Archive for August, 2019

First Irish gay marriages likely in July

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

Ireland’s new laws on gay marriage will be enacted by the end of July.

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After the country’s resounding support in a world-first vote, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said on Monday she was working to fulfil the wishes of same-sex couples who want to wed as soon as possible.

With the standard three-month notification to register a wedding day, the first ceremonies are likely to take place in the country’s autumn.

“The Irish people have chosen decisively to extend the right to marry to same-sex couples,” Fitzgerald said.

“I am particularly proud that the right to marriage equality will now be enshrined in our constitution as a result of a popular vote. I would like to compliment all of those who voted and who campaigned on both sides for what was a passionate and yet civilised referendum campaign.

“I am very conscious that many couples will want to get married as soon as possible. I am working to make that happen.”

Government officials are currently drafting the Marriage Bill to reflect the vote and constitutional change.

It is expected to be finalised in June when it will go to Cabinet before passing through both houses of the parliament in Dublin.

The new laws will also give same-sex couples who have already made plans to enter a civil partnership to switch their notification to a planned marriage.

“This means that couples who have already registered their intention to enter a civil partnership will be instead able to get married once the law is enacted on the basis of the same registration of intent,” the minister said.

The referendum made Ireland the only country where same-sex marriage reform was backed by popular vote.

Real sack coach Ancelotti after mediocre season

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

“The board of directors have decided this evening to relieve Carlo Ancelotti of his duties,” president Florentino Perez told a news conference on Monday.

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“It was a very difficult decision … but we have not come to Real Madrid to take easy decisions but to take decisions that we believe are the best for an institution that is a reference point around the world,” added the construction magnate.

“The demands are huge and we believe it is the right moment to give fresh impetus that will allow us to win more titles and reach our optimum competitive level in a new phase.”

The club will announce a successor next week, Perez said, and local media say former Liverpool and Chelsea boss Benitez, who once had a stint as a Real youth team coach, is the frontrunner to replace Ancelotti.

Others to have been linked with the job are German Juergen Klopp, who has quit Borussia Dortmund, and former Real player Michel who has had spells running the B team at the Bernabeu and clubs including Getafe and Sevilla.

Italian Ancelotti, who had a three-year contract that was due to run until the end of next season, led the club to a record-extending 10th European crown and a King’s Cup triumph in his first term in charge in 2013-14.

However, this term they were eliminated in the Champions League semi-finals by Juventus while Barcelona won their fifth La Liga title in seven years. Real also lost to Atletico Madrid in the King’s Cup last 16 in January.

Real won the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup but Ancelotti’s failure to win any of the three trophies that make up the traditional treble was deemed unacceptable.

Perez’s decision came despite strong public backing for Ancelotti from players including top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, midfielder Luka Modric and forward James Rodriguez.

Ancelotti told the Italian daily Il Giornale on Monday he was suffering from cervical stenosis and would be travelling to Vancouver for an operation.

The condition, a narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck area or upper part of the spine, has caused tingling in his hands and was part of the reason he planned to take a year off if Real sacked him, he told the paper.

After Real announced his sacking, Ancelotti said on his Twitter feed: “I leave with the memory of two fantastic years… thank you to the club, the fans and my players.”

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

Six Aussies into French Open second round

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

Nick Kyrgios hailed Australia’s “unbelievable” start to the French Open after leading six through to the second round at Roland Garros.

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Kyrgios and fellow seeded flagbearers Samantha Stosur and Bernard Tomic, along with teenage ace Thanasi Kokkinakis and exciting young imports Daria Gavrilova and Ajla Tomljanovic all advanced in Australia’s best start to the claycourt major in five years.

“It’s unbelievable,” Kyrgios said after outclassing Denis Istomin 6-3 6-4 6-3 in his first outing as a grand slam seed.

“I am really, really happy with Thanasi getting through. Bernard surprised me a little bit today. He fought really well and Dasha (Gavrilova) has been playing some really good tennis, and Sam as well.

“All in all, it was a pretty good day for the Aussies.”

Riding high after claiming her first title of the year in Strasbourg at the weekend, Stosur swept past American Madison Brengle 6-1 6-3 in 77 minutes.

“It was a good start. I guess I was in control of the match and it was on my racquet,” Stosur said.

“I just had to keep concentrating, keep doing the things that were working and I thought I did pretty well.”

Stosur’s victory thrust the 26th seed and former finalist into a meeting on Wednesday with French wildcard Amandine Hesse, who earlier eliminated Jarmila Gajdosova in three sets.

Still struggling with a virus that forced his withdrawal from last week’s Nice Open, Tomic dug in for an impressive 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4 victory over Italian qualifier Luca Vanni.

“It was not easy. He beat me before, so I was very happy to win,” Tomic said.

“I wasn’t feeling that good. Still sick. I’m getting better, but still a little bit down. So it was tough out there.

“Everything felt much, much longer than it was. I was really feeling the fatigue out there. Happy I won in the end.”

Tomic’s first victory at Roland Garros since 2012 and Kokkinakis’ 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 success over Georgian qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili set up a second-round showstopper between the Davis Cup teammates.

The reward for Wednesday’s victor is a likely third-round shot at world No.1 Novak Djokovic.

“Yeah, I’d love to get a crack at Novak, but Bernie is a tough task,” Kokkinakis said after claiming his first-ever win at Roland Garros.

“I’ve got to go out and try and play the ball. I know his game and he knows mine.

“I think we know what each other is going to try to do.”

A quarter-finalist at Wimbledon and the Australian Open in the past 10 months, Kyrgios next faces British qualifier Kyle Edmund and has a golden opportunity to book a third-round blockbuster with Andy Murray.

“I’ve tried not to think about it, but it is hard not to,” Kyrgios said.

“On social media, I see it every day – Kyrgios v Murray, third round – and I hadn’t even won a round yet.

“So I have probably thought about it.”

Tomljanovic crushed compatriot Casey Dellacqua 6-2 6-2 in 62 minutes to set up a second-round clash German 11th seed Angelique Kerber, while Gavrilova added to Australia’s triumphant day with 6-1 7-6 (7-3) victory over Swede Johanna Larsson.

The Russian-born 21-year-old’s maiden grand slam win earned her a crack at 20th-seeded German Sabine Lisicki.

Like Dellacqua, Jarmila Gajdosova, Sam Groth and Marinko Matosevic all crashed out on day two, but James Duckworth will be looking to continue Australia’s flying start when he plays Italian qualifier Andrea Arnaboldi on Tuesday.

HOW THE AUSSIES FARED AT THE FRENCH OPEN ON MONDAY (PREFIX DENOTES SEEDING)

27-Bernard Tomic bt Luca Vanni (ITA) 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4

29-Nick Kyrgios bt Denis Istomin (UZB) 6-3 6-4 6-3

Thanasi Kokkinakis bt Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 6-2

Marinko Matosevic lost to Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) 6-1 6-2 6-4

Sam Groth lost to 21-Pablo Cuevas (URU) 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-3 6-3

Women’s singles, first round

26-Samantha Stosur bt Madison Brengle (USA) 6-1 6-3

Daria Gavrilova bt Johanna Larsson (SWE) 6-1 7-6 (7-3)

Ajla Tomljanovic bt Casey Dellacqua 6-2 6-2

Jarmila Gajdosova lost to Amandine Hesse (FRA) 2-6 6-3 6-2

AUSSIES IN ACTION ON TUESDAY

James Duckworth v Andrea Arnaboldi (ITA)

Levy heads 11 qualifiers from Walton Heath for U.S. Open

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

Levy fired a six-under-par 66 on the Old Course in the morning and a five-under 67 on the New Course in the afternoon to lead 11 players who booked berths at the year’s second major.

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Also advancing were India’s Shiv Kapur, England’s John Parry and Jason Palmer, Swede Alex Noren, Dane Lucas Bjerregaard, Germany’s Marcel Siem, South Africans Garth Mulroy, Tjaart van der Walt and Thomas Aiken and Australian Marcus Fraser.

Triple major champion Padraig Harrington missed out after rounds of 72 and 68.

“I’m really happy,” Levy told reporters after booking his place at the June 18-21 U.S. Open to be played at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington.

“I played really good golf…I was positive and had a good attitude.

“It will be my first time in the U.S. Open. I missed the Masters so it will be great to play another major.”

Palmer, renowned for his unusual one-handed chipping and bunker play technique, was elated to earn a maiden appearance at a major championship.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” the 30-year-old said after scores of 69 and 68. “I’ve always wanted to play in a major.

“I knew this would present a good opportunity to do it because I love Walton Heath.”

The final four spots on offer at Walton Heath were decided in a playoff after van der Walt carded a birdie and two eagles in his last six holes to make it a five-way tie for eighth place on five-under 139.

Fraser advanced at the first extra hole before van der Walt, Aiken and Mulroy secured their spots at the third extra hole, with Welshman Oliver Farr missing out.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes, editing by Tony Jimenez)

Islamic State faces battle in Iraq, bombs in Syria

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

In Palmyra, the Syrian air force struck at buildings captured by the Sunni militant group, whose arrival has raised fears that the city’s famed Roman ruins will be destroyed.

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The air force leveled Islamic State “hideouts” and killed a large number of its members around Palmyra’s military air base, Syrian state media said.

Islamic State has killed at least 217 people execution-style, including children, since it moved into the Palmyra area 10 days ago, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Another 300 soldiers were killed before the Syrian city was captured, the monitoring group said.

The insurgents reinforced Ramadi on Monday, deploying fighters in preparation for battle against security forces and paramilitary groups advancing on the provincial capital, which lies 110 km (70 miles) northwest of the capital, Baghdad.

Iraqi forces have regained ground east of Ramadi since launching a counter-offensive on Saturday, a week after it was overrun, and on Monday retook a rural area south of the city.

Police sources said Iraqi forces supported by Iran-backed Shi’ite militia and locally recruited Sunni tribal fighters had retaken parts of al-Tash, 20 km (12 miles) south of Ramadi.

Pro-government Sunni tribal fighters, with the help of the army, laid land mines to reinforce their defensive lines around Baghdadi, a settlement northwest of Ramadi which controls access to a major Iraqi air base. Islamic State attacked Baghdadi with seven suicide car bombs on Sunday.

In Ramadi, residents said trucks carrying Islamic State fighters arrived on Sunday evening.

Local man Abu Saed heard a commotion outside his house in the city’s southeastern Officers neighborhood. “I saw two trucks pull up outside with dozens of fighters carrying arms running quickly into nearby buildings and taking cover.”

Another resident said at least 40 fighters had jumped out of three trucks that arrived in the southern al-Tamim district on Sunday evening.

“They were carrying weapons and wearing mostly khaki dress with ammunition belts wrapped around their chests,” said Abu Mutaz. “They were talking in an Arabic dialect, they were not Iraqis.”

Major setback

The seizures of Ramadi and Palmyra were Islamic State’s biggest successes since a U.S.-led coalition launched an air war against it last year.

The near simultaneous victories against the Iraqi and Syrian armies have forced Washington to examine its strategy of bombing from the air while leaving fighting on the ground to local forces.

In a sharp criticism of Washington’s ally, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Sunday accused the Iraqi army of abandoning Ramadi to a much smaller enemy force.

A spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi dismissed the comments as “untimely and surprising at a time when Iraqi security forces are preparing to launch a counter offensive to retake Ramadi”.

The general in charge of Iran’s paramilitary activities in the Middle East said the United States and other powers were failing to confront Islamic State.

“Today, in the fight against this dangerous phenomenon, nobody is present except Iran,” said Major General Qassem Soleimani, who is often seen on the battlefields of Iraq.

But in a move that could mark an expansion of U.S. involvement in the conflict, Turkey said it and the United States had agreed in principle to give air support to some forces from Syria’s mainstream opposition.

Meanwhile, the United States and its allies carried out 10 air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and 25 strikes in Iraq since Sunday, the U.S. military said.

Most of the strikes in Syria were in the northeast, near Al Hasakah, while in Iraq, Islamic State positions were attacked near Baghdadi, Bayji, Fallujah and Mosul, among other sites.

Days after taking Ramadi, Islamic State defeated Syrian government forces to capture Palmyra, home to 50,000 people and site of some of the world’s most extensive and best-preserved Roman ruins.

The Observatory said there had been no reports so far of Islamic State destroying Palmyra’s ruins and artifacts.

The militants have proclaimed a caliphate to rule over all Muslims from territory they hold in Syria and Iraq. They have carried out mass killings in towns and cities they have captured, and destroyed ancient monuments, which they consider evidence of paganism.

In Syria, Hezbollah fighters captured two hilltops from al Qaeda’s Syria wing, the Nusra Front, in areas close to the Lebanese border and killed dozens of enemy combatants, Hezbollah-run al-Manar television reported on Monday.

Iranian-backed Hezbollah has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country’s civil war. The group’s leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has vowed to clear the border area of Sunni Muslim militant groups that have carried out attacks on Lebanese soil.

(Reporting by Baghdad Bureau, Isabel Coles in Erbil, Sylvia Westall in Beirut, Andrea Shalal in Washington; Editing by David Stamp and Sonya Hepinstall)