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Barty guides Australia into Fed Cup final

FILE PHOTO - Tennis: Miami Open
FILE PHOTO - Mar 30, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Ashleigh Barty of Australia returns a shot back to Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic (not pictured) during the woman's finals at the Miami Open at Miami Open Tennis Complex. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

April 21, 2019

SYDNEY (Reuters) – World number nine Ashleigh Barty continued her recent strong run of form and guided Australia to their first Fed Cup final since 1993 with a 3-2 victory over Belarus in Brisbane on Sunday.

Barty, who won both her singles matches in the semi-final tie, and veteran Samantha Stosur beat Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka 7-5 3-6 6-2 in the deciding doubles to set up a final against either France or Romania in November.

Australia, who have not won the title since 1974, will host the final against the winner of the second semi-final, which was locked at 1-1 in Rouen.

“It’s super exciting to be in a Fed Cup final,” Stosur said. “We all work so hard all year and we’re such a tight team. We’re going to be giving it our best shot here in November.”

Barty had earlier given Australia a 2-1 lead after a superb mixture of tactics, scrambling defense and a powerful service game to beat Sabalenka 6-2 6-2.

It was her second singles win of the tie after she beat Azarenka on Saturday and her success came on the back of winning her first WTA Premier level tournament in Miami last month.

Azarenka was originally not listed to play the doubles but after she dismantled Stosur 6-1 6-1 in 59 minutes to send the tie to the decider, she quickly had her racquets restrung and joined the 20-year-old in the doubles.

SINGLES EVEN

The tie had been locked at 1-1 after the opening day’s singles before Barty produced a high level of intensity to beat Sabalenka in Sunday’s first match.

Despite the lop-sided scoreline, Barty was made to work hard by her fellow top-10 player Sabalenka, who lost control of the match in the fifth game of the first set when she served four double faults.

Barty, who was forced to produce big serves to neutralize breakpoint opportunities in both the second and fourth games of the second set, broke Sabalenka and ended the Belarusian’s resistance when she served her eighth double fault.

Azarenka sent the tie into the decider when she produced some of the high quality tennis that had propelled her to two Australian Open titles.

The 29-year-old is making her way back up the rankings after she had a child and then faced a custody battle that restricted her travel.

Even during the rallies the 35-year-old Stosur controlled, Azarenka chased the ball down and forced her opponent to keep making shots that resulted in the Australian making 35 errors.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

Source: OANN

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Factbox: After Indonesia election, new crop of leaders in focus for 2024 vote

FILE PHOTO: A man holds a Koran as Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan stands during a swearing-in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta
FILE PHOTO: A man holds a Koran as Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan stands during a swearing-in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Beawiharta/File Photo

April 21, 2019

By Tabita Diela and Yerica Lai

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Even with Indonesia’s current presidential election result still to be officially confirmed, attention is turning to the next race for the top job in 2024 with some rising political stars and well-connected figures in the frame.

Sample vote counts by private pollsters from last week’s poll show that incumbent President Joko Widodo is headed for a second and final term in office though the results are being disputed by his challenger, ex-general Prabowo Subianto.

There are, however, a string of new leaders waiting in the wings for their chance including some who, like Widodo, cut their teeth running cities or provinces across the archipelago, and also the offspring of ex-leaders being groomed to take over.

Still, a candidate needs at least 20 percent of seats in parliament or 25 percent of the popular vote to stand, meaning it is conceivable for this year’s challenger Subianto, who is chairman of the Gerindra party, to run for a third attempt.

“We have a lot of potential leaders… The threshold should be lowered to give these people an open opportunity,” said Arya Fernandes, a researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Here are some of the possible contenders for the 2024 vote.

Anies Baswedan, 49, is the governor of Jakarta. The former education minister, with backing from opposition parties and some hardline Islamist groups, defeated the popular ethnic-Chinese, Christian governor of the capital in a vote marred by religious tensions. Still, the Fulbright Scholar who comes from a family of moderate Muslim scholars is seen as appealing to younger voters and representing a more modern face of Islam.

Sandiaga Uno, 49, was elected vice governor of Jakarta in 2017, but stood down to be the vice presidential running mate for Prabowo. His private equity fortune made to a large degree with investments in Indonesia’s coal industry helped fund Prabowo and his campaign. Though a relative newcomer to politics, the campaign has allowed him to raise his profile across Indonesia and he proved a hit with millennial and female voters.

Ridwan Kamil, 47, is governor of Indonesia’s most populous province West Java and an ally of Widodo. A trained architect, he was previously mayor of Bandung where he is credited with rebranding the city to encourage creativity and use of technology. He has successfully used social media to connect with voters and has more than 10 million followers on Instagram.

Puan Maharani, 45, is a minister for human development and cultural affairs. She has political pedigree as the daughter of former president Megawati Soekarnoputri and granddaughter of Indonesia’s charismatic first leader, Sukarno. Her mother chairs the biggest party in parliament, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which is in the ruling coalition.

Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, 40, is the eldest son of former president and Democratic Party chairman Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The Harvard-educated politician followed his father by having a military career and despite his inexperience ran in the Jakarta governor race in 2017 where he lost in the first round. The Democratic Party has also not fared so well this year.

Other names being circulated by pollsters or the media include regional leaders such as Ganjar Pranowo, 50, the governor of Central Java, Tri Rismaharini, 57, mayor of Surabaya, and East Java governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa, 53.

In eastern Indonesia, Nurdin Abdullah, 56, the South Sulawesi governor, is also seen as a contender.

Deputy parliament speaker and vice chairman of the Gerindra party Fadli Zon, 47, is also seen as a possible candidate as a Prabowo loyalist.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, 52, the ex-governor of Jakarta, still has many supporters if he did try to get back into politics even with a blasphemy conviction for insulting the Koran.

Billionaire businessman Erick Thohir, 48, who orchestrated last year’s Asian Games and Widodo’s 2019 presidential campaign, has also been mentioned though he has denied interest in a political career and up to now lacks governance experience.

(Reporting by Tabita Diela and Yerica Lai; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

Source: OANN

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MLB roundup: Yankees win game, lose Judge to injury

MLB: Kansas City Royals at New York Yankees
Apr 20, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Mike Tauchman (39) is greeted by right fielder Aaron Judge (99) after hitting a three run home run in the fourth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

April 21, 2019

Aaron Judge homered in the first inning but exited five innings later with a left oblique injury as the New York Yankees rolled to a 9-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

After hitting a single in the sixth with his team up 6-1, Judge appeared to feel something as he swung and ran gingerly to first base. After trainer Steve Donahue checked him over, Judge exited the game and was replaced by Tyler Wade.

Speaking to reporters after the game, manager Aaron Boone said that Judge was getting an MRI exam. Asked if Judge could avoid a trip to the injured list, Boone replied, “Probably not. No.”

Masahiro Tanaka (2-1) surrendered a homer to Whit Merrifield in the sixth among the four hits he gave up, but rebounded from a sub-par outing Sunday against the Chicago White Sox with seven strong innings. Judge and Clint Frazier homered in the opening two innings off Royals starter Heath Fillmyer (0-1), and Mike Tauchman and DJ LeMahieu hit New York’s first set of back-to-back homers this season in the fourth.

Brewers 5, Dodgers 0

Christian Yelich hit two more home runs — giving him eight in his last six games and a league-best 13 on the season — as host Milwaukee ended a three-game losing streak with a convincing victory over Los Angeles.

Yelich went deep in both the third and sixth innings against Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu (2-1). Ryan Braun also hit a home run for the Brewers, who had lost their last three games against the Dodgers going back to a series at Los Angeles last weekend.

The high-powered Dodgers offense was held to just two hits in the game and just one hit over five innings against Brewers spot starter Chase Anderson (2-0).

Indians 8, Braves 4 (Game 1)

Max Moroff belted a solo homer in the fourth inning and added an RBI single as part of a six-run fifth as host Cleveland doubled-up Atlanta in the opener of their doubleheader.

Carlos Santana had a run-scoring single among his three hits for the Indians, while Moroff, Greg Allen, Tyler Naquin, Leonys Martin and Jason Kipnis each drove in a run in a fifth inning that saw Cleveland send 11 batters to the plate and score all six runs with two outs.

Corey Kluber (2-2) bounced back after giving up six runs in two of his previous three starts, going seven innings and giving up four runs on five hits and two walks while striking out eight. Braves starter Julio Teheran (2-2) gave up five runs in 4 2/3 innings.

Braves 8, Indians 7 (Game 2)

Ronald Acuna Jr. ripped a two-run double to cap a five-run uprising in the ninth inning and Atlanta salvaged a split of the doubleheader and spoiled the season debut of Francisco Lindor.

With the Braves trailing 7-3, Ozzie Albies ripped a two-out, two-run single down the first-base line in the ninth. Adam Cimber (1-1) issued his third walk of the inning before departing in favor of Tyler Olson, who walked Freddie Freeman with the bases loaded to bring Atlanta within one. The late uprising made a winner out of Luke Jackson (2-0), who retired the side in the eighth inning.

Lindor batted in the leadoff position and went 1-for-5 and scored a run — part of the Indians’ five-run spurt in the second inning. The three-time All-Star shortstop was activated prior to the doubleheader after being sidelined since the end of spring training with an ankle injury.

Red Sox 6, Rays 5

Boston’s Andrew Benintendi hit a grand slam and drove in the game-winning run with a ninth-inning sacrifice fly to lead Boston to a win over host Tampa Bay — despite the Rays setting a team record with four triples in the game.

The Rays had runners on first and second with two outs in the bottom half of the ninth, but Boston catcher Christian Vazquez picked off Tommy Pham at first base to end the game.

Reliever Matt Barnes (2-0) earned the win, Ryan Brasier recorded his fifth save and Mookie Betts had two hits for the Red Sox, who won their second straight. Jose Alvarado (0-1) took the loss as the Rays lost their third in a row.

Phillies 8, Rockies 5

Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen homered, Phil Gosselin drove in three runs with a double, and Philadelphia topped Colorado in Denver.

Aaron Nola (2-0) struck out nine in 5 2/3 innings for the win, giving up nine hits and walking one while surrendering three runs. Hector Neris got the last five outs for his third save.

Charlie Blackmon homered and fell a double short of the cycle and Raimel Tapia also went deep for the Rockies, who had their five-game winning streak snapped. Antonio Senzatela (1-1) gave up four runs on seven hits in six innings. He struck out three and walked one.

Pirates 3, Giants 1 (5 inn.)

Cole Tucker hit a go-ahead two-run home run in his major league debut as Pittsburgh extended its winning streak to five games with a rain-shortened win over visiting San Francisco. The game was called after a 3-hour, 8-minute delay.

In just his third at-bat in the big leagues, Tucker crushed a 2-2 pitch against Giants left-hander Derek Holland (1-3) onto the grass berm beyond the center field wall. The blast, into a stiff breeze, came in the bottom of the fifth, minutes before the infield was covered because of an arriving rainstorm.

The Giants’ Steven Duggar had tied the game 1-1 in the top of the fifth on an RBI single against Pirates starter Jameson Taillon (1-2). San Francisco lost its fourth consecutive game and fell for the fifth time in its past six contests.

Cardinals 10, Mets 2

Miles Mikolas gave up two runs in eight innings and drove in two runs with a second-inning single to help host St. Louis rout New York.

Mikolas (2-1), who led the National League with 18 wins last season, allowed four hits, struck out four and walked two on 100 pitches. Jose Martinez had three hits and three RBIs, Yadier Molina had two hits and two RBIs, and Paul DeJong had two hits and two runs for the Cardinals in the second game of the three-game series.

Mets right-hander Chris Flexen (0-1) was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse to start in place of Jacob deGrom, who was placed on the 10-day injured list on Friday with elbow discomfort. He had had an easy first inning, but gave up three runs in the second and two more in the third.

Rangers 9, Astros 4

Texas knocked two-time All-Star Gerrit Cole out of the game after 4 1/3 innings and rolled to a win over in-state rival Houston in Arlington, Texas.

The Rangers scored five runs in the first inning as Cole (1-3) gave up nine runs (eight earned) and nine hits, striking out eight and walking three in what he told reporters was, “probably the worst (start) of my career.”

Danny Santana had three hits and Joey Gallo had two — including his eighth home run of the season — for the Rangers, who got four shutout innings from starter Adrian Sampson before he struggled in the fifth and left the game two outs shy of qualifying for his first major league win. Shawn Kelley (3-0) got the final two outs in the fifth and pitched a scoreless sixth to earn the victory.

Diamondbacks 6, Cubs 0

Eduardo Escobar, David Peralta and John Ryan Murphy each homered, and Arizona got a solid outing from starter Zack Greinke to top host Chicago.

Christian Walker added a career-high four hits and scored a run for Arizona, which earned its fifth win in the past six games. Chicago’s four-game winning streak came to an end as Greinke (3-1) pitched six innings to register his first career victory at Wrigley Field. Diamondbacks right-hander Taylor Clarke earned a three-inning save in his major league debut.

Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish (1-3) gave up three runs — including back-to-back solo homers in the first — on five hits in five innings. He walked three and fanned seven.

Marlins 9, Nationals 3

Miami clinched its first series win of the season, beating three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and visiting Washington.

Besides the loss, there was more bad news for Washington as third baseman Anthony Rendon left the game after he was hit on his left elbow by a 95 mph fastball thrown by Marlins starter Jose Urena (1-3). Rendon went 0-for-1, ending the majors’ longest active hit streak at 17 games.

Scherzer (1-3) gave up 11 hits — one short off his career worst — and seven runs, six earned. He struck out nine and walked none.

Twins 6, Orioles 5 (Game 1)

Eddie Rosario hit two home runs for the second consecutive game and Byron Buxton had a two-run double to lead visiting Minnesota past Baltimore in the first game of a doubleheader.

Rosario, who also reached over the fence at the 364-foot sign in left-center field to rob Chris Davis of a leadoff home run in the sixth, became just the third Twins player to have back-to-back multi-homer games, joining Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett (1987) and Don Mincher (1963). His eight home runs are the most by a Minnesota player in the first 17 games of the season, breaking a tie with Tony Oliva, who had seven in 1966.

Jose Berrios (3-1) gave up four runs, including three home runs, on eight hits over six innings to improve to 4-0 all-time against the Orioles. He walked three and struck out five. Reliever Jimmy Yacabonis (1-1) took the loss, giving up three runs on two hits and a hit batter while recording only two outs in the sixth inning.

Twins 16, Orioles 7 (Game 2)

Rosario hit another home run and Minnesota tied a franchise record with eight home runs to complete the doubleheader sweep with an easy win in the nightcap.

Mitch Garver (five RBIs), Nelson Cruz (four hits, four runs scored) and Jonathan Schoop (four RBIs) each hit two home runs, while C.J. Cron also homered. Rosario’s five home runs over three games tied the Twins’ franchise mark for any three-game span — originally set by Harmon Killebrew (Sept. 21-22, 1963) and later tied by Brian Dozier (Sept. 4-6, 2016).

Martin Perez (2-0) picked up the win for the Twins, giving up four runs on six hits and a walk over six innings while striking out two. Alex Cobb (0-1), making his first start since coming off the injured list after a bout of back spasms, tied his career high by allowing nine runs on 10 hits in 2 2/3 innings.

Blue Jays 10, Athletics 1

Rowdy Tellez and Brandon Drury hit back-to-back home runs in a five-run fourth inning as Toronto overcame an injury to starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker to thump host Oakland.

Even though he left after three innings with a knee injury, Shoemaker teamed with Sam Gaviglio (2-0) and Elvis Luciano on a six-hitter for Toronto’s second consecutive win of the series. Mike Fiers (2-2) took the loss for the A’s, who also were beaten 5-1 by the Blue Jays in the opener of the three-game set on Friday night.

The blowout ended with former Blue Jays slugger Kendrys Morales making his second career relief appearance. Facing his old teammates, he gave up one run on a single, two walks, a hit batter and a sacrifice fly in his one inning.

Reds 4, Padres 2

Right-hander Luis Castillo held slumping San Diego to one run on four hits over six innings as visiting Cincinnati won for the third straight time at Petco Park.

The Padres have lost six in a row and five straight at home. They are down to.500 after an 11-5 start to the season.

Castillo (2-1) recorded nine of the Reds’ 14 strikeouts on the night while issuing one walk. Right-hander Raisel Iglesias struck out the side in the ninth to pick up his fourth save. The Reds scored three runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks in five innings against left-handed Padres starter Eric Lauer (2-3).

Mariners 6, Angels 5

Seattle hit four home runs, giving the Mariners 11 in the first three games of the series, and again beat Los Angeles in Anaheim, Calif. The Angels have lost six in a row overall and all five games against Seattle this season.

Mariners center fielder Mitch Haniger homered off Trevor Cahill (1-2) to lead off the game, and Edwin Encarnacion, Domingo Santana and Daniel Vogelbach also homered in the game — giving the team 53 thus far. Seattle has homered in all but one of 24 games this season.

The Angels’ offense, however, kept them in the game, getting 10 hits against Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi (1-1), who went five innings and allowed four runs to get the victory. Albert Pujols hit an RBI double and solo home run as he tied and then passed Babe Ruth on the career RBIs list. Pujols is now fifth in MLB history with 1,993. Next up is Lou Gehrig at No. 4 with 1,995.

White Sox at Tigers, ppd.

Chicago’s scheduled game at Detroit was rained out and will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Aug. 6.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

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Indian, Australian warships arrive in China for naval parade

The Royal Australian Navy's Adelaide class guided missile frigate HMAS Melbourne (III) arrives at Qingdao Port
The Royal Australian Navy's Adelaide class guided missile frigate HMAS Melbourne (III) arrives at Qingdao Port for the 70th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), in Qingdao, China, April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

April 21, 2019

By Ben Blanchard

QINGDAO, China (Reuters) – Warships from India, Australia and several other nations arrived in the eastern Chinese port city of Qingdao on Sunday to attend a naval parade, part of a goodwill visit as China extends the hand of friendship despite regional tensions and suspicions.

China on Tuesday will mark 70 years since the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, where it will show off new warships including nuclear submarines and destroyers at a major review in the waters off Qingdao.

China says warships from about a dozen nations are also taking part – one diplomatic source with direct knowledge said it was 13 countries in total – and the PLA is putting its best foot forward to welcome them.

India, which has been at odds with China over their disputed land border and Beijing’s support for India’s regional rival Pakistan, has sent stealth guided-missile destroyer the “INS Kolkata” to take part, along with a supply ship.

“We bring to you one of the best ships that we have made. It is the pride of the nation and the navy, and we are very happy to be here,” Captain Aditya Hara told reporters on the dockside after disembarking from the ship in Qingdao.

A source familiar with the situation told Reuters the “Kolkata” had sailed through the Taiwan Strait to get to Qingdao, a sensitive waterway that separates China from self-ruled Taiwan, claimed by Beijing as sacred Chinese territory.

“We headed on a direct route and we are very happy that we were facilitated by the PLA Navy and they ensured that we had a safe passage to Qingdao,” Hara said, when asked if they had sailed via the Taiwan Strait.

Australia, a close U.S. ally, has sent the “HMAS Melbourne” guided-missile frigate to Qingdao, though officials declined to make the captain available for interview.

China and Australia have sparred over Australian suspicions of Chinese interference in the country’s politics and Australia’s banning of China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd from supplying equipment for its planned 5G broadband network.

Japan has also sent a destroyer to Qingdao, in the first visit of a Japanese navy ship to China since 2011, according to Japanese media.

Ties between China and Japan, the world’s second and third-largest economies, have been plagued by a long-running territorial dispute over a cluster of East China Sea islets and suspicion in China about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to amend Japan’s pacifist constitution.

But they have sought to improve relations more recently, with Abe visiting Beijing in October, when both countries pledged to forge closer ties and signed a broad range of agreements including a $30 billion currency swap pact.

The other countries taking part include China’s close friend Russia, and three countries which have sparred with China over competing claims in the disputed South China Sea: Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Pakistan, a very close Chinese ally, is not on the list of countries officials have provided which are sending ships to the parade.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

Source: OANN

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In nod to debt concerns, China Belt and Road summit to urge sustainable financing

Man walks past a flower installation set up for the upcoming Belt and Road Forum in front of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing
A man walks past a flower installation set up for the upcoming Belt and Road Forum in front of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing, China April 18, 2019. Picture taken April 18, 2019. Jia Tianyong/CNS via REUTERS

April 21, 2019

By John Ruwitch

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – World leaders meeting in Beijing this week for a summit on China’s Belt and Road initiative will agree to project financing that respects global debt goals and promotes green growth, according to a draft communique seen by Reuters.

The Belt and Road Initiative is a key policy of President Xi Jinping and envisions rebuilding the old Silk Road to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond with massive infrastructure spending.

But it has proved controversial in many Western capitals, particularly Washington, which views it as merely a means to spread Chinese influence abroad and saddle countries with unsustainable debt through nontransparent projects.

The United States has been particularly critical of Italy’s decision to sign up to the plan last month, the first for a G7 nation.

In an apparent nod to these concerns, the communique reiterates promises reached at the last summit in 2017 for sustainable financing – but adds a line on debt, which was not included the last time.

“We support collaboration among national and international financial institutions to provide diversified and sustainable financial supports for projects,” the draft communique reads.

“We encourage local currency financing, mutual establishment of financial institutions, and a greater role of development finance in line with respective national priorities, laws, regulations and international commitments, and the agreed principles by the UNGA on debt sustainability,” it added, referring to the United Nations General Assembly.

The word “green” appears in the draft seven times. It was not mentioned once in the summit communique from two years ago.

“We underline the importance of promoting green development,” the draft reads. “We encourage the development of green finance including the issuance of green bonds as well as development of green technology.”

The Chinese government’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, said on Friday that the Belt and Road project is not a “geopolitical tool” or a debt crisis for participating nations, but Beijing welcomes constructive suggestions on how to address concerns over the initiative.

A total of 37 foreign leaders are due to attend the April 25-27 summit, though the United States is only sending lower-level representatives, reflecting its unease over the scheme.

The number of foreign leaders at the April 25-27 summit is up from 29 last time, mainly from China’s closest allies like Pakistan and Russia but also Italy, Switzerland and Austria.

China has repeatedly said Belt and Road is for the benefit of the whole world, and that it is committed to upholding globally accepted norms in ensuring projects are transparent and win-win for all parties.

“We emphasize the importance of the rule of law and equal opportunities for all,” the draft reads.

(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

Source: OANN

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Explosions hit two Sri Lankan churches, two hotels at Easter: police

Sri Lankan military officials stand guard in front of the St. Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade church after an explosion in Colombo
Sri Lankan military officials stand guard in front of the St. Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade church after an explosion in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

April 21, 2019

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Two Sri Lankan churches and two hotels were hit by explosions on Easter Sunday, wounding several people, police sources said.

The hotels and one of the churches are in the nation’s capital Colombo. The other church is in Negombo, north of Colombo.

A source in the police bomb squad said that one of the explosions was at St Anthony’s Church in Kochcikade, Colombo. “Our people are engaged in evacuating the casualties,” the source said.

Sources from two leading tourist hotels in Colombo also confirmed the explosions but did not give any details.

Colombo National hospital said several wounded had been brought in for treatment.

St. Sebastian’s church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo posted pictures of destruction inside the church on its Facebook page, showing blood on pews and the floor, and requested help from the public.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility.

(Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Edited by Martin Howell)

Source: OANN

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Dems plan conference call Monday to debate Mueller report’s implications

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is scheduled to hold a private conference call Monday with fellow Democrats in which the topic of the potential impeachment of President Trump will be raised.

The planned call comes as the issue continues to divide progressive Democrats -- who want Trump to face impeachment proceedings -- and party leaders who warn of its political risks and backlash going into the 2020 presidential election, Bloomberg reported. The renewed push comes on the heels of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Pelosi last month said she opposed impeachment, calling the process divisive and saying of Trump, “He’s just not worth it."

SCARAMUCCI SAYS PELOSI IS 'THE SMARTEST PERSON' AMID DEMOCRATIC CALLS FOR IMPEACHMENT

But in tweets this week, following the release of the Mueller report, Pelosi seemed to show a change in tone.

"As we continue to review the report, one thing is clear," Pelosi wrote Thursday, "AG Barr presented a conclusion that @realDonaldTrump did not obstruct justice while the #MuellerReport appears to undercut that finding."

Also Thursday: "The #MuellerReport paints a disturbing picture of a president who has been weaving a web of deceit, lies and improper behavior and acting as if the law doesn’t apply to him," Pelosi wrote.

WARREN URGES HOUSE TO BEGIN IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS ON HEELS OF MUELLER REPORT

Mueller's report cleared Trump and his associates of collusion with Russia but did not determine whether the president committed obstruction of justice during the investigation.

The report outlined 10 instances of potential obstruction, reviving impeachment calls by some Democrats. Among them, the report said Trump directed then-White House Counsel Don McGahn in June 2017 to tell the acting attorney general that Mueller “must be removed.” McGahn refused.

“The Special Counsel made clear that he did not exonerate the President. The responsibility now falls to Congress to hold the President accountable for his actions,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. said in an April 18 written statement just after the report was released.

President Trump, however, maintains that the Mueller report has cleared him of wrongdoing, and has underscored that view in Twitter messages.

"The end result of the greatest Witch Hunt in U.S. political history is No Collusion with Russia (and No Obstruction). Pretty Amazing!" the president wrote Saturday.

Another tweet was titled, "Mueller Investigation By the Numbers":

GINGRICH SUGGESTS NADLER'S PUSH TO FURTHER PROBE MUELLER REPORT IS AN ATTEMPT TO SAVE HIS JOB IN THE HOUSE

Those calling for impeachment proceedings include 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who said she would endorse an impeachment resolution introduced by fellow freshman lawmaker, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.

"Many know I take no pleasure in discussions of impeachment. I didn’t campaign on it, & rarely discuss it unprompted. We all prefer working on our priorities: pushing Medicare for All, tackling student loans, & a Green New Deal. But the report squarely puts this on our doorstep," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Thursday.

On Saturday, Warren -- who has been struggling to gain traction with voters -- doubled down on her call for the House to begin impeachment proceedings.

"I know people say this is politically charged and we shouldn’t go there, and that there is an election coming up, but there are some things that are bigger than politics,” she told an audience at Keene College in New Hampshire.

MUELLER REPORT SHOWS PROBE DID NOT FIND COLLUSION EVIDENCE, REVEALS TRUMP EFFORTS TO SIDELINE KEY PLAYERS

Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have tried tamping down talks of impeachment, arguing that Senate Republicans would not vote to remove Trump from office.

Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., told Bloomberg he agrees with Pelosi that a case for impeachment should be built carefully and out of a complete record.

“Maybe we get one shot at it. Why not wait to get all of the information we can?” he said. “It doesn’t help to just keep talking about impeachment. It makes it look like you are obsessed with it.”

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Eight-term Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, began calling for impeachment even before Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib, according to Bloomberg. He twice forced procedural votes on articles of impeachment when Republicans controlled the House. He said would press the issue again regardless of what party leaders think.

“I will bring it to the floor for a vote if the committees do not act," said Green. “"If we don’t step up and do our job, if we engage in some sort of analysis and debate and refuse to say the word, ‘impeachment,’ we will engage in what Dr. King called the paralysis of analysis.

"We will do this until such time someone will say it’s too late to get into impeachment, it will appear to be political, and as a result we will then decide that this must be taken to the polls on Election Day."

Source: Fox News Politics

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President Donald Trump is “very likely” to donate money for the purpose of rebuilding the Notre Dame Cathedral after this week’s fire, Newsmax has learned.

Newsmax’s White House correspondent John Gizzi tweeted his sources revealed Trump is considering a donation.

“Trump very likely to personally donate to rebuild Notre Dame, WH sources tell me,” Gizzi wrote.

The tweet came shortly before Trump said he had spoken with Pope Francis about Monday’s devastating fire, which burned through the roof of the 12th century church and collapsed its main spire.

Trump tweeted:

“Just had a wonderful conversation with @Pontifex Francis offering condolences from the People of the United States for the horrible and destructive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. I offered the help of our great experts on renovation and construction as I did….”

In a follow-up tweet, he wrote:

“….in my conversation yesterday with President @EmmanuelMacron of France. I also wished both Pope Francis and President Macron a very Happy Easter!”

A French official said Notre Dame was “15 to 30 minutes” away from being totally destroyed. Hundreds of firefighters battled the blaze for hours and were able to save the two towers of the cathedral, which would have caused catastrophic damage had they collapsed.

Many relics were saved as well, including a crown of thorns that is said to have been worn by Jesus Christ when he was crucified.

Source: NewsMax Politics

Job seekers speak with potential employers at a City of Boston Neighborhood Career Fair on May Day in Boston
FILE PHOTO: Job seekers speak with potential employers at a City of Boston Neighborhood Career Fair on May Day in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

April 18, 2019

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits fell to more than a 49-1/2-year low last week, pointing to sustained strength in the economy.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 192,000 for the week ended April 13, the lowest level since September 1969, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Data for the prior week was revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.

Claims have now declined for five straight weeks. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims would rise to 205,000 in the latest week.

The Labor Department said no states were estimated last week. Claims tend to be volatile around this time of the year because of the different timings of the Easter holiday and spring breaks.

The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 6,000 to 201,250 last week, the lowest reading since November 1969.

The claims data covered the survey week for the nonfarm payrolls portion of April’s employment report. The four-week average of claims decreased by 19,250 between the March and April survey weeks. This suggests solid employment growth after payrolls increased by 196,000 jobs in March.

Though the trend in hiring has slowed, job gains remain above the roughly 100,000 needed per month to keep up with growth in the working-age population. The unemployment rate is at 3.8 percent, near the 3.7 percent Federal Reserve officials project it will be by the end of the year.

A report from the Fed on Wednesday showed “modest-to-moderate growth” in employment in a majority of the U.S. central bank’s districts in April. The Fed’s “Beige Book” report of anecdotal information on business activity collected from contacts nationwide showed notable worker shortages “most commonly in manufacturing and construction.”

Thursday’s claims report showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid declined 63,000 to 1.65 million for the week ended April 6. The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims dropped 22,750 to 1.71 million.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani Editing by Paul Simao)

Source: OANN

Nearly two years of fevered speculation surrounding Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe will come to a head in a dramatic television finale-like moment on Thursday morning at 9:30 a.m. ET, when Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are set to hold a press conference to discuss the Mueller report’s public release.

It was not immediately clear exactly when on Thursday the DOJ would release the redacted version of the nearly 400-page investigation into Russian election meddling, but the document was expected to be delivered to lawmakers and posted online by noon. With just hours to go until that moment, hopes for finality amid a deep national divide — and persistent accusations of far-flung conspiracies — are all but certain to remain unrealized.

Although Barr has already revealed that Mueller’s report absolved the Trump team of illegally colluding with Russia, Democrats have signaled that the release will be just the beginning of a no-holds-barred showdown with the Trump administration over the extent of report redactions, as well as whether the president obstructed justice during the Russia investigation.

FOX NEWS POLL: TRUMP POPULARITY HOLDING STEADY AFTER MUELLER SUMMARY RELEASE

Trump’s legal team is preparing to issue a comprehensive rebuttal report on Thursday, to challenge any allegations of obstruction against the president, Fox News has learned.

The lawyers originally laid out their rebuttal in response to written questions asked by Mueller’s team of the president last year, according to a source close to Trump’s legal team.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller drives away from his Washington home on Wednesday. Outstanding questions about the special counsel's Russia investigation have not stopped President Donald Trump and his allies from declaring victory. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller drives away from his Washington home on Wednesday. Outstanding questions about the special counsel’s Russia investigation have not stopped President Donald Trump and his allies from declaring victory. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Barr has said redactions in the report’s release are legally mandated.to protect four broad areas of concern: sensitive grand jury-related matters, classified information, ongoing investigations and the privacy or reputation of uncharged “peripheral” people.

Those individuals, Barr said, did not include Trump. “No, I’m talking about people in private life, not public officeholders,” the attorney general said at a hearing last week.

ANTI-TRUMP FBI AGENT PETER STRZOK’S PHONE TOTALLY WIPED AFTER HE WAS FIRED FROM MUELLER TEAM

In a filing in the ongoing Roger Stone prosecution on Wednesday, the DOJ revealed that certain members of Congress will be able to see the Mueller report “without certain redactions” in a secure setting. Stone, a longtime confidant of the president, is awaiting trial on charges including giving false statements and obstructing justice.

Barr and Rosenstein are expected to take questions at the Thursday press conference, which was first announced in a radio interview by Trump and confirmed by the DOJ, and they’ll likely be pressed on the precise nature of the final redactions.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Democrat New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, has said he is prepared to issue subpoenas “very quickly” for the full report if it is released with blacked-out sections, likely setting in motion a major legal battle.

NUNES’ CRIMINAL REFERRALS OVER MISCONDUCT DURING RUSSIA PROBE COULD INVOLVE ‘TWO DOZEN’ INDIVIDUALS

Grand jury information, including witness interviews, is normally off limits but can be obtained in court. Some records were eventually released in the Whitewater investigation into former President Bill Clinton and an investigation into President Richard Nixon before he resigned.

Attorney General William Barr reacts as he appears before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee to make his Justice Department budget request, Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Washington. Barr said Wednesday that he was reviewing the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation. He said he believed the president's campaign had been spied on and he was concerned about possible abuses of government power. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Attorney General William Barr reacts as he appears before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee to make his Justice Department budget request, Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Washington. Barr said Wednesday that he was reviewing the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation. He said he believed the president’s campaign had been spied on and he was concerned about possible abuses of government power. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Both of those cases were under somewhat different circumstances, including that the House Judiciary Committee had initiated impeachment proceedings. Federal court rules state that a court may order disclosure “preliminary to or in connection with a judicial proceeding,” but prominent Democrats — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — have dismissed suggestions that Trump should face impeachment.

Another major area of scrutiny will be Barr’s decision, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, that Mueller had not uncovered sufficient evidence to prosecute Trump for obstruction of justice.

In his four-page summary of Mueller’s findings released late last month, Barr stated definitively that Mueller did not establish evidence that Trump’s team or any associates of the Trump campaign had conspired with Russia to sway the 2016 election — “despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”

But on obstruction, Barr wrote that Mueller had laid out evidence on “both sides” of the issue, even as he acknowledged that it would be more difficult to prosecute an obstruction case without evidence of any underlying crime. That evidence, on Thursday, will go under the microscope.

FBI MADE 11 PAYMENTS TO AUTHOR OF DISCREDITED DOSSIER USED TO JUSTIFY SURVEILLANCE OF TRUMP AIDE

The report may also contain unflattering details about the president’s efforts to exert control over the Russia investigation. And it may paint the Trump campaign as eager to exploit Russian aid and emails stolen from Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The report’s release will also be a test of Barr’s credibility, as the public and Congress judge the veracity of a letter he released relaying what were purported to be Mueller’s principal conclusions.

Barr, who was unanimously confirmed by the Senate to the role of attorney general in 1991 before reclaiming the role in February, has endured withering criticism from Democrats who say he is covering for the president.

After Barr announced plans for the Thursday press conference, Nadler quickly charged that Barr “appears to be waging a media campaign” on behalf of Trump.

In a statement joined by several other Democrat committee chairs late Wednesday, Nadler called for Barr to cancel the press conference.

“This press conference, which apparently will not include Special Counsel Mueller, is unnecessary and inappropriate, and appears designed to shape public perceptions of the report before anyone can read it,” the Democrats wrote. “[Barr] should let the full report speak for itself. The Attorney General should cancel the press conference and provide the full report to Congress, as we have requested. With the Special Counsel’s fact-gathering work concluded, it is now Congress’ responsibility to assess the findings and evidence and proceed accordingly.”

Mueller is known to have investigated multiple efforts by the president over the last two years to influence the Russia probe or shape public perception of it.

In addition to examining former FBI Director James Comey’s firing, Mueller scrutinized the president’s reported request that Comey end an investigation into Trump’s first national security adviser; his relentless attacks on former Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his recusal from the Russia investigation; and his role in drafting an incomplete explanation about a meeting his oldest son took at Trump Tower with a Kremlin-connected lawyer.

But this week, Trump, who has long said that voicing his opinions about the “witch hunt” against him wasn’t a crime — showed no signs of backing down.

WHAT’S GOING TO BE INSIDE THE TRUMP TEAM’S MUELLER COUNTER-REPORT?

“Wow! FBI made 11 payments to Fake Dossier’s discredited author, Trump hater Christopher Steele,” Trump wrote on Wednesday. “The Witch Hunt has been a total fraud on your President and the American people! It was brought to you by Dirty Cops, Crooked Hillary and the DNC.

On Monday, he wrote: “Mueller, and the A.G. based on Mueller findings (and great intelligence), have already ruled No Collusion, No Obstruction. These were crimes committed by Crooked Hillary, the DNC, Dirty Cops and others! INVESTIGATE THE INVESTIGATORS!”

Republicans, including House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes, have pushed aggressively for answers into the origins of the Mueller probe, which began shortly after Trump fired Comey in May 2017.

Trump cited several justifications for terminating Comey, including what the president called his mismanagement of the Hillary Clinton email probe, and Comey’s refusal to publicly announce that the president was not under investigation.

The former FBI head acknowledged in testimony in December that when the bureau initiated its counterintelligence probe into possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government in July 2016, investigators “didn’t know whether we had anything.”

An op-ed in The Washington Post earlier in the week, entitled “Admit it: Fox News has been right all along,” pointed to the role in the media in spreading the Russia collusion narrative.

Justice Department legal opinions say that a sitting president cannot be indicted, but Barr said he did not take that into account when he decided the evidence was insufficient to establish obstruction.

That conclusion was perhaps not surprising given Barr’s own unsolicited memo to the Justice Department from last June in which he said a president could not obstruct justice by taking actions — like the firing of an FBI director — that he is legally empowered to take.

Overall, Mueller brought charges against 34 people — including six Trump aides and advisers — and revealed a Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election.

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Twenty-five of those charged were Russians accused either in the hacking of Democratic email accounts or of a hidden but powerful social media effort to spread disinformation online.

Five former Trump aides or advisers pleaded guilty to charges unrelated to collusion and agreed to cooperate in Mueller’s investigation, including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman, Jake Gibson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

The interior of the Audi's new concept AI: ME with automated driving system is seen during the media day for Shanghai auto show
The interior of the Audi’s new concept AI: ME with automated driving system is seen during the media day for Shanghai auto show in Shanghai, China April 17, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song

April 19, 2019

By Norihiko Shirouzu

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Electric vehicle (EV) concepts shown in Shanghai this week, such as the Audi AI:me and Infiniti QX Inspiration, point to a future of living-room-like comfort in cars with flat floors and ample space for sofa-like bench seats.

In the design studies, automakers have taken advantage of the space freed up by the electric motor, which takes less room than the bulky internal combustion engine, cooling apparatus and complex transmission gears needed for gasoline cars.

As most batteries in an EV are laid out flat under the floor, the EVs shown in the Shanghai auto show, which started on Tuesday, also have more height and, in fact, many are sport-utility vehicles (SUVs).

Both the AI:me urban car and Infiniti’s QX Inspiration SUV have flat floors, interiors large enough to accommodate what looks like a sofa in the back and more leg room and storage.

Because there is no tunnel, which often houses the drive shaft and exhaust apparatus in a gasoline car, running through the length of the EV cabin, the center of the rear seat “can become just as valuable” as the space on its sides, design chief for Nissan’s premium brand Infiniti, Karim Habib, said.

That in turn points to the possibility of “a return of the bench seat” in the front and the rear – a throwback to American cars of a bygone era, Habib told Reuters.

The EV’s flat and slightly elevated floor allows passengers to slide into it, Habib said. “You can kind of comfortably sit into it … You can cross your legs, stretch your legs out,” he added, referring to the QX Inspiration concept car.

Audi’s AI:me offers what the company’s China operations chief, Thomas Owsianski, described as “maximum space comfort” despite its smallish urban car profile.

“We are fundamentally changing the perception of a (urban) car, particularly car experience,” Owsianski said in Shanghai on Monday. “The AI:me has very compact dimensions but … it shows the urban mobility, especially premium mobility, doesn’t need to feel small. Cars are becoming a living room space.”

(Reporting By Norihiko Shirouzu; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

Source: OANN

A man carries a sign during a protest seeking the departure of the ruling elite in Algiers
A man carries a sign reading “System, get out” during a protest seeking the departure of the ruling elite in Algiers, Algeria April 12, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina

April 12, 2019

By Hamid Ould Ahmed and Lamine Chikhi

ALGIERS (Reuters) – Hundreds of thousands of protesters rallied in Algiers for an eighth successive Friday to demand the departure of the ruling elite, witnesses said, as Algeria prepares for a presidential election in July.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down from 20 years in power 10 days ago, bowing to pressure from the army and weeks of demonstrations mainly by young people seeking change in the North African country.

But protests have continued as many want the removal of an elite that has governed Algeria since independence from France in 1962 and the prosecution of what they see as corrupt figures.

Bouteflika has been replaced by Abdelkader Bensalah, head of the upper house of parliament, as interim president for 90 days until a presidential election on July 4.

“No to Bensalah,” the protesters chanted, marching peacefully in the center of Algiers where mass protests broke out on Feb 22.

Reuters correspondents at the scene estimated the crowd size at hundreds of thousands of people as on previous Fridays, although there was no official count.

“We want the prosecution of all corrupt people” and “no to the gang”, banners held up by people said. Many protesters waved Algeria’s white, green and red crescent moon flag.

One of them, who gave his name as Nawal, told Reuters: “We came out today to say that Bensalah’s position is unconstitutional.”

“We do not deserve military rule. We deserve a democratic and free Algeria.”

52-year-old grocer Ali Badji, holding his son on his shoulders, said: “We are still sticking to our demands. We want a radical change.”

State television said similar marches took places in most cities.

On Wednesday, Algeria’s army chief, Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaed Salah, said he expected to see members of the ruling elite close to Bouteflika, which he called “gang”, prosecuted for corruption and said he would support a transition toward elections.

More than one in four people under the age of 30, some 70 percent of the population, are unemployed – one of the central grievances of protesters who want the economy liberalized and diversified to reduce its reliance on its oil and gas production.

The army monitored the unrest from the sidelines. Then Salah intervened, declaring Bouteflika – rarely seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013 – unfit to rule.

(Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Source: OANN



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