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Cisce.org ISC 12th Results 2016: ISC Class 12th XII Result 2016 CISCE Board declared

How did CISCE board manage to announce the ISC Class 12 Exam results earlier than ever?Live Ink Character Recognition was used by the Council examiners to evaluate the answer scripts. “LICR is a technology which incorporates a re-purposed digital pen and tablet used by examiners to evaluate answer scripts and help publish results in a shorter time,” chief executive and secretary of CISCE Gerry had told media when the system was first introduced in 2015.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>How to check CISCE ISC (Class 12) Result 2016Via SMS1. Type your seven-digit unique ID to check CISCE exam result in this manner:ISC XXXXXXX (seven-digit unique ID)2. Send the text message to 09248082883On CISCE Class 12 Exam Results website1. Visit www.cisce.org for your results.2. Log in to CAREERS portal of the Council website. Students will have to use the Principal’s login ID and password3. Under the ‘Examination System’ click on ISC 2016 for your CISCE examination results 2016.4. Click on ‘Reports’5. Click on ‘Result Tabulation’ to view the school’s result tabulation6. Check ‘Comparison Table’ to View/Print the same

Protests show strength of German attachment to steel | Reuters

DUISBURG, Germany Half of Germany’s steelworkers poured onto the country’s streets on Monday in protest against the dumping of Chinese steel, EU climate regulations and industry consolidation they fear will cost them their jobs.

More than 40,000 downed tools to take part in protests against a backdrop of on-and-off steel merger talks between Thyssenkrupp (TKAG.DE), the country’s biggest steelmaker, and Tata Steel (TISC.NS), which is retreating from Europe.

Workers fear they could face a similar fate to their peers in Britain, where Tata has put its entire steel business up for sale, endangering thousands of jobs.

The size of the demonstrations, organised by powerful trade union IG Metall and supported by Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, showed the depth of Germany’s attachment to steel and the strength of likely opposition to any merger.

“Consolidation, if it is necessary, can’t happen only in Germany,” Gabriel told a rally of 17,000 at Thyssenkrupp Steel’s headquarters in the city of Duisburg in Germany’s Ruhr Valley industrial heartland.

“It can’t be that we worry nervously about consolidation, we are the ones who lose the jobs and others don’t even take part.”

Thyssenkrupp has sought a way to exit steelmaking since Heinrich Hiesinger took over as chief executive in 2011, presiding over a retreat from the United States where the group had sunk billions in an ill-fated expansion.

At first quietly and then more explicitly, with activist investor and 15 percent shareholder Cevian in the background, top management has signalled its keenness to shed steelmaking to concentrate on steadier and more profitable businesses like elevators and car parts.

Now, events including the taking of full control of its Brazilian steel plant and Tata’s planned sale of all of its loss-making UK steel activities gives the German industrial group a unique chance to do just that.

SECRET DIPLOMACY

IG Metall-backed labour representatives are already preparing for a fight.

“We know that our top-paid managers are engaged in a kind of secret diplomacy and are forging plans for consolidation,” Guenter Back, head of Thyssenkrupp Steel Europe’s central works council, told workers at the rally in Duisburg. “We are not prepared to be bystanders.”

Without support from politics and labour, Thyssenkrupp will find it almost impossible to push through any merger.

Unlike in Britain, in Germany steel is still a critical part of the economy.

The industry employs about 87,000 directly and 3.5 million indirectly, supporting key industries such as automaking and generating about 40 billion euros ($46 billion) in turnover in 2014, roughly 1.4 percent of gross domestic product.

“Moving from one conglomerate with a very strong track record and history in German steel (Thyssenkrupp) to another with a weak history in EU steel (Tata) with absolutely no affiliation to the Thyssen or Krupp name and legacy we think could be a very tough sell,” Credit Suisse analysts wrote in a note on Monday.

The bank rates Thyssenkrupp stock “outperform”.

One in three German steelworkers are employed at Thyssenkrupp, which has 200-year-old roots in the industry.

CULTURE CHANGE

Steel was so crucial to the German First and Second World War efforts that a law was passed in 1951 giving mining, iron and steel workers special rights in the co-determination of their companies’ strategy with management.

Unlike for other German companies, where the chairperson – appointed by the capital side – has a casting vote in the case of an impasse between capital and labour on the supervisory board, for companies in these sectors absolute parity rules.

A neutral arbitrator must be agreed by both sides to decide any issue where they cannot agree.

To bring workers on board with management strategy and avoid outright conflict – as well as to address past compliance issues – Hiesinger made it his mission to change Thyssenkrupp’s culture when he became CEO.

With the aim of building mutual trust, respect and a performance culture after a difficult period in the company’s history, Hiesinger instigated company-wide surveys about Thyssenkrupp’s direction and values and held managers to public account when their team members flagged problems.

The exercise – important for a company that is dominant in the Ruhr Valley and has only 1-2 percent annual staff turnover in Germany – has had some success, according to a straw poll of demonstrators on Monday.

“There are some positive things,” said Joerg Kallweit, a 59-year-old production coordinator at Thyssenkrupp Steel in Duisburg who has been with the company for almost 30 years.

“Thyssenkrupp wants to understand itself more as a technology group. Steel isn’t viewed that favourably,” he said. “At least current management is dealing with it more openly.”

(Editing by Susan Fenton and Susan Thomas)

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Kerry sees no fixed term on Afghan government agreement | Reuters

KABUL U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday the political deal that led to the formation of Afghanistan’s national unity government in 2014 had no set expiry date, despite widespread assumptions it will end in September.

Under the terms of the September 2014 agreement, a loya jirga, or special assembly, was expected to be held within two years to amend the constitution. However Kerry, who oversaw the deal that created the government now led by former rivals President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, said there was no fixed deadline.

“In no way does the agreement itself have some particular termination,” Kerry told a joint media conference with Ghani in Kabul.

Referring to discussion about a possible change to plans to cut the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from 9,800 to 5,500 by the end of the year, Kerry said U.S. President Barack Obama would be guided by the views of U.S. commanders on the ground.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Paul Tait)

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India’s HCL Technologies to buy Geometric Ltd in all-stock deal | Reuters

MUMBAI India’s Geometric Ltd (GEOM.NS) said it will sell its IT services business to HCL Technologies Ltd (HCLT.NS) in an all-stock deal valued at 12.37 billion Indian rupees, as HCL looks to strengthen its engineering and automotive services portfolio.

Geometric shareholders will receive 10 shares in HCL for every 43 shares of Geometric as part of the stock-swap.

The deal, which does not include Geometric’s 58 percent stake in its 3DPLM joint venture with France’s Dassault Systemes (DAST.PA), values the rest of company at about 12.37 billion rupees ($186 million) based on the closing prices of HCL Tech and Geometric stock on Friday.

In a separate transaction, Geometric has also agreed to offload its 3DPLM ownership to Dassault Systemes, for which Geometric shareholders will receive one preference shares in 3DPLM worth 68 rupees for every Geometric share, valuing the JV stake at about 4.41 billion Indian rupees ($66 million).

The two deals value Geometric at about 16.78 billion rupees, or about a 32 percent premium to its market capitalisation of 12.71 billion rupees at Friday’s closing price.

The deal comes at a time when Indian IT firms are looking to strengthen their product portfolios as these firms transition away servicing deals to a higher-margin digital business model.

“(The deal) provides several cross–sell and up–sell opportunities as the customers will benefit from a unique services portfolio of end–to–end engineering, R&D, digital technologies and internet of things capabilities,” said G.H Rao, HCL Tech’s president of engineering and R&D services.

Mumbai-based Geometric, which was set up as a unit of Indian conglomerate Godrej and Boyce before being spun off, specialises in providing IT consulting services to engineering clients.

($1 = 66.3450 Indian rupees)

(Reporting by Himank Sharma; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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Nationalisation not right answer for Tata’s UK steel – minister | Reuters

LONDON British business minister Sajid Javid said he did not think that Tata Steel’s British steel-making assets should be nationalised and there was more that the European Union could do to help the industry via import tariffs.

Javid told BBC television that the steel industry had asked for higher import tariffs and the EU had responded.

“I personally do think that there is more that we need to do and that’s why we are working with them to have a speedier action when it comes to tariffs,” he said.

(Reporting by William Schomberg; editing by Kate Holton)

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American actress Patty Duke has died at age 69 | Reuters

Oscar-winning American actress Patty Duke, widely known for the 1960s show “The Patty Duke Show,” died on Tuesday, her representative told Reuters. She was 69 years old.

Duke died Tuesday morning in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho from sepsis due to a ruptured intestine, her spokesman Mitchell Stubbs said.

“She was a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a mental health advocate and a cultural icon. She will be greatly missed,” Stubbs said.

The actress began working as a teen and won a best supporting actress Oscar for her role in 1962’s “The Miracle Worker” at age 16. She starred in her own sitcom, “The Patty Duke Show” from 1963 to 1966, and had a role in 1967’s “Valley of the Dolls.”

She later became president of the Screen Actor’s Guild in the 1980s, and also became an advocate for mental health issues after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1982.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy and Suzannah Gonzales; Editing by Diane Craft)

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Universal LA theme park hopes fans buy into new ‘Harry Potter’ world | Reuters

LOS ANGELES From the cobblestone alleyways to the snow-capped roofs, fans of “Harry Potter” will be able to immerse themselves into a new “Wizarding World” attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood, and the theme park is betting on their purchasing power.

“The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” opening April 7, brings to life the quaint town of Hogsmeade from author J.K. Rowling’s seven-part “Harry Potter” books and subsequent films, and it caps off a five-year revamp across the park.

Comcast Corp-owned Universal Studios Hollywood has introduced new rides capitalizing on the box office success of franchises “Transformers,” “Despicable Me” and “Fast & Furious,” as well as expanding “The Simpsons” attraction.

But the “Wizarding World” is what the theme park is banking on. Comcast reported a revenue increase of 27 percent to $3.3 billion from its Orlando, Florida, and Hollywood, California locations in its 2015 year-end report.

The company said revenues were bolstered by Orlando’s new “Harry Potter” world, which features two lands, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, connected by the Hogwarts Express train. An additional ticket is required to visit both lands in one day.

Hollywood’s “Wizarding World” features two rides, one within the castle-like structure of the Hogwarts school and the other an outdoors rollercoaster, alongside intricately detailed shops and restaurants such as Honeydukes sweets, Ollivanders wands and The Three Broomsticks.

Visitors can purchase a vast assortment of “Harry Potter” merchandise, from quills for under $10 to interactive wands for around $50 and full Hogwarts school robes from around $100.

“We’ve always aimed to be as authentic as we can be, even down to the name of the shops. They’re called shops, not stores,” supervising art director Alan Gilmore told Reuters.

“It has to be an experience of stepping into Scotland and England.”

“Harry Potter,” about an orphaned boy wizard in a magical world hidden within present day England, has sold more than 450 million books globally. Warner Bros’ eight-part film franchise has grossed more than $7 billion worldwide.

Tickets for Universal Hollywood, which cover all the park’s attractions, range from $90 to $239 for front-of-line passes, varying according to seasonal demand.

Overall attendance at Universal Hollywood, visited by 6.8 million in 2014 according to figures from the Themed Entertainment Association, trails far behind Walt Disney Co’s Disneyland in Anaheim, Southern California, which drew nearly 17 million that year.

Disneyland is building a new “Star Wars” land after the success of December’s “The Force Awakens,” the third highest-grossing film worldwide in history.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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Suicide bomber kills 65, mostly women, children in Pakistan park | Reuters

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD, Pakistan A suicide bomber killed at least 65 people and injured more than 280 others, mostly women and children, at a public park in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Sunday, striking at the heart of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s political base of Punjab.

The blast occurred in the parking area of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, a few feet (metres) away from children’s swings.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which occurred in a busy residential area during the Easter holiday weekend. Police said it was not clear whether the attack had deliberately targeted mainly Muslim Pakistan’s small Christian minority.

Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 190 million people, is plagued by a Taliban insurgency, criminal gangs and sectarian violence. Punjab is its biggest and wealthiest province.

Eyewitnesses said they saw body parts strewn across the parking lot once the dust had settled after the blast.

“When the blast occurred, the flames were so high they reached above the trees and I saw bodies flying in the air,” said Hasan Imran, 30, a resident who had come to Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park for a walk.

Salman Rafique, a health adviser for the Punjab provincial government, put the death toll at at least 60 people.

“There are more than 280 injured people,” Rafique said. “Many are in operation theatres now being treated and we fear that the death toll may climb considerably.”

Mustansar Feroz, police superintendent for the area in which the park is located, said most of the injured and dead were women and children.

“MAY GOD SHOWER HIS WRATH”

Media footage showed children and women standing in pools of blood outside the park, crying and screaming and rescue officials, police and bystanders carrying injured people to ambulances and private cars.

Dozens of women and children were seen being wheeled into hospitals, covered in blood. Many of the injured were transported to hospitals on taxis and auto-rickshaws due to a shortage of ambulances. Hundreds of citizens arrived outside hospitals to donate blood.

Local television channels reported that many of the dead bodies were being kept in hospital wards as morgues were overcrowded.

“We were just here to have a nice evening and enjoy the weather,” Nasreen Bibi said at the Services Hospital, crying as she waited for doctors to update her on the condition of her two-year-old injured daughter.

“May God shower his wrath upon these attackers. What kind of people target little children in a park?”

Soon after the attack, the Punjab government ordered all public parks to be closed and announced three days of mourning in the province. The main shopping areas were shut down and many of the city’s main roads were deserted.

The army was called in to control crowds outside the park. Some distraught, sobbing relatives clashed with police and rescue officials.

Punjab has traditionally been more peaceful than other parts of Pakistan. Sharif’s opponents have accused him of tolerating militancy in return for peace in his province, a charge he strongly denies.

Last year, a bomb killed a popular Pakistani provincial minister and at least eight others when it destroyed the minister’s home in Punjab.

(Writing by Mehreen Zahra-Malik, Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Batman vs Superman: Huge comics collection to go on show | Reuters

LONDON Batman and Superman may face off in an upcoming movie blockbuster but copies of the superheroes’ first outings dating back almost 80 years are going on display in a new exhibition of original DC Comics books.

The single owner “Impossible Collection (DC Chapter)” features more than 1,000 DC classics, many hugely valuable, and is said to have taken over 16 years to assemble.

It includes the “highest graded copy” of Superman’s debut in “Action Comics No. 1” from 1938 as well as “Detective 27” where Batman made his first appearance in 1939.

The collection, previewed to media on Wednesday in London ahead of a global tour later this year, belongs to Ayman Hariri, the son of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005.

“I think people have a respect … for these books and the characters that they represent,” Hariri told Reuters.

“Each book has a very good representation of what was going on in the world at the time.”

Hariri said he began collecting Superman comics on a wide scale after his father’s death, inspired by a picture of the senior Hariri drawn as the superhero, which is also on display at the exhibition.

When asked about the value of the coveted “Action Comics No. 1”, he declined to give a price.

“‘Action Comics (No.) 1’ is when Superman first appeared and the day before that there was no Superman,” he said. “I don’t think anyone could possibly imagine a world without Superman.”

Superman will be flying onto cinema screens this week in blockbuster “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, starring Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill as the two caped heroes.

(Reporting by Holly Rubenstein; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Europe’s most wanted held in Brussels for Paris attacks | Reuters

BRUSSELS Europe’s most wanted man was captured after a shootout in Brussels on Friday in a major coup for authorities investigating November’s Islamic State attacks on Paris.

Salah Abdeslam, 26, the first suspected active participant taken alive, was being held in hospital with a slight leg wound, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel announced at a news conference alongside French President Francois Hollande.

“This is an important result in the battle for democracy,” said Michel, adding that U.S. President Barack Obama had called to congratulate the Belgian and French leaders.

A Belgian minister broke the news by tweeting: “We got him.”

Prosecutors said a second wanted man, who used the false name of Amine Choukri, was also wounded and captured in the raid on the apartment in Abdeslam’s home neighbourhood of Molenbeek.

The operation, planned after fingerprints and passports were found in a bloody raid three days earlier, was staged in a rush after media leaked word that police had found Abdeslam’s trail.

Hollande, who was visiting Brussels for a European summit, confirmed France would seek extradition for the Brussels-based Frenchman who, he said, was definitely in Paris on the bloody night of Friday, Nov. 13 when 130 people were killed.

Abdeslam’s elder brother, a Brussels barkeeper who shared a chequered history of drugs and petty crime, blew himself up outside a Parisian cafe that night. Hollande said the younger man’s role in the killings was unclear but investigators were sure he helped plan the operation for the Syria-based group.

Since all the identified attackers were killed, Abdeslam offers France a major new chance to understand what happened.

It was now clear, Hollande said, that many more people had been involved in the Paris attacks on a sports stadium, bars and cafes and concert hall than was first thought. Security concerns remain, he added: “The threat level is very high.”

FINGERPRINTS

Television footage showed armed security forces dragging a man with his head covered out of a building and into a car.

Several bursts of gunfire rang out earlier in Molenbeek, a down-at-heel borough that is home to many Muslim immigrants, notably of Moroccan descent like Abdeslam’s family. Two explosions were heard after the arrest, though it was unclear whether they were part of a new operation or the clear-up.

Some four hours later, the main police presence had stood down but crime scene investigators were still at work.

There had long been speculation about whether Abdeslam had stayed in Belgium or managed to flee to Syria.

Security services will be seeking information from Abdeslam on Islamic State plans and structures, his contacts in Europe and Syria and support networks and finance. Over the past four months, France and Belgium have detained several people linked to the prime suspects but none they suspect of a major role.

Three people were detained in the apartment with the two wanted men and will be questioned over harbouring the fugitives. Local media said one was the mother of a friend of Abdeslam.

A four-month inquiry that had seemed to go cold, heated up this week when French and Belgium officers went to an apartment in the southern Brussels suburb of Forest on Tuesday, thinking they were simply looking for physical evidence in the case.

Instead, at least two people sprayed automatic gunfire at them as the opened the door, wounding three officers. An Algerian called Mohamed Belkaid was shot dead after a siege but two people were believed to have got away. Prosecutors said on Friday these may have been Abdeslam and the man called Choukri.

They also said the Algerian was wanted, under the false name Samir Bouzid, since he appeared on CCTV wiring cash to a woman just after the Paris attacks. She was a cousin of Abdelhamid Abbaoud, a Belgian who fought in Syria and is believed to have been a local organiser for Belgian and French militants. Abbaoud and his cousin died in a gunbattle in a Paris suburb on Nov. 18.

Crucially, police also found Abdeslam’s fingerprints as well as fake Syrian and Belgian identity documents they associated with Choukri, who had been fingerprinted by German police when stopped in a car with Abdeslam in October.

On Friday, local media said, a tapped telephone confirmed that Abdeslam was in the house in rue des Quatre-Vents — Four Winds Street — in Molenbeek. After French media broke word of Adbeslam’s fingerprint being found in the Forest flat, police moved in within three hours and seized the pair in minutes.

PARIS TRAIL

After his elder brother Brahim blew himself up, Salah Abdeslam was driven back to Brussels from Paris overnight by two men who admitted doing so and are now in custody on terrorism charges, along with eight other suspects in Belgium.

Investigators believe much of the planning and preparation for the November bombing and shooting rampage in Paris was conducted in Brussels by young French and Belgian nationals, some of whom fought in Syria for Islamic State.

The attack strained relations between Brussels and Paris, with French officials suggesting Belgium was lax in monitoring the activities of hundreds of militants returned from Syria.

Hollande and Michel took pains to exchange compliments to their security services and warm cross-border cooperation.

Brussels, headquarters of the European Union as well as Western military alliance NATO, was entirely locked down for days after the Paris attacks for fear of a major incident there. Brussels has maintained a high state of security alert since then, with military patrols a regular sight.

(Additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio and Jan Strupczewski; Writing by Alastair Macdonald and Andrew Heavens; Editing by Ralph Boulton and Alastair Macdonald)

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England stun South Africa in highest World T20 run-chase | Reuters

MUMBAI England posted the highest successful run chase ever at a World Twenty20 tournament with Joe Root smashing 83 as they overhauled an improbable South Africa total by two wickets in a run-fest on Friday.

Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla struck half-centuries at the top while JP Duminy provided the late assault with an unbeaten fifty as South Africa posted a massive 229-4 after put in to bat in their Group One match at the Wankhede Stadium.

If South Africa, considered one of the favourites for the tournament, hoped they had amassed enough runs, they were in for a rude shock as England attacked their bowlers left, right and centre to post their highest ever T20 total and the second highest run chase ever in the format.

England looked comfortable for most part of their chase before losing three wickets in seven balls towards the end but eventually reached their target with two balls to spare.

Jason Roy (43) and Alex Hales gave England a rollicking start, posting 48 in just 15 deliveries before both were out to paceman Kyle Abbott.

England broke a few team records as they looked to maintain their batting tempo though leg-spinner Imran Tahir tempered it with 1-28 in his four overs.

But Root, who was out in the penultimate over, hit six boundaries and four sixes in his 44-ball knock and added 75 for the fifth wicket with Jos Buttler (21), bringing the sizeable crowd to their feet.

England were on the receiving end of a brutal onslaught from West Indies opener Chris Gayle during Wednesday’s defeat when their spinners struggled to grip the wet ball and that prompted captain Eoin Morgan to field after winning the toss.

But Amla (58) and De Kock (52) tormented the English bowlers, plundering 96 runs off seven overs during an explosive opening stand.

South Africa opted to use Amla and De Kock as openers and it proved it was the right decision from the onset.

De Kock, who thrashed David Willey for 20 in the third over, hit seven fours and three sixes during his 24-ball knock before he fell to off-spinner Moeen Ali.

Amla, who was dropped on nine by Reece Topley off Ali, hit an identical number of boundaries before falling to the off-spinner.

Duminy (54 not out) and David Miller (28 not out) provided the finishing touches for South Africa with an unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 60.

England paceman Chris Jordan conceded four fours and a six in the fifth over and finished with figures of 0-49 in three overs. Topley gave away 33 in his two overs.

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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Obama picks centrist high court nominee; Republicans unmoved | Reuters

WASHINGTON President Barack Obama selected Merrick Garland for the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, choosing a centrist judge meant to win over recalcitrant Senate Republicans whose leaders wasted no time in spurning the Democratic president.

A bruising political fight is brewing over the nomination, which also promises to figure in the already contentious campaign ahead of the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election. The Republican-led Senate’s leaders have vowed not to hold confirmation hearings or an up-or-down vote on any Obama nominee.

Garland, 63, was picked to replace long-serving conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Feb. 13. A Chicagoan like Obama, he serves as chief judge of the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and is a former prosecutor who in the past has won praise from both Republicans and Democrats.

Republicans, hoping a candidate from their party wins the presidential election, are demanding that Obama leave the seat vacant and let his successor, to be sworn in next January, make the selection. Billionaire businessman Donald Trump is leading among Republicans for the nomination. Obama’s former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is the front-runner for the Democrats.

The lifetime appointment to the high court requires Senate confirmation.

Obama said Republican senators should give Garland a fair hearing, saying that failing to do so “will not only be an abdication of the Senate’s constitutional duty, it will indicate a process for nominating and confirming judges that is beyond repair.”

Such a move would undermine the reputation of the Supreme Court and faith in the American justice system. “Our democracy will ultimately suffer as well,” Obama added, as he introduced Garland at a White House Rose Garden ceremony.

Scalia’s death left the nine-member Supreme Court evenly split with four liberals and four conservative justices. Obama’s nominee could tilt the court to the left for the first time in decades, which could affect rulings on contentious issues including abortion, gun rights, the death penalty and political spending.

Obama said the Supreme Court was supposed to be above politics and it should remain so.

“At a time when our politics are so polarized, at a time when norms and customs of political rhetoric and courtesy and comity are so often treated like they’re disposable, this is precisely the time when we should play it straight, and treat the process of appointing a Supreme Court justice with the seriousness and care it deserves,” Obama said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky swiftly reiterated that the Senate will not consider the nomination by the president. A McConnell spokesman said the senator had spoken by phone with Garland and would not hold a “perfunctory meeting” with him.

“It seems clear that President Obama made this nomination not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Senate Republican, added, “This person will not be confirmed, so there’s no reason going through some motions and pretending like it will happen, because it’s not going to happen.”

CRACKS IN MCCONNELL’S STRATEGY

Some cracks began appearing in McConnell’s strategy of completely shutting out the nominee. A handful of Republican senators including Susan Collins of Maine, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Rob Portman of Ohio said they would be willing to meet with Garland.

Collins said the Senate Judiciary Committee should hold confirmation hearings.

Judiciary Committee member Orrin Hatch, whose past support of Garland was cited by Obama, said the pick does not change his view “at this point” that no Obama nominee should be considered.

Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who is in a tough re-election battle, said, “Should Merrick Garland be nominated again by the next president, I would be happy to carefully consider his nomination.”

Obama said Garland would start meeting with senators one-on-one on Thursday.

Garland is the oldest Supreme Court nominee since Republican Richard Nixon in 1971 nominated Lewis Powell, who was 64. Presidents tend to pick nominees younger than that so they can serve for decades and extend a president’s legacy. Obama may reason that the choice of an older nominee might also entice Senate Republicans into considering his selection.

Garland would become the fourth Jewish member of the nine-member court. There are five Roman Catholics on the court. Obama considered but passed over Garland when he made two prior Supreme Court appointments.

With solid Republican support, the Senate voted in 1997 to confirm Garland to his present job in a bipartisan 76-23 vote after he was nominated by Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Garland is widely viewed as a moderate. He is a former prosecutor who served in the Justice Department under Clinton. He oversaw the prosecution in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing case including securing the death penalty for the lead defendant, anti-government militant Timothy McVeigh.

In his current post, he is known for narrow, centrist opinions and rhetoric that is measured rather than inflammatory even when in dissent.

KEEP WORKING, OBAMA TELLS SENATORS

Standing in between Obama and Vice President Joe Biden during the Rose Garden ceremony, an emotional Garland referred to the Oklahoma City bombing case, saying, “Once again, I saw the importance of assuring victims and families that the justice system could work.”

Obama said he fulfilled his constitutional duty by naming a nominee and said it was time for the Senate to do its constitutional duty. “Presidents do not stop working in the final year of their term. Neither should a senator,” Obama added.

Obama, in office since 2009, has already named two justices to the Supreme Court: Sonia Sotomayor, who at 55 became the first Hispanic justice in 2009, and Elena Kagan, who was 50 when she became the fourth woman ever to serve on the court in 2010.

Democrats praised his latest choice.

“If Merrick Garland can’t get bipartisan support no one can,” Democratic Senator Charles Schumer said.

Hillary Clinton called Garland “a brilliant legal mind,” urging the Senate to move ahead with the confirmation process.

Trump said it was critical for Republicans to take back the White House to avoid Democrats shaping the Supreme Court for decades to come.

(Additional reporting by Julia Edwards, Joan Biskupic, Susan Cornwell, Doina Chicau, Tim Ahmann, Susan Heavey and John Shiffman; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Frances Kerry and Grant McCool)

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Fed holds steady, rate-setters now see two hikes this year | Reuters

WASHINGTON The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady on Wednesday and indicated that moderate U.S. economic growth and “strong job gains” would allow it to tighten policy this year with fresh projections showing policymakers expected two quarter-point hikes by the year’s end, half the number seen in December.

The U.S. central bank, however, noted that the United States continues to face risks from an uncertain global economy.

“A range of recent indicators, including strong job gains, points to additional strengthening of the labor market. Inflation picked up in recent months,” the Fed said in a policy statement in which it kept the target range for its overnight lending rate at 0.25 percent to 0.50 percent.

“However, global economic and financial developments continue to pose risks” and will keep inflation low for the remainder of 2016, it said.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen is due to hold a news conference at 2:30 p.m. EDT (1830 GMT).

Policymakers projected weaker economic growth and lower inflation this year and lowered their estimate of where the targeted lending rate would be in the long run to 3.30 percent from 3.50 percent – a signal that the economic recovery would remain tepid.

The interest rate outlook is a shift from the four hikes expected when the Fed raised rates in December for the first time in nearly a decade. The majority of policymakers now said they expected it would be appropriate to raise rates by about a half a percentage point by the end of this year.

“Our first take on this is that it probably leans slightly more dovish, relative to expectations,” said Tom Porcelli, Chief U.S. Economist at RBC Capital Markets in New York.

The dollar fell against both the euro and the yen in the wake of the statement. Bond yields from two to ten years hit session lows, while stock markets rallied with the S&P 500 hitting its highest intraday level since Jan. 4.

The new outlook came as the Fed attempts to steer through recent global market volatility and keep its rate hike plans somewhat intact.

The Fed had adopted a cautious approach at its last policy meeting in January, amid a selloff on financial markets, weaker oil prices and falling inflation expectations. As in its January policy statement, the Fed did not say directly how it regards the balance of risks to the U.S. economy.

Fed policymakers also see continued improvement in the job market, with the unemployment rate expected to decline to 4.7 percent by the end of the year and fall further in 2017 and 2018.

Fed policymakers marked down their forecast for inflation

this year to 1.2 percent from 1.6 percent, but see it recovering to close to the central bank’s 2 percent medium-term target next

year.

Kansas City Fed President Esther George was the only policymaker to dissent on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Paul Simao and David Chance)

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Brussels police kill gunman in Paris attacks raid | Reuters

BRUSSELS Belgian police killed a suspect armed with an assault rifle after four officers were wounded on Tuesday in a raid on a Brussels apartment linked to investigations into November’s Islamist attacks in Paris, prosecutors said.

One or more people opened fire on Belgian and French police officers when they went to conduct what they had expected to be a routine search of an apartment in a suburban side street in the south of the Belgian capital. Some of those involved in the Nov. 13 bombings and shootings lived or were based in the city.

Three officers, including a French policewoman, were wounded and a fourth was hurt during a subsequent exchange of fire. When police stormed the building three hours after the first raid, they killed an unidentified individual wielding a Kalashnikov — a gun used by some of the Islamic State militants in Paris.

Prime Minister Charles Michel and members of his government told a news conference that police operations were continuing. Police searched more nearby buildings late in the evening in the southern Brussels borough of Forest but did not confirm Belgian media reports that they were hunting two further suspects.

“We have escaped a tragedy,” Michel said, noting that none of the four wounded police officers was seriously hurt.

Ministers said the presence of French police at the scene was a “coincidence” not an indication that the initial search had been expected to provide a major break in the case.

The shooting prompted a lockdown in a wide area around the house in the rue du Dries that lasted for hours until police began escorting children from schools and kindergartens after dark, and some 50 who had taken shelter in a supermarket.

Residents were allowed to return to homes behind the cordon.

Around 5 p.m. (1600 GMT), Reuters journalists heard gunshots as police commandos crowded into the street where the raid unfolded. DH newspaper said a suspect was shot dead after being spotted from a police helicopter in a nearby garden.

BELGIAN CONNECTION

Investigators believe much of the planning and preparation for the November bombing and shooting rampage in Paris was conducted in Brussels by young French and Belgian nationals, some of whom fought in Syria for Islamic State.

The attack strained relations between Brussels and Paris, with French officials suggesting Belgium was lax in monitoring the activities of hundreds of militants returned from Syria.

Belgian security forces have been actively hunting suspects and associates of the militants involved in the Paris attacks.

One of the prime suspects, 26-year-old Brussels-based Frenchman Salah Abdeslam, is still on the run. He left Paris hours after his brother blew himself up outside a cafe. Belgian authorities are holding 10 people who have been arrested in the months since the attacks, mostly for helping Abdeslam.

Belgian public television quoted French police sources as saying Abdeslam had not been the target of Tuesday’s raid.

Brussels, headquarters of the European Union as well as Western military alliance NATO, was entirely locked down for days shortly after the Paris attacks for fear of a major incident there. Brussels has maintained a high state of security alert since then, with military patrols a regular sight.

Soldiers were on streets in central Brussels on Tuesday as the operation continued.

Belgium, with a Muslim population of about 5 percent among its 11 million people, has the highest rate in Europe of citizens joining Islamist militants in Syria.

(Additional reporting by Miranda Alexander-Webber, Jan Strupczewski and Alastair Macdonald; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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U.S. ‘disappointed’ by India’s visa refusal for religious rights panel | Reuters

WASHINGTON The State Department was “disappointed” India had refused visas to members of a U.S. commission that examines violations of religious freedom around the world, a spokesman said on Monday.

The commission, made up mainly of professors and leaders of non-profit groups appointed by the president and members of Congress, had planned to travel to India last week but New Delhi failed to issue them visas.

The Indian Embassy said in a statement on its web site that “a foreign entity” like the U.S. commission had no standing to pass judgment on the state of India’s constitutionally protected rights.

Robert George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton who chairs the commission, said last week it was unfortunate that a secular democracy like India had refused a visit from the panel, which has been permitted in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and China, which restrict religious freedoms.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United States was “disappointed by this news.”

“We’re supportive of the commission and the important role they play in reviewing facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom around the world,” Kirby said.

He declined to say whether the State Department had discussed the issue with counterparts in New Delhi. But he did say the United States remained engaged “in a number of discussions” with the Indian government on the issue.

The commission said in its 2015 report on religious freedom that incidents of religiously motivated and communal violence had reportedly increased for three consecutive years.

It said that despite India’s status as a pluralistic, secular democracy, New Delhi had long struggled to protect minority religious communities or provide justice when crimes occurred, creating a climate of impunity.

Non-governmental organizations and religious leaders, including from the Muslim, Christian, and Sikh communities, attributed the initial increase in violence to religiously divisive campaigning in the 2014 general election by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, which won the vote.

Since the election, religious minorities have been subject to derogatory comments by politicians linked the BJP and numerous violent attacks and forced conversions by Hindu nationalist groups.

Despite a much-heralded fresh start in U.S.-India relations under Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the BJP, the United States has run into problems arranging visits by other American officials, including the head of its office to combat human trafficking and its special envoy for gay rights.

(Reporting by David Alexander; editing by Grant McCool)

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Oil loses nearly 4 percent as hopes over Saudi, Russia deal fade | Reuters

NEW YORK Brent oil fell almost 4 percent on Tuesday, erasing early gains after top producers Russia and Saudi Arabia dashed expectations of an outright supply cut by agreeing only to freeze output if other big exporters joined them.

Benchmark Brent prices jumped briefly through $35 a barrel after Russia and Saudi Arabia agreed to keep output at January levels, in what could be the first joint OPEC and non-OPEC deal in 15 years.

Qatari energy minister Mohammad bin Saleh al-Sada said the step would help to stabilise the oil market, which has experienced price declines not seen since the early 2000s because of a supply glut.

Elsewhere, inventories at the Cushing, Oklahoma delivery point for U.S. crude futures rose by nearly 705,000 barrels during the week to Feb. 12, traders said, citing data issued by market intelligence firm Genscape.

Brent settled down $1.21 at $32.18 a barrel, after rising earlier to $35.55.

U.S. crude settled down 40 cents at $29.04, off the day’s high of $31.53.

Oil prices have fallen by more than 70 percent in the past 20 months, driven down by near-record production both from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers, such as Russia.

Tuesday’s early rally ran out of steam as investors weighed the chances of an output freeze while Iran remained absent from the talks and determined to raise production. Sources familiar with Iranian thinking on supply said Tehran would be willing to consider a freeze once its production had reached pre-sanctions levels.

“I’m adding to the short positions I have in U.S. crude spreads as I only expect price declines from here,” said Tariq Zahir at New York’s Tyche Capital Advisors. “The output freeze will do nothing to alleviate excess supply.”

Goldman Sachs, Wall Street’s most influential voice in oil trading, was equally bearish on the plan, saying “there remains high uncertainty that it even materializes, in our view.”

But analysts also cautioned of violent price spikes and market volatility in coming weeks should there be indications of serious production or stockpile declines. On Friday, both Brent and U.S. prices jumped about 12 percent each, rocketing from 12-year lows, on the renewed speculation that OPEC might cut output.

(Additional reporting by Amanda Cooper in London; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Chris Reese)

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Divisive politics return as Modi eyes make-or-break state vote | Reuters

MUZAFFARNAGAR, India At a campaign rally in a north Indian city, a visibly drunk election worker from Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s nationalist party climbs unsteadily onto the stage after being called to speak.

Swaying, he unzips his leather jacket, drops a saffron party flag and declares: “I want to teach Muslims a lesson; a lesson that will prove Hindu unity and protect our religion from Islam.”

A year before Uttar Pradesh holds a state election that could make or break Modi’s chances of a second term, political opponents, analysts and commentators say his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is re-testing a divisive formula at a by-election on Saturday in a troubled corner of India’s most populous state.

It was here in Muzaffarnagar, in 2013, that at least 65 people were killed in communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims. Around 12,000 people were driven from their homes in the surrounding villages where farmers grow sugarcane.

The following year, the BJP won 71 of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh in a general election, handing Modi India’s biggest parliamentary majority in three decades.

Despite two major state poll defeats since, the BJP recently re-appointed Amit Shah as its campaign manager, counting on him to win again in the 2017 regional vote. Shah, who holds the rank of party president, was banned by the Election Commission of India from campaigning in 2014 for statements promoting “hatred and ill will” between religions.

A senior aide to Shah told Reuters the Muzaffarnagar campaign raised legitimate issues to expose the flaws of the state government, led by the left-wing Samajwadi Party that is widely supported by Muslim voters. “It’s not illegal to voice the concerns of Hindus,” said the aide, who did not want to be named.

“To assume that we will only win elections by polarisation is ridiculous. Our work will prove a point and Modi’s image will work the best for us.”

ALL-OUT ATTEMPT

At the BJP rally in Muzaffarnagar, a town of 300,000 people, a businessman chants a Hindu prayer and, to cheers, says girls should not fall for Muslim boys waging a “Love Jihad” against his community.

As the party worker totters off the wobbly podium, he gets a pat on the back from Sanjeev Balyan, a federal agriculture minister who was elected as the local member of parliament in the 2014 landslide.

Balyan, 42, is being tried in a Muzaffarnagar court for rioting, disturbing the peace and unlawful assembly during the 2013 clashes, his lawyer said. He spent 12 days in prison before being granted bail. Further hearings are pending, and Balyan has pleaded his innocence.

With this reporter present, Balyan gives no speech; only expressing gratitude to his voters. Asked later by Reuters about the broader significance of the Muzaffarnagar by-election for Hindu unity and for Uttar Pradesh, he described it as a prelude to “an all-out final attempt to protect Hindus.”

BIGGEST PRIZE

Modi must win in Uttar Pradesh, India’s biggest electoral prize, to sustain his hope of one day gaining full control of parliament, where he lacks a majority in the upper house that represents the federal states.

A victory there would help the 65-year-old leader advance his development agenda by passing land, tax and labour reforms that have been thwarted by the opposition. Defeat could turn his government into a lame duck ahead of the 2019 general election.

With Modi’s promise of growth and jobs yet to materialise, the temptation to shore up his political base is growing, say political analysts.

“The party has nothing to boast about on the economic or development front,” said Sanjay Kumar, director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, a New Delhi think-tank specialising in social sciences and opinion research. “If polarisation works, then they will be tempted to replicate it in the 2017 state elections.”

Party leaders say the BJP is determined to keep its base intact with a message of Hindutva, or the idea that India is a Hindu nation.

“Many people are taken aback by the directness of the BJP’s Hindutva messaging in the Muzaffarnagar by-election, but we are only speaking the truth,” Chandra Mohan, a BJP spokesman in Lucknow, told Reuters by telephone.

Hindus make up nearly 80 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people. Uttar Pradesh, home to one in six of the population, is also predominantly Hindu. But, in the west of the state, Muslims are in a slight majority.

“The BJP has mastered the art of winning elections by labelling Muslims as terrorists and traitors,” said Sajida Khatoon, a 54-year-old Muslim whose brother and eight neighbours were killed in 2013.

She says she has warned her two teenage sons to avoid Hindu youths and not get involved with Hindu girls. “They’re at an age when they easily get attracted to girls, but a Muslim falling in love with a Hindu can lead to riots here.”

(Reporting by Rupam Jain; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Ian Geoghegan)

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Turkey delivers aid across border as Syrian forces step up Aleppo assault | Reuters

ONCUPINAR, Turkey/BEIRUT Aid trucks and ambulances entered Syria from Turkey on Sunday to deliver food and supplies to tens of thousands of people fleeing an escalating government assault on Aleppo, as air strikes targeted villages on the road north to the Turkish border.

Russian and Syrian forces intensified their campaign on rebel-held areas around Aleppo that are still home to around 350,000 people and aid workers have said the city – Syria’s largest before the war – could soon fall.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war, said air strikes, thought to be from Russian planes, hit around the villages of Bashkoy, Haritan and Kfr Hamra north of Aleppo on Sunday, the latter two lying near the road to Turkey.

Russia’s intervention has tipped the balance of the war in favour of President Bashar al-Assad, reversing gains the rebels made last year. Advances by the Syrian army and allied militias, including Iranian fighters, are threatening to cut off rebel-held zones of Aleppo.

“In some parts of Aleppo the Assad regime has cut the north- south corridor … Turkey is under threat,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was quoted by the Hurriyet newspaper as telling reporters on his plane back from a visit to Latin America.

Turkey’s armed forces had the full authority to counter any threats to its national security, he said, although senior government officials have said the NATO member does not intend to mount any unilateral incursion into Syria.

Sunni Arab powers in the region, which, like Turkey, want to see Assad removed from power, have expressed readiness to intervene with ground forces provided it is part of a co-ordinated international effort.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) said on Sunday it was ready to send ground troops to Syria as part of an international coalition to fight against Islamic State militants.

Saudi Arabia said last week it was ready to participate in any ground operations in Syria if the U.S.-led coalition decided to start such operations.

Syria would resist any ground incursion into its territory and send the aggressors home “in coffins”, its foreign minister said on Saturday, comments clearly aimed at the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Taking full control of Aleppo would be a huge strategic prize for Assad’s government in a five-year conflict that has killed at least 250,000 people across the country and driven 11 million from their homes. It could also push a massive new wave of refugees to the Turkish border.

TURKISH BORDER UNDER PRESSURE

Turkey has kept an open-door policy to civilians fleeing Syria throughout the conflict but is coming under growing pressure from Europe to stem the flow of migrants, and from the United States to secure the border more tightly.

It is already sheltering more than 2.5 million Syrians, the world’s largest refugee population. But at the Oncupinar crossing, which has been largely shut for nearly a year, the newest arrivals were being shepherded into camps on the Syrian side.

“If those (refugees) have come to our door and they have no other choice and if needed we will let those brothers in, we have to do that,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.

Aid officials at the Oncupinar border crossing said their efforts for now were focused on getting aid to the Syrian side of the border, where Turkish agencies have set up new shelters.

“We’re extending our efforts inside Syria to supply shelter, food and medical assistance to people. We are already setting up another camp,” an official from the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), which is funded by donations and carries out humanitarian work inside Turkey and abroad, told Reuters.

“At the moment all our preparations are to make sure these people are comfortable on the Syrian side of the border.”

At a camp at Bab al Salama, inside Syria and across from Oncupinar, children played in the muddy lanes between rows of tents lashed by rain. Some were ripped and caked with mud, but others appeared to be newly set up.

A flag of the opposition Free Syrian Army fluttered over the road leading out towards the Syrian city of Azaz along which many of the displaced have travelled in recent days. Opposition fighters armed with Kalashnikovs wandered nearby.

As many as 55,000 people are fleeing towards Turkey, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters on Saturday as he left a meeting with EU foreign ministers in Amsterdam. Turkey’s “open border” policy would be maintained, he said.

But Turkey is struggling to stop the flow of migrants trying to make perilous onward journeys into Europe.

Two female migrants, one aged 14 or 15, died of cold after crossing the Turkish-Bulgarian border late on Saturday in a mountainous area thick with snow, Bulgaria’s interior ministry said. Their nationalities could not immediately be confirmed.

(Additional reporting by Mehmet Emin Caliskan in Bab al-Salama, Angel Krasimirov in Sofia, Asli Kandemir in Istanbul, William Maclean in Abu Dhabi; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Clelia Oziel)

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Highlights – Day seven at the Australian Open | Reuters

MELBOURNE Latest news from the seventh day of the Australian Open on Sunday (all times GMT):

0340 WILLIAMS ON MEETING SHARAPOVA

“I had no idea who I was playing. She had a really good match earlier but I’ve got nothing to lose and will just do my best.”

0339 WILLIAMS SETS UP SHARAPOVA QUARTER-FINAL

Williams against Sharapova in a re-match of last year’s final it is. The world number one hammers down a thumping unreturnable serve to beat Gasparyan 6-2 6-1.

0230 SHARAPOVA ON HER WIN

“I was really focused today … it’s always great to play a player that’s coming up for the first time.”

0221 NISHIKORI HAMMERS TSONGA

Japan’s Kei Nishikori has set up a likely quarter-final with reigning champion Novak Djokovic after a straightforward 6-4 6-2 6-4 victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Djokovic meets Frenchman Gilles Simon later on Sunday.

0217 SHARAPOVA ACES YOUNGSTER BENCIC

Fifth seed Maria Sharapova ramped up her serve to dismiss Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic 7-5 7-5 and reach the quarter-finals for her 601st Tour victory.

The 2008 champion will play the winner of reigning champion Serena Williams’s match against Margarita Gasparyan.

0010 PLAY BEGINS ON MAIN SHOWCOURTS

Play began on the covered showcourts on a rainy day in Melbourne with the temperature 18 degrees Celsius (64 Fahrenheit).

0005 ORDER OF PLAY (PREFIX DENOTES SEEDING)

ROD LAVER ARENA

5-Maria Sharapova (Russia) v 12-Belinda Bencic (Switzerland)

1-Serena Williams (U.S.) v Margarita Gasparyan (Russia)

1-Novak Djokovic (Serbia) v 14-Gilles Simon (France)

From 0800 GMT

10-Carla Suarez Navarro (Spain) v Daria Gavrilova(Australia)

3-Roger Federer (Switzerland) v 15-David Goffin (Belgium)

MARGARET COURT ARENA

Not before 0530 GMT

24-Roberto Bautista Agut (Spain) v 6-Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic)

HISENSE ARENA

9-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France) v 7-Kei Nishikori (Japan)

Not before 0600 GMT

4-Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland) v Anna-Lena Friedsam (Germany)

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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India roars back to Davos to seek overseas investment | Reuters

DAVOS, Switzerland Colourful lions adorn a salon on the main street of Davos, inviting visiting business leaders to “Make in India”.

Optimism about the world’s fastest growing economy contrasts with the economic gloom facing other emerging markets and Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s mantra encapsulates a renewed confidence among Indian business and political leaders at the 2016 World Economic Forum.

This year’s Davos push, led by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, has stirred memories of the ill-fated and extravagant 2006 “India Everywhere” marketing campaign that had aimed to showcase a resurgent India as a destination for foreign investment to rival China.

But the ruling party was routed soon after in elections and subsequent years laid bare India’s frailties; its woeful infrastructure, inability to deliver reforms and a huge balance of payments deficit put it in the Fragile Five group of emerging markets seen at most risk of financial crisis.

That has all changed, and the 140-plus strong India contingent at Davos is confident the turnaround this time is for real, driven by efforts at reform and falling oil import costs.

“India will be a shining star, the I in the BRICs constellation is giving hope to the rest of the world that we won’t fall in the same trap that most of the world is in, that of slow growth,” Indian telecommunications tycoon Sunil Bharti Mittal told a panel at the World Economic Forum,

Indeed, the other BRIC emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India and China – are wrestling with problems. The first two are in a second year of recession, while this week China posted its weakest growth in 25 years.

India has finally taken on the mantle of the world’s fastest growing big economy; its equities and bonds are favourites with emerging market investors who are betting that growth will accelerate further.

What’s more, direct bricks-and-mortar foreign investment flows into India jumped 75 percent over 2015, according to a report this week from United Nations trade body UNCTAD.

Davos regulars feel India may actually have something to crow about. A PWC survey of more than 1,400 global CEOs found India to be the rare bright spot among big economies, with rising confidence in short-term sales growth.

“I think they are doing it (Davos) more quietly this time, I think that’s good. Let China take all the heat and just keep your head down,” said Martin Gilbert CEO of Aberdeen Asset Management, who counts India as one of his favourite markets.

SLOW REFORM

But India has plenty to worry about. Key reforms on land and tax remain elusive. Latest data, showing a 15 percent year-on-year decline in exports, is proof enough that India cannot escape the fallout of a global slowdown stemming from China

Neeraj Kanwar, vice chairman of Apollo Tyres, should be rejoicing in falling costs of rubber and energy. Instead, he is fretting about the weakening yuan and the possibility of more competitive currency devaluations in China and the rest of Asia.

Chinese tyres account for a third of the Indian market, he told Reuters on the sidelines of the WEF, up from 15-20 percent a year ago. Meanwhile India’s tyre industry is running at 60 percent capacity, Kanwar said, adding:

“The writing is on the wall for Make in India.”

Apollo will start producing tyres at its new plant in Hungary from 2017, for easier access to Western European markets but Kanwar said an investment process that took a few weeks in Hungary could have consumed up to 18 months in India.

Critics would note India ranked 130th in the World Bank’s latest survey on ease of doing business and Kanwar said clearances for Apollo’s planned facility in Hungary took a few weeks, a process that would have taken up to 18 months in India.

“There are still too many barriers to doing business in India,” he added.

DOUBLING DOWN

But in today’s bleak emerging markets, Western businesses may have little choice but to gravitate towards India with its 7 percent growth and billion-plus eager consumers.

“There is increased opportunity in India, while (reform) progress has been slow we are seeing progress and that’s the key,” KPMG chairman John Veihmeyer told the Reuters Global Markets Forum this week, adding that India was the consultancy’s fastest-growing market.

And John Chambers, executive chairman of IT giant Cisco Systems reckons India, with its software industry, is well placed to capitalise on increasingly digitalised business.

“We all got excited about India before, but the market didn’t develop as we hoped,” Chambers said. “Cisco doubled down in India two years ago and we will double down again..We cannot miss this opportunity.”

(Editing by Alexander Smith and Anna Willard)

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Singer Natalie Cole dead at 65 | Reuters

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