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Sepang chief urges F1 bosses to ‘put ego aside’

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Sepang boss Razlan Razali has urged Formula One’s new owners to “put their ego aside” and learn from the “two wheels” of Moto GP if they are to revive their sport.

This year will witness the last Malaysian Grand Prix before the race disappears from the calendar after a combination of low attendances and high fees, with the government spending some $67.6 million annually to stage the event, something the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) and their political bosses were no longer prepared to tolerate.

Earlier this month former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, ousted from his position after a takeover by the US-based Liberty Media in the off-season, gave an interview in which he admitted over-charging tracks to stage races.

Sepang chief executive Razlan, speaking to AFP in London on Friday, slammed Ecclestone for “making us look like idiots”.

But while acknowledging Liberty were “easier to talk to”, he said chief executive Chase Carey and managing director Sean Bratches, needed to make greater personal contact with promoters.

“I always feel for a new company to take over a championship like Formula One, they need to move faster than the Formula One cars themselves,” Razlan told AFP.

“They are too slow to react…For circuit owners who pay them a lot of money every year, the least they could do is introduce themselves, rather than us going to them and saying ‘Are you Chase?, are you Sean?'”

– ‘Who is Lance Stroll?’ –

Razlan added: “They are trying their hardest to make it work, but they are too focused on the paddock club, which, let’s face it, are less than a thousand people, rather than the masses.

“What triggers the masses is to buy tickets to watch Formula One, what they experience at the Formula One is secondary.

“They want to buy tickets because Formula One is damn interesting or because they are supporting a particular driver or a team.”

Sepang may be giving up its Formula One Grand Prix, but it will remain on the Moto GP calendar and Razlan said: “Moto GP, they have everything, they have great support races with Moto Three and Moto Two.

“There are three world championship races and they create fans from the beginning.

“When a new rider comes into Moto Three, younger fans follow this particular rider.

“Maverick Vinales, for example, he started in Moto Three, he moved all the way up to Moto GP and the fans did the same.”

But the pathway on four wheels is not so clear and Razlan said: “You look at Formula One, who’s Lance Stroll (a new Williams driver this season), you tell me?

“There’s no harm in looking at what the two wheels are doing, put ego aside, put whatever aside, and look at what they are doing.”

Meanwhile Razlan, while pleased the F1 calendar now had back-to back races in the same region, said a gap of two weeks, as will happen when October’s Malaysia Grand Prix follows September’s Singapore Grand Prix later this year, was too long to persuade international fans to stay in the region for both races.

“Last year we were two weeks back-to-back with Singapore, that’s still a long wait — it should be one week, directly back-to-back,” he insisted.

“It’s unique for Asia, having one week to watch a night street race and then one week you go to a proper circuit like Sepang. I think it’s fantastic for the global fans.

“It’s something we talked about with Bernie in the past and sort of mentioned to Liberty Media, but they seem to have other plans.”

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Three charged over 2015 Paris attacks: judicial source

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Three people have been charged with supplying arms to jihadists who staged deadly attacks in 2015 on a Jewish supermarket in Paris and the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly, a judicial source said.

Those charged this week include Samir L., believed to be linked to the sale of weapons to the supermarket attacker, as well as Miguel M. and Abdelaziz A., who are thought to have been involved in trafficking arms between Belgium and France.

Seven people have already been charged over the assaults. The attackers had a wide array of weapons including guns that came from Slovakia.

Investigators are trying to piece together how France-based jihadist Amedy Coulibaly obtained the weapons used in the January 9, 2015 attack on the supermarket.

Coulibaly killed four people after taking shoppers hostage at the Jewish store. Elite police later shot him dead as they stormed the building.

He had killed a policewoman in the Montrouge suburb south of Paris the night before, when authorities think he may have initially been targeting a nearby Jewish school.

The attack was part of three days of terror in the French capital that began with the raid on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine offices that killed 12 people.

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Rio Olympic rematches spice Drake Relays

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Reigning Olympic champions Omar McLeod, Derek Drouin and Christian Taylor will risk their bragging rights Saturday in “Rio Rematches” to highlight the 108th Drake Relays at Des Moines, Iowa.

Jamaica’s McLeod will face 2012 Olympic champion Aries Merritt of the United States in a men’s 110m hurdles showcase while Canadian high jumper Drouin and US 2012 and 2016 Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor will be challenged by Rio rivals in feature events.

And Grenada’s Kirani James, the 2012 Olympic men’s 400 champion who was second at Rio, will face Rio bronze medalist LaShawn Merritt and two of his Rio 4×400 relay gold teammates, Tony McQuay and David Verburg, in the 400.

In all, 10 Olympic champions, 30 medalists and 68 Olympians will compete in the meet.

Other Olympic gold medalists include Americans Dawn Harper-Nelson, the 2008 Beijing champion and 2012 London runner-up in the women’s 100 hurdles, and Brittney Reese, the 2012 winner and 2016 runner-up in the women’s long jump.

McLeod set a meet record at 13.08 seconds last year before capturing Olympic gold in 13.05. Oliver, the stadium record-holder at 12.93, was second last year to McLeod at Drake while Merritt was fifth.

McLeod will also face Rio Olympians Andrew Riley of Jamaica, Andrew Pozzi of Britain and Johnathan Cabral of Canada.

Drouin’s rivals from Rio include countryman Mike Mason and Jamal Wilson of the Bahamas while Taylor’s foes from last August include Guyana’s Troy Doris and Bahamian Leevan Sands.

The men’s 1,500 offers 2012 Olympic runner-up Leo Manzano against Rio bronze medalist Clayton Murphy while the women’s 1,500 has American Jenny Simpson, third in Rio, facing Portugal’s Marta Freitas, Canada’s Nicole Sifuentes and American Brenda Martinez from last year’s Brazil field.

Women’s 100 hurdles world record-holder Keni Harrison, who set the mark of 12.20 seconds last July at London, will defend her Drake crown against a lineup featuring US-born British 2016 Olympians Tiffany Porter and Cindy Ofili plus Americans Harper-Nelson and Rio bronze medalist Kristi Castlin.

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Bulgarians jailed for baby sale in Greece

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Two Bulgarian men were jailed on Friday for 10 years and a woman for six years for trafficking two pregnant women to sell their babies in neighbouring Greece.

The sentences issued by a court in the Black Sea city of Burgas were among the heaviest for a crime that has become common in the region over recent years but has been tough to prove and punish, prosecutors said.

The practice consists of recruiting poor pregnant women, usually from the Roma minority, and transferring them to Greece to give birth and sell their baby to couples there, who are ready to pay up to 15,000 euros ($16,300) for a baby boy.

Any payment is considered illegal, but the Greek legal system does not help solving the problem as it allows the mother to simply sign her child away in front of a notary, investigators say.

The mothers usually get a fraction of the money with the bigger chunk pocketed by the traffickers.

Two men, aged 47 and 50, from the small town of Kameno near Burgas were jailed for 10 years for recruiting two pregnant women from a nearby village and accommodating them in flats in Greece with a view to selling their babies when they were born.

The wife of one of the men was also jailed for six years and another accomplice received a three-year suspended sentence.

The crimes occurred in the years between 2008 to 2010.

During a visit to the region of Burgas and Kameno in 2016, AFP collected testimony from local officials and ordinary people about a shady trade that feeds on endemic poverty of the local Roma.

Some of the mothers were said to have sold more than one baby.

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Venezuela opposition rallies for jailed members

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Opponents of Venezuela’s leftist government marched towards jails on Friday demanding the release of opposition leaders they say are being unjustly held as political prisoners in the country’s deadly crisis.

It was the latest in a month of demonstrations that have left 28 people dead in clashes between riot police and anti-government protesters, according to prosecutors.

The center-right-led opposition is demanding elections to remove President Nicolas Maduro. It blames him for an economic crisis that has caused food shortages.

The key rally on Friday targeted Ramo Verde prison near Caracas, where the most prominent of the prisoners, Popular Will party leader Leopoldo Lopez, was being held after his arrest in 2014.

Lopez was sentenced to 14 years on charges of inciting violence during deadly riots that year.

A lead prosecutor in the case later alleged irregularities in his conviction.

Lopez’s wife Lilian Tintori has became one of the international faces of Venezuela’s political crisis, traveling to meet with foreign officials to raise awareness of her husband’s fate.

“We do not want confrontation, violence or gunshots,” she said, announcing Friday’s rally.

“We want solidarity with those who are resisting like Leopoldo. We want a country without dictatorship and without repression.”

– March to the jails –

Opposition supporters gathered at various spots in the capital on Friday planning to march to two key jails where their allies are held. Similar marches were called in other cities.

On the road to Ramo Verde, military police mounted a barrier of trucks and metal fencing on Friday.

Attempts by protesters to march towards other sensitive state institutions have erupted into deadly violence over recent days.

Senior opposition lawmaker Henry Ramos Allup said the security forces had orders not to let the demonstrators pass.

“Either we get there or they will repress us, but we are not going to hold back,” said Freddy Guevara, deputy speaker of the opposition-held national legislature.

The United States, European lawmakers and other international authorities have urged Maduro’s government to free “political prisoners.”

The opposition says there are 170 such prisoners.

The government denies they are locked up for political reasons, insisting they were jailed for violent crimes or conspiracies.

A further 1,000 people have been arrested since the latest wave of violence erupted on April 1, authorities say.

Maduro accuses Washington of leading a plot to overthrow him and says the economic crisis is a US-backed capitalist conspiracy.

He has refused to hold a general election before the next scheduled poll due in late 2018.

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US media group Time Inc. opts to stay independent

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US magazine publisher Time Inc. said Friday it plans to remain independent as it shifts to a “multi-platform media marketplace,” dismissing speculation of a sale or merger.

The announcement sent shares in Time Inc. plunging.

The company known for Time magazine, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and People magazine was spun off from media-entertainment group Time Warner — parent of CNN, HBO and the Warner Bros. studios — in 2014, following a trend of other conglomerates shedding publishing operations.

A Time Inc. statement said it had not sought any strategic tie-up but had “evaluated a number of expressions of interest” before decided to stick with its plan.

“Time Inc. is one of the world’s leading multi-platform media companies, engaging over 170 million US consumers across digital and print every month through a portfolio of premium, iconic brands,” said a statement from the lead independent director on its board, John Fahey.

“We strongly believe in the future and potential of this company. The board has full confidence in Time Inc. president and CEO Rich Battista and the management team to execute on the strategic plan.”

The plan includes boosting digital readership and advertising, expanding and diversifying its offerings in broadcast and other platforms. and refining its data and targeting of audiences.

“Time Inc. is a reinvigorated company uniquely positioned to succeed in the multi-platform media marketplace with an exceptional set of brands and assets, tremendous scale and significant untapped potential,” Battista said.

“The company is better positioned to capitalize on this potential with its recent shift from a siloed, legacy publishing structure, to an integrated, enterprise platform structure.”

Shares in Time, which had risen some 32 percent since November on merger speculation, tumbled 18 percent to $14.98 in midday trade on Wall Street.

Like other legacy media groups, Time has struggled as more readers shift to digital platforms, where revenues are more difficult.

The group reported a net loss of $48 million for 2016 on revenues which dipped one percent to $3.08 billion, amid declines in print advertising.

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US media group Time Inc. opts to stay independent

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US magazine publisher Time Inc. said Friday it plans to remain independent as it shifts to a “multi-platform media marketplace,” dismissing speculation of a sale or merger.

The announcement sent shares in Time Inc. plunging.

The company known for Time magazine, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and People magazine was spun off from media-entertainment group Time Warner — parent of CNN, HBO and the Warner Bros. studios — in 2014, following a trend of other conglomerates shedding publishing operations.

A Time Inc. statement said it had not sought any strategic tie-up but had “evaluated a number of expressions of interest” before decided to stick with its plan.

“Time Inc. is one of the world’s leading multi-platform media companies, engaging over 170 million US consumers across digital and print every month through a portfolio of premium, iconic brands,” said a statement from the lead independent director on its board, John Fahey.

“We strongly believe in the future and potential of this company. The board has full confidence in Time Inc. president and CEO Rich Battista and the management team to execute on the strategic plan.”

The plan includes boosting digital readership and advertising, expanding and diversifying its offerings in broadcast and other platforms. and refining its data and targeting of audiences.

“Time Inc. is a reinvigorated company uniquely positioned to succeed in the multi-platform media marketplace with an exceptional set of brands and assets, tremendous scale and significant untapped potential,” Battista said.

“The company is better positioned to capitalize on this potential with its recent shift from a siloed, legacy publishing structure, to an integrated, enterprise platform structure.”

Shares in Time, which had risen some 32 percent since November on merger speculation, tumbled 18 percent to $14.98 in midday trade on Wall Street.

Like other legacy media groups, Time has struggled as more readers shift to digital platforms, where revenues are more difficult.

The group reported a net loss of $48 million for 2016 on revenues which dipped one percent to $3.08 billion, amid declines in print advertising.

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African American(B)

US media group Time Inc. opts to stay independent

2ab00a0faa11155be289ad6f6-acc6bfb0cecfe8021c8ec591919fe6e77bbdad84

US magazine publisher Time Inc. said Friday it plans to remain independent as it shifts to a “multi-platform media marketplace,” dismissing speculation of a sale or merger.

The announcement sent shares in Time Inc. plunging.

The company known for Time magazine, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and People magazine was spun off from media-entertainment group Time Warner — parent of CNN, HBO and the Warner Bros. studios — in 2014, following a trend of other conglomerates shedding publishing operations.

A Time Inc. statement said it had not sought any strategic tie-up but had “evaluated a number of expressions of interest” before decided to stick with its plan.

“Time Inc. is one of the world’s leading multi-platform media companies, engaging over 170 million US consumers across digital and print every month through a portfolio of premium, iconic brands,” said a statement from the lead independent director on its board, John Fahey.

“We strongly believe in the future and potential of this company. The board has full confidence in Time Inc. president and CEO Rich Battista and the management team to execute on the strategic plan.”

The plan includes boosting digital readership and advertising, expanding and diversifying its offerings in broadcast and other platforms. and refining its data and targeting of audiences.

“Time Inc. is a reinvigorated company uniquely positioned to succeed in the multi-platform media marketplace with an exceptional set of brands and assets, tremendous scale and significant untapped potential,” Battista said.

“The company is better positioned to capitalize on this potential with its recent shift from a siloed, legacy publishing structure, to an integrated, enterprise platform structure.”

Shares in Time, which had risen some 32 percent since November on merger speculation, tumbled 18 percent to $14.98 in midday trade on Wall Street.

Like other legacy media groups, Time has struggled as more readers shift to digital platforms, where revenues are more difficult.

The group reported a net loss of $48 million for 2016 on revenues which dipped one percent to $3.08 billion, amid declines in print advertising.

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Sharapova welcomes new anti-doping drive, happy for more tests

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Maria Sharapova, who is rebuilding her career after a 15-month doping ban, on Friday welcomed plans to nearly double the number of annual drug tests and ramp up funding as part of a fresh drive to root out tennis cheats.

The former world number one also said she was happy to be tested more.

The new measures come into effect on May 1 and players will be scrutinised via a biological passport programme, while more samples will be placed into long-term storage, allowing reanalysis, officials said.

The significant increase in testing up to an annual total of 8,000 samples (from 4,899 in 2016) is being backed by a 50 percent budget hike to around $4.5 million (4.1 million euros) in 2017.

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam winner who is making her comeback in Stuttgart after a 15-month doping ban, backed the new measures announced by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

“I definitely welcome that — I am not against it,” said the 30-year-old, who tested positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

“We only have to give an hour slot to drug testing every single day of the year, but that is part of the job and if they test us more, that?s great.”

The ITF says the move is aimed at weeding out more doping violators.

“Protecting the integrity of tennis is an ongoing priority of the governing bodies of tennis to ensure that tennis is and remains a clean sport,” said ITF president David Haggerty.

“These enhancements will make a positive contribution to achieving that priority.”

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Goodell says no NFL approval likely soon for marijuana

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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday that he thinks the banned drug marijuana has an “addictive nature” and doubts the league will clear it anytime soon as a pain-relief alternative.

In all, 26 of 50 US states have laws legalizing marijuana in some form, with three more set to join them once already approved measures begin. Four states with NFL teams have legalized marijuana for recreational use and many more have approved medical uses, but Goodell remains dubious.

“I think you still have to look at a lot of aspects of marijuana use,” Goodell said. “Is it something that can be negative to the health of our players? Listen, you’re ingesting smoke, so that’s not usually a very positive thing that people would say.

“It does have addictive nature. There are a lot of compounds in marijuana that may not be healthy for the players long-term. All of those things have to be considered.”

Goodell said the NFL would continue to evaluate marijuana as a medical painkiller.

“It’s not as simple as someone just wants to feel better after a game,” Goodell said. “We really want to help our players in that circumstance but I want to make sure that the negative consequences aren’t something that we’ll be held accountable for some years down the road.”

The league and the NFL Players Association have medical advisers who examine such issues on many medications.

“If people feel that it has a medical benefit, the medical advisers have to tell you that. We have joint advisers, we also have independent advisers, both the NFLPA and the NFL, and we’ll sit down and talk about that,” Goodell said.

“To date, they haven’t said this is a change we think you should make that’s in the best interests of the health and safety of our players. If they do, we’re certainly going to consider that. But to date, they haven’t really said that.”

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