Toronto Maple Leafs sign Auston Matthews to second-richest NHL contract

Sports News Toronto Maple Leafs sign Auston Matthews to second-richest NHL contract

Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images(TORONTO) — The Toronto Maple Leafs made 21-year-old star Auston Matthews one of the highest paid NHL players ever with a new five-year contract announced on Tuesday.

The deal keeps Matthews in Toronto through the 2023-2024 season, for a reported $58.17 million. He would have been a restricted free agent after the current season.

Matthews’ $11.634 million per year is behind only Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid, who makes $12.5 million per season. The Maple Leafs also have the third richest contract in center John Tavares, who makes $11 million each year.

With 23 goals and 23 assists in his team’s first 38 games, Matthews has lived up to the hype that has surrounded him since before he was the number one overall draft pick in 2016.

He is already a three-time All-Star, scoring 40 goals in his rookie campaign, and 34 in just 62 games last season.

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Posted On 05 Feb 2019

Taliban and senior Afghan politicians hold talks in Moscow, upsetting government

WORLD NEWS Taliban and senior Afghan politicians hold talks in Moscow, upsetting government

Vitalij Sova/iStock(MOSCOW) — Taliban officials and senior Afghan political leaders met in Moscow on Tuesday for peace talks, despite objections from Afghanistan’s government, which criticized the meeting as undermining its legitimacy.

The two-day gathering was the second time Moscow has hosted high-level talks on Afghanistan attended by the Taliban in recent months. It comes a week after negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban in which both sides agreed to a draft framework for a deal which could open a path to peace talks, raising hopes that an end to the 18-year war could be closer.

Tuesday’s talks were attended by around 70 political and social leaders from Afghanistan, among them former president Hamid Karzai, who said they hoped it could build trust and lay a foundation for a future political settlement that might help end the war.

But the meeting also underlined the anxieties and political uncertainties raised by any possible U.S. pull out from Afghanistan.

Members of Afghanistan’s U.S-backed government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, refused to attend the talks on the grounds that it will only engage in direct talks with the Taliban, and not alongside other Afghan political actors. In an interview Tuesday with TOLO News, an Afghan media outlet, Ghani said the Afghan politicians taking part had “no executive authority” and were not representing Afghanistan. Ghani’s chief advisor, Fazel Fazly, tweeted that the meeting was “regrettable” and accused the politicians attending of “bypassing principles because they were out of power.”

At the talks, Hamid Karzai and organizers said they were not seeking to isolate the Afghan government. Emerging after a day of speeches and standing alongside the heads of the Taliban delegation, Karzai said he wished the Afghan government had been present.

“We understand the government of Kabul needs to be part of these negotiations. We wished that they would have been here today,” Karzai said, adding that he and the others had come as “as citizens of Afghanistan” in the hope of facilitating talks between the government and the Taliban.

The head of the Taliban delegation, Sher Mohammed Abas Stanekzai, said the talks had been “very good,” calling them a “first step” towards peace.

“This is the first step that we are taking towards peace, and God willing in the future we will have more meetings and we can go farther,” he said.

The delegations on Tuesday met in the President Hotel, a Soviet-era complex owned by the Kremlin. After short introductory meetings, the delegates moved into a conference hall, sitting around a large circular table. The session opened with a member of the Taliban singing verses from the Quran, before leading all the delegates in a prayer.

Afterwards, Taliban officials told reporters they had agreed on the need to work on altering Afghanistan’s constitution, and that any future government would be called an “Islamic government.” The Taliban officials said the delegates had also agreed in principle that U.S. troops should withdraw from Afghanistan.

The Taliban’s 10-man delegation was from their diplomatic office in Qatar’s capital, Doha, which has also been handling the group’s negotiations with the U.S., also led by Stanekzai.

Last week, U.S. and Taliban negotiators agreed in principle to the framework of a deal under which the Taliban would pledge to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a base by terrorist groups, and the U.S. would pull its troops out of the country. Chief negotiator for the U.S., Zalmay Khalilzad, has said any agreement would also require the Taliban to undertake a cease-fire and to open direct negotiations with the Afghan government.

Although many obstacles to a deal remain, Ghani’s government is concerned it could find itself side-lined by a deal that would see American troops abruptly leave Afghanistan. That prospect has also raised concerns about the fate of women, should the Taliban return to power.

In the TOLO News interview, Ghani though downplayed he was concerned by the U.S. talks, saying that all talks were set with his government and that any Taliban peace deal would have to be endorsed by the whole country.

In a speech, Stanekzai said the Taliban was now not seeking exclusive political power in Afghanistan and promised that the group would observe the “Islamic rights” of women.

Fawzia Koofi, a member of the Afghan Parliament said she had sought assurances from the Taliban at the meeting that they would not seek to reimpose their ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam which saw women deprived of basic rights, such as education.

“Afghanistan has come a very long way and the Taliban should realize that, it’s not the Afghanistan of 2001 or 1995, which made women stay at home. If the Taliban would like to be a part of Afghan society, they need to adapt,” Koofi told the Associated Press. Koofi said she believed the Taliban had “changed to some extent” and said its delegates had promised to respect women’s rights to work and education, and could accept a female prime minister. But she said some U.S. troops must remain as a guarantee those rights are observed.

The peace talks’ location in Moscow also underlined Russia’s renewed involvement in Afghan affairs, three decades after the Soviet Union withdrew its troops from a disastrous war there. In November of last year, Russia’s foreign ministry hosted multinational peace talks in the same hotel as Tuesday’s conference. The Afghan government didn’t formally take part in that event either, but a delegation of Afghan politicians acting on its behalf did, along with Taliban officials.

Russia’s role this time though was opaque. Russian officials have said the country is not directly involved. Instead, the Moscow-based Center for the Afghan Diaspora said it had arranged the conference and Russia’s foreign ministry had only provided assistance on “technical questions.”

But the Taliban delegation thanked Russia for facilitating the meeting and said Russia was playing an important role. The conference’s organizers said Russia was now able to act as an impartial moderator for Afghans.

Russia has “proven that they don’t support a single side of the conflict in Afghanistan,” said Ghulam Jalal, an organizer from the diaspora center. “And they have won that name from the people of Afghanistan. In Afghanistan people now trust Russia more… than all the rest.”

On Tuesday, violence continued in Afghanistan unaltered. A Taliban attack on police and army outposts near the city of Kunduz killed at least 23 members of the Afghan security forces, with 20 Taliban also killed.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 05 Feb 2019

Washington Wizards star John Wall to miss 12 months will torn Achilles tendon

Sports News Washington Wizards star John Wall to miss 12 months will torn Achilles tendon

cmannphoto/iStock(WASHINGTON) — Washington Wizards point guard John Wall will miss the next 12 months after suffering a partially ruptured Achilles tendon in a fall at his home, the team announced Tuesday.

Wall was already out for the remainder of the 2018-2019 season following a first surgery on his heel. The 28-year-old underwent that surgery in hopes of avoiding a rupture of the tendon.

Wizards team doctor Wiemi Douoguih said Tuesday that he discovered the partial rupture this week, when he was conducting a procedure to address an infection from that first surgery on Wall’s left heel.

Surgery to repair Wall’s Achilles has not yet been scheduled. Douoguih estimates the recovery time will be between 11 and 15 months. There is little data on players similar to Wall suffering tendon ruptures, given Wall’s reliance on speed and getting to the basket.

Wall fell at his home on January 29. He was not wearing a walking boot at the time of the fall.

“He never heard a pop,” Douoguih said. “He had a slight increase in discomfort.”

Wall, the first overall draft pick in 2010, is under contract through 2022-2023 for an average of more than $40 million per year.

He played just 32 games this season, the second straight year that he’ll miss significant time. Wall missed 41 games last year, mostly due to left knee issues.

Wall had surgery on both knees following the 2015-2016 season.

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Posted On 05 Feb 2019

Top general says US has not shifted focus to ‘watching’ Iran from Iraq

WORLD NEWS Top general says US has not shifted focus to 'watching' Iran from Iraq

gorodenkoff/iStock(NEW YORK) — The top U.S. general in the Middle East says the U.S. military’s mission in Iraq is still focused on defeating ISIS, and has not shifted to “watching” Iran as President Donald Trump said in an interview this past weekend.

Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command, also told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he was “not consulted” by Trump before the president announced in mid-December that he was ordering the withdrawal of all U.S. troops in Syria, claiming ISIS ther had been “defeated.”

Asked if the U.S. military in Iraq will shift its focus to “watching” Iran as Trump first brought up in a CBS interview on Sunday, Votel replied, “It has not.” Trump’s comments have angered Iraqi politicians, some of whom have called for U.S. troops to leave the country.

“I think the government of Iraq understands the relationship, the view that we have on Iran and understands our concerns with Iran and the variety of destabilizing activities that they carry out around the region,” Votel added.

“But having said that, our military mission on the ground remains on the reason that the government of Iraq and that is focusing on the defeat of ISIS and now preventing a resurgence of that particular organization,” he said.

Trump also said in the CBS interview that the U.S. would carry out airstrikes in Syria from inside Iraq and that some of the forces withdrawn from Syria could stay in Iraq to carry out attacks against ISIS in Syria, if needed.

“We are working through a variety of planning scenarios for how we would potentially do, continue to maintain pressure on ISIS as we withdraw out of Syria,” Votel told the committee.

Trump announced in mid-December that he was ordering the withdrawal of the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria.

“I was not aware of the specific announcement,” Votel told the committee. “Certainly, we are aware that he had expressed a desire and intent in the past to depart.”

“I was not consulted,” he added.

Since Trump’s announcement, the U.S. military has removed some equipment and supplies from Syria, though no U.S. troops have left.

According to two U.S. officials, the number of U.S. personnel inside Syria has increased to 3,000 as additional personnel have entered Syria to prepare for the exit of troops and equipment.

Votel said he was not under pressure to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria “by a specific date” and had not “had any specific conditions” placed on him.

“I don’t consider this to be either time-based or conditions-based,” said Votel. “The fact is the President made a decision, and we are going to execute his orders here to withdraw forces from Syria.”

Votel expects that U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria will be able to defeat the last remnants of ISIS before the U.S. begins the withdrawal of its forces.

In his opening remarks, Votel said, “The fight against ISIS and violent extremists is not over,” but added that U.S. ground forces will depart Syria “in a deliberate and coordinated manner.” He added that details about the pace of that withdrawal are currently being developed with U.S. allies and partners.

He agreed with his command’s comment in a recent Pentagon Inspector General report that ISIS could reconstitute in Syria within 6 to 12 months without sustained pressure

Votel said there were different ways “to continue to keep pressure on this network that I think is absolutely vital,”

He said, “We should expect that [ISIS] will attempt to attack us and regenerate themselves, and we will continue to put pressure on them to prevent that.”

Votel estimated there are about 1,000 to 1,500 ISIS fighters in Syria trapped in a 20-square-mile area, the last portion of the group’s physical self-declared caliphate.

He said U.S.-backed Kurdish forces will proceed cautiously in that last fight given the number of civilians in the area as well as the large number of “extreme explosive hazards”.

The general said the U.S. intelligence estimate that there are still 20,000 to 30,000 ISIS members in Iraq and Syria was of “low and moderate confidence.”

The said that for the most part, those ISIS supporters have “gone to ground” and are “geographically dispersed” in open areas across Syria and Iraq.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 05 Feb 2019

People are trying face yoga in an attempt to reduce wrinkles, signs of aging

Olivia Smith/ABC(NEW YORK) — Hang your tongue out of your mouth while your eyes drift to the ceiling. Breathe loudly and use your hands to pull your head in every which way. This is yoga for your face, and some people are using it as an alternative to Botox or plastic surgery.

“When you exercise your face muscles you can improve blood circulation on your face,” Fumiko Takatsu, the creator of Face Yoga Method, told ABC News’ Good Morning America.

Takatsu has written six books on face yoga and has been practicing facial exercises for about 15 years.

Takatsu, 50, said she came up with the idea of face exercises after a car accident when she was 35 years old.

“It made my body out of alignment and, as a result, it made my face out of alignment,” she said.

Around the same time, Takatsu said she began to notice signs of aging but gave up on creams and facials after they became too expensive.

“One day I realized that I have muscles on my face. Why not exercise [the] muscles on my face?” she said.

Koko Hayashi, a face yoga instructor in Los Angeles who founded Face Yoga with Koko, said she first heard of face yoga by discovering Takatsu’s work.

Hayashi, 39, said she had a chin implant when she was 27 years old, but took it out because it distorted her face.

“That’s why I’m so interested in more natural beauty instead of plastic surgery,” Hayashi said.

Hayashi, like others who practice facial exercises, believes it can fix signs of aging and help reduce wrinkles like crow’s feet and smile lines.

The origins of face yoga are unclear, but there are articles in the U.S. dating back to the 1970s and 1980s.

The question that often pops up when someone mentions face yoga is, “Does it actually work?”

A study out of Northwestern University found that the exercises may help middle-aged women.

“This is a preliminary study that suggests that there might be some elements of face exercise that can be helpful to at least certain patients — middle-aged women — in improving certain signs of aging cheek fullness,” said Dr. Murad Alam, vice chair and professor of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“But we definitely need more studies to better understand exactly how much exercise is necessary to cause the benefit, whether it works for men and women and people of different ages, and then how much exercise is needed to maintain that benefit,” Alam said.

ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton said there is no solid evidence that face yoga works and that any benefits are most likely going to be up to the person trying it. If you feel better after trying face yoga it may be something to keep doing, she said.

“What are the risks of doing facial yoga? Pretty much none,” Ashton said. “What are the benefits? That’s the big question and that’s going to be very subjective.”

“If you look in the mirror after doing a couple of facial exercises and you think you look better that’s terrific. But benefits are going to really be in the eye of the beholder,” Ashton said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Mysterious, well-liked egg’s Instagram account is all about mental health

Chesnot/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — An egg is usually beaten but its Instagram account whipped up a lot of buzz last month, and on Super Bowl Sunday, its purpose was revealed: mental health awareness.

Instagram user @world_record_egg posted a generic picture of a farmer’s brown egg on Instagram in January and ultimately became the most-liked photo on Instagram with 52 million likes. Previously, celebrity Kylie Jenner held the most-liked spot with her birth announcement in 2018, which received 18 million likes.

On Super Bowl Sunday, a year after Kylie Jenner’s birth announcement, the intention of the egg post was finally cracked with a game-time ad on Hulu.

The advertisement began, “Recently, I started to crack. The pressure of social media is hurting me.”

As pieces of the broken shell began to fall away, the advertisement urged, “If you’re struggling too, talk to someone.”

It ended with a link for viewers to visit for more information:

At the website, users are prompted to choose from a range of global resources classified under “useful mental health links below.”

Within the United States section, there are three links to Mental Health America, CALM: Campaign against Living Miserably and NAMI: National Alliance of Mental Illness.

Prior to the advertisement’s release, the egg’s Instagram account posted a preview.

Soon after the account was created and broke the Instagram record, the account told viewers to “stay tuned,” according to a statement released to ABC News.

It turns out the intention of the egg was all it was cracked up to be as it is now shining a light on mental health awareness.

The advertisement even ended with a message of unity: “We got this.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Paris apartment fire kills 10, injures more than 30; arson suspected

WORLD NEWS Paris apartment fire kills 10, injures more than 30; arson suspected

pictore/iStock(PARIS) — At least 10 people were killed and 37 others injured when flames engulfed an apartment building in an affluent western Paris neighborhood early Tuesday morning.

Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz told reporters at the scene that a criminal investigation has been opened to determine whether the cause of the blaze was intentional arson resulting in death.

A woman who lived in the building and was known to have had psychological problems was arrested on the street nearby.

“A person who lives in the building was arrested; it’s a woman in her 40s who manifested psychiatric issues,” Heitz said. “She is in custody. The investigation is being carried out to know exactly the conditions in which the fire would have been spread, and the conditions in which it would have started.”

The fire is believed to have started around 1 a.m. local time on the second floor of an eight-story residential building in the French capital’s swanky 16th arrondissement.

It took hundreds of firefighters several hours to quell the fast-moving flames, which now are under control, according to French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.

Some residents had to be rescued from the roof as they fled the smoke and flames.

At least six firefighters were among those injured, Heitz said.

French President Emmanuel Macron took to Twitter to thank the courageous firefighters who “saved many lives.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 05 Feb 2019

China begins celebrating Lunar New Year

WORLD NEWS China begins celebrating Lunar New Year

Toa55/iStock(SHANGHAI) — The biggest holiday of the year has begun in China.

Starting Tuesday, relatives will reunite, red envelopes filled with money will be exchanged and massive feasts will be planned to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

Millions of people are hitting the roads, rails and skies to return home as part of the world’s largest annual mass migration of humans.

Here’s what you need to know about the festivities:

What is Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year celebrations occur across Asian cultures based on different dates, according to the local lunisolar calendars.

China’s Lunar New Year celebration is also referred to as the Spring Festival. Celebrations take place for 15 days.

At the stroke of midnight, families set off firecrackers and fireworks to ring in the new year. Traditionally the fireworks were meant to chase away a mythical beast called Nian, which is believed to be the embodiment of bad luck. Traditional lion dances performed throughout China and the ethnic Chinese diaspora communities also serve the same purpose in driving the Nian monster away.

Traditional customs include decorating one’s home with red paper cuttings, couplets (vertical banners featuring two lines of poetry), lanterns and scrolls.

What is the animal zodiac this year?

It’s the “Year of the Pig.”

Past years of the pig include 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995 and 2007.

Pig-shaped toys and movies are on high demand, according to some reports.

The pig is the last animal in the Chinese zodiac and despite its slovenly reputation in the West, in the agrarian days of China the pig was seen and treated as a symbol of wealth. Their chubby faces and large ears are seen as signs of luck. Those born in the year of pig are described as hard-working, social, friendly and realistic.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hillary Clinton and Ronald Reagan were all born in the year of the pig.

Why are so many people on the move?

Hundreds of millions of rural migrant laborers are the backbone of China’s economic miracle and many live and work in China’s ever-expanding urban areas.

Chinese traditionally travel home for the holiday — one of the biggest human migrations on the planet.

The government said it expects almost three billion trips this year, with the majority of them to be made by road and 413 million by rail, according to official media.

Chinese residents travel as part of what is known as “chunyun,” or the Spring Festival travel rush, which covers 40 days between Jan. 21 and Mar. 1. Woodworker Wu Xiaoxin will travel 26 hours by train to his home in Fuxin, in the northeast Liaoning Province, for the holiday.

Having worked alone in Shanghai for 10 years, Wu told ABC News he was used to the long and exhausting commutes to see his wife and child.

“Of course I’m happy (to go home) and tired at the same time,” Wu said. “It’s a custom in China. I can only dream about getting home in a wink.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 05 Feb 2019