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US Open start delayed by fog at Torrey Pines


LA JOLLA: Early morning fog rolling in off the Pacific Ocean caused a 30-minute delay to the start of the 121st US Open golf championship on Thursday at Torrey Pines.

American Sahith Theegala is set to hit the opening tee shot at the first hole when play begins at the par-71 layout, now planned for 7:15 a.m, organizers said.

A field of 156 is set to challenge the formidable 7,652-yard oceanside course, with local hero Phil Mickelson trying to complete a career Grand Slam and American Bryson DeChambeau trying to defend his title.

Mickelson, who turned 51 on Wednesday, became golf’s oldest major winner last month by winning the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island to capture his sixth career major title.

But the US Open is the crown that has eluded him, the left-hander settling for a record six runner-up showings at the event.

Mickelson has won three times at Torrey Pines in US PGA Tour events but all were before a 2001 course renovation, forcing him to spend much of the past two weeks re-learning the nuances of a course he once knew well.

Mickelson, ranked 30th, is set to start at 8:11 alongside two other Southern California players, Max Homa and fourth-ranked Xander Schauffele.– AFP

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ENTIRE Portland rapid response unit dealing with protest violence RESIGNS after member indicted 


An entire Portland police crowd control unit voted to disband after a member was indicted on charges stemming from a riot. The officers, who volunteered for the unit, also cited lack of recognition as a reason.

The Police Bureau’s Rapid Response Team self-imploded on Wednesday, after around 50 police officers, detectives, and sergeant members of the squad voted to leave it, Acting Portland Police Chief Chris David confirmed on Thursday.

“They’re not feeling like that sacrifice that they have made, necessarily, has been understood very well, and that’s their perspective, and I have to honor their perspective,” David said.

The mass exodus was sparked by the indictment of one of the team’s members, officer Corey Budworth, on fourth-degree assault charges in connection with an incident during a declared riot on August 18, 2020.

Budworth was captured on video pushing a woman to the ground and then hitting her in the face with a baton. The woman, who was later identified as freelance photojournalist Teri Jacobs, can be seen wearing a badge and has a camera dangling from her neck in the clip.

It’s not clear from the video what preceded the altercation, but police can be heard announcing through a loudspeaker: “Officers are taking lawful action. Stay on the sidewalk,” as Jacobs falls to the ground.

The Portland Police Association dismissed the charge as politically motivated, with Daryl Turner, the executive director of the association, arguing that Budworth was simply “doing his job,” trying to protect civilians, police officers, and city property from the angry crowd. Turner insisted that the officers were following instructions, accusing the city and the District Attorney’s Office of turning their backs on the police and refusing to bring charges against the rioters.

He argued that by banning the use of crowd control means such as tear gas, the city, contrary to the desired effect, forced the officers to resort to more heavy-handed methods.

“During these protests, our hands were tied to what we could do, if we were using CS gas we wouldn’t have to worry about the hands-on approach or less-lethal impact munitions,” Turner said on Wednesday.

At least one more member of the now-dissolved squad is facing legal repercussions for his actions during the months-long unrest. On Wednesday, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office confirmed an investigation into the use of force by Detective Erik Kammerer. A city resident accused Kammerer of beating him up in a case of mistaken identity, with the alleged victim claiming he was taken for a rioter.

While the officers have left the Rapid Response Team, they will remain with the force and keep their regular duties.

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A spate of violent protests plagued Portland last summer, sparked initially by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The riots saw demonstrators setting fire to buildings, including a police precinct and the police union headquarters, throwing rocks and other objects at officers, as well as erecting barricades and establishing an ‘autonomous zone’. While the violence has since subsided, the protests continued past the inauguration of President Joe Biden. 

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‘It’s not zero, but it’s much less’: General Milley minimizes report of 1,900 lost & stolen military weapons


General Mark Milley, the top officer in the US military, downplayed reports that the Pentagon lost track of nearly 2,000 weapons in the 2010s – some later used in crimes – insisting the true figure is “significantly” lower.

Testifying at a Senate committee hearing on Thursday, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff was asked about a recent Associated Press investigation, which claimed that at least 1,900 small arms had gone missing from military facilities during the previous decade. The weapons included rifles, shotguns, pistols, machine guns and even grenade launchers. Milley, however, said the report overstated the numbers, adding that he was “shocked” after reading it.

“The reports I have from the services as of this morning are significantly less… than were reported in the media. That’s not to say it’s zero, but it’s much less,” he said, adding that the military takes the security of weapons “extraordinarily seriously.”

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While he acknowledged the Pentagon can’t account for some of the 3 million small arms under its control, he said such cases are “rigorously investigated,” vowing to give lawmakers a “firm answer” on the exact number of missing weapons after coordinating with each branch of the military. 

Milley did not refer to any specifics in the AP report, which followed a years-long investigation and cited internal records from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force. The outlet found that while weapons had disappeared under every branch, around 1,300 went missing from the Army alone, by far the most out of any service. 

At least five stolen weapons were later involved in violent crimes, the AP found, including several M9 pistols used in civilian shootings.  

Asked about those findings during a Senate hearing earlier this week, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth also downplayed the report, saying she would look into the issue but predicted only a “small number” of wayward weapons. The secretary added that she is open to revisiting oversight on weapons accountability, as the Pentagon previously shared yearly updates on lost and stolen arms, before the requirement lapsed. 

Despite his skepticism in the report, a spokesperson for Milley, Colonel Dave Butler, later told the AP that the general would consider a “systemic fix” in the future that would make tracking weapons “simplified and accurate.”

The military hasn’t only struggled to keep track of arms stored at home, with the Defense Department inspector general finding last year that it failed to account for some $715 million in weapons used to arm Kurdish-led fighters in Syria. Weapons sold to allies, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have also reportedly fallen into the hands of al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups, as have arms distributed by the CIA.

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US House expected to repeal 2002 Iraq war authorization with Biden backing


The United States House of Representatives is expected to repeal the 2002 ‘Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq’ (AUMF) on Thursday, which allowed the US military to invade Iraq in 2003 and depose Saddam Hussein.

A vote is set to be made on the House floor on Thursday, just one day after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) expressed his support in bringing the repeal to the Senate.

“Authorization passed in 2002 is no longer necessary in 2021,” Schumer said on Wednesday, despite clarifying that his support did not mean the US is “abandoning the country and the shared fight” against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).

Schumer added that it would stop future presidential administrations from “reaching back into the legal dustbin to use it as a justification for military adventurism.”

The House bill is sponsored by Representative Barbara Lee (D-California), who has also signaled her intentions to fight for the repeal of the 2001 AUMF – which allowed the president to use force against those he perceived as having “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon – after the 2002 AUMF repeal has successfully passed through the House.

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Many Democratic lawmakers have publicly expressed their support for the bill, including Representatives Ted Lieu (D-California), Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin), Jamaal Bowman (D-New York), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York).

“For nearly two decades, the outdated 2002 Iraq AUMF has been used to justify military action without Congressional approval,” tweeted Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday. “No president should be able to sidestep Congress and act unilaterally on matters of war. It’s time to repeal this authorization and #StopEndlessWar.”

Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Massachusetts), a US Marine veteran, praised the bill in a video, declaring that it’s “not normal and it’s not acceptable for servicemembers to be fighting in a war that began before they were born.”

Several Republicans in the House and Senate have also expressed support for the repeal, with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) and Rep. Nancy Mace (R-South Carolina) among those co-sponsoring the bill.

Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Michigan), a US Army Iraq War veteran, is also co-sponsoring the bill, calling it “Constitutional hygiene.”

“I definitely went into my Iraq deployment in 2010 with a sense of optimism, but left with a strong sense of pessimism,” he said in April, adding, “We need people in office who understand the severity, who understand the consequences.”

Other Republicans, however, have been vocal in their opposition to the repeal. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) accused Democrat co-sponsors of “playing politics with national security in an effort to taint one of President Trump’s biggest national security successes.”

If the bill passes through the House, it will need 60 votes to also pass in the Senate.

President Joe Biden’s White House endorsed the bill on Monday, citing the fact that it “would likely have minimal impact on current military operations.”

“The President is committed to working with the Congress to ensure that outdated authorizations for the use of military force are replaced with a narrow and specific framework appropriate to ensure that we can continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats,” its statement read.

The United States military has been engaged in Iraq, in some form or other, for over 30 years.

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Germany’s Loew faced with attacking conundrum against Portugal


MUNICH: Germany will need to come up with an attacking plan that can work against Portugal on Saturday after their Group F opening loss to France has put them under pressure from the very start of the European Championship.

The Germans have looked more solid at the back of late, and despite a Mats Hummels own goal against world champions France, had done a decent job at containing as much as possible one of the world’s best frontlines with Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema.

Germany coach Joachim Loew, in his last tournament in charge, is unlikely to tinker with his three-man backline but their attack showed only brief signs of life against France.

Given their poor conversion rate in the past two years, the Germans will need to improve dramatically if they are to get full points against Portugal.

Germany are currently in third place without points in Group F after losing their first ever Euro opening game, with Portugal and France on three. Hungary are bottom after their 3-0 loss to Portugal.

Playing with Serge Gnabry in a forward role and Kai Havertz and Thomas Mueller on the wings did not work for Loew’s team, with winger Gnabry struggling to find any breathing space in and around the French box.

He had one good chance before being replaced in the 74th minute by Timo Werner, who also failed to have any impact.

“Germany are missing their punch, they are taking too few risks. There is too little activity in attack,” said 2014 World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger, now a TV pundit.

Not even the introduction of Leroy Sane breathed new life, leaving the coach to try and solve his attacking conundrum.

“If we can be more vigorous up front, we will be able to beat Portugal,” Loew said.

That is easier said than done with Kevin Volland the only out-and-out striker in the squad.

Holders Portugal do not share Germany’s attacking problems, with skipper Cristiano Ronaldo becoming the top scorer in Euro finals history after netting twice in their 3-0 opening win over Hungary to take his tally to 11.

He may have never scored against Germany keeper Manuel Neuer at international level but with his current form few would bet against him ending that run on Saturday. – Reuters

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Rory McIlroy says PGA Tour should ban green books


TORREY PINES: Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy (pix) voiced his support for the PGA Tour banning green-reading books for next season.

Speaking Wednesday ahead of the US Open at Torrey Pines, the golf star from Northern Ireland was asked about Golfweek’s report that the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council voted to outlaw the books at a virtual meeting two weeks ago.

“Look, everything that’s talked about in those meetings is somewhat confidential,” said McIlroy, who chairs the council. “But what I can say, I think – I use a greens book, and I’d like to get rid of them.

“I think everyone is in the same boat, most guys on Tour are in the same boat, that if it’s going to be available to us and it helps us, people are going to use it, but I think for the greater good of the game, I’d like to see them be outlawed and for them not to be used anymore.”

Currently, the Masters is the only event during the season that prohibits the use of green books, which plot out illustrations of each green of a course to show slope and the directions of breaks.

McIlroy said having the books at their disposal makes Tour players “lazier.”

“It’s not that it’s an advantage really, it’s just taking away a skill that takes time and practice to be mastered,” McIlroy said. “I think reading greens is a real skill that some people are better at than others, and it just nullifies that. It nullifies that advantage that people have. Yeah, honestly, I think it’s made everyone lazier. People don’t put in the time to prepare the way they used to, and that’s why you see so many more players at Augusta, for example, take their time around the greens, hit so many more putts, it’s because they have to. It’s because there is no greens book at Augusta.”

Golfweek reported that the full board of the PGA Tour could vote as soon as next week to approve the rule change, which would then go into effect at the start of the 2021-22 season in the fall.

McIlroy, 32, was elected chairman of the council in February and often shares his candid thoughts on what is happening around golf. But he likely had more pressing things on his mind the day before the first round of the US Open, which he won in 2011.

McIlroy hasn’t been victorious at a major since 2014, and more recently he fought through an 18-month winless drought that he finally ended by winning the Wells Fargo Championship in early May. He’ll be looking for a better start at Torrey Pines than he’s had in recent majors; he tied for 49th at last month’s PGA Championship after a first-round 75 and missed the cut at the Masters with rounds of 76 and 74.

McIlroy said he was “probably just putting a little too much pressure on myself” in the first rounds of recent majors and offered an unconventional idea for how he’d approach changing that.

“I guess by being indifferent,” McIlroy said. “Not by not caring, but by not putting myself under pressure that I have to care, I guess is the right way to do it. If I went out and played this golf course any other week, you play free, and it’s just the same thing. As I said, you just have to be able to swing with that freedom, and that’s sort of what I’m trying to get back to.” – Field Level Media

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‘Living memorial’ or ‘identity politics’? Congress passes bill making Juneteenth federal holiday to mark the end of slavery


The US House has voted to pass legislation that would make Juneteenth a federally recognized holiday, meant to celebrate the end of chattel slavery in the country. Republican critics say the law will only fuel “identity politics.”

Lawmakers voted 415-14 to pass the bill on Wednesday, making the 19th of June “Juneteenth National Independence Day,” the twelfth federal holiday and the first created since Martin Luther King Day was established in 1983. While President Joe Biden has given no indication he would veto the measure, it still needs his signature before it becomes law.

The holiday marks the day when the last slaves in the American south learned of their freedom following the Civil War. While the conflict ended in April 1865, the news didn’t reach the last slaves until months later, when Union troops publicized the Emancipation Proclamation to residents of Galveston, Texas.

All 14 ‘no’ votes against the bill came from Republicans, some of whom, such as Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale, said the law was merely a celebration of “identity politics.”

“Since I believe in treating everyone equally, regardless of race, and that we should be focused on what unites us rather than our differences, I will vote no,” he said in a press release, adding that the bill is “an effort by the Left to create a day out of whole cloth to celebrate identity politics as part of its large effort to make Critical Race Theory the reigning ideology of our country.”

Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs argued that Democrats had “weaponized” the bill, though appeared to largely take issue with the formal name it was given, singling out the use of the term “independence” over “emancipation.” 

“They could have made this a really harmonious, celebratory bill, because I think everybody would have passed this thing unanimously if they would have taken it through committee, and if they would have changed the name to ‘Juneteenth National Emancipation Day,’” he said. 

If they would have named this correctly, if they would have included Republicans… I think they would’ve had this great opportunity to unify Congress.  

Democrats, in contrast, vocally backed the legislation, which was spearheaded by Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts and garnered some 60 cosponsors. After the bill passed the House on Wednesday, New York Congressman Sean Maloney deemed the holiday a “living memorial that empowers the sustained struggle of black Americans and our continued fight for justice.”

Though most states have officially recognized Juneteenth in one way or another – with Texas becoming the first to do so in 1980, followed by 46 others in the years since – on the federal level, the holiday has only received a nod from the Senate, which passed a resolution in 2018 to honor “the day on which slavery legally came to an end.”

New York is among the latest states to mark the holiday, with Governor Andrew Cuomo signing a bill to do so last year, while Washington state upgraded Juneteenth to a paid state holiday for public employees just last month.

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Sergio Ramos to leave Real Madrid after 16 trophy-laden years


MADRID: After 671 appearances, 101 goals, 22 trophies and 26 red cards, Sergio Ramos (pix) is leaving Real Madrid after 16 years of service in which he captained the club in one of their greatest ever eras.

Real announced the departure of one of their most iconic players in the briefest of statements on Wednesday, saying Ramos would be honoured with a farewell news conference alongside president Florentino Perez on Thursday.

Ramos, 35, ran down his contract and, according to Spanish newspaper Marca, was unable to agree an extension after Real offered him a one-year deal on a 10% pay cut which he rejected.

He is now a free agent and although time is not on his side, there should be no shortage of clubs interested in signing one of the most fierce winners the modern game has seen.

“He leaves as Madrid’s best ever central defender, without a doubt,” said former Real striker Predrag Mijatovic.

Former Real striker Ivan Zamorano added: “Ramos does not deserve to leave like this. He is the club’s most successful captain. Today the club made no effort to keep him.”

Ramos, who signed for Real from Sevilla in 2005 for €27 million (RM133 m) , a record fee for a Spanish defender, came close to leaving the club in 2015 after lengthy negotiations with Manchester United.

But he decided to stay and inherit the captain’s armband from departing goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

The previous season he had saved Real from a Champions League final defeat to neighbours Atletico Madrid by scoring a 93rd-minute leveller, his side sweeping to a 4-1 victory in extra time to finally capture ‘La Decima’, a long-awaited 10th European Cup.

The player immortalised the moment by tattooing ‘92.48’ on his arm, the exact timing the ball hit the net.

Ramos then skippered Real to an unprecedented hattrick of Champions League triumphs, scoring against Atletico again in the 2016 final as well as converting a penalty in the shootout.

Just as important to that win was a cynical foul on Antoine Griezmann to prevent a dangerous Atletico counter, showcasing a ruthless side to his game that made him such a crucial player in Real’s golden era.

He was also involved in a coming together with Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah in the 2018 final which led to the Egyptian injuring his shoulder, provoking the ire of the Merseyside club’s fans after Real won 3-1.

Ramos was used to being in the thick of the action and played a leading role in last season’s La Liga title win with a career best 11 league goals.

But he was absent from most of the past campaign due to a nasty run of injuries which led to Spain coach Luis Enrique leaving him out of the squad for Euro 2020, denying him the chance to play back in his home city of Seville.

Even when on the sidelines, Ramos was a towering presence, bellowing out encouragement from the empty Alfredo di Stefano stadium where Real have played during the pandemic era while renovating their Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Ramos will not get to represent Real at the new-look arena and will get no farewell from the club’s fans, who loved him as much as all-time greats Raul, Di Stefano and Cristiano Ronaldo.

“It’s the end of an era for Real Madrid,” said pundit Alvaro Benito on radio station Cadena Ser.

“Every time a player of this magnitude leaves there is a change of cycle. Whoever comes in will not be as good as Ramos.” – Reuters

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Glum Swiss admit poor performance after Italy thumping


ROME: Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic and captain Granit Xhaka made no excuses for their performance against Italy after they were thoroughly outplayed on Wednesday and now face a must-win game against Turkey in their last Group A match.

The Swiss were swept aside by their southern neighbours in a 3-0 thumping and held up their hands after looking second best for most of the match.

“We played a strong team, they caused us a lot of problems. We were insecure, which is usually not our character,” said a thunderous-looking Petkovic at the post-match news conference.

“We are disappointed in terms of what we showed on the pitch. I’ve already talked to the players and told them we must be disappointed tonight, but from tomorrow we need to be positive for our decisive game against Turkey if we are to make it through to the round of 16.”

Wednesday’s defeat in Rome leaves Switzerland with only one point from their opening two fixtures and in order to have any chance of advancing, they will need to beat Turkey in Baku on Sunday.

“We want to remain positive despite the well-deserved defeat. With a win against Turkey, we still have a good chance of qualifying,” added captain Xhaka.

“We had big plans for this match against Italy. But we lost the duels and lost too many easy balls. We weren’t close enough to our opponents. We have to play more aggressively and be more compact.

“If you give the Italians as much room as we did, then you are always going to be running after your opponent. And when you give up possession as much as we did, you never find tranquillity in your game. We didn’t have enough players who wanted the ball,” the midfielder added.

“We can talk a lot now, but the reality is that we lost. We don’t have to point the finger at each other, but rather look together to see what we can improve.” – Reuters

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Texas allows residents to possess handguns with no license after Gov. Abbott signs controversial ‘constitutional carry’ bill


Texans will soon be permitted to carry handguns without a license, with Governor Greg Abbott signing a bill into law that scraps most of the state’s permit requirements despite vocal opposition from police groups and the public.

After passing through the state Senate late last month, Abbott put his name to HB 1927 on Wednesday, legalizing what proponents call “Constitutional Carry,” which allows residents to possess pistols with no license or mandatory training.

While the law exempts those already prohibited to carry firearms under state or federal law, such as convicted felons, all other state residents aged 21 and up will be free to tote handguns, openly or concealed, once the legislation takes effect on September 1.

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The bill passed both the state House and Senate despite objections from law enforcement groups, gun control advocates and even the public at large, with a recent poll showing some 59% of Texans surveyed are opposed to permitless carry. 

A group of five police orgs led by the Dallas Police Association lobbied strongly against the bill, though ultimately compromised after state Senators included a number of amendments to the law to address their concerns, which largely centered on officer safety. Without the amendments, the groups said “many dangerous and unstable Texans will have unfettered access to weapons and face little or no punishment when apprehended.”

Former Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who now serves as chief to Miami, Florida’s PD, also came out against the law last month, saying “From chiefs to sheriffs to police labor, we do not support permit-less, open carry.”

The compromise bill that was ultimately passed retained a provision that allows police to question residents solely based on their possession of a handgun, and also boosts criminal penalties for felons found to be carrying. State Senators also introduced a measure requiring the Texas Department of Public Safety to offer a free online gun safety course, in line with calls from other policing groups for residents to receive training. 

Some police departments, such as those in Texarkana and Hooks, say they have no problem enforcing the new ‘Constitutional Carry’ law, with Texarkana police spokesman Shawn Vaughn stating “We enforce the law, whatever the legislature sees fit.”

“We’ve had no major issues [with handguns]. There are some people who will still be prohibited from carrying guns, such as felons, and those are the main ones we are concerned about,” he said.

Pro-gun groups have cheered the new bill, with the National Rifle Association deeming it “the most significant pro-Second Amendment measure in Texas history.” When the law passed the Texas state House, the Gun Owners of America hailed it as a “historic moment,” calling it a “strong bill with strong protections.”

Texas lawmakers have also passed a bill to make the state into a “Second Amendment sanctuary,” which will exempt it from any new federal gun legislation. Governor Abbott has already declared his intent to enact the law, saying “I look forward to signing it” in April, though it has yet to reach his desk.

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