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Mareeam Haroon

Serena Williams Defeats World Number One Halep

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fired-up Serena Williams slugged past world number one Simona Halep Monday as she not only avenged her sister Venus defeat but also inched closer to a 24th Grand Slam title.

In a towering performance, the American great scored her biggest win since giving birth to break down the Romanian top seed 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 and move into a quarter-final against seventh seed Karolina Pliskova.

Czech Pliskova is another form player, winning the warm-up Brisbane International and easing past two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-1 to set up the Williams clash.

“I’m such a fighter, I never give up,” declared Williams after the epic encounter.

“It was an intense match and there were some incredible points but I love playing tennis and being out here and I love this court, it’s really cool to be back.”

Women’s fourth seed Naomi Osaka was also well composed as she beat crafty Latvian Anastasija in three sets to set up a meeting with ambitious Ukrainian Elina Svitolina for a place in the semi-finals.

But it was the dominant Williams who overshadowed them all and is overwhelming favourite to win an eighth Australian title, with defending champion Caroline Wozniacki and second seed Angelique Kerber already out.

She has been in ominous form at Melbourne Park as she seeks one more major title to put her alongside Margaret Court’s record 24, and it looked like French Open champion Halep would be another easy scalp after a first set rout.

But the nuggety Romanian isn’t world number one for nothing and she bounced back to set up a huge power struggle that Williams finally won with a break in the seventh game of the third set.

“I really needed to elevate my game. She’s a great player,” said Williams.

Halep had beaten Venus Williams in the third round to set up the meeting with Serena.

Fourth seed Osaka emerged from an error-strewn first set against Sevastova to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

“I think the biggest thing for me is the belief. I think I believe in myself more this year than I have last year,” said the bubbly 21-year-old, who beat Williams in the US Open final last year.

She next faces sixth seed Svitolina, who battled past American Madison Keys 6-2, 1-6, 6-1.

It will be a new experience for whoever wins that showdown, with neither going beyond the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park before.

Svitolina needed to dig deep to overcome 17th seeded Keys, a US Open finalist in 2017.

“I had to put my level up, I’m glad I handled the pressure,” said Svitolina, who scored her biggest career win at the WTA Finals in Singapore last October.

Svitolina was a quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park last year and has set her sights high after her breakthrough in Singapore, targeting a Grand Slam win and world number one.

Presidency Calls Obasanjo Desperate, Slams Letter

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former Nigerian leader needs a good doctor and in anticipation of a good treatment, a spokesman of President Muhammadu Buhari, wishes he should ”get well soon”.

It was part of the response from the Presidential Villa to Obasanjo following the 16 page letter he wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari and which he released this afternoon in Abeokuta.

Obasanjo, a partisan in next month’s election, is supporting opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar, who he had savaged in a book and dubbed a ‘corrupt man’ and even invoked God’s wrath upon himself, if he ever backed Atiku’s presidential ambition.

Garba Shehu, the Senior Special assistant to President Buhari regarded Obasanjo’s attack against Buhari as puerile and the “the last push by desperate politicians who can’t handle the President(Buhari) politically and have resorted to subterfuge.

“This language of his 16-page letter, likening President Buhari to General Sani Abacha, a man he dreaded and the one who jailed him under military laws is most unfitting from a former President of Nigeria”, Garba said.

“The claim that President Buhari has put in place rigging machinery is both outlandish and outrageous. We are unable to get the words to describe a 90-year old liar, except to say that by the publication of this tissue of lies against the President, he Obasanjo, not the President will fall from everyone’s esteem.

“As repeatedly said of him, since Chief Obasanjo left office in 1979, he never let every succeeding leader of the country function freely, and this included the one he personally handpicked against all known rules drawn up by the party that put him in the office of the President.

“But Chief Obasanjo is jealous because President Buhari has more esteem than him and the sooner he learns to respect him the better.

“It is a notorious fact that in dealing with any leader that he failed to control, he resorted to these puerile attacks. As the grand patron, more correctly the grandfather of corruption as described by the National Assembly, Chief Obasanjo released today’s letter purely for the reason of rescuing his thriving corruption establishment.

“The elections starting in February will be free and fair as promised the nation and the international community by President Buhari.

“What Chief Obasanjo and his co-travellers in the PDP should expect is that from the outcome, we will teach them a political lesson that they will never forget. This margin will be much bigger than we had in 2015.

“Claims that President Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have embarked on the president’s “self- succession project, by recruiting collation officers who are already awarding results based on their projects to actualise the perpetuation agenda, in which the people will not matter and the votes will not count” is not only utterly false, but a copious note from the book on the failed third term agenda of President Obasanjo.

“The man, President Buhari who has taken Nigeria’s reputation to a higher level internationally and is working hard to improve on the records of elections he found in place cannot descend to the level that Obasanjo has himself sunk.

“As for his attacks of the administration’s records in fighting corruption, what the former President said is no more than evidence that President Buhari’s war against corruption is succeeding. They thought it is all a joke.

“A leader who took USD 16 billion “upfront” to supply electric power yet failed to add a single megawatt to the national grid and to date, there is no trace of the money is jittery that he will be called to account. He is a coward.

“Chief Obasanjo, manifesting a confused state of mind blames President Buhari for the fall of Libya into a failed state and the unholy alliance between the Boko Haram terrorists and the ISIS, while at the same time calling it an African problem, saying “the struggle must be for all West African, Central African, North African and most East African States,” which really does not amount to saying anything new.

“Nigerians looked up to him as a role model and a ray of hope to ethical and clean leadership until President Yar’Adua called him out to explain what happened to the sixteen billion dollars of taxpayer’s money. It is clear that with him sitting on top of the heap of corruption, he is no different from the crowd he leads”.

Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris checks into rehab

Paris, the daughter of late American pop star, Michael Jackson has checked into a rehabilitation facility to get help regarding her emotional health.

According to the magazine, PEOPLE, the 20-year-old decided that she needed to take some time off the scene in order “to reboot, realign and prioritise her physical and emotional health.

“She checked herself into a treatment facility to aid in her wellness plan and is looking forward to coming out of this revitalised and ready to tackle the exciting new projects that await her,” a PEOPLE source said.

It will be recalled that Paris was hospitalised in 2013 after attempting suicide.

She admitted the development in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2017.

She said, “I was crazy. I was actually crazy. I was going through a lot of, like teen, angst. And I was also dealing with my depression and my anxiety without any help.”

Paris also disclosed in the interview that she was sexually abused by a stranger which further increased her depression.

She is an actress, model, singer and is the second child and only daughter of Michael Jackson and Debbie Rowe.

Prosecutors frustrate Gbagbo’s return to Cote d’Ivoire

(Reuters) Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court on Wednesday asked judges to bar former Ivory Coast President, Laurent Gbagbo, from returning to his homeland, a day after he was acquitted on all charges.

In a filing ahead of a hearing on Wednesday in which judges are expected to discuss the terms of his release, prosecutors said if they appeal the acquittal, Ivory Coast might not ensure or be able to compel Gbagbo’s return to the Hague.

After Gbagbo’s arrest and extradition in 2011, Ivory Coast’s government has not cooperated with the court in other matters, prosecutors said in a statement.

Facebook tightens rules for political adverts for Nigeria, others due to upcoming election

Facebook is tightening the rules of political advertising on its platform in countries with big elections to be held in 2019, such as India, Nigeria, and Ukraine, Reuters reported.

The company is taking such measures in order to counter interference with the electoral process, the source noted.

According to Katie Harbath, director of global policy and coverage, beginning on Wednesday in Nigeria, only ads located in the country will be able to run electoral ads, mirroring a policy unveiled during an Irish referendum last May.

Tthe same policy will take effect in Ukraine in February, the source noted adding that Nigeria holds a presidential election on Feb. 16, while Ukraine will follow on March 31.

What comes to India, which parliamentary elections set for this spring, Facebook will place electoral ads in a searchable online library starting from next month, said Rob Leathern, a director of product management at the company.

“We’re learning from every country,” he said. “We know we’re not going to be perfect, but our goal is continuing, ongoing improvement.”

Facebook believes that holding the ads in a library for a total of seven years is a key part of fighting interference, he noted.

Sen. Andy Uba’s move to establish University in Uga gets a boost

Recent move by Senator Andy Uba for the establishment of a Federal University in Uga, Anambra state, has gotten a boost as the Senate has committed the bill to Public Hearing.

The Senate’s Committee on Tertiary Education and TETFUND, chaired by Sen. Barau Jibrin, on Tuesday, held a public hearing on to establish Federal University, Uga.

Barau who commended Sen. Uba for the move, said that the University would go a long way to boost tertiary education in Uga and the whole of Anambra state.

Addressing members of the committee during the hearing, Sen. Uba said that the university will further advance Nigeria’s body of knowledge through research.

Senator Andy Uba with some members of his Uga Community after the public hearing to establish a Federal University

“One of the yearnings of the people of Anambra state especially my Senatorial District, is to have increased access to quality tertiary education. This bill is crafted specifically to cater to that need.

“The establishment of this institution is informed by the imperative to create greater access to university education in view of a large number of qualified candidates who are annually stranded in their failed attempts to gain admission into universities in Nigeria.

“Our economy has very high potentials and requires high level scientific and technical skills to drive it. The establishment of this university will go a long way into achieving those targets.

“The bill is well organized for its very own purpose of a modern academic and research institution,” he said.

The senator argued that the establishment of the University will further advance Nigeria’s body of knowledge through research as well as nurture unique innovations, entrepreneurship, vocational training and wealth management.

The bill if passed into law will bring to five the number of federal universities in South East Nigeria.