Dozens feared dead in Philippine factory fire

A fire at a Philippine rubber slipper factory killed 31 workers on Wednesday and dozens were missing and feared dead, government and fire officials said.

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Ariel Barayuga, head of bureau of fire protection, said investigators were trying to determine the cause of fire in the capital, Manila, that trapped workers at the two-storey factory building of Kentex Manufacturing Inc, which makes flip-flops and slippers.

A fireman who gave his name as Soriano said 31 bodies had been found, adding most of the victims had died of suffocation.

“There could be more buried under debris,” he said.

“There was someone who was welding at the main entrance and suddenly there was an explosion. It was really fast.

” He said there were flammable materials and chemicals that helped spread the flames. About 200 to 300 people worked in the factory, according to Veato Ang, the factory owner.

“It just broke out and people started running,” he said. Thirty-nine workers had been accounted for, but 65 were reported missing and feared dead. Portions of the wall and roof on the second floor also collapsed and hit some of the workers.

“I have been informed that 65 people could not be located and might be inside that building,” Mayor Rex Gatchalian told journalists.

“I was told no one survived inside, but I am still hoping some of those trapped were able to escape the building safely.” About 150 people died in the worst fire in Manila which broke out at a popular disco in 1996.

“We were all confused because almost everybody was panicking,” Jun Panalo, a worker who jumped from the second floor, told reporters.

“I jumped out, and then someone followed me. I jumped through the fire. My hair was burned.” (Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Dallaglio says exiles should not expect England call

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has established eligibility rules for international call-ups, meaning those not playing in England will be barred except “in extraordinary circumstances”

Stuart Lancaster names his 45-man squad for the tournament later this month, with many trumpeting the talents of France-based duo Steffon Armitage, who won the European Champions Cup with Toulon, and Clermont Auvergne full back Nick Abendanon.

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Dallaglio, however, says any relaxation of the rules could undermine all of Lancaster’s hard work in creating a united dressing room after the cracks that appeared at the 2011 World Cup under previous coach Martin Johnson.

“From my point of view I honestly don’t believe the best place for an England international rugby player is down in the south of France,” Dallaglio, 42, said on Wednesday at the Daily Telegraph Business of Sport event in London.

“I think the players that went (abroad) did so because they were not good enough to get in the England team, although maybe they are now playing at the level of rugby where it is good enough. But I think it’s very clear, the best players should play in this country.

“If Steffon Armitage really wanted to play for England, then I’m sure if he went to the owner of Toulon and said, ‘Look, I’m really passionate about playing for England – would you mind if you release me from my contract? I’d like to go and join Bath or Northampton or Wasps or Harlequins, or any of those clubs’

“I’m sure he would do that because he’s a man who’s driven by passion, whether it’s for his club or for his country.”

“They are the right rules and I don’t think they should be broken.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)

Patrick to F1? Haas not ruling it out

“If the right sponsor came along, then anything is possible,” the California-based businessman told Reuters when asked whether the world’s best-known female racer might make a sensational switch from ovals.

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Even as he spoke, on a visit to the grand prix paddock in Spain last weekend, his F1 team principal Guenther Steiner grimaced.

“Don’t put anything in that Danica is coming to F1,” laughed the Austrian, mindful of all the stories written since Haas Formula One confirmed they would be making their grand prix debut in 2016.

“We’ve been down that path last year,” agreed Haas, who nonetheless left no doubt that his Stewart-Haas NASCAR driver would be given serious consideration if the deal was right and she wanted to do it.

Formula One has not had a woman driver start a race in nearly 40 years and Patrick, who nearly tested for Honda in 2008, has been through the rumour mill many times already.

“We don’t want to sit there and say no to anything but the probabilities… obviously when she’s in NASCAR, it’s very difficult to participate in F1,” said Haas of the 33-year-old who in 2013 became the first woman to take pole position for the season-opening Daytona 500.

Recent events may make it easier, however.

HIGHLY MARKETABLE

Patrick’s long-term backer, internet domain name service GoDaddy Inc, announced last month they were leaving NASCAR at the end of the year and that has left her future in doubt although Haas sounded positive on that score.

“Danica Patrick is highly marketable and if anything we’re very lucky that GoDaddy is giving us enough time to find a sponsor that she’ll fit with, because she can sell anything,” he said.

“She has as much attention at the race track as any of the drivers so she’s a very valuable person.”

Haas F1 will be the first American-based team in Formula One since 1986 and will compete with Ferrari engines in a close tie-up with the Italian team.

They have already secured a European base in central England, buying the old Marussia factory in Banbury, and are making steady progress even if no driver announcement is expected for months.

“We kind of have to wait until mid-summer and really see who’s available. Obviously Formula One cars are a little unique; you probably have to have someone with relative experience of driving these cars,” said Haas.

“It would be a home run to put an American driver in an American Formula One team, but it takes a lot of alignment of the stars for that to happen.”

PREMIUM BRAND

Haas said the team had acquired no equipment from auctions of the failed Caterham and Marussia teams, other than the latter’s super-computer, preferring instead to buy big ticket items such as trailers new.

He added that the team had about 90 employees with another 50 or 60 to be hired, and would reflect the ‘premium brand’ of his machine automation business.

“Right now we’re in that slow period of just kind of building things, putting things together,” said the 62-year-old.

“Our goal is to actually show that you can survive in F1 without the drama that some of the other teams go through. I think, from everything that I’ve seen, we’re going to be fine,” he added.

Haas said he was aiming to make the most of “NASCAR efficiencies”, buying in technology from different companies rather than doing it the traditional F1 way.

“We really don’t have any urgent need for sponsors but we’d certainly like to have some. But our goal is we’re going racing, whether we’re sponsored or not,” he added.

With the prospect of adding a Formula One schedule to the time needed to run his business and attend NASCAR races, Haas could be short of sleep next year but he laughed that off.

“I have no idea how I’m going to make all this work,” he smiled. “It is fun, might as well do it before you’re dead.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)

‘Tony’s tradies’ key to budget win

The Abbott government is banking on “Tony’s tradies” to fire up the economy and give it a smoother post-budget ride than a year ago.

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Labor says the budget is all about the government positioning itself for an early election. “

They haven’t done it for life in the 2020s,” Opposition Leader leader Bill Shorten told Sky News on Wednesday.

“They’ve done this budget to save Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey’s job, they haven’t done it to look at jobs of other Australians.”

Treasurer Joe Hockey insists an early election never featured in the government’s pre-budget calculations, while Prime Minister Tony Abbott says an election will be held “mid-next year”.

“We want to fire up Australian business,” Mr Hockey told the Nine Network.

“We want to take advantage of the massive growth opportunities that are going to come our way with the growth in Asia over the next few years.”

Mr Abbott said small business was the engine room of the economy and that’s why it was the big winner in the budget, joking on Sky News that they may be called “Tony’s tradies”.

“In the end, this budget is about jobs, growth and opportunity, that’s why we have focused our tax cuts on small business.”

Last year the government cut the carbon and mining taxes and this year it was the tax rate for small business that was being cut by 1.5 per cent, Mr Abbott said.

Small businesses will also be able to immediately write-off assets worth up to $20,000.

In an interview Sky New journalist David Speers asked the Prime Minister about about the small business package, which he said “seems to be particularly targeted at tradies.” 

“We had Howard’s battlers. Are these going to be Abbott’s tradies?” he asked. 

The Prime Minister jokingly responded with a better term –  “Tony’s tradies”.

“I want to encourage them to have a go; I think it’s in our DNA to want to have a go,” Mr Abbott said.

“We all love giving people a fair go, it’s only because most of us have a go that all of us can get the fair go that every Australian deserves.”

Whether or not “Tony’s Tradies” will fire up the economy, it has at least fired up reactions on Twitter.  

A budget put down by a gov out of ideas on how to stimulate the economy #TonysTradies #auspol #budget2015

— Comrade Jatan (@nickjatan) May 13, 2015Which daughter needs a reno Tony? #tonystradies #qt #auspol

— Shannon Martin (@auspawned) May 13, 2015Who actually coined the term #TonysTradies and Did Tony Abbott say it himself?

— Petra Campbell (@PetraAu) May 13, 2015Tony’s Tradies get around Mosman in Mercedes-Benz utes. #TonysTradies pic.twitter广西桑拿,/hAj8wLbBLd

— Andrew Rollason (@rollo75) May 13, 2015to bad #tonystradies are a dying breed since funding for training is disappearing. @TonyAbbottMHR #auspol

— Whosawhatnow (@Pounce64) May 13, 2015

The government has dismissed concerns small business will rort the new tax breaks.

“People aren’t going to spend money on their business if it’s not going to make them a dollar,” Mr Hockey told ABC radio when asked if he was worried people would claim plasma TVs and office couches.

Mr Abbott warned there would be “a lot of angry small business people” if the opposition and crossbenchers blocked the small business package in the Senate.

“Surely every member of this parliament wants to create jobs, every member of this parliament wants to give small business a fair go so that they can have a go for the benefit of everyone,” he told the Seven Network.

Zimbabwe’s Whatmore confident of successful Pakistan tour

Zimbabwe will be the first country to tour Pakistan since a gun attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009 left seven players injured and six policemen plus two civilians dead.

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The team leave on Sunday to play two T20 matches, starting on May 22, and a three-match one-day International series that begins four days later.

“I’m fully behind the tour and I believe it’s going to be a tremendous success,” Sri Lankan-born Whatmore, who coached Pakistan for two years from 2012, told Reuters via telephone from Harare.

“I understand others feel differently, but I would never put anybody else in an unsafe environment. I understand the significance of this tour to Pakistan and I’m very happy to go.

“To have a full member nation play international cricket in Lahore and the state of Punjab is hugely important for Pakistan and transcends cricket.”

A delegation including Zimbabwe Cricket managing director Alistair Campbell travelled to Lahore last week and was satisfied with the security measures to be put in place by local authorities.

The Zimbabwe squad announced on Tuesday sees the return of a number of experienced players.

Aggressive middle-order batsman Charles Coventry returns after four years away from the team, having turned down the opportunity to participate at the 2014 Twenty20 World Cup.

Leg-spinner Graeme Cremer quit cricket for golf last year but is now back with ball in hand having failed to further his career with the clubs, while there is a first selection for batting all-rounder Roy Kaia.

HUGE BLOW

“All these boys have been brought in because of their performances. Kaia was the top run scorer in the domestic Pro50 competition and had an average of 70,” Whatmore said.

“Coventry is back specifically for the T20 team and has been playing really well, and Graeme Cremer can be a big value add and has settled in beautifully.”

This will be a first tour without stalwart batsman Brendan Taylor, who retired from international cricket after the 50-over World Cup earlier this year.

Whatmore is concerned about who can fill his boots.

“It’s a huge blow to lose him… a huge blow. It’s difficult to cover for someone like that in a short space of time, but we can only try the best we can.”

The tour to Pakistan will be a first for Whatmore since he signed a new four-year contract to coach Zimbabwe after his short-term deal lapsed at the end of the World Cup.

He is excited by the potential he sees in Zimbabwe cricket and his short-term target is to help improve their ODI ranking.

“I really think it’s a challenge, a different type of challenge to most places,” the former Australia batsman said.

“Zimbabwe are ranked at number 11 in ODI cricket and that is unacceptable and something that has to change.

“But there is real potential here to move ahead, I would not have signed on if I did not believe that. But it is something that needs time.”

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ken Ferris)

United director hits back at fans’ criticism of Glazers

United’s worst Premier League finish in 2013-14 meant they were absent from Europe’s blue-riband club competition this year, giving further ammunition to critics of the Glazer family who bought the club 10 years ago.

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Marking the anniversary of the Glazers’ takeover of England’s biggest club, the Independent Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) this week issued a statement accusing the Americans of “ownership crime” saying they had saddled the club with debt.

However, Arnold said the owners’ “long-term vision” meant the three-times European champions remained strong, on and off the pitch, and were still competing for the world’s top players.

“Yesterday was the 10-year anniversary of the our current owners and that long-term approach they’ve taken, the vision they’ve shown and the decisions they’ve made have borne out on and off the pitch and they’ve been strong,” Arnold said at the Daily Telegraph Business of Sport forum in London.

“(MUST) would have their view. I wouldn’t agree with it.

“It’s a unique position to be in, the way that fans feel about a club and that is at the heart of everything we do.

You can’t take that for granted.”

United are virtually assured a top-four finish in the Premier League, after slipping to seventh last season, meaning a return to the Champions League, albeit probably via a playoff.

Arnold said the real pain of not rubbing shoulders with the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich was felt by the players and fans rather than the club’s bean counters.

“Whatever you call the competition, not being at the top table that you can be in is a matter of pride, it’s where the players want to play, it’s what the fans want to see, not being there hurts, it’s a key achievement milestone for us.

“In taking the long-term vision, structuring the business to be profitable and having a diversified income stream, it’s a much smaller number than people expect in how it’s affected our profitability and our ability to compete economically for the best players.

“But the fact we manage our finances to make sure that in the long term we are sustainable and solid doesn’t take away from the fact that not being in it was really painful.

“We have only had a one-year experiment and it’s not our plan to make it a longer one so dear God let’s not try that experiment again!”

United will announce their third quarter earnings on Thursday.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Toby Davis)

Contador takes Giro lead as Porte rises

Race favourite Alberto Contador has taken the Giro d’Italia’s overall leader’s pink jersey from Australian Simon Clarke after a fifth stage win by Slovenian Jan Polanc, while Richie Porte climbed to third overall.

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The race favourites leapt into action on the tour’s first mountain stage, with Slovenian Jan Polanc winning the stage after an engaging concluding climb to Abetone on Wednesday.

Polanc got in an early breakaway and attacked on the final climb – 17 kilometres at an average gradient of 5.4 per cent.

He clocked little more than four hours over the 152-kilometre stage across central Italy, which started in La Spezia.

French veteran Sylvain Chavanel, another breakaway member, finished second, 1min31sec behind, and Italian title hopeful Fabio Aru crossed third with the same time, with Contador and Porte right behind.

In the overall standings, Contador is two seconds ahead of Aru, with Porte 20 seconds behind in third.

Previous leader Clarke dropped far behind to be 18th overall and 2min21sec back.

A two-time Tour de France champion, Contador won the Giro in 2008 and was also triumphant in 2011 but was stripped of that title for testing positive in the 2010 Tour.

“There’s still a long way to go,” Contador said.

“This was just an aperitivo.

“My attack wasn’t planned. I felt good, looked around, and went.

“I’m happy with the situation after five days. I didn’t expect the pink jersey, but to have it is always fantastic. … Although the one that counts is the pink jersey in Milan, so if someone else takes it tomorrow, it won’t be a problem.”

Contador was the first of the overall contenders to attack on the climb and Aru and Porte quickly followed.

Aru won a sprint for third, which carried a four-second bonus.

“I’m happy to be in this battle,” Aru said.

“They’re great champions and being among them is unbelievable.”

Stage six on Thursday is a 183-kilometre leg from Montecatini Terme to Castiglione Della Pescaia featuring flat sections at the start and finish and hills in between.

The 98th Giro ends May 31 in Milan.

Defence best form of attack for Sevilla at Fiorentina

Sevilla thumped the Italian side at the Sanchez Pizjuan last week and are on the brink of a second consecutive appearance in the final of Europe’s second-tier club competition and within touching distance of a record fourth triumph.

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“The attitude will be the same as you have seen throughout the season,” Andujar, who is known as ‘Coke’, told a news conference previewing the clash at the Stadio Comunale Artemio Franchi in the Tuscan capital Florence.

“We know we face a very tough match despite our goal advantage and the best way to protect it is to go for victory and do things the way we know,” he added.

“We know that Fiorentina are a great club, with a lot of people behind them and a great history.

“Considering who they are it’s normal that they believe in a comeback but that’s why we are here.

“We have to work to try to win because we don’t know how to play any other way.”

Fiorentina must pull off a feat that has only been achieved once before if they are to make the showpiece in the Polish capital Warsaw on May 27.

Sevilla’s La Liga rivals Valencia hammered FC Basel 5-0 after extra time in the second leg of their quarter-final last season to become the only team to overturn a 3-0 first-leg deficit in a UEFA Cup/Europa League knockout tie.

If Sevilla clinch the trophy, they would win a record fourth title, eclipsing Inter Milan, Juventus and Liverpool, who all have three.

They won back-to-back UEFA Cups in 2006 and 2007 and beat Benfica on penalties in Turin to secure the renamed trophy last term.

Another triumph would secure them a lucrative berth in the group stage of next season’s Champions League.

Fiorentina’s Serie A rivals Napoli play at Ukrainian side Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in Thursday’s other semi-final, second leg after last week’s clash in Naples ended 1-1.

(Writing by Iain Rogers in Madrid, editing by Toby Davis)

Storm prepared for Origin departures

State of Origin will start soon, bringing with it only bad news for NRL club Melbourne.

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The Storm’s three most influential players Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk will link up with Queensland next week.

Will Chambers is also expected to represent the Maroons in all three games of the mid-week series, further hurting the Storm’s chances of staying near the top of the ladder.

Origin has coincided with plenty of mid-season Storm slumps in recent years.

Veteran Ryan Hinchcliffe hopes 2015 will be different, pointing to the off-season arrival of Wigan five-eighth Blake Green and Canterbury lock Dale Finucane plus the improvement of many inexperienced teammates.

“Origin doesn’t just take out our senior players, it takes away our key playmakers,” Hinchcliffe told AAP.

“Do that to any side and it’s obviously going to have a huge effect, but you just deal with it.

“With the new players we’ve got this year, hopefully we’re in a bit better position to handle it compared to previous years.

“Our squad is a fair bit stronger now compared to last year … we’ll have a bit more experience in the side.”

Hinchcliffe and Finucane both represented Country in the recent representative match in Wagga Wagga.

Injury or suspension could pave the way for either forward to make their Origin debuts this year.

“I loved playing for Country and I’d absolutely love to play for NSW, but it’s not something I spend much time thinking about,” said Hinchcliffe, who has been consistent performer for the Storm since 2009.

Finucane, who is 23 and enjoying a breakthrough season under the tutelage of Craig Bellamy, felt he had a “lot more development to do” before contemplating an Origin call-up.

Saturday’s clash with South Sydney at AAMI Park is Melbourne’s last chance to post a win before the `Big Three’ of Smith, Slater and Cronk head north for Origin.

Hinchcliffe noted his team weren’t looking any further ahead than the Rabbitohs, but noted “early wins are important for every club”.

“It’s really important for our club, because of the load that comes with Origin,” he said.

“South Sydney have got class right across the paddock and it’ll be a great chance to test ourselves against one of the best sides in the competition.”

Warriors work on Hurrell’s running style

Blockbusting Warriors centre Konrad Hurrell will be working on changing an ingrained habit as he serves a three-match NRL ban.

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His suspension for dangerous contact follows an incident in the Warriors’ 20-16 win over Cronulla in Sydney last Saturday which shattered opposition backrower Anthony Tupou’s jaw, an injury which is expected to sideline him for 10 weeks.

Tupou suffered the injury while trying to make a side-on tackle on a charging Hurrell, who had raised his left knee.

Coach Andrew McFadden says Hurrell’s running style is something the club have been working on.

“It’s a difficult one,” he said.

“Konrad has been running like that for a long time.

“From time to time he does lift his knee – he’s a driving player – so it’s something we’re going to have to work on, and we have been working on.”

However, McFadden felt that the Tupou incident was an accident and said there was no intent to cause injury.

He said the Warriors thought long and hard about contesting the charge, which was rated grade three on the NRL’s five-step system, but concluded that it would be difficult to get it reduced given the focus on blows to the head.

With the club having a bye next week, Hurrell is effectively out for a month.

The 23-year-old Tongan international won’t be available again until the Sydney Roosters visit Mt Smart Stadium on June 13.

McFadden said Hurrell was disappointed but philosophical over his ban.

“He started to play some really good football on the weekend,” McFadden said.

“He wants to be there every week but he realises that this is the nature of the game at the moment. There’s a lot of scrutiny over head injuries.”