Syrian rebels down Russian jet, kill pilot

Posted on 04/25/2020

Rebels say they shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-25 fighter jet over Syria and killed the pilot.Syrian rebels shot down a Russian warplane and killed its pilot on the ground after he ejected from the plane, Russia’s defence ministry and Syrian rebels say.

The SU-25 came down on Saturday in an area of Syria’s northern Idlib province that has seen heavy air strikes and fighting on the ground between government forces backed by Russia and Iran, and rebels who oppose President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrians opposed to Assad see Russia as an invading force they blame for the deaths of thousands of civilians since Moscow joined the war on the side of the Syrian government in 2015.

The Russian plane was shot down over the town of Khan al-Subl near the city of Saraqeb, close to a major highway where the Syrian army and Iranian-backed militias are trying to advance, a rebel source said.

Although the Russian pilot escaped the crash, he was killed by rebels who had tried to capture him, the source said.

Tharir al-Sham, a jihadist group spearheaded by the former Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for shooting down the plane, saying one of its fighters had scored a direct hit with a shoulder launched anti-aircraft missile.

“This work is the least we can do to revenge our people. Let the criminal invaders know that our skies are not a picnic and they will not pass through without paying a price God willing,” senior commander Mahmoud Turkomani said in a statement released by the group.

Russia’s defence ministry also said the aircraft was downed by a portable surface-to-air missile. The pilot reported that he had ejected by parachute, and he was later killed on the ground.

“The pilot died in a fight with terrorists,” it said.

Tass news agency quoted the ministry as saying Moscow retaliated with a strike from an undisclosed high-precision weapon that killed more than 30 militants in an area of Idlib province where the plane was downed.

The Syrian opposition released footage on social media that purported to show the wreckage of the plane and the body of the pilot surrounded by fighters.

Rebels said the downed warplane had taken part in strikes that targeted civilian convoys fleeing along a major Syrian highway from villages that the army and foreign militias had overrun.

Syria’s civil war, which is now entering its eighth year, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven more than 11 million from their homes.

A Russian plane was blamed for the death of seven civilians and scores of injuries after cars were targeted on the highway, according to a witness and two rebels sources.

Syrian soldiers and Iranian-backed militiamen were now around 12 kilometres from Saraqeb, advancing towards the Damascus-Aleppo highway under cover of heavy Russian air strikes, two opposition sources said.

At least five civilians were killed in Saraqeb city on Saturday, which residents blamed on Russian planes.

Syrians in rebel-held areas say they can distinguish between Russian warplanes and those of the Syrian air force, because the Russian planes fly at higher altitude.

Jets add to Victory’s A-League Hunter pain

Posted on 04/25/2020

Nigel Boogaard has scored, ending a long goal drought in Newcastle’s 2-0 win over Melbourne Victory.They weren’t at their exhilarating best, but Newcastle still managed to compound Melbourne Victory’s A-League pain, prevailing 2-0 to hold second place on the ladder.

Nigel Boogaard scored for the first time in more than 15 months before recruit Riley McGree came off the bench to tap home his maiden club goal on Saturday at McDonald Jones Stadium.

Ernie Merrick’s side move seven points ahead of third-placed Melbourne City – who play on Sunday – and nine behind leaders Sydney FC.

The Jets are on the verge of securing a finals berth for the first time since 2010.

“It was a very tight affair because there wasn’t much given away in midfield and anyone on the ball was closed down very quickly,” Merrick said.

“The longer the game went on, especially when we went up 2-0, they were going to throw numbers forward. So we had to weather that storm.”

Victory have only one win from their past 12 trips to the Hunter.

While they adjusted well to life without Mark Milligan, Besart Berisha missed a host of chances that could have changed the game.

The billed match-of-the-round was rife with turnovers and mis-hits – not the most enthralling for new Socceroos coach Bert van Marwijk to watch.

Roy O’Donovan, in his long-awaited injury return, fired a header wide from point-blank range and then lazily drew a strike across the goal face.

Socceroos hopeful Dimi Petratos was lively and provided the free-kick for Boogaard’s 31st-minute opener, a terrific cross that skimmed the skipper’s head and diverted into the far corner.

“We created a number of chances, possibly twice as many strikes on goal as them,” Victory coach Kevin Muscat said.

“We were starting to impose ourselves on the game away from home, and then to concede off that set piece – them moments are huge.”

The Jets perhaps had a slight upper hand but Victory were not short on chances. Jack Duncan made two top-class reflex saves to deny Kosta Barbarouses and Berisha.

After halftime, Andrew Nabbout was shown a yellow card for a bad head clash with Lawrence Thomas.

Nabbout was taken off on a stretcher and replaced by Matt Acton.

Thomas was taken to hospital but the club said he’d been cleared of serious injury.

Duncan came to the fore again to stop a barrelling Barbarouses strike while Berisha, who had not scored at this venue since 2014, fluffed a header, was denied in a scramble and dragged a late shot wide.

It was all to Victory’s detriment when McGree replaced O’Donovan in the 65th minute.

The former Adelaide midfielder had been on only five minutes when Jason Hoffman played in Nabbout and the winger-cum-striker crossed for McGree to tap in at the far post.

Finals-bound United seeking improvement

Posted on 04/25/2020

Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman gets his message across during the win over the Bullets.Melbourne United coach Dean Vickerman believes his side have plenty of room for improvement despite registering a third straight win to move two games clear atop the NBL ladder.

Having secured a playoff spot, United set about maintaining their top ranking but were forced to do it the hard way in Saturday’s 69-61 victory over a dogged Bullets outfit in front of 10,300 fans at Hisense Arena.

“Obviously, it’s a good grind-out win but there’s lots to work on and that’s the thing for us right now – did we get better today,” Vickerman queried after the win against a Brisbane side missing key import Travis Trice.

“We did some things defensively to say we got better but did we get better offensively…no, plenty to work on.”

Disrupted by Brisbane’s defence early and indecisive in attack during a low-scoring first half, United turned to point guard Casper Ware who combined with low-post scorers Josh Boone and Tai Wesley to build a match-winning lead in the third quarter.

High-flying United have won 11 of 13 matches since suffering a 32-point blowout loss to defending champions Perth on November 19 but Vickerman feels his side has yet to reach peak form.

I know we’ve been better…we’ve played solid basketball to get these wins recently but we haven’t played great,” he said after United failed to reach 70 points for just the fourth time this season and only connected on 3-of-18 three-pointers.

“When you don’t perform to your identity about the things you have done all year, you’ve got to check that and ask why – was it us, was it them…tonight it was a bit of both.”

Vickerman also threw down the challenge to some of his bench players as he handed significant playing time to Craig Moller over import Carrick Felix and played reserve guards Kyle Adnam and Peter Hooley for key minutes early in the fourth quarter.

“We are just trying to find out and get as much information as we can about our own group and who can handle the pressure situations,” Vickerman said.

Brisbane coach Andrej Lemanis said he believes Melbourne possess the talent and defensive steel to make a run at the title.

“At the end of the day, defence is what gets it done particularly when you are talking about a five-game series,” Lemanis said.

“With the talent they have, their willingness to defend and their ability to make plays, I definitely think they have a great opportunity to win it.”

Dozens assaulted by Nassar while FBI knew

Posted on 04/25/2020

Larry Nassar has been sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexual assault of elite gymnasts.At least 40 girls and women say they were molested by a sports doctor during a 14-month period while the FBI at the same time was aware that Larry Nassar had been accused of molesting gymnasts.

The New York Times reported on Saturday the FBI became aware of Nassar in July 2015 when it was contacted by USA Gymnastics, which trains athletes for the Olympics. But he wasn’t publicly exposed until The Indianapolis Star published allegations by a victim in 2016.

In the meantime, Nassar continued to see young female athletes, especially gymnasts, or dancers while working at Michigan State University. USA Gymnastics, where he was a team doctor, cut ties with him in 2015.

Nassar, 54, has been sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexual assault. He’ll get another sentence on Monday in Eaton County, Michigan. Both cases were filed by the Michigan attorney general under state law. Nassar admitted penetrating females with ungloved hands when they visited him for various injuries. The number of victims who have come forward exceeds 250, going back decades.

Federal authorities in Michigan ultimately charged Nassar with child pornography after police found thousands of images in his trash. That led to a separate 60-year prison sentence.

The Times said the FBI declined to answer detailed questions about how it handled assault allegations forwarded by Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics. In a brief statement, the FBI told the newspaper that the allegations “transcended jurisdictions,” apparently a reference to Texas, Michigan and other places where Nassar was suspected of molesting people.

Asked why families and coaches weren’t alerted, W Jay Abbott, who led the FBI office in Indianapolis, said: “That’s where things can get tricky.”

“There is a duty to warn those who might be harmed in the future,” said Abbott, who retired in January. “But everyone is still trying to ascertain whether a crime has been committed.”

He said “everybody has rights here”, including Nassar.

Lodge wants to repay Brisbane’s faith

Posted on 04/25/2020

Matt Lodge says he is determined to make up for lost time with the Brisbane Broncos.Controversial Brisbane signing Matt Lodge says he wants to repay the NRL club’s faith by helping the Broncos win a premiership in 2018.

Brisbane raised eyebrows when they signed Lodge on a one year deal when the ex-Wests Tigers prop was cleared by the NRL integrity unit two years after being deregistered over an alcohol-fuelled rampage in New York.

Lodge avoided jail in the United States after pleading guilty to reckless assault for the October 2015 incident but was hit with a $1.6 million damages bill.

Test coach Mal Meninga was among Brisbane’s critics for signing Lodge, saying the prop should serve a 12-month ban first.

But Lodge, 22, said he had learned his lesson and wanted to make up for lost time by claiming a Brisbane premiership ring this year.

“In 2018 I want to repay the favour to the club,” Lodge told Broncos website.

“I am committed to winning a comp and playing my best footy I can for the Broncos and help achieve that for the group.”

Lodge avoided a year in jail over the New York incident in which he punched a man before forcing his way into his apartment and trying to kick down the door to a bathroom where the man’s wife and child were hiding.

He was allowed by the NRL to train with the Broncos in 2017 season and impressed for Redcliffe, helping them finish second on the Queensland Cup ladder and being nominated for 2017 player of the year.

“I had a fair stint out. It taught me a lot of lessons so I am pretty grateful for the experience and think I can come back from that a lot better as a player and person,” Lodge said.

Lodge initially planned to retire from rugby league after being hit with the huge damages bill.

At one stage he worked as a landscaper in hometown Sydney before Wayne Bennett convinced him to give the NRL another shot.

“I sat down with Wayne in Sydney and I pretty much knew from that point that I wanted to come up here…and prove myself,” Lodge said.

“It was one of the best one-on-one chats I have had.

“So I just put all my eggs in one basket and came up.

“There were a lot of bumps in the road and it took a while to get here but that just made it better getting here.”

Brisbane signed Lodge to bolster their pack after the off-season departures of Adam Blair, Herman Ese’ese and Jai Arrow.

“I have got a lot of things to prove but I am ready to go,” Lodge said.

Minjee Lee leads by one at Vic Open

Posted on 04/25/2020

Cheyenne Woods (file) is among a group tied for fifth heading into the final round at the Vic Open.Fast-rising talent Karis Davidson will get a second crack at toppling global star Minjee Lee in the final round of the Vic Open at 13th Beach.

Playing her first four-round tournament as a professional, the 19-year-old Davidson stormed into outright second spot with one round to play after carding a six-under 67 on Saturday.

It left her at six-under 213, a single stroke behind world No.20 Lee, who had to contend with the most difficult of the afternoon conditions and eventually signed for a two-over 75.

n Hannah Green (71) and 2015 Vic Open champ Marianne Skarpnord from Norway (75) were tied for third at 215.

Lee and Davidson will play together in the final group on Sunday, reprising their clash in the 2014 n Amateur final when Lee, then 17, beat a 15-year-old Davidson 6 and 5.

Davidson has made a flying start to life in the professional ranks by successfully negotiating the notoriously tough qualifying school on the Japanese tour to earn full playing rights for 2018.

“I had a really good round today but I really wasn’t expecting to be one shot off the lead,” said the Queenslander.

“My goal coming into this week was top 20.

“This is my first four-day professional event but I’m not feeling any pressure.

“I’m just going to go out tomorrow, and do my best and have fun.”

As a three-time winner on the LPGA Tour, Lee remains the favourite to win a second Vic Open title, having previously saluted as an amateur back in 2014.

Among the group tied for fifth spot at two-under 217 was American Cheyenne Woods.

The niece of Tiger Woods has had a rollercoaster tournament to date with rounds of 68, 80 and 69.

“I would love to get back out tomorrow and shoot another 69, 68,” said the 27-year-old Woods.

“I think there is (a low number out there). I didn’t even birdie the birdieable par-five and the driveable par-four. I did leave maybe two shots out there.

“My goal today was to get inside the top 10.”

Palestinian teen shot dead in West Bank

Posted on 04/25/2020

A Palestinian teen who climbed on an Israeli military vehicle has been shot dead.Israeli soldiers have shot and killed a Palestinian teenager during an arrest raid in the village of Burqin in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian health officials say.

A Reuters witness said about 200 Palestinians were throwing stones at Israeli military vehicles when a gunshot was heard, adding that a wounded person was then carried to a car.

Israel’s military said its forces had been searching in Burqin for suspects involved in the fatal drive-by shooting of an Israeli rabbi from a nearby settlement on January 9.

A military spokeswoman said rioting had broken out while troops were apprehending several suspects connected with that shooting and troops responded with non-fatal “riot dispersal means” against Palestinians throwing rocks and firebombs and then with live gunfire at the main instigators.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said the teenager killed on Saturday was 19, while the hospital in Jenin where he was taken said he had been shot in the head.

The Israeli military spokeswoman said he had climbed onto a military vehicle and opened its door before he was shot.

Israeli forces in the adjacent city of Jenin last month shot and killed a Palestinian gunman whom they had also suspected of involvement in the rabbi’s shooting.

Tensions in the region have risen since US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December. Since then at least 20 Palestinians and one Israeli have been killed.

Trump’s reversal of decades of US policy enraged Palestinians, who want to create an independent state in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

NBL leaders United hold off dogged Bullets

Posted on 04/25/2020

Melbourne United have taken another step towards the NBL minor premiership with a win over Brisbane.Melbourne United has taken another step toward the NBL minor premiership after closing out a 69-61 home win over the Brisbane Bullets.

The ladder leaders ground out a tight final quarter with the Bullets closing the margin to four points in the final minute but held on to move two wins clear of second-placed Perth with four matches left in their regular season.

United imports Casper Ware and Josh Boone combined for 14 third-quarter points to settle the home side and Chris Goulding held his nerve with four late free throws to close out the win.

Ware led United with 17 points and Boone added 15 points and 12 rebounds while Tai Wesley (14 points, eight boards and five assists) provided valuable support.

Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman was pleased with his side’s defensive effort but felt that missed opportunities in attack left them vulnerable to Brisbane’s late fightback.

“Holding the best offensive efficiency team in the league to low 30s (shooting) percentage-wise, you are going to take that every day,” Vickerman said.

“We were just disappointed that getting that many stops, we weren’t able to convert that into points going the other way.”

Brisbane struggled in attack with gun import Travis Trice (elbow) missing, but Daniel Kickert kept the visitors in the contest with 10 second-quarter points and a Reuben Te Rangi triple with 49 seconds kept the Bullets in the game.

Kickert finished with 17 points while former United guard Stephen Holt chipped in with 11 points.

“Certainly we had our struggles putting the ball in the basket,” Brisbane coach Andrej Lemanis said.

He said a combination of poor shot selection and missing open shots contributed to the Bullets’ offensive woes.

The home side found themselves under pressure in the fourth quarter as Perrin Buford hit consecutive baskets for Brisbane, and Adam Gibson cut the gap to four points from the free throw line after being fouled on a three-point attempt.

But the Bullets could get no closer with Wesley and Ware keeping the home side in front.

Melbourne United now prepare for a vital home clash with New Zealand Breakers on Friday night, while Brisbane host the Illawarra Hawks on Thursday.

Trump says memo `totally vindicates’ him

Posted on 04/25/2020

US President Donald Trump has tweeted the released Republican memo ‘totally vindicates’ him.US President Donald Trump says a controversial memo attacking federal law enforcement written by congressional Republicans vindicates him in the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

Trump’s fervent embrace of the memo raised again the prospect that he may use it as justification to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, who is conducting the investigation, or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller.

Tweeting from his resort in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump said the memo “totally vindicates” him but added “the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their (sic) was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction.” He called the investigation “an American disgrace”.

The White House told Reuters on Friday there would be no changes at the Justice Department as a result of the memo’s conclusions.

The memo, written by Republicans on the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee chaired by Devin Nunes, argues the federal investigation of potential collusion between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia was a product of political bias against Trump at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department.

Trump approved the release of the formerly classified memo without redactions despite objections from the FBI.

Democrats contend the four-page memo mischaracterises highly sensitive classified information and was intended to undermine the Mueller criminal probe that was launched in May 2017 as an outgrowth an earlier FBI investigation.

Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that Trump’s decision to allow the release of the memo was “part of a co-ordinated propaganda effort to discredit, disable and defeat the Russia investigation”.

Some Republicans also were critical of the memo’s release. John Kasich, the governor of Ohio and a former rival of Trump’s for the presidential nomination, released a statement on Saturday calling it “a disservice to our country”.

The memo alleges the FBI concealed the Democratic ties of a source the agency used to justify surveillance on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser with links to Russia. The memo revealed the names of senior FBI and Justice Department officials, including Rosenstein, who it said had signed off on the surveillance.

The Republican memo focused on court-approved surveillance of Page and said the FBI used a source who was strongly biased against Trump, former British spy Christopher Steele, to justify the action.

It alleged that a dossier of alleged Trump-Russia contacts compiled by Steele, and funded in part by Democrats, formed an “essential part” of requests to a special court to be allowed to conduct electronic surveillance on Page that began in October 2016.

Despite the memo’s charges, neither the focus on Page nor the FBI’s investigation of Trump-Russia ties began with the Steele dossier.

Uma Thurman reveals Weinstein assault

Posted on 04/25/2020

Uma Thurman has revealed she was assaulted by disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein.After months of saying she would reveal her sexual harasser, Uma Thurman has detailed how Harvey Weinstein forced himself on her in a London hotel.

She has also described how working with Quentin Tarantino on Kill Bill extracted its own form of non-sexual abuse that left her injured and irate.

In a New York Times article by Maureen Dowd, Thurman said she holds her CAA agents responsible. She tells how, after the success of Pulp Fiction, “the bathrobe came out” when Weinstein asked her to meet him at his Paris hotel and then led her to the steam room, which she quickly exited.

Not long after, she met him at the Savoy Hotel in London, where she alleges, “He pushed me down. He tried to shove himself on me. He tried to expose himself. He did all kinds of unpleasant things. But he didn’t actually put his back into it and force me.”

A rep for Weinstein has responded that her claims about being physically assaulted are “untrue”.

Thurman returned to the hotel soon after and threatened to expose what he had done, but, she recounted, Weinstein said he would derail her career, leaving her shaken and upset.

Weinstein confirmed to the New York Times that he had apologised to Thurman at the time for what called “misreading her signals”.

CAA apologised recently to clients who were “let down”.

Thurman also described how working with Tarantino on Kill Bill left her feeling devastated after a dangerous stunt driving scene Tarantino asked that she do with no stuntperson. She said the seat wasn’t screwed down properly when the car drifted off the road and smashed into a palm tree.

Weinstein’s rep issued a statement, enclosing a number of photos they said “demonstrated the strong relationship” between Weinstein and Thurman.

“Mr Weinstein acknowledges making an awkward pass 25 years ago at Ms Thurman in England after misreading her signals, after a flirtatious exchange in Paris, for which he immediately apologised and deeply regrets. However, her claims about being physically assaulted are untrue. And this is the first time we have heard those details.

There was no physical contact during Mr Weinstein’s awkward pass and Mr. Weinstein is saddened and puzzled as to “why” Ms Thurman, someone he considers a colleague and a friend, waited 25 years to make these allegations.