Jenkins: Tone-deaf but adored

LOS ANGELES — When opera lovers ask New York’s Carnegie Hall for souvenir concert programmes, they’re not usually interested in Maria Callas or Joan Sutherland.

More often than not, the name they request is Florence Foster Jenkins, an American socialite who only appeared at the legendary venue once, and couldn’t hold a note.

“In order for a singer to succeed, they need to have a combination of talent, charisma, and interpretive quality,” Carnegie’s archives director Gino Francesconi wrote in a blogpost commemorating her life.

“And, by definition, they need to be able to sing. Florence Foster Jenkins had none of these attributes. In fact, she was considered one of the worst singers of all time.”

Jenkins, who craved fame as a diva but gained infamy for her terrible voice, is the subject of Florence Foster Jenkins, a bittersweet biopic which hits United States cinemas this week, starring three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.

“She almost gets it, and that’s what I found delicious in her,” Streep told the audience at a preview screening for the Paramount picture in Beverly Hills last week.

“I started listening to the recordings and I could feel her getting really excited and her thinking ‘This is going very well’,” said the actress.

Jenkins, who inherited a fortune from her father in 1909, had to give up her beloved piano due to nerve damage from syphilis contracted from her first husband when she was just a teenager.

She used her wealth to indulge her passion for opera singing instead, putting on grand artistic soirees for polite society at the Ritz-Carlton, the Waldorf and other upscale Manhattan venues.

Those who heard her — often acquaintances rather than paying members of the public — knew she was a terrible singer but none ever felt inclined to tell her.

“It became a thing to do. You had to go and listen to Florence Foster screw up every song she attempted to sing,” said Francesconi.

She was persuaded to make her Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 76 on Oct 25, 1944, and walked onstage in flamboyant homemade costumes, throwing roses into the sell-out crowd.

The concert went as poorly as had every other recital, but this time Jenkins was not among friends.

Henry Simon of the daily newspaper PM described the audience’s laughter as “the cruellest and least civilised behaviour I have ever witnessed in Carnegie Hall.”

Diagnosed with heart strain, she died a month later.

Florence Foster Jenkins hits US cinemas on Friday. — AFP

Trump aims to jump-start US with tax breaks

WASHINGTON — Republican Donald Trump sought to regain momentum for his White House campaign by proposing sweeping tax breaks, cuts to federal regulations and a revival of the stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline project.

The New York businessman used a speech on the economy in Detroit on Monday to try to turn the page after a week of missteps in which he came under heavy criticism, including from some in his own party, and rival Democrat Hillary Clinton surged ahead in opinion polls three months ahead of the Nov 8 election.

“I want to jump-start America,” Trump said, “and it won’t even be that hard.”

Trump stuck to prepared remarks rather than the freewheeling style that often produces controversial comments at rallies. He kept his cool as some 14 protesters jumped to their feet and shouted at coordinated intervals as he spoke at the Detroit Economic Club.

Trump’s remarks, repeatedly cheered by the crowd, appeared targeted at both an affluent business community and working people, in particular those who have suffered from a decline in manufacturing in cities such as Detroit. He dismissed Clinton as representing “the tired voices of the past”.

“We now begin a great national conversation about economic renewal for America,” Trump said. “It’s a conversation about how to make America great again for everyone … especially for those who have the very least.”

Much of the speech reflected Republican talking points and critics said his proposals lacked detail. But Republican operatives and others who saw the speech praised Trump for turning his focus to policy and contrasting his ideas with Clinton’s.

The question for Trump now is whether he will be able to keep his campaign on message as Republicans want him to do.

Trump pitched a tax plan that mirrored traditional Republican thinking that lowering taxes and slashing regulation generates economic growth and jobs. He proposed lowering individual and corporate rates and a discounted 10 per cent levy for businesses that bring back profits held overseas.

Trump’s plan to create new tax deductions for childcare costs raised questions from economists about whether lower-income families would benefit. Many Republicans remain frustrated with his trade vision, which bucks party orthodoxy by calling for a rewrite of major agreements.

Trump’s effort to shift focus came after what was widely seen as the worst week of his campaign, in which he sparred with party leaders and got entangled in a dispute with the parents of a Muslim US soldier killed in the Iraq war.

Trump, a real estate developer who has never held elected public office, touts his practical experience and potential to create jobs, blaming President Barack Obama for what he calls a weak recovery from the economic recession. On Monday, he said Clinton would rely on policies that have not worked.

“She is the candidate of the past,” Trump said. “Ours is the campaign of the future.”

Trump called for a temporary moratorium on new regulations and repeated his pledges to rewrite the landmark North American trade deal that President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton’s husband, signed in 1994, and to withdraw from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership deal backed by Obama.

But much of the reaction was to Trump’s tax plan. He again proposed lowering the corporate tax rate to 15 per cent from the current 35 per cent. And he proposed lowering income-based individual tax brackets to 12 per cent, 25 per cent and 33 per cent.

“It’s encouraging that Donald Trump appears to be modifying his tax plan,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the anti-debt Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. — Reuters


Clinton says she’ll take part in three debates

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will participate in the three debates set by a debate commission, her campaign said in a statement on Monday.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has complained that the commission scheduled several of the debates during NFL games, possibly hurting television viewership of the debates.

Clinton will outline her economic vision in Michigan tomorrow. In a statement issued before Trump’s speech, her campaign said his plan would give tax breaks to the wealthy and big companies and would hurt working families.

At a rally on Monday in St Petersburg, Florida, she derided a list of economic advisers Trump released last week as “six guys named Steve”.

“Now, they tried to make his old, tired ideas sound new,” Clinton said. “He wants to basically just repackage trickle-down economics.”

On Monday night, Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta released a statement saying that Clinton looks forward to participating in all three presidential debates” scheduled for the next two months.

“The only issue now is whether Donald Trump is going to show up,” Podesta told CNN Money.

Last month, Trump publicly bemoaned the debate schedule, pointing out that two of the three scheduled presidential debates are on the same nights as NFL games. His aides said they would like new dates.

The bipartisan commission responded by saying that scheduling conflicts are common and almost impossible to avoid.

“A debate has never been rescheduled as a result,” the commission said.

At no point has Trump suggested that he will boycott the events. “I think three debates is the right number,” he told The Washington Post on Aug 3.

Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon followed up by tweeting, “We’ll see Trump at Hofstra in September.”

The first debate is scheduled to take place on Sep 26 at Hofstra University on Long Island. — Various

Harry Kane (2)

New, lethal strikeforce

LONDON — Tottenham striker Harry Kane is convinced he can form a solid strike partnership with new signing Vincent Janssen.

Holland international Janssen arrived from AZ Alkmaar earlier this summer in a £20 million (RM105 million), with the initial expectation being he would provide relief to Kane, who spent much of last season as Spurs’ only senior central striker.

However Kane and Janssen were given 15 minutes to form an understanding in Spurs’ 6-1 hammering of Inter Milan on Friday and their partnership seemed to flourish, the latter providing an assist for Dele Alli to make it 3-1.

“Vincent is a great player, he likes to hold the ball up and bring others into the game and I’m sure we’ll play together this season,” Kane told Evening Standard.

“He’s strong and has a good finish when he gets the chance. He’s a great addition to the squad.”

Kane has rarely had felt pressure on his first-team place since establishing himself under Mauricio Pochettino but former Spurs striker Clive Allen is convinced the competition Janssen will pose will see only be good news for the England international.

“If he feels his place is under threat, it’s bound to add something to his game,” Allen told Daily Mirror.

“I know I felt like that and I am sure most players do — if someone comes in and does well in your position, you know you may have to fight to get back in the team.”

Spurs begin their new season with an away match against Everton on Saturday.
— Agencies

Gareth Barry

Barry taking challenges in his stride

LONDON — Gareth Barry (pic) won the Premier League, FA Cup and over 50 England caps, while no one still playing can top his 595 league appearances.

Yet, the Everton midfielder claims he still has something to prove as he begins his 20th Premier League campaign.

Barry also insists he must show new manager Ronald Koeman he can still cut it at the top level at 35.

He knows he cannot rely on his glittering CV to earn him a starting place because Koeman has spent £9 million (RM47 million) on fellow midfielder Idrissa Gueye from one of Barry’s former clubs, Aston Villa, and wants to add another new face in the centre of the park.

“No matter what you’ve done in your career, there’s always someone to win over. Now it’s going to be Ronald Koeman — it’s as simple as that,” Barry told reporters.

“There’s always a new experience coming along and now it’s the new manager.

“He’s someone who has done everything as a player and has hit the ground running with his managerial career as well.

“I’m looking forward to working under him.”

Koeman is the ninth permanent club manager Barry has played for since he made his senior debut under John Gregory for Villa aged 17 in a 3-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday in May 1998.

The Dutchman respects Barry and handed him the captain’s armband for Saturday’s friendly defeat to Espanyol at Goodison Park.

Barry feels good after being hampered by a groin injury last month and aims to maintain his high standards from the last campaign when he was voted Everton’s double Player of the Season.

“It’s great to be acknowledged for your work throughout the year by your fans and your team-mates as well,” he said.

“I look at the ability and talent in the group and to be chosen last season is something you don’t forget.”

Barry is revelling in the Indian Summer to his career since he joined Everton, initially on loan from Manchester City on transfer deadline day in September 2013.

He admits it was a risk, but felt he needed to play rather than sit on the bench at City.

“It was a gamble — moving to a new club, you don’t know what to expect,” he said.

“I based my decision on wanting to play football.

“Throughout my career, I’ve wanted to play regular football and to this day it hasn’t changed. I don’t want to sit and be a substitute, playing just once a month.

“I had other clubs I could have gone to, but I wanted to go to a club with a good history and Goodison Park is a fantastic place to play.”
— Daily Mirror


NAME: Paul Pogba

DATE OF BIRTH: Mar 15, 1993

PLACE OF BIRTH: Lagny-sur-Marne, France

HEIGHT: 1.91m

POSITION: Midfielder



2011–2012 Man United 3 0

2012–2016 Juventus 124 28

2016–present Man United 0 0


2013–present France 38 6


1) Paul Pogba (France) — Juventus to Man United — £89.2 million (RM466 million)

2) Gareth Bale (Wales) — Tottenham to Real Madrid — £85.3 million (RM446 million)

3) Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) — Man United to Real Madrid — £80 million (RM418 million)

4) Gonzalo Higuaín (Argentina) — Napoli to Juventus — £75.3 million (RM394 million)

5) Neymar (Brazil) — Santos to Barcelona — £71.5 million (RM374 million)


Back for unfinished business

MANCHESTER — Midfielder Paul Pogba insists he returned to Manchester United to finish what he started and vowed to ‘kill it’ in an attempt to justify his world record £89.2 million (RM467 million) transfer fee.

“There are no words, to be honest,” Pogba told MUTV.

“I just came back to Carrington. It’s like I’d just come back home.

I just went for a holiday. I’ve come back home, I’m happy and I see everyone, the same people. It’s just a great feeling, to be honest.

“Its destiny. First my mum told me I would come back here and I told her, ‘You never know, you’ll see.’

“For myself as well it’s a big challenge too, just to come back to where I came from, where I grew up, where I started.

“I didn’t finish what I started here so I came here to finish it. My mum, she says ‘Your mum’s always right.’ So she was right this time, so it’s good.

“The thing with me is I only think about the pitch. I want to do great, I want to be one of the best, I want to win titles, I want to achieve things, and it is why I came here, to become one of the best and to win titles because I know this club has to win titles.

“This club are made to win titles, to win things, to win big things. I just want to focus on this. I’m just ready to go and work on it and just kill it.”

Pogba is looking forward to work with manager Jose Mourinho.

“I am delighted to rejoin United. It has always been a club with a special place in my heart and I am really looking forward to working with Mourinho,” he told manutd.com.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Juventus and have some fantastic memories of a great club with players I count as friends.

“But I feel the time is right to go back to Old Trafford. I always enjoyed playing in front of the fans and can’t wait to make my contribution to the team.”

Pogba will link up with Mourinho, who is looking to restore United to their former glories following a lean period since the retirement of Alex Ferguson.

Mourinho is bidding to end a title drought stretching back to 2013, with the club competing in the Europa League this season after their failure to reach the top four last term.

On Pogba, Mourinho said: “Paul is one of the best players in the world and will be a key part of the United team I want to build here for the future.

“He is quick, strong, scores goals and reads the game better than many players much older than he is.

“At 23, he has the chance to make the position his own here over many years.

“He is young and will continue to improve; he has the chance to be at the heart of this club for the next decade and beyond.” — Agencies

Ayew to add bite to Hammers attack

LONDON — West Ham have smashed their club record transfer fee to sign attacker Andre Ayew from Swansea for £20.5 million (RM107 million).

The 26-year-old, who scored 12 Premier League goals for the Swans last season, has signed a three-year deal at Olympic Stadium.

Ayew, who knows fan favourite Dimitri Payet from their time at Marseille together, said: “I am very proud and happy to be at this magnificent club.

“I am happy to be playing for these fans and I hope to make the people very happy here.

“The club have a lot of ambition and have a great manager (Slaven Bilic). They want to become a bigger club every year and with the new stadium and a new training ground, you can feel they are moving onto another level and I want to be part of this project.

“I want to train hard, do my job and show I deserve to play for West Ham United. I want to give back to the manager and the fans the confidence they are showing me.”

Ayew becomes the Hammers’ sixth signing of the summer as they prepare for their opening campaign at Olympic Stadium.

Striker Ashley Fletcher, midfielder Havard Nordtveit, and wingers Sofiane Feghouli and Gokhan Tore have already joined West Ham this summer, while French leftback Arthur Masuaku was also announced on a four-year deal on Monday. — Agencies


Australia clinch historic gold

RIO DE JANEIRO — Australia became the first Olympic champions in women’s rugby sevens when they ran out convincing 24-17 winners over trans-Tasman neighbours New Zealand in the gold medal final at the Deodoro Stadium in Rio on Monday.

The world series champions went behind early in the match but unanswered tries from Emma Tonegato, Evania Pelite, Ellia Green and Charlotte Caslick gave them a lead New Zealand were unable to overhaul.

The Australians huddled in tearful hugs under the posts at the realisation their dream, not only of having the chance to compete in the Games but of winning gold, had been realised.

“We’ve just made Australian history, rugby history. It means everything,” explained Green.

New Zealand, who had two tries from the outstanding Kayla McAlister and one at the death from Portia Woodman, performed a tearful haka in front of the crowd at the end of the match, their dreams of
gold shattered.

“Pretty gutted. But silver’s still good in New Zealand’s eyes and we hope we have done them proud,” said New Zealand captain Sara Goss.

Without question the best two of the 12 teams in the tournament, both New Zealand and Australia had come through scares at the hands of the United States on Sunday to stamp their authority on the semifinals.

Canada earlier took the bronze with a 33-10 victory over Britain.

Rugby was last included at the Olympics in Paris in 1924 when the United States beat hosts France in the final of a men’s 15-aside tournament.

Australia coach Tim Walsh said the inaugural women’s tournament had shown the sport deserved its place at the Games.

“We certainly up held the values of the Olympic movement, and rugby,” he said. “I think we have created a very sustainable future for rugby sevens at the Olympic Games.” — Reuters

Williams stays alive in singles

RIO DE JANEIRO — US tennis powerhouse Serena Williams dispatched France’s Alize Cornet in two sets on Monday, ending a streak of weak family performances that saw older sister Venus eliminated from singles on Saturday and the pair knocked out in doubles on Sunday.

The younger Williams, a 34-year-old four-time Olympic gold medalist, had a slow and frustrating start against Cornet before turning the momentum to win 7-6 (5), 6-2, picking up the pace in the second set after the first ran over an hour long.

“I just needed to relax. I was missing shots by literally centimetres,” Williams said, adding that she “tried to add a little more spin” in the second set, after a long series of unforced errors in the first.

Spain’s Garbine Muguruza topped Japan’s Nao Hibino 6-1 6-1.

Earlier, Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova knocked out former World No 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the second round of the Rio Olympics on Monday.

Twice Wimbledon champion Kvitova overpowered Wozniacki 6-2 6-4 to progress to the third round, where she will face either Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova or Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

Germany’s Angelique Kerber, ranked second in the world, faced stubborn resistance from Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard but won 6-4 6-2.

United States’ Madison Keys, seeded seventh in the tournament, also progressed to the third round after a nail-biting 7-5 6-7(4) 7-6(5) win against France’s Kristina Mladenovic on court one.

Monday’s matches, like most of the other contests in the first three days of the tennis tournament, were played in stadiums that were more than half empty.

Olympics organisers say about 82 percent of all Olympic tickets have been sold out, but for tennis, which boasts some of the world’s most recognisable sports stars, attendance has been far below that level.
— Reuters

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