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AC Milan Striker M'baye Niang Suffers Car Accident

AC Milan striker M'baye Niang was involved in a car accident on Saturday night, but claimed Monday it was a minor incident in which he had been merely a passenger, reports AFP.
Earlier that evening he had helped Milan beat Torino 1-0 at home in lashing and relentless rain.
"I and my driver are both in good health. The car was aquaplaning, there was more fear than harm. Ready for the rest of the season with Milan, Forza Milan," the Frenchman, who does not have a driving licence, wrote on Twitter.
Previously, Sky Sport had reported that he would be out for two months with ankle and shoulder injuries, and that he had taken a breathalyser test, which proved negative.
In February 2014, when he was with Montpellier, Niang was given an 18 month suspended sentence for a road accident involving a Ferrari.
The player had fled and denied the charges, before spending four days in custody. The court cancelled his driving licence and banned him from the roads for three years.

The 21-year-old has had a breakthrough few months at the San Siro and has scored eight goals and provided five assists in 20 games in all competitions this season.

Nanny Arrested for Beheading Young Girl in Moscow

Moscow police on Monday arrested a nanny for beheading a young girl in her care, with witnesses saying the black-clad woman was carrying a severed head and threatening to "blow everyone up", reports AFP.
The agitated woman, who was reportedly shouting "Allahu Akbar", was spotted pacing up and down outside a metro station in the northwestern part of the Russian capital, witness Alyona Kuratova told Dozhd TV, saying she was holding the head by its hair.
"I saw that it was indeed a head," she told the independent channel. "Maybe it was a child's head as they started whispering in the street."
She described scenes of chaos as police cars and ambulances began arriving at the scene, with several people yelling: "terror attack, terror attack."
"The woman was going back and forth," Kuratova said.
"She yelled something."
The witness said she could not make out what the woman shouted but some media reported that she yelled "Allahu Akbar" -- Arabic for "God is greatest" -- and threatened to blow herself up.
LifeNews, a news service known for its close ties to law enforcement agencies, said that when police approached her for a document check, she pulled the head out of her bag and started yelling that she had killed a child.
Footage broadcast by Russian television showed several men approaching and overpowering the woman. As she fell down, an object she carried around rolled along the ground.
Russian investigators said a nanny had been detained after the body of a child aged three or four years with "signs of violent death" was found on Monday in an apartment in northwest Moscow after a fire was extinguished there.
"According to preliminary information, the child's nanny -- a native of one of the Central Asian countries, born in 1977 -- waited until the parents left the apartment with their elder child and, guided by unknown motives, killed the little one, set the apartment on fire and left the scene," the Investigative Committee said in a statement.
State news agency TASS, citing a source, said: "The child's body was without the head. According to a preliminary version, the nanny carried away the head."

- 'Monstrous and inexplicable' -

Investigators said the woman was detained and a criminal probe opened. They said the suspect would undergo a psychiatric examination to establish whether she "understands the meaning of her actions and behaviour."
The Investigative Committee did not provide further details.
Interfax news agency, citing a law enforcement source, identified the woman as 38-year-old Gyulchekhra Bobokulova, a native of ex-Soviet majority-Muslim Uzbekistan.
The mother of the slain girl was taken away by an ambulance in a state of unconsciousness, state Zvezda television channel said.
"Monstrous and inexplicable," Russia's children's rights commissioner Pavel Astakhov said on Twitter, urging parents to carefully check on the mental state of nannies when they are hired.

"Papers from the narcologist and psychiatrist should be obligatory when you hire a nanny," he said.

Hong Kong booksellers confess to 'illegal book trading'

Four Hong Kong booksellers known for titles critical of Beijing, who have been detained in China in a case that shocked their home city, have confessed on television to smuggling books into the mainland, reports AFP.
In individual interviews broadcast on Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV channel late Sunday, the sombre foursome -- who are under criminal investigation in China -- admitted to participating what they said was a banned trade.
Their case has heightened fears of increasing mainland Chinese interference in semi-autonomous Hong Kong and sparked international protests.
"This way (of publishing) is not permitted by relevant Chinese authorities," said bookseller Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen, who failed to return to Hong Kong from a holiday in Thailand in October.
He said the booksellers had "explored ways to circumvent official inspections in China", including changing the books' covers or concealing them in bags.
The men all worked for the Mighty Current publishing house in Hong Kong, which produced salacious titles about political intrigue and love affairs at the highest levels of Chinese politics.
Gui had already appeared on television in China in January confessing involvement in a fatal driving accident years ago.
In their first appearance since they were detained, fellow booksellers Cheung Chi-ping, Lui Por and Lam Wing-kee blamed the company's illegal book trade on Gui.
A tearful Cheung added that he was "willing to face punishment in accordance with the law".
Cheung, Lui and Lam were last seen in southern mainland cities before disappearing in October.
Chinese authorities confirmed earlier this month they were under investigation.
Mainland Chinese news outlet Paper.cn said Cheung, Lui and Lam may "return to Hong Kong in the near future" on bail pending trial because they "confessed with good attitudes", citing information from law enforcers.
The report added that since October 2014, 4,000 illegal books had been mailed to 380 mainland buyers by the company.

- 'Serious breach' -

A fifth bookseller from the company who also disappeared, Lee Bo, met Hong Kong police and immigration officials at a guesthouse on the mainland Monday, according to a Hong Kong police statement.
Lee's case sparked the biggest backlash as he disappeared in December in Hong Kong itself, where mainland law enforcers are banned from operating. There was no immigration record of his departure from Hong Kong.
Hong Kong police have long been seeking access to check claims in letters he purportedly wrote, that he was on the mainland voluntarily "assisting" with investigations.
Britain said in February it believed Lee, a British passport-holder, had been "involuntarily removed to the mainland" in what it called a "serious breach" of an agreement with Beijing before the city was handed back to China in 1997.
That agreement safeguards free speech and other freedoms in the city for 50 years but there are fears they are under threat as China seeks to stamp its authority on the territory.
The European Parliament has called for all five to be immediately released.
Police said Lee told them he returned to the mainland "by his own means voluntarily" and was not abducted, but he refused to disclose details.
He told police he was "free and safe" and assisting an investigation "into a case relating to a person surnamed Gui" and would return to Hong Kong when the matter was resolved.
Lee said he did not need help from the Hong Kong government but asked police not to disclose where he was staying.

Police in their statement said they would continue to follow up on the case and were seeking more information from mainland police about Gui and the three others.

Swedish growth fires in 2015; smaller rises for Denmark, Finland

Sweden's gross domestic product (GDP) jumped 4.1 percent in 2015, a sharp increase from a year earlier, while Denmark managed a rise of 1.2 percent and Finland posted a small but unexpected rise of 0.4 percent, official figures showed Monday, reports AFP.
Swedish exports helped drive a fourth-quarter increase of 4.5 percent, Statistics Sweden said, beating analysts' forecasts.
"This is the fifth quarter with a steady rise," the Swedish national statistics office said.
Sweden's central bank, the Riksbank, had forecast overall growth of 3.7 percent for 2015, after it rose by 2.1 percent in 2014.
The Swedish economy was supported by strong investment which increased by 7.3 percent in 2015, including export growth of 5.9 percent and robust household consumption.
"As for GDP components, all underlying components surprised on the upside in Q4 ... underlining that growth is broad based," said Andreas Wallstrom, chief analyst at Nordea Bank.
"Public consumption was probably lifted as a result of the influx of refugees. The immigrant situation will probably boost government consumption and GDP also in the coming quarters," he said.
Earlier this month, the Swedish central bank cut its key interest rate by 15 basis points to an all-time low of -0.5 percent, citing the risk of slowing inflation and falling confidence in its monetary policy.
Bolstered by household demand advancing 2.1 percent year on year, Danish growth was marginally ahead of its 1.0 rise for 2014 although the third quarter showed a 0.1 percent fall, ending a run of eight straight quarterly rises.
Statistics Denmark indicated growth of 0.5 percent was needed each quarter to hit 1.2 percent for 2016 as a whole but warned that was an ambitious target as "quarterly growth of 0.5 percent is above the quarterly average for the past 15 years" -- a period which notably saw virtual stagnation between 2010 and 2013.
Meanwhile in Finland, GDP grew by 0.4 percent in 2015 year-on-year, after its third year of recession, according to Finland's National Statistical Institute.
After three years of consecutive GDP decline, the Central Bank of Finland had expected a further contraction in 2015 of 0.1 percent.
In addition to its ageing population and the decline of two of its main industries, paper and electronics, Finland has suffered from the economic crisis in Russia.
In the fourth quarter of last year, it nevertheless benefited from a small rise in exports compared to the previous quarter and household consumption increased by 0.2 percent compared to the previous three months.

Across the Baltic Sea, former Soviet republic Latvia reported its GDP rose 2.7 percent in 2015 following 2.4 percent for 2014, the year the country of two million joined the eurozone, albeit down on 4.1 percent for 2013 and 5.0 in 2012.

India pledges billions for farmers in 'populist' budget

AFP (NEW DELHI, Feb 29, 2016): The India's government promised billions of dollars to help struggling farmers and boost the rural economy as it unveiled its annual budget on Monday, looking to kickstart growth and bolster its flagging popularity.
India is now the world's fastest-growing major economy. But two years of drought and a failure to create jobs for a burgeoning young population has left millions of rural residents struggling and led to deadly protests in recent weeks.
The government came to power nearly two years ago promising to transform India's economic fortunes. But it has been hampered by the global economic slowdown and a failure to push much-needed reforms through parliament.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley acknowledged the challenges as he presented the budget in parliament, but said he had a "vision to transform India".
"We have a desire to provide socio-economic security to every Indian, especially the farmers, the poor and the vulnerable," he said.
"We have a dream to see a more prosperous India and a vision to transform India."
Jaitley pledged to spend 359 billion rupees ($5.2 billion) on doubling the income of India's estimated 120 million farmers over the next five years through measures including a crop insurance scheme and better access to markets.
The vast farming sector is suffering after two years of weak monsoon rains, and from high inflation.
The budget outlined plans to raise credit available to farmers to nine trillion rupees for 2016-17, and pledged to ensure all the country's villages have electricity within two years.
The government will increase spending on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, which guarantees 100 days of employment on public works each year for any household that requests it.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi previously called the scheme a "living monument" to the "failures" of the previous Congress-led government.

- Stalled reforms -

Analyst Samir Saran said the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was "responding to the political reality" before state elections this year and next.
"The BJP has to lay greater emphasis on social policy, it has to deliver a more populist budget," said Saran, a senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation think tank.
The BJP needs to perform well in those elections in order to push stalled economic reforms through the national parliament's upper house, where it lacks a majority.
These include Modi's flagship plan to introduce a national Goods and Services Tax to replace myriad complex state and national levies seen as deterring much-needed investment.
India is considered a relative bright spot in the world economy, but feeble global demand has caused its exports to shrink for 14 months and investment remains weak.
The opposition Congress party dismissed the budget as "a wasted opportunity".
"What is the one big takeaway for the average citizen? It is that there is no big idea," said Congress spokesman P. Chidambaram.
The main Sensex index on the Bombay Stock Exchange closed down 0.66 percent after the budget, which included a hefty 23 percent pay rise for millions of civil servants and a pension scheme for retired soldiers.
The two schemes will add billions of dollars to the government's spending bill over the next year, but Jaitley said it would stick to its ambitious target to cut the fiscal deficit to 3.5 percent of GDP in 2016-17.
The government plans to counter big spending pledges with double-digit increases in tax collection -- with plans to bring more people into the tax net, raise levies on cigarettes and SUVs and increase an income surcharge on the super-rich.
Jaitley also pledged to spend 2.21 trillion rupees on improvements to roads and other infrastructure.
The government will also inject 250 billion rupees into public-sector banks, which are weighed down by bad loans.
Despite a major push to boost manufacturing, farming remains by far the biggest employer in India.
Earlier in February the Jats, traditionally a farming caste, sparked riots in northern India to press demands for better access to government jobs and education. They say they are struggling to make a living.

The BJP performed poorly in elections in the impoverished eastern state of Bihar last year and faces polls in other major farming states this year and next.

Syria task force to meet to shore up fragile truce

AFP (DAMASCUS, Feb 29, 2016): An international task force was to meet on Monday in a bid to shore up Syria's fragile ceasefire, as the United Nations scrambled to deliver aid to thousands of besieged civilians.
The task force, co-chaired by Moscow and Washington, was to meet on Monday at 1400 GMT to evaluate allegations of a range of breaches, a Western diplomat said.
At the weekend, key regime backer Russia traded accusations with the main opposition grouping, the High Negotiations Committee, over truce violations.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Monday that the allegations "must all of course be verified," but that his government "would be vigilant about (the truce's) concrete application."
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said there been some incidents but the ceasefire was generally holding.
"As of now I can tell you that by and large the cessation of hostilities is holding even though we have experienced some incidents," he told reporters in Geneva.
The truce, which was in its third day on Monday, is meant to open the way for aid to the more than 480,000 Syrians living in areas besieged by government forces, rebels or jihadists.
UN humanitarian coordinator Yacoub El Hillo said the world body hoped to take advantage of the relative calm to distribute supplies to 154,000 people living in besieged areas over the next five days.
An convoy carrying sanitation supplies and blankets was due to head to the town of Moadamiyet al-Sham, surrounded by regime forces south of Damascus, on Monday, a UN source told AFP.
Pressure was building to relieve civilians under siege after the UN's human rights chief said thousands could die of hunger.
"The deliberatestarvation of people is unequivocally forbidden as a weapon of warfare. By extension, so are sieges," Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said, warning that "thousands of people risk starving to death".
The flow of much-needed assistance could also create a more favourable backdrop for peace talks that collapsed in acrimony in early February.
UN envoy Staffan de Mistura aims to relaunch negotiations on March 7 if the ceasefire lasts and more aid is delivered.
The main opposition grouping Sunday described the ceasefire as "positive" but lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations and foreign governments about breaches.
"We have violations here and there, but in general it is a lot better than before and people are comfortable," said Salem al-Meslet, spokesman for the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee.
Meslet said the opposition would like to see the truce "last forever" but that the United States was responsible for preventing violations.

- 'We went out and played' -

An HNC letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accused the Syrian regime and its allies of committing two dozen truce violations that had killed 29 people and wounded dozens.
The HNC has said it has been kept in the dark about the truce's monitoring mechanism.
The ceasefire does not apply to territory held by the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.
Government forces recaptured a key supply route near Aleppo city on Monday from IS in clashes that killed 26 pro-regime fighters and 14 IS militants, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Russia, which has waged a five-month bombing campaign to support President Bashar al-Assad, accused "moderate" rebels and jihadists of nine ceasefire violations.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the main mechanisms for implementing the truce were now in place.
"We knew ahead of time that this would not be easy," he told reporters.
In Aleppo, the Observatory reported some rebel rocket fire on government-held neighbourhoods early on Monday but no casualties.
"Our teachers used to forbid us from going out to the school yard because of the air strikes but today we went out and played," said Ranim, a 10-year-old pupil at a primary school in the rebel-held neighbourhood of Bustan al-Qasr.

- 'Inevitable' setbacks -

The Observatory reported nine Russian air strikes on a town in the central province of Hama early on Monday but had no immediate word on any casualties.
It said seven civilians were killed in Russian strikes on Sunday on a town in Aleppo province where Al-Nusra has a presence.
Washington urged patience from all sides to give the truce a chance to firm up.
"Setbacks are inevitable," a senior US administration official said.
"Even under the best of circumstances, we don't expect the violence to end immediately. In fact, we are certain that there will continue to be fighting, in part because of organisations like ISIL (Islamic State) and Al-Nusra."
There has been no let-up in the US-led air campaign against IS since the truce went into effect.

The coalition said that on Sunday it carried out 12 strikes against the jihadists in Syria, four of them around the town of Tal Abyad on the Turkish border where IS has been attempting to regain territory from US-backed Kurdish forces.