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Cristiano Ronaldo has insisted he is not obsessed with winning the Ballon d'Or for a second time in January despite a series of scintillating performances that have made him the strong favourite to win the award. Ronaldo scored his fifth hat-trick of the season for club and country against Sweden in midweek to ensure Portugal will travel to next year’s World Cup in Brazil and take his tally for the campaign to 31 goals in just 21 appearances. FIFA's decision to extend the date for votes to be cast for the award from November 15 to November 29 is also expected to weigh heavily in Ronaldo's favour with Barcelona's Lionel Messi, winner of the award for the past four years, sidelined until the end of the year with a hamstring injury. And the former Manchester United man, who was previously crowned World Player of the Year in 2008, refused to confirm rumours that he was considering not even attending the awards ceremony after reacting angrily to comments FIFA president Sepp Blatter made recently about his demeanour on the field.
By Benjamin Kang Lim BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to promote a string of allies in coming months as part of a sweeping reshuffle of the Communist Party, the government and the military, three separate sources with ties to the leadership said. The Communist Party spokesman's office, also declined to comment.
The disgraced ex-chairman of Britain's Co-op Bank, Paul Flowers, was arrested on Friday in a probe into the supplying of drugs in a scandal that has fast become a political row. Flowers, a 63-year-old Methodist minister, was filmed allegedly talking about buying crystal meth, crack cocaine and ketamine by the Mail on Sunday tabloid newspaper. The former local councillor for the opposition Labour party apologised after the story was published last weekend and was subsequently suspended by the church and Labour. Reverend Flowers was chairman of the Co-operative Bank, which prides itself on ethical investments, from 2010 until June earlier this year, and the lender and financial regulators face serious questions over his appointment.
Business confidence in Germany rose surprisingly strongly in November after dipping unexpectedly in October, official data showed on Friday. The Ifo economic institute's business climate index -- a key measure of the mood in the industry and trade sectors of Europe's biggest economy -- rose to 109.3 points from 107.4 points in October. Analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast a rise to 107.7 points. Business confidence is considered to be a reliable leading indicator of performance of the economy, and German confidence is particularly closely watched because the German economy is the biggest in the eurozone and in Europe, acting as a motor for the entire region.
The European Central Bank said on Friday it is suspending early repayments by banks of the emergency funds they borrowed at the height of the eurozone crisis. "The governing council of the European Central Bank has decided to suspend repayments of the three-year longer-term refinancing operations (LTROs) during the year-end period, in view of the expected low interest and the concentration of other operations owing to public holidays," the ECB said in a statement. The suspension would be only temporary and run from December 23 until January 15, the ECB said. The ECB pumped more than 1.0 trillion euros into the financial system via three-year loans at the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, effectively making available unlimited amounts for liquidity to banks at ultra-low rates.
Brisbane (Australia) (AFP) - Recalled paceman Mitchell Johnson returned to his brutal best Friday as Australia blew away England for just 136 to turn the first Ashes Test on its head. Australia, castigated for a top-order failure on day one, roared back to rattle the trophy-holders with six wickets for nine in one of their worst Ashes collapses. By stumps on the second day in Brisbane, the home side had cruised to 65 without loss, 224 runs in front, with David Warner on 45 and Chris Rogers not out 15. The left-armer, steaming in and bowling at hostile pace, captured four for 46 off 13 overs, taking the wickets of Jonathan Trott, Michael Carberry, Joe Root and Graeme Swann in his first Test appearance since March this year.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats quickly enjoyed the first fruits of a milestone Senate vote making it harder for the Republican minority to block President Barack Obama's nominations: They swiftly ended a GOP filibuster against one of his top judicial selections and prepared to do the same for two others.