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Mario Balotelli fined and suspended for Instagram post

Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli has been fined £25,000, suspended for a match and ordered to attend an "education programme" by the FA as punishment for an Instagram post that provoked claims of racism and anti-semitism.

Mario Balotelli retweeted the offensive image on his Instagram account before removing it after criticism. Credit: Mario Balotelli/Instagram

Balotelli admitted breaching FA rules after apologising for re-posting an image from the computer game 'Super Mario' on his Instagram page which included the comment "jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew".

The Football Association confirmed the punishment, announcing:

Following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing today, Mario Balotelli has been fined £25,000, suspended for one-match with immediate effect, subject to any appeal, and warned as to his future conduct after he admitted breaching FA Rules in relation to social media.

The charge was that an image the Liverpool player posted on social media was abusive and/or insulting and/or improper, contrary to FA Rule E3(1).

Furthermore, the posting was considered to be an “Aggravated Breach” as defined in FA Rule E3(2) in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race and/or nationality and/or religion or belief.

Mr Balotelli has also been ordered to attend an education programme.

– Football Association

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Putin: 'They will always try to put the bear on a chain'

Vladimir Putin was in defiant mood today. Credit: Reuters

Vladimir Putin was in defiant mood today when he faced his annual news conference, taking questions for over three hours from Russian and international journalists.

Among the Russian president's most eye-catching statements, he claimed Western countries wanted to "keep the bear on a chain" - a reference to a popular symbol of his country.

On the Russian economy recovering

Growth in the world economy is going to be secured. The pace will slow down, but there will be growth. The economy will grow and our economy will come out of its current situation. How long will it take? In the least favourable scenario I think about two years.

On a US-Saudi plot to lower the oil price

We are all witnessing a decline in energy prices. There are all sorts of conversations on why this is happening. Either there’s some kind of a plot by Saudi Arabia and the US to punish Iran or influence the economy of Russia, Venezuela, etc. It may be or it may not be.

On relations with the West

Sometimes I think, maybe it would be better for our bear to sit quiet, rather than chasing around the forest after piglets. To sit eating berries and honey instead. Maybe they will leave it in peace. They will not. Because they will always try to put him on a chain, and as soon as they succeed in doing so they tear out his fangs and his claws.

On his role in the current crisis

Responsibility for everything that happens in a country rests with the head of state, and further down according to rank.

Of course, the current situation has been provoked by external factors above all. But...much of what we planned to do and said we would do to diversify our economy over the last 20 years has not been done.

On Iran's nuclear programme

The Iranian government is showing great flexibility, in my view. I don't really undersand why a finaly agreement has not been signed on Iran's nuclear programme. I hope that will happen in the near future.

On his love life

Don't worry. Everything is fine. He asks 'do you have love?', I say 'what do you mean?', he says 'Do you love someone?', I say, 'Yes', he says 'Does somebody love you?', I say 'Yes'.

US 'considering options' over Sony cyber-attack

Sony has pulled 'The Interview' from release after threats against host cinemas. Credit: Reuters

The United States is considering its possible options in response to a major cyber attack on Sony Pictures that has be blamed on North Korea, Reuters has reported.

US experts say options for the Obama administration could include cyber retaliation and financial sanctions but the effect of any response could be limited given North Korea's isolation.

More: Cyber expert warns of 'copycats' after Sony threats

Three men plead guilty to Spurs pitch invasion stunt

Stewards intercept one of the three men. Credit: PA

Three men have admitted to a pitch invasion stunt which forced a match to be temporarily halted.

Nathaniel Thompson, 23, Helder Gomes, 22, and Daniel Jarvis, 26, were arrested after bizarre scenes during Tottenham Hotspur's Uefa Europa League match against Partizan Belgrade on November 27.

The match had to be suspended shortly before half-time after the men ran on to the pitch at the north London club, one after the other.

Spurs striker Roberto Soldado tackles one of the pitch invaders. Credit: PA

Gomes and Thompson were detained by stewards and Jarvis was tackled on the White Hart Lane pitch by a player.

All three men pleaded guilty at Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court to a charge of going on to a playing field without a lawful excuse or authority.

Although they were all wearing BassBuds T-shirts, the court heard that the stunt was not sanctioned by the headphone manufacturer.

The men must pay £155 each and will be subject to football banning orders for three years, meaning they will not be able to attend games in England or Wales until 2018.

Russian government pledges £10 billion to support banks

Russia's government will provide 1 trillion roubles (£10.3 billion) in support to "systematically important" banks in the latest attempt to prop up the country's flagging economy.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told reporters: "First of all, we will support systemically important banks, so that economic transactions will be provided for. They are the main holders of deposits, the main transactions are carried out in those (banks)."

He added that Russia' central bank would determine which banks were "systematically important".

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Fugitive arrested trying to sneak back into UK on plane

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives has been arrested while trying to sneak back into the UK in a light aircraft from the Netherlands.

Suspected drug smuggler Paul John Scott, 32, was picked up by police after flying into East Winch Airfield in Norfolk in a Cessna 170.

The pilot, who was also arrested, had raised suspicions by flying into the same airfield in a different aircraft earlier this month.

Paul John Scott's arrest came two weeks after an appeal for help capturing him was made on BBC's Crimewatch. Credit: National Crime Agency/Steve Ivie/YouTube

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said Scott is a suspected member of a drug-smuggling gang from Merseyside that plotted to smuggle up to 40 tonnes of drugs into the UK.

The NCA said he was wanted by the Guardia Civil in Spain in connection with the murder of a British man, Francis Brennan, in Alicante.

He appeared at Liverpool Magistrates Court yesterday, charged with conspiracy to import cocaine, and was remanded in custody until his next court appearance on 2 January.

The pilot, who was also arrested on suspicion of money laundering, was bailed pending further enquiries.

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