attempting to pressure a South Korean conglomerate to dismiss the group's vice chairman, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

Former vice culture minister Kim Chong was indicted on charges of abuse of power and coercion, Yonhap and other outlets reported.

Prosecutors are not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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North Korea's Kim guides special operations drill targeting Southhttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/north-korea-s-kim-guides-special-operations-drill-targeting-sout/3358952.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/north-korea-s-kim-guides-special-operations-drill-targeting-sout/3358952.html?cid=cna_flip_070214Asia PacificSun, 11 Dec 2016 13:35:32 +0800SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guided a special operations drill targeting the South, the North's media reported on Sunday, as rival South Korea remained on alert for any attempt by the North to take advantage of political turmoil in the South.

The North's KCNA state news agency report did not say when North Korean forces conducted the combat exercise, nor did it mention the South Korean parliament's vote on Friday to impeach its president, Park Geun-hye.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un views the dawn from the summit of Mt Paektu

Pictures in a Sunday report on the exercise in the North's Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed what appeared to be a mockup of South Korea's presidential Blue House as a target.

Park will remain in the Blue House, though her powers have been suspended and assumed by the South's prime minister while the Constitutional Court weighs parliament's impeachment vote.

South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn has urged a high state of military alert in case of any provocation by North Korea, including possible cyber attacks.

"We are ready to retaliate if North Korea makes any provocations and we condemn its malicious threat," a South Korean military official told Reuters.

Tension on the divided Korean peninsula has been high this year after two North Korean nuclear tests and an unprecedented flurry of ballistic missile tests.

The North's tests have brought tighter U.N. Security Council sanctions but no indication North Korea and its young leader Kim are willing to compromise on its nuclear and missile programmes.

The Rodong Sinmun pictures included one of Kim observing the exercise through binoculars.

"Watching the brave service personnel independently and pro-actively perform their combat duty destroying specified targets of the enemy, he said with a broad smile on his face: 'Well done, the enemy troops will have no space to hide themselves, far from taking any counteraction'," KCNA cited Kim saying.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park and Yun Hwan Chae; Writing by Tony Munroe; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Rags to riches: Communist Vietnam’s dairy giant on privatisation drivehttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/rags-to-riches-communist-vietnam-s-dairy-giant-on-privatisation/3355908.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/rags-to-riches-communist-vietnam-s-dairy-giant-on-privatisation/3355908.html?cid=cna_flip_070214Asia PacificSun, 11 Dec 2016 13:25:01 +0800HO CHI MINH CITY: 40 years ago, Mai Kieu Lien was a Soviet-educated young engineer at a condensed milk factory in crisis. Vietnam had just ended a bloody war with America. Newly nationalised by the communist government, its tiny dairy sector was running out of an essential raw material: Imported milk powder. 

Now, Lien is the CEO of the Vietnam government's prized dairy producer Vietnam Dairy Products JSC (Vinamilk).

vinamilk sugared milk

“Workers had nothing to do,” she said, recalling how the factory had to switch to making biscuits and candy to avoid layoffs. She spent the next ten years focused on sourcing raw material and getting hold of the foreign currency needed to import it; and over the next thirty years, built a milk empire. 

Mai Kieu Lien

Now 63, Mai Kieu Lien is one of Asia’s top woman CEOs at the helm of Vietnam’s prized dairy cow, Vinamilk. (Photo: Do Khuong Duy)

Vinamilk's factories churn out more than 200 products, from milk and cheese to yoghurt, soy milk and juices that line grocery shelves up and down the long country. 

In 2015, the company's revenue jumped 14 per cent year-on-year to US$1.7 billion. Of that, exports made up 13 per cent – no mean feat in a country that, up until the 1990s, imported nearly all its milk.

“We couldn’t imagine that we would one day export milk,” Lien told Channel NewsAsia at her office in Ho Chi Minh City’s district 7. “But Vinamilk did it.” 

Born in Paris in 1953, Lien was four when her family moved to Hanoi where she grew up. At 17, she was sent to study milk processing in Russia by the communist government.

“I didn’t think about what I would achieve or where I would go,” Lien said. “For our generation, it was wartime and we had simple thinking.” 

REFORM ROLE MODEL

Vinamilk’s success story is rare in a country where bloated state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are known for institutionalising graft and chalking up bad debt.

One of the first SOEs to go private, Vinamilk was able to ditch the state’s lengthy approval procedures, follow private sector principles and move fast on business opportunities, said Oliver Massmann, a partner at Duane Morris. 

Vinamilk yoghurt

Vinamilk was the first Vietnamese dairy to produce yoghurt for the domestic market in the 1980s. (Photo: Do Khuong Duy)

Its transparency and corporate governance also stand out in a country ruled by opaque state-owned giants.

Take the Vinamilk website, available in both Vietnamese and English. The English version is not just a ghostly cousin with most links going back to the Vietnamese site. English language financial reports and updates are available for download, along with biographies and smiling pictures of company leaders. This is in contrast to the vast majority of Vietnam’s faceless corporate homepages, which are in Vietnamese only.

“The fact (is) that they have an international relations department … and have had foreign investors with them for years. They understand how it has to be done,” said Marc Djandji, head of institutional sales at the Ho Chi Minh City-based RongViet Securities.  

PRIVATISATION PUSH

Vinamilk’s international outlook comes in handy at a time when foreign investors are getting closer than ever.

On Dec 12, Vietnam’s government will put up 9 per cent of its Vinamilk stakes for auction on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange at a minimum price of 144,000 VND (US$6.34) per share. In July, authorities scrapped the company’s foreign ownership cap, opening up the possibility of a 100 per cent foreign-owned Vinamilk, although no timeline has been given.

All this is part of a pick-up in the country’s privatisation moves this year, said Sebastian Eckardt, a lead economist at World Bank Vietnam.

Vinamilk is one of ten state firms Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has named for divestments in a bid to boost the country’s dangerously high public debt. Official data shows public debt at the end of 2015 reached nearly US$120 billion, equivalent to 62.2 per cent of GDP.

Vinamilk store HCMC

Vinamilk produces more than 200 types of products, from milk and cheese to yoghurt and juices that line up grocery shelves across the country. (Photo: Do Khuong Duy)

Private and foreign investors looking to buy into the dairy giant’s profits are watching the December auction, but more eyes are on the government’s remaining 36 per cent stake.

Investors may not get the opportunity to buy big into Vinamilk, however. The biggest foreign shareholder, Singapore-listed F&N Dairy Investment, holds an 11 per cent stake and no foreign investor has a decisive say in the company today, a situation Lien hinted she was happy with.

“I think we’ll discuss changing our charter, to make sure the company does not fall into any controlling power,” she said. 

NEXT UP: ORGANIC

Under Lien, the dairy firm is now poised to milk Vietnam’s growing middle-class demand for safe food. Consumer distrust of food products in Vietnam is at an all-time high after years of scandals rocking the agricultural sector across the board – from fake rice, vegetables laced with pesticide, to meat and fish injected with toxic chemicals. The result is more consumers willing to fork out for what they believe is clean food.

Vinamilk UHT milk

Vinamilk’s USDA-certified organic UHT milk launched in June this year. (Photo: Do Khuong Duy)

In June, Vinamilk launched its first made-in-America USDA-certified organic UHT milk. Milk from its first organic farm in Da Lat is expected to hit the shelves by the end of the year. Next year, it plans to invest in a second organic farm in Thanh Hoa.

The price point of organic Vinamilk is about 50 per cent higher than its non-organic range, a difference Lien believes consumers can accept. Production volumes will start small but Lien is confident about future demand.

“The earlier we are, the bigger market share we can get,” she said. 

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More cases of fallen windows this yearhttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/more-cases-of-fallen-windows-this-year/3358876.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/more-cases-of-fallen-windows-this-year/3358876.html?cid=cna_flip_070214Singapore Local NewsSun, 11 Dec 2016 12:04:43 +0800SINGAPORE: There were more cases of fallen windows this year according to statistics released on Sunday (Dec 11) by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and Housing and Development Board (HDB).

In the first 11 months of this year, there were 41 cases of fallen windows compared to 30 cases in the same period in 2015.

hdb flat windows laundry

Most of these cases are casement windows which had dislodged and fallen due to corroded aluminium rivets, the joint release from the BCA and HDB added.

Fallen window cases graphSince 2005, homeowners have been required to change the aluminium rivets of casement windows to stainless steel ones. This mandatory requirement applies to windows in all residential units, except those in landed properties and the ground floor of buildings.

If homeowners fail to do so, they are committing an offence under the Building Control Act and can be fined up to S$5,000 and/or face a jail term of up to six months.

In addition, if a window falls due to lack of maintenance, it is an offence under the Building Maintenance And Strata Management Act, and homeowners can face up to a maximum fine of $10,000 and/or jail term of up to one year.

To date, 78 people have been prosecuted and fined in Court for failing to retrofit casement windows with stainless steel rivets. 303 people have also had their offences compounded and have had to pay composition amounts for fallen windows.

For casement windows, homeowners are required to ensure that all rivets are made of stainless steel. They should also check that the fasteners are not rusty or loose, and regularly clean and lubricate joints or movable parts.

“It is important to use a mirror to check the rivets on the underside and top of the window panel, to ensure they are not corroded or loosened,” said Er. Lim Beng Kwee, Director of BCA’s Special Functions Group.  

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At least 60 killed by church roof collapse in southern Nigeria http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/at-least-60-killed-by-church-roof-collapse-in-southern-nigeria/3358770.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/at-least-60-killed-by-church-roof-collapse-in-southern-nigeria/3358770.html?cid=cna_flip_070214WorldSun, 11 Dec 2016 11:40:52 +0800ONITSHA, Nigeria: At least 60 people were killed and dozens wounded when the roof of a church collapsed during a service in southern Nigeria on Saturday (Dec 10), officials said.

The evangelical Reigners Bible Ministry in Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom state was packed with worshippers when the roof - which was still under construction - collapsed, local media said, with the state-run Nigerian News Agency saying "between 50 and 200" people could have been killed.

Nigeria church roof

A rescue operation is underway, the report said.

President Muhammadu Buhari expressed his condolences, telling "the Governor and the People of Akwa Ibom State, the deep sorrow of his family, the government and the entire people of Nigeria over the many deaths and injury recorded following the incident," presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement.

The governor of Akwa Ibom state, who was at the church but was not injured during the accident, said on his Facebook page late Saturday that "we have never had such a shocking incident in the history of our dear state."

In Sep 2015, 115 people including 84 South Africans, were killed in Lagos in the collapse of a church belonging to the famous televangelist TB Joshua.

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From afar, Dylan muses on honour and surprise of Nobel prizehttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/entertainment/from-afar-dylan-muses-on-honour-and-surprise-of-nobel-prize/3358780.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/entertainment/from-afar-dylan-muses-on-honour-and-surprise-of-nobel-prize/3358780.html?cid=cna_flip_070214EntertainmentSun, 11 Dec 2016 11:00:30 +0800STOCKHOLM: Nobel laureate Bob Dylan sent a message on Saturday thanking the Swedish academy for awarding him the Nobel prize for literature, an honour the American singer and songwriter believed was about as likely as "standing on the moon."

"I'm sorry I can't be with you in person, but please know that I am most definitely with you in spirit and honoured to be receiving such a prestigious prize," Dylan said in a speech read by Azita Raji, the U.S. ambassador to Sweden, at the Nobel banquet.

File photo of U.S. musician Bob Dylan performing during on day 2 of The Hop Festival in Paddock Wood

He also expressed his huge surprise at receiving the award.

"If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel Prize, I would have to think that I'd have about the same odds as standing on the moon," he said.

The media-shy Dylan finally accepted the 8 million Swedish crown (US$870,000) prize for literature, after frustrating the award-giving academy with weeks of silence following the announcement of the award on Oct. 13. But he chose not to attend the festivities.

His absence has been widely debated in Sweden in recent weeks, where the Nobel prize is a huge source of pride. One member of the academy accused Dylan of being "arrogant" and "rude" as the singer remained silent after the award was announced.

In his place singer Patti Smith performed Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" at the award ceremony earlier in the day. A nervous Smith forgot the lyrics and had to start over but still received emphatic applause at the end.

While Dylan was absent, all other laureates, which include Japan's Yoshinori Ohsumi for medicine and Britain's Duncan Haldane for physics, accepted a medal and a diploma from the hand of the Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf before attending the banquet at Stockholm's City Hall for about 1,300 people.

In a Nordic country priding itself on its modernity, the Nobel banquet is vestige of old-world luxury that every year brings together royalty and the powerful in politics and business with some of the world's top scientific minds. The dress code is white tie and tails for men and gowns for women.

The prize was introduced in 1901 according to the will of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish inventor and industrialist, five years after his death in 1896.

The prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, literature and economic science are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, while the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway.

(Reporting by Johan Ahlander and Ilze Filks; Editing by Mary Milliken)

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N Korea military drill targets South's presidential officehttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/n-korea-military-drill-targets-south-s-presidential-office/3358718.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/n-korea-military-drill-targets-south-s-presidential-office/3358718.html?cid=cna_flip_070214AFP Asia PacificSun, 11 Dec 2016 10:13:09 +0800SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un conducted a large scale military drill targeting South Korea's presidential Blue House, state media said Sunday (Dec 11).

The military exercise of the North's special operation forces - carried out as Kim watched with binoculars at an observation post - was aimed at "destroying specified targets of the enemy," including the South's Blue House, KCNA said.

State media say that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un watched special forces carry out a drill(Photo:AFP)

The ruling Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun also carried a two-page report of the drill, showing several pictures of a building resembling the Blue House being invaded by the North's troops and set on fire, as well as one of Kim roaring with laughter as he watched the simulated attack.

"Through the combat drill, our forces extended the sea of fire of the Yeonpyeong Island to the sea of fire of Cheong Wa Dae," KCNA said, referring to the South's border island which was bombarded by the North in 2010.

No date was given for the military exercise.

"Well done, the enemy troops will have no space to hide themselves, far from taking any counteraction," KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

There are growing concerns of fresh provocation by Pyongyang following Friday's impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn, who has temporarily taken on the role and authority of acting president, held an emergency cabinet meeting and ordered the military to be extra vigilant against the North.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests already this year and multiple missile launches in its push for a weapon capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.

The UN Security Council slapped its toughest sanctions yet on the North this month for its fifth nuclear test in September, capping the North's annual coal exports -- its top external revenue source.

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Conflict over Russia is rocky start for Trump and intelligence agencieshttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/conflict-over-russia-is-rocky-start-for-trump-and-intelligence-a/3358726.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/conflict-over-russia-is-rocky-start-for-trump-and-intelligence-a/3358726.html?cid=cna_flip_070214WorldSun, 11 Dec 2016 10:10:15 +0800WASHINGTON: President-elect Donald Trump's rejection this weekend of U.S. intelligence analysts' conclusion that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help him win the White House is the latest in a string of conflicts between Trump and the intelligence community he will command.

Most of them involve Russia, which has grown increasingly aggressive - according to what U.S. intelligence agencies have told Congress and the administration of President Barack Obama - in Syria and Ukraine. The agencies also reported that Russia has ratcheted up activities in cyberspace including meddling, sometimes covertly, in European and U.S. elections.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks at the USA Thank You Tour event at the Iowa Events Center

The intelligence agencies have concluded with "high confidence" that not only did their Russian counterparts direct the hacking of Democratic Party organizations and leaders, but they did so to undermine Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton,

not just to shake confidence in the U.S. electoral system, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.

The president-elect's transition office responded by releasing a statement that exaggerated his margin of victory and attacked the U.S. intelligence community's work on Iraq, but did not address the analysts' conclusion about Russia.

"These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction," the statement said. "The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It's now time to move on and 'Make America Great Again.'"

In a statement issued on Saturday, California Democrat Adam Schiff, a member of the House intelligence committee, called the Russian hacking of the U.S. election "spectacularly successful."

"One would also have to be willfully blind not to see that these Russian actions were uniformly damaging to Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton and helpful to Donald Trump," Schiff said. "I do not believe this was coincidental or unintended."

Trump has rejected the intelligence agencies' finding.

"I don't believe they interfered," he told Time magazine about Russia in an interview published this week. "That became a laughing point, not a talking point, a laughing point. Any time I do something, they say, 'Oh, Russia interfered.'"

Russian officials have denied all accusations of interference in the U.S. election.

The president-elect has been receiving the President's Daily Brief (PDB), one of the most highly classified documents in the U.S. government and which can include details of U.S. and allied covert operations, only once a week. That is far less often than most of his predecessors.So far, intelligence officials said, Trump has not requested a special briefing on Russia, despite the agencies' warnings that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to undermine trans-Atlantic unity and test U.S. and allied resolve.

'INCIDENTAL CONTACT'

In fact, two officials with knowledge of the situation said on Saturday that Trump's transition team has made only "incidental contact" with the Central Intelligence Agency. This is despite the fact that Trump's choice to head the CIA, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, has limited experience working with the agency. The Kansas Republican served on the House Intelligence Committee and the select committee investigating the 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic and intelligence facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

Democrats and some Republicans in Congress who have been briefed on the Russian activities share the intelligence agencies' alarm about Trump's plans for the 17-agency intelligence community, which includes the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Counterterrorism Center.

Privately, some members of the clandestine service, the CIA's body of spies, said they would resign rather than obey any order to resume waterboarding or other "enhanced interrogation techniques" that Trump endorsed during his campaign.Elsewhere in the US$70 billion-a-year intelligence community officials on Saturday said they fear that Trump might invite legal trouble by trying to vastly expand electronic and physical surveillance of suspected terrorists based on their religion or national origin.

None of that may come to pass, of course, and campaign rhetoric and tweets do not always predict policies, the officials conceded.However, Trump's statements about Russia and business dealings there, as well as those of retired Army Lieutenant Michael Flynn, his choice for national security adviser, are worrisome to many of the officials tracking Putin's growing aggressiveness from seas to skies to cyberspace.

Obama has ordered the intelligence agencies to review cyber attacks and foreign intervention into the 2016 election and deliver a report before he leaves office on Jan. 20, the White House said on Friday.

Obama's homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, told reporters on Friday the report's results would be shared with lawmakers and others.

"The president has directed the intelligence community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process ... and to capture lessons learned from that and to report to a range of stakeholders, to include the Congress," she said during an event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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ExxonMobil CEO is Trump's top pick for secretary of state: Reportshttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/exxonmobil-ceo-is-trump-s-top-pick-for-secretary-of-state/3358716.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/exxonmobil-ceo-is-trump-s-top-pick-for-secretary-of-state/3358716.html?cid=cna_flip_070214WorldSun, 11 Dec 2016 09:55:01 +0800WASHINGTON: ExxonMobil President and CEO Rex Tillerson is President-elect Donald Trump's likely pick for secretary of state, US media reported Saturday (Dec 10), with some lawmakers quickly voicing concerns about his ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Tillerson, 64, has extensive experience in international negotiations, overseeing his oil company's activities in more than 50 countries.

ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson speaks during the IHS CERAWeek 2015 energy conference in

His links to Russia could be problematic with Moscow facing renewed scrutiny in Washington. A Washington Post report late Friday said a secret CIA assessment found that Russia interfered in the US presidential election with the aim of tipping it in Trump's favor.

The president-elect, who has praised Putin and called for closer ties with Russia, dismissed the report.

Trump has already decided on Tillerson, according to NBC News, citing two unnamed sources close to the transition process. They cautioned, however, that nothing was final until Trump makes the official announcement, likely next week.

Other media outlets, including CBS News and The Wall Street Journal, described Tillerson as the leading candidate for the job of top US diplomat.

Former UN Ambassador John Bolton will be Tillerson's deputy secretary of state "for day-to-day management of the department," NBC News added, citing one unnamed source.

Asked in an interview with Fox News -- which will air in full on Sunday -- why it makes sense to appoint a businessman as the nation's top diplomat, Trump said Tillerson is "much more than a business executive."

"I mean, he's a world-class player," the president-elect said. "He knows many of the players and he knows them well.

"He does massive deals in Russia. He does massive deals for the company, not for himself, for the company."

Trump and Tillerson met for more than two hours Saturday in Trump Tower, the New York Times reported, adding that chief strategist Stephen Bannon and son-in-law Jared Kushner told the president-elect the Exxon chief is in a "different league" from other candidates.

As speculation swirled about Tillerson, Trump attended the annual Army-Navy football grudge match in Baltimore. He pumped his fist and waved at the cheering crowd, as he and top aides watched the game from boxes shielded by bulletproof glass.

- Senate opposition -

If he is officially nominated, Tillerson can expect sharp questioning during confirmation hearings in the US Senate.

Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat and senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, slammed the idea of Tillerson as secretary of state as "alarming and absurd."

"With Rex Tillerson as our Secretary of State, the Trump administration would be guaranteeing Russia has a willing accomplice in the president's cabinet guiding our nation's foreign policy," he said in a statement.

"The term conflict of interest doesn't even begin to describe the web of dubious business interests and bank accounts that Tillerson and his company Exxon shares with Vladimir Putin and Russian oil companies."

On the Republican side, Senator John McCain expressed "concerns" over Tillerson's links to Putin, whom the senator called "a thug and a murderer."

"We will have hearings on that issue and other issues concerning him will be examined," McCain told CNN. "That's the time to make up your mind as to whether to vote yes or no."

Tillerson was awarded Russia's Order of Friendship by Putin following several years of Exxon projects in the country, including a deal to work with state-controlled oil company Rosneft, media reports said.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he didn't know much about Tillerson, but "if you received an award from the Kremlin, [an] Order of Friendship, then we're gonna have some talkin'," Graham told the Washington Post.

"I don't want to prejudge the guy, but that's a bit unnerving."

The unpredictable Trump could still change his mind. Candidates under consideration over the past weeks include Bolton, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and former CIA director David Petraeus, among several others.

The outspoken former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani is no longer in the mix: Trump announced in a statement Friday that Giuliani had removed himself from the running.

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Romania elects new parliament, leftists ahead in pollshttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/romania-elects-new-parliament-leftists-ahead-in-polls/3358670.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/romania-elects-new-parliament-leftists-ahead-in-polls/3358670.html?cid=cna_flip_070214WorldSun, 11 Dec 2016 09:05:13 +0800BUCHAREST: Romanians vote in a parliamentary election on Sunday that is likely to hand power back to the leftist Social Democrats (PSD), who advocate loose fiscal policy but are seen as permissive about rampant corruption.

Led by Liviu Dragnea, who has received a suspended two-year jail sentence for electoral fraud, the PSD was ousted from government just over a year ago in the wake of a fire in a Bucharest nightclub that killed more than 60 people.

Romania's Regional Development Minister Dragnea briefs the media during a visit to Craiova

The fire led to a surge of public anger over inept public officials and graft, but widespread calls for reforms have faded in recent months, giving way to resignation about chronic poverty and politicians' unfulfilled promises.

The PSD campaigned on a promise to spend on welfare to address low living standards in much of Romania, which joined the European Union 10 years ago but remains one of the bloc's poorest and least modernised members.

"They've always been on our side," said 72-year-old state pensioner and former energy worker Georgeta Croitoru. "My pension ... has helped me worry less and amass no debts."

"I really hope my 1,200 lei (US$282) pension will rise again."

Opinion polls show leftists could garner 40 to 44 percent in the vote, followed by their centre-right rivals National Liberal Party (PNL) with about 18 to 27 percent. The new Save Romania Union (USR) party is expected to get somewhere between 8 and 19 percent.

The European Commission expects Romania's budget deficit to quadruple from 0.8 percent in 2015 to 3.2 percent in 2017 under European accounting terms. It would be the second-largest deficit in the EU after Spain.

In contrast with most of the European Union, anger over austerity - which in Romania followed a 2008 real estate crash - has had little impact on public support for EU membership.

In neighbouring Bulgaria, which joined alongside Romania in 2007, anger over failed reforms and concerns over the EU's internal problems such as Britain's decision to leave, helped a pro-Russian candidate win the presidency last month.

A eurosceptic government was elected just over a year ago in Poland, in part on a promise to bring decision-making back home.

"Romanian public opinion is one of the most pro-European states, because of a total lack of confidence in domestic institutions and politicians," said Sergiu Miscoiu, political science professor at Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj.

"Salvation comes from abroad, and western Europe has a standard of organization and prosperity Romanians still cannot reach," he said. "Outside of a very small audience, public euroscepticism wouldn't benefit any party."

Forming a government could be complicated after the election if the PSD fails to win an outright majority, as expected, and if centrist and centre-right groupings can build a competing coalition, observers say.

Much could depend on the electoral result of the USR, a newcomer to politics benefiting from a lack of image problems and associated by observers with anti-graft and protecting patrimony, although the party lacks a unifying ideology.

Voting starts at 07:00 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) and polling stations close at 09:00 p.m., with 18.9 million Romanians eligible to cast ballots.

For a graphic of voting intentions for the Dec. 11 election:

http://tmsnrt.rs/2ggIpTU

(US$1 = 4.2602 lei)

(Additional reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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Joshua to fight Klitschko in April after easy defencehttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/joshua-to-fight-klitschko-in-april-after-easy-defence/3358660.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/joshua-to-fight-klitschko-in-april-after-easy-defence/3358660.html?cid=cna_flip_070214Sports NewsSun, 11 Dec 2016 08:45:18 +0800LONDON: Britain's Anthony Joshua set up an April showdown with veteran heavyweight Wladimir Klitschko on Saturday after retaining his IBF world title with a clinical third round stoppage of outclassed American Eric Molina in Manchester.

After two probing opening rounds, 2012 Olympic super-heavyweight champion Joshua sent his opponent crashing to the canvas for his 18th win inside the distance in as many professional fights.

Anthony Joshua in action against Eric Molina

Molina, 34, clambered unsteadily back to his feet as the count reached eight, but the referee stepped in again to stop the fight after two minutes and two seconds of the round with a technical knockout declared.

The Texan had fought for the world title once before, losing to Deontay Wilder for the WBC belt in 2015.

Moments after the fight, promoter Eddie Hearn stepped into the ring to announce an April 29 bout against Ukrainian Klitschko at London's Wembley Stadium for the "unified heavyweight championship of the world".

That can be taken as hyperbole, much as Hearn's assertion that it would be the "biggest fight in British boxing history", with New Zealander Joseph Parker the newly-crowned WBO champion while American Wilder still holding the WBC belt.

Britain's Tyson Fury, who beat Klitschko in November 2015, vacated the WBA and WBO belts in October after having his licence suspended pending investigation of anti-doping and medical issues.

He had already been stripped of the IBF belt for not fighting a mandatory challenger.

"We move on to a bigger arena, more people can view it. This is the step up people have wanted. Klitschko wants his belts back, may the best man win," said Joshua after his second defence.

Klitschko, who had been watching ringside at the Manchester Arena, stepped through the ropes for some early eyeballing.

"He is the best man in the division and I believe this excitement speaks for itself. This is what the fans want and this fight must happen," said the 40-year-old.

"He was clear, clean and won by knockout and, as his next opponent, it was good I was here to observe it and make my notes."

The WBA last month officially sanctioned the match between the two fighters for the vacant title.

Saturday's big fight offered less excitement, however, than a toe-to-toe WBC title eliminator on the under card between Britons Dillian Whyte and Dereck Chisora, won by the former on a split-decision.

Khalid 'Kal' Yafai earlier took the WBA super-flyweight world title after outpointing Panama's Luis Concepcion 120-108 119-108 117-110.

Concepcion had already been stripped of the belt after failing to make the weight for the voluntary defence on Friday.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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Kenya oil tanker accident kills at least 25 in fire - Red Crosshttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/kenya-oil-tanker-accident-kills-at-least-25-in-fire-red-cross/3358630.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/kenya-oil-tanker-accident-kills-at-least-25-in-fire-red-cross/3358630.html?cid=cna_flip_070214WorldSun, 11 Dec 2016 07:30:27 +0800NAIVASHA, Kenya: A fireball from an oil tanker on one of Kenya's main highways has engulfed several vehicles and killed at least 25 people, a Red Cross official said on Sunday.

"We have so far collected 25 bodies from the scene of the accident after a lorry heading to Uganda lost control and rammed into several vehicles," said Red Cross official Felister Kioko at the scene.

The accident happened late on Saturday night 10 kilometres (six miles) north of the central town of Naivasha.

In 2009, more than 100 people burned to death near the central town of Molo after a lorry carrying petrol caught fire.

(Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Mary Milliken)

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Cadillac disavows casting call for 'neo-Nazi' character in brand adhttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/business/international/cadillac-disavows-casting-call-for-neo-nazi-character-in-brand/3358628.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/business/international/cadillac-disavows-casting-call-for-neo-nazi-character-in-brand/3358628.html?cid=cna_flip_070214International BusinessSun, 11 Dec 2016 07:30:24 +0800DETROIT: General Motors Co's Cadillac brand on Saturday disavowed a casting notice that called for an "alt-right (neo nazi)" role in a Cadillac commercial amid a storm of outrage on social media.

The casting notice, circulated on Twitter and Facebook, said an agency was looking for "any and all real alt-right thinkers/believers" and indicated the call was for a Cadillac advertisement to be filmed later this month.

View shows Cadillac logo in Moscow

The alt-right is a loose grouping characterized by a rejection of mainstream politics that includes neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites. The alt-right came to the fore during the U.S. presidential election.

Cadillac officials said on Saturday the brand "did not authorize or approve a casting notice for an 'alt-right (neo-nazi)' role in a commercial. We unequivocally condemn the notice and are seeking immediate answers from our creative agency, production company and any casting companies involved."

The Cast Station, a casting service, on Saturday afternoon posted on its Facebook page that a casting notice "for an "alt-right" role in a Cadillac commercial was issued by mistake on Friday, Dec 9th. The notice was drafted by an employee, who was immediately terminated for her actions. Additionally an outside third party further altered the breakdown without our knowledge and posted it on social media. Cadillac unequivocally did not authorize this notice or anything like it, and we apologize to Cadillac for the ex-employee's actions."

The notice also called for "real current or retired military people," as well as "real Olympian runner/cyclist" and "real taxi driver." (https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CzVrzx4XcAAXVFJ.jpg:large)

Another version of the casting call posted on social media described the planned "Cadillac - Real People" commercial as a "beautifully artistic spot that is capturing (sic) all walks of life in America. Standing together as a union. This is not meant to be offensive in any way. Just a representation of all sides."

(Reporting by Joe White; Editing by Matthew Lewis and David Gregorio)

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Few leave besieged Benghazi district after ceasefire announced - officialshttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/few-leave-besieged-benghazi-district-after-ceasefire-announced/3358596.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/few-leave-besieged-benghazi-district-after-ceasefire-announced/3358596.html?cid=cna_flip_070214WorldSun, 11 Dec 2016 07:15:23 +0800BENGHAZI: Just 10 people left a besieged neighbourhood in the east Libyan city of Benghazi on Saturday after forces surrounding the area said they would grant safe passage to trapped civilians, security and Red Crescent officials said.

The eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) has been besieging the district of Ganfouda for months as it tries to take full control of Benghazi following a military campaign against Islamists and other opponents lasting more than two years.

The fate of families cornered by the fighting has become a major point of contention, with the LNA saying noncombatants are able to leave safely but opponents accusing it of not providing adequate guarantees.

Human rights groups estimate that more than 100 families as well as an unknown number of foreign workers have been trapped for months without access to fresh food by the LNA siege. They also say the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC), the LNA's main opponent, is detaining prisoners in the area.

Both sides have been accused of human rights abuses in the conflict.

The LNA announced a six-hour ceasefire on Saturday to allow for families to leave. But only seven women and children from two Libyan families, and three Bangladeshi workers, left during the assigned pause in fighting, according to the commander of a local LNA brigade, Wahid al-Zawi, and Red Crescent spokesman Toufik al-Shwaihdi.

Shwaihdi said the families had been evacuated by the brigade, received by the Red Crescent, and then handed over to relatives.

The United Nations has repeatedly called for civilians to be allowed to leave Ganfouda, and Libya's envoy to the United Nations, Martin Kobler, said late on Saturday he was "deeply worried" about their continued presence in the district after the "unilateral" LNA ceasefire.

"Reports of shells being fired and civilians being prevented from leaving are extremely concerning," he said in a statement.

More than five years after long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi was swept from power in an uprising, Libya remains mired in conflict with competing armed factions vying for power.

The LNA is led by Khalifa Haftar, who has become a figurehead for factions in eastern Libya. They have opposed a half-formed, U.N.-backed government in the capital, Tripoli.

The LNA has made a series of hard-won advances in Benghazi this year, but has been unable to take full control of the city and still faces frequent attacks on its forces.

(Additional reporting and writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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From afar, Dylan muses on honor and surprise of Nobel prizehttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/lifestyle/from-afar-dylan-muses-on-honor-and-surprise-of-nobel-prize/3358594.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/lifestyle/from-afar-dylan-muses-on-honor-and-surprise-of-nobel-prize/3358594.html?cid=cna_flip_070214LifestyleSun, 11 Dec 2016 07:15:13 +0800STOCKHOLM: Nobel laureate Bob Dylan sent a message on Saturday thanking the Swedish academy for awarding him the Nobel prize for literature, an honor the American singer and songwriter believed was about as likely as "standing on the moon."

"I'm sorry I can't be with you in person, but please know that I am most definitely with you in spirit and honored to be receiving such a prestigious prize," Dylan said in a speech read by Azita Raji, the U.S. ambassador to Sweden, at the Nobel banquet.

Singer Bob Dylan performs during a segment honoring Director Martin Scorsese in Los Angeles

He also expressed his huge surprise at receiving the award.

"If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel Prize, I would have to think that I'd have about the same odds as standing on the moon," he said.

The media-shy Dylan finally accepted the 8 million Swedish crown (US$870,000) prize for literature, after frustrating the award-giving academy with weeks of silence following the announcement of the award on Oct. 13. But he chose not to attend the festivities.

His absence has been widely debated in Sweden in recent weeks, where the Nobel prize is a huge source of pride. One member of the academy accused Dylan of being "arrogant" and "rude" as the singer remained silent after the award was announced.

In his place singer Patti Smith performed Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" at the award ceremony earlier in the day. A nervous Smith forgot the lyrics and had to start over but still received emphatic applause at the end.

While Dylan was absent, all other laureates, which include Japan's Yoshinori Ohsumi for medicine and Britain's Duncan Haldane for physics, accepted a medal and a diploma from the hand of the Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf before attending the banquet at Stockholm's City Hall for about 1,300 people.

In a Nordic country priding itself on its modernity, the Nobel banquet is vestige of old-world luxury that every year brings together royalty and the powerful in politics and business with some of the world's top scientific minds. The dress code is white tie and tails for men and gowns for women.

The prize was introduced in 1901 according to the will of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish inventor and industrialist, five years after his death in 1896.

The prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, literature and economic science are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, while the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway.

(Reporting by Johan Ahlander and Ilze Filks; Editing by Mary Milliken)

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Veteran leader Gruevski seeks comeback in Macedonian pollhttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/veteran-leader-gruevski-seeks-comeback-in-macedonian-poll/3358590.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/veteran-leader-gruevski-seeks-comeback-in-macedonian-poll/3358590.html?cid=cna_flip_070214WorldSun, 11 Dec 2016 07:05:20 +0800SKOPJE: Macedonians head to the polls on Sunday in early parliamentary elections triggered by a political crisis over alleged government corruption that resulted in veteran nationalist leader Nikola Gruevski's stepping down in January.

Gruevski, leader of the centre-right VMRO-DPMNE party - which has governed the former Yugoslav republic as the major party in various coalitions for the best part of a decade - is seeking re-election as prime minister.

Leader of Macedonian ruling party VMRO-DPMNE and former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski greets his s

A caretaker government is currently in place, under the terms of an EU-brokered deal to end the crisis.

The main challenger is the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), whose leader, Zoran Zaev, sparked the latest crisis by accusing the government of wiretapping the phone conversations of tens of thousands of citizens and released recordings appearing to implicate the government in corruption.

Four parties representing the ethnic Albanian community, which accounts for around a third of the population of 2.1 million, are also running for election. Traditionally, an Albanian party joins a coalition government as junior partner.

The vote is seen as a test of the European Union's strategy of coaxing neighbouring countries to make painful reforms in exchange for aid.

The European Union has long criticised Gruevski's record on safeguarding democracy and the rule of law but its bargaining power is weak and it needs the cooperation of Macedonia, which is in a key position on the so-called Balkan route of migrants into the bloc, to contain its migrant crisis.

The vote will be monitored by 667 international observers and 7,585 domestic observers. Final campaign rallies on Friday were peaceful.

Opinion polls predict widely varying results, depending partly on their sponsors, but all recent polls put the VMRO-DPMNE in the lead. Up to a third of voters are undecided.

The polls open at 0600 GMT and close at 1800 GMT. Preliminary declarations by the parties are expected at around midnight, with first indications from the electoral committee on Monday and a final result not before Tuesday.

(Reporting by Kole Casule, editing by David Evans)

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Guardiola facing searching questions as City slumphttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/guardiola-facing-searching-questions-as-city-slump/3358578.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/guardiola-facing-searching-questions-as-city-slump/3358578.html?cid=cna_flip_070214Sports NewsSun, 11 Dec 2016 06:25:12 +0800REUTERS: Pep Guardiola was hailed as the best thing to happen to English football when he swanned into Manchester City at the start of this season and immediately swept all before him with 10 cultured victories in a row.

Yet if that all seemed too good to be true, City fans now know it really was. In the subsequent 15 matches in all competitions, Guardiola's team have won just four times. One of those was a stellar night against Barcelona but they have too often flattered to deceive.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola looks dejected

If that was all worrying enough, Saturday's 4-2 defeat at Leicester City was positively alarming, a shambolic performance with a striking absence of the pass-and-move crispness of the best Guardiola teams and showcasing real defensive deficiencies.

It left City fourth in the table, four points behind leaders Arsenal, but they could be seven points off the pace should Chelsea beat West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.

It is far from a calamity for City but as Guardiola tried to explain away the defeat afterwards, there were hints that, after his triumphs in Spain and Germany, he is finding the manic puzzles of the Premier League rather harder to solve.

"I have tried to control games so we concede few goals in my career as a coach, and here I cannot do that, and I have to analyse why," he told reporters afterwards, promising to work overtime to put things right.

He has always said he would not dilute the way he goes about playing in the Premier League but asked if he would compromise on his philosophy, he said: "I have to improve to solve that, yeah, that's true."

There was also an intriguing exchange in light of City's fragility about his approach to on-field duels. "I'm not a coach for the tackles, so I don't train the tackles," he said.

As ever, though, Guardiola was protective about the performance of his players, saying: "I'm not disappointed with them."

Others are, though. Having been so far accorded in Manchester the respect his record and reputation as the world's leading coach deserves, there were signs in the reaction to the Leicester defeat that any fawning may be well and truly over.

The Manchester Evening News reckoned it had all been akin to "the worst days of (previous manager) Manuel Pellegrini last season" and made a withering observation: "It is not so much Messiah as simply mess."

(Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Toby Davis)

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Ramos stages another late show to snatch dramatic win for Realhttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/football-ramos-stages-another-late-show-to-snatch-dramatic-win/3358566.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/football-ramos-stages-another-late-show-to-snatch-dramatic-win/3358566.html?cid=cna_flip_070214Sports NewsSun, 11 Dec 2016 06:10:15 +0800BARCELONA: Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos again came to his side's rescue as they snatched a dramatic 3-2 victory over Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday to keep Zinedine Zidane's side six points clear at the top of La Liga and set a club record 35 games unbeaten.

Ramos, the scorer of Real's 90th-minute equaliser last week against Barcelona, headed in Toni Kroos' corner in the 93rd minute to complete a stunning turnaround after former Real forward Joselu threatened to unravel the unbeaten run.

Football Soccer - Real Madrid v Deportivo Coruna - Spanish La Liga Santander -Santiago Bernabeu st

Joselu struck twice in the space of two minutes to cancel out Alvaro Morata's stunning second-half strike in the 63rd minute and gave Deportivo a shock 2-1 lead in the 65th by knocking in a low cross from Florin Andone.

Real youngster Mariano Diaz scored his first league goal to level in the 88th and preserve the unbeaten run but yet again Ramos had the final say.

"When you fight until the end things go your way. They penalised our errors but in the end when you work hard you get results," said Ramos.

"I'm happy that I keep scoring goals and above all we keep completing our objectives."

Zidane, who rested several players, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, was also without Gareth Bale, who has an ankle injury - only the second time since the Welshman joined that Real have been without any of their famous BBC strike force of Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo for a league game.

The win keeps them top of La Liga on 37 points, six clear of nearest challengers Barcelona, who won 3-0 at Osasuna thanks to two second-half strikes from talisman Lionel Messi and an opener from Luis Suarez.

Midfield maestro Luka Modric was also rested for the game, and Real struggled to control an end-to-end first half, which saw Deportivo's Celso Borges hit the post and Real's Colombian playmaker James Rodriguez spurn a glorious chance to put the home side ahead.

Morata opened the scoring with a wonderful curled shot from outside the area but Joselu, his old strike partner in Real's reserve team, quickly put Deportivo level by capitalising after Casemiro was dispossessed by Andone.

Romanian forward Andone played a vital role in Joselu's second goal, too, zipping down the right on a counter and cutting the ball back for the striker to knock through the legs of Keylor Navas.

Zidane turned to Dominican forward Mariano from the bench to get his side out of trouble and his gamble paid off when the 23-year-old scrappily knocked in the equaliser off his shoulder.

The unbeaten run was still alive but Real were not satisfied with the draw - least of all Ramos, who again demonstrated his astonishing heading ability and capacity to save his team's skin.

Champions Barcelona had put pressure on Real earlier in the day by outplaying Osasuna and picking up a first win in four league games.

Barca missed a slew of chances in a dominant first-half display but their class eventually shone through when Suarez tapped Jordi Alba's cutback into an empty net in the 52nd minute to break the deadlock.

Messi sealed the points in the 72nd by finishing off another pass from Alba, and in stoppage time the Argentine wizard toyed with the Osasuna defence to grab the third and move ahead of Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo as the league's top scorer with 11 goals.

"We had a lot of chances and we knew that as soon as we got ahead it would open up. Fortunately, we were able to see out the game," Suarez told reporters.

"We can't give up the fight. We're Barca and we're title candidates. We won't give up whether we're five, six or seven points behind."

Elsewhere, Valencia's troubles continued with a 3-2 defeat at Real Sociedad, while Las Palmas drew 1-1 at home to Leganes.

(Editing by Ed Osmond, Neville Dalton)

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Football: Anderson shines as Lazio beat Sampdoria 2-1http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/football-anderson-shines-as-lazio-beat-sampdoria-2-1/3358560.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/football-anderson-shines-as-lazio-beat-sampdoria-2-1/3358560.html?cid=cna_flip_070214Sports NewsSun, 11 Dec 2016 05:55:11 +0800ROME: Lazio beat Sampdoria 2-1 on Saturday with Felipe Anderson setting up both their goals as they rebounded from last week's derby defeat to AS Roma to climb up to fourth in Serie A.

Lazio forward Ciro Immobile should have put the visitors ahead on 15 minutes when he was left completely unmarked in front of goal but his header was saved on the line by Christian Puggioni.

The keeper was beaten, however, when Sergej Milinkovic-Savic rose high to drill in his header from an Anderson cross in the 40th minute.

Lazio struck again on the stroke of halftime with Marco Parolo sliding in at the far post from yet another perfect delivery from Brazil international Anderson.

The visitors should have scored several more in the second half as Sampdoria offered little resistance.

Immobile alone squandered a bagful of chances, including one in the 70th minute after he beat the keeper but fired wide, before Patrik Schick pulled a goal back for the hosts with a powerful 89th-minute shot to set up a nervous finale.

Lazio held on to move up to 31 points with Sampdoria in ninth on 22.

League leaders Juventus, top on 36 points, face Torino in the Turin derby on Sunday.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Toby Davis)

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Football: Falcao scores hat-trick for rampant Monacohttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/football-falcao-scores-hat-trick-for-rampant-monaco/3358422.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/football-falcao-scores-hat-trick-for-rampant-monaco/3358422.html?cid=cna_flip_070214AFP SportsSun, 11 Dec 2016 05:52:56 +0800PARIS: Radamel Falcao netted a hat-trick as Monaco crushed 10-man Bordeaux 4-0 to go provisionally top of the Ligue 1 table on Saturday (Dec 10).

Djibril Sidibe got the opener and Falcao found the net in fortunate fashion to double the principality club's lead inside five minutes at the Matmut Atlantique.

Monaco's Colombian forward Radamel Falcao (L) shoots to score a goal against Bordeaux at the(Photo:AFP)

Falcao added two more goals in the second half, including one from the penalty spot, while Bordeaux ended a wretched evening a man down after the sending-off of Adam Ounas.

Europe's top scorers, Monaco have now scored 53 goals in just 17 league games, only four fewer than they managed in the whole of last season.

As a result they are now top of the table, above Cote d'Azur rivals Nice on goal difference, with defending champions Paris Saint-Germain four points back in third position.

PSG, who have run away with the title in recent seasons, are at home to Nice in a huge game on Sunday evening at the Parc des Princes.

"It was a great evening," said Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim.

"This year I think the league is more evenly balanced. Monaco are better, Nice too and I think Lyon are also going to come back. It's much more competitive and that is good for France. Our attackers have more quality and are making the difference. Our aim is just to keep progressing, that is the mentality."

Monaco have often struggled in Bordeaux down the years but they stunned their hosts by opening the scoring inside 80 seconds as Bernardo Silva set up France full-back Sidibe to find the net with a low finish across goalkeeper Jerome Prior.

It was 2-0 soon after when Prior tried to palm out a low cross from Valere Germain but the ball ricocheted off Falcao and into the net.

REMARKABLE RENAISSANCE

Any hopes Bordeaux harboured of a comeback in the second half were nipped in the bud as Monaco made it 3-0 on the breakaway in the 50th minute.

Thomas Lemar's long ball found Germain and he squared for Falcao, who took a touch before stabbing home.

The Colombian was handed the chance to complete his hat-trick from the penalty spot just after the hour mark when Nicolas Pallois petulantly threw Silva to the ground inside the box.

Falcao stepped up to score, taking his tally for the season to 10 goals in 11 league games and 14 goals in all competitions in what is a remarkable renaissance.

Jardim added: "He is a great goal-scorer. In the last two years things did not work out for him but this year, with the work he has put in, he has come back and is scoring goals."

Bordeaux's misery was completed when Algerian prospect Ounas was sent off for kicking out at Sidibe after fouling the Monaco man.

Earlier, Bafetimbi Gomis scored his eighth goal of the season late in the game as Marseille won 2-1 away at Dijon to register a first away victory of the campaign.

Maxime Lopez, 19, scored his first professional goal to put OM in front early on but ex-Newcastle United midfielder Mehdi Abeid had equalised for Dijon towards the end from a free-kick.

That match had been postponed on Friday evening due to thick fog in Burgundy and fog forced the postponement of the encounter between Nantes and Caen scheduled for later on Saturday.

Swedish international Ola Toivonen scored a hat-trick as Toulouse beat bottom club Lorient 3-2 in the mist, while Lille's revival under interim coach Patrick Collot continued as they beat Montpellier 2-1 for a third successive win.

Bastia climbed out of the relegation zone by beating Metz 2-0 and Nancy beat Angers by the same scoreline.

French Ligue 1 results on Saturday:

Dijon 1 Marseille 2

Bordeaux 0 Monaco 4

Bastia 2 Metz 0

Lille 2 Montpellier 1

Nancy 2 Angers 0

Nantes v Caen - match postponed due to fog

Toulouse 3 Lorient 2

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Figure Skating: Hanyu, Medvedeva retain Grand Prix Final titleshttp://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/figure-skating-hanyu-medvedeva-retain-grand-prix-final-titles/3358556.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/figure-skating-hanyu-medvedeva-retain-grand-prix-final-titles/3358556.html?cid=cna_flip_070214AFP SportsSun, 11 Dec 2016 05:14:44 +0800MARSEILLE: Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu became the first skater to win four straight men's Grand Prix Final titles on Saturday (Dec 10) as Russian teenager Evgenia Medvedeva defended her women's crown.

Olympic champion Hanyu took gold despite a fall which saw the 22-year-old place just third in the free skating final in Marseille.

Hanyu medal

American Nathan Chen landed four quadruple jumps in his free skate to move up from fifth to silver medal position with Japan's Shoma Uno taking a second consecutive bronze.

The three men's favourites - Hanyu, Spaniard Javier Fernandez and Canadian Patrick Chan - all had bad tumbles during the elite six-skater competition.

"I don't know what happened today. I was feeling a little tired, every jump was hard," said Hanyu who scored 293.90 points in total, over ten points ahead of Chen (282.85), who put the US men back on the podium for the first time since 2009, with Uno scoring 282.51.

Reigning two-time world champion Fernandez (268.77) and former three-time world champion Chan (266.75) saw their challenges collapse to fourth and fifth respectively. American Adam Rippon finished sixth.

Chen, 17, gave a remarkable performance with the top score of 197.55 points for his free skate to Polovtsian Dances -- ten points better than Hanyu achieved for his skate to Hope and Legacy by Joe Hisaishi.

But Hanyu nevertheless held his top place from the short programme to become the second man to win four titles after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko, but first to win four in a row.

"The programme is on the theme of hope and legacy and this is like my life, or my skating life," explained former world champion Hanyu. "Some people hate me, lots of people love me, so sometimes I am sad and sometimes I am happy. These two halves are what the programme shows."

'REALLY HUGE'

Earlier Medvedeva narrowly missed out on an historic all-time score to win her second women's title as Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir made a winning return by claiming the ice dancing crown.

Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva competes during the Senior Ladies Free program at the ISU Grand Prix

Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva competes during the Senior Ladies Free programme. (Photo: AFP/Anne-Christine Poujoulat)

The 17-year-old Medvedeva earned 227.66 points, just a point off the record total of 228.6 set by South Korean star Kim Yu-na six years ago.

Japan's Satoko Miyahara scored 218.33 for second place with Anna Pogorilaya of Russia taking third place with 216.47.

Medvedeva was far from perfect with an error on a triple flip at the start of her routine to the music of Alexandre Desplat depriving her of the record score.

"I expected more from myself. I wanted to do more and I could have done more," said Medvedeva.

But the world champion nevertheless finished nearly 10 points ahead of 18-year-old Miyahara thanks to her incredible performance in Friday's short programme where her 79.21 points eclipsed Mao Asada's record 78.66 two years ago.

There were four Russians in the six-skater field with Maria Sotskova finishing fifth and Elena Radionova sixth. Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond was fourth.

Virtue and Moir, the 2010 Olympic champions, have come back strong after two seasons off, winning the only title to have eluded them in their long career.

The Canadians scored 197.22 points to take gold ahead of two-time world champion ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France (192.81) alongside whom they train in Montreal.

"For us this title is really huge," said Moir of a championship where they took silver four times. "It wasn't really an objective for this week so it kind of makes it the frosting on the cake.

"For us, just competing against these young and fantastic athletes again is huge and an honour. I know that we woke up a couple of these young and really talented skaters and they'll really come hard at us now. So we need to keep chasing."

Russia's Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov won their first major title on Friday when they clinched the pairs crown, sounding out a warning for the 2018 Olympics.

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Welcome back to Vardy and 'the true Leicester'http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/welcome-back-to-vardy-and-the-true-leicester/3358554.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/welcome-back-to-vardy-and-the-true-leicester/3358554.html?cid=cna_flip_070214Sports NewsSun, 11 Dec 2016 05:05:13 +0800REUTERS: Former England striker Gary Lineker, Leicester City's most famous and perhaps favourite son, wondered aloud last week whether last season's Premier League triumph had all been a crazy dream, so dismal had their defence of the title been.

The collective will seemed to have long evaporated, along with Jamie Vardy's goals and Riyad Mahrez's magic. Yet on Saturday, on a rainy December night, the King Power Stadium was transported back to those balmy, wonderful May days.

Leicester City's Jamie Vardy with the match ball at the end of the match after scoring a hat-t

Mahrez looked like the player of the year again with his exquisite assists, Vardy scored his first-ever hat-trick for the Foxes and Claudio Ranieri's men seemed to be infused with their old spirit as they beat Pep Guardiola's Manchester City 4-2.

When Vardy returned to the dressing room afterwards, Ranieri smiled that he had told his key striker who had not scored for the club in 16 matches: "Oh, welcome back!"

He could have been speaking to the entire team whose performance, so redolent of the steel and style that had earned them the title, made a mockery of their unwanted possession of the worst record of any defending English league winners since Ipswich Town in 1962-63.

"It was the true Leicester today," Ranieri said proudly.

On Wednesday, albeit with a second-string squad, Leicester had been appalling in their record 5-0 thrashing by Porto in the Champions League and Ranieri admitted he and the players had thrashed out the problems for an hour after the game.

So it was that a new-look Leicester should emerge, looking very much like the old Leicester: not worrying about lack of possession but striking quickly and inventively on the counter and defending resolutely.

"The big champions react at the right moment," Ranieri enthused. "We know when we play well we can win. Today they made an effort for the team. That is what I love."

The victory, which also featured a goal for old favourite Andy King, offered the tantalising prospect that Leicester could now go on and produce the sort of performances they had hitherto saved largely for Champions League nights.

"The next matches are very important until Christmas because we are in a battle for relegation," Ranieri added, with his side still only four points above the drop zone.

His old smile was back, though. "I said I need warriors and they showed me what I wanted to see," he beamed.

(Reporting by Ian Chadband,; Editing by Neville Dalton)

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Turkey declares day of mourning after soccer bombing kills 29, wounds 166http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/turkey-declares-day-of-mourning-after-soccer-bombing-kills-29/3358524.html?cid=cna_flip_070214http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/turkey-declares-day-of-mourning-after-soccer-bombing-kills-29/3358524.html?cid=cna_flip_070214WorldSun, 11 Dec 2016 04:10:10 +0800ISTANBUL: Turkey declared a day of national mourning on Sunday (Dec 11), after two bombs killed 29 people and wounded 166 others in a coordinated attack on police outside a soccer stadium in Istanbul after a match between two top teams.

The blasts on Saturday night - a car bomb outside the Vodafone Arena home to Istanbul's Besiktas soccer team followed by a suicide bomb attack in an adjacent park less than a minute later - shook a soccer-mad nation still trying to recover from a series of deadly bombing this year in cities including Istanbul and the capital Ankara.

A damaged vehicle is seen after a blast in Istanbul

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim ordered flags flown at half mast to commemorate the victims, state-run Anadolu Agency said.

President Tayyip Erdogan cancelled a planned trip to Kazakhstan, his office said. Erdogan described the blasts as a terrorist attack on police and civilians. He said the aim of the bombings, two hours after the end of a match attended by thousands of people, had been to cause the maximum number of casualties.

"Nobody should doubt that with God's will, we as a country and a nation will overcome terror, terrorist organisations ... and the forces behind them," he said in a statement.

KURDISH MILITANT GROUP MAY BE BEHIND ATTACK: DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER

In comments broadcast on CNN Turk, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Sunday that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) may be behind the attack.

"The arrows point at the PKK. It is clearly a planned event. There will be an announcement once the investigations are over. We cannot say anything definite for now," Kurtulmus said.

He added that countries offering messages condemning the bombing should also show solidarity with Turkey's fight against terrorism.

There has been no immediate claim of responsibility, but the blasts came less than a week after the Islamic State group urged its supporters to target Turkey's "security, military, economic and media establishment".

"It was like hell. The flames went all the way up to the sky. I was drinking tea at the cafe next to the mosque," said Omer Yilmaz, who works as a cleaner at the nearby Dolmabahce mosque, directly across the road from the stadium.

"People ducked under the tables, women began crying. Football fans drinking tea at the cafe sought shelter, it was horrible," he told Reuters.

Turkey is a member of the NATO military alliance and part of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State. It launched a military incursion into Syria in August against the radical Islamist group. It is also fighting a Kurdish militant insurgency in its own southeast.

VICTIMS MAINLY POLICE

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the first explosion, which came around two hours after the end of the match between Besiktas and Bursaspor, was at an assembly point for riot police officers. The second came as police surrounded the suicide bomber in the nearby Macka park.

Two of those killed in the blasts were civilians. The other 27 were police officers, including a police chief and another senior officer, Soylu said. He said 17 of the wounded were undergoing surgery and another six were in intensive care.

Soylu also said 10 people had been detained based on evidence from the detonated vehicle, but gave no indication of who the authorities thought might be behind the attack.

A Reuters photographer said many riot police officers were seriously wounded. Armed police sealed off streets. A police water cannon doused the wreckage of a burned-out car and there were two separate fires on the road outside the stadium.

Bursaspor said none of its fans appeared to have been injured. Both it and Besiktas condemned the bombings.

"Those attacking our nation's unity and solidarity will never win," Sports Minister Akif Cagatay Kilic said on Twitter. Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan, also writing on Twitter, described it as a terrorist attack.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned what he described as "horrific acts of terror", while European leaders also sent messages of solidarity. The United States condemned the attack and said it stood with its NATO ally.

The bombings come five months after Turkey was shaken by a failed military coup, in which more than 240 people were killed, many of them in Istanbul, as rogue soldiers commandeered tanks and fighter jets in a bid to seize power.

Istanbul has seen several other attacks this year, including in June, when around 45 people were killed and hundreds wounded as three suspected Islamic State militants carried out a gun and bomb attack on its main Ataturk airport.

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