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News In Focus: A Look At The World’s Most Interesting Stories

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Sports: The Fédération Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) ethics committee banned its former president, Sepp Blatter, and Michel Platini, president of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), from the sport for eight years on Monday.

The duo was found guilty of ethics violations, and the ban prohibits them from involvement in any soccer-related activity.

The international governing body of football has investigated a suspicious payment that Blatter approved for Platini in 2011.

During that period, Blatter was campaigning for re-election to a fourth term as FIFA president, and he was supported by UEFA, which was led by Platini.  Eventually, Blatter won the election.

The ethics committee ruled on Monday that both men acted with conflict of interest, and that there was no legal basis for the payment.

Blatter denied any link between the payment and the election, and claimed that the payment was a delayed salary payment for Platini’s service as a special consultant to Blatter from 1999 to 2002.

But neither Blatter nor Platini could produce a contract for the payment.

Here’s Blatter response:

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China: A landslide inundated an industrial zone on Sunday morning in the Guangming New District of Shenzhen.

Officials said that 33 buildings, including factories, offices, dormitories and other low-rise buildings, were buried or damaged.  Photographs published by state media even showed vehicles being swept away.

More than 90 people were reported missing, but the figure was revised to fewer than 70 on Thursday.  Many of the victims were believed to be migrant workers from other provinces.

The ministry for land and resources said that the mudflow originated from “a steep, man-made mountain of dirt, cement chunks and other construction waste.”  The heap was unstable, and eventually collapsed.

The man-made trash heap was originally a quarry that had been abandoned and turned into a temporary landfill for construction waste in February 2014.  But the landfill license expired in February this year.

Here’s a 3D rendering of the event, along with video of the destruction, courtesy of China’s CCTV News.

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Entertainment: The force is strong with the latest Star Wars film, which raked in US$517 million around the world last weekend.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” made the all-time records of $238 million at the U.S. box office and £32.8 million (US$49 million) in the UK over four days between 17 and 20 December.

The Walt Disney Company’s latest blockbuster film earned roughly $517 million in worldwide ticket sales, smashing most multiple box office records, even after accounting for inflation.

But it fell slightly short of “Jurassic World” which set a record of US$524.9 million box-office over its first weekend.

According to the Guardian, Disney is working on four more “Star Wars”-related movies and plans to restart the “Indiana Jones” series.

Macquarie Securities estimates that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” alone could generate US$5 billion in consumer product sales, with Disney earning $500 million to $1 billion in royalties, according to the Financial Times.

Here’s a fun graphic, courtesy of WatchMojo.com:

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Afghanistan: At one point, it appeared as if the Taliban were gaining control of large swaths of Sangin in Helmand Province after three days of fighting.

Deputy Governor of the Helmand District, Mohammad Jan Rasoulyar, said that ammunition, military equipment, and food had to be airdropped to the beleaguered Afghan army and police to prevent the complete fall of the town.

Sangin has strategic and economic value for the Taliban as well as the NATO forces, given its location at the juncture of the biggest poppy-growing region in the world, and its proximity to Pakistan.

According to euronews’ latest report, the Taliban have been forced away from the town:

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Lead-in image of Sepp Blatter courtesy of 360b / Shutterstock.com