Rafael Nadal speaks out against Catalan independence

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Spanish tennis world number one Rafael Nadal has criticised plans for an independence referendum called by Catalonia’s pro-separatist government for October 1. The referendum is deemed illegal by the Spanish government and the country’s Constitutional Court.

“I think what is happening on October 1 ought not to take place because, from my point of view, everyone should respect the law,” Nadal told Spanish newspaper El Mundo on Tuesday.

“The laws are what they are and one can’t skip the laws because you want to skip them. I can’t run a red light because that traffic light doesn’t seem right to me.”

Nadal, 31, is a national hero in his homeland having landed a 16th career Grand Slam at the US Open on Sunday.

However, Nadal, who grew up and lives on the Balearic island of Mallorca, is also a Catalan speaker.

This year the centre court at Barcelona’s Royal Tennis Club that hosts the Barcelona Open was renamed the Rafael Nadal Court.

“I feel very close to the Catalans and I feel very Spanish as well,” Nadal added.

“I don’t understand Spain without Catalonia. I don’t want to understand or see it. “I believe that together we ought to be able to understand each other and I think we have to make an effort to reach an understanding because I think we are, without any doubt, stronger together than separated. “Spain is better with Catalonia and Catalonia is better with Spain from my point of view.”

Davis Cup: Canadian team better than Czech Republic, says Mahesh Bhupathi

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Davis Cup captain Mahesh Bhupathi believes the current Canadian team is far superior than the Czech Republic team that beat India 4-1 in New Delhi in play-offs 2015. The Canadians with upcoming star Denis Shapovalov in the squad are strong favourites to win the tie in Edmonton which begins on Friday.

This will be India’s fourth consecutive attempt at climbing into the World Group having lost to Serbia, Czech Republic and Spain in the three years. The Indian side spent a week in New York after the US Open in order to prepare for the tie having dominated the Asia/Oceania Zone.

“Canada is a quality team but of course we are here because we earned the chance to play them. I personally think they are a stronger team than the Czechs when they came to India,” said Bhupathi to PTI.

The Canadian squad will be spearheaded by World number 51 Shapovalov, who reached the US Open fourth round, Vasek Pospisil (82) along with
seasoned Daniel Nestor (43 in doubles) and Brayden Schnur (202) for the play-off tie.

Shapovalov was one of the candidates to lift the trophy at the US Open after an injury plagued tour left the bottom half of the draw without any star names. He reached the fourth round at Flushing Meadows as a qualifier just weeks after beating Rafael Nadal in Montreal.

Bhupathi said the camp at the University of Columbia has helped the team to prepare better for the indoor tie on hard courts.  “The week of practice indoors has helped the team. The boys have hit a lot of balls and are feeling good, so we are looking forward to the weekend,” he said.

Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan will be India’s singles specialists in the tie with experienced Rohan Bopanna to play the doubles rubber. Bhambri and Ramkumar have had a stellar year with wins over top players. Bhambri beat Gael Monfils at the Citi Open while Ramkumar got the better of Dominic Thiem in Antalya. “Wins give you confidence and big wins give you lots of confidence. I am sure it’s a stepping stone in their process to make the top 100,” Bhupathi said. “Both Yuki and Ram have had very good summers so they have a lot of matches under their belt. Rohan, of course, made the final in Montreal and is a leader in this team. Saketh is getting better every week, it’s always hard to come back from a long injury layoff but he is committed,” he added.

Cristiano Ronaldo ripe for Real Madrid return in Champions League, says Zinedine Zidane

Cristiano Ronaldo is eager to return to action as he prepares for his first start of the season when Real Madrid begin their Champions League defence on Wednesday against APOEL Nicosia, coach Zinedine Zidane said on Tuesday.

Ronaldo, who was the top goalscorer in Europe’s elite competition last season for the fifth consecutive year and scored twice in the 4-1 win over Juventus in the final, has been starved of football so far this season due to a long suspension.

The Portuguese was given a five-game ban for being sent off and pushing a referee in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup against Barcelona in August, leading him to miss Real’s first three Liga games and next week’s trip to Real Sociedad, but is clear to face Cypriot champions APOEL.

“He’s in a very good mood and is very happy to play, because this is what he really loves, playing football, but he’s also right mentally and he’s happy to be on the pitch again,” Zidane told a news conference.

Ronaldo’s return boosts Real’s attack after a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Levante on Saturday, their second successive home draw which left them trailing early Liga leaders Barcelona and Real Sociedad by four points.

“We all know how good Cristiano is and I prefer him to be with us all the time. We can’t talk about Cristiano-dependence, I want everyone to be available all the time,” added the Frenchman.

“Cristiano doesn’t just contribute goals, he’s a leader, he always wants to win and he transmits that to everyone else. We’re all excited to have him back with us.”

As well as Ronaldo, Zidane is set to recall Luka Modric and Keylor Navas after resting them to his side’s cost against Levante, although Karim Benzema is out for at least a month with a hamstring injury.

Zidane was critical of his side after their display at the weekend, but said he and his players were relaxed despite drawing back-to-back league games for the first time in a year.

“The same thing happened last year so we’re not worried at all, the opposite,” said Zidane, who is the first coach to successfully defend the European Cup since 1990 and has won seven trophies since taking charge of Real in January 2016.

“We can’t be happy with the results, especially the last one, but we’re not going to change the way we work, just as we didn’t last year. You’re always going to have a few bad results in a season,” he said.

Ousted FIFA official Miguel Maduro set to testify to British legislators

An ousted FIFA official is due to testify at a British parliamentary hearing on Wednesday about the “pressure and interference” experienced while overseeing governance reforms.

Miguel Maduro was removed from the chairmanship of the governance committee at world soccer’s governing body after less than a year in May.

Maduro, a Portuguese lawyer, was due to appear on Tuesday at the hearing. But travel problems meant Maduro will answer questions from legislators on the culture, media and sport committee on Wednesday morning.

The committee says in a statement that the aim is to “explore the pressure and interference Maduro experienced at FIFA.”

Maduro will be protected by parliamentary privilege, providing legal protections to speak freely. His evidence could throw a fresh spotlight on FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s leadership of soccer.

US Supreme Court justice puts hold on Donald Trump’s refugee ban ruling

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US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on Monday put a temporarily hold on limits imposed by a lower court on President Donald Trump’s order barring most refugees from entering the United States. Kennedy acted in response to the U.S. Justice Department’s challenge to the part of a Thursday ruling by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that would let refugees from around the world enter the country if they have a formal offer from a resettlement agency.

Without Kennedy’s intervention, the appeals court decision would have gone into effect on Tuesday. Kennedy’s action gives the full Supreme Court time to consider the merits of the Trump administration’s emergency request in full. Kennedy asked refugee ban challengers to file a response by noon (1600 GMT) on Tuesday. The administration did not ask the court to put on hold a separate part of the lower court ruling that exempted grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins of legal U.S. residents from Trump’s ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries.

In the court filing, the Justice Department said the 9th Circuit’s decision on the refugee ban “will disrupt the status quo and frustrate orderly implementation of the order’s refugee provisions.” Up to 24,000 additional refugees would become eligible to enter the country than would be otherwise allowed, according to the administration. The Justice Department’s filing marked the latest twist in the ongoing legal fight over Trump’s sweeping March 6 executive order that barred travelers from Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days, a move Trump argued was needed to prevent terrorist attacks. The same order included a 120-day ban on refugees from around the world.

The bans were challenged by Hawaii and other Democratic-led states, the American Civil Liberties Union and refugee groups.
Both provisions were blocked by lower courts but were partially revived by the Supreme Court in June, which said the bans could be applied only to people without a “bona fide” relationship to people or entities in the United States.

France eyes legalising assisted reproduction for gay women in 2018

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The right of lesbian couples and single women to have access to assisted reproduction was “a matter of social justice” and will likely be legislated next year, a French government minister said on Tuesday. The move would mark a significant extension of gay rights in France, where violent protests preceded the legalisation of same-sex marriage and adoption by homosexual couples in 2013.

“It was a campaign promise. It will be honoured,” Marlene Schiappa, minister for gender equality, told BFM TV. She said a bill would likely pass through parliament in 2018.

Current legislation means that gay women with sufficient funds travel abroad for artificial insemination while other women without the financial means cannot. Schiappa said that was unjust. French law still restricts techniques such as artificial insemination using donated sperm to heterosexual couples.

A national ethics committee said last June that it backed the idea of medically assisted procreation for female couples and single women. Macron, president since May, had set such a recommendation as a prerequisite to any legislative action.

Syria war: Hezbollah declares victory, Russia says much of country won back

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The Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah has declared victory in the Syrian war while Russia said government forces had driven militants from much of the country where President Bashar al-Assad’s rule seemed in danger two years ago. The comments from two Syrian government allies mark the most confident assessments yet of Assad’s position in the war, though significant parts of the country remain outside the government’s control. Russia’s assertion that the army had won back 85 percent of Syria was dismissed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It said the government held 48 percent of Syria.

The government’s most recent advances have recovered swathes of territory in eastern Syria from Islamic State, which is being targeted in the same region in a campaign waged by US-backed Kurdish and Arab militias.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, whose group has sent thousands of fighters to Syria, dismissed the fighting left to be done in Syria as “scattered battles”.

“We have won in the war (in Syria),” he said in comments reported by the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar. Referring to Assad’s opponents, Nasrallah said “the path of the other project has failed and wants to negotiate for some gains”. The comments, made at a religious gathering, were confirmed to Reuters by a source familiar with the speech.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict, which has fractured Syria into a patchwork of areas and generated a refugee crisis of historic proportions, forcing millions of people into neighbouring states and Europe.

Military backing from Iran and Russia has proven critical to Assad in the war with insurgents including rebels who have been backed by Gulf Arab states, Turkey and the United States, which has decided to end a programme of covert support to rebels.

Rebel groups were making steady advances against Assad as recently as 2015, when the deployment of the Russian air force to Syria turned the tide in his favour. Over the past year, Assad has crushed numerous pockets of rebel-held territory in the cities of Aleppo, Homs and Damascus, brokering local deals by which thousands of his opponents have been moved to remaining rebel-held enclaves of the country.

Ceasefires brokered by Russia, Turkey, Iran and the United States in remaining rebel-held areas of western Syria have freed up manpower on the government side, helping its advance east into the oil-rich province of Deir al-Zor.

AIR STRIKES

Government forces last week reached Deir al-Zor city, the provincial capital on the Euphrates River, breaking an Islamic State siege of a government-held pocket and a nearby air base. “To date, 85 percent of Syria’s territory has been cleared of the militants of illegal armed groups,” the RIA news agency cited Alexander Lapin, chief of staff of the Russian military contingent in Syria, as saying.

Lapin made no reference to a swathe of territory held in northern Syria by an alliance of U.S.-backed militias – the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which is led by the Kurdish YPG and is not at war with Assad. The Observatory said SDF-held territory amounts to 23 percent of Syria.

Lapin said Islamic State fighters are still in control of around 27,000 square km of Syria’s territory.

“The liberation of (Deir al-Zor) city is proceeding,” Lapin said. “Syrian troops are finalising the defeat of the ISIL group blocking the northern and southern

districts of Deir al-Zor,” he said. He said the assault was being led by General Suheil al-Hassan, a Syrian officer who has risen to prominence in the war.

The SDF, which is battling to defeat Islamic State in Raqqa city, has in recent days launched a separate offensive against Islamic State in Deir al-Zor province. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said air strikes likely to have been carried out by Russian warplanes killed 69 people since Sunday near the Euphrates River in Deir al-Zor.

The Russian Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on Tuesday’s report by the Britain-based monitoring group. The Observatory, which identified the victims as civilians, said the air strikes had hit encampments on the western bank of the river and vessels crossing to the eastern side.

Syrian state television separately reported the army was conducting artillery and machine gun attacks on rafts carrying Islamic State militants to the eastern side of the river from their last positions in Deir al-Zor city.

“ONLY ESCAPE ROUTE”

“Their only escape route out of the city is through rafts on the river, and god willing, we will target them in the water before they get away,” a commander said in a televised interview.

Aside from the territory held by the SDF and Islamic State, rebels still control a corner of the northwest, a corner of the southwest, an area near Damascus, and an area north of the city of Homs.

Syrian government attacks in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus suggest Assad may yet try to recapture the remaining rebel-held areas of the west, including enclaves at the borders with Turkey, Jordan and Israel.

A major general in the Syrian Republican Guard interviewed by a state-run TV station from Deir al-Zor on Monday warned Syrians who had “run away or escaped from Syria to any other country” not to return.

Major General Issam Zahreddine, head of the 104 Brigade which was under IS-siege for three years in Deir al-Zor, later issued a clarification on his Facebook page, saying his warning had been directed only at people who had taken up arms.

Hurricane Irma: A look at some of the victims across United States, Caribbean

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The scope and scale of misery caused by Irma continues to grow, including its human toll. Irma, at one point the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic, has claimed the lives of dozens of people across the Caribbean and southeastern United States.

Victims include two women in Havana, Cuba, who died when a balcony fell on a bus in which they were riding. A Florida jailhouse guard and sheriff’s deputy died after their vehicles collided. A 2-year-old child on Barbuda died when his body was swept away after his home’s roof ripped off and the structure filled with water. A Barbados teen died while surfing as the massive hurricane churned hundreds of miles away.

Here are brief portraits of some of Irma’s victims:

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UNITED STATES

Florida:

Joseph Ossman, 53, Sebring

Julie Bridges, 42, Wauchula

Ossman, a sergeant with the Hardee Correctional Institute, was heading to work Sunday morning and Bridges, a Hardee County sheriff’s deputy, was going home after the night shift when their vehicles collided head-on, according to a Florida Highway Patrol release. Ossman’s car ended up on a grass shoulder, while Bridges’ patrol car came to a rest in a nearby intersection. It wasn’t immediately clear which vehicle crossed into the oncoming lane.

Lt. Gregory Bueno confirmed the area was already being affected by rain and other hurricane-related conditions at the time of the crash, but its official cause remains under investigation.

People line up to buy bread after Hurricane Irma caused flooding and a blackout in Havana, Cuba, September 11, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

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Brian Buwalda, 51, Winter Park

Buwalda died Monday after apparently being electrocuted by a downed power line, police said. Winter Park officers responded to reports of a man lying in the roadway and determined Buwalda was dead at the scene. A medical examiner will determine an official cause of death, but police say it appears to be accidental.

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Heidi Zehner, 50, Orlando

Zehner was driving on a state highway near Orlando on Sunday evening, when she lost control and crashed. Her SUV struck a guardrail. The cause of death was under investigation. The accident came a couple hours after Irma made landfall 200 miles (320 kilometers) to the south in Marco Island.

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South Carolina:

Charles Saxon, 57, Calhoun Falls

Saxon died Monday after being struck by a tree limb as he was cleaning up limbs and debris outside his home, according to Abbeville County Coroner Ronnie Ashley. An autopsy is planned for Saxon, who died at the scene. Officials say it’s the first reported death in the state related to Irma.

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CARIBBEAN ISLANDS

Barbados:

Zander Venezia, 16

Venezia, a professional surfer, died last Tuesday while surfing large swells generated by the hurricane. He was surfing on the island’s east coast when he drowned as the storm churned several hundred miles away, according to family friend and surfing instructor Alan Burke. Witnesses said Venezia was caught up in a monster wave that pushed and held him under water. Burke said it was a freak accident that occurred under blue skies and ideal surfing conditions. In August, Venezia won North Carolina’s Rip Curl Grom Search surfing competition for his age group.

 

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Barbuda:

Carl Junior Francis, 2

Carl, who had just turned 2 on Aug. 17, was swept to his death after the storm ripped the roof off the family’s house and water came in. The child’s mother, Stevet Jeremiah, fled with her husband and Carl’s 4-year-old brother but was unable to save the toddler. “Where they were staying, the roof (was) blown off from the house and then water started getting in the house,” said Sgt. James Thomas, second in command at the Barbuda police station. “They were trying to get out of the house when apparently the child got loose and got trapped in the water.”

The child’s body was later taken to the nearby island of Antigua for an autopsy.

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Hurricane Irma: Motorists remove debris caused by Hurricane from the road in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Ian Brown)

Cuba:

María del Carmen Arregoitía Cardona, 27, Bauta

Yolendis Castillo Martínez, 27, Santiago de Cuba

The women were riding in a bus in Havana that was crushed when a fourth-floor balcony collapsed onto the vehicle, according to an official statement released by the Cuban government.

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Osvaldo Abreu Barroso, 71, Havana

Barroso was electrocuted while trying to take down his television antenna. He fell and came in contact with a live wire, according to the government statement.

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Alberto Francisco Flores García, 77, Havana

Garcia was struck by an electric pole toppled by the wind as he walked down a street, according to the government statement.

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A local resident observes the remains of a Sunoco gas station in the wake of Hurricane Irma in Kissimmee, Florida, U.S., September 11, 2017. REUTERS/Gregg Newton

Roydis Valdés Pérez, 54, Havana

Walfrido Antonio Valdés Pérez, 51, Granma

The brothers were killed when the home of Roydis Valdes Perez partially collapsed in the storm, according to the government statement.

*******************

Nieves Martínez Burgaleta, 89, Plaza de la Revolucion

Burgaleta was found floating in flood waters in front of his inundated apartment building, according to the government statement.

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Alberto Manzano Martínez, 65, Matanzas

Orlando Torres Cruz, 53, Bolivia

Edilberto Cabrera Rodríguez, 64, Esmeralda Camaguey

Government officials said the homes of all three men collapsed, and added they “did not observe the norms of conduct” by “refusing evacuation.”

8 dead, including suspect, at suburban Dallas home shooting

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Seven people were fatally shot during a gathering at a suburban Dallas home before police fatally shot the suspect, police say. Debbie Lane told WFAA television station that her daughter, Meredith Lane, was among those killed in the shooting last night. She said her daughter owned the home and had recently divorced her husband of six years.

She said her daughter, a native of Georgia, was hosting a party to watch football games, starting with the Atlanta Falcons vs the Chicago Bears and continuing with the Dallas Cowboys vs the New York Giants. “She was a cook, and a quite fine one, and she loved hosting friends and families,” Debbie Lane said. Police have not yet confirmed the identities of the victims and suspect. All of those killed and injured were believed to be adults.

Plano police spokesman David Tilley said police initially responded to a report of shots fired at about 8 p.m. yesterday. When the first officer arrived and went inside the home, the officer confronted the suspected shooter and opened fire, killing the suspect. “The first responding officer actually heard gunshots taking place inside the residence,” Tilley said. Officers then found nine gunshot victims — seven who were dead and two injured. The two injured were taken to the hospital. 

Neighbor Stacey Glover told The Dallas Morning News that the party had started early in the afternoon and that she had seen people laughing and grilling outside. She says she then heard the shots around 8 p.m. She opened her door and smelled gunpowder. She heard police who arrived yell “hands up” before more shots rang out. Police have not determined a motive for the shooting.

Tilley said authorities were still investigating many aspects of the case, including the relationships between those at the home. He also did not know the total number of people who had attended the gathering. Tilley said that a shooting of this magnitude was unusual for Plano, especially in such a quiet neighborhood. He could not say whether police had been called to the home before yesterday. Tilley said the Texas Rangers are investigating the officer-involved shooting and are helping Plano police with the homicide investigation as well.