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Clyde K. Valle

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Clyde is a business graduate interested in writing about latest news in politics and business. He enjoys writing and is about to publish his first book. He’s a pet lover and likes to spend time with family. When the time allows he likes to go fishing waiting for the muse to come.

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George Osborne has announced that a small number of measures are to be put in place in order to help motorists. The announcement came as part of the new budget in March. The proposed fuel rise in September is the first thing that has been frozen in order to help motorists as well Chancellor George Osborne saying that this should make fuel 20p cheaper per litre. The fuel rise will be abandoned until spring 2015 when it will be looked at once again.

 

There are some budget issues that are bound to impact motorists in other ways motors.co.uk explain to us that anyone selling a car from April 1st 2014 will no longer be able to transfer their tax discs and any vehicle that falls into band D and upwards are going to see a rise by around £5.

 

However, something that motorists will be glad of, is the £200 million fund given to local authorities to help repair the potholes in the roads. With the bad weather we have seen recently, potholes have become an increasing big problem. This budget should see that they get fixed properly and stay that way for the long term. An article from the Guardian details more about the money being spent on filling in potholes.

George Osborne has announced that a small number of measures are to be put in place in order to help motorists 640x480 photo

George Osborne has announced that a small number of measures are to be put in place in order to help motorists (photo AP)

 

The RAC have disagreed with the money being spent on the repair of potholes, saying it simply is not enough. The organisation’s technical director has said:

 

“We need whole stretches of road to be resurfaced regularly rather than just patching them when they start to fall apart, costing taxpayers more and more money every year. Simply filling potholes is a massive false economy which has now unfortunately become necessity. We really need to put an end to this by making sure roads are never allowed to degenerate to the point where potholes develop.”

 

Classic cars will once again be exempt from vehicle excise duty and will move to a 40 year rolling period. This will also begin come the 1st April this year and will see the likes of the Reliant Robin being included in the tax exemption. Previously, only cars built before January 1973 were exempt from tax.

 

Like any budget there are both positive and negative sides to it and some motorists will be glad of the benefits more than others. On the plus side, something is being done about the road’s, giving us a bit of hope that they will continue to improve. More about the new budget can be found on the Telegraph.

 

References:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/news/10708398/Budget-2014-What-it-means-for-motorists.html

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/mar/19/budget-2014-potholes-flood-defences

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GM has seen its 2014 Q1 profits hit by a $1.3 billion charge to cover the cost of a huge recall of cars over defective ignition switches.

The faulty switches could turn off the engine, disabling the airbags and have been linked to at least a dozen deaths.

General Motors says it also incurred $300 million in restructuring costs, mostly in Europe.

As a result net income was $125 million, compared with $865 million in the same period last year. Sales came in at $37.4 billion, up from $36.9 billion in 2013.

GM said that of the $1.3 billion recall charges, some $300 million was to cover the cost of courtesy cars.

GM has seen its 2014 Q1 profits hit by a 1.3 billion charge to cover the cost of a huge recall of cars over defective ignition switches photo

GM has seen its 2014 Q1 profits hit by a $1.3 billion charge to cover the cost of a huge recall of cars over defective ignition switches (photo Reuters)

“Obviously, the recall campaign charges in the first quarter overshadows the headline results, but if you look underneath that, we had strong performance across the board,” chief financial officer Chuck Stevens said.

It was GM’s worst quarterly performance since it posted a net loss after leaving bankruptcy protection in 2009.

The company had raised vehicle costs during the quarter, which helped boost operating profits by $1.8 billion.

In North America, GM experienced higher sales of its more lucrative versions of its redesigned Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickup trucks.

“The performance of our core operations was very strong this quarter, reflecting the positive response of customers to the new vehicles we are bringing to market,” said GM CEO Mary Barra.

“Our focus remains on creating the world’s best vehicles with the highest levels of safety, quality and customer service, while aggressively addressing our business opportunities and challenges globally.”

During 2014 Q1 the company was also hit by another charge of $419 million, “related to changing the exchange rate GM uses for re-measuring the net assets of its Venezuelan subsidiaries”.

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Bernie Ecclestone has appeared in court at the start of a trial on bribery charges in Munich, Germany.

The Formula 1 boss is accused of giving a $45 million (33 million euros) bribe to a German banker to secure the sale of a stake in the F1 business to a company he favored.

Bernie Ecclestone admits paying Gerhard Gribkowsky, who is serving a jail sentence for receiving the payment, but has denied any wrongdoing.

He continues to run the F1 business on a day-to-day basis despite the charges.

To alleviate his workload, however, Bernie Ecclestone has stood down from a number of F1-related positions until the case concludes.

Bernie Ecclestone is accused of giving a 45 million bribe to a German banker to secure the sale of a stake in the F1 business to a company he favored photo

Bernie Ecclestone is accused of giving a $45 million bribe to a German banker to secure the sale of a stake in the F1 business to a company he favored

Correspondents say that he appeared relaxed as he consulted with his lawyers on Thursday ahead of the proceedings.

Asked by a journalist outside the court whether he was confident of victory, he replied: “I’m confident the sun is shining.”

German prosecutors allege that he bribed Gerhard Gribkowsky, who was on the board of Bayern Landesbank, to ensure that F1 was sold to a private equity group of Bernie Ecclestone’s choice.

The allegation is that by securing the sale of the stake to a company Bernie Ecclestone favored, he would remain in charge of Formula 1 and its commercial rights, broadcast payments and sponsorship deals.

The payments were made between July 2006 and December 2007.

Bernie Ecclestone, 83, admits paying Gerhard Gribkowsky, but says he was effectively the victim of blackmail. He has said the banker had been threatening to reveal false details of his tax affairs.

If convicted, Bernie Ecclestone – one of Britain’s richest men who transformed Formula 1 into a lucrative sport watched by 450 million TV viewers globally – could face up to 10 years in jail.

Gerhard Gribkowsky has been found guilty of corruption, tax evasion and breach of trust and is serving an eight and a half year prison sentence.

Bernie Ecclestone testified during Gerhard Gribkowsky’s trial in 2011, and the former German banker is expected to be the main witness during the F1 chief’s trial, which is scheduled to last until September.

In February, Bernie Ecclestone won a civil case in London’s High Court brought by a German media company, which claimed it lost out financially when the share of F1 belonging to German bank Bayern Landesbank was sold in 2006 to private equity group CVC.

While the judge rejected a damages claim from Constantin Medien against the F1 boss, Bernie Ecclestone was ordered to pay $4 million in legal fees.

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GM has asked a US court to bar some lawsuits relating to its recall over faulty ignition switches.

The faulty switches could turn off the engine, disabling the airbags and have been linked to at least a dozen deaths.

The recall was issued earlier this year but GM has admitted some employees knew about the problem as early as 2004.

General Motors has asked the court to ban cases “alleging purely economic damages” due to the recall. It does not affect cases relating to accidents or injury.

The company has been hit by various lawsuits since the recalls began this year.

GM has asked a US court to bar some lawsuits relating to its recall over faulty ignition switches photo

GM has asked a US court to bar some lawsuits relating to its recall over faulty ignition switches

“The lawsuits that are the subject of this motion, most of which purport to be class actions, are brought by or on behalf of individuals who were not injured as the result of any failure of the ignition switch,” the carmaker said.

GM has so far recalled nearly 2.6 million cars over the issue.

However, it has claimed that the problem affects cars that were manufactured in the years preceding its bankruptcy and subsequent bailout by the US government in 2009.

It said the “new GM” – referring to the post bailout firm – had committed to replacing the defective ignition switches as a result of the recall.

“New GM’s recall covenant does not create a basis for the plaintiffs to sue new GM for economic damages relating to a vehicle or part sold by old GM,” the company was quoted as saying in its filing by the Reuters news agency.

However, the company acknowledged in a statement that “it has civic and legal obligations relating to injuries that may relate to recalled vehicles”, and that it was looking at what options may be available to it to deal with those obligations.

Some of those suing the carmaker have alleged the firm hid the information about the problem from the US government while it was being bailed out.

They claim that as result of concealing this information GM was not entitled to protection from liability arising from the issue.

“GM’s argument suggests that the US Government would have agreed to extend $40bn of taxpayer money for GM’s restructuring, and supported shielding it from liability through the sale order, had it known of GM’s intentional misconduct,” Reuters quoted the plaintiffs as saying in their lawsuit.

GM is already facing an inquiry from US authorities over its handling of the issue.

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McDonald’s has reported a lower profit for 2014 Q1 after sales in its US restaurants fell by more than expected.

McDonald’s said group like-for-like sales had risen 0.5% overall, but US sales had fallen 1.7% due partly to the severe winter weather.

Analysts had forecast a 1.4% drop in like-for-like US sales.

McDonalds has reported a fall in profits for 2014 Q1 after sales in its US restaurants fell by more than expected photo

McDonald’s has reported a fall in profits for 2014 Q1 after sales in its US restaurants fell by more than expected

The sales drop meant net income fell to $1.2 billion from $1.27 billion a year earlier.

In Europe, comparable sales rose 1.4% in the first quarter with a positive performance in the UK, France and Russia.

However, McDonald’s said sales in Germany, Japan and Australia were weaker.

The company said it was focused on stabilizing its performance in these markets, as well as the US.

McDonald’s, which is the world’s largest fast food business, has been battling against weak economic growth in its home US market.

The company’s chief executive has previously said he plans to strengthen the chain’s appeal to its less well off customers.

McDonald’s also intends to offer new higher-priced products to keep drawing in customers who are prepared to spend more.

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The family of South African Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius has denied he took acting lessons ahead of his testimony in the trial of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

In a statement, they say claims Oscar Pistorius had received coaching for his emotional performance were “devoid of the truth”.

Oscar Pistorius, 27, has broken down on several occasions during the trial, often disrupting proceedings.

He denies intentionally killing Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year.

Oscar Pistorius says he fired four shots through a locked toilet door out of fear, believing there was a burglar inside.

Oscar Pistorius has broken down on several occasions during the trial photo

Oscar Pistorius has broken down on several occasions during the trial

But the prosecution says the 29-year-old model and law graduate was deliberately killed after the couple had an argument.

South African columnist Jani Allan claimed Oscar Pistorius took acting lessons ahead of his trial in an open letter to the athlete last week, saying she had heard it “from a reliable source”.

“Oscar, you are the latest in a long line of faux heroes. Like so many who preceded you, you have betrayed your people and disappointed your fans,” Jani Allan wrote.

Oscar Pistorius’ family said they felt compelled to deny the claims after they were widely circulated in the media.

In a statement on the athlete’s website, spokeswoman Anneliese Burgess said Jani Allan had never met Oscar Pistorius and that any knowledge she had of him was “fictitious”.

“This type of comment makes a mockery of the enormous human tragedy involving the Steenkamp family and our client and his family,” it adds.

The allegations followed seven days of emotional testimony from Oscar Pistorius, who at times broke down in court and vomited when evidence from the post-mortem examination was presented to court.

Oscar Pistorius trial has been adjourned over the Easter period and will resume on May 5.

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Pharmaceutical giants Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline have agreed to exchange assets and combine their consumer healthcare units.

Novartis will acquire GSK’s oncology drugs business for $16 billion and sell its vaccines division, excluding the flu unit, to GSK for $7.1 billion.

In a separate deal, Novartis has agreed to sell its animal health division to Lilly for nearly $5.4 billion.

Novartis said the moves would help the company focus on its key businesses.

Novartis will acquire GSKs oncology drugs business for 16 billion and sell its vaccines division excluding the flu unit to GSK for 7.1 billion photo

Novartis will acquire GSK’s oncology drugs business for $16 billion and sell its vaccines division, excluding the flu unit, to GSK for $7.1 billion

“The transactions mark a transformational moment for Novartis,” Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez said in a statement.

“They also improve our financial strength, and are expected to add to our growth rates and margins immediately.”

The deals are a part of Novartis’s review of its business as it continues to face sluggish growth.

Novartis and GSK said that combining their over-the-counter (OTC) units would help boost the fortunes of both the companies.

The combined unit will have annual revenues of more than $10 billion.

“Opportunities to build greater scale and combine high quality assets in vaccines and consumer healthcare are scarce,” GSK CEO Andrew Witty said in a statement.

“With this transaction, we will substantially strengthen two of our core businesses and create significant new options to increase value for shareholders.”

Glaxo shareholders will get a $6.5 billion capital return from the deal proceeds, the company said.

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Boston honored three killed and more than 260 injured in the last year’s bomb attack as thousands of marathoners took to the city’s streets for this year’s race.

Dignitaries, spectators and more than 36,000 runners observed a moment of silence before the race began.

The heavy security operation included a ban on rucksacks and screening at checkpoints.

US runner Meb Keflezighi and Rita Jeptoo from Kenya won the men’s and women’s races.

Athletes with disabilities were the first competitors to set off, at 08:50 local time.

The elite women’s race started at 09:32, with the elite men setting off half an hour later, followed by thousands of other runners.

Boston honored three killed and more than 260 injured in the last years bomb attack as thousands of marathoners took to the city’s streets 640x425 photo

Boston honored three killed and more than 260 injured in the last year’s bomb attack as thousands of marathoners took to the city’s streets

Meb Keflezighi won the men’s race, clocking in at 2 hours, 8 minutes and 37 seconds.

He is the first US runner to take the title since 1985.

Rita Jeptoo was the first to cross the finish line in the women’s race, marking her third win in the competition.

She finished the course in a record 2 hours, 18 minutes and 57 seconds.

The 26.2-mile (42.2 km) route was tightly guarded in a massive mobilization of law enforcement agencies, including police units, bomb squads and tactical assault teams from other states.

The Boston police department erected 8,000 steel barricades, 1,200 more than last year.

Many people in the city have been wearing “Boston Strong” T-shirts.

Last year’s winner of the men’s elite race, Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa, was competing again and met several victims of the blast.

Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, is due to stand trial in November. He has pleaded not guilty to 30 charges, including 17 that carry the death penalty.

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Thousands of participants are preparing to take part at this year’s Boston Marathon amid tight security following last year’s bombings.

In last year’s race two bombs exploded near the finish line, killing three people and wounding more than 260.

But the attack has not deterred runners from Monday’s event. More than 36,000 will start – 9,000 more than normal.

Half a million spectators are expected to turn out. They will pass through checkpoints and will not be allowed to bring rucksacks – only clear bags.

Never before has the marathon been run amid so many layers of security.

Thousands of participants are preparing to take part at this year’s Boston Marathon amid tight security following last year’s bombings 640x384 photo

Thousands of participants are preparing to take part at this year’s Boston Marathon amid tight security following last year’s bombings

Protecting the 26.2 mile route has involved a massive mobilization of law enforcement agencies, including police units, bomb squads and Swat teams from other states.

The Boston police department has erected 8,000 steel barricades, 1,200 more than last year.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick told CBS television on Sunday that the added security measures would assure a “very safe” atmosphere.

Runners and their families posed at the finish line on Sunday, determined to take part in the event.

Many people in the city have been wearing “Boston Strong” T-shirts.

Last year’s winner, Lelisa Desisa, returns to compete again. He has met several victims of the blast, calling them “an inspiration”.

The event will begin with a moment’s silence at the start line at 08:45.

Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, is due to stand trial in November. He has pleaded not guilty to 30 charges, including 17 that carry the death penalty.

Prosecutors allege that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev set off two pressure cooker bombs with his older brother Tamerlan, 26, who later died in a police shoot-out.

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Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, whose wrongful conviction for murder caused an international outcry, has died at the age of 76.

Rubin Carter died on Sunday at his home in Toronto, Canada, his friend and former co-defendant John Artis, confirmed.

The former boxer spent 19 years in prison for three murders in New Jersey in 1966.

The alleged racial motivations behind the incarceration became well-known in Bob Dylan’s song Hurricane, several books and a film.

John Artis said Rubin Carter had died in his sleep, following a battle with prostate cancer, AP news agency reported.

Rubin Hurricane Carter spent 19 years in prison for three murders in New Jersey in 1966 photo

Rubin Hurricane Carter spent 19 years in prison for three murders in New Jersey in 1966

Rubin Carter was charged with the murder of three white people in New Jersey in 1966.

He was convicted on the evidence of two white prosecution witnesses, who were attempting to commit a burglary near the location of the murders.

The witnesses recanted their statements in 1974, and Rubin Carter was briefly freed in 1976 after the guilty verdicts were overturned.

The case made Rubin Carter a high-profile figure in the civil-rights movement, and famous campaigners including Bob Dylan and Muhammad Ali expressed their support for him.

However, he was retried and convicted again in 1976. One of the prosecution witnesses withdrew his recantation, the New York Times reported.

Rubin Hurricane Carter was freed for good in 1985, after a federal judge overturned his convictions.

Judge H Lee Sarokin said Rubin Carter’s convictions had been “predicated on an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure”.

Following his release, Rubin Hurricane Carter moved to Toronto, and campaigned for the rights of those wrongfully convicted.

In an opinion piece for the New York Daily News in February this year, Rubin Carter thanked Judge H Lee Sarokin for freeing him.

“I lived in hell for the first 49 years, and have been in heaven for the past 28 years. To live in a world where truth matters and justice, however late, really happens, that world would be heaven enough for us all.”

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Giorgio Armani fashion house has paid 270 million euros ($374 million) to the Italian authorities to settle a tax bill.

An Armani spokesman confirmed reports that the payment concerned the group’s subsidiaries abroad but declined to comment further.

Giorgio Armani fashion house has paid 270 million euros to the Italian authorities to settle a tax bill photo

Giorgio Armani fashion house has paid 270 million euros to the Italian authorities to settle a tax bill

Last year the designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana were convicted of concealing millions of euros in tax.

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have appealed against a 20-month jail sentence.

All tax claims against Armani, which saw sales rise to more than 2 billion euros in 2012 according to Reuters news agency, are now closed, the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore reports.

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Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have reported contrasting results for the first quarter of 2014.

Goldman Sachs’ neat earnings fell to $2.03 billion from $2.26 billion after a drop in revenues from its bonds, currency and trading business.

However, Morgan Stanley’s profit rose to $1.45 billion, compared with $981 million a year ago.

Revenues rose in all of its three business segments.

Goldman Sachs makes most of its money from trading and investing in capital markets.

In the first quarter, its revenue from fixed income, currency and commodities trading fell 11% to $2.85 billion compared with a year earlier.

Morgan Stanley’s profit rose to 1.45 billion in 2014 Q1 640x391 photo

Morgan Stanley’s profit rose to $1.45 billion in 2014 Q1

“We are generally pleased with our performance for the quarter, given the operating environment,” said Goldman Sachs’ chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein.

“Market sentiment shifted throughout the quarter, constraining client activity in various parts of our franchise,” he said.

Investment banking and investment management “generated solid results”, he added.

The bank’s net revenues from investment banking were $1.78 billion, 13% higher than the first quarter of 2013.

Its financial advisory service saw 41% higher net revenues, of $682 million.

Goldman Sachs’ results follow a big drop in profits in the fourth quarter last year.

Morgan Stanley’s trading, mergers and acquisition advisory and stock sales division grew the most during the first quarter.

The division, called institutional securities, earned $1.2 billion, compared with $1.1 billion last year.

Earnings for its wealth management division were $691 million, compared with $597 million a year ago, and investment management income jumped to $263 million from $187 million.

Morgan Stanley’s strong results come after a fourth-quarter reduction in bond trading revenue that more than halved its earnings.

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Chinese Twitter-like service Weibo’s shares rose by almost 20% on their first day of trading on the US stock market, after a lukewarm start.

Weibo’s flotation on the NASDAQ stock exchange had initially raised a less-than-expected $286 million.

However, investors flocked to the shares, and they ended the day at $20.24, after opening at $17.

The number of Weibo users fell after China’s censors strengthened control of online discussions last year.

Weibos flotation on the NASDAQ stock exchange had initially raised a less than expected 286 million 640x426 photo

Weibo’s flotation on the NASDAQ stock exchange had initially raised a less-than-expected $286 million

The China Internet Network Information Center said in its annual report that almost 28 million people abandoned Weibo in 2013.

It can only be used by Chinese citizens who verify their account with a mobile phone number.

The sale is a big test of demand for Chinese internet stocks ahead of an anticipated listing by Weibo’s co-owner, the Alibaba group.

China’s internet market has grown to become the world’s biggest with more than 500 million users.

With major global social networking firms such as Facebook and Twitter blocked in the country, domestic companies have benefited the most from this growth.

However, the growing popularity of social media platforms has also attracted the attention of authorities who have moved swiftly to silence voices online.

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Forensic tests carried out by expert Roger Dixon for Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial have been rigorously challenged by state prosecutor Gerrie Nel in South Africa.

Roger Dixon’s sequence for the shots that killed Reeva Steenkamp contradicts that of a police ballistics witness and pathologist.

Oscar Pistorius, 27, denies intentionally killing Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year.

He says he fired in fear at a toilet door, mistaking her for an intruder.

The prosecution says the 29-year-old model and law graduate was deliberately killed after the couple had an argument.

Oscar Pistorius faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder.

The trial has now adjourned for a break and will reconvene on Monday May 5.

Before the questioning got under way on Thursday, Judge Thokozile Masipa warned those watching the televised proceedings in an overflow court next door about their “unruly” behavior.

Judge Thokozile Masipa said she had been made aware that there had been shouting and cheering at times.

Roger Dixons sequence for the shots that killed Reeva Steenkamp contradicts that of a police ballistics witness and pathologist photo

Roger Dixon’s sequence for the shots that killed Reeva Steenkamp contradicts that of a police ballistics witness and pathologist

“It is not an entertainment place,” she said.

The prosecutor Gerrie Nel then continued his cross examination of Roger Dixon, a defense witness, who says he believes Reeva Steenkamp was standing at an angle to the door and that all four bullets hit her as she fell to the ground.

Earlier in the trial, ballistics expert Captain Christiaan Mangena said he believed Reeva Steenkamp was standing up facing the closed door when she was hit in the right hip.

He said she then fell back on to a magazine rack next to the toilet before three more bullets were fired at the door, one of which missed her.

Roger Dixon’s testimony challenges the state’s version that Reeva Steenkamp would have had time to scream after the first bullet and that Oscar Pistorius then changed aim and continued firing.

The forensic expert also told the court about light tests carried out in Oscar Pistorius’ bedroom and sound tests of a cricket bat striking a door and bullets hitting a door.

However, Gerrie Nel has sought to cast doubt on Roger Dixon’s credibility and qualifications as a forensics witness, suggesting some of the tests were amateurish.

He criticized him for not using a model the same height as Oscar Pistorius when on his stumps in a photograph to illustrate what neighbors would have been able to see through the bathroom window at night.

In the photograph a man was kneeling in front of the window.

“It is something I omitted. I overlooked it at the time,” said Roger Dixon, a geologist and university lecturer who worked as head of materials analysis at a police forensic laboratory in Pretoria for 18 years until 2012.

Gerrie Nel also sought to prove that he was out of his depth when he was testifying about marks on Reeva Steenkamp’s body.

He had identified one as a bruise which other pathologists had not, Gerrie Nel said.

At one stage on Wednesday Roger Dixon used the phrase “in my layman’s understanding”.

“Now you call yourself a layman. You see how irresponsible it is to make inferences that aren’t in your area of expertise,” the prosecutor replied.

Before the court adjourned, he was re-examined by defense lawyer Barry Roux and described how an official at the shooting range, where the sound tests were carried out, mistook the sound of the cricket bat striking the door for gunshots.

Roger Dixon took the stand on Tuesday after seven days of testimony from Oscar Pistorius came to an end with him reading a Valentine’s Day card from Reeva Steenkamp.

If Oscar Pistorius is acquitted of murder, the court must consider an alternative charge of culpable homicide, for which he could receive about 15 years in prison.

He also faces charges of illegally firing a gun in public and of illegally possessing ammunition, both of which he denies.

There are no juries at trials in South Africa, and his fate will be decided by the judge, assisted by two assessors.

Oscar Pistorius is known as the “Blade Runner” because of the carbon-fibre prosthetics he uses on the track.

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Reeva Steenkamp was shot in quick succession as she fell down, a forensics expert has told Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial.

This differs from a police ballistics witness who said there was short break between the first and second shots.

Oscar Pistorius denies intentionally killing Reeva Steenkamp in early hours of Valentine’s Day last year.

He says he fired rapidly in fear through the toilet door after he mistook Reeva Steenkamp for an intruder.

The prosecution says the 29-year-old model and law graduate was deliberately killed after the couple had an argument.

Oscar Pistorius faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder.

The trial has been adjourned until Thursday, which will be the last day before a break; proceedings will resume on Monday 5 May.

Forensics expert Roger Dixon, a defense witness, says Reeva Steenkamp was standing at an angle to the door and that all four bullets hit her as fell to the ground.

 photo

Reeva Steenkamp was shot in quick succession as she fell down

Earlier in the trial, ballistics expert Captain Christiaan Mangena said he believed Reeva Steenkamp was standing up facing the closed door when she was hit in the right hip.

He said she then fell back onto a magazine rack next to the toilet before three more bullets were fired at the door, one of which missed her.

Roger Dixon’s testimony challenges the state’s version that Reeva Steenkamp would have had time to scream after the first bullet and that Oscar Pistorius then changed aim and continued firing.

On Tuesday, Roger Dixon told the court his tests showed that with the light out, Oscar Pistorius’ bedroom would have been almost completely dark on the evening of the shooting, despite a couple of LED lights.

This also supports Oscar Pistorius’ evidence that he did not see whether Reeva Steenkamp was still in bed when he got up.

The court also heard sound recordings Roger Dixon had made – of a cricket bat striking a door similar to the one in Oscar Pistorius’ toilet, and of gunshots fired through the door at a distance of 60m (196ft) and 180m.

Roger Dixon seemed to struggle to tell the sounds apart, which the defense will use to cast doubt on what neighbors say they heard that night.

Prosecution witnesses have testified to hearing a woman scream followed by gun shots, but the defense disputes their testimony, saying the only scream came from Oscar Pistorius – after he had fired.

But prosecutor Gerrie Nel has sought to cast doubt on Roger Dixon’s credibility and qualifications as a forensics witness during his cross examination on Wednesday.

Roger Dixon is a geologist and university lecturer who worked as head of materials analysis at a police forensic laboratory in Pretoria for 18 years until 2012 and repeatedly said he was not a ballistics expert.

Gerrie Nel also sought to prove that he was out of his depth when he was testifying about marks on Reeva Steenkamp’s body.

He had identified one as a bruise which other pathologists had not, Gerrie Nel said.

At one stage Roger Dixon used the phrase “in my layman’s understanding”.

“Now you call yourself a layman. You see how irresponsible it is to make inferences that aren’t in your area of expertise,” Gerrie Nel replied.

Roger Dixon took the stand after seven days of testimony from the sprinter came to an end with him reading a Valentine’s Day card from his girlfriend.

0 62

Yahoo shares jumped 9% despite a 20% fall in first-quarter earnings.

Yahoo’s profits of $312 million still beat expectations.

Yahoo also said revenue from display advertising increased by 2% to $409 million, the first rise in some time. Overall, first quarter revenue was $1.1 billion, the best since 2010.

“I am really pleased by our first-quarter performance,” said Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in a statement.

Yahoo also reported that it had 430 million monthly mobile users who accessed Yahoo products, a crucial measure as the firm seeks to catch up with Facebook and Google to attract mobile advertising.

Yahoo shares jumped 9 percent despite a 20 percent fall in first quarter earnings photo

Yahoo shares jumped 9 percent despite a 20 percent fall in first-quarter earnings

It also increased its total workforce by 8% to 12,400 global employees.

In contrast to Yahoo’s earnings fall, Chinese internet giant Alibaba, of which Yahoo owns a 24% share, reported surging revenues.

These increased by 66% in 2013 Q4 to $3.06 billion, compared with $1.84 billion during the same period a year earlier.

Profits increased 110% to $1.4 billion, compared with $642 million a year earlier.

Alibaba’s fourth quarter earnings were released as part of Yahoo’s report.

Alibaba, China’s largest internet company, is expected to complete a public share sale sometime this summer on a US exchange.

The share float could raise as much as $15 billion, making it the biggest technology company debut since Facebook’s stock sale in 2012.

China’s economy grew by 7.4% in 2014 Q1, better than what many were expecting.

However, it is a slowdown from 7.7% growth in the final quarter of last year.

Other data released with the gross domestic product (GDP) figure showed industrial output rising 8.8% in March from one year ago.

Retail sales for the month of March spiked by 12.2%, underscoring China’s efforts to boost economic growth via domestic consumption.

Last year China set its growth target for 2014 at 7.5%, part of efforts to stabilize the economy after years of fast-paced expansion.

China’s growth data is closely watched around the region. A slowdown could hurt Asian economies especially those which export commodities and industrial components to the world’s second largest economy.

A sluggish start for the year is not uncommon, due to the Lunar New Year holiday when many businesses and factories shut down operations for about two weeks.

Chinas economy grew by 7.4 percent in 2014 Q1 better than what many were expecting photo

China’s economy grew by 7.4 percent in 2014 Q1, better than what many were expecting

But recent data from the manufacturing as well as industrial sectors have been weak, raising fears of a prolonged slowdown.

Amid these concerns, China has recently taken more steps to give a jolt to its economy.

A mini-stimulus measure announced earlier this month will see Beijing extending a tax break for small and medium-sized companies, and ramping up spending on China’s railway infrastructure.

In addition, the mainland also took steps to open up its capital markets by announcing a tie-up with Hong Kong, allowing for cross-border stock investment. The pilot scheme is scheduled to take off in about six months.

And in January, China launched a free-trade zone in Shanghai, seen as a test bed for reforms in key areas of the economy, such as the financial and telecom sectors which previously were tightly controlled by the government.

China also said it will allow foreign firms to make gaming consoles within the free-trade zone and sell them across China – lifting a ban on gaming consoles which had been in place since 2000.

Analysts are hopeful that the Chinese economy has bottomed out, and will perform better later in the year.

China’s trade figures for March had shown a sharp drop in both imports and exports.

Earlier this month the World Bank lowered its growth forecast for the Chinese economy this year to 7.6% for this year from a previous prediction of 7.7%.

 

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Reeva Steenkamp Valentine’s card has been presented to court during Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial in Pretoria.

Reeva Steenkamp had intended to give the card to Oscar Pistorius before he shot her dead.

The athlete read the poem to the court after five days of gruelling cross-examination.

Earlier, Oscar Pistorius said he was “heartbroken” when he saw her body in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last February.

Oscar Pistorius denies murder, saying he fired through a door in fear, believing there was an intruder behind it.

The prosecution says he deliberately shot dead Reeva Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and law graduate, after the couple had had an argument.

Oscar Pistorius, 27, faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder.

His defense lawyer Barry Roux presented to the court the Valentine card which Reeva Steenkamp had got the athlete.

Oscar Pistorius read out Reeva Steenkamps Valentine Day card  photo

Oscar Pistorius read out Reeva Steenkamp’s Valentine Day card

The double-amputee sprinter read the card out in a trembling voice.

The front of the card reads: “Roses are red, violets are blue…”

Inside, Reeva Steenkamp had written: “I think today is a good day to tell you that, I love you.”

Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead in the early hours of Valentine’s Day – before they had opened each other’s cards and gifts.

Oscar Pistorius has previously told the court he only opened the card on Reeva Steenkamp’s birthday, in August 2013.

On the final day of his cross-examination, Oscar Pistorius said that after shooting and realizing Reeva Steenkamp was not in the bedroom as he believed, he tried to break down the door with his shoulder, before using a cricket bat, all the time screaming in panic.

He said he stopped screaming when he finally opened the door and saw the body.

When prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked why, Oscar Pistorius replied, his voice trembling with emotion: “I was heartbroken… overcome with sadness.”

“I crouched down over her… and I checked to see if she was breathing or if she had a pulse,” he said.

But this was disputed by prosecutor Gerrie Nel.

“You fired four shots through the door whilst knowing that she was standing behind the door,” he said.

“She was locked into the bathroom and you armed yourself with the sole purpose of shooting and killing her.”

Oscar Pistorius replied: “That is not true.”

The athlete has previously said he and Reeva Steenkamp had spent a quiet evening together before he woke up on hearing a noise in the bathroom.

During the cross-examination, Oscar Pistorius broke down in tears on several occasions.

Gerrie Nel suggested that he was doing this on purpose when he was struggling to explain his actions.

Oscar Pistorius has now ended his testimony.

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Oscar Pistorius has told his murder trial in Pretoria he was “heartbroken” when he saw the body of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

“I crouched down over her… and I checked to see if she was breathing or if she had a pulse,” the athlete said.

The prosecution has now finished five days of grueling cross-examination, which has seen the athlete break down on several occasions.

Oscar Pistorius, 27, denies murder, saying he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder.

The prosecution says Oscar Pistorius deliberately shot dead Reeva Steenkamp after the couple had had an argument and has suggested he is staging his emotional outbursts.

He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder.

Before his cross-examination ended, the court was shown a photograph of the toilet covered in blood where Reeva Steenkamp was shot in February 2013.

Oscar Pistorius said that after shooting through the toilet door at what he thought were intruders, he realized he may have mistakenly killed his girlfriend, a 29-year-old model and law graduate.

He said he tried to break down the door with his shoulder, before using a cricket bat, all the time screaming in panic.

Oscar Pistorius has told his murder trial in Pretoria he was heartbroken when he saw the body of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp photo

Oscar Pistorius has told his murder trial in Pretoria he was “heartbroken” when he saw the body of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

But the double-amputee sprinter said he stopped screaming when he finally opened the door and saw the body.

When asked why, Oscar Pistorius replied, his voice trembling with emotion: “I was heartbroken… overcome with sadness.”

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said the athlete had deliberately killed his girlfriend following an argument.

“You fired four shots through the door whilst knowing that she was standing behind the door. She was locked into the bathroom and you armed yourself with the sole purpose of shooting and killing her,” he said.

Oscar Pistorius replied: “That is not true.”

The athlete has previously said he and Reeva Steenkamp had spent a quiet evening together before he woke up on hearing a noise in the bathroom.

After the cross-examination ended, Oscar Pistorius’ defense lawyer Barry Roux asked a few further questions before presenting to the court the Valentine’s Day card which Reeva Steenkamp had written for the athlete.

On the card, she had written: “Roses are red, violets are blue, I think this is a good time to say, I love you.”

Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2013.

Oscar Pistorius has now ended his testimony.

Prosecution witnesses have testified to hearing a woman scream, but the defense disputes their testimony.

Judge Thokozile Masipa temporarily halted proceedings on two occasions on Monday after Oscar Pistorius broke down sobbing.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said: “You’re getting emotional now because you’re getting frustrated because your version [of events] is improbable.”

Both prosecution and defense have asked Judge Thokozile Masipa to postpone the case until May 5, following Tuesday’s cross-examination.

Gerrie Nel said members of his team were engaged in “more pressing” cases, which needed their attention, as well as “personal arrangements”.

The defense said the case should still finish on May 16, as planned. The judge said she would deliver her judgement on this request on Wednesday.

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Prosecutor Gerrie Nel at the Oscar Pistorius murder trial in Pretoria has suggested the South African athlete is using his emotions “as an escape”.

Oscar Pistorius, 27, broke down in tears four times on Monday and has also vomited in court.

“Now you trying to be emotional and it’s not working,” said prosecutor Gerrie Nel.

Oscar Pistorius admits killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on February 14 last year, but says he fired his gun after mistaking her for an intruder.

Gerrie Nel said Oscar Pistorius had deliberately shot Reeva Steenkamp after the couple had had an argument.

As the prosecutor resumed his cross-examination on Monday, he accused Oscar Pistorius of “tailoring his evidence” as he went along to suit the defense case, which had been “concocted”.

“Your version of events is untrue,” Gerrie Nel said.

Oscar Pistorius admits killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on February 14 last year but says he fired his gun after mistaking her for an intruder 640x534 photo

Oscar Pistorius admits killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on February 14 last year, but says he fired his gun after mistaking her for an intruder

Shortly before the case adjourned for the day, Gerrie Nel said: “You’re getting emotional now because you’re getting frustrated because your version [of events] is improbable.”

The prosecutor, known as “bull terrier” for his fierce style of questioning, then asked: “You’re not using your emotional state as an escape are you?”

Gerrie Nel spent much of the day trying to highlight apparent inconsistencies between Oscar Pistorius’ bail application and his evidence in court.

On one occasion, when Oscar Pistorius corrected Gerrie Nel, the prosecutor said this showed the athelte was a “stickler for detail” and yet on many aspects of the case, the athlete was being vague.

Earlier, Gerrie Nel again pressed Oscar Pistorius on the moment he shot Reeva Steenkamp.

The athlete said he had not intended to kill anyone.

“I fired out of fear,” he said.

This prompted Gerrie Nel to say Oscar Pistorius was changing his story from self-defense to saying he shot by accident.

The prosecutor said this was because the truth was: “You fired at Reeva.”

“It’s not true,” Oscar Pistorius replied, breaking into tears and prompting the court to briefly adjourn.

After the break, Gerrie Nel said that, as Oscar Pistorius was trained to use firearms, the court could not accept he had fired by “mistake”.

The prosecutor said the fact that a pair of Reeva Steenkamp’s jeans was lying on the bed showed that she was in the middle of getting dressed in order to leave Oscar Pistorius’ house when she was shot after the couple had argued in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2013.

This was denied by Oscar Pistorius.

The Paralympic champion also started sobbing as he recalled shouting at the burglars he thought were in his house.

When asked why he broke down, Oscar Pistorius said: “I am traumatized” by the events of that night.

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Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline is facing a criminal investigation in Poland for allegedly bribing doctors.

Eleven doctors and a GSK regional manager have been charged over alleged corruption between 2010 and 2012, BBC reported.

A former sales rep said doctors were paid to promote GSK’s asthma drug Seretide.

GSK said one employee had been disciplined and it was co-operating with investigations.

If the allegations are proved, GSK may have violated both the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It is illegal for companies based in either country to bribe government employees abroad.

A former sales rep for GSK in the Polish region of Lodz, Jarek Wisniewski, said: “There is a simple equation.”  

“We pay doctors, they give us prescriptions. We don’t pay doctors, we don’t see prescriptions for our drugs.

“We cannot go to doctors and say to them, <<I need 20 more prescriptions>>. So we prepare an agreement for them to give a talk to patients, we pay £100 [$150], but we expect more than 100 prescriptions for this drug,” he told BBC program, Panorama.

GlaxoSmithKline is facing a criminal investigation in Poland for allegedly bribing doctors photo

GlaxoSmithKline is facing a criminal investigation in Poland for allegedly bribing doctors (photo Reuters)

“It’s a bribe,” Jarek Wisniewski said, confirming that although on paper the payments were for educational services, the doctors understood very clearly that they must produce a certain number of prescriptions in return.

The Lodz public prosecutor found evidence in documents given to doctors by GSK to support claims of corrupt payments in more than a dozen different health centers where there was no evidence “patient education” had taken place.

Spokesman Krzysztof Kopania said: “We have evidence that in more than a dozen cases it was a camouflaged form of a bribe.

“In return for the financial gains the doctors would favor the product proposed by the pharmaceutical company and they prescribed that medicine.”

One doctor has already admitted guilt, been fined and given a suspended sentence. He said he accepted £100 for a single lecture he never gave, but only under pressure from a GSK drugs rep.

The company said a GSK training program to help improve diagnostic standards and medical training in respiratory disease was run by doctors in Poland from 2010 to 2012.

A statement said: “These sessions were delivered by specialist healthcare professionals who, based on contracts signed with GSK, received payments appropriate to the scope of work as well as their level of knowledge and experience. The provision of sessions under this programme was agreed with the Polish healthcare centers.

“Following receipt of allegations regarding the conduct of the program in the Lodz region, GSK has investigated the matter, using resources from both inside and outside the company. The investigation found evidence of inappropriate communication in contravention of GSK policy by a single employee. The employee concerned was reprimanded and disciplined as a result.

“We continue to investigate these matters and are co-operating fully with the CBA [Poland's Central Anticorruption Office].”

In 2012, GSK paid $3 billion in the largest healthcare fraud settlement in US history after pleading guilty to promoting two drugs for unapproved uses and failing to report safety data about a diabetes drug to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Last December, GSK announced it was making major changes to its incentive schemes after a damaging corruption scandal in China.

In a statement to the International Monetary Fund, US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has urged other countries to contribute more to the economic rescue of Ukraine.

Jacob Lew told the IMF that Ukraine’s “sizeable financing needs” meant other nations must add to its $1 billion (720 million euros) loan guarantee.

The appeal came as Ukraine’s interim PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk offered to devolve more powers to eastern regions.

Pro-Russian separatists there are defying the government.

Meanwhile, Washington on Friday announced a third round of sanctions against individuals it has linked to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The US Treasury said it had frozen the US-based assets of one former Ukrainian official, a Crimea-based energy firm and six Crimean leaders, including the chairman of the Crimea electoral commission and the mayor of Sevastopol.

Jacob Lew says the US is “bolstering the IMF program through a complementary aid package, which includes a $1 billion loan guarantee and additional technical assistance,” in a statement to the IMF.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has urged other countries to contribute more to the economic rescue of Ukraine photo

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has urged other countries to contribute more to the economic rescue of Ukraine

“It is critical that the international community – multilateral development banks and bilaterals – take immediate steps to also support the IMF program by providing financing support, given the sizeable financing needs,” he adds.

The IMF announced a rescue package worth as much as $18 billion last month in a bid to aid Ukraine’s economy, and this has been bolstered to $27 billion with contributions from Europe and the US.

In exchange, the IMF has demanded from Ukraine strict government spending cuts and tax increases.

Ukraine is being squeezed by Russia’s decision this month to stop providing Ukraine with subsidized natural gas.

That discount had been agreed between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s then President Viktor Yanukovych, in which Russia also said it would buy $15 billion-worth of Ukrainian government bonds.

The IMF is also asking Ukraine to crack down on corruption and end central bank support for the Ukrainian currency.

Ukraine’s new government has said it needs $35 billion to pay its bills over the next two years.

Ukraine has not paid off its debt to Russian gas supplier Gazprom despite the passing earlier this week of a deadline for the nation to start reducing its debt. Gazprom says Ukraine owes it $2.2 billion.

European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told Austria’s ORF radio he was working on a plan to help Ukraine pay its gas bills to ensure its debts do not rise.

On Friday, President Vladimir Putin moved to assure the EU it would not cut off gas supplies. Brussels said it would stand with the new authorities in Kiev if the Kremlin carries out a threat to turn off the tap to Ukraine.

“I want to say again: We do not intend and do not plan to shut off the gas for Ukraine,” Vladimir Putin said in televised comments at a meeting of his advisory Security Council, the Reuters news agency reported.

Russia has turned off the gas tap to Ukraine before, in 2006 and 2009. As the 2009 row escalated, gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine were suspended for two weeks.

But Russia may be reticent about doing it again as it is dependent on revenue from EU customers.

Talks between Russia, Ukraine, the US and the EU – the first four-way discussions since the crisis began – are scheduled to take place on April 17 in Geneva.

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Oscar Pistorius said that Reeva Steenkamp did not scream or shout as he grabbed a gun and fired shots that killed her.

At the athlete’s murder trial in Pretoria, prosecutor Gerrie Nel said it was “improbable” that Reeva Steenkamp would stand in the bathroom saying nothing while Oscar Pistorius was just 10 ft away shouting at her to call the police.

Oscar Pistorius, 27, said he could not explain why she had not shouted out.

The Paralympic champion denies murder saying the killing was a terrible accident.

He admits killing Reeva Steenkamp but says he fired his gun after mistaking her for an intruder.

Oscar Pistorius believed Reeva Steenkamp had been in bed when he grabbed his gun, made his way to the bathroom and fired shots through the door.

The prosecution says he killed her after an argument.

On the third day of his cross-examination, Gerrie Nel pressed Oscar Pistorius to explain the final moments leading up to the shooting.

Gerrie Nel asked why he had not checked whether Reeva Steenkamp had heard his calls for her to phone the police, or why he had not taken her to safety instead of going to confront the supposed intruder.

Oscar Pistorius said that Reeva Steenkamp did not scream or shout as he grabbed a gun and fired shots that killed her photo

Oscar Pistorius said that Reeva Steenkamp did not scream or shout as he grabbed a gun and fired shots that killed her

Oscar Pistorius said it was his personality to confront what he believed was an intruder.

The trial has been adjourned until Monday morning.

Later, Gerrie Nel questioned Oscar Pistorius’s account that he had not heard Reeva Steenkamp shout or scream during the whole incident.

He said it was the “most improbable” part of the account.

“At that stage when you shouted at Reeva to phone the police, she was 3 m away from you in the toilet, but she didn’t say anything,” he said.

“Why would she not say anything?”

Oscar Pistorius said he did not know.

The prosecutor accused the athlete of lying, and said he had shot Reeva Steenkamp while she was talking to him from the bathroom.

“She wasn’t scared of an intruder,” he said.

“She was scared of you.”

He went on: “Are you sure that Reeva did not scream after the first shot?”

Oscar Pistorius took a long time to answer, and broke down into sobs.

“At no point did Reeva shout out or scream,” he said.

Gerrie Nel then disputed his claim, saying he would not have been able to hear if he had just fired his gun.

Prosecution witnesses have testified to hearing a woman scream, but the defense disputes their testimony.

Gerrie Nel repeated a line of attack he had used on Thursday, testing the defendant’s version of events, and accusing him of lying.

Oscar Pistorius told the court he had heard a window opening and closing, and had immediately got out of bed and grabbed his gun.

“I told Reeva to get down and phone the police,” he said.

Gerrie Nel asked if he had not looked at Reeva Steenkamp, or asked if she had heard the noise.

“On the morning of the 14th I was sure of what I heard,” he said.

“My whole being was fixated on this person that I thought was in the bathroom.”

The double amputee faces life imprisonment if convicted of murdering 29-year-old model Reeva Steenkamp.

If he is acquitted of murder, the court must consider an alternative charge of culpable homicide, for which he could receive up to 15 years in prison.

Oscar Pistorius also faces charges of illegally firing a gun in public and of illegally possessing ammunition, both of which he denies.

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Oscar Pistorius has denied “picking on” his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, as his cross-examination continues at his murder trial in Pretoria.

The Paralympic champion was commenting on a mobile phone message Reeva Steenkamp had sent him.

The prosecution has been trying to portray Oscar Pistorius as self-obsessed and negligent with firearms.

Oscar Pistorius denies murdering Reeva Steenkamp, saying he accidentally shot her dead through a door, fearing there was an intruder in his house.

Prosecutors say Oscar Pistorius intentionally killed his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day last year by firing a gun through a bathroom door at her after a row at his Pretoria home.

Oscar Pistorius, 27, who is a double amputee, faces life imprisonment if convicted of murdering the 29-year-old model, reality TV celebrity and law graduate.

In Thursday’s proceedings:

  • Oscar Pistorius said he had not meant to pull the trigger
  • Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel accused the athlete of being selfish, negligent and lying
  • Gerrie Nel said Oscar Pistorius’ apology in court was a “spectacle”
  • Reeva Steenkamp’s mother, June, said she was “unmoved” by his apology
  • Oscar Pistorius denied ever shouting at Reeva Steenkamp, or a previous girlfriend

Under intense cross-examination, Oscar Pistorius said he had not meant to pull the trigger, even to fire at an intruder.

“It was an accident… I didn’t have time to think,” he said, his voice trembling after he had been generally calm in contrast to previous days.

Oscar Pistorius has denied picking on Reeva Steenkamp as his cross examination continues at his murder trial in Pretoria photo

Oscar Pistorius has denied picking on Reeva Steenkamp, as his cross-examination continues at his murder trial in Pretoria (photo CNN)

Earlier, chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel, known as the “bull terrier” in South Africa for his fierce questioning, suggested that Oscar Pistorius was only concerned about himself during the couple’s three-month relationship.

Gerrie Nel is trying to give an impression that the Paralympic athlete is self-centred, contemptuous of his girlfriend and lacking responsibility.

He suggested that Oscar Pistorius should have apologized to Reeva Steenkamp’s family in private, rather than making a “spectacle” by doing it in court as he opened his defense on Monday.

The athlete replied that he had not had the opportunity and had been unable to find the correct words.

When Gerrie Nel noted that in Monday’s apology, Oscar Pistorius did not say he was sorry for killing Reeva Steenkamp, the athlete replied: “I’m terribly sorry that I took the life of their daughter.”

In court, June Steenkamp shook her head as Oscar Pistorius was taken through several WhatsApp messages, which Reeva Steenkamp had sent.

In one, Reeva Steenkamp wrote: “You have picked on me incessantly since we got back from Cape Town.”

Asked to comment, Oscar Pistorius said: “I don’t feel like I picked on her incessantly – maybe we were having a rough time in our relationship.”

He also denied ever shouting or screaming at Reeva Steenkamp, or a previous girlfriend, Sam Taylor, as she had testified earlier in the trial.

Referring to an incident when a gun was fired in a restaurant, Oscar Pistorius said he had not been aware the gun was loaded but insisted he had not pulled the trigger.

Gerrie Nell said a gun firing itself would be a “miracle”. He also accused Oscar Pistorius of lying and not taking responsibility for his actions.

“You will blame anybody but yourself,” the prosecutor said, after Oscar Pistorius had questioned the decisions of his defense lawyers.

Oscar Pistorius did admit keeping ammunition in his bedside table, rather than in a safe.

He said he was usually armed “for my own safety”.

On Wednesday’s dramatic first day of questioning by Gerrie Nel, Oscar Pistorius became distraught as he was shown a photo of Reeva Steenkamp after her death.

The Chinese exports and imports fell sharply in March 2014, adding to recent indicators pointing to a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy.

China’s exports fell by 6.6% in March when compared with the previous year.

Imports dropped by 11.3% in the same month, when compared with the same time last year.

This is the second straight month of falling exports for China. In February, exports dropped by 18.1%.

It is the first time since 2009 that exports have fallen for two months in a row.

The Chinese exports and imports fell sharply in March 2014 photo

The Chinese exports and imports fell sharply in March 2014

China’s export decline in February was mainly attributed to weaker demand due to the Lunar New Year holiday period, which led to closures of many businesses and factories.

Analysts had been expecting to see an increase in both import and exports for the month of March.

The March trade figures will add to recent concern about the state of the Chinese economy, which has shown signs of weakness amid poor data from the manufacturing and retail sectors.

The latest trade figures come days after the World Bank trimmed its growth forecast for China to 7.6% for this year from its earlier forecast of 7.7%.

The latest trade data leaves China with a trade surplus of $7.7 billion in March, a turnaround from a deficit of $23 billion in February.

China last week unveiled a mini-stimulus package to boost growth, which included more spending on rail infrastructure and tax breaks for small businesses.

The Chinese government is aiming for total trade to grow 7.5% this year. Last year trade grew by 7.6%, below the official target of 8%.

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