Nepal failing to curb child marriage

KATHMANDU — Nepal is not doing enough to end child marriage, with more than one in three girls married before they reach the age of 18, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said yesterday.

Child marriage is illegal in Nepal, but the law is rarely enforced and a government pledge to end the practice by 2020 was recently delayed to 2030.

“Many children in Nepal -— both girls and boys — are seeing their futures stolen by child marriage,” said senior women’s rights researcher Heather Barr in a statement from HRW.

“Nepal’s government promises reform, but in towns and villages across the country, nothing has changed.”

HRW said 37 per cent of girls and around 11 per cent of boys in Nepal were under 18 when they married. The legal marriage
age is 20.

Many are forced to marry, but HRW’s research also found a rise in voluntary child marriage to escape abuse or poverty, or because they wanted to choose their own partner.

“My parents wanted me to marry someone they had chosen. There were two or three proposals. My parents liked them, but I didn’t,” said Sunita Lam, 16, who eloped with a man she had only spoken to on the phone.

The report, based on more than 100 interviews with people who had been married as children, said girls were being denied an education and faced domestic violence.

Many were also forced to have children before their bodies were ready, it said.

“The government has promised change, and that change needs to start now,” Barr said. — AFP


Two to tango in Argentina, queer or straight

BUENOS AIRES — In tango, a male dancer leads his female partner through a series of sensual and synchronised movements. The man always leads — but Argentina’s “queer tango” turns this convention upside-down.

Subverting the lead male role is nothing short of revolutionary in the rigid world of tango dancing, and faces resistance from traditionalists.

“Tango is a reflection of society, a social code where men have the power,” said Yuko Artak, an instructor at a queer tango lesson in Buenos Aires.

She then gives a demonstration.

“One, two, three,” Artak says, guiding her partner, Liliana Chenlo, as music plays in the background.

The women halt in mid dance, switch position, and Chenlo leads Artak.

Tango originated in the late 19th century in the River Plate region, between Argentina and Uruguay. Legend has it that it began as men dancing with men in brothels.

As the dance grew in popularity and became accepted among the middle class, women were allowed to join, though always led by the man.

“Queer tango seeks to break up that code … to shatter the exclusive male-female pairing of the dance,” Artak said.

Alexis and Ignacio, who declined to give their last names, are excited about their queer tango lesson.

“It’s good to be able to get out of the forced masculinity, and see the tango as movement,” Ignacio said.

Tango purists had raised their eyebrows at Astor Piazzolla, the late creator of “Libertango,” who revolutionised the dance with a contemporary vibe which incorporated jazz-style music.

Queer tango is facing just as much, if not more, resistance.

Two women were kicked out of a tango dance at a town square in Montevideo in March when they danced as partners.

“People’s minds are a bit closed on this topic,” Chenlo said, with a knowing smile.

This year, she and Artak took the daring step of signing up to compete in the World Tango Championship in Buenos Aires.

Some 500 couples from 45 countries entered the event, including three gay couples — one from Russia, and another from Argentina besides Artak and Chenlo.

For the competition, Chenlo performed the lead role throughout, a concession “to not confuse the public and the jury”, she explained.

Nevertheless in their attire and presentation, “we emphasised we were two women who dance tango together”, Chenlo said.

Some dancers congratulated the couple as they awaited their turn.

A member of the audience however was aghast.

“Those are two women!” said Julian Sotelo, a 74-year-old retiree dressed in a striped suit, the kind often used by tango dancers.

Sotelo squirmed in his seat when he saw the pair climb onto the stage.

“That’s not tango,” he mumbled with a half-smile, even before the dance began.

Both Artak and Chenlo believe their participation in the World Tango Championship will help people accept queer dancers.

“When people realise tango is just hugging and dancing, then all the issues of gender will be erased,” Chenlo said. — AFP


Trump says Putin ‘far more’ of leader than Obama

NEW YORK — Russian President Vladimir Putin is “far more” of a leader than Barack Obama, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said on Wednesday, echoing previous praise for the Kremlin strongman.

Putin is “very much of a leader,” Trump said in a televised interview, where he and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton were separately grilled over their national security and military credentials.

Trump has made no secret of his admiration for Putin, who last year praised the US businessman as “very outstanding.”

Putin “has very strong control over a country,” Trump said.

“It’s a very different system, and I don’t happen to like the system. But certainly in that system he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.”

Before Trump spoke, Clinton too was asked about her security smarts, but also faced questions on the sprawling email scandal that continues to overshadow her White House run.

The interviewer, NBC’s Matt Lauer, asked why it was not “disqualifying” for Clinton to have handled government emails on a private server while secretary of state.

“It was a mistake to have a personal account. I would certainly not do it again. I make no excuses for it,” Clinton responded, stressing she had not improperly handled classified information.

The forum, held aboard historic aircraft carrier the USS Intrepid, docked off New York City, did not put the candidates head-to-head, and Lauer asked them not to waste time insulting each other.

For the most part they refrained, though Clinton said Trump had refused to take responsibility for his initial support for the Iraq War. Trump went on to attack Clinton over her emails.

Their first debate is scheduled for Sept 26.

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump pledged to increase US military spending — already at levels far higher than any other nation — and to demand a plan to beat the Islamic State (IS) group if he becomes president.

The Republican presidential candidate told supporters he would ask generals to craft a roadmap to the IS group’s annihilation.

Trump also outlined proposals for an active army of around 540,000 troops, an air force of at least 1,200 fighter aircraft, a 36-battalion marine corps and a navy of 350 surface ships and submarines — though he provided no details on how he would persuade Congress to pay for it all.

Apart from consulting with top generals, Trump remained vague on how he would defeat IS.

“Is the plan you’ve been hiding this whole time asking someone else for their plan?” Lauer asked.

Trump said he did not “want to broadcast to the enemy what my plan is”.

The United States for more than two years has led a coalition bombing IS in Iraq and Syria, and training local partners on the ground to fight the militants.

Clinton provided more specifics, stressing IS would be defeated without US ground troops being deployed.

In a move likely to enrage the brass in the Defence Department, Trump also blasted the current status of America’s top officers, saying they had been hamstrung by Obama and Clinton.

Mexico’s finance minister Luis Videgaray resigned Wednesday following Trump’s controversial visit to the country, with Trump boasting it showed his trip had been a success.

“I let them know where the United States stands,” he said during a televised forum with Clinton.

Videgaray, a close confidant of President Enrique Pena Nieto, stepped down amid fallout from the New York billionaire’s visit which he helped arrange.

Pena Nieto has faced a barrage of criticism over his decision to hold talks with Trump, who has threatened to make Mexico pay for a wall on the border to stop migrants from entering US illegally. — AFP


New era for F1, Ecclestone retained

WASHINGTON — Formula One entered a new era on Wednesday as US billionaire John Malone’s Liberty Media agreed a takeover that values the motorsport at US$8 billion (RM32.3 billion) and raises questions over the role of its long-time mastermind Bernie Ecclestone. Liberty said it had struck an agreement to buy out Formula One’s parent company from CVC Capital, and had already acquired a minority stake of 18.7 per cent. Liberty Media group will pay a total equity price of US$4.4 billion (RM17.7 billion) in cash, newly issued shares, and exchangeable debt to complete the deal, which gives Formula One an enterprise value of US$8 billion (RM32.3 billion). The takeover is set to be completed next year, subject to approval by regulators, Liberty Media’s shareholders and F1’s governing body, the Federation International de l’Automobile (FIA). Liberty agreed to retain the canny and combative Ecclestone, who insisted his role would remain unchanged despite the arrival of Carey as chairman. “I will stay on as F1 chief executive,’ Ecclestone told the Autosport website. “I will continue to do all the things I have previously done, such as negotiate with the circuits, television companies and people like that. “The good news is we will have someone on board in Chase, and he will hopefully be able to push F1 into new territories with social media.” — AFP

Apologetic Lochte banned for false report

LOS ANGELES — US swimmer Ryan Lochte has been hit with a 10-month suspension following his bogus gunpoint robbery story during a drunken night out at the Olympics. Lochte, 32, has been suspended until mid-2017 the USA Today newspaper reported citing a person with knowledge of the situation. He would also be banned from next year’s World Championships in Budapest. Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medallist, has lost a slew of sponsorship deals following the Rio escapade. He was charged by Brazilian police last month of making a false report about being robbed at gunpoint during a night out. Lochte, has apologised for his behavior. “I’m taking full responsibility for it,” Lochte said in a

television interview. “I over-exaggerated that story and if I had never done that, we wouldn’t be in this mess.” — AFP

Groenewegen breaks British hearts

BUILTH WELLS (Wales) — Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen recorded his second win in the United Kingdom this year as he triumphed in the fourth stage of the Tour of Britain on Wednesday. The 23-year-old who won on the Tour de Yorkshire earlier this year held off home hopes Dan McLay and Ben Swift on what was the climax to the longest stage of the race, 217km. Belgian Julien Vermote, winner of the second stage, retained the yellow

jersey after finishing fifth and holds a six-second advantage over British rider Stephen Cummings. However, British sprint legend Mark Cavendish never

got in the mix as the 31-year-old ‘Manx Missile’ got cut adrift during the stage and came in over five minutes behind the peloton. — AFP

Tearful Del Potro hails crowd

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO broke down in tears as his US Open run came to end with the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd giving him a standing ovation which delayed the last rites of his quarterfinal defeat to Stan Wawrinka.

The big Argentine wept as fans, many dressed in the blue and white shirts of the country’s football team, sang ‘Delpo, Delpo’ as the injury-plagued 2009 champion ran out of gas in a 7-6 (7/5) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 defeat.

Del Potro applauded the crowd and had to compose himself before facing what turned out to be the last game of the match.

“It’s something difficult to describe with words. I can lose the match but I will never forget this,” said the 27-year-old former World No 4 who came into the tournament ranked 142 after undergoing a series of wrist surgeries which pushed him on the verge retirement.

“It’s bigger than winning any match. I’m so proud to get that from the crowd because I’ve been doing a big effort to play tennis again. They made me so happy tonight.”

Del Potro was trying to reach a first Grand Slam semifinal since Wimbledon in 2013.

However, a summer which had seen him defeat Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at the Olympics, where he went on to claim a silver medal in a final loss to Andy Murray, eventually took its toll.

“I already beat Djokovic and Nadal. I played against Murray in a great match. Wawrinka is the World No 3 and I’m here. That’s something good for me.”

Del Potro needed a wildcard to play in the US Open, the tournament where he made his name with a defeat of Roger Federer in the 2009 final.

But his injury misery sent his ranking spiralling to 1,045 in February.

Next week, however, he should be back in the top 65.

Wawrinka, in his third semifinal in four years in New York, next faces Kei Nishikori for a place in Sunday’s final.

He saluted del Potro who had knocked him out of Wimbledon this summer.

“It was an amazing crowd, for sure. He’s an amazing champion. He got unlucky with injuries, and the way he’s playing right now is amazing. Everybody is happy to see him back at that level.” — AFP


Nishikori stuns Murray

NEW YORK — Kei Nishikori stunned Andy Murray to reach the US Open semifinals, holding his nerve in a gripping final set to move two wins away from becoming the first Asian man to capture a Grand Slam singles title.

Japanese star Nishikori clinched a dramatic 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 comeback triumph in a shade under four hours against the Wimbledon and Olympics champion.

In today’s semifinal, the 26-year-old will take on Swiss and third seed Stan Wawrinka who defeated tearful Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 champion, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

The other semifinal will see defending champion Novak Djokovic take on 10th seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils.

In a match which featured 17 breaks of serve, Nishikori prevailed for only his second win in nine matches against world No 2 Murray.

His win came just three weeks after losing to Murray in the Olympic semifinals.

“It was a really difficult match,” said Nishikori after reaching only his second Slam semifinal after his runner-up spot in New York in 2014.

“In the fourth and fifth sets I think I played some of the best tennis.”

Murray looked to be in control at two sets to one ahead and carving out a break point in the third game of the fourth when a loud gong-like sound burst from the malfunctioning public address system in Arthur Ashe stadium.

Umpire Marija Cicak ordered the point to be replayed much to the irritation of the Briton who lost his composure and the next five games as an acrobatic Nishikori levelled the tie.

Murray refused to blame his defeat on the incident.

Nishikori broke for 1-0 in the deciding set and backed it up for 2-0 before Murray stopped a seven-game losing streak to hold.

Murray, with his focus suddenly rebooted, broke back for 2-2. But back came Nishikori, stunning his rival to break again for 3-2 before holding for 4-2 as both men thrilled with a series of big hits, subtle touches and exhausting athleticism.

Nishikori surrendered the advantage yet again, giving up a 40-0 lead in the eighth game and missing an easy volley.

The Briton was soon 5-4 up but Nishikori, showing nerves of steel, held and broke again before taking victory when Murray blinked first in the 12th game, burying a backhand in the net. — AFP

Djokovic favourite as pretenders lineup

NOVAK DJOKOVIC heads into the US Open semifinals as the overwhelming favourite to go on and lift a third title in New York, but Kei Nishikori, Stan Wawrinka and Gael Monfils are lined-up as potential road blocks.

World No 1 Djokovic takes a 12-0 career lead over Monfils into their semifinal today while Nishikori looks to build on his shock five-set win over Andy Murray against Wawrinka.

Djokovic, chasing a third major of the season and 13th overall, remains wary of the dangers posed by 30-year-old Monfils who is only in his second semifinal at the Slams.

“Gael’s one of the few players that I will definitely pay a ticket to watch,” said Djokovic.

“He seems more focused at this time of his career and I am definitely expecting a tough battle.”

Tenth-seeded Monfils has lost twice to Djokovic in New York — in five sets in the first round in 2005 and a straight sets defeat in the 2010 quarterfinals.

But he is enjoying one of the best spells of his career, winning the title in Washington and making the semifinals at the Toronto Masters where he lost to Djokovic again.

Monfils is on an impressive 19-2 run since Wimbledon but admits he’s the underdog against Djokovic, the 2011 and 2015 champion playing in a 10th successive semifinal in New York.

“He’s a better player than me, definitely,” said Monfils who has yet to drop a set but hasn’t faced a seeded player.

Djokovic should be the fresher having completed just two full matches in five rounds.

He was handed a walkover into round three and was then the beneficiary of two injury-hit retirements.

All of which means the Serb has spent just 4 hours and 34 minutes on court; Monfils has been out there four minutes short of 12 hours.

With second seed Murray, fourth seeded Rafael Nadal and Milos Raonic, the fifth seed, all out of the picture, Djokovic is viewed as the most likely to win the title on Sunday.

“I’d say Novak would be the favourite,” said Murray. — AFP


Wait is over

KUALA LUMPUR — There is cause to celebrate as Malaysia finally earned their first gold medal in 10 years for the women’s category at the 2016 World University Squash Championship yesterday.

The 26-year-old Low Wee Wern, who returned to the squash scene in November last year, made an epic comeback after a year long hiatus due to an ACL knee injury back in 2014.

Defeating Hong Kong’s Tong Tsz Wing 11-3, 8-11, 11-3, 11-8, this is Wee Wern’s first tournament win since her return.

The last time Malaysia won the title was thanks to Lim Yoke Wing back in 2006.

“It was a competitive match, Tong wasn’t present in the first game as she was still getting use to the court, she came back strongly in the second and I paid for it in the end,” said Wee Wern.

“I came back fully focused and neither of us wanted to let up, either way this was her best performance yet in a match against me.”

“It’s different playing on a professional circuit compared to playing for your country, she gave it a good go today,” said Wee Wern.

With Nazihah Hanis out of the picture having sustained a hamstring injury on Wednesday, Wee Wern said she was up for the challenge to play at least four more matches to secure a slot in the quarterfinals in the team events today.

“It’s good to have consecutive matches, I’ve never played so many matches before,” she said.

“Hopefully we have another few matches more to go in the team competition.

“It feels good to win a title after 10 years since Malaysia last won it, it gives me the encouragement I need to keep coming back stronger,” she said.

More champions to come

KUALA LUMPUR — With Major S. Maniam back in the full swing of things at the Squash Racket Association of Malaysia (SRAM), the association strengthened their intent of polishing the calibre of young squash players with this year’s Junior Individual Squash Championship.

Held from Sept 20-24 at National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil, the tournament in its 23rd year, will see Malaysia’s with their largest participation with 48 players.

“We made our intentions very clear when we brought back Maniam from India, we must invest in good people in order to build good young players,” said SRAM president, Huang Ying How.

“With us hosting this championship upon the Asian Squash Federation’s approval, this helps us build a stronger squad,” he said.

Stressing the importance of a succession plan for World Junior champions, Huang added the national Podium Programme services have improved and he looked forward to the players doing better in time.

“The players have been under pressure to qualify for the Podium Programme after Ng Eain Yow and S. Sivasangari’s accomplishments on the World Junior stage,” said Huang.

The 62-year-old Maniam, who left to coach in India 17 years ago, returned to Malaysia to contribute to the nation in July after experiencing enough overseas.

“I left when I needed to explore more out of the country I came back because I was very interested in seeing Malaysian squash progress,” he said.

Meanwhile, at the Asian Junior Individual Championships press conference yesterday, CIMB was announced as title sponsor for the championship and congratulated the World Junior medallists, Ng Eain Yow and S. Sivasangari for their feats.

The two received cash prizes from CIMB Foundation chief executive officer, Hamidah Naziadin.

Eain Yow received RM5,000 while Sivasangari’s father, K. Subramaniam represented his daughter in accepting RM1,000.

Twelve countries including Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Pakistan, Macau, Qatar, Korea, Iran, japan, Jordan and Sri Lanka are set to feature in the championship with a total number of 184 participants across the board.

Mongolian lass a foodie

KUALA LUMPUR — Depending on one’s perspective, Genghis Khan may be famous or notorious for his exploits, but Uyanga Amarmend aims to prove there is more to Mongolia than the legendary conqueror.

Uyanga, 26, who took up squash recently, has created history of sorts by becoming the first to represent her nation at the World University Squash Competition (WUSC).

“I played tennis for many years,” she said.

“Then one day my coach decided to teach me squash. I attended some of the training sessions and fell in love with the dynamics of the game.”

She loves the hawker fare in Malaysia, especially teh tarik and ice kacang.

“I had this thing called ‘ABC’ and it was unbelievably nice. The condensed milk they poured over it made my day,” Uyanga said.

“I love meat, especially lamb. As I’ve never been to Malaysia before I was pleasantly surprised to see there were a lot of meaty options in front of me.”

Uyanga’s first foray into WUSC did not go well as she lost to Japanese player, Risa Sugimoto, in straight sets.

Nevertheless, her debut appearance at WUSC 2016 certainly augurs well for the future of the sport.

“I want to say the people of Malaysia are warm and kind. Everywhere I go and everyone I speak to has a smile. They are the most welcoming people I have ever met,” said Uyanga. — By R. Loheshwar

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