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. NewsAsiahttp://www.channelnewsasia.com129137en-usAs Pakistan army chief's tenure nears end, PM faces key choice PacificWed, 28 Sep 2016 09:15:25 +0800ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif faces a key choice in the coming weeks about who should run Pakistan's powerful military, one that will have a major influence on the country's often strained relationships with the United States and nuclear rival India.

With Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif saying he will step down when his tenure ends in November, the top post is up for grabs, and the prime minister decides who gets it.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan removes his eyeglasses after addressing the United Nations

Overshadowing the process has been speculation in the media and by some government officials that the general, no relation to the premier, may seek to hold on to some or all of his powers even after his term is finished.

The general is immensely popular among ordinary Pakistanis, who see him as a bulwark against crime, corruption and Islamist militant violence.

He has also strengthened the military's grip over aspects of government, including the judiciary and areas of security policy.

Yet the military flatly rejects the possibility of an extension.

"I will request you to avoid speculations, because we have already taken a position very clearly," Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa, the army's main spokesman, told a recent press briefing.

The military declined to comment further and said General Sharif was not available for interview.

In a country prone to military coups, including one in which Nawaz Sharif himself was ousted from power in 1999, suspicions that the general will remain in his post persist, including among some of the prime minister's senior aides.

Reuters has no independent evidence to corroborate this view.

"Army chiefs soon begin to think they are invincibles-in-chief," said a close aide to Nawaz Sharif, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak about military appointments.

What happens at the top of Pakistan's armed forces will be closely watched overseas.

With nearly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan fighting the Afghan Taliban and other militant groups, Washington is losing patience with what it says is Pakistan's failure to hunt down insurgents who launch attacks on Afghanistan from Pakistani territory. Pakistan denies this.

India has ratcheted up rhetoric against Pakistan, alarmed at an escalation of violence in the disputed region of Kashmir, including an attack on an army base there that killed 18 soldiers. Islamabad denies accusations it was behind the raid.


According to three close aides to the prime minister and a senior military official, the military high command has sent the prime minister the dossiers of four main contenders.

The premier's favourite, the aides said, was Lieutenant General Javed Iqbal Ramday, commander of XXXI Corps who led a 2009 operation to drive the Pakistani Taliban militant movement from Swat Valley near the Afghan border.

The three other dossiers are for Lieutenant General Zubair Hayat, Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmad, commanding officer in the eastern city of Multan, and Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who heads the army's Training and Evaluation Wing.

Ramday is considered among the front-runners, in part because his family has been associated with Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PMLN) party for many years.

He is also seen by some security officials as popular with General Sharif.

"He's perhaps as liked by Raheel Sharif as he is by Nawaz Sharif," said a senior security official based in Islamabad, declining to be named.

Neither the prime minister nor General Sharif have commented publicly on his chances.

Hayat oversees intelligence and operational affairs at the army's General Headquarters, and before that headed the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), which is responsible for Pakistan's nuclear programme.

Retired and serving officers who have served with Hayat see him as a compromise between the military and civilian government.

Ahmad has extensive experience with military operations, especially against Pakistan's Taliban insurgency, and was previously the Director General Military Operations.

Several past army chiefs had served as DGMOs before being promoted to the top post.

A serving brigadier who has worked with Bajwa said he was the general "most similar in temperament to General Raheel", adding that: "His chances are also very good."

The army's media wing did not respond to requests to interview the four contenders.


If Nawaz Sharif appoints a new army chief, it could allow him to claw back some of the influence he has ceded since coming to power in 2013, analysts said.

In 2014, the prime minister emerged in charge but weakened after protests demanding his resignation, and that year the army also went against his wishes for a negotiated settlement with Taliban militants by sending troops into North Waziristan.

"Nawaz has lost a lot of ground to the military during Raheel's tenure," Talat Masood, a retired general and political analyst said. "He will try and retake certain space by asserting himself. I think he would like a change in leadership."

Sharif has been quiet on the issue of the military's ascendancy in public.

But a statement from his office late last year, issued after the military urged the government to match its efforts in fighting militancy, said "all institutions have to play their role, while remaining within the ambit of the constitution."

Under Raheel Sharif, the army tightened control over the battle against militants, including creating military courts that have sentenced dozens of people to death.

The courts have been criticised by lawyers and families of defendants for denying basic rights, and some are challenging the courts' rulings through the civilian judiciary.

The military has also taken a lead role in policing the southern city of Karachi, a broadly popular operation that has reduced rampant crime but also been denounced as heavy-handed and open to abuses including extra-judicial killings.

"If Raheel Sharif hadn't been chief, these militants and criminals would have destroyed Pakistan," said Bismillah Khan, a bus driver in the southwestern city of Quetta. "I hope whoever replaces him will be just like him."

(Additional reporting by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Kay Johnson)

Slum dwellers squeezed out of India's ambitious Smart Cities plan, activists say, 28 Sep 2016 09:05:34 +0800BHUBANESWAR/MUMBAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Once known as Temple City for its ancient Hindu temples, Bhubaneswar in the eastern Indian state of Odisha aims to reposition itself as a hub for technology and healthcare with funding from a government programme to modernise cities.

It is one of 100 Smart Cities Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed to create by 2022 that will have internet connectivity, uninterrupted power and water supply, efficient public transport and living standards comparable to Europe.

But India's drive to overhaul its cities to accommodate a growing population of migrants will force tens of thousands of people from their slum homes as city planners spruce up central business districts and build metro train lines, activists say.

"We have no choice. If we stay, the government will forcefully evict us," said Ananda Chandra Parida, who has lived since 2007 in Bhubaneswar's Kargil slum, home to 2,000 families.

"The houses they are building for us are small, and many of us cannot afford them," said Parida, 40, who lives in a two-room brick house with his wife and two children.

Government officials say India's cities - 13 of which are among the 20 most polluted in the world - desperately need the US$7.5 billion makeover.

About a third of the country's 1.25 billion population lives in cities with numbers growing every year as tens of thousands of migrants leave their villages to seek better prospects in urban areas.

Many migrants end up in overcrowded slums, lacking basic facilities. Activists say the Smart Cities Mission is neglecting the needs of millions of people like them.

"(The plan) will only benefit a few and exclude the most vulnerable from the resources they so badly need," Rajendra Ravi of the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), an umbrella organisation of rights groups, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


About 65 million people live in India's slums, according to 2011 census data, which activists say is a low estimate.

Most cities that have submitted development proposals in order to be picked as a Smart City, plan on spending more than 70 percent of funds on developing an area for the benefit of only about 4 percent of the city's population, said Bhanu Joshi, a researcher at the Centre for Policy Research in Delhi.

"It's a very exclusionary plan that doesn't take into account everyone who makes up an urban space," Joshi said.

"Simply monetising the land and building fancy enclaves does not make a city inclusive or sustainable or smart."

Government officials, who have unveiled 60 Smart Cities so far, say the project will boost investment and create millions of jobs.

In Bhubaneswar, campaigners say about 50,000 slum dwellers will be evicted, many of whom will also lose their livelihoods.

There have also been demolitions and evictions in slums in the cities of Indore and Bhopal in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, which were named as Smart Cities. About 1,200 families were evicted in Indore, according to NAPM.

City officials in Bhubaneswar defended the plan.

"Our plan is very inclusive," said Krishan Kumar, vice chairman of Bhubaneswar Development Authority.

"We are planning 6,000 units of affordable housing which would be allotted to them near their locality at a highly subsidised rate," he said, without specifying how slum dwellers will pay 150,000 rupees (US$2,256) for each of these homes.


In the hill city of Dharamsala, which was also picked as a Smart City, about 300 families were evicted from the Charan Khad settlement in June. Most were low-caste Dalits and indigenous people who had lived there for 30 years.

"In a smart city, the poor have no role," said Bipin Bharadwaj, an activist with Lok Raj Sangathan in Dharamsala.

The city's mayor told reporters there was no option but to relocate residents, that due process was followed, and that they had been given enough time to make alternative arrangements.

Even when slum dwellers are offered accommodation, officials are applying an eligibility criteria based on the number of years spent there, thus excluding many, NAPM's Ravi said.

"They just want us to go far away. They don't want huts in the city area," said Ramesh Kumar, a cobbler who had lived in Charan Khad and now rents a tiny room in town.

"You want to make a smart city and you think we look poor and are dirty; where should we go?" he said.

(US$1 = 66.479 Indian rupees)

(Additional reporting by Abhishek Madhukar in Dharamsala, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit to see more stories.)

Britney Spears on pop inspiration and why she's not making a comeback, 28 Sep 2016 09:00:40 +0800REUTERS: After a career spanning two decades that include highs and lows, pop singer Britney Spears discussed her inspirations and why her latest album should not be seen as a return to music.

"I don't really see it as a comeback. I've been here for a really long time," the singer told Reuters ahead of her performance at the Apple Music Festival in London on Tuesday.

Singer Britney Spears arrives at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards in New York

Hundreds of fans cheered, sang and danced at the Roundhouse music venue in Camden as Spears and a troupe of male and female dancers performed her chart-topping hits including "...Baby One More Time" and "Oops!.. I Did it Again."

The singer donned a variety of outfits during the gig, ranging from a sparkly sequined leotard to a schoolgirl-inspired skirt, shirt and tie.

The concert comes a month after Spears' ninth album "Glory" came out and she delivered a steamy, high-octane performance at MTV's Video Music Awards, thrusting the singer back in the national spotlight.

"I feel like it's been a while since I brought new music to the table," Spears said. "I didn't want to do a typical pop record for this. I wanted to do something really different."

Spears, 34, said "Glory," which features the hit song "Make Me," is still her style but with "a little bit of a flair to it," drawing inspiration from pop singer Selena Gomez's most recent "Revival" tour.

"I just love her music. I think she's really great. So I was really, really inspired by her work," she said.

The new album cements a steady return to music after Spears took a hiatus following a personal and career meltdown in 2006-2007 that included shaving her signature blonde locks, losing custody of her two children and being placed under a court-ordered conservatorship.

She made a comeback in late 2008 and since 2013 has helmed a successful residency show in Las Vegas, extended through 2017.

As for future musical collaborations, Spears has a couple of rockers in mind, specifically Aerosmith's charismatic frontman.

"I love Steven Tyler; he's great. He's like rock'n'roll man, like just crazy cool. I think he exudes sex and electricity and you're just like a magnet when you get next to him," Spears said.

"I would love to work with Lenny Kravitz. I think he's great; he's a legend," she added.

(Reporting by Reuters TV in London; Writing by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Workers' Party calls on Government to 'reject' online betting applications Local NewsWed, 28 Sep 2016 08:41:51 +0800

SINGAPORE: The opposition Workers’ Party (WP) has called on the Government to “reject” applications for online betting services, in a statement released on its website on Tuesday (Sep 27).

The party expressed concerns over the applications submitted by Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club (STC) last year.

stock sg pools 02

In its statement, the WP said it goes against the Government’s plans to tackle remote gambling.

“When the government decided to clamp down on remote gambling in 2014, it cited concerns about addictive behaviour and easy access to these games. Should the Government approve their applications, Singapore Pools and STC will have 24/7 virtual betting outlets available in almost every home and mobile device,” said the Party’s Assistant Secretary-General Pritam Singh.

“During the second reading of the Remote Gambling Bill in 2014, the Government rejected the Workers’ Party call to send the Remote Gambling Bill – specifically the clauses that dealt with exemptions – to a Select Committee of Parliament for further scrutiny and oversight,” the statement added.

WP said it “opposed the granting of exemptions to any organization to operate remote and online betting services”.

The Government is currently evaluating the applications by Singapore Pools and STC to be exempted from the Remote Gambling Act which was passed in 2014. The Act prohibits remote gambling via websites, phones or smart devices.

Asia stocks inch up after Wall Street's gains, oil prices slide BusinessWed, 28 Sep 2016 08:35:47 +0800TOKYO: Asian stocks edged up early on Wednesday following an overnight rise for U.S. stocks, while reduced hopes that a meeting of major producers would reduce a oversupply weighed heavily on crude oil prices.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.1 percent.

Traders work on the floor of the NYSE in New York City

Australian stocks were up 0.5 percent while South Korea's Kospi was flat. Japan's Nikkei was last down 1.1 percent.

Overnight, the Dow rose 0.7 percent and Nasdaq added 0.9 percent. A perceived win by Democrat Hillary Clinton over Republican Donald Trump at the first presidential debate gave broader support to equities, although sliding oil prices were a drag on the energy sector.

Oil fell about 3 percent on Tuesday after Saudi Arabia and Iran dashed market expectations that the two major OPEC producers would find a compromise this week at a meeting in Algiers to help ease a global glut of crude.

U.S. crude had crawled up 0.45 percent to US$44.87 a barrel early on Wednesday, the final day of the Sept. 26-28 International Energy Forum gathering.

With oil prices having dropped to less than half of their 2014 highs, the Algiers talks are OPEC's second attempt at an output agreement after a failed round in Qatar in April.

"The market currently does not expect any agreement at this meeting, so no agreement should have only limited negative impact on the oil price," wrote Marshall Gittler, head of investment research at FXPRIMUS.

"Expectations are now so low though that if by some miracle they did come to even a half-hearted agreement, that would probably send prices up sharply."

In currencies, the dollar was flat at 100.470 yen .

It had popped up to 100.990 yen on Tuesday when Clinton was seen to have emerged as the winner at the debate and removed an element of uncertainty. But the rise petered out with the market reminded that Clinton also favours a weaker dollar, and with the greenback also hurt by falling U.S. yields.

The euro was steady at US$1.1217 after losing about 0.4 percent overnight on concerns over Europe's banking sector.

Near-term market focus was on European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, who will face tough questions from German lawmakers later on Wednesday about the central bank's monetary policy.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will deliver semi-annual testimony before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee.

The Mexican peso, which jumped against the dollar following Clinton's perceived debate win, held to its gains.

The currency stood little changed at 19.38 pesos to the dollar , having rallied on Tuesday from a record low of 19.92 hit earlier on worries that a Trump win would threaten Mexico's exports to the United States.

The 10-year U.S. Treasury note yield hovered near a three-week low of 1.546 percent touched overnight amid speculation that Europe's banking woes could delay the Fed's next interest rate hike.

(Editing by Richard Borsuk)

Trump gets back on message at first rally after debate PacificWed, 28 Sep 2016 08:35:23 +0800MELBOURNE, Fla.: U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump got back on message on Tuesday after Democrat Hillary Clinton put him on the defensive at their first debate, and he cast her as "stuck in the past" and himself as a change agent.

Trump's speech to thousands at a rally in a Florida airport hangar included some points that some supporters wished he had made before the record television audience of 84 million people for the debate on Monday in Hempstead, New York.

Supporters gather to rally with Trump in a hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Mel

One was Clinton's promise during her successful campaign to win a U.S. Senate seat in 2000 to create jobs in upstate New York.

When Clinton pledged at Monday's debate that her economic plan would create millions of jobs, Trump did not use the opportunity to point out she oversold how many jobs she could create in upstate New York.

Trump raised the issue on Tuesday in Melbourne, Florida, about 70 miles east of Orlando on Florida's Atlantic coast where several defence and technology companies have operations.

"She pledged 200,000 jobs for upstate New York. It's so sad when you see what has happened to upstate New York. It's a disaster. She said she was going to do something about it... This is exactly what would happen if she ever won," he said.

Trump's first campaign day after his debate performance, which received mixed reviews from voters, was aimed at taking advantage of polls showing him in a tight race in Florida with 41 days to go until the Nov. 8 election.

"For 90 minutes, Secretary Clinton was stuck in the past. For 90 minutes, on issue after issue, Secretary Clinton defended the terrible status quo – while I laid out our plan to bring jobs, security and prosperity back to the American people," he said.

Earlier, at a Cuban bakery in Miami's Little Havana area, Trump sipped coffee and ordered pastries and empanadas and heard cries of "Viva Trump" from some patrons there.

Elsewhere in the neighbourhood, Trump held a roundtable discussion with Latino supporters, an effort to bolster his support among Hispanic-American voters who worry about his hardline immigration policy.

At that event, a Trump supporter, Irina Vilarino, a Cuban-American restaurant owner, told reporters that Trump needs to show improvement at his next debate on Oct. 9 in St. Louis.

"He needs to take this debate and learn from his mistakes," she said. "And I think he needs to address the issues that are pertinent to everyday Americans on the street."

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

China shuts schools and recalls fishing boats as typhoon hits PacificWed, 28 Sep 2016 08:30:13 +0800SHANGHAI: China shut schools and cancelled dozens of flights as Typhoon Megi made landfall in the southern province of Fujian on Wednesday with winds of close to 120 km per hour (75 mph), the official Xinhua news agency said.

Megi, which has killed four people and injured more than 523 in Taiwan since roaring in from the Pacific, made landfall at 4:40 a.m. local time (2040 GMT Tuesday). Chinese authorities issued their third-highest severe weather warning in anticipation of the storm.

Xinhua said more than 120,000 people who work close to shore or at sea have been moved by Fujian authorities. The province's 31,700 fishing boats have been recalled to port to avoid the high winds.

China Southern Airlines said it had cancelled 24 flights beginning from Tuesday.

More than 14,700 people were evacuated in Taiwan, while millions lost power and hundreds of thousands of homes were without water.

Typhoons are common at this time of year, picking up strength as they cross warm Pacific waters and bringing fierce winds and rain when they reach land.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Additional Reporting by J.R. Wu in TAIPEI; Editing by Paul Tait)

Russia's Rosneft plans to take final investment decision on Far East LNG in 2017-18 BusinessWed, 28 Sep 2016 08:10:38 +0800YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, Russia: Russia's Rosneft plans to take a final investment decision on its Far East LNG project in 2017-2018, according to a presentation by Rosneft department head Alexander Zharov at a conference on Wednesday.

The presentation also showed that the production at the plant may start after 2023. Rosneft, which partners with ExxonMobil, Sodeco and ONGC at the project, plans to produce 5 million tonnes of LNG at the plant at the start, with possibility of rising to 10 million tonnes in the future.

The logo of Russia's Rosneft oil company is pictured at the central processing facility of the

(Reporting by Katya Golubkova; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Obama names first ambassador to Cuba in five decades WorldWed, 28 Sep 2016 07:56:56 +0800WASHINGTON: The United States has tapped Jeffrey DeLaurentis, America's top diplomat in Havana, to become the first official ambassador to Cuba in five decades.

"The appointment of an ambassador is a common sense step forward toward a more normal and productive relationship between our two countries," Obama said in a statement.

Jeffrey DeLaurentis(Photo:AFP)

Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced a thaw in relations in December 2014. Since then, Washington and Havana have taken once-unthinkable steps to mend ties after more than half a century of enmity.

President Obama has visit Cuba and relaxed portions of the US embargo imposed since 1962.

Flights have resumed and cruise ships can now sail from Miami to Havana.

US companies like Airbnb and Netflix now operate in Cuba and American hotel group Starwood recently opened a Sheraton in Havana.

DeLaurentis is already in Havana and previously worked in Bogota and at the United Nations.

But his nomination, which requires Senate confirmation, is likely to face stiff opposition in Congress, where Cuban American lawmakers have sought to garner local support by opposing Obama's policies.

Any senator could place an anonymous hold on the nomination.

Tearful reunions as Colombia rebels embrace peace WorldWed, 28 Sep 2016 07:46:06 +0800EL DIAMANTE: Miriam Vanegas had not seen her son for 10 years after FARC rebels took him away into the Colombian wilderness. Now the fighters have signed a peace deal, and she has him back.

As the FARC - the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - prepared to approve a historic peace deal signed on Monday, Miriam spotted Pablo Esteban in images filmed at a conference held by the force.

Members of the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla(Photo:AFP)

"He left when he was 13. They took him away," she said. "I searched heaven and earth for him until last week, when I saw him on television in the conference."

Dressed in a black dress with a blue and pink flower design, she can scarcely contain her tears as she recalls the reunion.

"I travelled six hours on a motorbike to get here," she said of her journey along a remote path through the heat and humidity to the FARC's base in El Diamante, western Colombia.

There, a female FARC member recognised the 10-year-old boy in the photo Miriam held in her hand. She led Miriam to a camp where she found him, transformed into a young man.

"I hugged him and I cried," she said, her voice trembling. "You do not know how happy I am."


In this remote base in the grassy plains, hundreds of FARC fighters gathered on Monday to watch the signing ceremony on big screens.

They applauded when their leader Timoleon "Timochenko" Jimenez signed the accord and made a speech hailing the FARC's transition to politics.

The agreement formally ends a conflict Colombian authorities estimate has killed 260,000 people, left 45,000 missing and uprooted 6.9 million.

The FARC rebel movement

Updated timeline charting the history of the FARC rebel movement. (AFP/Gustavo IZUS)

After watching the signing, FARC members mounted a stage, dressed all in white, and sang the FARC anthem and the "Ode to Joy." "At last, we have a second chance on Earth," a top commander, Carlos Antonio Lozada, told the gathering.


FARC fighter David Preciado celebrated the signing by playing football with his comrades in the camp. He ran around on a mud pitch with bamboo goalposts, getting dirty, happy as a child.

He lost his left arm after he was shot in an ambush by the army. That slowed him down a bit on the pitch - as did the lack of practice.

Normally "we are not allowed to play for reasons of public order," he said. Now in his thirties, David says he joined the FARC when he was 19 because he liked guns.

He had not played football for a decade - the last time was when the rebels and the government last tried, unsuccessfully, to make peace, from 1999-2002.

"Playing football is one of the ways of celebrating the triumph we have achieved," he said. "The government did not defeat us, and we did not defeat them. Our 52 years of war were not in vain," he added.

"We are aware that we have to move forward together, united ... to finally achieve victory, giving power to the people by political means."


The FARC's 7,000 fighters must come out of their jungle camps and disarm.

The peace deal grants an amnesty for "political crimes" committed during the conflict, but not for the worst atrocities, such as massacres, torture and rape.

Colombians will vote in a referendum on Oct 2 on whether to ratify the peace accord.

Two polls published on Monday indicated the "Yes" vote would win by a strong margin of around 20 per cent, with about 35 per cent of voters against the deal.

Some Colombians resent the concessions made to the FARC in the accord.

"The Americans would not grant impunity to Osama Bin Laden," former president Alvaro Uribe said. "Why should we Colombians grant total impunity to terrorists?"


Ahead of the FARC conference last week during which it approved the peace accord, members welcomed journalists and other outside visitors to their camp.

They spruced it up for the occasion with special huts and bathroom facilities. They played football with visitors.

"We want to show people that we are not the monsters they say we are," said one 32-year old FARC fighter, who identified herself as Patricia. "We are human beings."

Obama nominates career diplomat as US ambassador to Cuba, 28 Sep 2016 07:40:15 +0800WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama on Tuesday nominated career diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis to be the first U.S. ambassador to Cuba in more than five decades, setting up a fierce confirmation battle with Republicans in Congress opposed to Obama’s opening with the communist-ruled island.

The appointment of DeLaurentis, who has been the top American official at the U.S. embassy in Havana since relations were restored last year, marked Obama’s latest move to go as far as he can in normalizing ties between the former Cold War foes before he leaves office in January.

President Obama and his wife walk stand with ambassador DeLaurentis in Havana

The nomination must be approved by the Republican-controlled Senate, which is seen as a long shot, especially in a presidential election year and given strong resistance expected from Cuban-American lawmakers such as Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

"Jeff’s leadership has been vital throughout the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, and the appointment of an ambassador is a common sense step forward toward a more normal and productive relationship between our two countries,” Obama said in a statement.

DeLaurentis had been widely tipped as Obama’s favourite for the post. But he held off naming him until now despite Cuba’s appointment of its own ambassador to Washington shortly after embassies were reopened in both countries’ capitals in July of last year. He would be the first U.S. envoy to Cuba in 55 years.

Obama visited Havana in March, a trip made possible by his breakthrough agreement with Cuban President Raul Castro in December 2014 to cast aside decades of hostility that began soon after Cuba's 1959 revolution.

While Obama has since chipped away at travel and trade restrictions, the U.S. embargo against Cuba remains in place, a continuing irritant in relations. Only Congress can lift the embargo, and the Republican-controlled legislature is not expected to do so anytime soon.

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Dan Grebler)

Brazil senator, husband indicted in Petrobras scandal, 28 Sep 2016 07:35:19 +0800SAO PAULO: Brazilian Senator Gleisi Hoffmann and her husband, who both served in the ousted government of former President Dilma Rousseff, were indicted on Tuesday by the Supreme Court on corruption and money laundering charges in the Petrobras graft investigation.

Hoffmann, who was chief of staff to Rousseff during her first term, and husband Paulo Bernardo, will stand trial for allegedly receiving 1 million reais (US$309,000) in kickback money to illegally fund her 2010 Senate election campaign.

As an elected official, Hoffmann can only be tried by the Supreme Court and five justices on the top court ruled unanimously to accept the charges against her.

She is the third sitting politician to go on trial in the massive bribery and kickback scandal uncovered two years ago at state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA.

The corruption scandal contributed to the removal of Rousseff in an impeachment trial in August, ending 13 years of leftist Workers Party rule.

Prosecutors said Bernardo, who was Rousseff's communications minister, requested the funds from former Petrobras supply director Paulo Roberto Costa when he was planning minister in the previous Workers Party-led government of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The money was used in Hoffmann's campaign and never declared to electoral authorities, they said.

Lawyers for the couple said the alleged donation to Hoffmann's campaign never existed and rejected the "extremely fragile" allegations against Bernardo as false presumption. They said Bernardo as a minister had no influence over Costa.

(Reporting by Eduardo Simões; writing by Marcelo Teixeira, editing by G Crosse)

RBS to pay US$1.1 billion to resolve US regulator's mortgage cases BusinessWed, 28 Sep 2016 07:25:15 +0800NEW YORK: Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc will pay US$1.1 billion to resolve claims that it sold toxic mortgage-backed securities to credit unions that later failed, the U.S. National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) said on Tuesday.

The settlement with RBS brings the U.S. regulator's recoveries against various banks to US$4.3 billion in lawsuits over their sale of mortgage-backed securities before the 2008 financial crisis.

The logo of Royal Bank of Scotland is seen at office building in Zurich

NCUA Board Chairman Rick Metsger said the regulator was pleased with the settlement and plans to continue "to pursue recoveries against financial firms that we maintain contributed to the corporate crisis."

The settlement resolves lawsuits filed in federal courts in California and Kansas in the NCUA's role as the liquidating agent for Western Corporate Federal Credit Union and U.S. Central Federal Credit Union.

Under the settlement, RBS does not admit fault, the NCUA said in a statement. The settlement comes on top of a prior deal in 2015 in which RBS agreed to pay US$129.6 million to resolve a similar federal lawsuit the NCUA filed in New York.

RBS in January said it had set aside 3.8 billion pounds (US$4.95 billion) to resolve civil lawsuits over mortgage-backed securities, investment products packaged and sold before the U.S. housing meltdown and financial crisis in 2008.

RBS had said that provision did not cover ongoing investigations by the U.S. Justice Department or various state attorneys general.

The bank also continues to face a multi-billion dollar lawsuit by the U.S. Federal Housing Finance Agency, which has acted as the conservator for mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac since their government takeover in 2008.

Replying to a request for comment, an RBS spokesman on Tuesday pointed to comments that RBS CEO Ross McEwan made at a conference in London earlier in the day, in which he said the bank was working toward resolving various mortgage bond claims over the remainder of this year and next.

The NCUA said it continues to litigate against other banks, including Credit Suisse and UBS, over what it says was their sale of faulty mortgage-backed securities to corporate credit unions.

(US$1 = 0.7683 pounds)

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Bill Rigby)

Wells Fargo launches investigation into retail banking sales practices BusinessWed, 28 Sep 2016 07:20:17 +0800REUTERS: Wells Fargo & Co said on Tuesday that Chief Executive John Stumpf will forfeit unvested equity awards worth about US$41 million and will not get a salary during an independent investigation into the bank's sales practices.

Former retail banking head Carrie Tolstedt has left the company, will get no severance and has forfeited unvested equity awards worth about US$19 million, the bank said.

A Wells Fargo Bank is shown in Charlotte, North Carolina

Stumpf and Tolstedt will also not receive bonuses for 2016.

Wells Fargo, the United States' third-largest bank by assets, agreed to pay US$190 million earlier this month to settle regulatory charges that some of its employees opened as many as 2 million accounts without customers' knowledge, in order to meet sales targets.

Stumpf, a member of the board, has recused himself from the investigation, the bank said.

Lawmakers on the U.S. Senate Banking Committee grilled Stumpf about the accounts last week, with some calling on him to resign and forfeit his earnings and hold other senior executives accountable.

Stumpf is scheduled to testify at a congressional hearing on Thursday.

The San Francisco-based bank has fired 5,300 people over the matter and had said it would eliminate sales goals in its retail banking on Jan. 1, 2017.

However, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Tuesday that the firm was planning to eliminate the goals on Oct. 1, citing Stumpf's prepared remarks for delivery at the hearing. (

Wells Fargo has hired law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP to assist in the investigation.

Up to Tuesday's close, shares of the company have fallen nearly 10 percent since Sept. 8 when it reached a settlement with regulators, wiping off about US$24 billion of market capitalization.

(Reporting by Narottam Medhora in Bengaluru; Editing by Sandra Maler, Lisa Shumaker and Bernard Orr)

Moore finally gets the right Ryder Cup fit NewsWed, 28 Sep 2016 07:20:13 +0800CHASKA, Minnesota: Ryan Moore was fitted out for team uniforms as a possible Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup selection for the United States for nearly a decade, only to miss out when the final lineup was announced.

Midway through this year, he was so far back in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings that he never even received the tailor's call, but he then produced a sizzling run of form on the PGA Tour to earn the last wildcard spot on Davis Love III's team.

PGA: Ryder Cup - Practice Round

"So apparently I'm not going to do it (the fitting) from now on, ever," a smiling Moore told reporters at Hazeltine on Tuesday after a practice round with team mates JB Holmes, Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka.

"Hopefully I stay about the same size so it's easy for them (the tailors). I've wanted to be a part of one of these events, was beginning to think it might not happen.

"But I would have loved to have earned my way on (automatically) and have it not be up to a captain's pick."

Moore secured Love's final wildcard selection with a red-hot run since the PGA Championship in July, highlighted by a victory at the John Deere Classic in August and a playoff loss to Rory McIlroy at the season-ending Tour Championship on Sunday.

However, he did not know he would make his Ryder Cup debut at the age of 33 until nearly an hour after the Tour Championship was over, having missed Love's initial phone call.

"I was like, whoops, I'm meant to be paying closer attention," said Moore, a five-times winner on the PGA Tour who has not played team golf since the Palmer Cup for college players in 2004.

"But I called him right back, and obviously I could tell right away it was a positive conversation. Until I got the phone call, I still really didn't know. I didn't know where they (Love and his assistant captains) were at.

"I knew I had done everything I really could in my power, besides winning the golf tournament, to show them where my game's at and that I could be an asset to the team. It was an amazing phone call to get."

(Corrects number of Moore PGA Tour victories to five)

(Editing by Andrew Both)

Boy held hostage in Sembawang flat for more than 14 hours Local NewsWed, 28 Sep 2016 07:16:53 +0800SINGAPORE: The police are in a standoff with a man who is said to have been holding a two-year-old boy hostage in a Sembawang Drive flat for more than 14 hours.

The 39-year-old man had locked himself and the boy inside the unit at Block 462 Sembawang Drive since around 6.40pm on Tuesday. The incident was believed to be sparked off by a dispute between the man and the boy’s mother.

sembawang hostage (1)

sembawang hostage

Police officers seen outside the flat where a two-year-old boy is being held hostage. (Photo: Leong Wai Kit)

As of 9am, police negotiators were still outside the unit, trying to secure the boy’s release. Channel NewsAsia understands the boy is unharmed.

Sembawang GRC MP Lim Wee Kiak, who was at the scene on Wednesday morning, told the media that the boy has access to food and water at home, and that he is the youngest of four siblings. 

boy hostage

sembawang hostage

The police and SCDF officers arriving at the scene of the hostage situation. (Photos: Leong Wai Kit)

Police have advised members of public who are in the area to stay outside the police cordon set up at the scene.

This is a developing story. Please refresh for updates.

Nike orders miss estimates as competition heats up BusinessWed, 28 Sep 2016 07:10:14 +0800REUTERS: Nike Inc's future orders missed analysts' estimates for the third time in a row, as the world's largest footwear maker struggles with increasing competition from Under Armour Inc and a resurgent Adidas in North America.

Shares of the company, which reported better-than-expected quarterly revenue and profit, fell 4.4 percent to US$52.90 in after-market trading on Tuesday.

Logo of Nike sportswear maker at company's store at Tbilisi Mall in Tbilisi

The stock is the worst performer on the Dow Jones Industrial Average this year, down about 11 percent to Tuesday's close.

Nike and its Jordan brand still command the lion's share of the U.S. footwear market, but rivals Adidas and Under Armour are chipping away at the company's decades-long dominant position.

The company has lost basketball sales to Under Armour since the latter poached Golden State Warriors player Stephen Curry in 2013. It is also suffering from a revival at Adidas, which has scored mostly with fashion shoes promoted by celebrities such as Kanye West, who moved from Nike to Adidas the same year.

"Adidas is red-hot right now and retailers can't get enough of it," Edward Jones Analyst Brian Yarbrough told Reuters adding that some U.S. retailers were giving more shelf space to Nike's competition.

Sales of Adidas' classic shoes nearly quadrupled in August, compared with a 33 percent rise in Nike's similar line, according to market research firm NPD.

Under Armour has also been pushing deeper into department stores. The second-biggest U.S. sportswear maker said it would sell its products at U.S. department store operator Kohl's Corp from 2017.


Nike said on a conference call that it would now issue a forecast for its future orders, a key indicator of demand, during the earnings call, moving away from a years-long tradition of announcing it in the earnings release.

The move to stop issuing future orders seems "very suspect" at a time when North America and other markets have slowed down, Yarbrough said.

The company said global orders from September 2016 through January 2017 were up 7 percent on a constant-currency basis, missing the 8 percent increase analysts' had expected.

The forecast - keenly watched by investors - was the lowest in five quarters.

Net income rose 5.9 percent to US$1.25 billion, or 73 cents per share, in the first quarter ended Aug. 31.

Revenue rose 7.7 percent to US$9.06 billion, while inventories jumped 11 percent to US$4.9 billion.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a profit of 56 cents per share and revenue of US$8.87 billion.

(Reporting by Abhijith Ganapavaram in Bengaluru; editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Alan Crosby)

Ex-AIG chief Hank Greenberg, 91, testifies in fraud case BusinessWed, 28 Sep 2016 07:05:35 +0800NEW YORK: More than a decade after he was sued over accounting fraud, former American International Group Inc Chairman Maurice "Hank" Greenberg on Tuesday took the witness stand to defend himself, repeatedly describing one claim against him as "only a small part" of the insurer's business.

Greenberg, 91, is on trial on civil charges brought in 2005 by then-New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. He is accused of orchestrating sham transactions at the insurer to conceal financial difficulties from shareholders. The case did not go to trial for more than a decade because of legal wrangling.

Former CEO of AIG, Greenberg, leaves a building in Downtown New York after being deposed by the Att

Greenberg, a World War Two veteran, wore a dark suit with a French Legion of Honor pin on his lapel. He sounded sharp and appeared composed in a Manhattan courtroom as he recalled being advised of problems with an auto warranty program in the late 1990s. The program was projected to lose hundreds of millions of dollars.

"This was a non-event for AIG," Greenberg testified. "We did business in 137 countries."

Still, Greenberg admitted to personal involvement the program, which fell under his son Evan's business line. "I was trying to teach a lesson to some managers," he testified.

The lawsuit, which is being pursued by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, will be decided by a judge without a jury.

Greenberg is accused of engineering a US$200 million transaction to hide underwriting losses from the auto-warranty program. The lawsuit also claims that he designed a US$500 million transaction to inflate the insurer's reserves.

Greenberg, who was ousted from AIG in 2005, is still in the insurance business as head of C.V. Starr, a privately held company.

Schneiderman is seeking to bar Greenberg and his co-defendant, former AIG chief financial officer Howard Smith, from the securities industry and from serving as officers or directors of public companies.

He also is seeking to recoup more than US$50 million from bonuses paid to the executives. The attorney general was forced to drop damages claims after a 2013 shareholder settlement.

Home Depot Inc co-founder Kenneth Langone, a Spitzer foe, came to court on Tuesday to support Greenberg, a friend.

Langone called the case a "waste of taxpayer money," and said it had been "born of raw political ambition" by Spitzer.

Greenberg's testimony continues on Wednesday. The trial, which is not taking place every day, may run into early 2017.

Greenberg led AIG for four decades before he was forced out. The following year, the insurer paid US$1.64 billion to settle federal and state probes into its business practices.

The case is People v Greenberg et al, New York State Supreme Court, New York County No. 401720-2005.

(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Editing by David Gregorio)

Brad Pitt skips documentary premiere to focus on 'family situation', 28 Sep 2016 06:50:34 +0800LOS ANGELES: Actor Brad Pitt said on Tuesday he was skipping the premiere of his latest project to focus "on my family situation" and not distract from the educational documentary, following his highly publicized marital split from Angelina Jolie.

Pitt, 52, narrated the 45-minute IMAX documentary film "Voyage of Time," directed by Terrence Malick, which he called "incredibly beautiful."

"I'm very grateful to be part of such a fascinating and educational project, but I’m currently focused on my family situation and don’t want to distract attention away from this extraordinary film, which I encourage everyone to see," the actor said in a statement.

It was Pitt's second statement since news of the Hollywood power couple's split broke last week.

He previously said in a statement to People magazine that he was "very saddened" after Jolie, 41, filed for divorce in a Los Angeles court, asking for sole physical custody of the couple's six children.

Jolie's lawyer said the actress made the decision to file for divorce "for the health of the family." She and Pitt had been together for 12 years, and married for two years.

Pitt's next film is "Allied," a war drama coming out in November and co-starring French actress Marion Cotillard.

Last week, Cotillard denied her involvement in Pitt's and Jolie's separation after rumours implied she and Pitt were romantically involved.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Football: Schuerrle frustrates Madrid as Leicester win again SportsWed, 28 Sep 2016 06:37:21 +0800PARIS: Andre Schuerrle smashed in a late equaliser as Borussia Dortmund held Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday, while Leicester City claimed another famous European victory.

Premier League champions Leicester made it two wins from two in their debut Champions League campaign as Islam Slimani's first-half goal secured a 1-0 win against FC Porto, and it was a good night all round for English clubs as Tottenham Hotspur beat CSKA Moscow in Russia.

Dortmund's midfielder Andre Schuerrle(Photo:AFP)

Leicester City's Algerian striker Islam Slimani (L) scores his team's first goal

Leicester City's Algerian striker Islam Slimani (L) scores his team's first goal against Porto. (AFP/Ian Kington)

Reigning champions Real twice surrendered the lead as they settled for a 2-2 draw against Dortmund to extend their poor record on German soil.

In a tremendous Group F game played at breathless pace, Zinedine Zidane's side went in front in the 17th minute when Gareth Bale's back-heel came off Matthias Ginter and fell for Cristiano Ronaldo to fire home.

It was the Portuguese superstar's 98th European goal but Dortmund had been in fearsome form ahead of this showdown and they drew level just before the interval.

Making his first appearance of the season after injury, Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas opted to punch a Raphael Guerreiro free-kick and the ball struck the face of his team-mate Raphael Varane before rebounding into the net.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was standing in close quarters, and he was officially credited with the goal by UEFA.

However, French centre-back Varane made up for that by restoring Real's advantage midway through the second half, following in to score after Karim Benzema's attempt had hit both the post and bar.

But there was to be no first win in Dortmund for Real as substitute Schuerrle rifled a shot into the roof of the net after a Christian Pulisic cross fell to him on the edge of the box.

Madrid have won just four times in 30 away games against German clubs but this result still leaves them in control of Group F.

In the other game in the section, first-half goals by Bryan Ruiz and Bas Dost gave Sporting a 2-0 victory against Legia Warsaw in Portugal.

Leicester have maximum points after two matches in Group G after edging out two-time European champions Porto at the King Power Stadium.

Algerian striker Slimani, a club record £28 million ($36.3 million, 32.3 million euros) summer signing from Sporting, struck on 25 minutes, heading past Iker Casillas from a Riyad Mahrez cross.

Next up for Leicester will be FC Copenhagen, who were impressive 4-0 winners at home to Club Brugge in the Danish capital.

All the goals came in the second half, with a Stefano Denswil own-goal setting the home side on their way before further counters from captain Thomas Delaney, Federico Santander and Mathias Jørgensen.


Tottenham bounced back from a 2-1 defeat to Monaco in their Group E opener by beating CSKA in Moscow to claim three points from an awkward trip to the Russian capital.

Mauricio Pochettino's side were without Harry Kane, Mousa Dembele, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Moussa Sissoko against the Russian champions but the in-form Son Heung-min was there and he made the difference.

The South Korean winger, scorer of a brace in a 2-1 Premier League win at Middlesbrough at the weekend, netted the only goal of the game on 71 minutes at the Arena CSKA, his shot squirming under 'keeper Igor Akinfeev and in.

It is Monaco who top the section, though, after Kamil Glik volleyed home in injury time to cancel out Javier Hernandez's opener and secure a 1-1 home draw with Bayer Leverkusen.

Meanwhile, 2015 runners-up Juventus notched their first win in Group H, ruthlessly dispatching Dinamo Zagreb 4-0 in Croatia.

Summer signings Miralem Pjanic and Gonzalo Higuain scored in the first half for the Italian champions before a searing Paulo Dybala strike and a deflected Dani Alves free-kick embellished their lead after the break.

Sevilla, who had held Juve in Turin last time out, beat Lyon 1-0 in Spain as French striker Wissam Ben Yedder headed in the only goal of the game in the second half.

Luciano Vietto later blazed a penalty over, although Nabil Fekir and Corentin Tolisso both hit the bar for the visitors.

Champions League group stage results:

CSKA Moscow 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1
Monaco 1 Bayer Leverkusen 1
Sporting Lisbon 2 Legia Warsaw 0
Borussia Dortmund 2 Real Madrid 2

Leicester City 1 FC Porto 0
FC Copenhagen 4 Club Brugge 0
Dinamo Zagreb 0 Juventus 4
Sevilla 1 Olympique Lyon 0

Train service on Bukit Panjang LRT disrupted after power fault Local NewsWed, 28 Sep 2016 06:33:38 +0800SINGAPORE: Train service on the Bukit Panjang Light Rail Transit (BPLRT) started more than an hour later than scheduled on Wednesday morning (Sep 28) – with half the usual number of trains – after a power fault.

Operator SMRT first said in a tweet posted at 5.33am that commuters should expect a 30-minute delay. Free regular bus and bridging bus services were available, it said.

Bukit Panjang LRT

At 6.40am, SMRT said train service on the line had resumed and that the free bus services were still running. But in another tweet posted 15 minutes later, it said commuters should expect "degraded service" and longer travelling time.

Train service along the line was disrupted on Tuesday at about 10.55pm between Choa Chu Kang and Bukit Panjang stations in both directions due to a power fault. The fault was cleared nearly two hours later at about 12.27am, according to SMRT.

In an update posted on its Facebook page on Wednesday morning, SMRT said the BPLRT was running just six trains – half the usual number - during the morning rush hour.

"This is due to a track fault yesterday evening which damaged the current collector devices on 15 trains," it said, adding that engineering staff worked through the night to assess and rectify the fault.

“Initial investigations showed a damaged rail joint detached the current collector devices on trains which passed the damaged joint. This led to delays last night from about 10pm till end of service as engineering staff sought to find the cause of power trips while the service was running."

The damaged trains are now at the BPLRT depot at Ten Mile Junction, and investigations into the incident are ongoing, SMRT said.


]]>Sarkozy would offer UK new EU treaty if he wins French presidency - FT, 28 Sep 2016 06:25:17 +0800REUTERS: French presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy said on Tuesday he would offer Britain a chance to reverse its Brexit vote by negotiating a new treaty for the European Union with Germany, if he wins presidency in 2017, the Financial Times reported.

Sarkozy said the new treaty would focus on reforming the Schengen passport-free zone, restricting the European Commission's prerogatives to a dozen, integrating the eurozone further and halting membership talks with Turkey, according to FT. (

Nicolas Sarkozy, former head of the Les Republicains political party, attends a political rally in

Sarkozy said if he is elected he would fly to Britain with a draft of new EU treaty the day after the second ballot of the presidential election to secure the support of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"I would tell the British, you've gone out, but we have a new treaty on the table so you have an opportunity to vote again," the former French president said to business leaders in Paris.

"But this time not on the old Europe, on the new Europe. Do you want to stay? If yes, so much the better. Because I can’t accept to lose Europe's second-largest economy while we are negotiating with Turkey over its EU membership. And if it's no, then it's a real no. You're in or you're out."

Britain voted to leave the EU on June 23 and new Prime Minister Theresa May has so far repeated that the formal divorce notification will not be sent before the end of the year. Some aides have suggested her plan is to invoke Article 50 early in 2017.

After the shock referendum, Sarkozy, member of France's conservative Les Republicains party, had said that he wants a new EU treaty and the suspension of Turkey's EU accession negotiations.

Sarkozy announced his candidacy for the April 2017 French presidential election in August, hoping to return as France's head of state after being unseated in 2012 by the now deeply unpopular Francois Hollande.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

US prison investors may be rewarded if they keep their nerve BusinessWed, 28 Sep 2016 06:20:18 +0800REUTERS: Investors in U.S. privately owned prisons may be rewarded if they keep their stocks given sector watchers have said presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would have difficulty realizing her goal of doing away with for-profit detention.

Shares in Corrections Corp of America fell 7.4 percent and GEO Group Inc stock dropped 3.8 percent on Tuesday after Clinton said during Monday night's debate with rival Donald Trump that she wants U.S. states to stop using private prisons and that there should not be a "profit motivation to fill prison cells."

This came on the heels of a U.S. Justice Department announcement on Aug. 18 that it would phase out its use of privately operated prisons, a move that Hillary commended. It also follows an Aug. 29 promise by the Department of Homeland Security to review whether it will keep using for-profit detention centers.

But if Clinton is elected, her goal faces roadblocks such as overcrowding in government-owned prisons and the fact that the federal government does not oversee state prisons, said Eric Marshall, portfolio manager with Hodges Funds in Dallas.

"Saying you're going to do this is good to get elected but the math doesn't work," said Marshall whose firm owns GEO and Corrections shares.

Hodges cut its exposure to GEO when its shares traded at US$30 as Marshall said he expected volatility driven by political criticism of for-profit prison use. But the firm bought the stock again after it fell to US$18 on Aug. 18, according to Marshall who said it became "very attractive."

Hodges also owns a smaller amount of Corrections Corp shares, according to Marshall who did not disclose ownership numbers.

GEO shares fell as low as US$23.33 on Tuesday but were still above their Aug. 18 close of US$19.51. Corrections Corp shares fell to US$14.65, their lowest level since Aug. 18 when it plummeted 35 percent in a day at closed at US$17.57.

After the closing bell on Tuesday, Corrections Corp said it would lay off up to 55 headquarters staff, but a statement announcing the move did not associate the move with the Obama administration moves. It employs more than 14,000 staff.

If the government reduces occupancy of private prisons, which house 25 percent of the federal prisoner population, prison companies will require it to pay more per prisoner, according to Marshall. If it rents facilities from private companies, operating costs will be prohibitively expensive partly because government prison guards earn more, he said.

"The reality is that governments want to build schools, hospitals roads, bridges ... They don't want to spend billions of dollars on prisons," said Marshall. He estimates that it would cost US$120 million to build a prison for 2,000 inmates.

Some bondholders also appear determined to hold on.

Ryan Jungk, credit analyst at Newfleet Asset Management, said Corrections Corp bonds were still attractive since there was no viable alternative for states to cancel their contracts with private prison operators absent major prison reform. He said political risk was also embedded in the bonds' prices.

"The risk has definitely gone up and the rhetoric has gotten worse both from Obama and Hillary Clinton, but I think that the current pricing reflects that, and you’re rewarded for taking that risk," he said.

Jungk said prices on the company's bonds, currently at 93 cents on the dollar, could rise to 98 cents, while the 5 percent interest coupon also made them worth holding. Newfleet sub-advises the Dunham Corporate/Government Bond Fund, which last had about 0.2 percent of its assets in Corrections Corp bonds, according to Lipper data.

Canaccord Genuity analyst Ryan Meliker said both stocks are risky short-term bets as he expects volatility as long as private prison use is a political focus ahead of the Nov. 8 election. But he sees GEO shares reaching US$28 by the end of 2017 and says Corrections Corp to get back to US$21.

For example if the political focus changes to the age of publicly owned prisons, this would be good for private prisons. Meliker prefers GEO which he rates 'buy'.

"Long-term investors should buy. Near term you've got a lot of headline risk," said Meliker who said that Corrections Corp, which he rates 'hold' is vulnerable to policy changes that could affect its Oklahoma and Texas facilities.

(Additional reporting by Saqib Ahmed and Sam Forgione)

India pulls out of summit as tensions with Pakistan mount Asia PacificWed, 28 Sep 2016 06:18:23 +0800NEW DELHI: India on Tuesday (Sep 27) pulled out of a key regional summit in Pakistan citing an increase in cross-border terrorist attacks, as tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours escalates.

The Indian government has accused Pakistan-based militants of launching a deadly assault on an army base in Kashmir this month that killed 18 soldiers.

Indian-administered Kashmir(Photo:AFP)

Regional superpower India said it has conveyed its decision not to take part in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit to Nepal, the current SAARC Chair.

"India has conveyed to current SAARC Chair Nepal that increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in the region ... have created an environment that is not conducive to the successful holding of the 19th SAARC Summit," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"In the prevailing circumstances, the government of India is unable to participate in the proposed summit in Islamabad."

The SAARC summit, which brings together eight member states in the region, is scheduled to be held in Islamabad on Nov 9-10.

Addressing the UN General Assembly on Monday, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said: "Pakistan remains in denial. It persists in the belief that such attacks will enable it to obtain the territory it covets.

"My firm advice to Pakistan is: abandon this dream. Let me state unequivocally that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and will always remain so."

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since the end of British rule in 1947. Both claim the disputed Himalayan territory in its entirety and have fought two wars over it.

The Indian army has blamed the latest attack, in which 18 soldiers and four attackers were killed, on the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad.

The group was also implicated in an audacious attack in January on an Indian air force base in Pathankot in the northern state of Punjab, that left seven soldiers dead.

Pakistan responded on Monday by calling Swaraj's speech a "litany of falsehoods" that distorted history, and denied its forces had aided the army base attack.

"These allegations are designed principally to deflect global attention from the brutalities being perpetrated by India's over half a million occupation force against innocent and unarmed Kashmiri children, women and men," said a statement by its foreign office released late Monday.

"Jammu and Kashmir never was and can never be an integral part of India. It is a disputed territory, the final status of which has yet to be determined in accordance with several resolutions of the UN Security Council."

More than 80 people have been killed in ongoing unrest in Kashmir since Jul 8 when a young militant leader was shot dead by Indian soldiers, sparking one of the deadliest bouts of violence to hit the region in decades.

Several rebel groups have fought an estimated 500,000 Indian forces deployed in Kashmir, demanding independence for the Muslim-majority region or its merger with Pakistan. Tens of thousands of people have died in the fighting, most of them civilians.

Magnitude 5.4 quake hits off Greek island of Rhodes, no damage, 28 Sep 2016 06:15:12 +0800ATHENS: A quake measuring 5.4 struck off the coast of the Greek island of Rhodes late on Tuesday, Athens Geodynamic Institute reported, but there were no reports of damage or casualties.

The quake's epicentre was at sea, about 30 kilometres (19 miles) off Rhodes and 387 kilometres (240 miles) southeast of Athens.

Greece and its surrounding region are often rattled by earthquakes at sea, most causing no serious damage.

(Reporting Lefteris Papadimas; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Investigators to report on 2014 downing of Malaysian airliner over Ukraine, 28 Sep 2016 06:05:13 +0800AMSTERDAM: An international team of prosecutors investigating the downing of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine in 2014 will report findings on Wednesday but are unlikely to bring charges against anyone, given legal and political obstacles.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was hit by a surface-to-air missile while en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and all 298 people aboard, most of them Dutch citizens, were killed.


At the time of the disaster, Ukrainian government forces were engaged in heavy fighting with pro-Russian separatists. The Boeing 777 broke apart in midair, flinging wreckage over several kilometres (miles) of fields in rebel-held territory.

The incident played a significant part in a decision by the European Union and United States to impose sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine conflict, and East-West tensions escalated to levels not seen since the Cold War ended in 1990.

The team of prosecutors from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine planned a news conference at 1100 GMT to deliver conclusions "with regard to the weapon that was used to bring down Flight MH17 and the precise location from which this weapon was launched", a group statement said.

Ukrainian and Western officials, citing intelligence intercepts, have blamed pro-Russian rebels for the incident. Russia has always denied direct involvement in the Ukraine conflict and rejects responsibility for the destruction of MH17.

A civilian investigation into the cause of the July 17, 2014 incident conducted by the Dutch Safety Board concluded last year that the airliner had been downed by a Russian-made Buk missile launched from eastern Ukraine.

But the board was not tasked with assigning blame, and prosecutors must conduct their own investigation if evidence assembled is ever to be used in court.

Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke, head of the investigative team, said earlier it had a "long list of persons of interest" in the case and had been analysing airplane debris and ballistics found at the scene.

Prosecutors could indicate on Tuesday what charges they are considering bringing - for instance criminal negligence - but unresolved legal questions may make this unlikely to happen.

In 2015 the Netherlands proposed a United Nations-backed tribunal to prosecute the case, but Russia cast a veto in the U.N. Security Council to block the motion.

Russia's U.N. ambassador said then that it was premature to set up an international tribunal, and that for Western supporters of the motion "political purposes were more important ... than practical objectives".

A visit by Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders to Moscow to address the situation ended without result.

Prosecutors have sought legal assistance from Moscow since October 2014, and visited in person for a week in July. "Russian authorities have offered information in the past, but have not answered all questions," they said in a statement at the time.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Overhaul of NY Penn Station, post office advances BusinessWed, 28 Sep 2016 05:50:16 +0800NEW YORK: New York State officials on Tuesday chose developers for a US$1.6 billion project to renovate a century-old historic post office, part of a broader plan to modernize Pennsylvania Station, the outdated labyrinthine train hub in the heart of New York City.

The preferred bidder, a team comprised of Skanska AB, Related Companies and Vornado Realty LP, has agreed to a fixed price and schedule, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a luncheon for the business group Association for a Better New York.

Travelers with suitcases wait for trains in Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan

The plan to renovate the James A. Farley Post Office, across Eighth Avenue from New York's Penn Station on the west side of mid-town Manhattan, was first proposed 20 years ago but stalled in the intervening years.

Cuomo hopes to re-launch the project as part of a broader regional US$100 billion transportation overhaul.

Calling plans for the new train station magnificent, Cuomo said: "It gives you a sense of openness, as opposed to claustrophobia and suffocation that you now have."

Separately on Tuesday, regional transport officials said they had been meeting with the U.S. Department of Transportation to secure funding for Amtrak's US$24 billion Gateway Project in the next federal budget.

That project would double passenger trains under the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey and rebuild bridges and other facilities.

The "very substantial" discussions have been about railroad rehabilitation loans and Federal Transit Administration grants, John Porcari, interim director of the Gateway Development Corporation, told Reuters after another event.

Though Gateway is a distinct project, it would tie into the Farley building and its new Moynihan Train Hall.

Once completed, the hall would be larger than New York's famed Grand Central Station. The original steel trusses from the early 1900s would be refurbished, along with a skylight that would stretch for an acre, Cuomo said.

Also planned are retail and office space and advanced security measures, including facial recognition technology.

Both the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and Amtrak halls would be moved there.

Under a separate contract not yet awarded, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) would then redesign the maze of tunnels that make up the LIRR concourse in Penn Station. The MTA on Tuesday was to send out a request for proposals.

The new, US$170 million revamped concourse would be wider and higher, complete with video screen-lined ceilings displaying images of a blue sky with white clouds, Cuomo said.

(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Daniel Bases and Andrew Hay)

Nike turns in solid quarter after Olympics World BusinessWed, 28 Sep 2016 05:47:15 +0800NEW YORK: Global sports gear titan Nike reported solid revenue growth and beat analyst earnings forecasts for its fiscal first quarter on Tuesday (Sep 27), despite a cost surge tied to the Brazil Olympics.

Nike reported revenues for the quarter ended Aug 31 up 7.7 per cent from a year ago to US$9.1 billion, around US$200 million higher than expected.

Nike logo(Photo:AFP)

Earnings per share, bolstered by share buybacks, came in at 73 cents, compared to 67 cents a year ago and well past the 56 cents analysts had predicted.

"Fueled by an incredible summer of sport, Nike delivered strong global growth and led the industry through disruptive innovation," said Mike Parker, Nike chairman, president and chief executive.

The company got some sales help from the Olympics, but also saw marketing costs rise significantly during the same period as it heavily promoted its brand during the Rio games.

But Nike shares sank in after-hours trade as investors focused on future order and inventory data, which pointed to a slowdown.

After a six percent gain in North America revenues in the first quarter, future orders in its primary were up just one percent, Nike reported. Inventories at the end of August were up 11 per cent.

After several years dominating the global sports shoes and equipment market, Nike has found itself fending off tough challenges from Adidas, Puma and Under Armour.

Adidas appeared to gain advantage from its muscular presence in the Summer Olympics and the Euro 2016 football tournament.

Under Armour has strongly cut into the sports fashion sector, and won a big share of a key market segment - basketball shoes - with its sponsorship of the newest NBA superstar, Stephen Curry.

Oil down 3% as Saudi, Iran dash hopes for Algiers deal BusinessWed, 28 Sep 2016 05:36:16 +0800NEW YORK: Oil fell about three per cent on Tuesday after Saudi Arabia and Iran dashed market hopes that the two major OPEC producers would find a compromise this week at meeting in Algiers to help ease a global glut of crude.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih told reporters in the Algerian capital, where OPEC and other oil producers gathered for the Sep 26-28 International Energy Forum, he did not expect an agreement to come out of the consultations on the last day of the meet.

oil prices(Photo:AFP)

He also said he did not think there was a need to significantly adjust or cut supply and that Iran, Libya and Nigeria should be allowed to produce at maximum levels seen in recent history.

"If you were looking for something dangerous from this meeting, this was it," said Jim Williams, analyst at WTRG Economics in London, Arkansas. "Instead of cutting, they're telling everybody to substantially increase supply."

Crude oil futures ended the session giving back most of what they gained the previous day.

Brent crude settled down US$1.38, or 2.9 per cent, at US$45.97 a barrel. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude dropped US$1.26, or 2.7 per cent, to US$44.67.

In post-settlement trade, the market pared some losses after trade group The American Petroleum Institute reported a surprise draw of 752,000 barrels last week, versus analysts' forecasts of a build of three million barrels.

The US government will report official inventory data on Wednesday, showing if stocks indeed fell unexpectedly for a fourth straight week.

Oil prices have slid to less than half their 2014 highs, pushing the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers to seek a market rebalancing that would lift the oil revenues they rely on for their national budgets.

The Algiers talks were OPEC's second attempt at an output agreement after a failed round in Qatar in April.

Earlier in the day, Iran, trying to recapture oil exports lost to sanctions, rejected a Saudi offer to limit its output in exchange for reduced supply by Riyadh.

Like his Saudi counterpart, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said the Algiers talks "is not the time for decision-making", deferring the possibility of any agreement to OPEC's formal policy meeting set for Nov 30 in Vienna.

OPEC member Iraq said it has based its 2017 budget on the assumption it exports 3.75 million barrels per day at US$42 a barrel.

Goldman Sachs cut its price forecast for WTI in the fourth quarter to US$43, from an earlier US$45-US$50 range, saying it expects supply to exceed demand by 400,000 bpd 

Football: Schuerrle strikes late as Dortmund deny Real Madrid SportsWed, 28 Sep 2016 05:30:24 +0800DORTMUND: Andre Schuerrle rescued Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday (Sep 27) with an 87th-minute equaliser to seal a 2-2 draw with Real Madrid and deny the Spaniards a rare Champions League win in Germany.

Real were minutes from a first win in Dortmund in six attempts, and the result means the Spanish giants have won only four times in 30 away games against German clubs.

Andre Schuerrle(Photo:AFP)

Madrid took the lead when Cristiano Ronaldo netted his 95th Champions League goal early on.

Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was credited with the equaliser just before the break after a deflection off Raphael Varane.

But the French international enjoyed second-half redemption when he stabbed home on 68 minutes before Dortmund levelled in the dying stages.

Ronaldo had been left fuming after being substituted by Real coach Zinedine Zidane for the final 20 minutes of Saturday's 2-2 draw at Las Palmas in La Liga.

And the superstar chose to celebrate his goal at Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park with his Portugal team-mates Fabio Coentrao and Pepe, who were on the Real bench, with Zidane in the background.

Dortmund dominated the opening quarter of an hour before Ronaldo's opener and both goalkeepers were tested in the first five minutes.

Matthias Ginter gave away a free-kick just outside the area and Ronaldo's powerful shot was blocked by Dortmund shot-stopper Roman Burki.

At the other end, Gonzalo Castro's well-struck shot tested Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who was making his first appearance of the season after injury.

Ronaldo was lucky that the referee failed to spot his clear handball from an Aubameyang free-kick shortly after, and teenage French winger Ousmane Dembele then fired over.

But Real took the lead when Ronaldo finished off a sweeping move.

Luka Modric and Karim Benzema combined to get the ball out of their own half.

When the ball was played into the Dortmund area, James Rodriguez fed Gareth Bale who played the ball back between his legs for Ronaldo to sweep his shot home on 17 minutes.

At the other end, Aubameyang clipped the bar and was pulled up for offside on 29 minutes before a bullet header from defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos was too close to Navas.

But Dortmund kept up the pressure and drew level on 43 minutes when Navas opted to punch out a Raphael Guerreiro free-kick. The ball rebounded into the net off the unfortunate Varane with Aubameyang in close proximity, although the Gabon striker was officially given the goal.

The equaliser was lucky, but it was no more than Dortmund deserved.

Just before the half-time whistle, Ronaldo's header hit the back of the Dortmund net, but the flag went up for offside.

Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel introduced Schuerrle for Germany's World Cup-winner Mario Goetze on 58 minutes in what proved to be an inspired switch.

Real took the lead a second time when Varane followed in to score after a Benzema attempt had struck the post and the bar.

But Dortmund were not done, and when Aubameyang's attempt at an overhead kick distracted Danilo, the ball brushed off his chest and into Schuerrle's path as the Germany winger fired home the equaliser.