Army allows West Point graduate to sign with Philadelphia Eagles

skynesher/iStock(NEW YORK) —  A former West Point offensive tackle has been granted an exception by the Army in order to sign a three-year deal to play football for the Philadelphia Eagles, according to ESPN.

Brett Toth, an Army second lieutenant, graduated from West Point as a nuclear engineer in May 2018 and has fulfilled his first year of active duty service. But an executive order from President Donald Trump has now allowed him to be recruited by the Eagles.

On June 26, Trump issued an executive order that directed the Pentagon to develop a policy that authorizes new graduates of the service academies and ROTC programs to pursue professional sports immediately following graduation but prior to completing their service requirement.

Under the old policy crafted by former defense secretary James Mattis, graduates were required to fulfill two years of commissioned service in the military before pursuing a professional sports career.

“Such cadets and midshipmen have a short window of time to take advantage of their athletic talents during which playing professional sports is realistically possible,” Trump said in the executive order. “At the same time, these student-athletes should honor the commitment they made to serve in the Armed Forces in exchange for the extraordinary benefits afforded to them at taxpayer expense at the Academies or ROTC programs. A revised policy will benefit the student-athletes, the Academies and ROTC programs, and the Armed Forces.”

The executive order gave the Pentagon 120 days to develop the new policy, which has yet to be implemented. But based on the directive, two military services have gone ahead and granted exceptions allowing their graduates to go pro.

Prior to Toth’s exception, the Air Force last month signed an exception for long snapper Austin Cutting, a seventh-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in the 2019 NFL draft.

Army officials did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the exception signed for Toth.

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Serena Williams outburst at 2018 US Open Women’s Final explored in new ESPN series ‘Backstory’

Scott Clarke / ESPN Images(NEW YORK) — Twenty-year-old Naomi Osaka faced her childhood hero Serena Williams in the 2018 U.S. Open Women’s Final and won, becoming the first Japanese woman to win a Grand Slam title in a match that many thought would go to Williams.

Her triumph, however, was marred by arguments between Williams and the match’s umpire, Carlos Ramos, sparking a controversy that would have the world talking about tennis for weeks.

As part of the new ESPN series Backstory, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Don Van Natta peeled back the layers of the event and delved into the lives of both Williams and Ramos to understand how the two came together for one of the most divisive moments in recent tennis history during one of the world’s most celebrated finals in sports.

Ramos was only 16 when he began working as a chair umpire in Portugal. One of his friends told Van Natta that Ramos was so focused that he would treat satellite events as if they were the Wimbledon final. But Ramos had big dreams of one day becoming a world-class umpire, a goal that he said would allow him to see the world, Van Natta said.

Williams and her sister, Venus Williams, meanwhile, would rise out of Compton, Calif., to become two of the biggest sports stars in the world by dominating a sport played mostly by white athletes.

With her fierce will to win, Williams did not get to the top without shaking things up. In May 2018, for example, she received criticism for wearing a so-called “catsuit” bodysuit to the French Open. She said the suit was designed to prevent blood clots since she had given birth a few months earlier. French Open President Bernard Giudicelli later said the suit “would no longer be accepted” and that players in future tournaments would have to dress more conservatively.

The heated dispute between Ramos and Williams, who was vying for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title, began when Williams was losing to Osaka two games into the second set after Ramos said he witnessed a code violation for coaching — Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, had given her a thumbs up — and gave Williams a warning.

“If he gives me a thumbs-up, he is telling me to come on,” Williams told Ramos at the time. “We don’t have any code and I know you don’t know that, and [I] understand why you may have thought that that was coaching, but it is not. I don’t cheat to win; I would rather lose. I am just letting you know.”

Retired tennis champion Chrissie Evert told Van Natta that Mouratoglou, who has coached Williams for seven years, “is not known to be one of those coaches who coaches all the time and Serena never looks at her box. She…figures it out herself.”

From that moment, the tension between Williams and Ramos would escalate. Williams accused Ramos of questioning her integrity and punishing her more harshly than male players. “I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right,” she told him. “I have never cheated.”

A second violation, costing her a point, came after the fifth game of the second set when she slammed a broken racket to the ground in frustration. After repeatedly demanding that Ramos apologize, she received her third violation for what Ramos called “verbal abuse” — a game penalty — after she called him a “thief.”

“You stole a point from me,” she said. “You’re a thief, too.”

Although Williams would go on to win the next game in an excellent display of tennis, Osaka would finish her off in the ensuing match, winning the set and the title.

Mouratoglou told Van Natta that it was the first time he had ever sent a signal to Williams and that he did it “because it felt like it was an important moment.”

“It was probably one of the biggest moments of her career,” Mouratoglou told Van Natta. “She’s in a Grand Slam final to equal the record of all time and she’s losing, and she’s — I [felt] at that moment — she’s lost on the court. So, I tried to help her. That’s my job.”

Yet, even though the incident was a setback for Williams, Mouratoglou said that it was a “fantastic” moment for tennis.

“It’s unbelievable. That was the best moment of tennis [in the] last 10 years,” he told Van Natta. “We don’t have any drama in tennis. We have drama in all other sports, but not tennis.”

Williams gave Osaka a congratulatory hug following the match, but as the crowd booed, Osaka sat down and cried.

“I was down on the court because I was supposed to present the trophy to the winner,” Evert told Van Natta. “The floor was shaking, the roof was shaking, the boos were thundering. I could not hear a thing.”

Williams continues to deny that there was a clear coaching violation or that she ever lost control of her emotions, Van Natta said. In a press conference following the match, she said, “The fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions and that wants to express themselves…they want to be a strong woman and they are going to be allowed to do that because of today.”

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Scoreboard roundup — 8/15/19

iStock (NEW YORK) — Here are the scores from Thursday’s sports events:

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Seattle 7, Detroit 2  
Cleveland 19, NY Yankees 5
Minnesota 13, Texas 6    
LA Angels 8, Chi White Sox 7
Oakland 7, Houston 6

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Miami 13, LA Dodgers 7
Cincinnati 2, St. Louis 1
Philadelphia 7, Chi Cubs 5
NY Mets 10, Atlanta 8
San Francisco 7, Arizona 0

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Latest North Korea launch unlikely to break stalemate in US diplomatic talks

MicroStockHub/iStock(NEW YORK) — North Korea fired two short-range projectiles into the Sea of Japan early Friday morning according to South Korea’s military, marking North Korea’s sixth round of short-range missile testing in less than a month.

The launch began just hours after North Korea rejected further dialogue with Seoul, citing its frustration with joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises in the region. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the projectiles were launched into the Sea of Japan at around 8:01 and 8:16 a.m. local time, and both flew about 143 miles at an altitude of 18 miles.

The officials did not confirm whether the projectiles were rockets or ballistic missiles, and President Donald Trump did not immediately acknowledge this latest launch.

Despite the ongoing missile testing, Trump last week boasted about his most recent letter from Kim Jong Un, calling it “beautiful’ and “positive” and claiming that Kim offered a “small apology” for the continued launches. Trump told reporters that Kim was fed up with the joint US-South Korean military exercises he calls “war games.”

“He wasn’t happy with the war games … I’ve never liked [the exercises], either,” Trump said. “You know why? I don’t like paying for it.”

Trump has continuously downplayed North Korea’s launches and touted the success of his relationship with Kim.

Last week, the president told reporters that “there have been no nuclear tests. The missile tests have all been short-range, no ballistic missile tests, no long-range missiles.” However, U.S. officials have confirmed North Korea is testing short range ballistic missile tests that violate U.N. Security Council sanctions and continue to pose a threat to U.S. allies, as well as the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.

In an interview Thursday with Voice of America, National Security Advisor John Bolton called the launches “troubling.”

“We think the range could probably hit all of South Korea and parts of Japan. That of course would endanger our deployed forces as well. These resolutions violate U.N. Security Council sanctions, and they don’t violate the pledge that Kim Jong Un made to President Trump, that’s true, but they are troubling for everybody watching the peninsula,” said Bolton.

Bolton also highlighted the stalemate in negotiations between the two nations since Trump and Kim’s historic meeting at the DMZ in late June. Citing North Korea’s failure to fully commit to denuclearization, Bolton told VOA: “We haven’t had really any substantive negotiations, at the working level with North Korea since the president met with Kim Jong Un at the demilitarized zone … The door is open for them … but they need to walk through it and they haven’t done that yet.”

Although Kim appears to be seeking attention from the U.S with these short-range tests, Trump has largely ignored the launches and they are unlikely to affect future relations between the U.S. and North Korea, according to Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul. Easley said that although the launch “makes it exceedingly difficult to build trust” with North Korea, negotiations are still possible.

“Working-level negotiations with North Korea are still worth pursuing, but those diplomatic efforts should be backed up by the preparation of additional sanctions and renewed U.S.-Japan-South Korea military cooperation if Pyongyang continues to violate UN resolutions and threaten its neighbors,” Easley said.

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‘There is no turning back’: Another weekend of protests kick off in Hong Kong

LewisTsePuiLung/iStock(HONG KONG) — Thousands of people stood elbow to elbow chanting “Power to the People!” on a humid night in central Hong Kong on Friday, as anti-government protests that began here in early June and led to a shutdown of the city’s busy international airport this week showed no signs of slowing down.

In the first of several protests planned for this weekend, demonstrators chanted “Stand with Hong Hong,” a message they said was directed at the United States and the United Kingdom, the city’s former colonial power which passed control of the city to China in 1997.

Police denied permission for a rally that was expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people on Sunday, but protesters are expected to go ahead with it anyway.

“I will sacrifice my life for this movement because we are protecting our home,” one of the protesters, Keith Fong, 20, told ABC News earlier in the day.

Another protester, 19-year-old Zoey Leung, said she worries about the safety of her friends and loved ones amid the demonstrations, and the increasingly violent police crackdown, but had no intention of backing down.

“Chasing democracy and freedom is the nature of humans,” she said. “There is no turning back for Hong Kongers nowadays.”

Protests erupted on the island 10 weeks ago over a controversial bill that would have allowed accused criminals to be extradited to countries where Hong Kong does not have an existing arrangement. That would have included mainland China, sparking concern over potential human rights abuses, and unearthing a deep-seated distrust for many in Hong Kong. Its embattled and deeply unpopular leader, Carrie Lam, suspended work on the bill but has refused to legally withdraw it.

The activists have also called on Lam to resign.

Lam has condemned the protests and said the marchers were using opposition to the extradition bill as an excuse to undermine Beijing’s sovereignty in Hong Kong to “destroy the way of life cherished by the 7 million [residents].”

On Monday, thousands of protesters rallied and held sit-ins at Hong Kong’s international airport, a main hub for business travelers in Asia and among the busiest airports in the world. The protests were broken up by riot police and planes were grounded for the better part of two days.

On Friday, Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways announced the resignation of two of its top officials, including its CEO Rupert Hogg, following reports that airline employees had joined in with the protests.

In a statement posted on Friday, the airline said that “recent events have called into question Cathay Pacific’s commitment to flight safety and security and put our reputation and brand under pressure.” The statement said the airline is “fully committed to Hong Kong under the principal of ‘One Country Two Systems,'” which refers to China’s pledge to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy and way of life when it resumed control of the city.

Also on Friday, Alain Robert, a Frenchman whose reputation for scaling skyscrapers has earned him the nickname Spiderman, scaled Hong Kong’s 62-story Cheung Kong Centre and unveiled a banner a banner with the flags of both China and Hong Kong, the BBC reported.

“Perhaps what I do can lower the temperature and maybe raise a smile. That’s my hope anyway,” Mr Robert said in a media statement.

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Wildfires feared out West as storms strike heartland

ABC News(NEW YORK) — More record highs were recorded out West on Thursday — San Francisco hit 94 and Palm Springs touched 119 — raising the risk of wildfires.

Several brush fires and wildfires already are burning, from California to Colorado, where evacuations were ordered east of Denver as a fire spread.

Seven states on Friday are under fire danger alerts as more scorching heat is expected in the region, including highs nearing 120 in Arizona.

Reg flag warnings have been issued in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado because of the dry conditions and gusty winds.

At least 170 damaging storms, including four tornadoes in Kansas, were reported on Thursday, as winds of almost 80 mph were reported southeast of Kansas City.

On Friday, this storm system is heading east, taking severe weather to an area stretching from Colorado to Illinois. The biggest threats again will be damaging wind, large hail and potentially a few tornadoes.

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Jersey Boys: The Jonas Brothers to perform remotely on MTV VMAs

Courtesy MTVIn case you’re not aware, The Jonas Brothers are from New Jersey — so of course they wanted to be a part of this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, which are airing live from Newark on August 26. It’s the show’s first-ever edition to be held in the Garden State.

MTV has announced that The JoBros will do a special remote performance on the telecast, from what’s described as “an iconic location along the New Jersey shoreline.” We’re betting on Atlantic City’s famous boardwalk, but you’ll have to tune in to find out.

This will be Joe, Nick and Kevin‘s first performance on the VMAs in more than 10 years.

As previously reported, the MTV VMAs will also feature performances from Video Vanguard Award recipient Missy Elliott, as well as Taylor Swift, Camila Cabello, Shawn Mendes, Lizzo, Bad Bunny, J Balvin, Lil Nas X and Rosalía.

The 2019 MTV VMAs, hosted by Sebastian Maniscalco, air at 8 p.m. ET/PT August 26. Today is the last day you can vote in 14 VMA categories, including Video of the Year, Artist of the Year and Best Collaboration, via vma.mtv.com.

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The Blondes vs. The Bros: Gwen and Kelly face off against Blake and John in new “The Voice” promo

Courtesy NBCAdam who?  The first promo for the upcoming 17th season of The Voice has arrived — and you may not even notice the fact that, for the first time ever, the Maroon 5 frontman isn’t a part of the show.

Coach Kelly Clarkson declares that this season, it’s “the Blondes against the Bros, y’all,” as she and returning coach Gwen Stefani battle last season’s winning coach, John Legend, and Gwen’s boyfriend, Blake Shelton.  In fact, Gwen and Blake’s relationship seems to be the topic of most of the banter this time around.

“I’m very excited to see America’s favorite couple fight it out!” jokes John, as Kelly adds, “Yaaaas!”  As the slogan “All’s fair in love and war” flashes across the screen, we see Gwen asking innocently, “You wanna fight, Blakey?”

“I’m probably gonna pay for this later,” replies the country superstar.  “He gets NO cuddles!” cracks Kelly.

In another scene, Kelly yells incredulously to Gwen, “Oh my God! You blocked him!” as Gwen does a victory dance in front of Blake’s chair.  “Why are you doing this to me?”  he yells. “I thought you loved me!”

Of course, we also see the couple embracing lovingly.

Tune in to see who’ll come out on top when The Voice returns September 23 on NBC.

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Enter the “Lover’s Lounge”: Taylor Swift to hold YouTube live stream event on August 22

Valheria RochaThe night before her album Lover drops, Taylor Swift is going live with her fans.

The singer is partnering with YouTube Originals for a live stream event on August 22 at 5 p.m. ET, titled Taylor Swift — Lover’s Lounge (Live).

The live stream, hosted on Taylor’s YouTube channel, will feature a debut performance of a song from the new album, a fan Q&A, and a special guest appearance by designer Stella McCartney, who’ll reveal details from the upcoming fashion collaboration inspired by the album.

Immediately following the event at 5:50 p.m. ET, YouTube will premiere Taylor’s video for the album’s title track, “Lover.” The song itself is set to be released tomorrow.

Earlier on August 22, Taylor will deliver a special performance in New York’s Central Park for ABC’s Good Morning America.

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Joe Jonas gets 30th birthday tributes from wife Sophie Turner and bros Nick and Kevin

Peggy Sirota The birthday wishes are pouring in for Joe Jonas, who celebrates the big 3-0 today.

His nearest and dearest, including his wife Sophie Turner and his brothers Nick and Kevin, took some time to post tributes to Joe on social media.

Sophie posted a photo of Joe on her Instagram Story and wrote, “Happy 30th to my love and the best thing that ever happened to me. @joejonas I love you.”

Nick also shared a clip to his Instagram of himself, Joe and Sophie on a private plane listening to the Taio Cruz song, “Dynamite.”

“IT’s JOE’S BIRTHDAY!” he captioned it. “When we party we listen to dynamite obviously. In reality what other song is there?”

Kevin added his own message for Joe, writing on Instagram, “Happy 30th birthday to this incredible dude! @joejonas you are the man we love you so much now let’s play a show and party!!!!!”

On Joe’s Instagram Story, he shared even more of the birthday messages he’s been receiving from friends.

The Jonas Brothers play Washington, D.C. tonight on their Happiness Begins tour.

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