February 18, 2020 – BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - European Union finance ministers added Panama, the Seychelles, the Cayman Islands and Palau to the EU's blacklist of tax havens, Croatia's Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said on Tuesday (February 18).
The list, which was set up in 2017 after revelations of widespread tax evasion and avoidance schemes, now includes 12 jurisdictions.
Speaking at a news conference after the decision, European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said jurisdictions on the blacklist face reputational damages and risk losing EU funds.
Adding financial centres like the Cayman Islands and Panama marks a shift for the EU. Several reviews had left on the list mostly Pacific and Caribbean islands with almost no financial relation with the EU - drawing criticism for being too lenient on tax havens.
The other listed jurisdictions are Fiji, Oman, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, Vanuatu and the three U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
February 18, 2020 – BERLIN, GERMANY - Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi were declared joint winners of the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award in Berlin on Monday (February 17), with the voting tied for the first time in the awards' 20-year history.
Mercedes driver Hamilton won his sixth world championship in 2019, with 11 race wins and 17 podium finishes, while Messi was crowned the world's best player for a record sixth time when he won the Ballon d'Or.
American gymnast Simone Biles, who became the most decorated gymnast in world championship history when she won her 25th medal last year, won her third Sportswoman of the Year gong after winning the award in 2017 and 2019.
The South African rugby team, which won the World Cup in Japan last year for the third time in history, were crowned the Team of the Year, beating European soccer champions Liverpool and women's soccer World Cup winners United States.
German NBA star Dirk Nowitzki, who retired last year after a 21-year career in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks, was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to basketball.
Meanwhile, the Spanish Basketball Federation was recognised with the Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement Award after the men's World Cup triumph last year while the women have won three of the last four EuroBasket titles.
German Formula Three driver Sophia Floersch, who fractured her spine in an aerial crash at the Macau Grand Prix in November 2018 that required an 11-hour surgery to fix, made the Comeback of the Year after getting back into the cockpit last year.
Former Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar, the highest run scorer of all time in international cricket, had the support of a cricket-crazy nation to win a fan vote for the award for the best Sporting Moment from the last two decades.
In his sixth and final one-day international World Cup in 2011, Tendulkar finally got his hands on the title as India won on home soil and he was carried on his team mates' shoulders for a lap of honour.
List of winners:
Sportsman of the Year: Lewis Hamilton and Lionel Messi
Sportswoman of the Year: Simone Biles
Team of the Year: South Africa Men's Rugby Team
Breakthrough of the Year: Egan Bernal
Comeback of the Year: Sophia Floersch
Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability: Oksana Masters
Action Sportsperson of the Year: Chloe Kim
Best Sporting Moment: 'Carried on the shoulders of a nation' - Sachin Tendulkar
Lifetime Achievement Award: Dirk Nowitzki
Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement Award: Spanish Basketball Federation
Laureus Sport for Good Award: South Bronx United
February 18, 2020 – CHINA; UNITED STATES - Apple said on Monday (February 17) that it will not meet its revenue guidance for the March quarter due to the coronavirus outbreak affecting both production and demand in China.
The company said that despite the fact that its productions facilities in China have re-opened, they are ramping up slower than expected.
The company had forecast $63 billion to $67 billion in revenue for the quarter ending in March, ahead of estimates of $62.4 billion.
Apple said that supply for its iPhones will be "temporarily constrained" as manufacturing facilities in China are still not operating at full capacity. Sales of iPhones were up for the first time in a year in the December quarter.
It also said that store disruptions have affected its sales in China, with most stores either closed or operating at reduced hours.
The outbreak is expected to pile pressure on China's economy with companies struggling to restart production after an extended new year holiday as supply chains from the car industry to smartphones remain disrupted.
Analysts have estimated that the virus may slash demand for smartphones by half in the first quarter in China, the world's biggest market for smartphones.
February 17, 2020 – OKAYAMA, JAPAN - About 10,000 Japanese men clad only in loincloths braved freezing temperatures to pack into a temple at the weekend and scramble in the dark for lucky wooden talismans tossed into the crowd, in a ritual that dates back more than 500 years.
The highlight of the raucous day-long 'Hadaka Matsuri' festival came at 10 p.m. on Saturday, when the lights went out and a priest threw bundles of twigs and two lucky sticks, each about 20-cm (8-inch) -long, among the participants.
That set off a 30-minute tussle for the sticks, coveted as symbols of good fortune and prosperity, although most men escaped with just a few cuts and bruises, in contrast to past events, when some have been crushed to death.
Plenty of sake and beer is sold outside the temple to warm against the cold, but a purifying plunge into pools of cold water before the start of the festival was a shock to the system for most revellers.
February 14, 2020 – LONDON, ENGLAND, UK - Royal Bank of Scotland's new Chief Executive Alison Rose unveiled a new strategy for the taxpayer-backed bank on Friday (February 14), including radically cutting back the size of its loss-making investment bank and renaming the company NatWest.
Rose, who replaced former CEO Ross McEwan in November to become the first woman to lead one of Britain's major banks, is hoping a rebrand will help rehabilitate the lender's image after years of scandals following a 45 billion pound taxpayer rescue during the 2008 financial crisis.
Although the RBS brand will live on in Scotland, the bank will stop using the 293-year-old name at group level and adopt the NatWest brand that grew out of National Westminster Bank, which RBS bought in 2000 and which consistently polls as more popular in customer satisfaction surveys in Britain.
The new strategy and better-than-expected profits were, however, overshadowed by a lower than expected eight pence dividend, sending shares down 6% in morning trading and demonstrating the challenge Rose faces to win over investors.
The payout will amount to 1 billion pounds, including a 600 million pound windfall for taxpayers, who still own 62% of the bank.
Rose's strategy includes plans to halve investment bank NatWest Markets' risk weighted assets to 20 billion pounds ($26.10 billion).
She also said making the bank greener would be a top priority to help tackle "one of the defining issues of our generation", following similar strategy updates by BP and Blackrock in recent weeks.
The bank will stop financing coal power stations by 2030 and is aiming to make its own operations carbon positive by 2025.
And as Britain negotiates a trade deal with the EU after it left the bloc at the end of January, the prospect of a no-deal "is not good for business", Rose said. But the bank was "prepared operationally for a hard Brexit if it happens", Rose added.
February 12, 2020 – UNITED STATES - Former "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett was charged on Tuesday (February 11) in a six-count felony indictment with staging a phony hate crime, nearly a year after similar charges were abruptly dismissed by local prosecutors.
The six-count grand jury indictment accuses Smollett, 37, who is black and openly gay, of making four separate false reports to Chicago Police Department officers related to his account that he was the victim of a hate crime.
The indictment specifically charges the actor with six counts of disorderly conduct.
The dismissal of the earlier charges on March 26, 2019, drew an outcry from then-Mayor Rham Emanuel and the city's police superintendent, who branded the reversal a miscarriage of justice, and led to a Cook County judge appointing former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb to review the case.
A Cook County grand jury returned the new indictment of Smollett at Webb's recommendation after nearly a year of investigation by his office.
The probe "revealed that Jussie Smollett planned and participated in a staged hate crime attack, and thereafter made numerous false statements to Chicago Police Department officers on multiple occasions, reporting a heinous hate crime that he, in fact, knew had not occurred," Webb said in a statement released in conjunction with the indictment.
"Therefore, Mr. Webb has determined that reasonable grounds exist to further prosecute Mr. Smollett," he said.
Neither Smollett's lawyers nor publicist immediately responded to requests for comment.
Smollett has continued to insist that he was telling the truth when he reported that he was accosted on the street in January 2019 by two masked men, who he said threw a noose around his neck and poured chemicals on him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs and expressions of support for U.S. President Donald Trump.
The actor, who played a singer-songwriter on the Fox television "Empire" but was dropped from the show after the alleged attack, sued the city of Chicago in November, accusing municipal officials of maliciously prosecuting him.
February 12, 2020 – PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - Tiger Woods said on Tuesday (February 11) he had been approached by the Premier Golf League (PGL) and was gathering more information about a concept that could be a more lucrative alternative to the PGA Tour.
The British-based World Golf Group last month unveiled plans for a new global tour it hopes to launch in 2022 that would consist of 18 yearly tournaments - each with prize money of $10 million -- and feature 48 of the game's top players.
Woods, speaking to reporters at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California, where he is tournament host for this week's Genesis Invitational, said he had been briefed on details of the PGL.
The PGL said it wanted to work with established tours rather than as a breakaway circuit, but the U.S.-based PGA Tour and European Tour have been all but dismissive about the proposed circuit.
When asked how such a concept could be a possibility, Woods referenced the high-profile World Golf Championships, which were introduced in 1999 as a way to get the world's best golfers together outside of the four majors and Players Championship.
Woods, who is seeking a record-breaking 83rd PGA Tour win this week, will play the opening two rounds alongside Justin Thomas and Steve Stricker.
February 11, 2020 – SOUTH AFRICA – February 11, 2020 marks 30-years since Nelson Mandela emerged from Victor Verster prison a free man after living behind bars for nearly three decades. Mandela wrote on February 11, 1990: "As I finally walked through those gates ... I felt even at the age of 71 that my life was beginning anew. My 10,000 days of imprisonment were at last over."
Mandela would waste little time before becoming a central figure in guiding South Africa from the shackles of apartheid to multi-racial democracy.
Two days after his release from jail, Mandela returned home to a tumultuous welcome from the people of Soweto where more than 120,000 people packed a stadium for the biggest political rally in South African history.
Earlier in his life, Mandela left South Africa and travelled the continent and Europe, studying guerrilla warfare and building support for his party, the African National Congress (ANC). After his return to South Africa in 1962, Mandela was arrested and sentenced to five years for incitement and illegally leaving the country. While serving that sentence, he was charged with sabotage and plotting to overthrow the government along with other anti-apartheid leaders in the Rivonia Trial.
Branded a terrorist by his enemies, Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, isolated from millions of his countrymen as they suffered oppression, violence and forced resettlement under the apartheid regime of racial segregation.
Mandela's imprisonment began with breaking rocks on the notorious Robben Island prison in Table Bay off Cape Town, a place of incarceration infamous for more than 200 years. A life sentence at this time generally meant 20 years with time off for good behaviour. He was to serve 27 years.
While Mandela and his comrades languished in prison, the ANC, though banned, did not go away. Thousands died but the more the government cracked down the more young black people flocked to its ranks. Although not the most effective guerrilla organisation the ANC gained support within and outside South Africa and boycotts of black schools and white businesses proved as effective as the bomb.
In 1988, an estimated 400 million people watched a tribute concert given by superstars of the rock and pop world to mark Mandela's 70th birthday. He became the world's most celebrated political prisoner despite the fact that few people knew what he really looked like.
When he was released on February 11, 1990, walking away from the Victor Verster prison hand-in-hand with his wife Winnie, the event was watched live by television viewers across the world.
Less than three months later Mandela led an un-banned ANC delegation in the first face-to-face talks with South African President FW De Klerk and government officials. Mandela's election as ANC president in July 1991, replacing the ailing Oliver Tambo, gave him greater authority to negotiate with the white-led government.
Mandela and De Klerk were jointly awarded the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of their efforts to end white domination and pave the way for transforming South Africa into a multi-racial democracy. Although he accused De Klerk's government of not doing enough to stop political and racial violence, Mandela agreed to accept the joint prize as a gesture of reconciliation.
In April 1994 an estimated 23 million people cast their votes during four days of voting in an election hampered by logistical problems but relatively free of violence. The ANC won 62.25% of the vote and control of eight of the nine regional assemblies.
Speaking after voting, Mandela quoted from the now famous address he made during the Rivonia trial. "I have fought very firmly against white domination, I have fought very firmly against black domination, I cherish the idea of a new South Africa where all South Africans are equal", he said.
On May 10th, 1994 Mandela was formally inaugurated as South Africa's first black head of state before a world audience. A Mandela presidency, something millions of black South Africans had only dared dream about, had become a reality.
Mandela played a key role on the world stage and the world lined up to be seen with him. From U.S. President Bill Clinton to the Dalai Lama, world leaders extolled his humanity, dignity and ready smile. He retired from politics in 1999 and handed over power to a new generation of leaders headed by Thabo Mbeki.
His decision to step down voluntarily after one five-year term as president was seen as a shining example to other African leaders who stubbornly clung to power. Mandela would remain a global advocate for peace and social justice and took on the role of elder statesman until his death in December 2013.
February 10, 2020 – SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - Residents of Sao Paulo were left struggling to get to work and go about their daily routines on Monday (February 10) after heavy rains pounded the city and surrounding areas overnight leading to severe flooding.
Major road arteries were submerged in water causing traffic jams, and commuter trains were stopped in their tracks due to the flooding across Brazil's largest city.
The Tiete and Pinheiros rivers swelled over their embankments inundating low-lying areas and stranding cars on bridges.
Local media report more heavy rains are expected to fall in Sao Paulo and surrounding areas through Monday.
February 10, 2020 – BEIJING, CHINA - Beijing's usually hectic Monday (February 10) morning commute was virtually empty due to the coronavirus outbreak. City authorities required everyone travelling back to Beijing from epidemic zones to self-quarantine for two weeks
The virus, believed to have originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has killed more than 900 people and infected more than 40,000, the vast majority of them in China. The virus has also spread to at least 27 countries and territories, according to a Reuters count based on official reports, infecting more than 330 people.
The outbreak is also inflicting a growing toll on businesses and consumers in the world's second-largest economy. Strict transport curbs have been imposed in many parts of the country with some Chinese cities in virtual lockdown.