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    Martina Navratilova has apologized after getting caught on a technicality in her on-court campaign to have a stadium renamed at the Australian Open. The 18-time major winner didn't step back from the key message, though. Navratilova has regularly objected to Margaret Court Arena being named to honor the Australian tennis great who has become a religious minister and made controversial comments about homosexuality and gay-marriage. Navratilova and John McEnroe tried to take their push to have the stadium renamed Evonne Goolagong Arena, in honor of Australia's seven-time Grand Slam titlist, to the people. Navratilova climbed up the umpire's chair at the stadium on Tuesday and started to address spectators, but organizers cut off the live feed. Navratilova and McEnroe then unfurled a banner reading “Evonne Goolagong Arena' as they walked on the court. It could have cost the pair their credentials. Navratilova and McEnroe are working as TV analysts at Melbourne Park, and were made aware of the terms and conditions of their accreditation. Without naming them by name, Australian Open organizers issued a statement in response to the protest that said while they embraced diversity, they still had regulations and protocols to ensure the integrity of the tournament and “two high-profile guests have breached these protocols.' Navratilova apologized Wednesday on the Tennis Channel, saying “I got in trouble. I am sorry I broke protocol. I had no idea there was this kind of protocol.” “Had I known, I would have done it differently,' she added. 'But I would still have tried to make my statement which is, basically, you name buildings after not what people just did on the court, but also off the court. The whole body of work. “I’ve said my piece. I do apologize for breaking control. Did not mean to do that.” McEnroe issued an apology via ESPN for breaking protocol. “Admittedly, I was never one to study the rule book carefully or for that matter, even at times abide by the rules,' he said. “In this case, I was not aware of the Tennis Australia rules and protocols for issuing credentials. For that I apologize to Tennis Australia.' Court won a record 24 major singles titles, and had the 50th anniversary of her calendar-year Grand Slam recognized when she received a trophy on Rod Laver Arena this week. McEnroe's brother, Patrick, is also an ESPN commentator and said this on the broadcast Wednesday: 'Sometimes, to make a statement, rules of protocol might have to be bended just a bit.' ___ CHAMPION'S CHECK Alexander Zverev is getting closer to winning a Grand Slam title for the first time. Pull that off, though, and he won't get to put a cent in the bank. That's because the No. 7-seeded Zverev vowed after his opening victory at the Australian Open that if he were to lift the trophy, he would give the entire champion's check to relief efforts for the wildfires that have been destroying parts of the tournament's host country. 'Easy to say in the first round, right?' he joked Wednesday after reaching his first major semifinal by beating Stan Wawrinka. That would mean a donation of about 4 million Australian dollars -- or about $2.85 million. And the 22-year-old German player said he would remain true to his word. 'Yes, it's still true. I hope I can make it happen. I made the people of Australia a promise. I will keep that promise,' he told the crowd on Rod Laver Arena. “For me, right now, 4 million Australian dollars would be nice — very, very nice — I could buy myself a few cars or something. But there’s people who need it for their homes. For rebuilding wildlife, rebuilding houses, rebuilding the life they once knew. It's much more important that they get that money.” Zverev said his parents had taught him that money should be used for good. “My parents grew up in the Soviet Union — my dad would make money outside the country, but he would have to give it away when he was getting into the country,” he told a news conference. “Funny enough, for them, you know, where they never had any money, you would think that now maybe we have some, you want to keep it all for yourself. But they always said that money is something that should cause change in the world and should be put into a good thing, not keep it in a bank account and do nothing with it.” ___ DOUBLES DECIDERS Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic have reached their third consecutive Australian Open women's doubles final with a 7-5, 6-2 win over seventh-seeded Chan Hao-ching and Latisha Chan of Taiwan. Babos and Mladenovic, now the No. 2 seeds, won the Australian title in 2018 and lost the final here last year. They'll next meet top-seeded Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova, who beat fourth-seeded Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova 6-2, 6-3 in the other semifinal. Babos and Mladenovic won the French Open doubles title last year, and Hsieh and Strycova won Wimbledon. ___ More AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports —- AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.
  • Has anyone seen a giraffe running on a highway in Thailand? Two giraffes escaped from a truck and only one has been caught. The pair were being transported Tuesday from a Bangkok airport to a new zoo in Prachinburi province. When the truck stopped at an intersection, the giraffes jumped out and ran away, local media reported. Their escape caused a traffic jam and some motorists honked their horns to scare the giraffes away. A video posted on social media showed a giraffe galloping in the middle of a road during daytime, while another filmed at dusk showed a giraffe in front of a bush, with vehicles passing in the background.
  • Amid growing concern at the spread of a new virus outbreak in China, international sports have been postponed and Olympic qualifying tournaments are being taken elsewhere. The decision by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to postpone Pro League games in China follows qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympics scheduled in February in soccer, basketball and boxing being moved outside of China. The Chinese women’s field hockey team was due to host Belgium for two games on Feb. 8-9 in Changzhou. Those were postponed on Tuesday by the FIH citing “current uncertainties around the outbreak of the coronavirus in China.” The Lausanne, Switzerland-based governing body said it was “following the recommendations of the World Health Organization,” ahead of future matches. China is scheduled to host Australia for two games on March 14-15. The biggest upcoming event in China is the Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 19, which draws large crowds for the race and for practice and qualifying. Olympic qualifying events scheduled in China in February to help decide entries for the Tokyo Games have also been affected in recent days. Women’s soccer and women’s basketball games were moved to Australia and Serbia. The soccer games had already previously moved from Wuhan, at the center of the outbreak, to Nanjing. Boxing tournaments for the Asia and Oceania regions will be held in Jordan in March. The first World Cup races testing the mountain venue for alpine skiing at the 2022 Beijing Olympics are also at risk. A men's downhill is scheduled for Feb. 15 at Yanqing to start a two-race weekend. China is also due to host track and field’s indoor world championships from March 13-15 in Nanjing. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike acknowledged her concern about the virus speaking Wednesday to the heads of 62 municipalities. “With only 177 days to go and our preparations accelerating, we must firmly tackle the new coronavirus to contain it, or we are going to regret it,” Koike said. ”I will do the utmost to contain this new problem as we cooperate closely with all of you.' Tokyo Olympic organizers put out a generic statement on Wednesday and offered no details. “Countermeasures against infectious diseases constitute an important part of our plans to host a safe and secure games,” the statement said. It said Tokyo would “carefully monitor any incidence of infectious diseases and we will review any countermeasures that may be necessary with all relevant organizations.” More than 100 deaths in China have been recorded because of the disease, including the first in Beijing. More than 4,500 cases reported in China include almost 1,000 people in serious condition, national health authorities said. The new coronavirus seems to spread less easily among people than SARS or influenza. Most cases involve family members and health workers who had contact with patients. Cases have been reported in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, the United States, Australia, Canada and Germany. Hong Kong is to suspend rail services on Thursday linking it to mainland China. The coronavirus family includes the common cold but also more severe illnesses. It causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath and pneumonia. The virus is thought to have spread to people from wild animals sold at a market in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people which is now in lockdown. Future sports events in China include a qualifying game for soccer’s 2022 World Cup on March 26, against Maldives, and the China Open golf tournament, part of the European Tour, on April 23-26 in Shenzhen. ___ More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • The helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant didn’t have a recommended warning system to alert the pilot he was too close to land but it’s not clear it would have averted the crash that killed nine as the aircraft plummeted toward a fog-shrouded hillside, federal regulators and experts said. Pilot Ara Zobayan had been climbing out of the clouds when the aircraft banked left and began a sudden and terrifying 1,200-foot (366-meter) descent that lasted nearly a minute. “This is a pretty steep descent at high speed,” Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday. 'We know that this was a high-energy impact crash.' The aircraft was intact when it hit the ground, but the impact spread debris over more than 500 feet (150 meters). Remains of the final victims were recovered Tuesday and so far the remains of Bryant, Zobayan and two other passengers have been identified using fingerprints. Determining what caused the crash will take months, but investigators may again recommend that to avoid future crashes helicopters carrying six or more passenger seats be equipped with a Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS) that would have sounded an alarm if the aircraft was in danger of crashing. The agency made that recommendation after a similar helicopter, a Sikorsky S-76A carrying workers to an offshore drilling ship, crashed in the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston, Texas, killing all 10 people on board in 2004. The NTSB concluded if TAWS had been installed, pilots would have been warned in time to prevent hitting the water. The board recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration require the warning systems. Ten years later, the FAA eventually required such systems on air ambulances, but not other helicopters. FAA officials had questioned whether the technology would work on helicopters, which fly lower and could trigger too many false alarms that might detract from safety. The NTSB said FAA’s response was unacceptable, but dropped the matter. “Certainly, TAWS could have helped to provide information to the pilot on what terrain the pilot was flying in,” Homendy said of the helicopter that was carrying Bryant. Homendy also said it was too soon to say whether the pilot had control of the helicopter during the steep, high-speed descent, although she noted that “it wouldn't be a normal landing speed.' Bill English, investigator-in-charge of the agency's Major Investigations Division, said it's not clear yet whether “TAWS and this scenario are related to each other.' Helicopter pilot and aviation lawyer Brian Alexander said any collision warning system on aircraft going over mountainous terrain is welcome but the FAA recognizes they can sometimes do more harm if they are going off constantly and distracting the pilot. In any case, he added, it’s not clear that one would have helped Bryant’s pilot. It “wouldn’t necessarily have prevented the crash if this was a combination of a deteriorating weather situation and the pilot experiencing spatial disorientation,” said Alexander of Kreindler & Kreindler. “Your body is sensing something that isn’t happening. Another warning system screaming at you isn’t going to help.” While TAWS was not installed on the helicopter flying Bryant, the aircraft did have a warning system using GPS, said pilot Kurt Deetz, who flew Bryant dozens of times in the chopper over a two-year period ending in 2017. English said the agency is looking to document whether there was a GPS-based terrain avoidance system, but said it “doesn’t look to be part of the scenario.” Zobayan, 50, was well-acquainted with the skies over Los Angeles and accustomed to flying Bryant and other celebrities. He had spent thousands of hours ferrying passengers through one of the nation’s busiest air spaces and training students how to fly a helicopter. Friends and colleagues described him as skilled, cool and collected, the very qualities you want in a pilot. Zobayan had flown the day before the crash on a route with the same departure and destination — Orange County to Ventura County. But on Sunday, he had to divert because of heavy fog. His decision to proceed in deteriorating visibility, though, has experts and fellow pilots wondering if he flew beyond the boundaries of good judgment and whether pressure to get his superstar client where he wanted to go played a role in the crash. Jerry Kidrick, a retired Army colonel who flew helicopters in Iraq and now teaches at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, said there can be pressure to fly VIPs despite poor conditions, a situation he experienced when flying military brass. “The perceived pressure is, ‘Man, if I don’t go, they’re going to find somebody who will fly this thing,’ ” Kidrick said. The chartered Sikorsky S-76B plowed into a cloud-shrouded hillside as the retired NBA star was on his way to a youth basketball basketball tournament in which his daughter Gianna was playing. Two of her teammates also were on the helicopter with parents. NTSB investigators have said Zobayan asked for and received permission from air traffic controllers to proceed in the fog, which Homendy said was “very common.' In his last radio transmission before the helicopter went down, he reported that he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer. Investigators have not faulted his decision. or determined why he made it. The FAA warns helicopter pilots that it is their job to decide whether to cancel a flight because of bad weather or other risks, and to have a backup plan in case weather worsens during the flight. Randy Waldman, a Los Angeles helicopter flight instructor who viewed tracking data of the flight’s path and saw a photo of the dense fog in the area at the time, speculated that Zobayan got disoriented in the clouds, a common danger for pilots. He said Zobayan should have turned around or landed but may have felt the pressure to reach his destination, an occupational hazard for pilots often referred to as “got-to-get-there-itis” or “get-home-itis.” “Somebody who’s a wealthy celebrity who can afford a helicopter to go places, the reason they take the helicopter is so they can get from A to B quickly with no hassle,” Waldman said. “Anybody that flies for a living there’s sort of an inherent pressure to get the job done because if too many times they go, ‘No, I don’t think I can fly, the weather’s getting bad or it’s too windy,’ ... they’re going to lose their job.” Deetz said he often flew Bryant to games at Staples Center, and never remembered the Lakers star or his assistants pressing him to fly in bad weather. “There was never any pressure Kobe put on any pilot to get somewhere — never, never,” Deetz said. Deetz said that he flew with Zobayan a half-dozen times and that he was familiar with airspace and terrain around Los Angeles and knew “the back doors” -- alternative routes in case of trouble, such weather changes. Others who knew Zobayan praised him as unflappable and skilled at the controls. “Helicopters are scary machines, but he really knew what he was doing,” said Gary Johnson, vice president of airplane parts manufacturer Ace Clearwater Enterprises, who had flown with Zobayan about 30 times in roughly eight years. “I wouldn’t do it unless he was the pilot.” Zobayan was chief pilot for the craft’s owner, Island Express Helicopters. He also was a flight instructor, had more than 8,000 hours of flight time and had flown Bryant and other celebrities, including Kylie Jenner. He even had a bit TV part when he and actor Lorenzo Lamas, a fellow pilot, flew the ex-girlfriend of comedian Andy Dick around in a chopper for an episode of “Celebrity Wife Swap.” Island Express has had three previous helicopter crashes since 1985, two of them fatal, according to the NTSB'’s accident database. All involved flights to or from the company’s main destination of Santa Catalina Island, about 20 miles off the Southern California coast. In 2008, three people were killed and three injured when an Island Express helicopter was destroyed as it came in for a landing on the island. Investigators said the chopper lost power, probably as a result of cracking in turbine blades inside the engine. Fatal helicopter accidents have fluctuated between 17 and 30 a year since 2013, according to a safety group that includes representatives of the helicopter industry and the Federal Aviation Administration. The rate of accidents per hours flown has declined slightly over that time. Inclement weather has been cited as a cause of other deadly celebrity helicopter crashes. Grammy-winning blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan was among five people killed in 1990 when their helicopter slammed into a hill in dense fog after leaving a concert in Wisconsin. Music promoter Bill Graham and two others, including the pilot, were killed when the pilot ignored warnings not to fly in rain and fog and flew into power lines outside San Francisco in 1991. On Tuesday, the last of the bodies and the wreckage were recovered from the weekend crash in Calabasas. Fingerprints were used to confirm the identity of Bryant, 41; Zobayan; John Altobelli, 56; and Sarah Chester, 45. While the the coroner has not identified five other victims, relatives and acquaintances have identified them as Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna; Sarah Chester's 13-year-old daughter, Payton; Altobelli's wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa; and Christina Mauser, who helped Bryant coach his daughter's team. ___ Condon reported from New York and Koenig from Dallas. Associated Press writers Justin Pritchard, Robert Jablon, Christopher Weber and Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles contributed to this story.
  • Hall of Fame defensive end Chris Doleman, who became one of the NFL's most feared pass rushers during 15 seasons in the league, has died. He was 58. The Minnesota Vikings and Pro Football Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker offered their condolences in separate statements late Tuesday night. There was no word on the timing of Doleman's death, but he had surgery in January 2018 to remove a brain tumor and Baker said he passed away “after a prolonged and courageous battle against cancer.' “I had the honor of getting to know him not only as a great football player but an outstanding human being,' Baker said. “One of the honors of my life was witnessing Chris get baptized in the Jordan River during a Hall of Fame trip to Israel. The legacy of Chris Doleman will live forever in Canton, Ohio, for generations to learn from how he lived a life of courage and character.' Doleman played college ball for Pittsburgh before he was selected by Minnesota in the first round of the 1985 NFL draft. He spent his first nine seasons with the Vikings, collecting a league-high 21 sacks in 1989. The 6-foot-5 Doleman also played for Atlanta and San Francisco before finishing his career with Minnesota in 1999. He had 150 1/2 sacks in 232 games. He was a first-team All-Pro selection on two occasions, and also made eight Pro Bowls. Doleman, an Indianapolis native, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012. “Chris was a great example for players past and present, as he embodied all the best characteristics of a Viking — resilience, toughness and a competitive spirit,' the Vikings said. “Chris always carried himself with dignity and class. Vikings fans worldwide will greatly miss him.' ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • Shares advanced in most Asian markets on Wednesday after a rebound on Wall Street that reversed most losses from a sell-off the day before. Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 2.8%, to 27,174.43 after reopening from Lunar New Year holidays, while other Chinese markets remained closed. The U.S. rally overnight snapped a two-day skid driven by fears that the spread of a new virus in China could snag global economic growth. China reported Wednesday that the virus has sickened more than 6,000 people in China and over a dozen other countries and killed 132 people. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index gained 0.7% to 23,379.40 and in South Korea the Kospi picked up 0.5% to 2,188.04. Australia's S&P ASX/200 rose 0.5% to 7,031.50, while the Sensex in India climbed 0.8% to 41,283.40. Shares also rose in Southeast Asia, apart from Kuala Lumpur, which fell 1.4% as trading resumed after the Lunar New Year. Investors placed their concerns about the virus’ potential economic impact on the back burner on Tuesday and snapped up U.S. stocks beaten down earlier in the week, particularly chipmakers and other technology companies. The sector notched the biggest gain Tuesday and powered much of the rally. The S&P 500 index rose 1% to 3,276.24. The Dow gained 0.7% to 28,722.85. The Nasdaq climbed 1.4% to 9,269.68, while the Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks picked up 0.9%, to 1,658.31. But the potential for still more virus-related scares remains, analysts cautioned. “Markets may enjoy one or two days in the sun. I would be remiss in my role as the voice of reason if I did not caution investors to be wary of chasing, what may be temporary, dead cat bounces,' Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a commentary, “Until we have much more clarity on the controlling of the Wuhan virus outbreak at the very least.' Bond prices fell, sending yields higher following a significant drop a day earlier. The yield on the 10-year Treasury climbed to 1.65% from 1.60% late Tuesday. Despite the rebound, the major U.S. indexes are still down for the week. The losses have hit smaller company stocks hardest, erasing the Russell 2000’s gains for the year. U.S. stocks were running at all-time highs at the start of the month. An index measuring volatility in the market was running at 12-month lows and the benchmark S&P 500 had climbed around 13% since early October after Washington and Beijing announced they would sign a preliminary trade deal. That set the market up for a pullback, and investors’ jitters over the virus outbreak centered on the central Chinese city of Wuhan fit the bill. “It may be symptomatic about how bullish overall people have been and how much money still sits on the sidelines,” Frederick said. “People are just looking for any opportunity to get a bargain right now, but it could ultimately end up being a little bit risky to do that.” Hong Kong has joined much of China in seriously restricting travel by cutting all rail links to the mainland as of Friday. China's containment efforts began with the suspension of plane, train and bus links to Wuhan and has now expanded to 17 cities with more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease-control measures ever imposed. The United States and several other nations were taking steps to airlift citizens out of a Chinese city at the center of the outbreak. Still, U.S. health officials said Tuesday that, for now, the risks to Americans is very low. Otherwise, it's a heavy week for corporate earnings. Boeing, McDonald’s, Facebook and Microsoft will all report results on Wednesday. Other big names reporting this week include Coca-Cola, Amazon, Caterpillar and Exxon Mobil. The Federal Reserve is also set to deliver its latest interest rate and economic policy update Wednesday. The central bank lowered its key interest rate three times last year in a bid to shield the economy from slowing global growth and the fallout from the U.S.-China trade war. Benchmark crude oil rose 59 cents to $54.07 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 34 cents to settle at $53.48 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, gained 65 cents to $59.46 per barrel. Overnight it picked up 23 cents to close at $58.81 a barrel. Gold fell $4.30 to $1,565.50 per ounce, silver was unchanged at $17.46 per ounce and copper fell 2 cents to $2.58 per pound. The dollar slipped to 109.09 Japanese yen from 109.12 yen on Monday. The euro fell to $1.1018 from $1.1025. ___ AP Business Writers Alex Veiga and Damian J. Troise contributed.
  • Simona Halep went to work a long way from home in the off-season, out near the desert, not taking a day off. Her focus was on getting fitter in a bid to win a third major title, to go with the championships at Wimbledon last year and her career breakthrough at the French Open in 2018. Garbiñe Muguruza climbed Kilimanjaro, got away from it all. She didn't want to dwell on two relatively barren seasons since her Wimbledon win in 2017. After contrasting preparations, Halep is back in the Australian Open semifinals for the second time in three years, and Muguruza has made it for the first time at Melbourne Park. .The pair of two-time major winners will play off for a spot in the final after winning their quarterfinals in straight sets on Wednesday. Both have already won Wimbledon and the French Open and have been ranked No. 1, and are bidding for their first Grand Slam title on a hard court. “Any Grand Slam, it's a priority. I will not just choose one,' Halep said. “But, of course, it's going to be great if I will be able to win one on hard court.' There are three major winners in the last four, with reigning French Open champion Ash Barty playing No. 14 Sofia Kenin in the other women's semifinal Thursday. The top-ranked Barty is trying to end a drought for Australians at home: The last woman to win the singles championship was Chris O'Neil in 1978. Halep has been close before at Melbourne Park. She saved match points in the third round and in the semifinals in 2018 before losing the final in three sets to Caroline Wozniacki. “It's the opposite this year. It's better, though. I feel with more energy going to the semifinals. I feel more confident. I feel my game,' she said. “All in all, I'm confident.” The 28-year-old Romanian said that tough loss to Wozniacki was the catalyst for her breakthrough win that year at Roland Garros, where she beat Muguruza in the semifinals. On Wednesday, she needed only 53 minutes to beat first-time major quarterfinalist Kontaveit 6-1, 6-1. “Perfection doesn't exist, but I'm very happy with the way I played. I felt great on court. I was moving great. I felt the ball, like, really, really good,' she said. “It was a great match.' Halep spent three weeks in Dubai, her first offseason away from home, so she could focus fully on 2020. “No days off,' Halep said. Kontaveit held the opening game at love. From then on, it was all one way as Halep went on a relentless, 11-game roll. Seeded fourth, Halep has advanced to the last four without dropping a set, and said she feels like she's playing her best tennis. Muguruza was ill at the start of tournament and lost her first set 6-0 before recovering to beat U.S. qualifier Shelby Rogers in three sets, conceding just one further game in the match. She has followed that up with wins over two top 10 players — Wimbledon and U.S. Open semifinalist Elina Svitolina and No. 9 Kiki Bertens. The 26-year-old Spaniard took a little more than 1 1/2 hours to eliminate No. 30 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-3 in the quarterfinals, with both players struggling with their serves with the sun shining brightly at one end. The win earned Muruguza a spot in the Grand Slam semis for the first time since Roland Garros in '18. The loss dropped Pavlyuchenkova to 0-6 in quarterfinals at majors; she has entered 49 Slams without reaching the final four once. Her time on the mountain was “definitely was a life-changing experience,” Murgurza said, although she couldn't explain how because it's too complicated in a tournament environment. “But it definitely had an impact on me, not as a tennis player, but just in general,” she said. “Being through such a tough challenge, I think, yeah, did many things inside of me.” Asked to compare 2016 and 2017 to her most recent two years, she deflected a suggestion that the last two were like being 'in a coma.' “I would say I think those years were less successful if you compare them with my previous years,” she said. 'That's how I see it. I don't see it at all as a coma. I just think you struggle as a player, and there is moments where things don't go your way. “You just have to be patient and go through the rough moments, just hang in there and it will come back again.” ___ More AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Emboldened by a supportive White House, Israel appears to be barreling toward a showdown with the international community over its half-century-old settlement enterprise in the West Bank. With the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court poised to launch a war crimes probe of Israel’s settlement policies, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday announced plans to move ahead with the potentially explosive annexation of large parts of the occupied West Bank, including dozens of Jewish settlements. He spoke in Washington as President Donald Trump unveiled a Mideast peace plan that matches Netanyahu's nationalistic stance and undercuts Palestinian ambitions. This confluence of forces could make 2020 the year that finally provides clarity on the status of Israeli settlements and the viability of a two-state solution. “History is knocking at the door,” Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, a patron of the settler movement, said as he urged Netanyahu to immediately annex all of Israel’s settlements and snuff out any hopes for Palestinian independence. “Now the campaign is moving from the White House to the Cabinet room in Jerusalem,” he said. “Take everything now.” The Palestinians want the West Bank as the core of a future independent state and see the settlements there — home to nearly 500,000 Israelis — as obstacles to their dream of independence. The international community backs this view and overwhelmingly considers the settlements to be illegal. Since capturing the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war, Israel has slowly and steadily expanded its settlements while stopping short of annexing the territory. The international community condemned the construction as illegal but has refrained from imposing sanctions or serious punishment. This status quo began to change after Trump took office in early 2017. Surrounded by a team of advisers with close ties to the settlement movement, Trump took a more sympathetic line toward Israel and halted the automatic criticism of settlements of his predecessors. This resulted in a surge of Israeli construction plans that are just getting underway. “Over the next year and certainly two years, we’re going to see a sharp increase” in the settler population, said Baruch Gordon, director of West Bank Jewish Population Stats, a settler group. In its annual report, the group said the West Bank settler population grew last year to 463,353 people, in addition to some 300,000 settlers living in Israel-annexed east Jerusalem. “We’re here and we’re not going anywhere,” he said. The major turning point for Israel was in November, when the U.S. declared that it did not consider settlements to be illegal. That landmark decision appears to have played a key role in Netanyahu’s announcement that he plans to annex the Jordan Valley, a strategic area of the West Bank, and Israel’s more than 100 settlements. Ironically, this warm U.S. embrace could prove to be Netanyahu’s undoing. Moving ahead with annexations is likely to trigger harsh international condemnations and possible legal action. Last month, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, declared there is a “reasonable basis” to believe that settlement construction constitutes a war crime. Pending final approval from the court, she intends to open a formal investigation, a process that could cause deep embarrassment and discomfort for Israeli leaders. Yuval Shany, an expert on international law at the Israel Democracy Institute, said annexation would “significantly” raise the risk of triggering prosecution at the ICC. Settlements are widely viewed as illegal based on the Geneva Convention principle that an occupying power is barred from transferring its population into war-won territories. “That could be a relatively low-hanging fruit for the prosecutor to identify a specific act that is either part of the transfer or significantly aids and abets that transfer,” he said. While Israel does not accept the court’s authority, Netanyahu appears to be taking the threat of prosecution seriously. He has launched harsh attacks against Bensouda and the court, saying the case against Israel is “pure anti-Semitism.” He also has tried, with limited success, to rally international opposition to the ICC. The Palestinians joined the ICC in 2015 after they were accepted as a nonmember state at the United Nations. They then asked the court to look into alleged Israeli crimes in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, retroactive to 2014. The date coincided with Israel’s devastating war in the Gaza Strip. In her announcement last month, Bensouda said her probe would look at Israeli military practices as well as the actions of Hamas militants during the 2014 war, in addition to settlement activity. Shany said Israel is much more vulnerable on the settlement issue than it is with regard to Gaza. Israel’s military has mechanisms to investigate alleged wrongdoing by its troops, and despite criticism that this system is insufficient, it has a good chance of fending off the ICC. When it comes to settlements, however, Israel will have a difficult time defending its actions. While the court would have a hard time prosecuting Israelis, it could issue arrest warrants that would make it difficult for Israeli officials to travel abroad. A case in the ICC would also be deeply embarrassing to the government, Shany said. “The big white whale is the settlements,” he said. “That would be a major PR disaster for the country.”
  • One says Harvey Weinstein raped her after she let her guard down by telling herself he was only a “dirty old man.” The other claims he offered movie roles to her in exchange for joining in a threesome with him. The one-time aspiring actresses, Tarale Wulff and Dawn Dunning, are expected to describe those experiences from the 2000s with the disgraced movie mogul when they take the witness stand Wednesday at a New York City rape trial seen as a milestone for the #MeToo movement. Prosecutors are using the two so-called “Molineux” witnesses to bolster their case against Weinstein. The judge has allowed them to testify about “prior bad acts” that didn’t result in criminal charges because of the statute of limitations and other legal issues. Weinstein, 67, is charged with forcing oral sex on then-”Project Runway” production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006 and raping another aspiring actress in 2013, who could testify later this week. He’s insisted any sexual encounters were consensual and zeroed in on his accusers' continued contact with him after the alleged assaults. The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they have been victims of sexual assault, unless they agree to be named or gone public with their stories as Haleyi, Wulff, Dunning and “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra have done. Wulff met Weinstein in 2005 while working as a cocktail waitress at a members-only lounge at Cipriani’s, one of his favorite Manhattan haunts. Even after he cornered her in a hallway and started masterbating, she convinced herself Weinstein “was simply a dirty old man” and decided to take up his offer to read for potential acting roles, prosecutor Meghan Hast said in her opening statement. After Wulff read, Hast said, a driver took her to Weinstein’s apartment. There, the much bigger and heavier Weinstein pushed her onto a bed and raped her, the prosecutor said. Dunning alleges Weinstein fondled her genitals during a business meeting in his hotel suite in 2004 and on another occasion offered her three small movie roles, but only if she had three-way sex with he and his assistant. “Dawn tried to laugh it off, make a joke of it, but the defendant got angry,” Hast said. “‘This is how the industry works,’ he screamed at her. ‘How do you think other actresses got ahead?’” Hast said Dunning then fled. Jurors so far have heard a tearful Haleyi say how she tried to fight off Weinstein before he sexually assaulted her. Last week, Sciorra testified that Weinstein overpowered and raped her after barging into her apartment in the mid-1990s. On Tuesday, it was Elizabeth Entin, Haleyi's former roommate, who took stand to corroborate Haleyi's testimony. Before the alleged attack in Weinstein’s Soho apartment, Entin said, the friends viewed Weinstein as a “pathetic old man” for pursuing Haleyi, and were amused when her pet Chihuahua, Peanut, once chased him around their own apartment in the East Village. When a reporter asked Weinstein as he left the courtroom if he was afraid of Chihuahuas, he smiled and responded: “Do I look like I'm afraid of Chihuahuas?”
  • The United Arab Emirates on Wednesday confirmed the first cases in the Mideast of the new Chinese virus that causes flu-like symptoms, saying doctors now were treating a family that had just come from a city at the epicenter of the outbreak. The UAE’s state-run WAM news agency made the announcement citing the Health and Prevention Ministry, but offered no details on where the stricken family lived nor where they were receiving treatment. It also did not offer a number of those afflicted by the virus, other than to say the cases came from “members of a family arriving from the Chinese city of Wuhan.” The UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula that includes Dubai and Abu Dhabi, is home to long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad Airways and is a hub for global air travel. It wasn't immediately clear how the family left Wuhan and made it all the way to the UAE. China shut down Wuhan's airport and other transportation in the city last Thursday to stop the spread of the virus. The lockdown has since expanded to include 17 cities with more than 50 million people in all. Emirati officials are taking 'all the necessary precautions in accordance with the scientific recommendations, conditions and standards approved by the World Health Organization,' the ministry said. “The general health condition is not a cause for concern.' State-run and government-supporting media in the UAE carefully announced the news Wednesday, stressing that authorities said they had the situation under control. At Arab Health, a major trade show happening this week in Dubai, a few Emiratis and others attending wore surgical masks while walking among the crowds. The new type of coronavirus first appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December. It causes flu-like symptoms, such as cough and fever and in severe cases pneumonia, are similar to many other illnesses. It's from the coronavirus family, which includes those that can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as SARS and MERS. The viral outbreak that began in China has infected more than 6,000 people in the mainland and more than a dozen other countries. China's death toll has passed 130. Several countries have confirmed cases of the virus, with most of them being Chinese visitors, people who visited Wuhan or family members in close contact with the sick. The source of the virus and the full extent of its spread are still unknown. However, the World Health Organization said most cases reported to date “have been milder, with around 20% of those infected experiencing severe illness.” Facing lower oil prices and a slumping housing market, the UAE has been aggressively pursuing more Chinese tourists to this country home to the world's tallest building. Chinese visitors to the country can get visas on arrival to the UAE. Malls in Dubai now have Chinese on their signs alongside Arabic and English, with tour groups tramping through and high-end shoppers targeting luxury stores. Dubai alone welcomed 989,000 tourists from China in 2019, up 15% from 857,000 in 2018, according to the city-state's tourism department.