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Simona Halep
Romania’s Halep hopes to play in Palermo in August
6 July 2020, 3:00 AM

Romanian women’s world number two Simona Halep hopes to take part in next month’s Palermo Open, the first WTA event to be held after the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, she said on Sunday.

“I have not yet made a clear decision but I hope to start with Palermo,” last year’s Wimbledon champion Halep told reporters in the Romanian city of Cluj-Napoca before her return to the court after a four-and-a-half-month absence.

“It’s hard without tournaments, I miss them, I hope we can travel quietly and without fear soon, because it’s a little worrying.

“My life has changed, everything is different. But the fact that I didn’t travel a lot was also a good thing, because I rested a lot, I wanted this. I hope all the madness is over.”

The 28-year-old Halep has not played since her win over Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on February 22.

Halep agreed to participate in an exhibition doubles match in Cluj-Napoca on Sunday, teaming up with her compatriot Horia Tecau.

“I miss playing and I really enjoy participating in this tournament,” she said.

The WTA season will return on August 3 with the Palermo event with organisers hopeful of inviting some of the world’s best players .

Tunisia’s Ennahdha party to review stance on government
6 July 2020, 2:16 AM

The moderate Islamist party Ennahda will review its stance on Tunisia’s coalition government over an alleged conflict of interests involving Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh, the party said on Sunday.

Ennahda gave no details of what action it would consider taking, but sources close to the party said the withdrawal of its seven ministers from the government was among the possible options.

Fakhfakh has rejected accusations of corruption but is under pressure from the opposition to resign after an independent member of parliament published documents last month indicating that companies the prime minister owns shares in had won deals worth $15 million from the state.

Fakhfakh has told parliament he is ready to resign if any violation is proved, but said he had sold his shares in the companies.

“The suspicion of a conflict of interest by the prime minister … has harmed the image of the governing coalition, and requires a reevaluation of the (party’s) position about the government,” Ennahda said in a statement.

Ennahda’s comments will increase pressure on the fragile government formed in February following an election last September that produced a fractured parliament.

A judge has opened an investigation into the allegations against Fakhfakh, and the anti-corruption minister has assigned a public watchdog to look into the issue and report back within three weeks.

The state anti-corruption commission has said Fakhfakh did not inform it that companies where he has shares had commercial deals with the state. Its head, Chawki Tbib, told parliament the firms’ contracts with the state should be cancelled.

Tunisia is trying to put state finances on a sounder footing after years of deficit spending and mounting public debt – issues complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sasol gives up licence to seek offshore gas in Mozambique
6 July 2020, 1:31 AM

South African petrochemicals giant Sasol Ltd has opted to give up its licence to explore for gas off the Mozambique coast, the company said on Sunday.

“Sasol will return Block 16/19 in its entirety to the Government of Mozambique. To this end, a withdrawal notification has already been sent to the relevant Mozambican authorities”, the firm said in a statement.

Sasol was awarded the research licence in 2005.

In 2013 it abandoned the deep water part of the licence, retaining the shallow water allotment to assess its hydrocarbon potential.

It is still exploring for gas onshore in the fields of Pande and Temane, in the northern province of Inhambane.

Sasol, the world’s top producer of motor fuel from coal, is trying to shed assets to pay off its debt pile and avoid a rights issue of up to $2 billion.

In June the Energy and chemical company, Sasol, issued unions with a Section 189 retrenchment notice to cut an unspecified number of jobs.

Sasol’s global workforce is over 31 000 with the bulk of employees based in South Africa.

The move is likely due to a drop in oil prices and production as economies around the world came to a halt due to the pandemic.

In the video below, Economist Mike Schussler explains why more jobs are likely to be shed:

China halts imports from two more Brazil meat plants amid COVID-19 concerns
6 July 2020, 12:00 AM

China has suspended imports from two Brazilian pork plants owned by meatpackers JBS SA and BRF SA , according to the Chinese customs authority, as it cracks down on meat shipments amid concerns about the new coronavirus.

China is temporarily halting imports from a BRF plant in Lajeado and a JBS-owned Seara brand plant in Tres Passos, both in Brazil’s southern Rio Grande do Sul state, according to a posting dated Saturday on the General Administration of Customs China (GACC) website.

The posting, which only identified the plants by registration numbers, gives no reason for the suspension. But Brazil is reeling from the second worst COVID-19 outbreak in the world behind the United States.

China is the largest buyer of Brazilian pork, beef and chicken. It has requested that meat exporters globally certify their products are coronavirus free, which BRF, JBS, and other Brazilian meatpackers have already done.

A total of six Brazil meat plants have now been blocked from exporting to China amid rising concerns over thousands of cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, among slaughterhouse workers in the country.

BRF said it was not given a reason for the suspension, which it only discovered via the GACC website.

But the company said it was already working with Brazilian and Chinese authorities to reestablish exports from the facility as quickly as possible.

JBS said in a statement it would not comment on the decision. It was taking various measures to ensure its food is of the highest quality and that its workers are protected, JBS said.

Brazil’s Agriculture Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump approves five-week extension for small business pandemic loan applications
5 July 2020, 5:00 AM

US President Donald Trump on Saturday signed into law a deadline extension to August 8 for small businesses to apply for relief loans under a federal aid program to help businesses hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, the White House said.

The extension to the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), which was launched in April to keep Americans on company payrolls and off unemployment assistance, gives business owners an additional five weeks to apply for funding assistance plagued by problems.

An estimated $130 billion of the $659 billion provided by Congress is still up for grabs. Critics worry the U.S. Small Business Administrator’s office, which administers the loan, may continue to experience challenges in fairly distributing the funds.

From the outset, the unprecedented first-come-first-served program struggled with technology and paperwork problems that led some businesses to miss out while some affluent firms got funds.

The SBA’s inspector general found in May that some rural, minority and women-owned businesses may not have received loans due to a lack of prioritization from the agency.

Reuters reported on Thursday that a technical snafu in a US government system caused many small businesses to receive loans twice or more times, nearly a dozen people with knowledge of the matter said.

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