Serena Williams feasted on familiar prey as she reached an eighth Wimbledon final with a superb 6-2 6-4 victory over Maria Sharapova, her 17th win in a row over the Russian.

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The five-time champion is one match away from reinforcing her stranglehold on the women’s game by holding all four grand slam titles at the same time, a feat she will achieve for the second occasion if she beats 20th-seeded surprise package Garbine Muguruza of Spain in Saturday’s final.

“I’m so excited. I got a bit nervous because it was a semi-final and it’s a long time since I’ve been this far,” said Williams, who last reached the Wimbledon final in 2012. “I’m excited to get through it. Maria played well and when she stepped up, I managed to step up. It wasn’t easy, it was interesting.”

Sharapova could not deal with the ferocity of the Williams return, her serve crumbling as the American increased the pressure.

The Russian is one of the game’s most powerful hitters but looked overawed at times in the face of Williams’s sledgehammer game. Double faults are a familiar flaw for Sharapova, but three in the opening game handed an early break and the initiative to her opponent. It was then one-way traffic as a cool-headed Williams set about savagely dismantling her opponent.

The world number one launched an attacking barrage, breaking twice in the first set, which she clinched in 33 minutes with a scorching backhand winner.
The second set was closer as Sharapova ditched all caution and came out swinging, but when Williams broke for a 3-2 lead, the outcome seemed inevitable.

Garbine Muguruza of Spain

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Earlier, Muguruza became the first Spanish woman to reach the Wimbledon final since 1996 as Agnieszka Radwanska was left rueing a botched Hawk-Eye challenge in the last game of her 6-2 3-6 6-3 Centre Court loss.

As an enthralling duel neared its conclusion the 21-year-old Muguruza was serving at deuce, 5-3 and thumped a deep drive that Poland’s Radwanska scrambled back before stopping mid-rally to challenge after hearing shouts of “out” from her coaching team.

The Hawk-Eye screen showed Muguruza’s shot had actually landed on the outer portion of the dusty baseline and even though the Spaniard’s next shot was out, the point was already hers as Radwanska had put her fate in the hands of technology.

Radwanska glared towards her box, Muguruza punched the air in relief and seconds later was celebrating victory after swinging away a volley to end the thriller and set up a Saturday afternoon date with Serena.

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FIFA President Sepp Blatter says he can handle the personal criticism he has faced over the organisation’s corruption troubles but has “no responsibility” over the body’s executive committee.

In his column in the FIFA Weekly magazine, to be published on Friday, Blatter says the upcoming election to replace him is a “sideshow” but reforms are needed because FIFA’s “future is at stake”.

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FIFA was thrown into turmoil when 14 sports marketing executives and football officials, including several from Zurich-based FIFA, were indicted by the US Department of Justice in May on bribery, money-laundering and wire fraud charges.

Among those indicted were FIFA vice-presidents Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands and Uruguayan Eugenio Figueredo, who have both been suspended, and former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago.

He said ” I would appeal for fairness: I bear no responsibility for members of a government [the FIFA Executive Committee] I have not myself elected”

A senior level Saudi information ministry official on Thursday said that Prince Saud had passed away and that an official statement would be published soon.
Prince Saud, who was appointed in 1975, was the world’s longest serving foreign minister when he was replaced on April 29 by Adel al-Jubeir, the then ambassador to Washington. May his soul rest in peace.

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Prince Saud  (left)

His tenure saw Israel invade Lebanon in 1978, 1982 and 2006, the eruption of Palestinian intifadas in 1987 and 2000, Iraq’s invasions of Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990, and the occupation of Iraq by a US-led coalition in 2003.

Prince Saud served under four Saudi kings, advancing the Kingdom’s foreign policy, especially after the attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States.
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He was also part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to lessen Iran’s influence in the region, including the continuing conflict in Syria, where Saudi Arabia has been supporting several rebel groups.

Asked in early 2012 if it would be a good idea to arm Syria’s rebels, he said briskly: “I think it’s an excellent idea.”

Aljazeera

Pope Francis delivered a fiery denunciation of modern capitalism on Thursday night, calling the “unfettered pursuit of money” the “dung of the devil” and accusing world leaders of “cowardice” for refusing to defend the earth from exploitation.

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Speaking to grassroots organizers in Bolivia, the Pope called on the poor and disenfranchised to rise up against “new colonialism,” including corporations, loan agencies, free trade treaties, austerity measures, and “the monopolizing of the communications media.”

Papal mass draws one million in Ecuador 01:23
(CNN)Pope Francis delivered a fiery denunciation of modern capitalism on Thursday night, calling the “unfettered pursuit of money” the “dung of the devil” and accusing world leaders of “cowardice” for refusing to defend the earth from exploitation.

Speaking to grassroots organizers in Bolivia, the Pope called on the poor and disenfranchised to rise up against “new colonialism,” including corporations, loan agencies, free trade treaties, austerity measures, and “the monopolizing of the communications media.”

Here’s what one prominent American priest had to say about the speech:

There is quite a lot to unpack in the speech, including the Pope’s apology for the “many grave sins” committed by Catholic Church against Native Americans “in the name of God.”

And the speech was pretty long, as even the Pope admitted:

Here are the 7 most pungent quotes from the Pope’s speech:

1. “This system is by now intolerable: farmworkers find it intolerable, laborers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, people find it intolerable … The earth itself … also finds it intolerable.”

2. “And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea, one of the church’s first theologians, called ‘the dung of the devil.’ An unfettered pursuit of money rules. That is the dung of the devil.”

3. “Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: it is a commandment.”

4. “It is not enough to let a few drops fall whenever the poor shake a cup which never runs over by itself.”

5. “I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the Church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.”

6. “The new colonialism takes on different faces. At times it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain ‘free trade’ treaties, and the imposition of measures of ‘austerity’ which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor.”

7. “Our common home is being pillaged, laid waste and harmed with impunity. Cowardice in defending it is a grave sin. We see with growing disappointment how one international summit after another takes place without any significant result.”

Pope Francis also called the recent persecution of Christians a “genocide.”

“Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus. This too needs to be denounced: in this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide — and I stress the world genocide — is taking place, and it must end.”

Against the backdrop of the incessant terrorism attacks in Nigeria and the world over, President Mohammadu Buhari yesterday urged the Muslim community to make a strong statement that would condemn the activities of insurgents.

According to the president, speaking with one voice was a sure way of rejecting the attackers claim of acting in the name of Islam, stressing that it would also stop the abasement of their religion.

This is even as Buahri called on the international community to unite and forge a stronger worldwide consensus for more effective action against global terrorism.

The president’s injunctions came on the heels of the killing of about 150 men, women and children in Kukawa, Borno state on Thursday and also the recent murder of Egyptian Attorney General, Hesham Barakat, and the killing of about 70 Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula by terrorists.

While strongly condemning the act, Buhari in separate statements issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu in Abuja further stated that it was “a very heinous atrocity which must be unreservedly condemned by all people of conscience.”

He conveyed  his heart-felt condolences to families of the victims of Boko Haram’s dreadful killings in Kukawa just as he also condoled the government of Egypt and the families of the victims, reaffirming “Nigeria’s commitment to working with other countries facing terrorists’ threats to overcome the scourge of violent extremism.”

The President added that “no country can afford to be indifferent to the threats of terrorism because of its pervasive and destructive nature.”

Buhari had made tackling insurgency a campaign issue and since he assumed office as President, he has focused on the menace more than any problem facing the country.  But the terrorists have continued their attacks on Nigerians and their North-East region, killing and destroying people and properties.

Former Miss Nigeria 1986, Ms. Rita Anuku, 47, has died at the age of 47.
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A statement released by the family said the late beauty queen passed away on Thursday at an undisclosed Abuja hospital.

It said Anuku, who became a beauty queen at age 18, as a secondary school leaver, had been battling with cancer for two years.

The deceased, who is also the younger sister of Nollywood actor, Hanks Anuku, is survived by four children; three girls and a boy.

Burial arrangement is expected to be announced by the family

LUXURY class fliers are paying more for their comfort on flights, it was learnt yesterday.

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), desperate to fatten Nigeria’s lean purse, has introduced new taxes. Among them is a N15,000 levy on first class and business class travellers.

Besides, private jet owners are to pay taxes for enjoying the luxury.

The battle to open other tax avenues is coming amid the bad fortune of  oil and gas —the economy’s live wire.

FIRS Acting Chairman  Sunday Samuel Odugbesan, who led other officials of the Service, spoke when they visited Senate President Bukola Saraki in Abuja.

Besides the downward slide of oil price, according to the FIRS boss, there are  insecurity, the uncertainty caused by the general elections and the late passage of the 2015 budget.

Odugbesan told the Senate President that the FIRS collected N697.07 billion from Petroleum Profit Tax in the first six months of the year. The non-oil component income tax, yielded N778 billion between January and June and Value Added Tax N376billion.

He said the FIRS was expecting between N12 billion to N15 billion monthly from the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

The FIRS boss put the annual target at N1.4trillion; N123.74bn is expected monthly.

He described the total tax collection as “the worst performance for the oil industry in the last 15 years”, saying the Service collected only N50bn from the sector.

Odugbesan explained that the reason for this was because three major oil companies had nothing to pay because of the huge increase in cost of production.

He said the FIRS was already working out new tax regimes to shore up its revenue collection.

Part of the new tax regime, Odugbesan said, is to tax private jet owners, mansion owners and traveller who fly business and first class.

Odugbesan said the FIRS was made to understand that there are more that 130 private jet owners in the country.

He said the FIRS raised N100 million from a particular company that operates private jets.

He added that it planned to convince the government to tax those who fly first class and business class.

Odugbesan said: “We received a letter inviting us to appear before you so that we can share some thoughts and we have given you copies of our presentation.

”This is as a result of many factors many of which are completely outside our control.

“The price of oil in the international market that we all know has continued on the downward slide although in the last three months; it started gathering some momentum.

“As at today, I think it averages $ 62, but the average we have computed is $59. That is what is obtainable today.

“So what is within our purview is actually what intervention we can make to shore the collection from non-oil sector.

“As at the end of June, we have not actually got the total figures for June yet, which just ended yesterday. And for JP Morgan that is assisting the Federal Government to collect foreign component of our collection, they will still give us report a week after the close of the month.

“Why is it low this way? Everyone knows that for the first quarter and even the second quarter, there hadn’t been much activity in the land, the month of March and April, fears of uncertainty.

“If you add that to the insecurity situation in the Northeast, most of our offices, they have to be hiding to do their work. It is that bad.

“The other is that government is the biggest spender; when government sends money into the economy, it creates activity. Even the banks themselves would be in the position to loan out money to business entities.

“You engage everyone. We see the oil sector as the sector that is really driving because it is the mainstay of the economy but we often do not realise that if government does not support that sector, through cash calls, virtually nothing would happen in the oil sector.

“If government does not spend money, the withholding taxes from that sector is not realised and the value income tax is not realised, Bureau of Statistics will tell us that the aggregate leve