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India shocked by cafe bomb

Residents of the Indian city of Pune expressed shock Sunday after a bomb attack on a popular restaurant in the educational hub which killed nine people.

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“We have never seen anything like this. Pune was just not prepared for this,” said Vikram Jha, a student at the Symbiosis Law School in Pune, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) southeast of Mumbai.

Students were among the 30 people wounded in the blast Saturday evening in the city, which is home to more than 100 educational institutes and nine universities.

“One of my friends has been badly hit with shrapnel wounds. Another one has been hit on his leg,” Jha said outside the Inlaks and Budhrani Hospital, where some of the wounded were taken after the attack on the German Bakery.

Jha and fellow law student Aditya Vardhani were to meet a larger group of friends near the restaurant.

“We had all planned to meet at KP (Koregaon Park), and go to a prom-night,” Jha told AFP. “Our friends need blood desperately”.

“This was the place we always gathered after college. This is not right, we do not understand what is happening,” Vardhani said.

The streets were deserted and security tightened at the blast site.

Pune is seen as a “soft target” compared to the bigger Indian cities of Mumbai and the capital New Delhi, which have both suffered deadly terrorist attacks in the past decade.

The city also has a growing industrial hinterland, with many IT and automotive companies setting up factories in the area.

Bomb kills one foreigner, eight Indians

The bomb ripped through a restaurant popular with tourists in the western Indian city, casting a shadow over the resumption of Indo-Pakistan peace talks.

At least one foreigner – believed to be a Taiwanese national – was among the dead, according to Pune Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh, who said 45 people had been injured, some of them seriously.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday’s blast, which India’s Home Minister P Chidambaram described as “a significant terrorist incident”.

“All the evidence points to a deliberate plot,” Chidambaram said.

It was the first major attack on Indian soil since the November 2008 Mumbai massacre – blamed on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba militant group – which had prompted New Delhi to suspend dialogue with Islamabad.

The South Asian rivals had agreed just last week to resume talks, and the Pune blast triggered immediate opposition calls for that decision to be reviewed.

The bomb went off in the German Bakery – an established eatery in the Koregaon Park area of the city – at about 7.30pm local time.

Waiter opened suspect package

“It appears that an unattended package was noticed… by one of the waiters who apparently went and attempted to open the package when the blast took place,” Indian Home Secretary GK Pillai told reporters in New Delhi.

An eyewitness interviewed by the CNN-IBN news channel described a scene of carnage, with body parts littered around the immediate site of the blast.

“There is no German Bakery any more,” he said. “There were bodies everywhere. We tried to help carry them into the ambulances.”

Pune is about 100km southeast of Mumbai, and the blast carried certain echoes of the 2008 attack on India’s financial capital by 10 Islamist gunmen that killed 166 people.

Restaurant near other ‘ targets’

The German Bakery is only 200m from an ashram, or religious retreat, specialising in meditation courses run by a Swiss-based firm Osho International.

The bakery was also close to Chabad House, a Jewish cultural and religious centre run by the orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch movement whose members were targeted in the Mumbai attacks.

Rabbi Betzalel Kupchik, from Pune Chabad House, told AFP: “Everyone here is okay. We are on the same street. We are some minutes’ walk away. We heard the bomb.”

The Mumbai assault was carried out by 10 Islamist extremists who stormed a number of high profile sites, including two luxury hotels, the city’s main railway station and a popular restaurant.

A total of 166 people were killed, including 25 foreigners, and more than 300 others injured in a 60-hour orgy of violence.

The attacks’ sole surviving gunman, Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, is currently on trial at a high security prison court in Mumbai, charged with a raft of offences, including “waging war against India”, murder and attempted murder.

Prakash Jawadekar, a spokesman for the main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, said the government should now reconsider the resumption of talks with Pakistan which has been scheduled for February 25.

“Terror and talks cannot go together,” Jawadekar told reporters after visiting the blast site in Pune.

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Jackson doctor to turn himself in

Michael Jackson’s doctor plans to surrender to authorities, regardless of whether prosecutors had filed a case against him, a spokeswoman has said.

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The assertion came after the legal team for Dr Conrad Murray said they were tired of waiting for word from prosecutors about when he would be charged.

Murray, who has a practice in Houston, has been in Los Angeles for the past week and available to surrender since Tuesday.

“We are going to be at the courthouse at 1.30(pm) (0530 AEDT Saturday) for his surrender,” said Miranda Sevcik, spokeswoman for Murray’s legal team.

“We see no reason to perpetuate the arbitrary situation any longer.”

The district attorney’s office has not confirmed if or when it will be charging Murray, though prosecutors have been reviewing the case for weeks.

Murray’s team sees a charge as inevitable, Sevcik said.

“We know he’s going to be charged with involuntary manslaughter and we are ready with a counter-argument,” Sevcik said.

“He’s not guilty – that’s our argument.”

Meanwhile, a law enforcement source told Agence France-Presse that prosecutors had delayed filing charges against Murray and the physician would not surrender to authorities on Friday as expected.

“Contrary to previous reports, Conrad Murray will now not turn himself in on Friday as his lawyer had previously stated and charges will not be filed,” the source told Agence France-Presse.

It remains to be seen whether the bizarre prospect of Murray trying to surrender without a criminal case being filed will come to pass.

The statements on Thursday follow three days of negotiations in which Murray’s lawyers have tried to arrange with prosecutors for the Houston doctor to surrender for booking and arraignment.

Those plans were derailed by haggling between prosecutors and law enforcement officials over whether the physician should be arrested or allowed to turn himself in.

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Blair prepares for grilling over Iraq

Former British Prime minister Tony Blair has arrived at the Iraq Inquiry, as he prepares to be grilled by his decision to join the US-led invasion of Iraq.

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The former leader arrived before 8am local time (1900 AEDT), some two hours early, at the conference centre where the inquiry is based.

He avoided any protesters, entering the building through a cordoned-off rear entrance.

Blair is expected to be questioned about charges that he and his inner circle were so determined to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein that they exaggerated intelligence reports about Iraqi weapons systems and pressured an initially sceptical attorney general to declare that an invasion was consistent with international law.

Anti-war campaigners, who held a million-strong march against the invasion at the time, have promised protests for the hearing in London, while the public interest is such that organisers had to hold a ballot for spectators.

Relatives of some of the 179 British soldiers who died in the war will also be there, many of them keen to confront the man they hold responsible.

Britain and the United States justified the invasion of Iraq with the threat posed by its possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in defiance of United Nations resolutions, but they did not have explicit UN approval.

Concerns this meant the war was illegal were compounded by the failure to find the WMD, raising questions about the reasons for the conflict.

The inquiry panel, led by former top civil servant John Chilcot, has the remit of learning lessons but not apportioning blame, and the focus has inevitably narrowed onto Blair.

Although he is Labour’s most successful prime minister, leading the party to three successive electoral victories, Blair’s strong support for such an unpopular war contributed to his decision to step down early in June 2007.

Blair has always insisted the war was legal — supported by his then attorney general, Peter Goldsmith, who gave evidence and said he was convinced Iraq had chemical and biological weapons.

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Teething troubles for tallest tower

The observation deck of the world’s tallest tower – the Burj Khalifa in Dubai – has been unexpectedly shut down, just a month after it opened.

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The precise cause of the Dubai skyscraper’s closure remained murky.

In a brief statement, building owner Emaar Properties blamed the closure on “unexpected high traffic,” but then suggested that electrical problems were also at fault.

“Technical issues with the power supply are being worked on by the main and subcontractors and the public will be informed upon completion,” the company said.

A spokeswoman for Emaar was unable to provide further details.

Thousands of visitors have taken the elevator ride of just over a minute to the observation deck since it opened to the public on January 5.

Advance bookings have meant many tourists looking to visit have struggled to find tickets.

Ticket holders affected by the shutdown are being offered the chance to rebook or receive refunds.

Reopening date unclear

“All ticket holders who wish to rebook shall be given top priority,” the company said, adding that it is “committed to the highest quality standards at Burj Khalifa.”

Emaar did not say when the observation deck would reopen following Sunday’s closure.

Ticket sales agents were accepting bookings starting on Valentine’s Day this Sunday, though one reached by The Associated Press could not confirm the building would reopen then.

Work is still ongoing on many of the building’s other floors, including those that will house the first hotel designed by Giorgio Armani that is due to open in March.

It was unclear if the rest of the building was affected by the observation deck’s shutdown.

The first of some 12,000 residential tenants and office workers are supposed to move in this month.

Tenants waiting to move in

Dubai opened the 828-metre tower on January 4 in a blaze of fireworks that was televised around the world.

The building had been known as the Burj Dubai during more than half a decade of construction, but the name was suddenly changed on opening night to honour the ruler of neighbouring Abu Dhabi.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are two of seven small sheikhdoms that comprise the United Arab Emirates.

Abu Dhabi hosts the federation’s capital and holds most of the country’s vast oil reserves. It has provided Dubai with $US20 billion ($A22.98 billion) in emergency cash to help cover its debts.

The Burj Khalifa boasts more than 160 storeys, though the exact number is not known. The observation deck is located on the 124th floor.

Adult tickets bought in advance cost 100 dirhams ($A31). Visitors wanting to enter immediately can jump to the front of the line by paying 400 dirhams ($A125) apiece.

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Bernanke expected to continue as Fed chairman

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, a lightning rod for anger over Wall Street bailouts, is expected to overcome Senate opposition and win a second term as head of the US central bank.

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The Senate has scheduled a key vote that will determine whether Bernanke has at least 60 senators on his side to beat a filibuster aimed at blocking his reappointment. Senate leaders from both parties expressed confidence he would prevail.

Still, the vote could be the slimmest for a Federal Reserve nominee, eclipsing opposition to Paul Volcker in 1983 when he was confirmed for a second term by a vote of 84-16. No Fed chairman has been rejected by the Senate.

The stock market has been rooting for Bernanke. The Dow Jones Industrial average plunged last week amid news of mounting opposition, then recovered when his prospects brightened.

The Federal Reserve wields enormous power over pocketbooks. It has the power to set interest rates that influence economic activity, employment and inflation. And it help maintain economic stability by making emergency loans to banks when they can’t get cash elsewhere.

“I believe that the chairman is going to be confirmed by a bipartisan vote,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday.

Widely credited for avoiding a financial catastrophe, Bernanke has angered the public and lawmakers over his support of Wall Street bailouts – especially the $US182 billion ($A203.6 billion) rescue of insurance giant American International Group Inc. The criticism has mounted as unemployment has risen to double digits and bankers paid out bonuses.

Critics also blame him for not detecting the coming crisis and failing to rein in the banking industry.

“He was asleep at the switch while Wall Street became a gambling casino,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who is among the senators in opposition.

The biggest challenge facing the Fed this year will be how and when to reverse course and raise rates. To foster the recovery, the Fed on Wednesday kept interest rates at a record low and pledged to hold them there for some time.

Though Bernanke may get 60 or more votes to overcome Republican procedural blocking, his support on the final confirmation vote will likely be smaller. Several senators have said they would oppose blocking a vote on his confirmation but would vote against his reappointment.

Sanders stopped short of conceding that Bernanke would win the vote, but he said the close tally would send a message to President Barack Obama.

The confirmation fight and the attacks on the Fed have become a test of central bank independence. The Fed jealously guards its autonomy as a crucial element for carrying out monetary policy, even if it isn’t popular with politicians.

Bernanke, 56, was first tapped by President George W. Bush to run the nation’s central bank. Obama picked him for a second term in August. His term expires on January 31.

Most of his professional career was in academia. He spent 17 years teaching economics at Princeton.

Bernanke came to Washington to take a job at the Federal Reserve, working with then-Chairman Alan Greenspan. Bush selected him to be his top economist. After that he went on to run the Fed, starting in 2006.

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Rudd backs besieged Garrett

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is standing by his besieged Environment Minister, as the Federal Opposition keeps up pressure over his handling of the home insulation programme.

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The Opposition has ramped up calls for Garrett’shead as more evidence emerged the minister was told of significant safety concerns over the 3.7 billion dollar roof insulation program.

Rudd this morning told the seven network that Garrett has acted on advice from federal bureaucrats and regulators to ensure the program’s delivery is as safe as possible.

“I have absolute confidence in the minister,”

“The handling of this very big expansion of insulation has been a huge task,” Mr Rudd said.

“The implementation has been done with the minister, his department taking advice from ministry, from the regulators on the way through.”

Speaking to the ABC this morning, Mr Garrett was repeatedly asked if he will quit.

“We’ve lifted the bar on safety as required”, the minister answered, dodging the question more than once.

‘The prime minster has expressed his confidence in the minister”, he added.

Hockey: Garrett had 13 warnings

Last night, Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey told the ABC that Garrett had received 13 prior warnings about safety problems with his program, as reports emerged that electricians say they formally warned Garrett the metal roof insulation could cost lives months before he banned it.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott yesterday told parliament if Mr Garrett was a company directory in New South Wales .. he’d be charged with industrial manslaughter.

Analysts say Garrett has become a political liability for the federal government, yet Rudd is supporting minister and ignoring calls to sack him.

So far, the coalition has failed to produce an unequivocally damning piece of evidence against Mr Garrett but the minister remains a liability for the government this election year.

Mr Rudd’s support might waver if further evidence emerges that suggests the minister should have acted earlier.

Mr Garrett admitted on Thursday his department was told as early as last April that the insulation work could be highly hazardous, with “a high likelihood of serious injury or deaths if risks were not managed”.

“As a direct response, my department moved to develop a comprehensive risk assessment, facilitated by Minter Ellison Consulting, to identify and manage the full range of risks in successful implementation of the project ahead of the full rollout on 1 July,” Mr Garrett said.

During a sustained attack in question time, Mr Garrett insisted he had done everything within his power to address the problems.

When told of the dangers posed by using metal fasteners in the installation process, Mr Garrett said: “I acted in an immediate and in a direct way.”

“I have discharged my responsibilities to the fullest capacity I can muster,” Mr Garrett said.

The opposition will continue to target him after unsuccessfully trying to censure Mr Rudd for not sacking Mr Garrett.

Mr Abbott said the minister had been derelict in his duties for not heeding earlier warnings and had tried to foist the blame for problems on rogue installers.

“This is about deaths of four young Australians flowing from the maladministration of this portfolio by this incompetent minister,” he said.

The furore over garrett has taken the spotlight off ‘bungling’ Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce in his role as the opposition finance spokesman, Mr Abbott said: “(He) hasn’t been responsible for programs that have killed people.”

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Super Bowl ad bonanza entertains fans

As well as the spectacular game NFL fans hoped for, viewers got to experience everything from the humorous to the romantic in the annual bonanza that is the Super Bowl commercials blitz

Betty White playing football, babies talking “milkaholics” and a not-so-conventional love story made this year’s attempts an interesting batch.

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Advertisers pay dearly for the airtime – from US$2.5 million to more than US$3 million per 30 seconds – and marketers say ads work best when they focus on the product, as well as entertaining.

A first Super Bowl ad by Google – which rarely advertises on television – told the story of a budding relationship through a series of Google searches, beginning with “study abroad” and “how to impress a French woman” and ending with “churches in Paris” and “how to assemble a crib.”

To view the ads and vote for your favourite, log on to the official YouTube page.

One spot had a would-be samurai donning a suit made of Doritos and using the well-thrown chip as a weapon.

Another commercial that didn’t use a gag but still hit the right note with viewers was a Coca-Cola spot about the financial meltdown of C. Montgomery Burns, the conniving billionaire from “The Simpsons” TV series.

Not every commercial was strictly humorous. Automaker Toyota aired several ads before and after the game to reassure worried owners after its recalls connected with accelerator problems.

Conservative Christian group Focus on the Family created perhaps the most-discussed ad leading up to the game, featuring Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mother talking about her difficult pregnancy with him – implying an anti-abortion message.

In usual Super Bowl fashion, the commercials featured a parade of celebrities; Notable sightings include Charles Barkley rapping for Taco Bell and Abe Vigoda playing football for Mars’ Snickers, and Beyonce popping up for a TV network.

Viewers were also surprised during a Super Bowl ad featuring Jay Leno sitting side-by-side with David Letterman in a promo for CBS’ Late Show.

Appearing with talk show host Oprah Winfrey, Letterman laments how bad the party is, with Leno retorting “he’s just saying that because I’m here.”

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Toyota recall spreads to Europe, Honda

Japanese automaker Toyota ordered a new mass auto recall on Friday, pulling up to 1.

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8 million vehicles from Europe, as rivals Honda recalled 646,000 of its cars worldwide.

The latest in a series of recalls which has now hit almost eight million Toyota cars worldwide, was again due to an accelerator problem and covered eight separate models and dates ranging back to February 2005.

That is equivalent to Toyota’s entire worldwide sales last year of 7.81 million vehicles.

“The precise number of involved units is still under investigation but may reach up to 1.8 million vehicles,” Toyota said in a statement from Brussels on the new European recall.

No recall planned in Australia

In Australia, Toyota Australia released a statement advising the vehicles it sells here are not affected by the recalls announced elsewhere.

“Accelerator pedals for Toyota vehicles sold in Australia, and those manufactured in Australia for export, are provided by a different supplier,” the statement said on Friday.

However, another piece of advice on the website states:

“If you have received communication from Toyota or become aware through the media regarding a product Recall Campaign / Customer Service Exercise which may or may not affect your vehicle, please contact your nearest Toyota Dealer who can advise whether your vehicle is affected.”

Honda sees Window problem recall

Meanwhile, Honda’s worldwide recall, due to a window switch problem, affects Fit/Jazz cars made between 2002 and 2008 in Japan, China, Brazil, Thailand, Malaysia and India.

Honda said that about 10 percent of its recalled cars would need a replacement switch, to avent overheating and potential fire.

The Toyota models involved are the AYGO, iQ, Yaris, Auris, Corolla, Verso, Avensis and RAV4 series. The company was at pains to state that its luxury Lexus models were unaffected.

“We understand that the current situation is creating concerns and we deeply regret it,” Tadashi Arashima, President and CEO of Toyota Motor Europe added.

Toyota said parts supplier CTS had begun making pedals based on a new design that resolved the problem and the two firms were testing a remedy.

Engineers were believed to be putting the finishing touches to a repair whereby it would insert a “spacer” in the pedal mechanism in order to increase the tension in a spring and reduce the risk of sticking.

Millions of recalls due to accelerator pedals

Toyota’s woes went into overdrive last week when it announced a recall of 2.3 million automobiles in the United States due to the accelerator pedal fears.

It is also recalling almost 5.3 million US vehicles to replace floor mats that could trap accelerator pedals.

Spokesman Etienne Plas said that “at least 1.7 million” of the cars already recalled outside Europe potentially suffered from both problems.

Taking that and the latest European recall into account, that left the total number of vehicles pulled worldwide at 7.7 million.

Toyota, which overtook General Motors in 2008 as the world’s top-selling automaker, has been bedevilled by a series of safety issues that have raised questions about whether it sacrificed quality for quantity.

Shares drop 14 per cent in a week

The company’s shares suffered another drop on Friday, closing down 1.96 percent at 3,490 yen – having plunged about 14 percent this week.

A key US House of Representatives panel said on Thursday that it would hold a hearing on the accelerator issues on February 25.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that such sudden acceleration events in Toyota vehicles have led to 19 deaths in the past decade, the committee said.

Ford said on Thursday that it was suspending production of a commercial vehicle sold in China that uses a pedal part made by CTS, the same US firm that makes pedals for Toyota, though based on the Japanese company’s own design specifications.

Toyota North America “has been working closely with supplier CTS on a revised design that effectively remedies the problem associated with accelerator pedals,” it said.

The Toyota AYGO recalls cover the period from February 2005 to August 2009; the iQ from November 2008 to November 2009; the Yaris from November 2005 to September 2009; and the Auris from October 2006 to 5 January, 2010.

The Corolla period dates from October 2006 to December 2009; the Verso from February 2009 to 5 January, 2010; the Avensis from November 2008 to December 2009; and the RAV4 from November 2005 to November 2009.

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Author and jockey Dick Francis dies

Dick Francis, the best-selling British thriller writer and former champion jockey, has died in his home in the Cayman Islands.

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He was 89.

A successful steeplechase jockey, Francis turned to writing after he retired from racing in 1957. He penned 42 novels, many of which featured racing as a theme. His books were translated into more than 20 languages, and in 2000 Queen Elizabeth II – whose mother was among his many readers – honoured Francis by appointing him a Commander of the British Empire.

His son Felix said he and his brother, Merrick, were “devastated” by their father’s death, but “rejoice in having been the sons of such an extraordinary man”.

“We share in the joy that he brought to so many over such a long life,” Felix said in a statement. Francis’ spokeswoman Ruth Cairns said the writer had died on Sunday from natural causes, but did not elaborate.

During his writing career, Francis won three Edgar Allen Poe awards given by The Mystery Writers of America for his novels, Forfeit (1968), Whip Hand (1979) and Come to Grief (1995).

He also was awarded a Cartier Diamond Dagger from the Crime Writers’ Association for his outstanding contribution to the genre.

The association made him a Grand Master in 1996 for a lifetime’s achievement.

Aside from novels, Francis also authored a volume of short stories, as well as a biography of British jockey Lester Piggot.

In recent years Francis wrote novels jointly with son Felix, including Silks (2008) and Even Money (2009). A new novel by the two, Crossfire, will be published later this year.

“It is an honour for me to be able to continue his remarkable legacy through the new novels,” Felix said in his statement.

Richard Francis was born on October 31, 1920, as the younger son of a horse breeder in Tenby, South Wales. During World War II he joined the Royal Air Force in 1940 and was stationed in the Egyptian desert before being commissioned as a bomber pilot in 1943, flying Spitfires, Wellingtons and Lancasters.

A few years later he returned to his father’s stables and became a steeplechase trainer’s assistant. Later, as a professional jockey, he won 345 of the more than 2,300 races he rode in between 1948 and 1957, taking the title of Champion Jockey for the 1953-54 season.

His most famous moment in racing came just a few months before he retired, when, riding for Queen Elizabeth, his horse collapsed inexplicably within sight of certain victory in the 1956 Grand National.

Despite his many successes, he had expressed regret at never winning the prestigious Grand National.

“The first one I rode in I was second, and the last one I rode in I won everywhere except the last 25 yards. I would love the opportunity of having another go, but it’s a young man’s job,” he said once during an interview with the BBC.

Francis’ first book, published in 1957, was his autobiography, The Sport of Queens. His first novel, Dead Cert, came out in 1962 and was followed by a new title every year since.

He also worked for years as a racing correspondent for Britain’s Sunday Express, and retired in the British Caribbean territory of the Cayman Islands.

Francis is survived by his two sons as well as five grandchildren and one great-grandson, Cairns said. A small funeral will be held at Francis’ home on Grand Cayman, followed by a memorial service in London, she said, but could not say when they would be held.

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Banking disputes dominate Davos

The world economy is recovering but remains fragile and dogged by huge deficits, top officials said Saturday at the end of a Davos summit clouded by divisions over banking reform.

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This after US officals attempted to tell bankers who’s boss on the issue of curbing excessive risk-taking.

“There’s going to be regulation, they (the bankers) understand that,” said US Congressman Barney Frank.

Asia is leading the resurgence after the worst crisis for decades with China eyeing double-digit growth, but the United States and Europe remain dogged by unemployment and the eurozone is grappling with a crisis over Greece.

“The situation is better, but fragile,” said International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

“We have to go ahead strongly in the financial sector reform, much more rapidly than has been done until now.”

“The fiscal sustainability problem is going to be one of the biggest, maybe the biggest problem…. We’ll have to deal with this for five, six or seven years, depending on the country,” he said.

Bankers’ risk taking in spotlight

A bust-up over US plans to curb risk-taking by banks again took centre stage on the last day of the World Economic Forum, with central bank chiefs huddling with finance ministers and officials, and top private bankers.

The meeting brought together British and French finance ministers Alistair Darling and Christine Lagarde, European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet and the heads of top private banks.

US Congressman Barney Frank, one of the few willing to talk after the closed-door meeting, said there has to be greater regulation.

Asked if the bankers present accepted the need, he said: “Frankly it doesn’t make any difference whether they did or not. They aren’t in charge of this.

“The political leadership certainly in the United States is going to go ahead with tough, sensible regulation,” he added.

The banking issue has clouded the four-day Davos meeting, starting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s opening address in which he backed US President Barack Obama’s tough clampdown plans.

Reports have suggested that discussions on a cap for bankers pay did not see a consensus, although some bankers previously opposed to a global levy to fund the costs of future crises may have warmed to the idea.

‘Cautious Optimisim’

At the same time there has been cautious optimism about the outlook for global recovery after the near-meltdown of the last 18 months.

Chinese and Indian delegates have trumpeted their country’s healthy growth rates of nearly nine and seven percent respectively, and the United States hailed Friday’s unexpectedly-rosy 5.7 percent GDP growth figure.

But unemployment remains a worrying problem in the United States and Europe, which both have a jobless rate of around 10 percent, despite a return to overall growth.

“What we’re seeing in the United States is a statistical recovery and a human recession,” said Larry Summers, Obama’s chief economic advisor, commenting on the jobless recovery phenomenon.

Warnings of a double-dip recession — where nascent recovery fades back into a new slowdown — have abounded in Davos as leaders mull exit strategies from huge stimulus packages agreed to prevent a full-blown Depression last year.

France’s Economy Minister Lagarde said she followed a “three Rs” principle — recovery, reform, and restoring public finances.

But she said timing was crucial.

“Balancing between the recovery process that has to continue, the reform that needs to be maintained and the restoring of public finances is a tough line to draw,” she said.

A top Chinese banker meanwhile said that Beijing could move on the sensitive issue of its currency’s exchange rate once other countries start to withdraw their stimulus packages.

China has been under fire for keeping the yuan weak against the dollar, a strategy which critics say is aimed at keeping Chinese exports competitive.

“If global (partners are) ready to do exit strategy, China is ready … including various issues — liquidity issue, exchange issue,” Zhu Min, deputy head of China’s central bank, told the Davos forum.

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