Singapore's Ng Ser Miang to make IOC presidency bid

Singapore's Ng Ser Miang is expected to announce a bid for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) presidency on Thursday, a source close to the Olympic movement told Reuters on Tuesday.

The IOC Vice President is set to become the second candidate for one of the top jobs in world sport after German Thomas Bach, also an IOC Vice President, announced his bid last week.

 

The 64-year-old businessman has been an IOC member since 1998 and becomes the first Asian to throw his hat into the ring for the election on September 10 in Buenos Aires at the IOC session.

Singapore's Ambassador to Hungary and a former nominated member of parliament, Ng has seen his international sports profile considerably improved after he staged successful inaugural Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010, the brainchild of outgoing president Jacques Rogge.

Rogge, who succeeded Juan Antonio Samaranch in 2001, sees his two-term presidency come to a mandatory end in September.

Asia will host the 2018 winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea while Tokyo is bidding for the 2020 summer Games.

Ng could not be reached for a comment though the Singapore Olympic Committee sent out a media advisory saying Ng would "deliver remarks" in Paris on Thursday.

There are more candidacies expected before the June 10 submission deadline, with Puerto Rican Richard Carrion, head of the IOC's Finance Commission, also considered as a presidential hopeful.

International boxing federation (AIBA) boss C.K. Wu of Taiwan and Swiss sports administrators Denis Oswald and Rene Fasel have also been mentioned as potential candidates along with former pole vault champion Sergei Bubka of Ukraine.

The AIBA Executive Committee on Tuesday called on their president to run for the top Olympic post.

"The Executive Committee members believe it would be a great pride and honor for both AIBA and the sport of boxing if president had any chance to represent the International Olympic Movement," it said in a letter addressed to its national federations and seen by Reuters.

"We believe (the) president will accept this invaluable support from all AIBA EC members and make his final announcement whether or not to run for next IOC President very shortly."

Seven of the eight IOC presidents to date have been European and one from the United States.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, additional reporting by Padraic Halpin in Dublin,; editing by Clare Fallon and Pritha Sarkar)

Messi likely to miss La Liga season finale

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is likely to miss the rest of the La Liga season after tests showed he had aggravated a hamstring injury but he should have recovered in time to captain Argentina in two World Cup qualifiers next month.

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The lingering injury, sustained in the Champions League quarter-final first leg at Paris St Germain on April 2, has kept the World Player of the Year out of several key games and he was forced off on Sunday during a league match at Atletico Madrid.

 

"The period of absence will be two to three weeks," Barca said on their website (www.fcbarcelona.es).

Messi is likely to miss Barca's remaining three La Liga matches, including Sunday's game at home to Real Valladolid - the club's first at their Nou Camp stadium since they wrapped up a fourth title in five years at the weekend.

The 25-year-old will also miss out on a chance to equal or break his record for league goals of 50 set last season. He currently has 46 from 32 appearances.

However, he should be fit for Argentina's World Cup qualifiers at home to Colombia on June 7 and away to Ecuador four days later.

Argentina top South American qualification with 24 points from 11 matches. Ecuador are second on 20 and Colombia third on 19 with both having played one game fewer.

(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Clare Fallon)

Iran, Russia, U.S. unlikely allies at the U.N. to save wrestling

The United States, Iran and Russia may be at odds over issues including Syria's civil war and Tehran's nuclear ambitions, but on Tuesday their wrestling teams formed an unlikely coalition at the United Nations to keep their sport in the Olympics.

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The International Olympic Committee's 15-member executive board sparked outcry in February when it voted to recommend that wrestling be dropped from the 2020 Olympic program in a bid to modernize the event.

The committee will make a final decision in Buenos Aires in September on which sport will get the final spot in a revamped line-up for 2020. Wrestling is battling against baseball and softball, karate, rollersports, wushu martial arts, wakeboarding, squash and climbing.

Wrestlers from Russia, Iran and the United States held a news conference at U.N. headquarters and weighed in ahead of a competition at New York's Grand Central Terminal on Wednesday designed to draw attention to a global "Keep Olympic Wrestling" campaign.

 

"Sport provides a common bond for countries who do not always see eye to eye," said Mike Novogratz, chairman of Beat the Streets, a wrestling program for disadvantaged New York City children that will benefit from funds raised by the competition.

"Sport is the foundation for good," said Rich Bender, USA Wrestling Executive Director. "Russia, the United States and Iran really are the three best wrestling nations ... and certainly our friendship goes pretty deep through wrestling."

Wrestling was contested in the first modern Olympics in 1896 and was part of the ancient Games in Olympia. It is still on the Olympic program for 2016 in Rio.

"Where I come from wrestling is not just a sport, it is a part of culture and history," said Iranian wrestling coach and Olympic gold medal winner Rasoul Khadem. "In order to save wrestling in the Olympics it is the want and the desire of people that have lived the sport ... for hundreds of years."

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Assistant manager Platt leaves Manchester City

Assistant coach David Platt has left Manchester City following the sacking of manager Roberto Mancini on Monday, the Premier League club said on their website (www.mcfc.co.uk).

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"David was offered the opportunity to continue his work with us but has declined the invitation. He has decided to leave his role with his close friend Roberto Mancini," City said.

"David has made a significant contribution to the club's success since joining in 2010 and we wish him well with his career wherever that now takes him."

Platt, 46, and Italian Mancini were team mates in Serie A at Sampdoria, then managed by Sven-Goran Eriksson, in the 1990s after the England midfielder had spells at Bari and Juventus.

 

Platt, who also played for Aston Villa and Arsenal, returned to Sampdoria as manager before taking charge of Nottingham Forest and then the England Under-21s from 2001 to 2004.

(Writing by Ken Ferris; editing by Robert Woodward)

Finns edge Latvia to top group, U.S. lose to Slovakia

Antti Pihlstrom's overtime winner completed Finland's comeback from a goal down against Latvia, allowing them to snatch a 3-2 victory in their group at the world ice hockey championships in Helsinki on Tuesday.

The victory lifted the Finns above Russia in the Helsinki group and set them up for a quarter-final meeting at home to Slovakia on Thursday.

 

Beaten finalists in 2012, Slovakia left it late to progress from their group, booking their quarter-final spot by beating the United States 4-1 in their final pool match in Helsinki.

That result means the United States, who finished third in the Helsinki group, will face a tough quarter-final test against defending champions Russia, who suffered two surprising defeats en route to second place in the Helsinki group.

In Stockholm, Martin Bieber had one goal and one assist as Switzerland beat Belarus 4-1 to round off their best performance in the group stages at the world championships.

The Swiss fired 40 shots at the Belarus goal en route to their seventh straight victory as they secured victory in the Stockholm group.

Their reward is a quarter-final meeting with the Czech Republic, who hammered Norway 7-0 to secure fourth spot in the same group.

In the late game in the Swedish capital the Sedin brothers, Daniel and Henrik, both scored as Sweden saw off Denmark 4-2 and booked a quarter-final meeting at home to Canada on Thursday.

The Sedins were playing their first game of the tournament, having arrived over the weekend from NHL duty with the Vancouver Canucks. Sweden finished in third place in their group, behind Switzerland and Canada and ahead of the Czech Republic.

Christian Ehrhoff scored twice for Germany, including an overtime winner, as they beat France 3-2, but Slovakia's win meant the Germans finished the group in fifth place, missing out on the quarter-finals by one point.

Co-host cities Stockholm and Helsinki will stage two quarter-finals each on Thursday, before the focus switches to the Swedish capital for the semi-finals and final on Saturday and Sunday.

(Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by John Mehaffey)

Serena gains sisterly revenge on Robson in Rome

World number one Serena Williams inflicted swift revenge on behalf of her older sister when she beat Britain's Laura Robson 6-2 6-2 in the Rome Masters on Tuesday.

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Venus Williams was despatched in straight sets by Robson in Monday's first round but Serena, fresh from her defeat of Maria Sharapova in the Madrid Open final at the weekend, was a different proposition once she had warmed up.

 

Robson broke serve in the opening game but the American quickly hit her stride to take the first set. Robson battled hard early in the second to reach 2-2 but then folded in the face of Williams' power and placement.

Robson's second service was picked apart by Williams and the Briton did her chances no good with eight double faults.

"It was a good match - she played really well and really smart," said Wiliams. "She's just a great player and I think she has such a big future...

"I've played lots of matches, but I'm the kind of player who likes to keep playing matches, at least now in my career," Williams said of her current 20-match winning streak. "I just want to keep the confidence there."

Despite being handed a tennis lesson, 19-year-old Robson said she wanted to play Williams again soon.

"She's number one in the world for a reason. She played really well today (and) didn't give me many opportunities," Robson said on the official Tour website (www.wtatennis.com).

"I thought it could have been a little bit closer - I had some break points I didn't take advantage of - but it was a learning experience and hopefully I'll play her again soon."

DJOKOVIC RECOVERS

Novak Djokovic, the men's world number one, bounced back from last week's shock defeat in Madrid to ease past Albert Montanes 6-2 6-3 in the second round.

Djokovic lost in three sets to Grigor Dimitrov at the same stage on the Madrid clay but a repeat was not on the cards in Rome once the Serb recovered from losing an early service game.

Second seed Roger Federer, who failed to get past the third round in Madrid, also hit the ground running against Italy's Potito Starace and closed out a 6-1 6-2 win in 51 minutes.

From 2-1 down, Djokovic took the first set without losing another game and broke the Spaniard early in the second.

"This win means a lot to me because I didn't have a great week in Madrid. I didn't play much, I didn't practise much," said Djokovic, who is already planning for the French Open and Wimbledon.

"I worked very hard to prepare for this tournament. I need to be emotionally and physically fit and I think I'm heading in the right direction."

Federer, beaten by Djokovic in last year's Rome semi-finals, was at his smoothest against Starace and showed no ill-effects from his shock defeat by Japan's Kei Nishikori last week.

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"I was not very happy with my performance in Madrid and I had no choice but to hit the practice courts," said the Swiss who honed his serve-volley game against his Italian opponent.

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Djokovic and Montanes followed Dimitrov on court in Rome after the Bulgarian's 6-4 6-4 defeat by ninth seed Richard Gasquet of France.

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South Africa's Kevin Anderson removed Marin Cilic, the 11th seed, 6-3 7-6 also in the second round while 12th seed Nicolas Almagro and Tommy Haas (13) went out in opening-round matches.

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Also in the women's draw Caroline Wozniacki, seeded 10, and 15th seed Ana Ivanovic failed to clear the first round.

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Wozniacki led 4-0 in the third set against Bojana Jovanovski and served for the match at 5-4 but her Serbian opponent, who had lost her last eight matches before this, fought back to claim the second top-10 scalp of her career.

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Fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland took the first set in her second-round match with Romania's Simona Halep but won just three games in the next two to go down 6-7 6-1 6-2. Her sister, Urszula, had a better day, beating Ivanovic 6-3 2-6 6-2.

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(Writing by Robert Woodward in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ken Ferris)

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America's Cup regatta to go on following fatal accident

The America's Cup sailing regatta will go ahead, organizers said on Tuesday, following concerns about safety due to the death of a sailor in a training accident last week.

Regatta organizers said they hope within two weeks to complete an investigation of last Thursday's accident that led to the death of British champion sailor Andrew Simpson, a two-time Olympic medalist. Simpson was trapped underwater after the Artemis Racing team's 72-foot catamaran capsized and broke apart in a training run.

"The America's Cup remains on track and racing will take place this summer," Tom Ehman, vice commodore of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, told reporters. "We have every reason to believe all four teams will be continuing."

Artemis' accident followed numerous warnings about the safety of the sleek, high-tech catamarans, called AC72s, and it marked the second time that one of the boats, estimated to cost around $8 million each, foundered amid the heavy winds and rip currents of San Francisco Bay.

 

Among other factors, investigators will look at the structure of Artemis' "Big Red" yacht, which Regatta Director Iain Murray said differed significantly from the catamarans of other competitors.

Teams in the America's Cup are required to stay within rules governing the design of their yachts but they also have leeway to customize their vessels with hydrofoils and other technology.

"It doesn't get up and foil like all the other AC72s. It was obviously different to all the other boats," Murray said of Artemis' catamaran. "The design and structural concept is undertaken by the teams, and the reward and risk is on the teams."

Artemis' previously suffered a damaged sail and earlier this year made modifications to the yacht after performing poorly compared to Oracle's team in San Francisco Bay.

Citing safety concerns since the accident, a German sailing federation has withdrawn its support for a German youth team competing in a regatta that uses smaller versions of the AC72s alongside the America's Cup. But Murray said the youth team members want to compete and are looking for new backers.

While Artemis and Oracle Team USA, backed by Oracle Corp chief executive and billionaire Larry Ellison, have been sailing the boats in San Francisco Bay for months, other teams are only just establishing the bases they will use as they practice and compete through the series of races that begins in July and goes into September.

In October, an Oracle Team USA catamaran flipped and was swept under the Golden Gate bridge and out to sea. No one was hurt in that accident, but the boat required millions of dollars and months to repair.

Artemis has a second yacht that it has yet to launch in San Francisco Bay. Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Challenge, the other two teams, have only one boat each, and a mishap could knock them out of the competition.

(Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

Pacers smother Knicks again in 93-82 win

Indiana grabbed a 3-1 lead over the New York Knicks in their Eastern Conference second round series on Tuesday, the Pacers suffocating the Knicks on defense and winning the battle of the boards en route to a 93-82 victory.

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Game Five is in New York on Thursday when the Knicks will have to win to stay alive in the series, while the Pacers can reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

 

The Knicks, who scored just 71 points in an 11-point loss on Saturday, failed to show much sign of urgency on Tuesday and trailed by 14 at halftime.

George Hill scored 26 points for Indiana, who outrebounded the Knicks 54-36 and held them to just 35 percent shooting from the field.

Carmelo Anthony scored a team-high 24 points and had nine rebounds but made just nine of 23 shots, while a misfiring J.R. Smith shot 7-for-22.

Paul George added 18 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists for Indiana, who are a perfect 5-0 at home in the playoffs.

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Spurs whip Warriors, on brink of West final

The San Antonio Spurs routed visiting Golden State 109-91 on Tuesday to grab a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference second round series.

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The Spurs had squandered an eight-point advantage in the fourth quarter of Game Four to let the Warriors even the series, but they much more clinical back at home in the AT&T Center where they only briefly trailed in the first quarter.

 

Tony Parker recorded 25 points and 10 assists while Tim Duncan had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs, who will try to close out the series in Game Six on Thursday at Golden State.

Harrison Barnes led the Warriors with 25 points and Jarrett Jack had 20 but Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who had erupted for huge games earlier in the Western Conference semi-final, combined for 13 points and made one three-pointer between them.

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Cabrera helps Blue Jays bring down Giants

Toronto's Melky Cabrera went 4-for-5 with two RBIs against his former team as the Blue Jays outslugged San Francisco 10-6 on Tuesday.

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Cabrera signed with the Blue Jays (16-24) in the off-season after his spell with the Giants ended with a 50-game suspension for using performance enhancing drugs last season.

 

Toronto starter R.A. Dickey pitched six innings and struck out 10 to get the win and snap San Francisco's (23-16) three-game win streak snapped.

In other Major League action, the New York Yankees rallied to beat Seattle 4-3 after Mariners ace Felix Hernandez exited with an injury.

Hernandez, who leads the American League with a 1.53 ERA, tweaked his back in the sixth inning and left with a 3-1 lead.

The Yankees surged into the lead in the seventh, tying the game with a two-run double from Robinson Cano and moving ahead on a Lyle Overbay sacrifice-fly.

CC Sabathia struck out 10 batters in 6 1/3 innings but took a no-decision for the AL East leading Yankees (25-14).

Two of baseball's leading pitchers stayed undefeated as Tampa Bay's Matt Moore improved to an AL-best 7-0 while Arizona's Patrick Corbin moved to 6-0.

Moore struck out eight in six innings and allowed three runs in the Rays' 5-3 win over Boston, while 23-year-old left-hander Corbin tossed seven scoreless innings in the Diamondbacks' 2-0 shutout of Atlanta.

At the plate, Carlos Gonzalez went 5-for-5 with two home runs to lead Colorado past the Chicago Cubs 9-4 while Andrew McCutchen blasted the game-winning home run in the 12th to lift Pittsburgh to a 4-3 triumph over Milwaukee.

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Swiss TV apologizes for fake crowd noise at deserted derby

Swiss broadcaster SRF has apologized for adding fake crowd noise to try and liven up its coverage of Sunday's Zurich derby, which kicked off in a near deserted stadium.

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Viewers of the edited highlights were baffled to hear chanting at the start of the FC Zurich-Grasshoppers game even though pictures showed that almost nobody was present in the Letzigrund stadium for kickoff due to a protest by fans.

 

"In order to make the report as attractive as possible, the chants of the fans were subsequently edited into highlights of the game," SRF said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The decision was taken under great time pressure. It was wrong, we apologize for it. Manipulation of sounds or images is not allowed."

Fans of both teams agreed to enter the stadium 10 minutes after the start of the match in protest at tighter security measures aimed at combating hooliganism.

(Reporting by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by John O'Brien)

Soccer: Lyon women's team offer Cup replay after referee's error

Olympique Lyon have offered to replay their women's French Cup semi-final against Montpellier after going through on penalties thanks to a refereeing mistake, they said on Wednesday.

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Twice women's Champions League winners Lyon won 6-5 on penalties following a 1-1 draw after the referee had ruled out Montpellier's final attempt in the shootout.

However, TV replays showed the ball had crossed the line after hitting the post and bouncing against the keeper's arm.

 

"Olympique Lyon confirm they have offered Montpellier a replay of their French Cup semi-final... (for reasons of) fair-play and taking into account the good relationship between the clubs," they said in a statement.

"They (the women's team) have done it like Arsenal and their coach Arsene Wenger did in 1999," Lyon added, referring to an FA Cup fifth round game against Sheffield United at Highbury.

Wenger offered to replay a game Arsenal won 2-1 having scored the second goal after the ball was put into touch by United so one of their players could be treated for an injury.

Arsenal's Nigeria forward Kanu, unaware a United player needed attention, received the ball from the resulting throw-in, broke down the right and squared for Marc Overmars to score.

Wenger was later presented with a fair play award by European soccer's governing body UEFA for his gesture.

Lyon's women have already clinched their seventh consecutive French league title this season with maximum points. They defend their European crown against Germany's Wolfsburg on May 23.

(Reporting by Andre Assier; Writing by Gregory Blachier; Editing by Ken Ferris)

Honda to return to F1 in 2015 with McLaren: sources

Honda will return to Formula One in 2015 as McLaren engine partners, replacing Mercedes, sources close to the company said on Wednesday.

Honda's Chief Executive Takanobu Ito is set to make an official announcement as early as Thursday, one of the sources added.

The Japanese automaker quit the sport at the end of 2008, handing over their team to then-principal Ross Brawn who went on to win both titles in 2009 with Mercedes-powered Brawn GP.

 

One source said Honda hoped Formula One's new engine regulations for 2014 would help develop technology for its mass volume road cars, adding: "That incubator aspect of the sport makes Honda's participation worthwhile."

Formula One is set to introduce a new 1.6 liter V6 engine next year aided by high-power turbo technology with energy recovery systems.

The news about Honda's return to Formula One was reported earlier on Wednesday in Japanese media including public broadcaster NHK and Asahi newspaper.

"There is nothing we can say at the moment," Honda spokesman Shigeki Endo said.

McLaren are committed to using engines made by Mercedes, their former shareholders, next year but have not revealed their plans for beyond that date. A team spokesman had no comment on the reports.

The link-up with McLaren, the second most successful team in the sport after Ferrari in terms of race wins and drivers' titles, would revive one of the greatest Formula One partnerships.

Honda had little success with their own team but powered McLaren to multiple championships with the late Brazilian triple champion Ayrton Senna and French four times champion Alain Prost between 1988 and 1992.

The partnership in 1988 was the most dominant in Formula One history, with Senna and Prost winning 15 of the 16 races.

The sources said Honda also hoped renewed participation in the sport will help boost vehicle sales, especially in Japan, Asia and Europe where Formula One is popular.

The two sources declined to be named as they were not authorized to speak about the matter.

Honda made its Formula One debut at the 1964 German Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring. The company's first grand prix win came just a year later at the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix in Mexico City and they then withdrew after the 1968 season.

They returned to the sport as an engine provider in 1983 and departed again in 1992.

In 2000, Honda made a comeback with BAR, which then became the Honda team in 2006. The only success in that period was Jenson Button's 2006 win in Hungary.

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Button, world champion in 2009, is now a McLaren driver along with Mexican Sergio Perez.

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(Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing and Yoko Kubota in Tokyo, editing by Alan Baldwin and Alison Wildey)

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Soccer: Man charged with murder after death of Fenerbahce fan

A 20-year-old man has been charged with murder after a Fenerbahce fan was stabbed to death on Sunday at an Istanbul bus station hours after a tense soccer derby against arch-rivals Galatasaray.

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The suspect was caught after he fled Istanbul by bus, Dogan news agency reported on Wednesday.

Police said the accused man did not know his victim, 19-year-old Burak Yildirim.

"His only motive behind the murder seems to be the football rivalry, which is really sad," Istanbul police chief Huseyin Capkin told reporters.

Capkin said on Monday that the suspect's uncle had given police officers a blood-stained Galatasaray jersey.

More than one hundred people were detained after the game, which Fenerbahce won 2-1 at home. The tense atmosphere on the pitch resulted in two red cards and Galatasaray striker Didier Drogba and Ivory Coast team mate Emmanuel Eboue were heckled.

Fenerbahce are second in the league behind Galatasaray, who wrapped up the title three weeks before the end of the season.

(Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Clare Fallon)

Mistake led to Georges' failed dope test: team

French AG2R rider Sylvain Georges's positive test at the Giro d'Italia occurred because he mistakenly took a performance-enhancing drug, team director Vincent Lavenu said on Wednesday.

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Georges tested positive for the stimulant Heptaminol in a sample taken on May 10, the International Cycling Union (UCI) had earlier said in a statement.

 

"I just talked to him on the phone. He told me he had used a product because he had heavy legs, thinking it was harmless," Lavenu told Reuters.

"There was no intention to dope. But it's a silly mistake that hurts him and the whole team. The consequences are disastrous compared to the original action."

Georges pulled out of the Giro before Wednesday's stage 11 and would not ride again until the issue was settled, said Lavenu, whose team are part of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MCCC), that has a strong anti-doping stance.

The 29-year-old Georges, who won a stage of the Tour of California last year, has not been given a provisional ban by the UCI because under the governing body's anti-doping rules Heptaminol is a specified substance and can be used in certain circumstances.

The drug widens blood vessels and can be used in the treatment of low blood pressure.

Georges has the right to request and attend the analysis of his B sample.

"As far as I know, he has already done so," Lavenu said.

(Reporting Gregory Blachier; Editing by Ken Ferris and Alison Wildey)

Motor racing's Ecclestone denies bribery in German case: lawyers

Lawyers for Formula One Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone reiterated on Wednesday that he had not bribed a German banker during the 2005-2006 sale of a stake in the motor racing business, after a newspaper reported he had been charged by prosecutors.

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German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Wednesday that prosecutors had charged the 82-year-old Briton, who has turned the sport into a global money maker over the past three decades, with bribery and inciting others to a fiduciary breach of trust.

 

"The documents with the charges from the Munich prosecutor's office have not yet been received by the defense," said German law firm Thomas Deckers Wehnert Elsner, acting for Ecclestone.

"Therefore, we cannot provide a statement. The defense sticks to its view that Mr. Ecclestone has neither committed bribery nor played any part in committing a fiduciary breach of trust," added the firm, based in the German city of Duesseldorf.

The Munich prosecutor's office declined to comment on the Sueddeutsche Zeitung report. On Monday, it said it had finished its investigation of Ecclestone, but declined to comment on what it might do next.

In an interview with German daily Bild-Zeitung, Ecclestone ruled out that he would resign as head of Formula One.

"The shareholders will have to make that decision. Once my contract with the company expires, they can replace me if they want," Ecclestone said, according to Bild, in a report due to be published on Thursday.

Bild also reported that Ecclestone denied the charges against him:

"I am innocent. The truth will prevail in the end."

Under the German legal system, once a preliminary investigation has been completed, prosecutors need to decide whether to press ahead with charges or drop the matter. Prosecutors could also drop the proceedings in exchange for a "non-penal payment."

At issue is whether Ecclestone bribed a German banker in a business deal in which lender BayernLB sold a 48 percent stake in a Formula One holding company to CVC, a private equity investor that Ecclestone was keen to see as a new shareholder.

Ecclestone made payments to Gerhard Gribkowsky, BayernLB's former chief risk officer, who has since been jailed for tax evasion. BayernLB had ended up with the Formula One stake following the bankruptcy of the media empire of Leo Kirch. BayernLB assigned Gribkowsky with the task of hiving it off.

In June last year, Ecclestone denied the payments to Gribkowsky amounted to bribes. Instead, he told a Munich court in November 2011 that he paid Gribkowsky to "keep him quiet" after the German put him under pressure over his tax affairs, and not to smooth the sale to CVC.

CVC owned a 63 percent stake in Formula One, but has since cut that to around 35 percent in a series of deals.

Ecclestone told Reuters last month that the company behind Formula One could be floated in Singapore at the end of this year.

(Reporting by Ed Taylor and Marilyn Gerlach in Frankfurt; Writing by Keith Weir; Editing by Mark Potter and Jan Paschal)

Horse racing: Dettori says he took cocaine

Italian jockey Frankie Dettori has revealed he took cocaine before a positive dope test in France last September that brought him a six months ban.

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In an interview with Channel Four television to be broadcast on Thursday, the British-based jockey - one of the biggest names in flat racing - was asked why he took cocaine and in what circumstances.

"Things were going bad, I was depressed and I guess a moment of weakness and I fell for it and I've only got myself to blame. I can't blame anybody else," he said in a preview released by the broadcaster.

 

Dettori, who won all seven races in a single afternoon at Ascot in 1996, said he was so ashamed and embarrassed when the news broke that he hid in his house for a week.

"The paparazzi outside. The embarrassment of telling the children, you know. You know they still go to school, they might get bullied and so it was a very, very difficult time," he continued.

The interview was Dettori's first since he was suspended from December 19 by the French racing authority France Galop after the positive test for a previously unidentified substance at Longchamp.

The ban expires on May 19.

"I'm very ashamed and embarrassed, and paid a big price for it, you know. I spent six months not doing the thing that I love, racing," said Dettori.

Dettori will return as a freelance rider after it was announced in October that he would no longer be a retained jockey for Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin operation after an 18-year association.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer)

Cycling: Lithuanian Navardauskas wins stage 11, Nibali leads

Lithuanian Ramunas Navardauskas claimed a solo victory on the summit finish of stage 11 at the Giro d'Italia on Wednesday while Italian Vincenzo Nibali retained the overall lead.

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The Garmin-Sharp rider shook off his closest pursuer, Italian Daniel Oss, to go clear five km from the finish line at Vajont.

Oss finished in second place, just over a minute back, with Italian Stefano Pirazzi third.

 

Italy's Vincenzo Nibali of Astana remains the overall leader, finishing safely in the main pack of contenders about five minutes back, with Australia's Cadel Evans in second spot and Colombia's Rigoberto Uran third.

The Giro finishes in Brescia on May 26.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

Venezuelan Ubeto tests positive for high-risk drug

Venezuelan Miguel Ubeto Aponte has been provisionally suspended, the International Cycling Union said on Wednesday after a positive test for a drug the World Anti-Doping Agency has warned poses serious health risks.

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Ubeto, who joined Lampre this year, returned a sample that showed traces of GW1516, also known as GW501516, following an out-of-competition test taken on April 16, the UCI said in a statement.

 

"The provisional suspension of Mr. Miguel Ubeto Aponte remains in force until a hearing panel convened by the Venezuelan Cycling Federation determines whether he has committed an anti-doping rule violation," the UCI said.

Ubeto can ask to have the B sample tested.

WADA issued a warning about the once developmental drug in March, saying it had been withdrawn from research but was available on the black market and contained "serious toxicities".

A Lampre team statement said: "Ubeto Aponte had not yet made ​​his debut with the team jersey, due to an injury.

"While waiting to receive information and any clarification from Ubeto Aponte and evaluate additional measures, the team reiterates its support for all efforts to make cycling more clean and credible, severely condemning any behavior violating anti-doping rules."

European track champion Valery Kaikov of Russia last month became become the first rider to test positive for GW1516.

(Writing by Gregory Blachier; Editing by Alison Wildey)

Murray doubtful for French Open with back injury

Andy Murray is a doubt for the French Open after suffering a lower back problem that forced the world number two to retire from the Italian Open on his 26th birthday on Wednesday.

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Murray retired from the contest against Spain's Marcel Granollers moments after leveling the second-round match by winning the second set having already had treatment on court.

"I pulled out because there is a good chance I wouldn't be playing tomorrow. We'll have to wait for Paris. I'd be very surprised if I were playing in Paris," he said.

"I need to make plans and see what to do. Tonight I'll speak with the physio and come up with a plan for the next few days and then make a decision on Paris after the next five days."

 

The French Open starts on May 26.

"I'll need to take some days off and see how it settles down, but a few days can make a difference," Murray was quoted as saying on the official ATP website (www.atpworldtour.com).

"I'll try and get it sorted but it has been an issue for some while," said Murray. "So I want to make sure that it's something that I can sort out. It's not enjoyable to play now."

Murray, who lost the opening set 6-3 to Granollers, won the second 7-6 but retired having needed treatment on court after the third game of the second set with the Spaniard leading 2-1.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ken Ferris and Alison Wildey)

Cosmonauts tackle equipment installation outside space station

A pair of Russian cosmonauts wrapped up a 6-1/2 hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Friday, the first of up to eight outings this year to install experiments and prepare the orbital outpost for a new module, officials said.

Flight engineers Pavel Vinogradov, 59, a veteran of seven spacewalks and Roman Romanenko, 41, a second-generation cosmonaut on his debut spacewalk, floated outside the station's airlock at 10:03 a.m. EDT/1403 GMT as the station soared 262 miles over the southern Pacific Ocean.

The primary purpose of the 6-1/2 hour excursion was to set up an experiment that monitors plasma waves in Earth's ionosphere, the outer layer of the planet's atmosphere that extends to about 370 miles into space.

Instruments on two boxes attached to handrails on the forward portion of the station's Zvezda module will measure low-frequency electromagnetic radiation, which, among other triggers, has been tied to earthquakes.

At the other end of the Zvezda module, Vinogradov and Romanenko replaced a faulty laser retroreflector that is part of an automated docking system used by the European Space Agency's cargo transports. The next ship is due to launch in June.

 

Before heading back into the station, the cosmonauts retrieved another experiment designed to study how microbes affect spacecraft structures and whether microbes are affected by solar activity.

The day's only glitch occurred just before the men wrapped up their six-hour, 38-minute spacewalk. Vinogradov lost his grip on a science experiment that was slated to be returned to Earth. It floated away in the gravity-free world of space.

The lost aluminum panel, which measured about 18 inches by 12 inches and weighed about 6.5 pounds (3 kg), had been anchored outside the station to test how various metals wear in the harsh space environment.

It floated off in the direction of the Zvezda module's solar arrays, but engineers determined it did not hit or threaten the station, NASA mission commentator Rob Navias said.

A second panel remains attached to the outside of the station and is slated to be retrieved on a later spacewalk.

"So all is not lost," Navias said. "It was a minor fly in the ointment to what has been a successful spaceflight up that moment."

While his crewmates worked outside, station commander Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut, had the less glamorous task of replacing a pump separator in one of the station's toilets.

Two more spacewalks by Russian cosmonauts are scheduled for June to prepare for the arrival of a Russian laboratory and docking module that is to be launched in December.

The station, which is staffed by rotating crews of six astronauts and cosmonauts, is a $100 billion research outpost owned by the United States and Russia in partnership with Europe, Japan and Canada.

(Editing by Eric Walsh, Kevin Gray and Stacey Joyce)

Last-minute glitch postpones debut of new U.S. rocket

A U.S. company hired by NASA to fly cargo to the International Space Station canceled plans to launch its new Antares rocket on a demonstration mission on Wednesday after a last-minute technical glitch, officials said.

The 13-story rocket developed by Orbital Sciences Corp had been slated to lift off from a new commercial spaceport in Virginia at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) and place a dummy cargo capsule into orbit.

 

The test flight is expected to clear the way for the company's trial cargo run to the International Space Station later this year.

If successful, Orbital Sciences would then start working on an eight-flight, $1.9 billion contract to fly supplies to the station for NASA.

About 12 minutes before launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia, an umbilical line on the rocket's upper-stage fell away prematurely, prompting a cancellation, said NASA launch commentator Kyle Herring.

The next launch attempt is targeted for no earlier than Friday, although weather at the Wallops Island Flight Facility could be a problem. Meteorologists are forecasting high winds and possible thunderstorms.

"You learn a little bit from every launch attempt," John Steinmeyer, a senior project manager with Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences, said during a NASA TV broadcast. "We'll take the lessons learned from today and move into another attempt as soon as it's safe to do so."

The company is one of two hired by NASA after the space shuttles were retired to fly cargo to the station, a $100 billion project of 15 nations that flies about 250 miles above the Earth.

Privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, completed its test flights in 2010 and has successfully carried out two of 12 planned cargo runs to the station for NASA under a $1.6 billion contract.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz in Cape Canaveral, Florida; Editing by Kevin Gray and Mohammad Zargham)

Bad weather again keeps new U.S. rocket on the ground

The test-launch of a new U.S. rocket to fly cargo to the International Space Station was canceled on Saturday due to a second day of poor weather at the Wallops Island, Virginia, launch site, officials said.

Liftoff of the Orbital Sciences Corp's Antares rocket was rescheduled for 5 p.m EDT on Sunday.

 

"Excessive wind levels have caused mission managers to delay the launch attempt (Saturday) of Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket at the Wallops Flight Facility, Va.," NASA wrote on its website.

"We will try again tomorrow," Orbital Sciences wrote on Twitter.

The Virginia-based company is one of two firms hired by NASA to keep the station stocked with food, supplies and science gear for the six live-aboard crewmembers following the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011.

Privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, completed two test flights of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo capsules and last year began delivery services under a 12-flight, $1.6-billion contract.

Orbital Sciences plans to follow up its Antares demonstration flight with a practice run to the station later this year. The company holds a $1.9-billion contract for eight station cargo runs. The Cygnus capsule is larger than Dragon and can carry more cargo.

Orbital Sciences initially planned to launch its 13-story- tall Antares rocket on Wednesday, but 12 minutes before liftoff engineers discovered that a data cable on the booster's upper-stage motor had disconnected.

A second launch attempt slated for Friday was called off because of poor weather.

Antares carries a dummy Cygnus cargo capsule that is expected to be put into orbit about 160 miles above Earth. The space station, a $100 billion project of 15 nations, flies at an altitude of about 250 miles. Reaching the station will be the goal of Orbital Sciences' second and final test flight later this year.

In addition to the cargo resupply contracts, NASA contributed about $684 million to Orbital Sciences and SpaceX to develop and test their spacecraft.

The U.S. space agency, which is working on a heavy-lift rocket and capsule to fly astronauts beyond the station's orbit, also is backing SpaceX, Boeing, and privately owned Sierra Nevada Corp to develop commercial spaceships to taxi crews to the station, a service currently provided solely by Russia at a cost of more than $60 million per person.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

New U.S. rocket blasts off from Virginia launch pad

A privately owned rocket built in partnership with NASA to haul cargo to the International Space Station blasted off on Sunday for a debut test flight from a new commercial spaceport in Virginia.

The 13-story Antares rocket, developed and flown by Orbital Sciences Corp, lifted off at 5 p.m. EDT from a Virginia-owned and operated launch pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.

 

"Beautiful view," said NASA launch commentator Kyle Herring as live video from the rocket, broadcast on NASA TV, showed the booster riding atop a bright plume of fire above the Atlantic Ocean.

Ten minutes later, the rocket deposited its payload - a 8,380-pound (3,800-kg) dummy capsule - into an orbit 158 miles above the planet, fulfilling the primary goal of the test flight.

Orbital Sciences and privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, hold NASA contracts worth a combined $3.5 billion to fly cargo to the space station, a $100 billion research outpost that flies about 250 miles above Earth.

On its next flight, scheduled for late June or early July, another Antares rocket will carry a Cygnus cargo ship on a demonstration mission to the station.

California-based SpaceX completed three test flights and last year began delivering cargo to the station under its $1.6 billion contract.

The debut of Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket was delayed by the construction of its launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, located on the southern end of NASA's Wallops Island facility. NASA has flown thousands of smaller suborbital rockets, high-altitude balloons and research aircraft from Wallops over the past 68 years.

Standing 130 feet tall and packing 740,000 pounds of thrust at liftoff, Antares is the largest rocket to fly from Wallops Island. In addition to station cargo runs, Orbital Sciences has a separate contract to launch a NASA moon probe aboard a Minotaur 5 rocket from Wallops in August.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz in Cape Canaveral, Florida; Editing by Eric Beech)

New U.S. rocket blasts off from Virginia launch pad

A privately owned rocket built in partnership with NASA to haul cargo to the International Space Station blasted off on Sunday for a debut test flight from a new commercial spaceport in Virginia.

The 13-story Antares rocket, developed and flown by Orbital Sciences Corp, lifted off at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) from a Virginia-owned and operated launch pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.

 

"Beautiful view," said NASA launch commentator Kyle Herring as live video from the rocket, broadcast on NASA TV, showed the booster riding atop a bright plume of fire above the Atlantic Ocean.

Ten minutes later, the rocket deposited its payload - a 8,380-pound (3,800-kg) dummy capsule - into an orbit 158 miles above the planet, fulfilling the primary goal of the test flight.

Orbital Sciences and privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, hold NASA contracts worth a combined $3.5 billion to fly cargo to the space station, a $100 billion research outpost that flies about 250 miles above Earth.

NASA turned to commercial suppliers after retiring the space shuttles in 2011.

Flight controllers radioed news of Antares' successful debut to the station crew shortly after launch.

"Wahoo, that's super," replied station commander Chris Hadfield, with the Canadian Space Agency.

"Congratulations to all concerned. That bodes well for all of our futures," Hadfield said.

On its next flight, scheduled for late June or early July, another Antares rocket will carry a Cygnus cargo ship on a demonstration mission to the station.

California-based SpaceX completed three test flights and last year began delivering cargo to the station under its $1.6 billion contract.

'A LONG SLOG'

The debut of Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket was delayed by the construction of its launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, located on the southern end of NASA's Wallops Island facility. Two launch attempts last week were canceled due to a last-minute technical problem followed by bad weather at the launch site.

"It's been a long slog," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said after the launch. "It's absolutely incredible what this team has done."

NASA's share of developing the Antares rocket and Cygnus capsule will total about $288 million upon successful completion of the second and final planned test flight.

Combined, NASA and Orbital Sciences spent about $300 million to develop Cygnus and slightly more than that to develop the rocket, Orbital Sciences Executive Vice President Frank Culbertson told reporters after the launch.

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"As a company it was a huge risk to invest in this," he said. "But I think it's going to demonstrate a commercial capability that will pay off in the long run."

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"With the right people pulling together and with great teammates, we were able to achieve this. We're real happy," Culbertson said.

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NASA's contribution to SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo capsule development was $396 million.

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Standing 130 feet tall and packing 740,000 pounds of thrust at liftoff, Antares was the largest rocket to fly from Wallops Island, which has been operating for 68 years as a launch site for smaller suborbital rockets, high-altitude balloons and research aircraft.

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In addition to station cargo runs, Orbital Sciences has a separate contract to launch a NASA moon probe aboard a Minotaur 5 rocket from Wallops in August.

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(Reporting by Irene Klotz in Cape Canaveral, Florida; Editing by Eric Beech)

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Slow is scary if France quits nuclear : state institute

A long slow retreat from nuclear power in France or indecision over policy could be very risky as skilled staff retire and young people reject careers with an uncertain future, the state-funded atomic safety research institute said.

If France does decide to pull out of atomic energy it should follow Germany's example and do it quickly, or face operating with inadequate personnel, said Jacques Repussard, who heads the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN).

 

"You can't spread the exit of nuclear over half a century. It's very dangerous," he said, adding that this consideration partly explained Germany's decision to opt for a fast exit to avoid a loss of skills.

France's state-owned utility EDF, which operates its 58 nuclear reactors, faces a wave of retirements and will have to replace half its nuclear staff by 2017-18.

While Socialist President Francois Hollande has undertaken to cut the country's reliance on atomic energy to 50 percent of electricity consumption by 2025, from 75 percent now, he has not made clear what would happen after that date.

"If, in the next 10 years, there is no clarity on what the future of nuclear energy will be, we will inevitably see a trend in our universities of young people saying: 'I don't want to do that line of work'," Repussard told Reuters in an interview at one of its research centers in the south of France.

As part of the reduction drive in France, the world's most nuclear-reliant country, the government has announced that Fessenheim in the east, its oldest nuclear plant, will shut by the end of 2016.

While the government has allowed EDF to pursue building its first next-generation nuclear reactor in Flamanville in northwestern France, it abandoned the previous government's project to build another reactor at Penly in Normandy.

Germany decided to shut all its nuclear reactors by 2022, in a policy reversal drafted in a rush after Japan's Fukushima disaster in March 2011.

CONSIDERABLE RISKS

"It was criticized and we asked ourselves how they would do it... But it's wise because doing it slowly means taking considerable risks with the last operating reactors, as finding skilled subcontractors and companies manufacturing certain parts (could become problematic)," Repussard said.

But he admitted that France, where nuclear reactors are on average 26 years old, would never consider a fast exit even though this would be the safest approach if it decided to stop building new reactors or conducting research.

Another issue for the government to consider, he said, was that generic defects would probably appear in several reactors at around the same time, leading them to stop working abruptly.

This echoed comments earlier this month by Pierre-Franck Chevet, the head of France's nuclear safety agency, who said the country needed to ensure there was enough available electricity generation capacity to cope with the sudden outage of 5 to 10 nuclear reactors.

"One day we will see wear and tear appear in the steel of core tanks... and when we see it in one, we will probably see it in all the reactors of the same generation in a short space of time," Repussard said.

Electrabel, the Belgian subsidiary of GDF Suez, has had to close two reactors in Belgium after finding possible cracks in the core tanks that house them.

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"To be 80 percent reliant on nuclear energy exposes us to that kind of situation," he added.

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(Writing by Muriel Boselli; Editing by Anthony Barker)

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Campaigners call for ban on killer robots

Machines with the ability to attack targets without any human intervention must be banned before they are developed for use on the battlefield, campaigners against "killer robots" urged on Tuesday.

The weapons, which could be ready for use within the next 20 years, would breach a moral and ethical boundary that should never be crossed, said Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, of the "Campaign To Stop Killer Robots".

 

"If war is reduced to weapons attacking without human beings in control, it is going to be civilians who are going to bear the brunt of warfare," said Williams, who won the 1997 peace prize for her work on banning landmines.

Weapons such as remotely piloted drones are already used by some armed forces and companies are working on developing systems with a greater level of autonomy in flight and operation.

"We already have a certain amount of autonomy," said Noel Sharkey, professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the University of Sheffield.

"I think we are already there. If you asked me to go and make an autonomous killer robot today, I could do it. I could have you one here in a few days," he told reporters.

But the technology is a long way off being able to distinguish between a soldier and a civilian.

"The idea of a robot being asked to exercise human judgment seems ridiculous to me," Sharkey told Reuters.

"The whole idea of robots in the battlefield muddies the waters of accountability from my perspective as a roboticist," he added.

NO INTENTION

The British government has always said it has no intention of developing such technology.

"There are no plans to replace skilled military personnel with fully autonomous systems," a Ministry of Defense spokesman told Reuters.

"Although the Royal Navy does have defensive systems, such as Phalanx, which can be used in an automatic mode to protect personnel and ships from enemy threats like missiles, a human operator oversees the entire engagement," the spokesman added.

But the organizers of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots say Britain's rejection of fully autonomous weapons is not yet watertight.

"We're concerned that there is a slide towards greater autonomy on the battlefield and unless we draw a clear line in the sand now, we may end up walking into acceptance of fully autonomous weapons," said Thomas Nash, director of non-governmental organization Article 36.

Rapid advancements in technology have allowed countries such as the United States, China, Russia, Israel and Germany to move towards systems that will soon give full combat autonomy to machines, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

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"We think that these kinds of weapons will not be able to comply with international humanitarian law," Steve Goose, Human Rights Watch executive director, told Reuters.

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(Additional reporting by Georgina Cooper; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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Hubble telescope spies incoming Comet ISON

A recently discovered comet, dazzlingly bright even though it is still almost as far away as Jupiter, is racing toward a November rendezvous with the sun, officials said on Tuesday.

If it survives the encounter - and that's a big if - the comet may be visible even in daylight in Earth's skies at the end of the year.

Discovered by amateur astronomers in September 2012, Comet ISON is about to reach the outer edge of the asteroid belt, located some 280 million miles (451 million km) from Earth, said William Cooke, lead scientist at NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

 

The comet is shedding dust from its nucleus at a rate of more than 112,000 pounds (50,802 kg) per minute, the result of heating by the sun, observations from NASA's Swift telescope show.

That level of activity is unusual for a comet still so far away from the sun. It could spell its doom.

Preliminary measurements made with the Hubble Space Telescope, which captured an image of the comet that was released on Tuesday, indicate Comet ISON's body is no more than 4 miles in diameter.

The comet's nucleus will continue to shrink as it flies closer toward the sun and heats up. The rock-and-ice object could break up completely before it gets as close as 700,000 miles (1.1 million km) from the sun's surface on November 28.

A comet in the 1970s passed 10 times farther away than that and partly disintegrated, Cooke said.

"I doubt this thing is going to survive. I guess we won't know for sure until we look for it to come out from behind the sun," he said.

The comet was named for the International Scientific Optical Network, or ISON, telescope that made its discovery.

(Editing by Jane Sutton)

Why does anything exist? Scientists find a bit of the answer

Scientists probing the nature of antimatter have found a bit more evidence to explain why the universe is not an empty husk, although not enough to account for the billions of galaxies strewn across the cosmos.

Physicists believe that equal amounts of matter and antimatter were created in the Big Bang at the birth of the universe 13.8 billion years ago. Within one second, however, the antimatter had all but disappeared.

 

That vanishing act - leaving us in a universe with a surplus of matter forming the stars, the Earth and all known life - must be due to a subtle difference between matter and antimatter.

Researchers said on Wednesday they had found tiny variations in the way a type of particle decayed into matter and antimatter during collisions in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the giant particle-smasher buried 100 meters (330 feet) underground at the foot of the Jura mountains outside Geneva.

The latest findings are the first to show that a particle known as a Bs meson has a slight preference for decaying into matter and are consistent with earlier experiments on other particles. Unfortunately, the differences are still far too small to explain the great abundance of matter around us.

"The difference that we see in the behavior of antimatter and matter only adds up to about a galaxy's worth, not half a universe," Tara Shears of the University of Liverpool, one of the physicists working on the experiment, said in an interview.

The results, which have been submitted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters, fit with the three-decade old Standard Model, which aims to describe everything known about how fundamental particles behave.

"Everything seems to add up, it is just that it doesn't come to anything near the amount of difference we need to explain the evolution of the universe," Shears said.

The CERN scientists made their new discovery after analyzing data from 70 trillion collisions between protons in one of four main experiments at the LHC.

They still have another particle to study in this experiment, but they are also ready to cast their net wider to explain the puzzling predominance of matter over antimatter.

"By studying these ... effects, we are looking for the missing pieces of the puzzle," said Pierluigi Campana, another scientist on the collaboration.

Matter and antimatter are almost identical, with the same mass but opposite electrical charges. They can form separate parts of some elementary particles but if they are mixed together both are destroyed instantaneously.

The first observation that particles can decay unevenly into matter and antimatter won two scientists at Brookhaven Laboratory in New York a Nobel Prize in 1980.

After discovering a long-sought elementary particle called the Higgs boson last summer, the giant collider run by CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, is currently being upgraded to nearly double its power by 2015.

Scientists hope the extra power will open up an entirely new realm of physics to help explain the antimatter conundrum, as well as other mysteries such as dark matter, the unseen stuff that helps to glue galaxies together.

(Editing by Kate Kelland)

Space junk needs to be removed from Earth's orbit: ESA

Space junk such as debris from rockets must be removed from the Earth's orbit to avoid crashes that could cost satellite operators millions of euros and knock out mobile and GPS networks, the European Space Agency said.

At the current density of debris, there will be an in-orbit collision about every five years, however research presented at a conference hosted by ESA in Germany showed that an increase in such junk made more collisions likely in the future.

 

Five to 10 large objects need to be collected from space a year to help cut down on smashes and stem the risk of fragments being sprayed into space that could cause more damage, it said.

Scientists estimate there are about 29,000 objects larger than 10 cm (4 inches) orbiting Earth at average speeds of 25,000 kph (15,500 mph) - about 40 times faster than airplanes travel.

At that speed, even small pieces of fast-travelling debris can damage or destroy spacecraft and satellites - which could cost billions of dollars to replace and disrupt mobile phone communication or satellite navigation.

"Within a few decades, there are going to be collisions among large objects that will create fragments that can do further damage," Heiner Klinkrad, the head of ESA's Space Debris Office, told Reuters.

"The only way to keep this from happening is to go up there and remove them," he said. "The longer you wait, the more difficult and far more expensive it is going to be."

Space debris includes any man-made litter left in space - parts of rocket launchers, inactive satellites and broken parts from past collisions.

Space agencies around the world are cooperating on space debris research, and ESA's Clean Space initiative, launched in 2012, aims to develop the technology to safely capture and remove space debris.

Researchers are looking at several different methods for removing space debris from orbit, Klinkrad said, ranging from the use of propulsion packages, conductive tethers or lasers, to nets and harpoons.

But any decision to go ahead with a mission, as well as funds to pay for it, would need to come ESA's 20 member states, which include France, Germany, Italy and Britain.

Demand for the removal of objects from orbit could eventually offer opportunities for private companies, Klinkrad said, though many issues, including legal ones, surrounding space debris would need to be settled first.

($1 = 0.7695 euros)

(Editing by Alison Williams)

Alexander Graham Bell speaks, and 2013 hears his voice

Nine years after he placed the first telephone call, Alexander Graham Bell tried another experiment: he recorded his voice on a wax-covered cardboard disc on April 15, 1885, and gave it an audio signature: "Hear my voice - Alexander Graham Bell."

The flimsy disc was silent for 138 years as part of the Smithsonian Museum's collection of early recorded sound, until digital imaging, computer science, a hand-written transcript and a bit of archival detective work confirmed it as the only known recording of Bell's voice.

 

Carlene Stephens, curator of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American history, first saw this disc and nearly 400 other audio artifacts donated by Bell when she joined the museum in 1974, but she didn't dare play them then.

"Their experimental nature and fragile condition ... made them unsuitable for playback," Stephens said by email.

"We recognized these materials were significant to the early history of sound recording, but because they were considered unplayable, we stored them away safely and hoped for the day playback technology would catch up with our interest in hearing the content," she wrote.

That day came in 2008, when Stephens learned that scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California had retrieved 10 seconds of the French folk song "Au Clair de la Lune" from a 1860 recording of sound waves made as squiggles on soot-covered paper. That was nearly two decades before Thomas Edison's oldest known playable recording, made in 1888.

If the Berkeley scientists could coax sound out of sooty paper, Stephens reckoned, perhaps they could decipher those silent records she had guarded for decades.

She contacted Carl Haber at Berkeley and Peter Alyea, a digital conversion specialist at the Library of Congress. They chose six recordings from the collection, including the one that turned out to be the Bell audio, and made ultra-high-definition three-dimensional images of them.

The Berkeley lab's scanner captures gigapixels of information, and not just width and height but the depth of the grooves, with measurements down to 100 nanometers, or 250 times smaller than the width of a human hair, Haber said by telephone.

DEEP WIGGLES

Depth is important with these old recordings, Haber said, because a lot of the information about how it sounds is stored in the deep parts of the grooves.

"It's not necessarily a groove that wiggles from side to side, it wiggles up and down," he said. "If you just took a regular (two-dimensional) picture of it, you don't get the information you need."

Haber and Berkeley colleague Earl Cornell used an algorithm to turn that image into sound, without touching the delicate disc. The system is known as IRENE/3D, short for Image, Reconstruct, Erase Noise, Etc.

Most of the recording is Bell's Scottish-accented voice saying a series of numbers, and then dollar figures, such as "three dollars and a half," "seven dollars and 29 cents" and finally, "$3,785.56."

This suggests Bell was thinking about a machine for business recording, Stephens said.

"The recording on its own is historically interesting and important," Stephens wrote. "It answers questions about Bell personally - what kind of accent did he have? (he was a Scot who lived in England, Canada and the United States) ... How did he pronounce his middle name? ('Gray-hum' not 'Gram')."

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The job of authenticating the disc began with a hand-written transcript of the recording signed by Bell (online here).

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In 2011, Patrick Feaster, an Indiana University sound-media historian, inventoried notations on the discs and cylinders in the Smithsonian's collection. Many were scratched on wax and all but illegible, Stephens recalled.

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"We then matched up one wax-and-cardboard disc, from April 15, 1885," Stephens wrote. "When we recovered sound from the recording ... the content matched the transcript word for word. It is a recording of Bell speaking."

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Similar scanners are used in quality assurance for micromanufactured products such as microchips, optical components and to assure the flatness of touch screens. Dentists use them to take three-dimensional pictures of cavities to aid in making custom fillings.

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The Berkeley lab has worked with the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress to learn more about the earliest audio records, some on tinfoil or even paper. And while Haber and his colleagues now know how to authenticate the recordings, they cannot do all the records that may exist.

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The Northeast Document Conservation Center in Massachusetts is working with the Berkeley lab on a digital reformatting service for early audio recordings. There could be as many as 46 million of these early recordings in the United States.

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The Bell recording was made at a time of creative ferment, Haber said, as Bell, Edison and others invented devices to change the way Americans communicate.

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"Those guys were creating the future," Haber said.

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(Reporting by Deborah Zabarenko; editing by Marilyn W. Thompson and Jackie Frank)

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