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Cibulkova tears through Tokyo opener

Wednesday, 20 September 2017 00:00 Published in Sports

TOKYO — Fifth seed Dominika Cibulkova pummelled Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3, 6-3 on Tuesday to storm into the second round of the Pan Pacific Open.
The Slovakian world number nine produced glimpses of the red-hot form that won her four of her eight career titles last year with some brutal hitting in the Tokyo sunshine.
Cibulkova, who climbed as high as fourth in the women's rankings in 2016, underlined her early dominance by ripping a backhand down the line to take the first set.
It was one-way traffic in the second set too as the 28-year-old from Bratislava broke in the fourth game, before putting Suarez Navarro out of her misery with a thumping forehand on match point after one hour and 24 minutes.
Elsewhere, Caroline Garcia restored a measure of French pride after eighth seed Kristina Mladenovic was humiliated 6-0, 6-0 by China's Wang Qiang in the first round on Monday.
Garcia, seeded ninth, had no such trouble and comfortably overpowered Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus 6-4, 6-3.
Last year's surprise Rio Olympic gold medallist Monica Puig also advanced but had to work to beat Taiwan's Hsieh Su-Wei 2-6, 6-1, 6-1.
The Puerto Rican will face top seed Garbine Muguruza in the last 16. AFP
In other matches, Russia twice got the better of their American rivals, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova battling past Catherine Bellis 4-6, 6-0, 6-4 and Daria Kasatkina also taking three sets to see off Madison Brengle 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Muguruza, Wimbledon champion and newly crowned women's world number one, heads a strong field in Tokyo featuring several top 10 players including Karolina Pliskova, Caroline Wozniacki and Johanna Konta.

Veracruz, Mexico — Martha Gonzalez used to have the soft hands of a homemaker.
But they have grown callused and leathery since she started digging up bodies in search of her son, Alberto, one of Mexico’s tens of thousands of missing people.
Gonzalez lives in Veracruz, in eastern Mexico, a state with an ugly record of corrupt politics and turf wars between drug cartels — a toxic mix that has caused an explosion of violence, leaving the countryside littered with secret graves.
Gonzalez’s son, a policeman, was abducted in 2013 at the age of 25.
Alberto Valenzuela had joined the municipal police force in the town of Ursulo Galvan less than two months before, hoping to save enough for him and his girlfriend to get married.
He and six other officers went on a routine patrol the evening of January 11, 2013, and never came back.
Locals say they were abducted by state police. But the official investigation went nowhere.
Frustrated, Gonzalez took matters into her own hands.
She and the other officers’ mothers began excavating a series of mass graves discovered in the Santa Fe hills, just outside the port of Veracruz.
They learned how to do the job in the Solecito Collective, a group of 187 people — nearly all women — who search for their missing loved ones in unmarked graves.
“I’ve had to learn to dig and use a machete to search for my son,” said Gonzalez.
At first, she cried every time she found a human bone.
“I had never seen one before,” she told AFP.
“I would cry whenever we found someone’s clothing, women’s combs, taxi drivers’ uniforms — lots of them. But not anymore,” she said. “Now we just think about finding our sons.”
Thousands of bodies
Gonzalez believes her son was abducted on the orders of Arturo Bermudez, the state police chief under former governor Javier Duarte. She doesn’t know why.
Duarte, the governor from 2010 to 2016 for the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), is accused of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds and presiding over an explosion of violence.
He is now in jail facing corruption charges — as is Bermudez, his alleged accomplice.
But no officials have yet been charged over the 3,600 people who have gone missing in Veracruz since 2006, according to the new government.
Under Duarte, the state became one of the most violent in Mexico, registering more than 4,500 murders.
More than 300 bodies were found in mass graves.
Solecito’s members suspect there are many more.
They learned of the Santa Fe graves last year on Mother’s Day.
Some young men approached them during a protest march and handed over a hand-drawn map to the site.
“Bodies,” it said, next to a cluster of crosses.
‘Like death row’
Basilia Bonastre is one of the founders of Solecito, which started as a WhatsApp chat group for people with missing relatives and became a formal organization in 2014.
She recently found her son’s body, nearly five years after he went missing.
Her son Arturo, a 20-year-old nursing student, was on his way home on December 1, 2012 when he was detained by police.
In all, eight young men were arrested that night in Ciudad Cardel. None was ever seen again.
Bonastre, 49, has just received the results of DNA tests confirming that a skull excavated from the Santa Fe graves is her son’s.
The remains of five others taken that night were also identified.
The news confirmed what Bonastre had long suspected.
Still, she didn’t speak or leave the house for days.
“I was crushed. I secretly hoped to see him alive again,” she said.
Wary of the authorities, she is demanding a second DNA test.
“I want to be 100 percent sure that every bone they give me is his,” she said.
There are more than 30,000 missing persons in Mexico. The number has exploded since 2006, the year the government deployed the military to fight the country’s multi-billion-dollar drug cartels.
The drug war has taken down several kingpins, but also unleashed a wave of bloodshed. Since it began, at least 180,000 people have been murdered nationwide. Less than one percent of crimes are ever punished.
At the Santa Fe site, 137 graves have been found so far, containing 280 bodies. Just nine have been identified.
“We’re all waiting to see who will get the news next,” said Rosario Sayago, 38, who is searching for her missing husband.
“It’s like being on death row.”

Worried over referendum, Catalan employers make back-up plans

Wednesday, 20 September 2017 00:00 Published in Commentary

Madrid, Spain — Catalonia’s powerful business leaders are starting to lose their patience with an increasingly bitter tussle over an independence referendum deemed illegal by Madrid.
While they think it is unlikely that Catalonia will break away from Spain after the October 1 vote, they are nonetheless putting the brakes on some projects while they wait to see what happens and are drawing up a “Plan B” just in case.
Above all things, they say they fear losing easy access to the European Union, as an independent Catalonia would have to apply to join the bloc, an arduous process that takes years.
“The current situation clearly causes a lot of nervousness and worry,” Jaime Guardiola Romojaro, the chief executive of Barcelona-based Banco Sabadell, Spain’s fifth largest bank, told a business forum last week.
Several Catalan companies have drawn up “contingency plans”, he added.
His comments were backed up by Catalonia’s largest employers’ association, the Foment del Treball.
“All those who think their activity faces a risk” from independence have taken precautions, the association’s economic director, Salvador Guillermo, told AFP.
Catalonia’s pro-separatist government has said it will declare independence for the wealthy northeastern region of Spain, home to around 7.5 million people, within days if voters back secession in the plebiscite, despite Madrid’s ban.
The region, which accounts for about a fifth of Spain’s economic output, is home to seven of the 35 companies that make up the benchmark Ibex-35 index of most traded Spanish stocks.
In the “very hypothetical” case of Catalan independence, Banco Sabadell could not afford to “exit the European Central Bank’s regulatory framework” as this would mean it would lose its source of financing, a Banco Sabadell source said.
In this scenario the process of moving the bank’s headquarters to Madrid for example, “is very simple” and quick, the source added.
Export companies such as agriculture firms are also studying alternatives since they would have to pay tariffs if Catalonia were to leave Spain, and thus the European Union, said Guillermo.
Smaller market
The worry over Catalan independence dates back several years.
In 2012 the head of Spanish publisher Grupo Planeta, one of the biggest in the Spanish-speaking world, said he would move the company out of Catalonia if it became independent.
And the head of Spain’s biggest sparkling wine maker, Freixenet, has said that Catalan independence would be “a disaster.”
Nutritional products company Naturhouse in August actually went ahead and moved its headquarters from Barcelona to Madrid.
“If you ask Catalan entrepreneurs if we want a market of 550 million Europeans or one of 7.5 million Catalans, the answer is clear,” the company’s chairman, Felix Revuelta, said in an interview published in daily newspaper El Mundo at the time.
But Spain’s Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said last week he has not “identified any type of delocalization” of Catalan firms away from the region “because there is no national investor who thinks the independence scenario will happen.”
‘Nothing will happen’
Several big companies have “delayed certain projects in logistics or research and development” while the situation plays out, said an economist at a major Catalan business school who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the topic.
“The majority of them think nothing will happen,” he said, adding they were “far from being enthusiastic” about the referendum.
Contacted by AFP, CaixaBank, Spain’s third biggest bank, infrastructure company Abertis, Gas Natural and pharmaceutical firm Grifols — which are all based in Catalonia — refused to comment. AFP
“In Catalonia, everyone mingles together, including members of the regional government, so no one wants to anger them,” the economist said.
To make their voice heard companies hide behind employers’ associations.
“This referendum scenario does not respect the law,” said Guillermo of the Foment del Treball, adding “the rule of law and democracy” must be respected.
Pimec, a Catalan business chamber that represents small- and medium-sized businesses, has for its part called for a referendum held in agreement with Madrid.

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