Tuesday, 17 September 2019

NFL notebook: Giants turn to rookie QB Jones, bench Manning

September 18, 2019

New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur named Daniel Jones as the team’s starting quarterback for Week 3, sending Eli Manning to the backup role after an 0-2 start to the 2019 season.

“Eli and I spoke this morning,” Shurmur said Tuesday. “I told him that we are making a change and going with Daniel as the starter. I also talked to Daniel. Eli was obviously disappointed, as you would expect, but he said he would be what he has always been, a good teammate, and continue to prepare to help this team win games. Daniel understands the challenge at hand, and he will be ready to play on Sunday.”

The Giants play the Buccaneers (1-1) on Sunday in Tampa to kick off the Jones Era.

Manning, 38, won two Super Bowls with the Giants and was the top overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. The 22-year-old Jones was selected with the sixth overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.

–Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton sat out practice and could miss Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals after aggravating a foot injury on Thursday.

General manager Marty Hurney and head coach Ron Rivera told reporters Newton said his foot was sore following the team’s Thursday night loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 30-year-old sprained his left foot in a preseason game last month against the New England Patriots.

Teammate Eric Reid said Newton has been in a walking boot.

–After seeing two specialists about his injured right thumb, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees will have surgery Wednesday in Los Angeles, ESPN’s Ed Werder reported.

Werder cited a source saying the timeline for Brees’ return won’t be known until after surgery, which will be performed by Dr. Steven Shinn.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the current expectation is six weeks.

–New York Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian is out for the season with a left ankle injury and likely will need surgery, coach Adam Gase announced.

Siemian, filling in for ill starter Sam Darnold, was injured in the second quarter of Monday night’s loss to the Cleveland Browns.

Second-year quarterback Luke Falk is expected to start Sunday against the Patriots.

–Patriots left tackle Isaiah Wynn was placed on injured reserve with a toe injury, putting him out until at least mid-November.

–Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson is expected to miss two weeks because of an abdominal strain, ESPN reported.

–The Los Angeles Chargers placed strong safety Adrian Phillips on injured reserve and signed tight end Lance Kendricks.

–Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri is working to clear the “demons” from his head amid a rocky stretch, but he told reporters he has not considered retiring, contrary to speculation in recent days.

–Former first-round pick Paxton Lynch was signed to the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad.

–An MRI exam on LeSean McCoy’s ankle showed the Kansas City Chiefs running back sustained “no significant damage,” NFL Network reported.

–The Detroit Lions released veteran running back C.J. Anderson, clearing a roster spot after they claimed running back Paul Perkins off waivers from the Giants.

–Field Level Media

Afghan president sees his chance after collapse of U.S.-Taliban talks

September 18, 2019

By Hamid Shalizi

KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had no more than 20 minutes to study a draft accord between the United States and the Taliban on pulling thousands of U.S. troops out of his country, but upcoming elections could put him back at the heart of talks to end decades of war.

What he read in the draft outlining the now collapsed deal left Ghani and his officials – who were shut out of the talks by the Taliban refusal to negotiate with what they considered an illegitimate “puppet” regime – badly shaken and resentful, said a senior Kabul official close to the Afghan leader.

“Doesn’t this look like surrender to the Taliban?” Ghani asked Zalmay Khalilzad, the veteran Afghan-born diplomat who led negotiations for Washington, at a meeting the two held immediately afterwards, according to the source who was present.

The Islamist militant group that ruled Afghanistan for five years has killed thousands of Afghan soldiers and civilians since it was toppled by U.S.-led forces in 2001, and the attacks have continued throughout its negotiations with Washington.

In response to Ghani’s doubts, the Afghan official said Khalilzad replied: “This is the best deal we will ever have”.

The U.S. State Department declined to comment on the meeting. Khalilzad was unavailable for comment.

It was not the Afghan government’s misgivings that sank the deal – U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly canceled secret talks with the Taliban at his Camp David retreat that were planned for Sept. 8 and has since said the talks are “dead”.

But for the Afghan government, that may be an opportunity get back in the game and shape the future direction of the peace process.

A presidential election, which the Taliban and even many Western officials had wanted to cancel to focus on sealing the peace accord, is now expected to go ahead on Sept. 28. Ghani is favorite to win, leaving him well-placed to claim a popular mandate to set the terms of any new agreement with the Taliban.

“Now, the management of the peace process, its planning and implementation is the sole duty of the government of Afghanistan,” Ghani told an election rally last week. “I will implement that.”

The Taliban has vowed to violently disrupt the election and on Tuesday killed nearly 50 people in twin suicide bombings, one targeting a Ghani election rally.

FUTURE TALKS?

Afghan officials say the view in Kabul was that the U.S. deal offered too many concessions to the Taliban while getting nothing in return, and left the Afghan government, supposedly America’s ally, swinging in the wind.

The disagreement illustrates the deep split that developed between the United States and the government over any peace deal and underlines how hard it has been for them to present a united front in dealing with Taliban negotiators.

The deal’s collapse has also damaged the credibility of Khalilzad, say Afghan officials and Western diplomats in Kabul who have been following the talks closely. His future is now in doubt and it is still unclear whether talks can be revived.

The State Department declined to respond to requests for comment on Reuters’ questions concerning the future of the talks and the criticisms of the draft deal.

The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan has said the Taliban “overplayed their hand” in the negotiations and that the pace of U.S. military operations was likely to pick up.

Trump’s decision to fire his hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton has added a further complication, and some in Washington fear the election will make it harder for talks to be revived before next year’s U.S. presidential election.

If talks are resumed, Ghani’s officials say Khalilzad’s format of holding separate negotiations with the Taliban as a preliminary step to later talks between Afghan participants in the conflict cannot be repeated.

Instead, the government will press for a sequence that would see a ceasefire followed by direct talks with the Taliban, leading to credible security guarantees. Only then would U.S. troops be withdrawn.

“The government needs to be on board if there is a deal in the future,” the Afghan official said.

“MAJOR FAILURE”

Under the draft accord, some 5,000 American troops would be withdrawn in exchange for assurances that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militant attacks against the United States and its allies. That would leave roughly 9,000 stationed there.

But the senior Afghan official said many of the details of what would happen once the withdrawal took place were unclear.

“There was no concrete discussion, nothing, no discussion at all,” the senior Afghan official said.

From Ghani’s point of view, Taliban assurances that they would not allow militant groups such as Al Qaeda to operate in Afghanistan were worthless, given the formal oaths of loyalty that bound them.

Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri pledged allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada in 2016.

At the same time, intelligence reports showed Taliban field commanders confident of victory and eager to fight on.

While Khalilzad spoke with clarity about plans to withdraw thousands of U.S. troops, the senior Afghan official said the fate of future “intra-Afghan” talks that would decide a final peace settlement with the Taliban was less clear.

“It was a major failure of the deal that Khalilzad could not convince the Taliban to enter into direct negotiation with the Afghan government,” the Afghan official said.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay in WASHINGTON; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Stanton close to rejoining Yankees’ lineup

September 18, 2019

Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who has appeared in just nine games this season due to multiple injuries, figures to be back in the New York Yankees’ lineup within the next two days.

Stanton last appeared June 25 before spraining his right knee. That game was just his sixth since returning from a 2 1/2-month stint on the injured list.

Regarding Stanton’s status, Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Tuesday before his team’s game against the visiting Los Angeles Angels, “We’ll talk about that tonight with the trainers and with Giancarlo. I’d say there’s a chance he could be activated tomorrow. Otherwise I would certainly expect Thursday. We’ll sort that all out tonight.”

Stanton, 29, played in the season’s first three games before landing on the IL on April due to a left biceps strain. He subsequently was slowed by left shoulder and left calf ailments before returning to action June 18.

With the Yankees almost certainly playoff-bound, the team can afford to work Stanton back into action gradually.

“I may build him up a little bit,” Boone said. “He could play a handful of innings and I might pull him, things like that, especially with rosters being what you have here in the month of September.”

Boone added of Stanton’s rehab, “He’s been getting after it, really for a good while now. He’s racked up a lot of at-bats, he’s done all his defensive work. He’s really been bouncing back well the next day, feeling like his knee is where it needs to be. He’s been doing his baserunning and all his agility and conditioning. The amount of at-bats that he’s been able to rack up has him feeling good about that.”

Stanton, a four-time All-Star, is 9-for-31 (.290) with one homer and seven RBIs this season. The 2017 National League MVP has a .268 career average with 306 homers and 779 RBIs in 1,153 games for the Florida/Miami Marlins (2010-17) and the Yankees (2018-19).

–Field Level Media

Japan’s exports fall for ninth straight month as global demand falters

September 18, 2019

By Daniel Leussink

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s exports slipped for a ninth straight month in August as international trade tensions ramped up risks for the world’s third-largest economy, although the decline was slightly smaller than expected.

The negative reading adds some pressure on the Bank of Japan to expand stimulus at its policy meeting on Thursday to prop up business sentiment and manufacturing activity, which have been hit by global economic weakness.

Exports in August slumped 8.2% from a year earlier, Ministry of Finance data showed on Wednesday, dragged down by autos, car parts and semiconductor production equipment.

The fall was smaller than a 10.9% drop expected by economists but marked the longest run of declines in exports since a 14-month stretch from October 2015 to November 2016.

Fears of a global slump have persisted in recent weeks as uncertainty over the direction of U.S. trade policy cloud the outlook for growth in the United States and export-reliant economies such as Germany, Japan and China.

The nine-month slump in Japan’s exports follows revised data that showed the economy grew at a slower-than-expected pace in April-June as business spending was downgraded from initial estimates.

The latest data comes a day before BOJ policymakers on Thursday decide whether to expand an already massive stimulus program to shield the economy from a possible downturn and protect its growth drivers.

Increasing signs of slowing global demand have made Japanese central bankers less confident about an early pickup in global growth and more open to debating policy easing.

By region, exports to China, Japan’s biggest trading partner, shrank 12.1% year-on-year in August, down for the sixth month and driven by declines in shipments of semiconductor manufacturing equipments and car parts.

Shipments to Asia, which account for more than half of Japan’s overall exports, dropped 10.9% in the year to August.

Japan’s exports to the United States slipped 4.4% in the year to August, their first fall since September last year and driven by declines in exports of 3000cc cars and car parts.

However, imports from the United States dipped 9.2%, causing Japan’s trade surplus with the world’s biggest economy to rise 3.8% from a year earlier to 472.0 billion yen, the data showed.

(Reporting by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Sun pull away from Sparks to take Game 1 of semifinal

September 18, 2019

Alyssa Thomas posted a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds and Jasmine Thomas added 19 points and eight assists to lift the host Connecticut Sun to an 84-75 victory against the Los Angeles Sparks in Game 1 of a best-of-five WNBA semifinal at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., on Tuesday night.

Second-seeded Connecticut, which went 15-2 at home during the regular season to tie No. 3 Los Angeles for tops in the league, drew within two victories of its first finals appearance since 2005. Game 2 is set for Thursday at Connecticut.

Jonquel Jones scored 16 points and Courtney Williams added 15 as the Sun earned their first postseason victory since 2012. Both Jones and Williams grabbed seven rebounds, while Alyssa Thomas chipped in five assists and four steals.

Candace Parker scored a game-high 24 points and snagged 10 rebounds for Los Angeles, which also received a double-double from Nneka Ogwumike, who had 20 points and 10 boards.

Shekinna Stricklen drilled a pair of 3s to pace the Sun during a 12-2 run over the first 3:01 of the third quarter. The burst helped the Sun to a 49-42 lead, but the Sparks hardly faded during a contest that featured five ties and 11 lead changes.

Parker swished a trey with 10.5 seconds remaining in the third quarter to give the Sparks a 58-57 lead, but a Jasmine Thomas layup with 1.2 seconds to go in the quarter put the Sun ahead, 59-58. After the Sparks tied the game at 64-all with 6:47 to go, the Sun built separation with a 9-2 run over the next 2:47.

Connecticut responded from an early shooting funk — Alyssa Thomas started 4-for-5 from the floor while the rest of the team went 0-for-8 — to grab a 21-14 lead after 10 minutes. Jasmine Thomas drilled a trey from the left wing to beat the first-quarter buzzer.

The Sun extended their lead to 12 points when Jones hit a pair of free throws with 8:08 to go in the second quarter, but Los Angeles recovered after that. The Sparks scored 26 of the game’s next 37 points to take a 40-37 lead into the break.

–Field Level Media

Oil recedes on Saudi supply reassurance, investor focus shifts to Fed

September 18, 2019

By Hideyuki Sano

TOKYO (Reuters) – Oil prices cooled on Wednesday as Saudi Arabia said the kingdom had fully restored its oil supply following attacks on its crude facilities although caution ahead of an expected U.S. interest rate cut kept wider financial markets in tight ranges.

U.S. Treasury yields slipped ahead of an expected interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve at its two-day policy meeting on Wednesday.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.05% while Japan’s Nikkei slid 0.03%.

Wall Street shares ticked up a tad on Tuesday with the S&P 500 gaining 0.26%.

Brent crude futures fell 0.64% to $64.14 a barrel while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude lost 0.78% to $58.88 per barrel.

Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said the kingdom has recovered supplies by tapping inventories, and lost oil output of 5.7 million barrels per day (bpd) by the end of September

Saudi Arabia’s oil output will be fully restored faster than thought following weekend attacks on production facilities, two sources briefed on developments also said on Tuesday, taking two or three weeks, not months as initially expected.

“I would think a spike in oil prices will likely prove to be short-term given that the global economy isn’t doing too well,” said Akira Takei, bond fund manager at Asset Management One.

Still, heightened geopolitical tensions underpinned oil as well as some safe-haven assets such as U.S. bonds.

A U.S. official told Reuters on Tuesday the United States believes the attacks originated in southwestern Iran, an assessment that could further increase the rivalry between Tehran and Riyadh.

Gold was mostly flat at $1,501.70, while the 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield fell to 1.812%, compared to Friday’s high of 1 1/2-month high of 1.908% ahead of the Fed’s policy announcement on Wednesday.

While a 25-basis point rate cut is seen as near-certain, investors look to the statement and economic projections from Fed policy makers, given signs of deep disagreements among them.

The ongoing U.S.-China trade war has raised policymakers’ concerns about slowing factory output although resilient domestic consumption has given hawks some reasons to worry about cutting rates too hastily.

Possibly further complicating their discussion, short-term U.S. interest rates shot up this week, with overnight repo rates rising to 7%, due largely to seasonal factors such as huge payments for taxes and bond supply.

That prompted the New York Fed to conduct its first repo operation in more than a decade to inject funds to stressed money markets.

The New York Federal Reserve said late Tuesday it will conduct a repurchase agreement operation early Wednesday “in order to help maintain the federal funds rate within the target range of” 2.00% to 2.25%.

In the currency market, the euro stood at $1.1071 after 0.6% gain the previous day on better-than-expected readings in Germany’s ZEW survey on investor confidence.

Sterling traded at $1.2504, up 0.06% so far on the day, having hit two-month high of $1.2528 as investors reversed their bets against the currency on fear of a no-deal Brexit at the end of next month.

The yen stood little changed at 108.10 yen, off 1 1/2-month low of 108.37 touched on Tuesday.

(Editing by Sam Holmes)

Young Yaz homers in Fenway debut

September 18, 2019

Like grandfather, like grandson.

San Francisco Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski homered Tuesday in his first game at Fenway Park, the former home venue of his grandfather, Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski.

Mike Yastrzemski stepped up with two outs and nobody on in the fourth inning of the Giants’ game against the Boston Red Sox and unloaded on a 96 mph fastball from Nathan Eovaldi for a solo shot to deep center, his 20th homer of the season.

He became the first San Francisco player to reach 20 homers in his rookie season since Dave Kingman in 1972.

Before the game, Yastrzemski caught up on the field with his grandfather, who played for Boston from 1961-83. In that time, Carl Yastrzemski won an American League MVP, amassed 18 All-Star selections and slugged 452 career home runs among 3,419 hits.

“I need to allow myself to enjoy it and take it in myself and say, ‘This is special,'” Mike Yastrzemski, 29, said prior to the game. “And it’s not just special for me — for everyone who had ever seen my grandfather play and has been a Red Sox fan over history.”

His grandfather didn’t stick around for the contest — the family all has plans to attend Wednesday’s game. But Carl Yastrzemski, 80, couldn’t help but beam with pride at his grandson’s accomplishment of making it to the major leagues and back to Boston.

“I think the only way that I can compare it to anything would be if I compared it to the ’67 season,” Carl Yastrzemski said, a reference to Red Sox’s “Impossible Dream” campaign. “That’s what it means to me and being here. It’ll be the first time that ‘Yastrzemski’ will be announced on the field since ’83.”

Mike played his grandfather’s old position in left field and led off for the Giants. He received a rousing ovation from the crowd prior to each of his at-bats, striking out and drawing a walk in his two plate appearances before his homer.

–Field Level Media

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