FIFA U-17 World Cup: What matters is performance not who is officiating, says Esther Stabuli

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For Esther Stabuli, who became the first woman referee in 16 years to officiate in a FIFA male competition, what counts at the end of the day is performance on the pitch. Esther broke a 16-year-old jinx when she officiated in the Japan-New Caledonia FIFA U-17 World Cup match here.

A Swiss school teacher and a rising star in refereeing circles, Esther made a little bit of history alongside New Caledonia, who won their first-ever point at a FIFA event by eking out the 1-1 draw against Japan on October 14.

“There is not a big difference in whether it was a male or female referee, it is just the performance that counts,” Esther was quoted saying in the FIFA website.

“It was a match like any other one. Later on maybe there will be more emotions, or I will realise it was something special, but before I really tried to prepare like it was a normal match and do my best.”

Sixteen years ago, Im Eunju from Korea Republic became the the first woman to officiate in a men’s match at a FIFA tournament when she took charge of the U-17 World Cup match between France and USA at Trinidad and Tobago 2001.

Esther was showered with praise from both Japanese coach Yoshiro Moriyama and New Caledonia’s Dominique Wacalie.

“It was really nice that they liked me as a referee, and that they just looked at me like a normal referee,” Esther said.

It was part of a journey both for the veteran of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 and for FIFA’s Refereeing Department, which has been working to train men’s and women’s referees in the same structure for quite sometime.

This joint preparation project began in 2016 as part of the quest by the FIFA Referee Committee.

The appointment of Esther and the inclusion of six other women’s referees at India, who worked as fourth officials, is a fresh and exciting highlight in that quest.

The referees came from every confederation: Ri Hyang Ok (PRK), Gladys Lengwe (ZAM), Carol Anne Chenard (CAN), Claudia Umpierrez (URU), Anna-Marie Keighley (NZL), Kateryna Monzul (UKR).

Real Madrid hold no fear for Tottenham Hotspur, says Christian Eriksen

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Tottenham Hotspur have plenty of quality and no need to be afraid of Real Madrid in their Champions League clash in Spain on Wednesday, midfielder Christian Eriksen has said.

The Danish international scored the winner as Spurs beat Bournemouth 1-0 in the Premier League on Saturday and Eriksen has set his sights on another good showing against the European champions at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“You need quality and belief. I think we have both so I don’t think we should be scared of anything,” Eriksen told British media. “I haven’t won there yet so I need to change something. Of course it’s a special stadium, a special place.

“Playing against Real will always be special for any footballer with the history they have and the players there so it will be a good test, to see how far we’ve really come.”

Tottenham, level on six points with Real in Group H, will be look to avenge a 4-0 defeat they suffered the last time the two teams met in Madrid in the 2010-11 season.

Two members of the Tottenham team that lost to Real — Gareth Bale and Luka Modric — have since moved to the Spanish giants while Tottenham have a new hero in Harry Kane.

The England striker has struck five times in two Champions League games and six times in the Premier League but Eriksen was keen to stress that Spurs, despite Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola’s assertion, were not a one-man team.

“Of course nobody wants to be called a one-man team,” he said. “I think over the last few seasons it’s been almost the same team every season. We know each other very well.

“There are strong links between all the players and a good feeling going into training and going into the games. We’ve got something special and I hope that’s what people on the outside see, and it’s what the squad feels.”

Ben Davies is a doubt for the match after the Welsh defender missed the Bournemouth match with illness and manager Mauricio Pochettino said the club was working towards getting the rest of the squad ready for a huge challenge in the Spanish capital.

“We need to recover well after two weeks with the players away, and now after the massive effort against Bournemouth,” Pochettino said.
“Until Tuesday we need to work hard, all the staff, to try and help the players recover.”

Manchester City cannot take Napoli lightly, says coach Pep Guardiola

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Pep Guardiola has said Manchester City would be “stupid” to expect an easy outing against Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday just because they thumped Stoke City 7-2 in the Premier League over the weekend.

Napoli top the Serie A table with eight wins from as many games and sit third in Group F in the Champions League behind leaders City and Shakhtar Donetsk after a 2-1 opening loss to the Ukrainian side and a 3-1 win over Feyenoord.

Guardiola’s side are unbeaten pace-setters in the English top flight with seven wins from eight games. They showed their might against Stoke but the Spanish manager suggested Napoli would not crumble under pressure.

“Of course, if they think that, they will be stupid,” Guardiola told British media. “That isn’t going to happen.

“I am going to show Napoli to my players – how good they are. Napoli can kill you with high pressing. They are able to press our keeper. I’m very happy to have the opportunity to play this kind of game.”

City began their European campaign with a 4-0 win over Dutch side Feyenoord and followed it up with a routine 2-0 result over Shakhtar.


Maria Sharapova eyes strong finish to season after Tianjin Open title

Maria Sharapova is looking for a strong finish to a season that began with a doping ban and hit a high in China on Sunday when she won her first title in over two years.

The former world number one, who returned from the 15-month ban in April, defeated Belarusian teenager Aryna Sabalenka 7-5 7-6(8) in the final of the Tianjin Open on Sunday.

Sharapova said she was looking forward to building on the success next week in Moscow at the Kremlin Cup, a tournament she has not appeared at since 2007.

“Obviously coming there with the title already means a lot, but I do really want to finish strong,” said the Russian, who accepted a wild card for the event.

“I don’t remember the last time that I played three events in a row. But I will give it everything I have got and I know I have so many amazing fans there.”

The five-times grand slam champion said the Tianjin title, the 36th of her career, was special.

“It has been a couple of years since I have held the winner’s trophy. It is a great feeling,” she said.

“When you start all the way from the beginning of the tournament and then you end up playing the final in a full stadium with so much enthusiasm and energy and you are the one that wins the last point, just everything falls into place.

“You have to appreciate those moments, never take them for granted.”

Sharapova takes on Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova in the opening round in Moscow.

Roger Federer eyes ATP Finals title, top ranking after Shanghai Masters triumph

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Roger Federer is eyeing a seventh ATP Finals crown and has not ruled out pinching the world number one ranking from Rafa Nadal if he maintains the form that won him his second Shanghai Masters trophy on Sunday.

The 19-times grand slam winner claimed his 94th title and sixth this year with an emphatic defeat of Nadal in the Shanghai final and is hungry for a first ATP Finals win since 2011.

“London is my priority now and I really want to win the World Tour Finals,” the evergreen 36-year-old told Sky Sports. “I am very excited to have had the year that I have had and everything that comes from here is a bonus.

“Finishing the year as world number one is a long shot, and I don’t think it will happen but if I play like this, who knows? Maybe I will get close again.”

Shangai was Federer’s first tournament since the U.S. Open and the confidence he gained from his opening matches helped him through a taxing schedule.

“It’s been a tough week, five straight matches is always a test and a challenge for anybody’s body, especially with the pressure rising,” he said.

“I felt I was playing well all week and that settled my nerves because I was returning well from the (opening) match here against (Diego) Schwartzman.

“The serve only got better and I saved the best for last … In a way, not surprising because I felt good all week — I was ready.”
The Swiss next headlines his home Basel International starting Oct. 21.

Malaysia rolls out red carpet for Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad

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Malaysia on Monday rolled out the red carpet for Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, whose visit comes four months after a diplomatic crisis erupted between his nation and four Arab countries. Sheikh Tamim, who arrived in Kuala Lumpur late Sunday, was given a 21-gun salute at a state welcoming ceremony in Parliament. He also inspected a guard-of-honor during the ceremony, attended by Malaysia’s king, Prime Minister Najib Razak and Cabinet ministers.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with Qatar on June 5 due to its close ties with Iran and support for extremist groups in the region, charges denied by Doha. They also launched an economic boycott, stopping Qatar Airways flights from using their airspace, closing off the small country’s sole land border with Saudi Arabia and blocking its ships from using their ports.

The emir’s trip to Malaysia comes eight months after the visit of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, the first by a Saudi king in more than a decade.

The Gulf crisis puts predominantly Muslim Malaysia in a tight spot as it is close to both Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Najib in July backed Kuwait’s effort to mediate the crisis and called for a swift solution.

“We pray that all differences among our Arab brothers will be settled amicably and that the unity and harmony of the (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries can be restored,” he said in a statement.

Malaysia’s foreign ministry said it was the first visit by a ruling Qatari emir since Shekih Tamim’s father visited Malaysia in 2009. It said the visit would provide an opportunity for the leaders to discuss bilateral issues and exchange views on issues of common interest.

Sheikh Tamim is scheduled to meet Najib and Malaysia’s king, followed by a state banquet at the palace before leaving late Monday.

Qatar is Malaysia’s 40th largest trading partner, with total trade of $566 million in 2016.

This story has been edited to correct that this is not the emir’s first trip abroad since the diplomatic crisis erupted in June.

Fake paperwork, poor parts challenge China’s aerospace boom

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Chinese suppliers to US flight control systems maker Moog sold it poorly made parts, faked paperwork and outsourced work to a factory not approved by the company, according to an internal report by US aviation regulators.

In a 9-page report dated November 4, 2016 obtained by Reuters through a freedom of information request, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) said 273 affected parts were installed in an unspecified number of Boeing 777 wing spoilers, which help slow a plane when coming into land.

It did not identify the parts or say when they were installed. The FAA, Boeing, and Moog said in the report and in emails to Reuters they posed no safety risk. Moog supplies flight control systems for commercial and military planes – an industry where supply chain traceability and material quality are highly regulated and crucial for flight safety.

The episode does not raise immediate safety issues. However, it highlights the pressure on Chinese suppliers and regulators as the world’s fastest-growing aviation sector seeks to be less reliant on foreign manufacturers.

To be sure, it’s not just a Chinese issue. Shares in Japan’s Kobe Steel, a supplier of aluminum and copper products used in aircraft and cars, plunged last week after it found numerous cases of data falsification, sending customers scrambling to check product safety.

Supply firms have flocked to China’s booming aerospace sector, which is looking to supply parts faster and cheaper in a competitive global market. China’s exports of parts to the U.S. aerospace industry have trebled to $1.2 billion since 2009, U.S. trade data show.

The demand has fuelled the rise of smaller makers of airplane parts in an industry that has been dominated by state-owned firms. China’s aerospace industry isn’t just a supplier to foreign plane makers. Its airlines are among the biggest buyers of Boeing and Airbus planes, but China is now building its own passenger jets, flying its first narrow-body C919 plane in May.

Mao Pingzhou, a program and quality manager at Airbus, who previously worked at Moog, says China still needs to improve the management of its supply chain. “There are a lot of procedures, but supervisors and workers don’t strictly implement them,” he told Reuters.

In an emailed response to Reuters, the FAA said it investigated safety concerns raised by a whistleblower, Charles Shi, and substantiated two of his allegations. One was addressed and closed, and the other “remains open until the corrective action is fully implemented by Boeing and verified by the FAA.” It did not elaborate. Boeing said it and Moog “had already assessed these two issues and taken all necessary corrective actions.” It stressed that “the safety of the flying public is our primary concern.”

Moog said it “promptly and properly investigated” the irregularities. “The suspect parts – none of which are flight safety critical – were determined to meet specifications,” it said.

According to the FAA report, more than 720 hours of stress-testing the parts at Moog showed no failures, and it was agreed with Boeing to leave them on the planes.


The FAA began investigating Moog parts in March 2016 after Shi, a former Moog supply chain manager for Far East Asia, contacted its whistleblower hotline, according to Shi and copies of emails between him and the regulator.

Shi had previously raised concerns at Moog about Suzhou New Hongji Precision Parts Co Ltd (NHJ), a supplier he said had faked certificates, outsourced work and used substitute material without Moog’s knowledge, according to copies of emails between Shi and his colleagues seen by Reuters. Reuters was unable to independently verify Shi’s claims.

Prompted by Shi’s concerns, Moog’s Shanghai-based supplier quality engineering (SQE) team carried out an internal probe into NHJ in August-September 2015, and found NHJ tried to fake a certificate for parts supplied to Moog, and outsourced manufacturing to a second-tier supplier, without telling Moog, internal emails show. It was not clear from the company emails which parts the certificate was for. Reuters could not determine why NHJ would do this.

“This is desperately frustrating and really means that one of the target growth suppliers in China cannot be trusted,” an SQE manager wrote in an Aug. 25 email. In its report, the FAA concluded that NHJ outsourced parts to an unapproved supplier, and a subcontractor fabricated production records and did not follow required manufacturing processes. The FAA did not concur with Shi’s allegations that NHJ used unapproved substitute material to make parts for Moog.

The FAA report also said the subcontractor, Nantong Shenhai Industrial Technology, which was responsible for coating parts with cadmium, baked parts for half the time it should have, and fabricated a production record.

NHJ general manager Li Jian denied the company committed the violations detailed in Moog’s internal emails or the FAA report. “They never mentioned these things to us during the check,” Li told Reuters. “Moog should have used official means to notify us, but we’ve not received any notification from Moog or the FAA.”

Moog says it doesn’t comment on its communications with suppliers. The FAA did not respond to a request for comment.

Cheng Daoguang, executive director at Nantong Shenhai, told Reuters: “Shenhai did not fabricate production process records and did not receive any visits or audits from the FAA.” He said the company processed parts for NHJ between February-June 2015.

Cheng said neither NHJ nor Moog gave clear instructions on which standards to follow, and Shenhai only learned it should have baked parts for longer during a subsequent visit by Shi in August 2015. NHJ’s Li declined to comment on the issues at Shenhai.


Shi said he approached the FAA after he was laid off by Moog. The company says Shi’s employment was ended as part of a “previously communicated global reorganization”, and was not related to him raising issues about the supplier’s quality.

“Mr. Shi did not expose anything that others within Moog’s supply chain organization were not or had not already responded to as part of the normal supply chain management process,” it said.

Philippine troops kill two leaders of pro-Islamic state alliance: Minister

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Philippine troops killed two leaders of a militant alliance in an operation in southern Marawi City on Monday, the defence minister said, a big boost to a military battling to contain the spread of Islamic State’s radical ideology. Isnilon Hapilon, Islamic State’s anointed “emir” in Southeast Asia, and Omarkhayam Maute, one of two Middle East-educated brothers at the helm of the militant alliance Dawla Islamiya, were killed as part of an operation based on information from a hostage recently rescued.

“Following their operational plan, they were able to go this morning… they were killed,” Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters.

“Yesterday, we were able to get a testimony from a hostage. She was able to confirm the presence of Isnilon and Maute in that particular building. That’s the building that we assaulted early this morning.”

Their deaths will be a major win for the military, which has been criticised for its slow progress in retaking Marawi, the country’s only Muslim majority city, and the ease at which rebels laid siege to it on May 23.

Those leaders have been central to the rebels regrouping, re-arming and recruiting after previous clashes over the past two years on the southern island of Mindanao.

Another leader, Abdullah Maute, was reported by the army to have been killed in August, though no body was found to prove his death.

The insurgents have surprised the military by their ability to endure more than 130 days of air strikes, compounding fears in the Philippines and the region that Islamic State’s radical ideology and its advanced recruitment methods are more prevalent than was previously imagined.

The clashes have killed 813 rebels, 47 civilians and 162 military since insurgents seized the heart of Marawi on May 23, according to the authorities.

Lorenzana said the military was trying to locate another rebel commander, Malaysian operative Mahmud Ahmad. He said the battle for Marawi could be over imminently, adding that 17 hostages were rescued on Monday.

“The indication here is that the Marawi incident is close to the end. We may announce the termination of hostilities in the couple of days.”

The rebel alliance in Marawi is comprised of fighters from the Maute group, Abu Sayyaf, and aided by foreigners from countries that include Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and some Middle East states. Child soldiers and teenagers are among the gunmen.

Five dead, dozens missing as Rohingya boat sinks in Bangladesh

At least five people were killed and dozens left missing today after a boat packed with Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar’s Rakhine state for Bangladesh sank in a river that separates the two nations, a border guard official said.

The tragedy is the latest to hit Rohingya escaping what the UN has called “ethnic cleansing” by Myanmar authorities.

Nearly 200 people have died in around a dozen boats sinkings since the Rohingya influx began in late August after attacks my Muslim militants triggered what the Myanmar military has labelled “clearance operations”.

“The boat was carrying around 50 people when it sank on the estuary of the Naf river in the morning. Five bodies were found including four children, and 21 people survived,” Border Guard Bangladesh area commander Lieutenant Colonel S M Ariful Islam told AFP.

Islam said the boat was a small fishing trawler, which sank as it was overloaded with refugees who are often charged exorbitant fees for the trip to Shah Porir Dwip, a Bangladesh coastal village, across from the Myanmar border.

The coast guard and border guards were conducting a search and rescue operation in the Naf river, he said.

It sank just about a week after another boat packed with Rohingya capsized in the estuary of the Naf river, that has become a graveyard for Muslim refugees trying to escape Myanmar.

At least 34 bodies have been washed up to Bangladeshi coastal villages and its southernmost Saint Martin Island after a boat carrying between 60 and 100 people sank after being swept by high waves.

The UN estimates that some 537,000 Rohingya have fled to camps and makeshift settlements in Bangladesh in the fastest growing refugee crisis.

Many of those who came to Bangladesh travelled on rickety fishing trawlers over rough water in the Naf river and perilous seas in the Bay of Bengal.

The Future IRL: Robot farmers do the dirty work

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The US is facing an agricultural worker shortage, along with aging farm owners, at the same time it juggles demand in food from a global population boom. If we’re being blunt, those elements added together would mean farmers and production are straight screwed. Luckily, some engineers and researchers are creating robots that are already beginning to ease the load.

Blue River Technology in Sunnyvale, California is testing “See and Spray”– machine learning and AI software inside a robotic tractor attachment that aims to change the chemical game. The program can recognize the difference between crops and weeds, then sprays herbicide only on the unwanted plant.

Traditionally, farmers applying herbicide and other chemicals spray the entire field. CEO and co-founder Jorge Heraud says using his AI and machine learning sprayer would cut chemical costs a tenth of the cost. If a mid-sized operation is about 700 acres, only spraying the weeds on a farmer’s fields could knock herbicide costs down from about $100,000 to $10,000.

“You can save on the impact that we have to the environment, right now we are frankly overusing chemistry… about 80 percent of the chemicals we use don’t end up in the right place,” Heraud said.

The machine was tested all over the South this summer, beginning with long sun-brightened slogs on cotton fields in Texas. The engineers at Blue River Technology are proud of their prototype, since it was able to withstand temperatures more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But eventually, Heraud wants the machine to do even more. Rather than just spraying herbicide on an entire plant, he wants to be able to spot treat it with multiple chemicals. That way, the machine only needs to do a single pass to cover all the problems that may ail a solitary plant.

The company got its start in robotics a few years ago, beginning with a lettuce weeding bot that kills off extra lettuce plants in a far more effective way than the previous hand-hoeing only method. That Robot-as-a-Service offering comes at roughly $165 an acre. RaaS might not have the same ring as Software as a Service (SaaS), but it’s autonomously coming for us all, soon.

Blue River Technology is by no means the only player in the space. There are so many tech companies or research departments at universities building robots that we couldn’t round them all up in this episode of The Future IRL. And that doesn’t even begin to address what traditional agricultural machinery companies like John Deere and Case are doing, as they all race towards the goal of full autonomy in farming machines.

As the step-daughter of a Midwestern farmer, I could not be more excited to see what gifts autonomy brings farming next.