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Girl dies from swine flu: UK

The girl had underlying health problems, officials said, and it was unclear whether

the A(H1N1) virus had contributed to her death.

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“We can sadly confirm that a child died at Birmingham Children’s Hospital on Friday evening,” a spokeswoman for the NHS West Midlands said.

“The child has since tested positive for swine flu but had other serious underlying health conditions.”

No other details about the case were released. The hospital initially said the girl was nine but subsequently said this was not the case, without being able to say definitely how old she was. The BBC reported she was six.

Cases in Britain

The Department of Health meanwhile announced a hike in the number of people who have contracted the virus– up 1,604 since Friday, taking the total in Britain to 5,937.

The heavily populated West Midlands region in central England recorded the biggest jump in cases, rising from 588 to 2,104 — more than a third of the total in Britain.

Officials have previously announced two people have died in Britain after contracting the virus.

A 73-year-old man who died in hospital in Paisley, central Scotland, late Saturday also had

“serious underlying health problems”, having been in intensive care for two weeks.

Earlier this month, another Scot, 38-year-old Jacqueline Fleming, became the first person with swine flu to die outside the Americas. She also had underlying health problems.

Wimbledon fears

Swine flu fears swept the Wimbledon tennis championships on Monday, as a handful of ball boys and ball girls reported having “flu-like symptoms” and were asked to stay at home, although play continued.

“We are able to continue with the championships as normal. We shall of course be monitoring the situation closely,” Ian Ritchie, the chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, said.

The chief medical officer said last week that Britain could see tens of thousands of cases every week within months and the strategy to cope with outbreaks is being changed.

The number of swine flu cases has reached 70,893 worldwide, with 311 deaths,

since the virus was first discovered in late March, data released by the World Health Organisation on Monday showed.

Zelaya vows to return as riots erupt

Ousted President Manuel Zelaya has vowed he will return to Honduras later this week after addressing the United Nations in New York to protest the coup that ousted him from power.

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Honduras police and military have cracked down on demonstrators in the aftermath of his exile, as international pressure mounts for him to be restored as president.

Defying a government curfew, hundreds of angry Zelaya supporters erected barricades near the presidential palace, threw rocks and beat at shield-bearing riot police with sticks and metal bars, with security forces cracking down on the protesters with tear gas and gunfire, an AFP photographer said.

The violence, the most serious unrest in years in this Central American country, left several demonstrators and security forces wounded.

Harsh words from Obama

US President Barack Obama said the United States believed Zelaya “remains the president of Honduras” a day after troops bundled the 57-year-old out of his bed in pajamas and whisked him away to exile in Costa Rica.

Obama said the coup in the Central American nation was “not legal” and called for international cooperation to solve the crisis peacefully.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the international community’s “immediate priority is to restore full democratic and constitutional order in that country.”

Micheletti sworn in

Just hours after Zelaya was deposed, the Honduran Congress swore in its speaker, Roberto Micheletti, as the interim president until January.

In one of his first acts, Micheletti imposed a 48-hour curfew on the capital and insisted he had come to power via a legal process. He also began naming members of his cabinet on Monday.

But Zelaya has said he remains the elected leader, and scores of young people, many wearing scarves to cover their faces, protested in the capital, Tegucigalpa, Monday. Shots had been heard in the city late Sunday.

“President Mel is the only one,” said Joseph, who was wielding an iron bar, and using the president’s nickname.

Zelaya ‘did not resign’

“It was a coup, Mel Zelaya did not resign,” agreed Amilcar Umanzo, brandishing a human rights manual in his hand. “The political and economic class united to overthrow the constitutional president,” he added.

Zelaya’s overthrow was triggered by a standoff with the military and legal institutions over his bid to change the constitution to allow him to run for a second term in November elections.

Elected to a non-renewable four-year term in 2005, Zelaya had planned a vote Sunday asking Hondurans to sanction a referendum on changing the constitution.

But the referendum had been ruled illegal by Honduras’s top court and was opposed by the military.

Latin America rallies behind Zelaya

Leftwing Latin American leaders who met in Nicaragua Monday have backed Zelaya and said they were recalling its ambassadors to Honduras in protest at his removal.

“In the face of the dictatorial government that intends to be imposed, the countries of ALBA have decided to withdraw our ambassadors and to leave minimal diplomatic representation in Tegucigalpa,” said a statement issued after talks in Nicaragua.

ALBA – the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas — was founded by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 2004 and also includes Bolivia, Nicaragua and the Caribbean island of Dominica.

Rest of world calls for reinstatement

Russia and Canada also joined a growing list of nations to condemn the coup, and the European Commission called an urgent meeting with Central American ambassadors to consider the future of trade talks.

The United Nations held emergency talks Monday on the crisis, and Zelaya was said to be likely to address the UN General Assembly Tuesday.

Chavez said the international community should teach the Honduran government “a lesson” after throwing his weight behind Zelaya. And Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said leaders were determined to avoid “bloodshed.”

Micheletti nonchalant

But in Honduras, Micheletti brushed off international condemnation of the takeover.

He said he “had come to the presidency not by a coup d’etat but by a completely legal process as set out in our laws.”

The interim leader also warned Chavez his country was ready to “go to war” if there was interference by “this gentleman.”

Micheletti said he had information that several battalions of troops were being prepared outside of Honduras for intervention.

Zelaya, who was elected as a conservative, has shifted dramatically to the left during his presidency.

He is the latest in a string of Latin American leaders, including Chavez, to seek constitutional changes to expand presidential powers and also ease term limits.

Pietersen: Ashes will swing England’s way

Kevin Pietersen reckons England’s mastery of reverse-swing will inspire the team to Ashes glory just as it did four years ago on home soil.

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Pietersen, rejecting Australia great Shane Warne’s claim that England are a “one-man team” who cannot win without their batting star, said pace bowling held the key to England’s Ashes hopes.

In 2005 the ‘Fab Four’ of Andrew Flintoff, Stephen Harmison, Matthew Hoggard and Simon Jones undermined a strong Australia top-order, with much of their success down to the mastery of reverse swing.

Although, with Jones injured, Hoggard long since dropped and Harmison out of favour, only Flintoff out of that quartet is on course to start in next week’s first Test in Cardiff, Pietersen is backing the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad to cause Australia problems.

The current dry and hot conditions in England offer an environment conducive to reverse-swing and Pietersen, speaking at Edgbaston on Monday, said: “I am sure the Australians are probably hoping that the weather doesn’t stay like this – because Anderson, Broad, Flintoff bowling reverse swing … I wouldn’t want to be facing that.

“We’re going to be really tough to play against,” added Pietersen ahead of the start of England’s warm-up match here against Warwickshire, which gets underway on Wednesday.

“If batters do conquer our reverse-swing, I look forward to watching them. It will take some serious batting against those bowlers, all at 90mph reverse-swinging it both ways.

As for the latest comment by the now Test retired leg-spinner Warne, his former captain at Hampshire, Pietersen said: “It’s a compliment coming from a legend of the game. But England are certainly not a one-man team.

“We’ve got (Andrew) Strauss who scored so many hundreds recently; Alastair Cook has also scored hundreds in the last six months; (Paul) Collingwood the same, (Ravi) Bopara three in his last three Test innings.

“I’ve scored a few; Flintoff has come back into the team; Matty Prior’s batting has been outstanding.

“That’s without even talking about our bowlers.”

As well as Warne, Australia are now without several retired stars in openers Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden, fast bowler Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist.

Pietersen believes the absence of wicket-keeper/batsman Gilchrist will be an especially big loss for Australia.

“The big one that we don’t see is Gilchrist coming in at seven,” he notes.

“In Perth (during England’s 2006/07 5-0 Ashes defeat) when he came in and hit one of the quickest hundreds in history, that was just demoralising.”

Just as a previous generation of England fans worried about Denis Compton’s knee, so Pietersen’s Achilles injury has become a cause for concern after the South Africa-born batsman admitted it could rule him out at any time.

However, Pietersen – whose 158 at the Oval in 2005 helped England secure the draw that saw them seal a 2-1 Ashes triumph in his first Test series – was in bullish mood on Monday.

“I’m a really positive person. So until I actually miss a Test match, I will not start thinking about missing one.

“I’m ‘rehabbing’ every single day. I’ve been as professional as I can.”

Looking ahead, he added: “The Australians are a fantastic side. Their last series was in South Africa, and they won. That’s not easy to do.

“But our side has improved a lot, and we are going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

Meanwhile all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, the star of England’s 2005 success, insists he has gotten over the experience of captaining the side when they were being subsequently thrashed in Australia.

Flintoff, on his way back from a knee injury sustained while playing in the Indian Premier League, said: “The last Ashes was the low point of my career. You experience the euphoria of 2005 and then the disappointments of 2006-2007. Probably the last series emotionally was the stronger of the two.

“But all that is behind us. We have got a very new team and, rather than dining out on 2005 or dwelling on 2006-2007, it is all about what happens over the next six weeks.”

SBS will broadcast the 2009 Ashes live from Wednesday July 8.

IMF boosts Belarus loans to 3.5 billion dollars

The IMF has increased its assistance to Belarus by one billion dollars to help it weather the greater than expected impact of the financial crisis, bringing the country’s total loans to 3.

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5 billion dollars.

The assistance provided by the International Monetary Fund amounts to seven percent of

Belarus’s gross domestic product, the Washington-based institution said in a statement.

The original agreement in January provided for the disbursement of 2.5 billion dollars but Belarus’s economy “has been hit hard by a fall in external demand and volatile cross-currency movements since the program,” said the IMF.

Increased aid comes in return of “stronger efforts” by Minsk “to liberalize the economy and prepare for privatization, which are essential to improve prospects for long-run growth and external stability,” said IMF deputy managing director Takatoshi Kato.

Concrete steps

The revised program requires “concrete steps” for the authoritarian former Soviet bloc nation to loosen the state’s grip on the economy, and even the establishment of “a privatization agency capable of advancing an ambitious privatization agenda,” Kato said in a statement.

The loans also include the requirement of legislative changes to boost the central bank’s independence, reduce control over prices and wages, and remove mandatory production and employment targets for private companies.

The institution added that the efforts of Belarusian authorities to pursue a balanced budget for the general government in 2009 despite lower projected revenue was “commendable, as is the prudent plan to postpone public sector wage increases.”

The Fund’s board Monday also authorized the immediate disbursement of 679 billion dollars, bringing total disbursements under the program so far to almost 1.5 billion dollars.

Global credit crunch

Officials in Minsk said in January that the IMF loan was needed to make up for lost export

revenues because foreign countries were having trouble paying for its goods amid the global credit crunch.

The United States, by far the largest voting power in the 185-nation institution, has branded Belarus “Europe’s last dictatorship.” But US officials have stressed that relations are improving.

Council approves Muslim school in Sydney

Residents on both sides of the issue packed a Liverpool City Council meeting on Monday evening (AEST) to learn the fate of the Hoxton Park proposal.

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At a previous council meeting in June, the development was approved but three councillors followed the decision with a rescission motion.

Failed Camden bid

The move halted the approval until it was re-approved by a majority vote at Monday’s meeting.

The approval follows a similar development proposal that was shot down by Camden Council in May 2008 because it failed to meet zoning guidelines.

The council received several thousand written objections to the school during the planning approval process and, in November 2007, about 1,000 Camden residents protested against it, saying an Islamic school would damage the area’s social fabric.

That same month, two pigs’ heads were rammed on metal stakes at the proposed site, with an Australian flag draped between them.

The proposal was appealed in June this year in the Land and Environment Court, which upheld the council’s decision.

Traffic ‘major concern’

Liverpool mayor Wendy Waller said some residents hold similar views exhibited in Camden but most opponents were concerned about the increase in the number of vehicles coming to the area.

“To be frank, there was a minority of objections in that regard,” Ms Waller told AAP.

“The majority of the issues raised by residents was about traffic.”

The Liverpool local government area is nine per cent Muslim, Ms Waller said, and a new school will help address its population explosion.

“We’re the fasting growing city in the southern hemisphere and education is a very important part of the fabric of our local community,” she said.

Facebook names new chief financial officer

David Ebersman, the former executive vice president and CFO of Genentech, the biotechnology firm recently acquired by Roche, will take over as CFO of Facebook from September, the Palo Alto, California-based Facebook said.

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Ebersman will report to Facebook chief executive and founder Mark Zuckerberg and will oversee the company’s finance, accounting, investor relations, and real estate functions, Facebook said in a statement on Monday.

Ebersman replaces Gideon Yu, who left Facebook in March. He will also join the executive management team, which directs all aspects of company strategy, planning and operations, it said.

“(Ebersman) was Genentech’s CFO while revenue tripled, and his success in scaling the finance organisation of a fast growing company will be important to Facebook,” Zuckerberg said.

No profits reported

While its number of users has grown at an amazing clip, Facebook, unlike other Web giants such as Amazon, eBay, Google and Yahoo!, has yet to prove how it is going to turn traffic into cash.

A Russian Internet company, Digital Sky Technologies (DST), invested $US200 million ($A247.68 million) in Facebook in May in a deal that values the social networking giant at $US10 billion ($A12.38 billion).

DST’s purchase of a 1.96 per cent stake in preferred stock in Facebook was the largest cash-raising exercise by the social network in two years.

US computer software giant Microsoft bought a 1.6 per cent stake in Facebook for $US240 million ($A297.21 million) in 2007, a deal that at the time valued the company at $US15 billion ($A18.58 billion).