Pumas dream of finally overcoming mighty All Blacks

New Zealand can retain the title with a win ahead of their final test in South Africa next week.

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They have 19 points to 11 for the Springboks, 8 for Australia and none for Argentina.

The Pumas today are a side admired by New Zealand as they have acquired an impressive attacking game but the risks they take in going forward are exploited by their southern hemisphere rivals as they tire in the latter stages of a test.

“I think fatigue is what leads to our performance diminishing a bit and our game becoming a bit disorganised,” lock Marcos Kremer told Reuters.

“We need to stick to our game system to the last minute, which is what I think we don’t do, because 10 to 15 minutes from the end we start to lose it and the result escapes us.”

Argentina led New Zealand 16-15 at halftime and by seven points after 50 minutes in their previous meeting in New Plymouth on Sept. 9 before conceding three converted second half tries in the final half hour and going down 39-22.

Prop Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro said an important part of Argentina’s training this week has been on always having a man marking an All Blacks opposite.

“We’ve been focusing on defence, on having one against one because we believe that will be key,” he said.

Faced with defending an unbeaten record in 25 tests against the Pumas, New Zealand are not taking the match lightly knowing that Argentina have beaten South Africa twice and Australia once in their five previous seasons in the tournament.

“It’s all part of being involved in the All Blacks, there’s a legacy we’ve got to look up to and we’re playing a team that’s a very proud rugby nation in their own right,” assistant coach Ian Foster told reporters.

“They’ve had some great victories over nearly every other team and I guess they are passionate about trying to beat us.

“We don’t go out there with the fear of having to defend that (unbeaten record), it’s more the excitement of us playing as good as we can and that’s our goal on Saturday.”

(Additional reporting by Miguel Lobianco; Reporting by Rex Gowar, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

IS chief urges jihadists to ‘resist’ in apparent recording after reports of his death

The audio, partly dedicated to religious scriptures, came after several reports Baghdadi had been killed.

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His last recording was in November 2016, two weeks after the start of the battle to recapture the city of Mosul from IS.

The date of the 46-minute recording released via the Al-Furqan news organisation was not clear.

But in it, Baghdadi makes an apparent reference to recent events including North Korean threats against Japan and United States and the recapture two months ago of Mosul by United States-backed Iraqi forces. 

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Since Baghdadi proclaimed the caliphate stretching across Iraq and Syria in 2014, Iraqi forces have retaken a string of cities in western and northern Iraq including Mosul, where he made his announcement from the city’s El Nuri mosque. 

Western-backed Syrian forces are also thrusting into the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa, Islamic State’s operational headquarters from where it plotted many of the attacks that have killed hundreds of people around the world. 

“Beware of retreat, or the feeling of defeat, beware of negotiations or surrender. Do not lay down your arms,” Baghdadi said, referring to followers in Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, North Africa and elsewhere in Africa. 

“Oh Soldiers of the Caliphate, fan the flames of war on your enemies, take it to them and besiege them in every corner, and stand fast and courageous.” 

Baghdadi also referenced Western media, saying: “Oh soldiers of Islam in every location, increase blow after blow, and make the media centres of the infidels, and where they wage their intellectual wars, among your targets.”

Fall of Mosul

The fall of Mosul in July effectively marked the end of the Iraqi half of Baghdadi’s “caliphate” even though Islamic State continues to fight in some territory outside of Mosul, the largest city they came to control in both Iraq and Syria. 

An IS branch in Libya was also defeated last year in the city of Sirte, where they had set up a North African beachhead in 2014. In Egypt’s northern Sinai, another affiliated militant group is still fighting Egyptian military forces. 

“With God’s will and his strength, we are staying determined, patient…The abundance of killing will not stop us,” Baghdadi said in the audio recording.

Officials have said they believed it could take years to capture or kill Baghdadi as he is thought to be hiding in a vast swathe of sparsely-populated desert between Mosul and Raqqa, where attacking drones are easy to spot. 

The US has offered a $25 million bounty for information that would locate Baghdadi.

Russia’s defence ministry said earlier this year it might have killed Baghdadi in an air strike on a gathering of IS commanders on the outskirts of Raqqa.

But US officials said they could not corroborate the death and other Western as well as Iraqi officials were sceptical. 

South Africa’s Markram upbeat after run out denies him debut ton

“I’m more than happy to take it,” he said at stumps of his innings of 97, with South Africa on 298 for one at Senwes Park.

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“Had you asked me if I would take 97 last night I would have taken it with open arms, I’m more than happy with the 97.”

The 22-year-old Markram appeared to be heading for a dream start to his test career before he was caught out of his crease, backing up too quickly as he attempted to help opening partner Dean Elgar to reach a century. Elgar was on 99 and looking for a quick single to get to three figures but, after a moment’s hesitation, he decided against a run, leaving Markram halfway up the crease and scrambling unsuccessfully to get back to safety.

The pair put on a 196-run opening partnership as they took advantage of a batsman-friendly track.

“I’ve never really looked at the game from a selfish perspective,” Markram told reporters.

“I think I wanted it so badly for him (Elgar) that I got caught in no-man’s land. It’s part of the game, you have to take it on the chin and move on. He was extremely upset. Dean and I have come a long way, we’ve developed a good friendship as well.

“It was tough for him, a bitter pill to swallow. I told him at tea that he needs to kick on for the team’s sake. That is all that matters. He has put himself in a great position to do so.”

On Friday Elgar will resume on the second day at 128 not out, along with Hashim Amla who has 68.

“You have to take your hat off to the innings that Dean played. I’m incredibly happy for him for scoring another hundred,” Markram added.

“Knowing the kind of person he is, he really would like to kick on tomorrow. He has a very hard personality, he is a proper fighter as we have all seen.”

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ken Ferris)

Auckland to stage 2021 America’s Cup

Team New Zealand have vowed to restore America’s Cup traditions that have been lost when they stage the next event in Auckland in 2021.

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Protocols for the 36th regatta were unveiled by the holders in Auckland on Friday, with a date of early 2021 cemented into place along with a return to monohull racing.

Auckland will be host city as long as infrastructure can be guaranteed and built before early 2019, when the first pre-regatta is planned.

Team NZ chief executive Grant Dalton was delighted to have agreed protocol details formulated so quickly following negotiations with the challenger of record, Italian syndicate Luna Rossa.

He said both parties were adamant former holders Team USA had steered the 166-year-old event too far from its traditional roots and priced the event beyond the reach of several challengers.

It is three months since the Kiwi syndicate lifted the Auld Mug off Team USA in Bermuda. But Dalton’s determination to honour the original Deed of Gift hasn’t waned as he launched into criticism of what he says was a self-centred American reign from 2010-17.

“This a collective attempt to create a competitive environment but not a biased one,” Dalton said.

“An America’s Cup where challengers feel they will be treated totally fairly and the rules will be transparent to the public.”

The two previous regattas in San Francisco employed high-speed catamarans.

Dalton said the 75-foot monohull boats would still have room for innovation and could even have foiling capability.

Drawings and concept images of the boat will be released on November 30 and the design rules unveiled on March 31 next year.

That will give syndicates about a year to design and build the two boats allowed.

The sailor nationality rule will require 20 per cent of sailors to be citizens of each team’s country.

The rest of the crew must meet a residency requirement. They must reside in the their team’s country for at least a 380-day period from September 1, 2018 to September 1, 2020.

“It’s not an attempt to stop yachtsmen earning a living,” Dalton said.

“But it’s an attempt to make a country firstly look at its own before it looks offshore.”

America’s Cup could move to Italy if Auckland not ready

They took international sport’s oldest trophy off Oracle Team USA with a stunning 7-1 victory in Bermuda’s Great Sound in June in a regatta raced in high-powered foiling catamarans.

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TNZ boss Grant Dalton released the protocol, or rules, for the 36th America’s Cup at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron on Friday. They had been written in consultation with the official Challengers, Italian syndicate Luna Rosa.

Dalton said the date was yet to be confirmed and they had not signed a host city agreement as Auckland still had no infrastructure for the America’s Cup base and they needed to start construction by the middle of 2018 for a 2021 regatta.

“The intention is to hold the Cup in 2021,” Dalton told reporters at a media conference. “At this stage no infrastructure exists to hold it by that date.

“We (New Zealand) have just come out of an election but there has been some planning going on. Infrastructure needs to be started by mid-2018.”

Dalton added that if Auckland was unable to complete preparations in time, the regatta would be moved to Italy, but it was not a warning shot to the government.

“We need to give certainties to teams,” he said.

NATIONALITY CLAUSE

Dalton, who had already signalled his desire for a nationality clause, said each crew of 10-12 sailors must be contain at least 20 percent from the challenging country.

The rest of the team must have established residency criteria, which Dalton said was determined by being resident in the country for 380 days between Sept. 1 2018 and Sept. 1 2020.

“The most significant America’s Cup in my time was when Australia 2 beat Liberty in Newport, Rhode Island in 1983,” Dalton added. “It was country versus country.

“Countries need to be encouraged to grow their own talent. It’s not an attempt to stop yachtsmen make a living but for a country to look at its own first before they go overseas.”

The specifications for the new boats would be released on Nov. 30.

Dalton added that each syndicate could build two boats and there would be pre-regattas in 2019 and 2020. Contrary to what he told Italian media two weeks ago, he said there was still the possibility for ‘cyclors’ to be used.

TNZ used ‘cyclors’, grinders who sat on upright bike stations and used their legs rather than arms to generate the hydraulic power needed to sail the foiling catamarans, in their successful challenge.

Last week he was quoted as telling La Stampa that “grinders will return”, indicating the cyclors would not feature, but said on Friday the rules did not preclude them.

Races for the next regatta were likely to be “longer than Bermuda”, which were typically about 20 minutes, but Dalton said they would be less than an hour.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Ken Ferris)

US scambling to help Puerto Rico

The Pentagon has appointed a senior general to oversee military relief operations in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, even as President Donald Trump’s administration faced calls from lawmakers for a far more robust response to the disaster.

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The US territory of 3.4 million people is reeling from Hurricane Maria, which struck on September 20 as the most powerful storm to hit the island in nearly 90 years, causing widespread flooding, completely cutting power and heavily damaging homes, roads and other infrastructure.

The storm claimed more than 30 lives across the Caribbean, including at least 16 in Puerto Rico. Governor Ricardo Rossello has called the scope of the island’s devastation unprecedented.

The US military, which has poured some 4400 troops into the relief effort, including the Puerto Rico National Guard, named Lieutenant General Jeffrey Buchanan to oversee its response on the island.

Buchanan, Army chief for the military’s US Northern Command, was expected to arrive in Puerto Rico on Thursday. He will be the Pentagon’s main liaison with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the US government’s lead agency on the island, and focus on aid distribution, the Pentagon said in a statement.

FEMA has placed the US Army Corps of Engineers in charge of rebuilding the island’s crippled power grid.

Even as FEMA and the US military have stepped up relief efforts, many residents in Puerto Rico have been frustrated over the prolonged lack of electricity, drinking water and other essentials.

Radamez Montanez, a building administrator from the municipality of Carolina, east of capital city San Juan, said he had been without water and electricity at home since Hurricane Irma grazed the island two weeks before Maria. “It’s chaos, total chaos,” he said.

Defending the relief effort, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said 10,000 federal relief workers had arrived in Puerto Rico, including troops, and that 44 of the island’s 69 hospitals were now fully operational.

The Trump administration earlier lifted restrictions for 10 days on foreign shipping from the US mainland to Puerto Rico. While that measure might help speed cargo shipments, Puerto Rico is struggling to move supplies around the island once they arrive.

Tree rodent found in Solomon Islands

People living on the Solomon Islands had spoken of a big, tree-dwelling rat called vika that inhabited the rainforest, but the remarkable rodent managed to elude scientists – until now.

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After searching for it for years with cameras mounted in trees and traps, scientists said they finally caught up with the rat on Vangunu Island, part of the Solomon Islands, spotting one as it emerged from a tree felled by loggers.

It instantly joined the list of the biggest rats in the world, weighing about four times more than an ordinary rat and measuring about half-a-metre long.

“Vika lives in a very thick, complex forest, and it is up in the canopy so it is difficult to find. It is also a rare species. It is likely there are not many of these rats left,” mammalogist Tyrone Lavery of the Field Museum in Chicago, who led the research, said on Thursday.

The orange-brown rat dines on nuts and fruit, has short ears, a smooth tail with very fine scales and wide feet that allow it to move through the forest canopy.

The rat is reputed to chew holes in coconuts to eat the inside. “I haven’t found proof of this yet, but I have found that they can eat a very thick-shelled nut called a ngali nut,” Lavery said.

A small number of rat species around the world rival vika’s size. Lavery said a vika relative also inhabiting the Solomon Islands, called Poncelet’s giant rat, is twice the size.

The world’s largest rodent is not a rat, but rather South America’s barrel-shaped capybara.

A phenomenon called the “island effect” may help account for the size of Vika and other big rat species in the Solomon Islands.

“The island effect, or island syndrome, relates to the effects living on an island has on the evolution of body size. On islands, small species such as rats, evolve to have larger body size, they attain higher population densities and they produce fewer offspring,” Lavery said.

The research was published this week in the Journal of Mammalogy.

Internationals lose opening Cup session

Marc Leishman says the Internationals have been backed into a must-win second session after they squandered a chance to lead the first day of the Presidents Cup.

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The US continued their dominance in the biennial teams event, having led after every session since the final day of their 2005 Cup win.

On Thursday, a star-studded 10-man American outfit demonstrated their potency by taking a 3.5-1.5 lead in the foursomes at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey.

Chasing their first Cup victory since Royal Melbourne in 1998, Internationals star Leishman is confident of chasing down the deficit in the four-ball (best ball) session on day two.

“Fourball, we’ve been stronger at in the past,” said Leishman of Friday’s format.

“If we have a good day, there’s no reason why we can’t be leading at the end. That has to be our goal.”

The three Australians contributed just half a point in the alternate shot format.

Leishman and playing partner Jason Day led opponents Phil Mickelson and Kevin Kisner by one hole late in the match before an errant Leishman tee shot saw them lose the 17th.

They appeared likely to lose the 18th hole and therefore the match but Mickelson missed a short putt to gift the Australian duo half a point.

“We just need to think about what that half a point could mean at the end of the week; how much we would have paid for that extra point in Korea,” said Leishman, referring to the Internationals’ one-point loss in 2015.

“One match here and there, and that could make a difference.”

Fellow Australian Adam Scott and partner Jhonattan Vegas also led at the halfway point of their clash with world No.1 Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar but several errors on the back nine handed the Americans a one-up victory.

“We’re not that far behind,” said world No.6 Day.

“We’ve got to regroup. The American side is obviously stacked but I think our team is ready to rally.”

The Internationals’ top-ranked player Hideki Matsuyama and playing partner Charl Schwartzel were smashed 6-and-4 by Rickie Fowler and FedEx Cup champion Justin Thomas.

Internationals rookies Si Woo Kim and Emiliano Grillo were spanked 5-and-4 by dream pairing Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.

Standouts for the Internationals were South African duo Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace, who were clinical in their 3-and-1 win against US Open champion Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger.

“Louis and I stuck to the guns. We made the clutch things when we had to,” said Grace.

“Hopefully we inspire a little bit of the team.”

U.S. lead International team after first day at Presidents Cup

The U.

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S. won three of five foursomes matches, and halved another, to enjoy a 3-1/2 to 1-1/2 advantage in strong and gusty winds that made club selection difficult.

It could have been even worse for the International team as American veteran Phil Mickelson missed a six-foot putt at the final hole as he and partner Kevin Kisner halved with Australians Jason Day and Marc Leishman.

The International team, comprised of players from the rest of the world excluding Europe, have now lost the opening session six consecutive times at the biennial event.

“We’re one point better off then we were two years (ago),” Price said. “It was a brutal day to play golf. We got behind the eight-ball early with a few of our teams being two-down, three-down at the turn.

“But the guys rallied back great. Even though we’re two points behind, it was one of our strongest starts in foursomes on Thursday.

“So the team is not discouraged at all. We have a resilient team. They are raring to go tomorrow.”

The American pair Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler set the tone in the first match, thrashing Hideki Matsuyama and Charl Schwartzel 6&4.

The Americans also had an emphatic victory in match three as Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed thumped South Korean Kim Si-woo and Argentine Emiliano Grillo 5&4.

The International team suffered another disappointment when Australian Adam Scott and Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela were edged one-up by Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.

The result leaves Scott with more foursomes defeats, nine, than any player in Presidents Cup history. He is 4-9-1 in the alternate shot format. Scott also joins South African Ernie Els with a record 18 losses over all formats.

STELLAR PARTNERSHIP

The International team did manage to salvage something from the other two matches as South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace continued their stellar partnership with a 3&1 win over Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger.

Oosthuizen and Grace paired up to win four matches at the 2015 event.

In the final match, Day and Leishman recovered from a big early deficit to take the lead against Mickelson and Kisner.

But the Australians opened the door with bogeys at the final two holes, and were fortunate to escape with 1/2 a point.

U.S. captain Sticker was pleased with the day overall.

“There’s still a long, long ways to go. But we very much liked the day and the way it started,” he said.

The International team has only one overall victory (1998) and one tie (2003) in 11 stagings of the event.

The Cup continues on Friday with five four-ball (better ball) matches.

Price will rest rookies Kim and Grillo, while U.S. captain Steve Stricker opted to leave out Matt Kuchar and Daniel Berger.

Four-ball matches at Presidents Cup on Friday (U.S. named first):

11.35 a.m. ET (1535 GMT) – Jordan Spieth/Patrick Reed v Hideki Matsuyama/Adam Hadwin

11.50 a.m. ET – Rickie Fowler/Justin Thomas v Louis Oosthuizen/Branden Grace

12.05 p.m. ET – Phil Mickelson/Kevin Kisner v Jason Day/Marc Leishman

12.20 p.m ET – Kevin Chappell/Charley Hoffman v Charl Schwartzel/Anirban Lahiri

12.35 p.m. ET – Dustin Johnson/Brooks Koepka v Adam Scott/Jhonattan Vegas

(Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ken Ferris)

Man poisons supermarket food in Germany

A man has slipped a potentially lethal poison into food, including baby food, on sale in some German supermarkets in an extortion scheme aimed at raising millions of euros, police say.

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No cases of poisoning had been reported so far.

Police say the alleged perpetrator had alerted them by email after placing quantities of poison in products for sale in some southern German supermarkets earlier in September, and was now threatening to do so nationwide and elsewhere in Europe unless given a pay-off of many millions.

“We are taking the threat very seriously,” Uwe Stuermer, deputy chief of police in the southern lakeside city of Konstanz, told a news conference on Thursday.

“There is no reason for panic or hysteria,” he added, while warning consumers to be on the look-out for packaging that had been tampered with when buying their groceries.

Police were looking for a suspect who could be seen in security video footage from one of the supermarkets in a town near Konstanz and appeared to be a man of about 50 years old.

The footage was made public to help in the search.

Police said they had found some baby food spiked with ethylene glycol, a colourless, odourless liquid used in the manufacture of antifreeze, which can be deadly if consumed.

Authorities in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg said they would intensify checks of food on sale, but warned that identifying contaminated items would be a challenge.

“The case is difficult because the blackmailer did not say which food will be targeted or what poison he will use,” a consumer protection official said.