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Yesterday — May 7th 2021Your RSS feeds

Rio de Janeiro: Deadly police raid leaves 25 people dead

May 7th 2021 at 05:18

A massive police operation against drug traffickers in a Brazilian favela Thursday left 25 people dead, turning the impoverished Rio de Janeiro neighbourhood into a battlefield and drawing condemnation from rights groups.

A policeman was among those killed in the early morning raid on Jacarezinho, on Rio’s north side, where residents awoke to explosions, heavy gunfire and helicopters overhead.

Police confirmed the toll — and investigators said it was the deadliest police operation in the history of Rio de Janeiro state.

Police identified the other 24 dead as “suspects” and said all protocols had been followed before officers opened fire, but rights groups and academics cried foul.

“Who are the dead? Young black men. That’s why the police talk about ’24 suspects.’ Being a young, black favela resident automatically makes you a suspect to the police. They just keep piling up bodies and saying, ‘They’re all criminals,'” said Silvia Ramos, head of the Security Observatory at Candido Mendes University.

“Is this the public security policy we want? Shootouts, killings and police massacres?” she told AFP.

Large groups of heavily armed police could be seen streaming into the favela as frightened residents tentatively went about their business once the gunfire died down, AFP journalists said.

Residents reported seeing corpses lying on the pavement in pools of blood, and numerous bodies being taken out in an armoured police vehicle, a local community leader told AFP, asking that his name not be published for safety reasons.

At least two people were wounded when the subway car they were riding in was apparently caught in the crossfire during the operation, news site G1 reported.

TV network GloboNews showed aerial images of armed suspects fleeing from one residence to another in the densely packed neighbourhood during the raid, passing what looked like high-powered rifles from hand to hand.

“Unfortunately, there were many clashes in the area. There is nothing to celebrate with this toll,” one police official told a press conference, adding that the officer killed was shot in the head.

Rights groups and residents later inspected the houses targeted — some had blood stains and damage from the shootout.


Police said the operation targeted a gang suspected of recruiting children and teenagers for drug trafficking, robberies, assaults and murders.

They said the sting grew out of a surveillance operation that obtained a warrant to wire-tap suspects’ communications.

That led them to identify 21 gang members “responsible for ensuring the gang’s territorial dominance,” they said.

The group “had set up a war-style structure with hundreds of ‘soldiers’ equipped with rifles, pistols, grenades, bulletproof vests, camouflage fatigues and other military accessories,” they added.

The neighborhood is considered a base for the Comando Vermelho, or Red Command, the iconic beach city’s biggest drug gang.

However, rights activists questioned why recruiting minors — a common practice among Brazilian gangs — would lead to such a deadly operation.

There were also questions about the timing: The operation came despite a Supreme Court ruling barring police from carrying out raids in Brazil’s impoverished favelas during the coronavirus pandemic except in “absolutely exceptional circumstances.”

One resident told AFP that a young man had been killed in her home, where he had sought refuge after being wounded.

“The boy had been shot when he arrived here, and as no resident of this community will kick out another, he stayed. But the police saw blood and came in shouting: ‘Where is he? Where is he?'” the woman said.

“I only had time to take my children out back… they killed him in the room.”


Rio, a city of 6.7 million people, is notorious for its violence.

Rio de Janeiro state was placed under military intervention in 2018 in a bid to rein in the violence, which includes a troubled history of deadly police shootings.

Last year, at least 1,245 people were killed by police in the state, according to ISP, Rio’s public security institute.

That was down from a record 1,814 police killings in 2019, but still higher than, for example, the 1,127 people killed by police last year across the entire United States.

“It is unacceptable that Rio de Janeiro’s public security policy continues to bet on killing as a strategy,” said the Igarape Institute, a think tank.

Robert Muggah, the institute’s co-founder, said the deadly raid was “the predictable outcome of years of belligerent tough-on-crime rhetoric” from pro-gun, far-right leaders including President Jair Bolsonaro and Rio’s recently impeached governor, Wilson Witzel.

by Mauro PIMENTEL © Agence France-Presse

Giro d’Italia preview: Remco Evenepoel takes fight to Simon Yates, Egan Bernal

May 7th 2021 at 03:56

Young Belgian rider Remco Evenepoel returns from injury with hopes high that he can challenge the likes Simon Yates and Egan Bernal in the Giro d’Italia, which gets underway on Saturday.


The 21-year-old, dubbed the heir to the legendary Eddy Merckx, fractured his pelvis after hitting a bridge wall and plunging into a ravine during the Tour of Lombardy in Italy last August.

Saturday’s opening stage is an 8.6km time trial along the River Po in Turin, and after covering 3 480km around the peninsula the Giro finishes back in the north in front of Milan’s Duomo on May 30.

Former Vuelta a Espana winner Yates, who was forced to retire from last year’s delayed Giro after testing positive for Covid-19, returns and warmed up with a win on the Tour of the Alps.


Colombian Bernal, the 2019 Tour de France champion, will compete for the first time in the race around Italy.

Remco Evenepoel played down expectations ahead of his first Grand Tour, nine months after last competing.


“You can’t prepare for a race 100 percent without racing, but that’s the risk that we took,” said the Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider, the European junior champion in 2018.

Evenepoel burst into the limelight with success in all four stage races that he took part in last season, including the Tour of Poland, before his horror fall.

Bernal conceded Remco Evenepoel was a bit of a dark horse.

“I haven’t come up against him often in groups, so I can’t say. He has certainly shown to have great talent,” said the Colombian.

The Belgian’s team-mate Joao Almeida is also hopeful of a result having worn the ‘pink jersey’ for 15 consecutive days last year and finishing fourth overall.

French team-mate Remi Cavagna will be among the favourites for the opening time trial along with Italian world champion Filippo Ganna of Ineos.

Victorious in two of the last three editions, Ineos have placed their trust in Bernal, one of the jewels of the most powerful teams in the peloton. 

The Colombian conceded his ambitions will all depend how his back holds up, having not raced since mid-March, unlike Yates, who dominated the recent Tour of the Alps.

Australian Jai Hindley of Team DSM finished second overall last year, and also has high hopes, along with former two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali of Italy. 

The race should suit the climbers with eight finishes at altitude.

But before attacking Monte Zoncolan on stage 14, and the great passes of the Dolomites, on stage 16, the race crosses the peninsula, even if it neglects the heel of Italy’s boot this time.

The final 30km time trial through Milan proved decisive last year for last year’s champion Tao Geoghegan Hart, who is absent this year.

“We are approaching the Giro with even more ambition after our unfortunate exclusion from 2020,” said Team Bike Exchange manager Brent Copeland, after being forced out of last year’s race because of coronavirus. 

The last three editions, such as Briton Chris Froome’s spectacular stage 19 comeback in 2018 to snatch the overall lead which he never relinquished, prove that anything is possible. 

Meanwhile this year, the ‘pink jersey’ race celebrates the 160th anniversary of Italian unification, with the start in Turin honouring the country’s first capital.

A look at the five key stages of the 2021 Giro d’Italia, which runs from May 8-30, before Saturday’s opening 8.6km time-trial along the River Po in Turin:

Strade Bianchi to kick up some dust

Stage 11: Perugia – Montalcino, 162km

As the dust settles on the early running and the first rest day, stage 11 through Tuscany will kick up a new cloud on the 35km section that gives the Strade Bianchi classic its name.

Australian Cadel Evans emerged the winner here in 2010 on a rainy day that covered the riders in white mud on the non-tarmac section of a region known for its wines.

The monster climb

Stage 14: Cittadella – Monte Zoncolan, 205km

Taking in the multilingual region near Austria and Slovenia, the 14th stage takes the race back to Monte Zoncolan and features the steepest finish of this year’s Giro, with double-digit gradients towards the peak in the final kilometres. 

Three mountains in the Dolomites

Stage 16: Sacile – Cortina d’Ampezzo, 212km

Three climbs that marked the centenary edition of the Giro will make the 16th stage a potential turning point for the contenders against the epic backdrop of the Dolomite mountains. The second climb takes the Giro to its highest point at 2,239m and is being touted as the ‘Queen stage’ with its 5,700m of climbing.

The final and maybe decisive mountain

Stage 20: Verbania – Alpe Motta, 164km

The penultimate stage is a testing sidestep into Switzerland to climb the San Bernardino and the Splugen passes, both well above the clouds and with treelines at over 2000m. But the decider could well be the Alpe Motta which rounds off 4800m of climbing.

Last day time trial delivers champion

Stage 21: Senago – Milan, 30.3km

Anyone who witnessed last year’s triumphant final day entry into Milan of young British champion Tao Geoghegan Hart as he overturned Jai Hindley’s lead is also likely to enjoy the 30.3km concluding race against the clock, which culminates in front of the Duomo.

Super Rugby Aotearoa final: Chances Scott Robertson breaks out in dance?

May 7th 2021 at 03:47

The Reds are seeking revenge while across the Tasman, the Crusaders will look to extend their dominance when Australia and New Zealand’s domestic Super Rugby competitions play their finals this weekend.


The Reds narrowly lost last year’s Super Rugby AU decider 28-23 to the Brumbies and admit the defeat still smarts, setting up an epic rematch in front of 50 000 fans in Brisbane on Saturday.

Reds scrumhalf Tate McDermott said footage of the Brumbies celebrating after last year’s win provided ample motivation for Saturday’s clash.

“We’ve re-watched that final minute of the grand final, where you see them kick it out and there’s a bit of carry on and they win,” he said.

“There’s definitely been a fire burning since that moment last year that has really helped the team… we do owe them a lot from that game.”


The Reds have overtaken the Brumbies as Australia’s most consistent team this year, losing only once in an outstanding season that has included two victories over their Canberra-based rivals.

Coach Dan McKellar admitted his Brumbies were the underdogs but warned the Queenslanders not to expect an easy victory in front of what is likely to be a sold-out Suncorp Stadium.


“We’re quite happy – backs to the wall, big crowd at Suncorp, just ourselves and our family to bounce off,” he said.

“We’ll go out there and prove a few people wrong and continue our reign as Australia’s leading team over a number of years. That’s the goal.”

Over in New Zealand, the Crusaders are red-hot favourites to defend the Super Rugby Aotearoa title, adding a second domestic championship to the record 10 international Super Rugby titles already in the trophy cabinet.

Victory against Chiefs in Christchurch on Saturday would make it five straight years the Crusaders have won Super Rugby or Super Rugby Aotearoa.


They are unbeaten in 24 post-season matches contested at home, including six finals, and coach Scott Robertson said it was not a record they would give up lightly.

“Occasions like this are exactly what we play for, the chance to represent the people of our region on the big stage,” he said.

By contrast, the Chiefs began the season as competition losing their first two matches to compound the pain of a winless 2020.

But a five-match run of success turned their campaign around, with coach Clayton McMillan saying the Chiefs felt a burden had been lifted and they could defeat anyone, even an outfit as formidable as the Crusaders.

“On any given day, any team can be beaten, and we’ve proven that,” he said. 

“This weekend we are going down to Christchurch with confidence and believe we can upset the Crusaders.”

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Australian IPL cricketers flee Covid-hit India … for the Maldives

May 6th 2021 at 07:01

Australian cricketers fled Covid-ravaged India for the Maldives on Thursday, but New Zealand’s top stars are stuck in Delhi until May 11, the earliest they can secure exemptions to enter England where they are due to play a Test series.


Cricket authorities have been rushing to evacuate players and support staff after the lucrative Indian Premier League was abandoned this week.

India reported 3 980 deaths and more than 412 000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

While most overseas-based players headed home, the Australians, including Steve Smith, David Warner and Pat Cummins, are unable to do so after Canberra slammed shut its borders and threatened anyone entering from India with jail time.

They must wait until at least May 15, when the travel ban will be reviewed.


In the meantime, the 37 players, coaches, officials and TV commentators left for the Maldives, reportedly on a charter flight arranged and paid for by the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

“Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association can confirm Australian players, coaches, match officials and commentators have been safely transported from India and are en route to the Maldives,” CA said in a statement.

“The Australians will remain in the Maldives until the conclusion of the travel pause pertaining to flights from India to Australia.”


They are likely to be chartered back to Australia once the ban has been lifted, again with the help of the BCCI.

But Chennai Super Kings batting coach Mike Hussey was not among the travelling party, forced to remain in isolation after testing positive to the virus.

CA said he was “experiencing mild symptoms” and would remain in the care of the Super Kings until it was safe for him to return to Australia.

New Zealand are due to play a Test series with England next month before contesting the World Test Championship against India.

Their IPL-based Test stars – Kane Williamson, Kyle Jamieson and Mitchell Santner, as well as physio Tommy Simsek – can only depart India for Britain on May 11, the earliest an exemption could be obtained.

Fellow Test regular Trent Boult has opted to return home to see family before reconnecting with the squad in early June, potentially in time for the second Test. The first Test is due to start in London on June 2.

The rest of New Zealand’s IPL contingent will leave Delhi for Auckland on Friday on one of two charter flights.

“We’ve worked closely with the BCCI and the IPL franchises on the various departure strategies and we’re very appreciative of their support during what is, clearly, a very challenging time,” said NZC chief executive David White.

The IPL started in early April. The decision to go ahead in the face of a deepening health crisis prompted criticism from some observers, while others defended it as a welcome distraction.

Chelsea dominate Real Madrid to set up all-English Champions League final

May 6th 2021 at 03:15

Chelsea set up an all-English Champions League final against Manchester City as goals from Timo Werner and Mason Mount beat Real Madrid 2-0 in a dominant display on Wednesday to seal a 3-1 aggregate victory at Stamford Bridge.


If anything, the scoreline flattered Madrid as the 13-time European champions had no response to Chelsea’s greater strength and speed.

The Blues should have ran out far more convincing winners as they toyed with the tired visitors in the second half.

However, Werner’s cushioned header into an empty net on 28 minutes after Kai Havertz’s initial effort came back off the crossbar and Mount’s tap-in five minutes from time were enough to seal their place in Istanbul on May 29.


“To never lose the concentration, focus and positive energy on the pitch – it was a huge performance and well deserved,” said Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel, who has masterminded a huge turnaround in Chelsea’s season since replacing the sacked Frank Lampard in January.

Backed by Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, Chelsea’s £220 million spending spree last summer has been rewarded with a first Champions League final since they lifted the trophy for the only time in 2012.

“We never lost the hunger, the desire to defend,” added Tuchel.

“In the second half we had even better structure to defend and it was a fantastic performance.

“We could have scored so much earlier and more to be safe, but it’s no time for criticism now. It’s a fantastic achievement and big congratulations to the team.”


Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane welcomed back captain Sergio Ramos for the first time in six weeks, while Eden Hazard was handed a rare start in an injury-hit season on his return to Stamford Bridge.

But the Belgian was again a peripheral figure as Madrid’s over-reliance on Karim Benzema to provide a goal threat was exposed.


“We needed to be better going forward,” said Zidane.

“We didn’t have any clear chances. They made a number of them and that’s football.

“We fought and tried but they deserved to win and go through.”

Madrid’s only serious threat came from a quick turn and shot from the edge of the box from Benzema that Edouard Mendy did brilliantly to turn behind midway through the first half.

Moments later they were behind as Werner scored just his fourth goal in his last 39 games.

N’Golo Kante and Havertz did the hard work as the French midfielder fed Havertz, whose audacious chip over Thibaut Courtois bounced invitingly off the crossbar for Werner to head into an empty net.

Chelsea have now kept 18 clean sheets in 24 games since the appointment of Tuchel turned their season around.

However, a failure to take their chances at the other end means they are still far from guaranteed a place in the Champions League next season.

That lack of a killer touch was exposed after the break as Havertz saw a free header come back off the bar before Mount blasted over with just Courtois to beat.

The former Chelsea ‘keeper, who controversially forced a move back to Spain in the summer of 2018, kept his current employers in the tie as he then saved one-on-ones with Havertz and Kante, with the Blues’ speed on the break too much for Madrid’s ageing midfield to cope with.

Tuchel was growing increasingly frustrated with his side’s inability to put the tie to bed, but could finally relax five minutes from time.

Substitute Christian Pulisic left Courtois on the floor and from his cut-back, Mount slid in to finish from close range.

Fired by Paris Saint-Germain on Christmas Eve after leading the French champions to their first ever final in this competition last season, Tuchel is headed back to the Champions League showpiece match for a second consecutive season, unlike his former club, who were beaten 4-1 on aggregate by City in the other semi-final.

Gangs, gunshots ‘the norm’ in Springbok Cheslin Kolbe’s ‘rough’ childhood

May 6th 2021 at 02:56

More than most people, South Africa wing Cheslin Kolbe, now the toast of Toulouse, is used to avoiding trouble.


On the field he is best known for using his quick feet to find a handkerchief of space before accelerating away to score but off the field, as a kid, the Rugby World Cup winner needed that speed to stay out of harm’s way.

The 5-foot-7 winger was brought up in Kraaifontein, a northern suburb of Cape Town which also produced 2016 400m Olympic gold medalist Wayde van Niekerk, who just happens to be his cousin. 


“You have to grow up just playing in the streets and all of a sudden all you hear is gunshots, gang members fighting each other. That was the norm, each and every day,” the 27-year-old told AFP this week.

“After a while you get used to the way things happen around you. It’s scary to notice what I was faced with from a young age.

“It was a rough upbringing but I definitely wouldn’t want it any other way,” he added.

Kolbe said the coronavirus pandemic has worsened the situation at home considerably.


South Africa has officially recorded more than 1.5 million cases of Covid, of which over 54 000 have been fatal.

“The feedback I get from friends is that it’s 10 times worse than what it was since we grew up,” Kolbe said.

“People are vulnerable with Covid, losing their jobs, becoming more desperate to get food on the table so they do whatever it takes. 

“They will steal something from you, that they can sell for money, or to get food or to buy drugs to keep themselves going,” he added.


Kolbe’s father, Andrew, played local rugby in the town, which gave the young Cheslin a role model and a routine. 

“It gave me the opportunity to go to training with him during the week and on weekends I would go and watch him. I always kept myself busy with wherever my Dad was,” he said.

“I would follow him around. It kept me on the right path by not making silly or decision that I would have regretted,” he added.

Kolbe senior’s rugby hopes were stymied by the apartheid system which only came to an end with the election of Nelson Mandela as president in April 1994, six months after Cheslin was born.

“My Dad has always not wanted to feed me with what happened in the past and keeps me looking ahead and wanting the best for me,” the 14-time Springbok said.

“I wouldn’t say I was faced with a lot of racism at a young age. But I definitely got the other side, I was always criticised for not being the biggest player on the field,” he added.

Kolbe’s path to wearing the Green and Gold of his country in 2018 took him to the Rio Olympics two years earlier when South Africa won the Sevens bronze medal.

But it also landed him criticism by former players and coaches, such as Nick Mallett, who wanted him to move to play scrumhalf.

“I’m really tired of the comments about my size. I have friends who sent me screen shots of people still saying I’m too small, that I’m not the best,” he said.

“I’m a firm believer that this game is meant for each and every human being, no matter how big or small you are.

“I’m still working on it to stay on top of my game because people look for the one mistake. They’ll wait for me to miss a tackle to get on the wagon,” he added. 

This weekend, Kolbe’s French club Toulouse travel to Toulon ahead of a busy few months for club and country.

Including the busy domestic run-in he is set to feature in his first Champions Cup final on May 22 before the Springboks host the British and Irish Lions.

“I still want to achieve a lot of things with Toulouse. Another Top 14 and a European Cup. That’s a big one, with us in the final,” he said.

“If we can top that off it would have been a good ride for these past four years and hopefully that can continue.”


Jarryd Hayne: Ex-49er, Australian rugby league star jailed for sexual assault

May 6th 2021 at 02:41

Former Australia rugby league star and San Francisco 49er Jarryd Hayne was on Thursday jailed for five years and nine months over the sexual assault of a woman at her home in 2018.


The 33-year-old – best known outside Australia for a short-lived attempt to break into the NFL – was found guilty in March on two counts of intercourse without consent.

He must serve at least three years and eight months before being eligible for parole.

Jarryd Hayne was sentenced at a court in Newcastle, north of Sydney, after the judge heard the woman describe how the incident had changed her life.


“Yes I am destroyed and damaged but I am still standing,” the 26-year-old, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said in a victim impact statement.

The pair met on social media and the woman reported that he attacked her at her home in Newcastle on the night of the National Rugby League grand final.

Former Parramatta Eels star Hayne insisted it was consensual, but District Court Judge Helen Syme disagreed.


“The reliability and honesty of the victim’s evidence was tested at length and in my view, her reliability was not in doubt. She said no several times,” Syme said, according to broadcaster ABC.

The Sydney-born Jarryd Hayne was the NRL’s player of the year in 2009 and 2014, making more than 20 appearances for New South Wales in State of Origin matches, which pit New South Wales against Queensland.

He was capped 12 times by Australia and four by Fiji, where his father comes from, as well as representing Fiji in rugby sevens.

Hayne attempted a career in the NFL in 2015 as a kick returner and running back, but experienced only fleeting success during a tough first season with the San Francisco 49ers.

He played eight times for the 49ers, making 79 yards and scoring no touchdowns.

Frenchwoman shot and burnt alive in the street on Wednesday, say police

May 5th 2021 at 15:44

A 31-year-old Frenchwoman was killed by her husband near Bordeaux, France on Tuesday, 4 May. The man reportedly shot the mother of three in the legs before dousing her with a flammable liquid and setting her on fire in the street, police said on Wednesday.


The attack took place on Tuesday during daylight hours in the busy streets of Merignac, which is near the Bordeaux airport in the southwest of the country, according to AFP.

Police said the 44-year-old man shot at the woman several times while she fled down a street. The bullets struck her legs and when she collapsed, he set her alight.

The couple were separated at the time and their three children aged 3, 7 and 11 lived with the deceased.

Police tracked down and arrested the man within half an hour. He was found in the neighbouring district of Pessac with weapons and ammunition, including a pistol, a pellet gun and a cartridge belt, according to the local prosecutor’s office.

The 44-year-old is suspected of murdering his wife and starting a fire that damaged her house. Fortunately, the children were not home during the tragic attack but the prosecutor’s office said they would receive trauma counselling. Witnesses of the killing will also receive counselling.


France has one of the worst rates of femicide in Europe. There were several demonstrations against domestic violence and killings in France, in 2019, after 146 women were murdered by their spouses or partners that year. It was an increase of 21% on the number of killings in the previous year.

Protestors called for reform and argued that women who attempted to report abuse at police stations were turned away often. As a response to the outcry, government signed off on new legislature that included 40 emergency measures – one of which was an electronic bracelet that alerted women when their abusers were in the vicinity.

Ninety women were killed in the country in 2020.

Paul Verhoeven’s shock film ‘Benedetta’ to compete at Cannes [watch]

May 5th 2021 at 14:42

Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, known for garish but smart classics such as “Basic Instinct” and “Starship Troopers”, will compete at this year’s Cannes Film Festival with Benedetta, organisers said on Wednesday 5 May.

The film was considered a likely entry at last year’s festival, which was ultimately cancelled due to the pandemic. 

Verhoeven courts controversy

Verhoeven, who has often courted controversy with his graphic depictions of sex and violence, has taken part in several competitions at Cannes but has never been awarded.

Topical ‘Benedetta’ based on true story

Benedetta certainly seems topical, set in a 15th century Italian convent hit by the plague, focusing on the life of a lesbian nun with miraculous powers.

Co-written by Elle screenwriter David Birke, the film is based on a true story. It is adapted from the room Sister Benedetta, between saint and lesbian by Judith C Brown, recounting the fate of the mystic Benedetta Carlini.

It stars Belgian actress Virginie Efira, who also appeared in Verhoeven’s critically acclaimed Elle in 2016, as well as British arthouse favourite Charlotte Rampling. 

Co-written by Elle screenwriter David Birke, the film is based on a true story. It is adapted from Sister Benedetta, Between Saint and Lesbian by Judith C Brown, recounting the fate of the mystic Benedetta Carlini.

Other Cannes contenders

Benedetta is the second film to be confirmed for this year’s festival, which has been postponed to 6-8 July from its usual slot in May. 

The other is Annette starring Marion Cotillard and Adam Driver by French director Leos Carax, which will open the festival. 

Also hotly tipped for the competition are The French Dispatch by Wes Anderson and Tre Piani from Italian director Nanni Moretti.

The official selection is due to be announced in late May.

By © Agence France-Presse

Paul Verhoeven's shock film 'Benedetta' to compete at Cannes [watch]

The new steamy period drama by 'Basic Instinct' director Paul Verhoeven stars Virginie Efira as a lesbian nun with miraculous powers.

Woman, 25, gives birth to nine healthy babies, says Mali government

May 4th 2021 at 18:33

A 25-year-old woman has allegedly given birth to nine healthy babies, according to the Malian government.  Mali flew Halima Cisse to Morocco where she gave birth on Tuesday, 4 May so that the she would receive better health care.

The Moroccan government, however, are yet to confirm if she successfully carried all nine children to term. Fingers crossed, as it would be a remarkable case if true.


According to AFP, the Malian government flew the pregnant Cisse – who is from the north of the West African country – to Morocco on 30 March, to ensure she received better care. Initially, it was believed that Cisse was expecting seven babies.

According to local reports, doctors were concerned about Cisse’s health and her babies’ chances of survival.

Women rarely successfully give birth septuplets, therefore, birthing healthy nonuplets would be an even rarer occurrence.

The world’s first set of surviving septuplets – the McCaughey’s – were born in 1997 in Iowa in the United States. The four boys and three girls were born nine weeks early.

In 1971, an Australian woman, Geraldine Brodrick, gave birth to nonuplets in Sydney, according to a New York Times archive article. Seven of the nine babies were born alive. Unfortunately, none of the Brodrick nonuplets survived for more than six days after their birth.


Mali’s health ministry issued a statement that said Cisse had birthed five girls and four boys via Caesarean section. “The mother and babies are doing well so far,” said Health Minister Fanta Siby to AFP.

She added that the Malian doctor who accompanied Cisse to Morocco kept her abreast of developments and that the mother and chidren are expected to return home in several weeks’ time.

“[T]he medical teams of Mali and Morocco, whose professionalism is at the origin of the happy outcome of this pregnancy,” said Siby, congratulating the medical workers that helped Cisse give birth.

Rachid Koudhari, the Moroccan health ministry spokesperson, however, said no multiple births have taken place in the country’s hospitals as far as he knows.

READ: Nearly 120 fake Krugerrand coins seized by US Customs in New York

‘Samurai’ sword attack at Brazil daycare kills three children, two staff

May 4th 2021 at 17:14

An 18-year-old attacker armed with a samurai-style sword burst into a daycare center in Brazil on Tuesday and killed three children and two staff, local police said, leaving the small southern town in shock.

The attacker then turned his weapon on himself, gashing his own neck, abdomen and torso, said authorities in Saudades, a town of 10,000 people in Santa Catarina state.

“He was taken to the hospital in critical condition,” police said in a statement.

Officials did not indicate a motive for the gruesome attack and said the assailant had no criminal record.

“When firefighters arrived at the daycare center, they saw an extremely brutal scene. There were already children dead, an employee also,” emergency worker Leonardo Ecco told journalists.

Employee Aline Biazebetti, who was at her home near the daycare center, described the horror of realizing what was happening inside.

“I heard screams, cries for help. I told my father, ‘Something’s going on at the daycare.’ I went outside and saw my colleagues calling for help: ‘Please, call the police, an armed guy came in and is killing the children,'” said Biazebetti, 27.

“I managed to call the police. They came out with an injured child, so my father got the car and we took him to the hospital.”

The children’s ages were not released. Local media reported that the center was for children aged six months to two years.

A fourth child suffered light wounds, police chief Jeronimo Marcal Ferreira told journalists outside the daycare, where police and emergency workers had cordoned off the area.

A policeman described the attacker’s weapon as “samurai-style,” and displayed it to the press: a long knife or short sword wrapped in yellow plastic and sealed in an evidence bag.

Governor Daniela Reinehr declared three days of mourning across the state.

The last deadly school attack in Brazil was in March 2019, when two former students shot eight people dead before killing themselves at a high school in the southeastern town of Suzano, near Sao Paulo.

© Agence France-Presse

READ: School Violence: Teacher now in critical condition after stabbing

Giro d’Italia: Egan Bernal set for debut as Ineos co-leader

May 4th 2021 at 14:54

Former Tour de France champion Egan Bernal will share leadership duties on his Giro d’Italia debut with Pavel Sivakov as part of an eight-man Ineos team announced on Tuesday.


Egan Bernal, 24, is one of the favourites for the Giro and will also have Colombian compatriot Daniel Martinez for support in the three-week race which starts in Turin on Saturday.

Ineos selected three Italian riders, world time trial champion Filippo Ganna, Gianni Moscon and Salvatore Puccio.


Spain’s Jonathan Castroviejo and Jhonatan Narvaez of Ecuador complete the line-up for a team that has won two of the three past editions of the Giro.

Chris Froome triumphed in 2018 with Tao Geoghegan Hart taking victory last year.

Martinez won last season’s Criterium du Dauphine while Russia’s Sivakov came ninth at the Giro on his debut in 2019.


Ineos team:

Egan Bernal (COL), Jonathan Castroviejo (ESP), Filippo Ganna (ITA), Daniel Martinez (COL), Gianni Moscon (ITA), Jhonatan Narvaez (ECU), Salvatore Puccio (ITA), Pavel Sivakov (RUS)


Introducing your Grenadiers for the #Giro

Bring. It. On.

— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) May 4, 2021

Nordahl Lelandais: The accused killer of girl, 8, whose case chilled France

May 3rd 2021 at 08:24

A former soldier who has confessed to killing an eight-year-old girl in a case that horrified France went on trial Monday on charges of murdering another man just months before.

Police initially said after Nordahl Lelandais was arrested in 2017 that they were looking again at 40 unsolved disappearances and cold cases, including the 2012 massacre of a British-Iraqi family in their car in the Alps.

But since then nothing has emerged to back the theories that the former military dog handler was a serial killer. He has insisted that both killings of the little girl and the 24-year-old soldier were accidental.

Here are some of the most high-profile cases Lelandais, 38, has been linked to: 

Vanished at a wedding –
Eight-year-old Maelys De Araujo vanished on August 27, 2017 from a wedding in the Alps.

For six months the police searched in vain for her body in a case that gripped the nation.

Lelandais had been a guest at the wedding and was swiftly the chief suspect, but he denied the crime until the child’s DNA was found in his car. 

The military dog trainer finally guided investigators to her body in February 2018.

Lelandais admitted to having killed the girl “by mistake” and hiding her corpse.

Young hitchhiker –
Lelandais went on trial Monday for murdering another soldier four months before he killed Maelys.

Arthur Noyer, 24, was last seen in April 2017 as he was hitchhiking in the town of Chambery after leaving a nightclub.

Parts of his skull were found by a hiker in September that year and telephone records placed Noyer and Lelandais in the same area at the same time on the night of the soldier’s disappearance.

Investigators found that Lelandais, a martial arts fan, had looked up “decomposition of a human body” on his computer after the soldier vanished.

He was charged with the killing — which he admitted to police — in December 2017.

Sexual abuse of cousins –
In separate investigations, Lelandais admitted the sexual assault of two of his second cousins, both minors, who he also filmed. 

He is also charged with molesting a third cousin, who was 14 at the time, the day of her father’s funeral. 

Alps murder mystery –
Prosecutors in 2017 said Lelandais may be connected to some 40 other unsolved cases. But more than three years later none have gone further.

This month, Grenoble prosecutor Jacques Dallest told local media that “Lelandais may have killed other people but we may never know”.

However, a judicial source told AFP that “no link has been established with other disappearances”.

The most notorious of these unsolved cases was the murder of a British family near the Alpine village of Chevaline in 2012. A cyclist was also gunned down.

The two young daughters survived the gruesome attack, one hiding under her dead mother’s skirts for hours.

Detectives said in 2019 that a different modus operandi made it unlikely Lelandais was responsible.

© Agence France-Presse

READ: The 10 worst South African serial killers in history

Handre Pollard is back! Helps Montpellier reach Challenge Cup final

May 2nd 2021 at 03:56

Montpellier scrumhalf Benoit Paillaugue said Springbok Rugby World Cup winner Handre Pollard will have “a very big role to play” in the rest of the campaign, after making his first appearance since September as the French club reached the European Challenge Cup final with a 19-10 win at Bath on Saturday.


Flyhalf Handre Pollard, who suffered a serious knee injury in just his second game of the season, came off the bench in the second half to kick a late penalty for the Top 14 strugglers.

“He’s a very important part of our team. He’s got a lot of experience and will help us a lot at the end of the season. He has a very big role to play,” Paillaugue said.

“We showed massive heart today, huge solidarity. It was a deserved win.”


Montpellier, the 2016 Challenge Cup winners, will face Leicester in the final on May 21 at Twickenham, where up to 10 000 fans will be present.

Home coach Stuart Hooper named Zach Mercer, who will join the French club next season, at No. 8.

Handre Pollard was joined by two other World Cup winners in scrumhalf Cobus Reinach and hooker Bismarck du Plessis on the visitors’ bench.

The English outfit led 7-0 after just five minutes as prop Tom Dunn crossed and scrumhalf Ben Spencer slotted a conversion.

Philippe Saint-Andre’s French side then sparked into life and led 10-7 after Paillaugue set up Yacouba Camara for a fine effort.

Montpellier held onto the lead at the break after Paillaugue and Spencer exchanged penalties to make it 16-10.

Bath pressed on inside the away side’s 22 with 25 minutes left and away prop Enzo Forletta was sin-binned for infringing at a ruck.

Pollard, 27, then made his return with 22 minutes to go, almost eight months after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, and his first involvement was an up-and-under which he failed to gather.

Du Plessis, a World Cup winner in 2007 with the Springboks, also came on and won two incredible penalties at the breakdown with the home side on top.

Despite Bath’s efforts in search of a try and place in the final, a first since 2014, Montpellier defended well to hold on and Pollard kicked a penalty in added time.

Montpellier’s focus now turns to hosting La Rochelle next weekend and securing their Top 14 status, as they are just four points above the relegation playoff place.

Tokyo Olympics: Kenenisa Bekele in doubt for marathon after sitting out Ethiopian trials

May 1st 2021 at 16:57

Running legend Kenenisa Bekele is a doubtful starter in the Tokyo Olympic marathon after sitting out the Ethiopian selection race on Saturday.


The 38-year-old apparently decided not to take part in the 35km race close to the capital Addis Ababa, which was won by the 2020 London Marathon winner Shura Kitata in 1:45:55, according to the Ethiopian federation on its social networks. 

World champion Lelisa Desisa was 20 seconds behind in second with Sisay Lemma, who came third in London last year, again in third.

Each country can nominate three runners for the Olympic marathon. 

Bekele’s pedigree includes three Olympic gold medals on the track – 10 000m in 2004 and the 5 000m and 10 000m double in 2008 – and the second best marathon performance in history when he clocked 2:01:41 in winning the 2019 Berlin Marathon.

“Bekele refused to run because it was cold, the race took place at altitude (at 2 356m), and only over 35km,” his agent Jos Hermens told AFP.  

“These are bad conditions for him… and which will have nothing to do with those in Tokyo.

“The best team is clearly with Kenenisa Bekele. He will be ready, he is in good shape. 

“I have nothing against the athletes who participated on Saturday but I think we should select Bekele over Lemma who finished almost two minutes behind him in Berlin in 2019.”

Although he did not compete in Saturday’s race, the Ethiopian federation can still draft Bekele if they wish for a much-awaited duel with reigning Olympic champion and Kenyan world record holder Eliud Kipchoge. 

Brad Binder 11th in Spanish MotoGP qualifying as Marc Marquez crashes

May 1st 2021 at 10:43

Six-time world champion Marc Marquez qualified 14th on Saturday for the Spanish MotoGP after a spectacular crash in morning practice at Jerez while Fabio Quartararo claimed pole position.


Marquez fell heavily in the third practice session at the circuit where last year he broke his right arm in the opening race to end his 2020 campaign.

After a medical examination his Honda team tweeted that the 28-year-old Spaniard would race on.

“After his check, marcmarquez93 has been declared FIT for the remainder of the SpanishGP,” his Honda team tweeted.


Marquez had to go into the first qualifying session and was only fourth fastest, missing a chance to advance to the 10-man second session and battle for a place at the front of the grid.

Championship leader Quartararo dominated the times all weekend on his factory Yamaha but was pushed hard in final qualifying by Yamaha satellite rider Franco Morbidelli and Jack Miller on a Ducati. 

The Frenchman recorded his fastest time just as the checkered flag fell to end the session.


“Feels really good,” said Quartararo.

“It was one of the qualifying that I was more on the limit. I thought I was going to crash.”

Marc Marquez made his comeback after nine months out and multiple bouts of surgery at the Portuguese MotoGP last month.

He admitted to a “lack of strength” after he struggled in Friday practice at Jerez.

In Saturday’s opening session he lost control of his bike at 180km at turn seven, sliding across gravel on his left arm and into a barrier.

Clearly shaken he managed to walk away, returning to the pits on a scooter.

MotoGP doctor Angel Charte said he ordered Marquez to undergo a scan as “a check-up”.

“He has a huge contusion to the neck and top of the back,” Charte said.

Starting grid for Sunday’s Spanish MotoGP, the fourth round of the 2021 world championship, after qualifying in Jerez on Saturday:

Front row

1. Fabio Quartararo (FRA/Yamaha) 1:36.755, 2.  Franco Morbidelli (ITA/Yamaha-SRT) 1:36.812, 3. Jack Miller (AUS/Ducati) 1:36.860,

2nd row

4. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA/Ducati) 1:36.960, 5. Takaaki Nakagami (JPN/LCR Honda) 1.37.008, 6. Johann Zarco (FRA/Ducati-Pramac) 1.37.054,

3rd row

7. Maverick Vinales (ESP/Yamaha) 1:37.070, 8. Aleix Espargaro (ESP/Aprilia) 1:37.085, 9. Alex Rins (ESP/Suzuki) 1:37.124

4th row

10. Joan Mir (ESP/Suzuki) 1:37.154, 11. Brad Binder (RSA/KTM), 1:37.467, 12.  Stefan Bradl (GER-Honda) 1.37.502 


14. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) 1:37.489,  17. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha-SRT) 1:37.915


Front row

1. Remy Gardner (AUS/Kalex) 1:40.667, 2. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Kalex) 1.40.738. 3. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA/Kalex) 1:40.753,

2nd row

4. Raul Fernandez (ESP/Kalex) 1:40.807, 5. Sam Lowes (GBR/Kalex) 1:40.833, 6.Xavi Vierge (ESP/Kalex) 1:41.038


Front row

1. Tatsuki Suzuki (JPN/Honda) 1:45.807, 2.  Jeremy Alcoba (ESP/Honda) 1:45.932, 3.  Andrea Migno (ITA/Honda) 1:46.007

2nd Row 

4. Gabriel Rodrigo (ARG/Honda) 1.46.048,  5.  Romano Fenati (ITA/Husqvarna) 1:46.16 , 6. John McPhee (GBR/Honda) 1.46.185