All eyes on Lew ahead of DJs vote

If all goes to plan, David Jones, Australia’s oldest department store, will shift into foreign hands on Monday.


The sale to South Africa’s Woolworths Holdings is widely expected to win approval at an extraordinary general meeting in Sydney, but nervousness exists in some quarters surrounding the intentions of retail magnate Solomon Lew.

Lew has bought up a 9.9 per cent stake in the company – theoretically enough to block the takeover in certain scenarios – as part of a 17-year feud with Woolworths over fashion retailer Country Road.

Woolworths beat Lew in a takeover battle for Country Road in 1998, but he has retained his 11.88 per cent stake ever since, apparently agitating the South African retailer to buy him out at a premium along the way.

His foray into the DJ’s takeover appears to have been enough to extract his ransom, with Woolworths offering to buy his stake for $17 per share – a $200 million pay day, not including the small benefit he’ll receive for his DJs holding.

It all sounds like a big win for Lew, but the retail mogul has remained quiet on the offer and that has some wondering what he’s planning.

“It’s all a bit of a mystery as to what Solomon Lew is going to do,” OptionsXpress market analyst Ben Le Brun says.

The takeover proposal needs the support of 75 per cent of shareholders at Monday’s meeting, a threshold it should pass given the wide support among investors for the $4 per share offer.

But given a large number of retail shareholders are unlikely to cast their votes, Lew’s stake, plus maybe a few extras, could technically be enough to block the bid.

Mr Le Brun says that would be a disaster for David Jones shareholders, with the company’s share price likely to fall back towards $3 per share.

But Lew would be the biggest loser of all – save perhaps Woolworths’ boss Ian Moir – stuck with his Country Road holding and suffering a loss on his DJs shares to boot.

So the most likely outcome is for the takeover to go ahead, though we’ll have to wait until Monday to find out.

“I think all things being equal he should vote with it but who knows, he might have an ace up the sleave yet and the fact he hasn’t said anything just adds an element of uncertainty.

“Until the meeting we don’t really know what’s going to happen.”

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‘Fireball’ dazzles Aussie sky watchers

The scientific community is sounding concensus that the object was a Russian rocket re-entering the atmosphere after launching a Russian meteorology satellite earlier this week.



Professor Brian Schmidt, a Nobel Prize recipient and astronomer at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University, immediately tweeted that the object was likely to be space junk. 

So our fireball may well have been a piece of space junk. Obj 40077 see 南宁桑拿网,南宁夜生活,/cR5pL9ecR7

— Brian Schmidt (@cosmicpinot) July 10, 2014

And later: 

I believe this is the satellite whose 3rd stage came to ground last night 南宁桑拿网,南宁夜生活,/QoUoB5Tizq

— Brian Schmidt (@cosmicpinot) July 10, 2014

The Sydney Observatory cited Professor Schmidt in its Twitter feed :

@AAOastro @sydneyobs Pretty sure it was Meteor #2 stage 2 deorbitting.

— Brian Schmidt (@cosmicpinot) July 10, 2014

An astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Jonathan McDowell, has tweeted a statement that the object is confirmed to be a Soyuz rocket stage.

Australian fireball: US @SpaceTrackOrg [corrected] confirms reentry of Soyuz rocket stage 40077 at 1142 GMT+/- 1 min over 35S 146E

— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) July 10, 2014

Although NASA issued an alert on Thursday saying a seven-metre, three-tonne, cylindrical object would plunge to Earth over Victoria and Tasmania, the agency has not yet made a statement. 

Airservices Australia spokesman Paul Sadler told the ABC, “It’s understood there were a number of triple-zero calls to emergency services possibly reporting a plane in trouble but that certainly wasn’t the case.” 

Lisa Gent, who saw the object just before 10pm while driving in Diamond Creek in outer north-eastern Melbourne, said, “It was an amazing bright light with a really long, white tail with flecks of red. It was just amazing.

“It looked like absolutely nothing I had ever seen. Quite scary once we knew it was something like we had never seen before.”

Witnesses were dazzled in three states, with residents of Melbourne and Gippsland in Victoria and Burnie in northern Tasmania, expressing awe at the bright object.

Here’s the observations of tonight’s space junk #fireball over eastern Australia @TiffanyDay @astroduff @geoffnotkin pic.twitter南宁桑拿网,/0t91pm5ZPb

— David Finlay (@ClearSkiesTV) July 10, 2014

Meisha Hawkins, in Upper Burnie, Tasmania, said “I thought it must have been real close but clearly it was big and bright and even had a tail like on the movies,” she said.

Lisa Rochfort Demsey of Langwarrin, in Melbourne’s southeast, said her husband Glen saw the meteorite as he took his bins out. 

“He saw a massive shooting white star moving south to north with what looked like sparks trailling off its long, white tail. Then he lost sight of it. All up it took about six seconds,” she said.

Just saw a #meteor over North #Melbourne! pic.twitter南宁桑拿网,/NhFEdwdSAK

— Nathalie J. Berger (@najube) July 10, 2014

Residents of Cobar, in western NSW, heard a sonic boom after a five minute delay, which reportedly indicates that the object disintegrated within 100 kilometres of the town.

Remarkably consistent reports from Hobart, Sydney, Parkes. Latest analysis: likely a fireball as travellling wrong direction for space junk.

— Sydney Observatory (@sydneyobs) July 10, 2014

Did you spot the unusual light? Tweet us your photos at @sbsnews

with AAP

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People smugglers ‘even more dishonest’

People smugglers are resorting to even greater duplicity to snare paying passengers.


One asylum seeker who wanted to go to New Zealand was told he’d reached Australia – after their boat ran aground in Indonesia.

People smugglers are adaptive and resilient criminals who would exploit any easing of Australian border security measures to resume their trade, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, head of Operation Sovereign Borders, warned a Senate committee.

He said smugglers used to be able to tell clients “give me all your money and I will get you to Australia” but that is no longer the case.

“Smugglers are being forced to resort to even greater depths of dishonesty in their struggle to remain in business,” he told the committee on Friday.

General Campbell told of a man apprehended in Indonesia after a smuggler promised to get him to New Zealand.

“When their boat ran aground, the client was told they had arrived in Australia. In reality they had merely come ashore elsewhere in the Indonesian archipelago,” he told the inquiry.

General Campbell said it was now six months since a people smuggling venture reached Australia and no ventures had departed Indonesia since early May. There had been no known deaths at sea since December 9.

“From mid-December 2013 as an additional measure we have turned back boats where it is safe to do so,” he said.

The committee is seeking information about the unrest in February at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea.

But Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young also wanted to know about 153 asylum seekers who are aboard an Australian Customs vessel in the Indian Ocean after being intercepted en route to Australia.

She found it “extraordinary” the general had not mentioned this incident in his opening statement to the committee.

“Ultimately the buck stops with you … these are surely issues that are at the top of your mind at the moment,” she said.

General Campbell said it would be inappropriate to comment on matters now before the High Court.

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‘Pies might name Williams for AFL clash

Marley Williams’ state of mind could undergo a thorough test when Collingwood play AFL arch-rivals Carlton this Friday night.


A week after Magpies coach Nathan Buckley expressed concerns about Williams’ emotions, the defender might return to senior football in the blockbuster against their fiercest rivals.

Williams was given a 12-month suspended jail term last week for grievous bodily harm and returned to football on the weekend through Collingwood’s VFL team.

While Buckley expected Williams to need a couple of weeks in the VFL, fellow backman Alex Fasolo is in strong doubt after suffering a toe injury on Anzac Day in the win over Essendon.

That could open the door for Williams to make a speedy return to the AFL.

“He (Williams) may come into consideration as early as this weekend,” veteran Collingwood defender Nick Maxwell told SEN.

Williams played three quarters on the weekend in the VFL and hurt his ankle, but Magpies football director Rodney Eade said they are confident he will be available to play.

Eade was also pessimistic about Fasolo, saying his status was 50-50.

“The early prognosis is that he might miss this week,” Eade told the club website.

Utility Clinton Young suffered a corked shin in a collision with Essendon’s Paul Chapman that earned the Magpie a reprimand for rough conduct.

Eade expects Young will play against the Blues.

There is always plenty of anticipation about Collingwood-Carlton matches, but a number of factors will give this one extra spice.

After a spluttering start to the season, the Magpies have hit good form and won their last three matches.

Carlton were in dire straits with a 0-4 start, but the weekend’s great escape against West Coast was their second win in a row.

The Blues’ star free agent recruit Dale Thomas will play against his old club Collingwood for the first time.

And then there is Carlton and former Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse.

Buckley revealed on Monday night that he had not spoken to Malthouse since the pre-season meeting of AFL coaches.

While Buckley stressed he has a lot of respect for his old mentor, there is clearly no love lost between them.

But Maxwell said he was thinking about the rivalry, not individuals, before the match.

“I’m more excited about playing Carlton,” he said.

“Obviously the rivalry is huge and the fans let you know about it leading up to it.

“But also if you lose, they really let you know about it because they all love beating Carlton.”

Maxwell added playing against Thomas would feel no different than going up against fellow former team-mates Sharrod Wellingham (now West Coast) and Chris Dawes (Melbourne) for the first time.

But he admitted Magpies fans might not feel the same way.

“I’m sure they’ll be cheering him every time he gets the ball,” Maxwell said with a laugh.

Maxwell added it would not bother Thomas, who has a dry sense of humour.

“He’s always been good like that, always very sarcastic,” Maxwell said.

“He’ll be saying the same thing – just a normal week, nothing really to worry about, coming up against my old team.”

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Indon jails former top energy regulator

An Indonesian court has jailed the former chief energy regulator for seven years for accepting more than $US1.


5 million ($A1.62 million) in bribes, in a case that increased concerns about the country’s business climate.

Rudi Rubiandini was caught red-handed in August at his Jakarta home with stacks of US and Singapore dollars, after anti-corruption investigators trailed a man delivering money to him.

Judges at the Jakarta anti-corruption court found him guilty of accepting around $US1.4 million and Sg$200,000 in bribes from several companies, mainly in the energy sector.

“His deeds are not in line with the government’s program to eradicate corruption,” said Chief Judge Amin Ismanto.

At the time Rubiandini was head of the main energy regulator, SKK Migas, which deals with exploration and production in the oil and gas sector of resource-rich Indonesia.

Analysts have said that such signs of corruption could put investors off from trying to enter the energy sector of Southeast Asia’s top economy, at a time when the country is seeking to increase oil output.

The five-judge panel also found Rubiandini guilty of laundering the bribe money by buying a Volvo SUV, a Toyota sedan, a house, and a Rolex watch for his wife.

In addition he was ordered to pay a 200 million rupiah ($A18,400) fine.

Teary-eyed, the 52-year-old said he would not appeal the sentence, which is lighter than the 10-year jail term and 250 million rupiah fine prosecutors had demanded.

Rubiandini is the just the latest high-ranking official to become embroiled in a corruption scandal and the case is another blow to outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who won a landslide re-election in 2009 on a pledge to fight graft.

NGO Transparency International ranked Indonesia 114th out of 177 countries and territories in its annual corruption perceptions index last year. A number one ranking means the least corrupt.

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Asian shares mixed ahead of key data

Asian markets were mixed in edgy trade following a pick-up on Wall Street as investors await key economic news from around the world later in the week.


The dollar maintained the gains against the yen it achieved in New York as dealers took in their stride a new wave of sanctions against Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis.

Seoul slid 0.23 per cent, or 4.49 points, to 1,964.77 while Sydney lost 0.89 per cent, or 49.5 points, to finish at 5,486.6. Tokyo was closed for a public holiday.

Shanghai rose 0.84 per cent, or 16.85 points, to 2,020.34 and Hong Kong added 1.45 per cent, or 321.36 points, to end at 22,453.89 after falling almost two per cent in the previous two sessions.

US shares mostly bounced back on Monday after tumbling at the end of last week, with attention now on a Federal Reserve announcement Wednesday on plans for its stimulus program.

On Friday non-farm payrolls data will be released, giving a handle on the state of the world’s number one economy.

Friday will also see the release of surveys of manufacturing activity from around the world, with the main focus on China. Dealers are hoping for signs that a recent slowdown in the Asian economic giant has bottomed out.

On Wall Street the Dow added 0.53 per cent and the S&P 500 rose 0.32 per cent but the Nasdaq dipped 0.03 per cent.

Singapore’s United Overseas Bank (UOB) said traders were exercising caution “ahead of the US Fed meeting and US non-farm payroll data, as well as a holiday shortened trading week”.

There was little reaction to another round of US sanctions against seven Russian officials and 17 Kremlin-linked firms. The European Union said it was adding 15 names to its own list.

The Western sanctions are a response to Russia’s perceived failure to implement an April 17 deal struck in Geneva to defuse the crisis.

In Seoul market major Samsung Electronics sank 2.02 per cent after saying operating profit fell for a second straight quarter owing to slowing sales of its smartphones.

The dollar bought 102.62 yen, compared with 102.45 yen late in New York and well up from 102.20 yen earlier Monday in Asia.

The euro fetched $1.3864 against $1.3851, while it was also at 142.27 yen from 141.95 yen.

Oil was up in Asia. US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate for June delivery, climbed 35 cents to $US101.19 in afternoon trade. Brent North Sea crude for June rose 44 cents to $US108.56.

Gold fetched $US1,290.38 an ounce at 1050 GMT (2050 AEST) compared with $US1,301.45 on Monday.

In other markets:

— Bangkok added 0.08 per cent, or 1.10 points, to 1,412.33.

Department store operator Central Pattana gained 3.45 per cent to 45.00 baht, while coal producer Banpu rose 1.77 per cent to 28.75 baht.

— Jakarta closed higher 0.02 per cent, or 0.92 points, at 4,819.68.

State-controlled miner Aneka Tambang fell 0.83 per cent to 1,200 rupiah, while palm oil producer Astra Agro Lestari rose 1.75 per cent to 29,000 rupiah.

— Kuala Lumpur inched up 0.19 per cent, or 3.6 points, to 1,859.34.

Telecommunication company Maxis gained 0.4 per cent to 6.92 ringgit, while utility Tenaga Nasional rose 0.5 per cent to 11.90.

— Manila gained 0.49 per cent, or 32.10 points, to 6,636.45.

Ayala Corp. added 0.73 per cent to 618.50 pesos while Alliance Global Group rose 0.16 per cent to 30.65 pesos.

— Mumbai fell 0.73 per cent, or 165.42 points, to 22,466.19.

Jindal steel slid 7.41 per cent to 253.20 rupees and Future Retail fell 6.49 per cent to 121.05 rupees.

— Singapore slid 0.15 per cent, or 4.97 points, to 3,237.74.

Oil rig maker Keppel Corp gained 0.38 per cent to Sg$10.56 while vehicle distributor Jardine Cycle and Carriage eased 2.02 per cent to Sg$46.54.

— Taipei rose 0.71 per cent, or 62.4 points, to 8,872.11.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co added 1.26 per cent to Tw$120.5 while leading mobile phone camera lens maker Largan Precision shed 2.51 per cent to Tw$1,940.

— Wellington climbed 0.64 per cent, or 32.49 points, to 5,149.29.

Fletcher Building was up 0.92 per cent at N$9.85 and Telecom added 2.06 per cent to NZ$2.72.

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Fans reflect on Del Piero’s departure

(Transcript from World News Radio)


Football superstar Alessandro Del Piero has announced he will leave Australia after Sydney FC confirmed the end of his playing career with the A-League club


The two parties discussed for months about extending Del Piero’s two-season stay in the competition, but finally came to a mutual agreement to part ways.



And while the broader Australian football public salute the Italian champion, the news has received mixed reaction from the Italian community.


Marina Freri reports.


In 2012 Alessandro Del Piero signed a record $4 million contract with Sydney FC, in a landmark agreement for Australian football that won the A-League international fame.


He was coming to Australia after ending a stellar career in Italy, which saw him at the forefront of local football team Juventus for nearly two decades.


“For the next two years I will be Australian, let’s say so. I’ll face what seems like a splendid, fantastic and strong adventure. I must admit that after the end of this long trip that I had it couldn’t be a better situation and a better place.”


And for the following two years, Del Piero’s presence in the Sky Blue jersey brought record attendances into Australian stadiums and boosted the numbers of Sydney FC’s membership.


He scored 24 goals in 48 games, but during his two seasons Sydney FC failed to climb to the top of the A-League ladder.


Football Federation Australia chief executive officer, David Gallop, says Del Piero had a dramatic impact on the local football scene.


“He’s made a remarkable contribution on and off the field. He obviously came here with a huge reputation. And I think it was that second game he played last season he scored a fantastic free-kick against the Newcastle Jets, he’s scored great goals in two seasons. And while it’s sad to see him, we can reflect on a fantastic contribution to Australian football.”


There’s speculation Alessandro Del Piero could be replacing Sydney FC’s sacked coach, Frank Farina, or taking on an ambassadorial role.


But there’s also uncertainty about who will wear the footballer’s jersey on the field.


Italian Australian former Socceroo Nicola Rizzo says Sydney FC should eye another big marquee player to replace Del Piero.


Mr Rizzo says Del Piero has changed Australian football forever.


“The impact of Del Piero on Australian football has been immense. Basically we had on Australian shores one of the greatest ever footballers. Del Piero is like a god in Italy and we were fortunate enough to have him here. He’s lifted the A League onto the world stage and we now actually have a league that is talked about worldwide. His contribution has been unrivaled. You just have to look on the streets and you see kids with Del Piero’s jersey. Kids, the Australian public, they all love him. And I also think that A League players, kids have also improved just by watching him.”


Mr Rizzo also says having Del Piero on Australian shores meant a lot to the Italian community.


“The Australian Italian public has never been able to witness one of their own world-superstars here playing football in this country. We have had some Italian players in the past make guest appearances here and there, but nothing like the calibre of Del Piero.”


But an Italian Australian fans’ organisation says some supporters are disappointed Del Piero is leaving without officially meeting the community.


Juventus Doc Club New South Wales’ president, Maurizio Pagnin, says his club was created on the occasion of the footballer’s arrival to Australia to honour his career at Italian club Juventus.


He claims the superstar footballer was often invited to Italian community events which he never attended.


“I was present at the training, he was very patient. He spent an hour signing merchandising, hats, tshirts and photos with young kids. But officially with the Italian community with clubs and other venues he wasn’t keen on accepting invitations.”


On the professional level, Mr Pagnin claims Italians in Australia will remember Del Piero for his Italian career, but will have bitter-sweet memories of the past two seasons.


“They will remember him because he was a talented player and he played for many years with Juventus, and he won everything. He was also part of the team that won the 2006 world title, but (here) he hasn’t won anything.”


In a statement on his website, Alessandro Del Piero says he’s grateful for the time spent with Sydney FC.


However, while announcing he was leaving Australia, the 39-year-old footballer said he was open to new opportunities with the Sky Blues.


In the meantime, he’ll be back in August when his former team Juventus meets the A League All Stars.





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14 die in Damascus shelling

At least 14 people have been killed in a rebel mortar attack on Syria’s capital Damascus, as four new candidates registered to run in next month’s presidential vote.


The new candidates bring the number of people hoping to compete in the June 3 election to 11, including incumbent President Bashar al-Assad.

Shortly before the new candidates were announced in a parliamentary session, state media said at least 14 people had been killed and dozens more injured when four mortar shells hit a religious school.

“Fourteen citizens were killed and 86 others wounded by terrorists who targeted the Shaghur neighbourhood in Damascus,” the SANA news agency said.

Most of the dead appeared to have been in the Badr al-Din al-Husseini institute, an Islamic jurisprudence school in the Old City of Damascus.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based NGO, put the toll in the attack at 17, adding that the number could rise because several of the injured were in a critical condition.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that the institute taught students as young as 14. But it was not immediately clear if there were children among the dead or wounded.

Rebel forces arrayed in positions on the outskirts of the capital regularly fire mortar shells and rockets into the heart of Damascus, often killing civilians.

In parliament, speaker Mohamed al-Lahham announced the names of four new presidential hopefuls, among them a woman and a Christian.

Ali Wanous, Azza al-Hallaq, Talea Salah Nasser and Samih Mikhael Moussa are all relative unknowns, like most of the 11 candidates, except for Assad.

Syria’s constitution requires that candidates for the presidency be Muslim but a source in the constitutional court confirmed that Moussa is Christian.

“We receive all applications for presidential candidacy and transmit them to the parliament,” the source said.

“In the five days after the candidacy period ends, on May 5, we will examine the candidates to see if they meet all requirements. On May 6, we will announce who has met the conditions,” he added.

Hallaq’s application brings the number of women competing in the vote to two.

The constitution contains no explicit prohibition on female candidates but its phrasing implies only male candidates are permitted.

The elections, Syria’s first multi-candidate presidential vote after a constitutional amendment did away with the previous referendum system, are scheduled for June 3.

But with a brutal civil war raging and large swathes of the country beyond the control of the government, it remains unclear how it will organise the vote.

Nearly half of Syria’s residents have fled their homes and the country’s electoral commission says those who left the country “illegally” will not be allowed to vote.

Electoral rules also prevent anyone who has lived outside Syria in the past decade from running, effectively excluding most prominent opposition figures, who live in exile.

More than 150,000 people have been killed in the country’s war, according to the Observatory for Human Rights.

International human rights group Human Rights Watch on Tuesday urged the UN to stem the flow of weapons to Syria.

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EU to hold Russia, Ukraine gas talks

The European Union says talks with Russia and Ukraine over its gas supplies to the country and onward to Europe will take place Friday in the Polish capital Warsaw.


“This is a constructive step,” European Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrendkilde Hansen said, announcing the talks just one day after the EU hit another 15 Russian and Ukrainian figures with sanctions for their role in the crisis.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has threatened to cut gas shipments to Ukraine, had earlier proposed April 28 for talks in Moscow.

As the crisis deepened, Putin on April 10 sent a letter to 18 EU countries, many heavily dependent on Russian energy supplies, urging immediate negotiations.

He also warned that Moscow could cut gas supplies unless they helped Ukraine pay an outstanding $US2.2 billion ($A2.38 billion) bill, threatening a repeat of 2009 when supplies to Europe which transit through Ukraine were badly disrupted.

Russia accounts for about a quarter of all EU gas supplies while Ukraine’s pipelines carry about half of those imports each year, according to EU data.

In response to the crisis, EU leaders have stressed the need to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian supplies so as to reduce Moscow’s leverage, especially in eastern Europe.

On Monday in a first step, Slovakia and Ukraine signed a deal to give Kiev access to European gas supplies.

“This is an important first step to diversify Ukraine’s sources of gas supply and contributes to greater energy security in Eastern Europe and the EU as a whole,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said at the signing in Bratislava.

“Signing today’s deal is just a first step,” Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuri Prodan added.

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Juventus, Benfica in defiant mood ahead of semi-final

Juventus coach Antonio Conte took another swipe at his critics after a 3-1 win at Sassuolo on Monday left his side needing one victory in three games to clinch a third successive Serie A title.


Benfica, who have wrapped up the Portuguese league and are on course for a domestic treble after two backs-to-the-wall cup semi-final wins over Porto, are also in feisty mood having bouncing back from last season’s disappointment when they finished runners-up in three competitions. Benfica, sunk by a last-gasp Chelsea goal in last season’s final and beaten semi-finalists in 2010-11, take a 2-1 lead to Turin for the semi-final second leg. Juventus will play the final at their own stadium if they qualify and Conte has taken exception to suggestions that the Europa League is a mere consolation after they were knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage.

“Anything Juventus do becomes almost expected,” he told reporters.

“If we win the Europa League, it will be considered a worthless trophy. If we lose, then people will say that Juventus aren’t ready for Europe.” Conte, fiercely competitive, has rebuilt Juventus into the dominant force in Italian football in his three years as coach, collecting plenty of rivalries on the way.


In the last few weeks, he has become involved in angry exchanges with Russia coach Fabio Capello, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, Napoli’s Rafael Benitez and AS Roma boss Rudi Garcia who suggested on Monday that Conte was “nervous.”

“What excites me is these three years in charge of Juventus. This has been a truly incredible journey,” said Conte, dismissing Garcia’s comment.

Benfica have shown great resilience this season, reaching both the Portuguese Cup and Portuguese League Cup finals with dramatic semi-final wins over rivals Porto after playing for an hour with 10 men in both games.

“It’s been a very gratifying season, we are in both finals in Portugal and still in the fight for the Europa League,” said temperamental Benfica coach Jorge Jesus, who clung on to his job after last season’s disappointments.

Juventus are unbeaten at home in Europe this season, but have kept only one clean sheet in those games, while Benfica have won their last four away fixtures in European competition. It is only the third time the two sides have met in Europe with one win for Benfica in the European Cup semi-finals in 1968 and one for Juventus in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals in 1993.

Conte said he believed that Juve’s fans could be decisive as they attempt to reach their first European final since the Champions League in 2003. “I reiterate that I want the supporters to create a fiery cauldron in the stadium on Thursday, just as Benfica’s fans did in Lisbon,” he said. “We want to play with 12 men.”

(Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Kenyan president signs polygamy law

A law allowing men in Kenya to marry as many women as they want has been signed into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta, despite criticism from women’s groups.


A statement from the presidency confirmed that the bill “consolidates various laws relating to marriage.”

The bill, which amended existing legislation, was passed by parliament last month to formalise traditional practice regarding marrying more than one person.

“Marriage is the voluntary union of a man and a woman, whether in a monogamous or polygamous union,” the presidential statement added.

The initial bill had given a wife the right to veto the husband’s choice. But male members of parliament overcame party divisions to push through a text that dropped this clause.

When the bill was passed last month, female members of parliament stormed out of the session in fury after a heated debate.

The National Council of Churches in Kenya (NCCK), which represents more than 40 church and Christian organisations from across the east African nation, has also spoken out against the bill.

The national Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA Kenya) has said it will mount a legal challenge against the law.

“We know that men are afraid of women’s tongues more than anything else,” female legislator Soipan Tuya told fellow MPs when the bill was passed.

As in many parts of Africa, polygamy is common among traditional communities in Kenya, as well as in the country’s Muslim community, which accounts for up to a fifth of the population.

Many have said the legislation merely acknowledges something that is already widespread.

“When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way, and a third wife… this is Africa,” MP Junet Mohammed told the house during debate on the bill.

Women are not allowed to marry more than one man.

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Handset-free Nokia returns to profit in Q1

Finnish telecom company Nokia says it returned to profit in the first quarter, despite falling revenue, just days after officially handing over its mobile division to US giant Microsoft.


Net profit for the first three months of 2014 was 108 million euros ($A162.4 million).

After completing the sale of its handset business last Friday for 5.44 billion euros, Nokia will focus on telecommunications networks and geolocation systems, which in the same period of 2013 reported losses of 98 million euros.

Revenue in the first quarter of 2014 dropped by 15 per cent compared to a year earlier to 2.664 billion euros, slightly under the expectations of analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires, who had forecast 2.85 billion.

The telecommunications networks division Nokia Networks (formerly known as NSN) accounts for almost 90 per cent of the new company’s revenue.

Sales were down in the strategic regions of Europe (10 per cent) and Asia-Pacific (12 per cent), but leaped by 34 per cent in China, the only country to register a rise.

On the day the company published its first-quarter results, it also announced the appointment of 46-year-old India-born Rajeev Suri, former head of NSN, as the new chief executive.

“I believe Rajeev is the right person to lead Nokia forward, and that his passion for technology will help ensure that Nokia continues to deliver technologies that have a positive impact on people’s lives,” Nokia chairman Risto Siilasmaa said in a statement.

In 2012, Nokia lost the mobile phone world throne to South Korean Samsung in a global battle which began when US giant Apple revolutionised the business with its iPhone in 2007.

The handset division, included in the report as discontinued operations, suffered losses for 326 million euros in the first quarter, compared to 120 million a year earlier, while its revenue fell by 30 per cent to 1.92 billion euros.

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Valencia seek Basel inspiration to knock out Sevilla

Thursday’s match is Valencia’s last chance to turn round a disappointing season marred by financial problems, takeover bids and poor performances in which Miroslav Djukic was replaced as coach by Juan Antonio Pizzi in December.


Defeat by Atletico Madrid on Sunday virtually ended their hopes of finishing in a European spot in La Liga, so they are banking on overcoming Sevilla at the Mestalla having achieved a spectacular comeback in the quarter-final against Basel.

The winners of the all-Spanish tie will face Juventus or Benfica in the final with the Portuguese side taking a 2-1 lead into the away leg.

“We know we can do it as we have already achieved it against Basel and we can do it once more against Sevilla,” Valencia forward Jonas told reporters on Tuesday.

Valencia lost their first leg 3-0 in Switzerland but put five past Basel in the return leg. “It is a goal fewer but the rival is stronger and so it is going to be very difficult but with the help of all the team we can do it.

“The fans will be key and I am sure that they are going to back us to the end, the same or if not more than they did against Basel and between all of us we can get to the final in Turin which is the dream that we have.

“We have the experience from the Basel match. We need to be concentrated on defending and not conceding a goal which is the most important and then with patience we have to find the spaces in their defence to score first.”

They will, however, be without suspended striker Paco Alcacer, who scored a hat-trick in the drubbing of Basel, giving Jonas the opportunity to start.

“I am ready to play centre-forward and I am concentrated on the comeback,” he added.

Sevilla also suffered league disappointment at the weekend when their hopes of a Champions League place were severely dented by a loss to direct rivals Athletic Bilbao. They trail fourth-placed Athletic by six points and European success is now their main target for the season. Sevilla are still the form team going into the second leg having won nine of their last 12 games. Midfielder Ivan Rakitic has been in sparkling form and was among those who were rested against Bilbao.

“It is now going to be a very difficult game and we will all have to do our bit,” said Sevilla coach Unai Emery who returns to the club he led from 2008 to 2012. “On Thursday it will be a case of improving but there is not much point now analysing too much what went wrong against Athletic. We need to take away quick conclusions and bounce back.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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