Neymar Says Nike Claim Of Split Over Sex Assault Probe A ‘Lie’

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar warms up prior to the UEFA Champions League first leg semi-final football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Manchester City at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on April 28, 2021. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

Neymar said Friday Nike’s claim that it parted ways with him last year because he refused to cooperate with its internal investigation into an employee’s accusation he sexually assaulted her was an “absurd lie.”

The allegation is the latest to stain the image of the Brazilian superstar, whose 222-million-euro ($270 million) transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 makes him the world’s most expensive footballer.

Nike said Thursday it had ended its sponsorship deal with Neymar over an employee’s claim he tried to force himself on her and his failure to cooperate with its investigation.

“(To) state that my contract (with Nike) was terminated because I did not contribute in good faith to an investigation is an absurd lie,” Neymar wrote on Instagram.

“I was not given the opportunity to defend myself. I was not given the opportunity to know who this person was that was allegedly offended. I don’t even know her. I’ve never had any kind of relationship or approach with this person.”

Nike said the alleged assault happened in 2016, but was only reported to the company in 2018.

The US sportswear giant had sponsored Neymar, 29, since he was a 13-year-old prodigy.

It did not give a reason when it terminated its deal with him in August 2020.

The superstar is now a poster boy for Puma. His deal with the German sportswear giant was announced in September 2020.

‘They did nothing’

The Nike employee accused Neymar of trying to force her to perform oral sex on him in a New York hotel room during a promotional trip for a new line of sneakers, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first broke the story.

Neymar denied the accusation, and said Nike had nevertheless continued sending him on promotional tours.

“In 2017 I traveled again to the USA for another advertising campaign, with the same people, and nothing was told to me, nothing changed!” he wrote.

“In 2017, 2018, 2019 we made trips, advertising campaigns, countless shooting sections. And they told me nothing. Such a serious matter and they did nothing.”

In a previous statement, a Neymar spokeswoman said he and Nike had split for commercial reasons.

The player’s father accused the company of “blackmail.”

“It’s all very strange” that the accusation only came to light years later, after Neymar left Nike, he told Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo.

Tarnished star

Nike said in a statement it was prepared to investigate in 2018 when the woman first came forward, but “respected the employee’s initial desire to keep this matter confidential and avoid an investigation.”

The firm therefore did not go further until 2019, when she expressed an interest in pursuing the matter, it said.

That was the same year another woman filed a rape complaint against Neymar in his native Brazil.

He vehemently denied that accusation, and the case was eventually dropped.

Neymar is currently in Brazil training with the national team north of Rio de Janeiro ahead of two upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

The superstar seemed “normal, the same as always,” teammate Emerson told a news conference.

Neymar extended his contract with French champions PSG earlier this month, through the 2024-2025 season.

With his on-pitch exploits and huge following on social media, Neymar is one of the biggest names in sports.

But his shine has often been tarnished.

His image as an eternal spoiled child was revived late last year by rumors of a huge year-end party he organized in Brazil in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

He has also raised eyebrows with his alleged diving, hard-partying lifestyle, and love of bling, which critics say contrasts with the relative lack of it in his trophy case.

AFP

Eight Killed By Employee In California Rail Yard Mass Shooting

Emergency responders. gather at the scene of a shooting where nine people were reported dead including the shooter on May 26, 2021 at the San Jose Railyard in San Jose, California.
Emergency responders gather at the scene of a shooting where nine people were reported dead including the shooter on May 26, 2021 at the San Jose Railyard in San Jose, California. AMY OSBORNE / AFP

 

An employee shot dead at least eight people at a rail yard in California on Wednesday, police said, in the latest mass shooting to hit the United States.

The male suspect also died and several others suffered major injuries in the incident at the public transit maintenance yard in San Jose, just south of San Francisco.

Bomb squads were deployed after reports of explosive devices within the compound, and were trying to “clear out every room and every crevice” of the building, Russell Davis, a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputy, told journalists.

“There are eight victims that are pronounced deceased at this point and there is one suspect that’s pronounced deceased,” said Davis, adding those numbers could rise.

“The suspect is a VTA employee,” he added, referring to the local Valley Transportation Authority.

Police had rushed to investigate multiple early morning 911 calls reporting gunshots. No immediate details were provided on whether the shooter was killed by police or took his own life, or about the type of weapon he used.

“Our hearts go out to the victims and their families,” White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

“What’s clear, as the president has said, is that we are suffering from an epidemic of gun violence in this country,” she added, renewing calls for Congress to pass long-awaited gun control reforms.

‘Horrific’

Dozens of patrol cars and fire engines as well as FBI officials lined the streets near the rail yard in San Jose, a Silicon Valley tech hub of almost a million people.

Local officials said the shooting — which was initially reported before 7:00 am local time (1400 GMT) — had taken place at a union meeting, with at least 80 staff on site at the time.

Several people were receiving medical treatment, said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

“Our hearts are pained for the families of those we have lost in this horrific shooting,” he tweeted.

The incident took place in a VTA yard that is used to store and maintain trains.

“Our thoughts and love go out to the VTA family, the organization and what they have had to go through,” VTA board of directors chairman Glenn Hendricks told reporters.

“I could not be more proud of the VTA organization. This is a horrible tragedy that occurred.”

The VTA tweeted that its employees had been evacuated.

US ‘epidemic’ of gun violence

The United States has a long and painful history of deadly gun violence, in the form of a steady daily toll of shootings as well as high-profile mass killings that have targeted schools, work places and shopping centers.

Homicides, mostly gun-driven, have surged in the US over the past year.

Mass shootings have occurred in recent months at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, an office building in California, a grocery store in Colorado and at several spas in Atlanta.

In August 2019, another mass shooting in the Bay Area left two children and a 25-year-old man dead at a garlic festival in Gilroy, around 30 miles (almost 50 kilometers) south of San Jose.

President Joe Biden last month branded US gun violence an “epidemic” and an “international embarrassment.”

There were more than 43,000 gun-related deaths in the United States last year, including suicides, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

AFP

COVID Death Toll Passes Three Million As India Cases Surge

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 21, 2020 Worker move a coffin with the body of a COVID-19 victim out of a refrigerated container before its cremation at the El Angel crematorium, in Lima. – The new coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 600,000 lives worldwide, an AFP tally showed July 18. (Photo by Ernesto BENAVIDES / AFP)

 

 

The global COVID-19 death toll passed three million on Saturday as the pandemic speeds up despite vaccination campaigns, leading countries like India to impose new lockdowns to fight spiralling infection numbers.

It is the latest grim milestone since the novel coronavirus first surfaced in central China in December 2019 and went on to infect more than 139 million people, leaving billions more under crippling lockdowns and ravaging the global economy.

An average of more than 12,000 deaths were recorded globally every day in the past week, shooting the overall toll past three million on Saturday, according to an AFP tally.

For comparison, three million people is more than the population of Jamaica or Armenia — and three times the death toll of the Iran-Iraq war, which raged from 1980-1988.

And the pandemic is showing no sign of slowing down: the 829,596 new infections reported worldwide on Friday is the highest number yet, according to AFP’s tally.

The daily average of 731,000 cases registered over the last week is also close to being a record.

India’s capital New Delhi went into a weekend lockdown Saturday as the world’s second-most populous nation recorded 234,000 new cases and 1,341 deaths.

– South Asian ‘wake-up call’ –
India now has three times the daily cases of the United States, the world’s worst-hit nation, and families are clamouring for drugs and hospital beds.

Some doctors say they are alarmed at how many young people are now getting seriously ill — like Raj Karan, who got sick while campaigning for elections in the northern city of Luckno.

The 38-year-old died soon after.

“I am devastated… I could only see him via a video call,” his friend Ajay Singh Yadav, told AFP.

Hopes that South Asian countries might have seen the worst of the pandemic have been dashed, with India recording over two million new cases this month alone and Bangladesh and Pakistan imposing new shutdowns.

Udaya Regmi of the International Red Cross said the “truly frightening” South Asian surge was a “wake-up call to the world”.

Richer countries that have waged mass inoculation efforts have seen their virus numbers plummet.

Britain, which has given 60 percent of the population at least one vaccination dose, now records around 30 deaths a day — down from 1,200 in late January.

Olympic fears

Thailand recorded its fourth consecutive day of more than 1,000 new cases on Saturday, its spiralling infections linked to a nightlife district of the capital Bangkok earlier this month.

Alcohol sales will be banned in Bangkok restaurants from Sunday, while entertainment venues will be shuttered nationwide for two weeks.

In Japan, rising virus cases have stoked speculation that the Olympic Games — postponed last year due to the pandemic — could be cancelled.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in his first meeting with US President Joe Biden, said his government was listening to experts and doing its “utmost” to prepare for the Tokyo games in July.

The virus continues to hit events around the world.

On Saturday, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II bid farewell to her husband, Prince Philip, coronavirus restrictions meant only 30 people could attend his funeral.

Family members — all masked — sat socially distanced in the church, with bottles of hand sanitiser placed among the floral tributes inside.

In Brazil, the country with the third-highest death toll in the world, night shifts have been added to several cemeteries as diggers work around the clock to bury the dead.

“We try not to get upset in our work, but it is sad, it is a lot of people,” said one gravedigger in Vila Formosa, the largest cemetery in Latin America.

More than 365,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Brazil.

Despite the high infection rates there however, the government of Brazil’s most populous state Sao Paulo announced it would allow businesses and places of worship to reopen from Sunday.

‘Cautious optimism’ in Europe

France, which banned flights from Brazil last week, on Saturday announced compulsory quarantine for anyone arriving from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and South Africa, because of concerns about their coronavirus variants.

Earlier Saturday, Spain extended the mandatory quarantine of passengers arriving from 12 countries in South America and Africa, including Brazil and South Africa.

A day after Italy announced a partial easing of coronavirus restrictions for schools and restaurants from April 26, entertainment industry workers marched in Rome Saturday calling for more state support — and a calendar for the reopening of the country’s arts venues.

In more good news for Britons after the partial reopening of society this week, Germany on Friday removed the United Kingdom from the list of risk zones for coronavirus infections, meaning that travellers will no longer need to quarantine upon arrival.

Israel announced it was scrapping the obligation to wear masks outside from Sunday.

Libya launched its vaccination drive on Saturday, prioritising the elderly and health care workers.

Indonesia, East Timor Flood Death Toll Surges Past 160

This handout photo taken on April 5, 2021 and released by the National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) shows rescuers looking for survivors in Nelemamadike village, East Flores, after torrential rains triggered floods and landslides in Indonesia and East Timor. HANDOUT / NATIONAL SEARCH AND RESCUE AGENCY / AFP

 

 

Rescuers were searching for dozens of people still missing Tuesday after floods and landslides swept away villages in Indonesia and East Timor, killing more than 160 people and leaving thousands more homeless.

Torrential rains from Tropical Cyclone Seroja turned small communities into wastelands of mud, uprooted trees, and sent around 10,000 people fleeing to shelters across the neighbouring Southeast Asian nations.

Indonesia’s disaster management agency said it had recorded 130 deaths in a cluster of remote islands near East Timor, where another 34 have been officially listed as dead since the disaster struck on Sunday.

Search and rescue teams in Indonesia were racing to find more than 70 people still missing and using diggers to clear mountains of debris.

The storm swept buildings in some villages down a mountainside and to the shore of the ocean on Lembata island, where some small communities have been wiped off the map.

“This area will never be inhabited again,” said Lembata district official Eliyaser Yentji Sunur, referring to a flattened part of Waimatan village.

“We won’t let people live here. Like it or not, they’ll have to relocate.”

Waimatan resident Onesimus Sili said floods early Sunday destroyed his community before anyone knew what happening.

“Around midnight, we heard a very loud rumbling sound and we thought it was a nearby volcano erupting,” he told AFP.

“By the time we realised that it was a flash flood, the houses were already gone.”

Authorities in both nations were scrambling to shelter evacuees while trying to prevent any spread of Covid-19.

On Tuesday, East Timor recorded its first virus death — a 44-year-old woman — since the pandemic broke out last year.

The tiny half-island nation of 1.3 million sandwiched between Indonesia and Australia, officially known as Timor-Leste, quickly shut down its borders to avoid a widespread outbreak that threatened to overwhelm its creaky health care system.

But the disaster has heightened fears of a spike in cases as thousands cram into shelters across Timor’s inundated capital Dili and elsewhere.

‘Clothes on their back’

Local officials in Lembata were bracing for its meagre health facilities to be overwhelmed as the number of injured coming from isolated villages soars.

“These evacuees fled here with just wet clothes on their backs and nothing else,” said the area’s deputy mayor, Thomas Ola Longaday.

“They need blankets, pillows, mattresses and tents.”

There was also a dire shortage of trained doctors.

“We don’t have enough anaesthesiologists and surgeons, but we’ve been promised that help will come,” Longaday said.

“Many survivors have broken bones because they were hit by rocks, logs and debris.”

Nearby in East Flores municipality, torrents of mud washed over homes, bridges, and roads.

Earlier images from Indonesia’s search and rescue agency showed workers digging up mud-covered corpses before placing them in body bags.

Hospitals, bridges, and thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed by the storm, which is now moving toward the west coast of Australia.

But Indonesia “could still see extreme weather (from the cyclone) for the next few days,” said national disaster agency spokesman Raditya Jati.

Authorities were still working to evacuate remote communities and provide shelter to those hit by the storm, he added.

Fatal landslides and flash floods are common across the Indonesian archipelago during the rainy season.

January saw flash floods hit the Indonesian town of Sumedang in West Java, killing 40 people.

And last September, at least 11 people were killed in landslides on Borneo.

The disaster agency has estimated that 125 million Indonesians — nearly half of the country’s population — live in areas at risk of landslides.

The disasters are often caused by deforestation, according to environmentalists.

AFP

Ronaldo Overtakes Pele, Tops World Goalscoring List

 

Cristiano Ronaldo hit back at his critics with a quick-fire hat-trick as Juventus brushed aside Cagliari 3-1 on Sunday, five days after their Champions League elimination, while Inter Milan moved nine points clear at the Serie A summit.

Portuguese star Ronaldo bore the brunt of the criticism for Juve’s latest European flop after failing to score in either leg of the last-16 defeat by Porto, while also being partly at fault for what proved to be the goal that knocked them out.

But the 36-year-old scored a header in the 10th minute at the Sardegna Arena, added a second from the penalty spot 15 minutes later, and completed a ‘perfect’ treble on 31 minutes with a fine left-footed strike.

Defending champions Juventus are 10 points behind leaders Inter Milan, who beat Torino 2-1 earlier Sunday, but with a game in hand.

Andrea Pirlo’s side pulled just one point behind second-placed AC Milan, whose title hopes took a big hit following a 1-0 home defeat to Napoli.

“Our approach was spot on and it was important to get off on the right foot after being knocked out the other night,” said Pirlo.

“Ronaldo was angry like the rest of the team. He reacted like a true champion.”

He could also have been sent off after a quarter of an hour, receiving only a yellow card for dangerous play as his boot struck Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno in the face while attempting to meet a Federico Chiesa cross.

Ronaldo is the leading scorer in Serie A with 23 goals this season, ahead of Inter’s Romelu Lukaku, who has 19.

His career tally is now 770 goals, overtaking Brazil legend Pele’s 767 scored in official matches which he matched earlier this month.

Before kick-off, Juventus chief football officer Fabio Paratici dismissed talk about Ronaldo’s future with the club.

“It makes me laugh. I would never have imagined discussing the value of Cristiano Ronaldo,” said Paratici.

“It’s a privilege to have him with us, he’s part of our future.”

Inter pull clear of Milan

Lautaro Martinez scored a brilliant 85th-minute winner in a tight game against 18th-placed Torino to keep Inter on track for a first league title since 2010.

Antonio Conte’s Inter once again needed their strike duo of Lukaku and Martinez to find a way to win in Turin.

Christian Eriksen came off the bench on 56 minutes and had an immediate impact, playing a part in the move which resulted in Torino defender Armando Izzo fouling Martinez in the penalty area.

Lukaku fired home the resulting spot-kick in the 62nd minute.

Inter looked to be wobbling when Antonio Sanabria pulled Torino level eight minutes later, finishing off goalmouth scramble.

But Martinez snatched the victory by getting his head to an Alexis Sanchez cross for his 14th league goal this term.

Inter stretched their winning run to eight matches to move further ahead of AC Milan.

“Victories like these are crucial,” said Inter assistant coach Cristian Stellini, with Conte serving a touchline ban.

AC Milan’s hopes of a first title since 2011 diminished as they failed to win for their third consecutive game at the San Siro, days before they host Manchester United in their last 16 Europa League decider.

Matteo Politano scored the only goal just after the break with Milan finishing the game a man down after Ante Rebic was sent off in injury time for arguing with officials.

Napoli’s Champions League hopes have been revived as they move above Roma into fifth before the two sides play next weekend after the capital side fell 2-0 at 19th-ranked Parma.

Valentin Mihaila opened the scoring on nine minutes with Hernani added a second from the spot to snap Parma’s 17-match winless run.

AFP

At Least 75 Inmates Dead In Ecuador Prison Riots

 

 

At least 75 inmates died Tuesday and several were injured in riots blamed on gang rivalry at three jails in Ecuador’s overcrowded prison system, authorities said.

As security forces battled to regain control, distraught family members waited desperately for news outside the prison in Ecuador’s western port city of Guayaquil, where officials said 21 died.

Another 33 died at the prison in Cuenca in the south and eight in Latacunga in the center of the South American country, according to Edmundo Moncayo, director of the government’s SNAI prisons management body.

“We want the death list given to us,” said Daniela Soria, 29, one of about 40 women outside the Guayaquil prison, many of them in tears.

“We know that the problems are not over because everyone there has a phone and my husband doesn’t call me,” she told AFP.

Earlier, she received a WhatsApp voice message from her husband, Ricardo, which she played back for AFP. “They are going to kill me, get me out of here!” he could be heard exclaiming, the last she heard from him.

Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno, on Twitter, attributed the riots to “criminal organizations” engaged in “simultaneous acts of violence in several prisons.”

The authorities, he said, “are acting to retake control.”

The military was deployed to help police quell the uprising.

The public defender’s office, an entity akin to an ombudsman set up to defend human rights, called the violence “an unprecedented massacre” and expressed its “concern over the lack of security in the country, which is reflected in the increase in crime and violence inside these prison facilities.”

‘Like a market’

The prosecuting authority said several inmates were left injured in fighting between “criminal gangs,” including two at Guayaquil in serious condition.

Several police were also injured, said Moncayo, but no deaths have been reported among security personnel.

Police commander Patricio Carrillo described the situation as “critical,” while Interior Minister Patricio Pazmino created a centralized command post to respond to what he said was “concerted action by criminal organizations to generate violence in penitentiary centers.”

The prison authority described fierce fighting between organized gangs that go by names such as Los Pipos, Los Lobos and Tigrones. They rely on drug trafficking and operate their criminal enterprises from prison.

Moncayo told reporters that on Monday, guards seized two firearms that were to be used to kill the leader of a group imprisoned in Guayaquil.

“Inside, it is like a market. There is everything: drugs, arms, even puppies. Everything is sold,” said Soria, the wife of prisoner Ricardo.

In order to reduce prisoner numbers amid the coronavirus epidemic, the government commuted the sentences of people convicted of minor offences, reducing overcrowding from 42 percent to 30 percent.

This still leaves Ecuador’s prison system, with a capacity to house 29,000 inmates in 60-odd facilities, with a prisoner population of 38,000.

There are 1,500 guards to oversee them.

Dearth of guards

The SNAI has said a dearth of personnel “hinders immediate response” to prisoner revolts.

Last year, inmate disputes left 51 dead, according to police figures.

A 90-day state of emergency in the country’s jails was ordered by Moreno last year to try to bring gang activity under control and reduce the violence.

But just in December, prison unrest left 11 prisoners dead and seven injured.

Tuesday’s riots coincided with a march of hundreds of indigenous people on Quito to demand a vote recount after a first round of presidential elections this month saw their candidate left out in the cold.

NBA Legend Kobe Bryant, Daughter Die In Helicopter Crash

Bryant, 41, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on January 26, 2020.Robyn BECK / AFP

 

NBA legend Kobe Bryant died Sunday when a helicopter he was riding in crashed and burst into flames in thick fog, killing all nine people on board including his teenage daughter and plunging the sports world into mourning.

Bryant, 41, was travelling with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other passengers and crew when their Sikorsky S-76 helicopter slammed into a rugged hillside in Calabasas, west of Los Angeles. There were no survivors.

Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medallist, is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players in history, an iconic figure who became one of the faces of his sport during a glittering two-decade career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Dozens of firefighters and paramedics battled across steep terrain to reach the flaming wreckage at the crash site but found no survivors, officials said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said an 18-strong team of investigators would be sent to California to probe the causes of the crash.

Investigators work at the scene of a helicopter crash that killed former NBA star Kobe Bryant on January 26, 2020, in Calabasas, California. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images/AFP

 

Bryant’s death sent shockwaves throughout the world, with basketball stars stunned by the news.

“Laker Nation, the game of basketball & our city, will never be the same without Kobe,” former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson wrote on Twitter.

Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan said Bryant was “like a little brother” to him.

“Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling,” Jordan said. “We used to talk often and I will miss those conversations very much.”

In this file photo taken on April 09, 2014, NBA Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant stands on the sideline with his daughter Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant on his shoulders prior to the start of a friendly game between the United States and China at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. 
Photo: Kent Horner / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

Worldwide tributes

Tributes to Bryant flooded in from former US presidents, pop stars and athletes from different sports, a sign of how the man known as the “Black Mamba” had transcended basketball.

“Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act,” former US President Barack Obama wrote on Twitter.

American football star Tom Brady wrote simply: “We miss you already Kobe.”

Brazilian soccer star Neymar paid tribute to Bryant after scoring for his French club side Paris Saint-Germain, making the number 24 — Bryant’s old shirt number — with his fingers.

At the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, several hundred shocked fans gathered to pay tribute as the venue which witnessed many of Bryant’s career highlights hosted the music industry’s Grammy Awards.

“This dude is everything to me man. It makes no sense,” said distraught Lakers fan Bobby Jimenez, sobbing as he stood outside the venue.

The Grammys got underway with a somber tribute from singer Alicia Keys.

“To be honest with you, we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now,” Keys told the audience. “Los Angeles, America, and the whole wide world lost a hero. And we’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”

Across the NBA, tributes were held at several of the eight games scheduled for Sunday.

Denver Nuggets fans began chants of “Kobe, Kobe” as a minute’s silence was held before their game against the Houston Rockets.

In New York, Madison Square Garden was lit up in purple and gold colors of the Lakers, alongside a giant image of Bryant captioned: “Kobe Bryant, 1978-2020.”

The crash came only hours after Bryant was passed by current Lakers star LeBron James for third on the all-time NBA scoring list in a Saturday game at Philadelphia.

Bryant’s final post on social media had been a tweet congratulating James on surpassing him.

“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames,” Bryant wrote. “Much respect my brother #33644”.

Five-time champion

Bryant was a five-time NBA champion in a career that began in 1996 straight out of a high school and lasted until his retirement in 2016.

He also was a two-time Olympic gold medalist, helping spark the US squad of NBA stars to titles in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London.

Bryant bowed out of the NBA in 2016, scoring 60 points in his final appearance before his adoring fans at the Staples Center.

It was a fairytale farewell to a sporting career that began two decades earlier.

The son of former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, the Lakers legend was born in Philadelphia in 1978 while his father played for the 76ers.

The elder Bryant played from 1984 to 1991 in Italy, giving young Kobe a global worldview as he grew up dreaming of following his dad into the NBA.

He would eventually join the ranks of professionals at the age of 17, jumping directly into the NBA, only the sixth player and first guard to make such a leap.

At 18, Bryant became, at the time, the youngest player or starter in an NBA game and the youngest winner of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

With Bryant paired alongside Shaquille O’Neal, the Lakers captured three NBA crowns in a row from 2000-2002, returning the team to glory days unseen since 1988.

Bryant’s career was almost derailed in 2003 when he was arrested in Colorado over a sexual assault complaint filed by a 19-year-old hotel employee where Bryant was staying ahead of knee surgery.

Bryant was accused of rape. He admitted to adultery but said he did not commit rape. The case was dropped in 2004 after the accuser refused to testify in a trial.

A separate civil suit was settled under terms kept private.

Bryant saw out his career with the Lakers, successfully branching out into the entertainment industry following his retirement.

In 2018, he won an Oscar for his animated short film “Dear Basketball”, a love letter to the sport which brought him fame and fortune.

AFP

18 Killed In New Militia Attack In Eastern DR Congo

 

 

Eighteen people in eastern DR Congo’s troubled region of Beni have been killed in a fresh attack by a notorious armed group, a local official said on Monday.

“There was an incursion in Apetina-Sana by the ADF last night,” Beni administrator Donat Kibwana told AFP, referring to the Allied Democratic Forces militia.

“(They) hacked 18 civilians to death.”

Apetina-Sana is 16 kilometres (10 miles) west of Oicha, the chief administrative town in the Beni region.

It is a point on the so-called Death Triangle, along with Mbau and Eringeti — the worst-hit area for attacks.

ADF fighters have killed more than 200 people since the army launched an offensive against the militia on October 30, according to a toll compiled by civil society groups.

The toll has sparked anger over the authorities’ response.

“The authorities were tipped off on Sunday evening about the presence of suspicious men west of Oicha,” said Teddy Kataliko, a civil society activist in Beni.

“We continue to ask the DRC armed forces to launch operations on the western side as well, to save civilians.”

There have also been demonstrations in the city of Beni, where local people accuse the UN peacekeeping force MONUSCO of failing to protect them.

The ADF began as an Islamist rebellion hostile to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

It fell back into eastern DRC in 1995 and appears to have halted raids inside Uganda. Its recruits today are people of various nationalities.

In a separate incident in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday, “armed bandits” attacked a base used by a Chinese-owned gold mine, killing four people, the military said.

The raid happened in the Irumu district in the northeastern province of Ituri, said Lieutenant Jules Ngongo, the army’s provincial spokesman.

Two soldiers, a policeman and a driver for the mine were killed, he said.

“The assailants have not been completely identified but they must be armed bandits who look for supplies during the year-end festivities,” Ngongo said.

US Strikes On Pro-Iran Group In Iraq Kill 25, Sparking Anger

In this file photo taken on May 31, 2019 Iraqi Shiite fighters from the Iran-backed armed group, Hezbollah brigades, burn a US and Israeli flags during a military parade marking Al-Quds (Jerusalem) International Day in Baghdad. The US bombed the headquarters of the group in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said today, after a series of attacks in Iraq again.

 

 

US air strikes against a pro-Iran group in Iraq killed at least 25 fighters, a paramilitary umbrella said Monday, triggering anger in a country caught up in mounting tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Sunday night’s attacks saw US planes hit several bases belonging to the Hezbollah brigades, one of the most radical factions of Hashed al-Shaabi, a Tehran-backed Iraqi paramilitary coalition.

The strikes “killed 25 and wounded 51, including commanders and fighters, and the toll could yet rise,” said the Hashed, which holds major sway in Iraq.

Victims were still being pulled from the rubble of bases near Al-Qaim, an Iraqi district bordering Syria, on Monday, it said.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the US had “shown its firm support for terrorism and its neglect for the independence and sovereignty of countries” by carrying out the attacks.

READ ALSO: Woman Dies After Being Set On Fire During Hospital Operation

Washington, itself a key ally of Baghdad, must accept the consequences of its “illegal act”, he added.

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper described the attacks — which hit three locations in Iraq and two in neighbouring Syria — as “successful”, and did not rule out further military action against Iran-backed militias.

The strikes were in retaliation for a series of rocket attacks since late October against US interests in Iraq, including a barrage of more than 30 fired on Friday at an Iraqi base in Kirkuk, where a US civilian contractor was killed.

The office of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who is highly revered by Iraq’s Shiite majority, denounced the attacks.

“The authorities must prevent Iraq being used as a place for the settling of accounts,” it said in reference to growing tensions between the United States and Iran.

These tensions have soared since Washington pulled out of a multilateral nuclear agreement with Tehran last year and imposed crippling sanctions.

Iraqi leaders fear their country could become a battleground between Tehran and Washington, in a context where they are also grappling with huge street protests against corruption and Iran’s political influence.

Pro-Iran factions angry

The protest movement forced prime minister Abel Abdel Mahdi to resign last month and it has rejected Iran’s favoured successor — a position shared by President Barham Saleh.

On Monday demonstrators in the Shiite-dominated southern cities of Basra and Najaf torched US flags and chanted anti-American slogans, with similar scenes reported in Kirkuk north of Baghdad.

US sources say pro-Iran armed factions now pose a greater threat than the Islamic State group, whose rise saw the US freshly deploy troops on Iraqi soil.

But significant elements of the Iraqi political class view the 5,200 US troops in the country as a “threat”, with Sunday night’s strikes reviving calls for them to leave the country.

Abdel Mahdi’s military spokesman decried “a violation of Iraqi sovereignty”, while the Hezbollah brigades are demanding the “withdrawal of the American enemy”.

Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah — which is separate from the targeted faction — called the attacks a “flagrant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and security” and noted that Hashed had been a key player in the battle against IS.

Another powerful pro-Iran group, Assaib Ahl al-Haq — whose leaders were recently hit with US sanctions — also called for Americans to withdraw from Iraq.

“The American military presence has become a burden for the Iraqi state and a source of threat against our forces. It is therefore imperative for all of us to do everything to expel them by all legitimate means,” it said.

Parliament’s deputy speaker, part of influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr’s bloc, called on the Iraqi state to “take all necessary measures” in the face of the US attacks.

The Badr organisation, another key pro-Iran group, took a similar line.

Several lawmakers have castigated afresh an agreement permitting American soldiers to deploy in the country, arguing the strikes amount to a violation that renders the pact obsolete.

Since October 28, at least 11 attacks have targeted Iraqi military bases where US soldiers or diplomats are deployed.