Monthly Archives: October 2018

Spurs beat Heat in Game 4 of NBA Finals to take 3-1 lead

MIAMI – Here they are again, back on the brink of a championship.

It slipped away from the San Antonio Spurs last year, but it would take something special – historic, actually – to stop them now.

The Miami Heat would have to make the biggest comeback in NBA Finals history.

“They’re the two-time champs, they’re a great team, and there is still one more game,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said. “We have to win one more game.”

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Kawhi Leonard had 20 points and 14 rebounds, and the Spurs routed the Heat again, winning 107-86 on Thursday night to open a commanding 3-1 lead.

The Spurs can win their fifth NBA championship with a victory at home in Game 5 on Sunday and avenge their seven-game loss to Miami last year. They have three chances, and the way they’re dominating the Heat, they might need just one.

“I’m pleased that they performed as well as they did while we’ve been in Miami, and that’s about as far as it goes,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Now we’ve got to go back home and play as well or better.”

LeBron James had 28 points and eight rebounds, but Dwyane Wade was just 1 of 10 through three quarters and finished with 10 points.

“They smashed us,” James said. “Two straight home games got off to awful starts. They came in and were much better than us in these last two games. It’s just that simple.”

No team has overcome a 3-1 deficit in the finals, and the way the Heat were outclassed twice on their home floor makes it hard to imagine the two-time champions being the first.

“We put ourselves in a position where it is about making history,” James added.

Parker added 19 points, and Tim Duncan had 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs, who shot 57 per cent from the field and are hitting 54 per cent in the series.

The Spurs lost twice in Miami to end last year’s finals, their only defeat in the championship round. They won their two games in South Florida this time by a combined 40 points.

San Antonio’s surprising dominance has Miami on its heels, and unless Miami can figure things out quickly, the Heat’s two-year championship reign will come to an abrupt end.

If this was the last home game of the season in Miami, it looked and sounded nothing like the ones to end the last two years, which featured confetti falling and trophies raised. This one had the unfamiliar sound of boos late in the first half and a chant of “Go Spurs Go!” with under 3 minutes left from the San Antonio fans who remained long after many of Miami’s had bolted.

A Heat win Sunday would force a Game 6 in Miami Tuesday.

The Heat had followed their last 13 post-season losses with a victory, but now at the end of a fourth straight season that has gone the distance, they might be out of gas. Miami seemed to lack the energy – or maybe effort – to defend San Antonio’s precision ball movement for the full 24 seconds, and time after time the Spurs ended up with a shot from somebody who didn’t have a defender nearby.

Not quite as sharp as when they shot a finals-record 75.8 per cent in the first half Tuesday night, the Spurs were still plenty good enough to open another huge lead by halftime, and they withstood every attempt Miami made to make a run.

“We were expecting a reaction from them but we were ready for it, so we just did the same thing,” Spurs forward Boris Diaw said.

The Spurs knew their defence had to be better, realizing their once-in-a-lifetime, 19-for-21 start in Tuesday’s 111-92 Game 3 victory covered the fact that they allowed Miami to make more than 50 per cent in the game.

They held Miami to 35 per cent in the first half.

“They played great and I can honestly say I don’t think any of us were expecting this type of performance,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

San Antonio blew the game open late in the second quarter with seven straight points, capped by Leonard’s soaring follow dunk that made it 55-33.

James, who battled cramps in Game 1, left the court and briefly returned to the locker room midway through the first quarter Thursday. But he had 10 quick points in the third quarter to bring Miami within 13, but San Antonio pushed it to 81-57 after three and never looked back.

Notes: Under Popovich, the Spurs have won 15 of the 18 best-of-seven series in which they led 2-1. … The Heat hadn’t lost back-to-back games in the playoffs since dropping three straight against the Boston Celtics in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals.

©2014The Associated Press

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Winnipeg squeegee couple living in squalor find each other – and hope – Winnipeg

WINNIPEG – He sold drugs and she sold herself to feed their hunger for crack cocaine – but with squeegees and hope, they’re pulling themselves out of the gutter.

Drew and Rina Hermkens do a job many hold in low esteem, but it’s brought them together and it marks a big step away from their destructive pasts.

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“It’s nice to be able to go to the fridge and say the food is still here because the crackhead didn’t steal it,” Drew Hermkens says. “It’s nice to be able to leave a bar of soap in the bathroom. In a rooming house, you leave that there and it’s used.”

Rina Hermken hated her now husband when they first met seven years ago on the street, where they sold what they had so they could get high. Now they’re married and they share a home, paying their bills with their squeegees and helping out at the Winnipeg Harvest food bank.

“I just looked at him and I thought, ‘What a low life,’ ” Rina says.

“You weren’t any better,” Drew responds.

“I had no feelings for nobody. All I wanted was that drug,” he says. “Food cut into the drug fund, cigarettes cut into my drug fund, alcohol cut into my drug fund.”

“When you are out there and you say to yourself, ‘I don’t care, I just want that drug’ – well, eventually you’re going to have to deal with that when you’re sober,” she says.

But the two challenged each other and slowly began to make changes.

“I told her, ‘Why don’t you clean a car instead of getting into one?’ ” he says.

“And I found it easier to do that,” she says. “He started building up on my good qualities. … He was making me think about myself and my character.”

He did it because he saw something others had missed.

“I really respected her because she stood up to me. … Even the biggest guys back then wouldn’t stand up to me, because I was very intimidating.”

Then another person stepped into their lives and helped them succeed in the changes they were making.

The couple, striving to escape their miserable lifestyle, pitched a tent behind the Winnipeg Harvest building, and that’s where food bank executive director David Northcott found them.

“It was his eyes and his gentle approach that made me take that helping hand,” Rina says.

They started to get counselling and became Winnipeg Harvest volunteers. They took a marriage course before they married and the certificate from that program and others are proudly displayed in their home.

They still work the streets together, but now, they wield squeegees to earn money for their life together instead of selling their souls for drugs. They’ve been sober for six months.

“It was almost like as if I couldn’t be without him. He was more important than the drugs – he was part of me, of finding myself,” Rina says.

“I knew I was stuck with her and I love her very much,” Drew says, kissing his wife.

They won’t beg and they feel good about how they earn their living. They want everyone to know their success story, and learn from it.

“A lot of people we see say, ‘If Drew can quit drugs, so can anybody,’ ” Rina says. “We are an exception to the rule.”

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Powerful images of protests against World Cup in Brazil – National

Protesters and Brazilian police continued to clash in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and at least three other World Cup cities Thursday.

More than 300 demonstrators gathered along a main highway leading to the stadium in Sao Paulo as they protested the money the country has spent on hosting the tournament.

READ MORE: Police, World Cup protesters clash in Brazil

Some tried to block traffic, but police repeatedly pushed them back, firing canisters of tear gas and using stun grenades.

A few protesters suffered injuries after being hit by rubber bullets.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR FULL WORLD CUP COVERAGE 

We take a look at some of the most powerful images from the World Cup protests in Brazil.

A police officer stands next to a destroyed police car during a violent demonstration at the 2014 soccer World Cup in the center of Belo Horizonte , Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014.

AP Photo/Martin Meissner

A demonstrator protest while wearing a mask with the face of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and that reads in Portuguese, “Go to see the game, You fool”, during a march against the FIFA 2014 soccer World Cup, at Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014.

AP Photo/Leonardo Wen

A soccer fan (L) and anti-World Cup protestors yell at each other at a restaurant that was showing the game on Copacabana beach on June 12, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Police move past burning debris during a World Cup protest outside Carrao Metro Station on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

READ MORE: Civil strife all part of the game in Brazil

A protester is detained by police during a demonstration by people demanding better public services and against the money spent on the World Cup soccer tournament in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014.

AP Photo/Nelson Antoine

Protestors hold up signs during an anti-World Cup demonstration in the Copacabana section on June 12, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A protester is detained by police during a demonstration demanding better public services and protesting the money spent on the World Cup soccer tournament in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014.

AP Photo/Nelson Antoine

A protestor lies on flags in front of police during an anti-World Cup demonstration in the Copacabana section on June 12, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Police fire non-lethal rounds at protestors during a World Cup protest outside Carrao Metro Station on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

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Iraqi Shiite cleric urges citizens to defend country – National

ABOVE: Is President Obama considering taking increaded military action in Iraq?

BAGHDAD – A representative for Iraq’s top Shiite cleric on Friday urged Iraqis to defend their country as militants who have seized large swaths of the nation’s Sunni heartland captured two towns in an ethnically mixed province northeast of Baghdad.

Neighbouring Shiite powerhouse Iran signalled its willingness to confront the growing threat from this week’s militant blitz, which the United Nations estimates has claimed hundreds of lives.

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The fresh gains by insurgents, spearheaded by fighters from the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, come as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government struggles to form a coherent response after militants overran the country’s second-largest city of Mosul, Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit and smaller communities, as well as military and police bases – often after meeting little resistance from state security forces.

The fast-moving rebellion, which also draws support from former Saddam-era figures and other disaffected Sunnis, has emerged as the biggest threat to Iraq’s stability since the U.S. withdrawal at the end of 2011. It has pushed the nation closer to a precipice that could partition it into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish zones.

Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the U.N. human rights office, told journalists in Geneva that the number of people killed in recent days may run into the hundreds, and that the number of wounded could approach 1,000.

He said top U.N. rights official Navi Pillay plans to issue a statement later today expressing alarm at the rapid deterioration of security in Iraq, and said the office has received reports that Iraqi army soldiers as well as 17 civilians in a single street in Mosul had been rounded up and killed by militants.

The assault also threatens to embroil Iraq more deeply in a wider regional conflict feeding off the chaos caused by the civil war in neighbouring Syria.

Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported Friday that former members of Tehran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard have announced their readiness to fight in Iraq against the Islamic State, while Iranian state television quoted President Hassan Rouhani as saying his country will do all it can to fight terrorism next door.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will apply all its efforts on the international and regional levels to confront terrorism,” the report said Rouhani told al-Maliki by phone.

Iran has built close political and economic ties with postwar Iraq, and many influential Iraqi Shiites have lived for stretches of time in the Islamic Republic. Iran earlier this week halted flights to Baghdad because of security concerns and said it was intensifying security measures along its borders.

Shiite cleric Sheik Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalaie told worshippers Friday it is a civic duty to confront the threat facing Iraq. He represents Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shiite spiritual leader in Iraq.

“Citizens who can carry weapons and fight the terrorists in defence of their country, its people and its holy sites should volunteer and join the security forces,” al-Karbalaie said.

Police officials said militants driving in machine-gun-mounted pickups entered the two newly conquered towns in Diyala province late Thursday – Jalula, 125 kilometres (80 miles) northeast of Baghdad, and Sadiyah, 95 kilometres (60 miles) north of the Iraqi capital. Iraqi soldiers abandoned their posts there without any resistance, they said.

Residents of Jalula said the gunmen issued an ultimatum to the Iraqi soldiers not to resist and give up their weapons in exchange for safe passage out. After seizing the town, the gunmen announced through loudspeakers that they have come to rescue residents from injustice and that none would be hurt.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to journalists, and the residents declined to give their names because of fears for their safety.

The Islamic State has vowed to march on Baghdad, but with its large Shiite population, the capital would be a far more difficult target.

So far, the militants have stuck to the Sunni heartland and former Sunni insurgent strongholds where people are already alienated by al-Maliki’s government over allegations of discrimination and mistreatment. The militants also would likely meet far stronger resistance, not only from government forces but by Shiite militias.

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Asaib Ahl al-Haq Shiite militia vowed to defend Shiite holy sites, raising the spectre of street clashes and sectarian killings.

Still, Baghdad authorities have tightened security around the capital and residents are stocking up on essentials. Hundreds of young men crowded in front of the main army recruiting centre in Baghdad on Thursday after authorities urged Iraqis to help battle the insurgents.

Trumpeting their victory, the Islamic militants also declared they would impose Shariah law in Mosul, which they captured on Tuesday, and other areas they seized.

A video posted online showed Islamic State fighters holding a parade in a Mosul neighbourhood, with many of the gunmen cruising in armoured vehicles seized from Iraqi forces.

A fighter using a loudspeaker urged the people to join the militant group “to liberate Baghdad and Jerusalem.” The Islamic State’s black banners adorned many of the captured vehicles. Some in the crowd shouted “God is with you” to the fighters.

The video appeared authentic and consistent with Associated Press reporting of the events depicted.

In northern Iraq, Kurdish security forces have moved to fill the power vacuum caused by the retreating Iraqi forces – taking over an air base and other posts abandoned by the military in the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk.

Three planeloads of Americans were being evacuated from a major Iraqi air base in Sunni territory north of Baghdad, U.S. officials said Thursday, and Germany urged its citizens to immediately leave parts of Iraq, including Baghdad.

President Barack Obama said Iraq will need more help from the United States, but he did not specify what it would be willing to provide. Senior U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter by name said Washington is considering whether to conduct drone missions in Iraq.

The advances by the Sunni militants are a heavy defeat for al-Maliki. His Shiite-dominated political bloc came first in April parliamentary elections – the first since the U.S. military withdrawal in 2011 – but failed to gain a majority, forcing him to try to build a governing coalition.

“We do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria, for that matter,” Obama said in Washington.

Al-Maliki and other Iraqi leaders have pleaded with the Obama administration for more than a year for additional help to combat the growing insurgency.

©2014The Canadian Press

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Ukrainian minister: troops hit separatists in port – National

KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s interior minister said Friday that government troops have attacked pro-Russian separatists in the southern port of Mariupol – the second-largest city in the Donetsk region.

Arsen Avakov said that four government troops were wounded as forces retook buildings occupied by the rebels in the centre of the city and that troops destroyed a light armoured vehicle used by the separatists. An AP reporter saw a bullet-riddled armoured vehicle and truck in front of a building in Mariupol.

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READ MORE: Tanks enter eastern Ukraine from Russia, interior minister claims

The renewed fighting came as rebel leaders confirmed they have three tanks. Ukrainian officials have said the tanks crossed from the Russian side of the porous border and were attacked by Ukrainian troops, but there has been no independent confirmation the tanks came from Russia.

Rebel leader Denis Pushilin told Russian state television the separatists, who call themselves the Donetsk People’s Republic, have the tanks, but that it was “improper to ask” where they had gotten them.

Ukraine and the West have accused Moscow of fomenting the unrest in the east, but Russia has denied sending troops or weapons to Ukraine.

READ MORE: Ukraine orders civilian corridor in east

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who took office less than a week ago, on Thursday rallied support for his plan to end fighting in phone calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Poroshenko told Merkel he is willing to negotiate, but not with what he calls terrorists, and could offer amnesty to those who don’t have “blood on their hands.”

According to his spokesman, Svyatoslav Tsegolko, he told Putin it was “unacceptable” that tanks had crossed the border, while a Kremlin statement said Poroshenko told Putin about his plan for resolving the crisis.

©2014The Canadian Press

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