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Football: VAR drama as Spurs suffer 3-1 defeat at Sheffield United

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND (REUTERS) – VAR took centre stage once again as Tottenham Hotspur slumped to a 3-1 defeat by Sheffield United in the Premier League at Bramall Lane on Thursday (July 2), leaving Jose Mourinho’s side nine points adrift in the race for the top four.

The hosts took the lead in the 31st minute as Norwegian Sander Berge finished off a fine flowing move, slotting the ball into the bottom corner for his first goal in English football.

Less than two minutes later, Harry Kane thought he had equalised when he found the net but the goal was ruled out by VAR, with Lucas Moura adjudged to have used his hand when pushed to the ground and nudging the ball in Kane’s direction.

Mourinho was furious with the decision and his mood worsened in the 69th minute as United carved Spurs open again to set up substitute Lys Mousset for his first goal since Dec 1.

The visitors offered very little in response, with Oli McBurnie adding a third goal six minutes from time to make sure of the three points for the Blades before Kane did get his goal, albeit a mere consolation, in the 90th minute.

The result means United leapfrog Spurs to go seventh on 47 points, seven points off the top four, with Mourinho’s inconsistent side dropping to ninth as their hopes of securing Champions League football for next season further recede.

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Christchurch mosque shooter to be sentenced on August 24

Court sets date for sentencing of Australian man accused of killing 51 Muslim worshippers in March 2019.

The sentencing hearing for an Australian man accused of killing 51 Muslim worshippers in New Zealand’s worst mass shooting has been set to begin on August 24, the court said on Friday.

Brenton Tarrant pleaded guilty to all charges in a Christchurch High Court hearing earlier this year.

Justice Cameron Mander said the hearing is estimated to last three days, but it will take as long as is necessary. 

New Zealand’s worst-ever mass shooting took place on March 15 last year when the lone attacker opened fire on Muslims attending Friday prayers in Christchurch, broadcasting his attack live on Facebook.

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Singapore GE2020: Parties debate foreign worker policy, GST

In its election manifesto, the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) called for a review of free trade agreements (FTAs) that touch on labour exchanges, such as the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.

Homing in on that point during an online Mandarin dialogue last night, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said such reviews would also have to take into account the compromises and potential trade-offs that Singapore will have to make with the other country.

“If we want to review an FTA with India, for instance, what do you have to give up and what does India want from this side? What do we offer in exchange?” Mr Chan asked.

He added that opposition parties also have to contend with the possibility of having to form an alternative Government when they field candidates for election, and this means they have to think through and make clear the potential trade-offs of their policy proposals.

The dialogue, which was broadcast on, also included PSP’s vice-chairman Hazel Poa and Workers’ Party candidate Kenneth Foo. It covered several areas, including the upcoming Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike and Singapore’s policy on foreign labour.

Ms Poa asked Mr Chan, who is the PAP’s second assistant secretary-general, about the PAP’s plans for Singapore’s foreign labour policy.

In response, Mr Chan said Singapore’s foreign manpower needs are not determined by the Government, but rather, by the needs of businesses. “If we tighten the foreign manpower policy, we will need to think about how it will have an impact on SMEs and other businesses,” he said, adding that the policy is not a zero-sum game as hiring foreign workers does not come at the expense of locals.

“If we don’t have foreign labour tomorrow, does that mean our enterprises will have better capabilities and opportunities, or that our workers will have more opportunities? I don’t think it’s that easy… I am not worried that we will lose out (to other countries), Singaporeans are not afraid of competition, we just want fair competition,” he said.

In response, Ms Poa countered that the Government still plays a role in regulating and calibrating the flow of foreign labour into the country. The policy still merits further discussion, she said, pointing out that other countries have been able to attract local workers to blue-collar professions as substantial wages are offered to the locals.

Mr Chan later asked Mr Foo about his party’s proposal to scrap the planned GST hike, which will increase the tax rate from 7 per cent to 9 per cent some time between 2022 and 2025. Some $6 billion has been set aside to help cushion the impact of the tax hike on Singaporeans.

The WP has argued in its manifesto that the Government should tap alternative sources of revenue, such as the income from land sales. It also suggested increasing the net investment returns contribution by up to 10 per cent.

Since 2016, the returns from Singapore’s invested reserves have been the single largest source of government revenue.

“I want to ask them a very simple question – who will foot the bill?” Mr Chan said, adding: “An ageing population, infrastructure that has to be renewed, all these are very large undertakings.”

Singapore has three options to fund its expenditure, he added. It can rely on the money left by previous generations, get the current generation to foot the bill, or pass the buck to future generations.

“Which of these choices does the WP want?” he asked.

Mr Foo responded that the Government has not made public its income and expenditure projections over the next 10 years.

“In the absence of data, would a responsible opposition be able to support this Budget in Parliament?” he asked. “Would it be able to support the GST increase from 7 per cent to 9 per cent? This is completely impossible.”

On the question of who foots the bill, he added that the WP’s manifesto is “budget-neutral”.

But if money needs to be spent, the most important thing is to focus on who the money is being spent on, he said. “If we put our people first, we have to ask: do we use the money, or not?”

Mr Chan replied that given the global economic downturn, raising other forms of taxes – such as income tax, property tax and corporate tax – will be challenging,

It will also be difficult to earn as much as before from investing the country’s reserves, he said.

“This is not child’s play. These are challenges that we will be facing over the next 10 years.”

Mr Foo responded that the WP’s stance remains the same, to which Mr Chan replied: “Let me be frank: If we had, in the past, done what the WP is proposing, we would not have enough money to see us through the crisis today.”

  • Additional reporting by Tee Zhuo

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More in S'pore getting on bikes

Like many shops in Singapore, Cycleworx saw a dip in sales revenue over the April 7-June 1 circuit breaker when most retail outlets had to be shut. But the bicycle shop has since recovered, with co-owner Kenneth Tan estimating a 50 per cent increase in sales since resuming operations on June 2.

The 53-year-old, who said there was a 30-40 per cent drop in sales, observed a rising interest in cycling over the circuit breaker, when sports facilities were not allowed to open.

“There were a lot of enquiries, up to four or five Facebook messages a day, but we couldn’t sell, we could only do urgent repairs like when the battery dies or you break a spoke,” said Tan, adding that the shop has been enjoyed good business since reopening, and that customers are allocated time slots.

“There are always people coming in to service bikes. Last time if I’m lucky I’d get one or two a week, now there’s one or two people a day. People also started buying bikes. Those who were sitting on the fence and undecided (before the circuit breaker) came and bought bikes.”

The number of cycling-related transactions increased over the first quarter of the year as compared to last year, said OCBC’s head of group customer analytics and decisioning Donald MacDonald.

Expenditure on cycling has also seen a month-on-month increase in the first quarter of this year.

There was a 46 per cent increase from February to March before a drop in sales the following month, as shops were closed during the circuit breaker period.

Cycling enthusiasts here also noted an increase in the number of people cycling outdoors, as they believe most are eager to leave their homes and get moving after a period of being cooped up indoors.

National cyclist Goh Choon Huat estimated a 10 to 20 per cent rise in the number of cyclists on the roads.

Lawyer Roger Allingham, who cycles with local team Allied World Treknology3, noted roads were used by individual cyclists who were making the most of lighter traffic during the circuit breaker.

Goh, 29, added: “It wasn’t crowded because everyone was still respecting the rules of social distancing.

“It’s good to see the cycling community expanding and everyone adopting this as a healthy lifestyle.”

Engineer Peter Yap increased his weekly mileage from 200km to 260km during the circuit breaker.

The 55-year-old, who cycles thrice a week, appreciated that cyclists are not required to wear masks, allowing him to breathe easier while exercising.

He added: “It is (enjoyable) but the fact that you’re not able to ride with a group means you have to have determination to do long distances by yourself.

“Cycling has helped maintain my health and it also reduces stress.”

Read the latest on the Covid-19 situation in Singapore and beyond on our dedicated site here.

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Football: Real Madrid close in on title after edging Getafe

MADRID (REUTERS) – Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos kept his nerve to score a late penalty and secure a 1-0 home win over Getafe on Thursday (July 2) for a sixth consecutive La Liga victory, taking his side four points clear of Barcelona in the title race.

Ramos coolly passed the ball into the net to finally break the deadlock in the 79th minute after Dani Carvajal was felled by the trailing leg of Getafe’s Mathias Olivera, who was denied a penalty earlier on after being knocked over by Carvajal.

The late strike felt harsh on Getafe, who had squandered a couple of chances to take the lead, but Zinedine Zidane’s side once again saw out a difficult game to capitalise on Barca’s 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

Real, who have not won the title since 2017, lead the table on 74 points ahead of second-placed Barca with five games left.

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Football: Manchester City thrash Premier League champions Liverpool 4-0

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM (REUTERS) – Manchester City generously applauded new champions Liverpool onto the field before their Premier League match on Thursday (July 2) – and promptly showed no mercy by thrashing them 4-0 at the Etihad stadium.

With the title secured a week ago, there was little at stake for Juergen Klopp’s Liverpool side who showed far from their usual levels of intensity but the loss, just their second of the league campaign, was an emphatic reminder that City will be desperate to regain their crown next season.

Klopp was quick to defend his team’s attitude, rejecting any suggestion they had taken the game lightly.

“I saw a brilliant attitude. I saw fight. We didn’t behave like somebody who became champions a week ago. We lacked fluidity. And in some 50-50 situations they were quicker than us,” he said.

“Man City are incredible. I saw their season, they didn’t play a bad game even when they lost,” he said.

After the guard of honour, which included City manager Pep Guardiola, the visitors started brightly and Ederson had to be alert to keep out a fourth-minute effort from Mohamed Salah.

Salah then struck the post after a clever pass from Roberto Firmino, whose hair was coloured red, but if Liverpool thought they were in for another night of festivities, they were in for a rude awakening.

Joe Gomez could not cope with Raheem Sterling’s twisting and turning in the box, pulling him to the ground before Kevin De Bruyne converted the penalty in the 25th minute.

Sterling doubled the lead 10 minutes later when after a swift break, Phil Foden found him inside the box and the ex-Liverpool forward cut inside Gomez and slid the ball home.

The 20-year-old Foden made it 3-0, firing past Alisson after a swift exchange with Kevin De Bruyne.

City were showing an unusual willingness to play long balls and after Rodri launched a pass deep to De Bruyne, the Belgian found Sterling inside the box and he slipped the ball goalwards, with substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s outstretched touch only turning it into his own net.

It could have been even worse for Liverpool with Riyad Mahrez’s fine solo effort in the final moments but VAR spotted a handball by Foden in the build-up.

The loss was the joint-heaviest defeat by a side already crowned Premier League champions. Arsenal were beaten 4-0 at Liverpool in 1997-98 in the game after they clinched the title.

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Top US spies brief Congress on Russia-Taliban intelligence

Congress eyes new sanctions as Trump downplays reports Russia offered Taliban affiliates cash to kill Americans.

CIA Director Gina Haspel and National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone met with congressional leaders at the United States Capitol on Thursday to share US intelligence suggesting Russia offered the Taliban bounties to kill US troops in Afghanistan.

Amid rising calls for new sanctions on Russia, US intelligence officials are under pressure from members of both parties in Congress to provide explanations.

US media outlets have reported that intelligence agencies concluded the Russian military offered bounties to Taliban affiliates in Afghanistan to kill American troops and coalition forces. President Donald Trump has played down the reports and called the allegations a hoax. 

Members of Congress who were briefed behind closed doors on Thursday included top Republican and Democrat leaders from the House of Representatives and the Senate as well as chairs of the intelligence committees. The US’s top spy, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, also attended.

“I’m not going to say anything about the briefing, but I believe that the president is not close to tough enough on [Russian President] Vladimir Putin,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told reporters as he left the briefing.

Going into the meeting, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – who has been harshly critical of Trump, calling him unfit for office – said she hoped to learn “the truth” about the Russian bounties.

After the closed briefing, Schumer and Pelosi issued a joint statement accusing Trump of being “soft” on Putin. 

The intelligence “was of a consequential level” and the president and Congress should have been briefed, Pelosi said at a news conference.

“The White House put on a con that if you don’t have 100 percent consensus on intelligence that it shouldn’t rise to a certain level,” Pelosi said.

Warmer relations

Pelosi said Congress should now impose financial sanctions on Russia’s intelligence and military sectors – penalties that were withheld at Trump’s request, she said, in a US sanctions law passed overwhelmingly by Congress in 2017.

Trump, a Republican, has worked to cultivate warmer relations with Moscow. Recently, the US president sought to invite Russia back into the Group of Seven meeting of industrialised nations, but was blocked by Germany and other allies. Russia was expelled by the group after annexing Crimea and invading eastern Ukraine.

Four US and European government sources, who are familiar with intelligence reporting and spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Reuters news agency that in recent weeks the US had acquired fresh reporting backing up the allegations that Russia had encouraged Taliban-affiliated militants to kill US and allied soldiers in Afghanistan.

US intelligence agencies are confident Russia encouraged the Taliban to kill US troops, but there is a disagreement between the CIA and the National Security Agency over whether Moscow had actually paid bounties, Reuters reported.

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Three US cities pilot truth, reconciliation push to tackle racism

Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco will help form a pilot effort to confront racism in the criminal justice system.

District attorneys in Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco are teaming up on a pilot effort patterned after South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission to confront racism in the criminal justice system.

Suffolk County DA Rachael Rollins, Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner and San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin announced the initiative on Wednesday in partnership with the Grassroots Law Project, which is leading the effort. It will tackle racial inequities, and police violence and misconduct.

“We need to confront our ugly past to create a more just and equitable future,” said Rollins, whose jurisdiction includes Boston.

Organisers said the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission will “process and address the injustices of the past that simply were not given the time, attention and dignity that they deserved”.

“When marginalized people have needed to finally rely on this system for justice, it has routinely failed them in the worst ways imaginable. This isn’t a bug in the system, but a feature,” they said in a statement.

The three district attorneys said they will be working out details over the summer and plan to formally launch the commission in the fall (autumn).

The Grassroots Law Project, an organisation led by activist Shaun King and civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, said Rollins, Krasner and Boudin “will lead community-centred, localised efforts to address the harms of unaccountable, unjust and racist policing and prosecution”. Additional cities will be announced later this year, it said.

New York efforts

Separately, New York City took the lead last month when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city would form its own commission to examine its history of racial discrimination.

The city’s new Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission will give New Yorkers a platform to discuss their experiences with racism, examine possible discrimination in public policy and recommend changes such as removing symbols of racism from public spaces, de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, said in announcing its formation. McCray, an author and activist, is Black; the mayor is white.

It is the latest in a trend of progressive prosecutors eschewing traditionally cosy relationships with police departments and pressing instead for criminal justice reforms to better hold police accountable for wrongdoing.

Rollins, Boston’s first woman and Black district attorney, said the entire system – not just police – needs to change to ensure people of colour are not victimised. “Our efforts at reform cannot only focus on police. Your district attorneys, state’s attorneys and top prosecutors are failing you too,” she tweeted on Wednesday.

In the 1990s, South Africa’s own Truth and Reconciliation Commission took the nation on a painful path to air injustices perpetrated during more than 40 years of apartheid rule that included the torture, beatings and bombings of Black people. Rather than hunt down and try people accused of atrocities, Nuremberg-style, the country’s approach helped talk through grievances and heal divisions between Black people and whites.

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US: Coronavirus infections rising in 40 of 50 states

The US, with 25 percent of the world’s cases, grapples with dire increases ahead of the July 4 holiday weekend.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States climbed to an all-time high of more than 50,000 per day on Thursday, with the infection curve rising in 40 out of 50 states in a reversal that has largely spared only the Northeast.

In yet another alarming indicator, 36 states are seeing a rise in the percentage of tests that are coming back positive for the virus.

The surge has been blamed in part on Americans not wearing face masks or following other social-distancing rules as states lifted their lockdowns over the past few weeks.

The US recorded 50,700 new cases, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. That represents a doubling of the daily total over the past month and is higher even than what the country witnessed during the deadliest phase of the crisis in April and May.

All but 10 states are showing an increase in newly confirmed cases over the past 14 days, according to data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer organisation that collects testing information. The outbreaks are most severe in Arizona, Texas and Florida, which together with California have re-closed or otherwise clamped back down on bars, restaurants and movie theatres.

Nebraska and South Dakota were the only states outside the Northeast with a downward trend in cases.

While some of the increases may be explained in part by expanded testing, other indicators are grim, too, including hospitalisations and positive test rates. Over the past two weeks, the percentage of positive tests in Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee has doubled. In Idaho and Nevada, it has tripled.

The surge in cases comes as Americans head into a Fourth of July holiday weekend that health officials warn could add fuel to the virus by drawing big crowds. Many municipalities have cancelled fireworks displays. Beaches up and down California and Florida have been closed.

Florida reported more than 10,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases for the first time Thursday. That is six times higher than the daily count of less than a month ago. The state also reported 67 deaths for the second time in a week. Deaths per day are up about 30 percent from two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, the government reported that US unemployment fell to 11.1 percent in June as the economy added a solid 4.8 million jobs.

But the data was collected during the second week of June, before many states began to backtrack on restarting their economies.

Several Northeastern states have seen new infections slow down significantly, including New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Jersey, which allowed its Atlantic City casinos to reopen Thursday, though with no smoking, no drinking and no eating.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday seemed confident the virus would soon subside, telling Fox Business: “I think that, at some point, that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope.”

The US has reported at least 2.7 million cases and more than 128,000 dead, the highest toll in the world. Globally there have been 10.7 million confirmed cases and more than 516,000 dead, according to Johns Hopkins’s count. The true toll is believed to be significantly higher, in part because of limited testing and mild cases that have been missed.

Global growth

Other countries are also reporting record numbers of cases.

South Africa recorded more than 8,100 new cases, a one-day record. The country has the most cases in Africa, more than 159,000, as it loosens what had been one of the world’s strictest lockdowns.

“We have now entered a new and treacherous phase in the life cycle of this pandemic,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa warned in a broadcast to the nation.

The US has 4% of the world’s population but 25% of its coronavirus cases

India, the world’s second-most populous country with more than 1.3 billion people, surpassed 600,000 infections on Thursday after over 19,000 new cases were reported. India has reported nearly 100,000 new cases in the past four days alone.

Many industries and businesses have reopened across India, though schools, colleges and movie theatres are still closed.

On the medical front, the World Health Organization said that smoking is linked to a higher risk of severe illness and death from the coronavirus in hospitalised patients, although it was unable to specify exactly how much greater the danger might be.

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Football: Arteta won't sell Arsenal stars to fund rebuild

LONDON (AFP) – Mikel Arteta insists Arsenal will not sell their best players to fund an overhaul of his inconsistent team.

Arteta has been linked with several players as he prepares for a summer rebuild, but mooted moves for the likes of Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey won’t be cheap.

While the club broke their transfer record to land Nicolas Pepe last summer, Arsenal are now set to be without Champions League action yet again next term.

Such big-money deals appear to be out of the reach of Arsenal at the moment, which has led to speculation that some players would have to be moved on to fund any major signings.

Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would raise the biggest fee and has been mentioned as a Barcelona target with one year left on his contract.

But Arteta, who saw his side win their third game in six days with a 4-0 victory over Norwich on Wednesday, does not feel that is the right approach.

Asked if the club would have to sell to bring in new players, the Arsenal manager said: “Obviously we are putting different plans together to see what we are going to be able to do. At the moment the uncertainty is still big.

“We have seen different things. The way that Chelsea is dealing with the market is different to rest at the moment, but Bayern Munich as well they’ve have been really aggressive.

“So I don’t know. But if you ask me, we cannot be a team that has to sell his best player to try to bring in and improve our squad. That’s for sure.”

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