Wolves benchwarmer Saiss linked with shock summer transfer to Atletico Madrid

The Morocco midfielder played a key role under Nuno Espirito Santo’s promotion-winning side last season.

But this term the 28-year-old has only been used sparingly in the Premier League with Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho both preferred alongside Belgium ace Leander Dendoncker.

Despite Saiss’ lack of action, news outlet Lions de l’Atlas in the ace’s homeland claims Diego Simeone wants to bring him to La Liga.

And with Atletico also having strong ties with super-agent Jorge Mendes, they report a potential deal could be on the cards.

Saiss moved to Molineux from French club Angers in 2016 and remains under contract until 2020.

A switch to Saudi Arabia was rejected to last month – a move that could have seen him quadruple his wages.

And that offer from the Middle East is likely to be on the cards again come the end of the season.

HUMBLE PIE Wolves fan slapped with three-year ban for throwing pie at West Ham supporter

The versatile Saiss has found an unlikely route back into Nuno’s starting XI recently.

He filled in at centre-half during Willy Boly’s three-game ban.

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Islamic State's 'caliphate' on brink of defeat in Syria

NEAR BAGHOUZ, Syria (Reuters) – U.S.-backed fighters in Syria are poised to capture Islamic State’s last, tiny enclave on the Euphrates, the battle commander said on Saturday, bringing its self-declared caliphate to the brink of total defeat.

Jiya Furat said the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had cornered the remaining militants in a neighborhood of Baghouz village near the Iraqi border, under fire from all sides.

“In the coming few days, in a very short time, we will spread the good tidings to the world of the military end of Daesh,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

He was speaking after U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday there would be “great announcements” about Syria over the next 24 hours.

Trump has sworn to pull U.S. forces from Syria after Islamic State’s territorial defeat, raising questions over the fate of Washington’s Kurdish allies and Turkish involvement in northeast Syria.

As the SDF advanced under heavy U.S. airstrikes in recent days, a stream of civilians fled the few square miles of hamlets and farmland that remain within Islamic State’s ‘caliphate’, along with defeated jihadists trying to escape unnoticed.

Though Islamic State fighters still hold out in a pocket of central Syria’s remote desert, and have gone underground as sleeper cells in Iraqi cities, able to launch new attacks, their territorial rule is, for now, almost over.

It ends a project launched from the great mediaeval mosque of Mosul in northern Iraq in 2014, when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi seized advantage of regional chaos to proclaim himself caliph, suzerain over all Muslim people and land.

He set up a governing system with courts, a currency and flag that at its height stretched from northwest Syria almost to Baghdad, encompassing some two million inhabitants.


But its reign of terror over minorities and other perceived enemies, marked by massacres, sexual slavery and the beheading of hostages, drew a forceful international military response that pushed it steadily back from 2015.

Most of the fighters left in Baghouz are foreigners, the SDF has said, among the thousands drawn by Baghdadi’s promise of a new jihadist utopia straddling the Iraqi-Syrian border and expunging national borders.

All that remains, said Furat, is an encircled pocket some 700 meters square. “Thousands of civilians are still trapped there as human shields,” he said.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the SDF had taken control of all of Baghouz after the jihadists there surrendered. SDF officials denied this.

Spokesman Mustafa Bali said the SDF had caught several militants trying to flee among the civilians. Others had handed themselves over.

Their fate, and that of their families, has befuddled foreign governments, with few ready to repatriate citizens who pledged allegiance to a group sworn to their destruction, but who might be hard to legally prosecute. The SDF does not want to hold them indefinitely.

The fate of Baghdadi is also a mystery. He has led the group since 2010, when it was still an underground al-Qaeda offshoot in Iraq.


Its capacity then for strategic retreats in hard times, followed by rebounds when circumstances changed, has prompted numerous warnings that Islamic State’s defeat has not ended the threat it poses to the region.

Islamic State suffered crippling defeats in 2016, when Iraq recaptured Mosul, the SDF seized its Syrian capital of Raqqa, and the Damascus government pushed it east to the Euphrates.

But in Iraq it has switched to guerrilla hit-and-run tactics, aimed at undermining the Baghdad government. It has also claimed responsibility for a series of bombings in swathes of northeast Syria held by the SDF, including one last month that killed four Americans.

That attack came soon after Trump pledged to pull out, saying Islamic State was already defeated, rattling allies and prompting defense secretary Jim Mattis to resign.

Turkey, which regards the SDF’s strongest component, the Kurdish YPG, as terrorists, has threatened to march deeper into northern Syria to drive it back.

On Friday U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, who oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East as head of Central Command, said the end of the territorial caliphate would lead to a more dispersed, harder-to-detect network of fighters waging guerrilla warfare.

That should require continued help from Washington, he said.

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Kim Jong Un to arrive in Vietnam on February 25 ahead of Trump summit

HANOI (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will arrive in Vietnam on Feb. 25 ahead of a planned second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, three sources with direct knowledge of Kim’s schedule told Reuters on Saturday.

Trump and Kim are due to meet in Hanoi on Feb. 27 and 28 following their historic first meeting last June in Singapore. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday Washington aims to “get as far down the road as we can” at the summit.

Kim will meet with Vietnamese officials when he arrives in Hanoi, said the sources, who requested anonymity citing the sensitivity and secrecy surrounding the movements of the North Korean leader.

He will also visit the Vietnamese manufacturing base of Bac Ninh and the industrial port town of Hai Phong, one source said.

Vietnam’s president and general secretary of the ruling Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, will meet Kim ahead of a planned trip by Trong to neighboring Laos, one of the sources with direct knowledge told Reuters.

A Reuters witness saw Kim’s close aide, Kim Chang Son, in Hanoi on Saturday visiting a government guesthouse and the Metropole and Melia hotels in the center of the capital.

Reuters was first to report last month that Hanoi was preparing to receive Kim for a state visit this month.

Communist-ruled Vietnam, which has embraced economic reforms and developed close diplomatic ties with its former foe the United States, has been widely touted as a model of reform for isolated and impoverished North Korea.

The former Cold War allies, which share a similar socialist ideology and exchanged military and political support during the Vietnam War, are eyeing a new chapter in relations following Hanoi’s opening up and embrace of the West.

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'They were taking advantage of Michael completely' – Mark Lester refutes allegations of sexual abuse made against Michael Jackson

Former child actor Mark Lester has refuted renewed claims of sexual abuse made against the late Michael Jackson and insisted that children and families visiting Jackson’s Neverland Ranch were the ones taking advantage.

Speaking on RTE’s The Late Late Show, the actor/osteopath said that he was present in Neverland when children, including his own daughters, visited and said he did not witness any inappropriate behaviour on Jackson’s part.

Asked by host Ryan Tubridy about Jackson allegedly sharing a bed with children, he said, “Well, yeah… it’s not the sort of thing I would do for sure, but I never felt anything untoward. My kids went to Neverland. My girls, when they were five and seven, I took to Neverland.

“There was never anything inappropriate that ever happened. If anything had happened they would have told me straight away. There was nothing that I picked up on of anything.”

The English actor, who played the title role in the 1968 film ‘Oliver!’, said that he maintained a friendship with the ‘King of Pop’ despite the allegations of sexual  abuse.  Jackson suffered immensely from the allegations, he said, adding that it was the children he invited to Neverland who were taking advantage of the star.

Mr Lester added that he “never believed it for a moment”.

“I was at Neverland when those kids were there and I saw what was going on. In 2003 or 2004, Michael had basically brought a kid that he had visited in hospital as a cancer victim and this was in hospital and I think, off the cuff, he had said ‘when you get better why not come and see me in Neverland?’, so obviously he did.

“What was supposed to be a short visit turned into the kid coming and then the rest of the family coming in and then they stayed for like three months.

“They were taking advantage of Michael completely because Michael wasn’t there most of the time. He would be off doing business or recording or doing other things so he was hardly ever there. Maybe he was there for about a week of the three months they were there.”

Mr Lester said that Jackson was “deeply hurt and troubled” by the allegations in 2005, and added, “he chose then rightly to fight these allegations in court, whereas before he tried to cover it all up with money because he thought that was the best way and dealing with it that way.

“He did the right thing by fighting it,” he said.


Mr Lester’s defence of the star comes in the wake of controversy over a Channel 4 documentary which screened at the Sundance Film Festival last month.

‘Leaving Neverland’ follows two of Jackson’s child complainants, James Safechuck and Dan Reed and their families as they discuss the alleged sexual abuse they suffered and the psychological affect it had on their lives.

Jackson, who died in 2009, settled his case with Safechuck out of court in 1993 and no criminal charges were brought against him. In 2005 Mr Reed’s case, involving multiple alleged accounts of child molestation, child intoxication and conspiring to commit child extortion and abduction ended with a jury finding Jackson not guilty.

In response to the two-part documentary the Jackson estate denied the allegations and said that they would not have been made if the pop star was alive to defend himself.

“We can’t just stand by while this public lynching goes on and the vulture tweeters and others who never met Michael go after him,” they said.

“Michael is not here to defend himself, otherwise these allegations would not have been made.”

You can watch the full interview on the RTE Player.

Read more: ‘Some theatres didn’t want to book the show because of the allegations’ – Friend of Michael Jackson and creator of Thriller Live, Adrian Grant

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Nile dam dispute: Troops mass on Sudan-Eritrea border

Tensions are heating up around the Nile as Sudan sends troops to the border with Eritrea at the same time that cordial meetings are being held to discuss damming the river in Ethiopia.

    A geopolitical crisis is building over who controls the River Nile.

    On Monday, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia’s presidents met in Addis Ababa to resolve a dispute over building a dam on the river in Ethiopia.

    The show of unity has been contradicted as pictures emerge of Sudanese troops near Kassala, near the border with Eritrea.

    Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis reports.

    ALSO WATCH: The Struggle over the Nile

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    Baring Vostok's Calvey tells Russian court he will cooperate with investigation

    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Michael Calvey, the U.S. founder of one of Russia’s biggest private equity firms, told a Russian court on Saturday he would cooperate with an investigation into alleged financial misconduct and comply with terms if put under house arrest.

    Calvey, a senior partner at Baring Vostok, was detained on Thursday along with some other executives after investigators accused him and others of embezzling 2.5 billion roubles ($37.73 million). Calvey denies the accusations.

    Moscow’s Basmanny court ordered on Friday that Calvey should be detained for 72 hours, with a new hearing to consider if he should continue to be kept in custody on Saturday.

    A state prosecutor said on Friday that Calvey and other executives at his fund were suspected of embezzling the money by persuading shareholders in a Russian bank to accept a stake in another firm at an inflated price.

    The alleged share scam occurred in 2017 and involved Vostochny Bank, a small lender in which Baring Vostok has a controlling stake. It concerned the transfer of equity in Luxembourg-based International Financial Technology Group.

    Calvey, calmly speaking via his lawyer from a locked glass-walled space inside the court room on Saturday, repeated he disagreed with prosecutor’s asset valuation but said he was ready to cooperate with the investigation.

    Related Coverage

    • Russian court orders Baring Vostok's Calvey to be kept in custody until April 13

    “I am ready to cooperate with the investigation and meet all requirements of the house arrest,” Calvey told the court. “I am not going to run.” A judge at the Basmanny court, Artur Karpov, is expected to rule whether Calvey should remain in custody later on Saturday.

    Earlier on Saturday, the judge asked prosecutors to bring a document from the Russian central bank to support their 2.5 billion rouble estimate of the alleged fraud.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin was informed of the detention, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by RIA news agency late on Friday.

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    9 Ways to Cut Down on Plastic

    Drowning in plastic, but not sure how to set yourself free? Plastic purgers say you can drastically reduce, if not eliminate, your plastic consumption by changing a few daily habits. Here are nine steps to get you started.

    1. Carry a reusable bag.

    This is Plastic-Free-Living 101. Take a cloth bag to the grocery store, farmers’ market, drugstore and anywhere else you may be given a plastic bag.

    2. Use plastic-free containers.

    Glass or metal jars can be used to store grains, nuts, flour and other foods, as well as laundry detergent, dish soap and body creams. But don’t automatically purge all of your plastic containers; that creates unnecessary waste.

    3. Pack a travel kit.

    Bamboo cutlery and a nonplastic food tray, straw and water bottle will eliminate the need for most single-use plastics while on-the-go. “Restaurants and vendors all over the world are getting much more used to people bringing their own containers,” said Jay Sinha, a founder of Life Without Plastic, an online store.

    4. Buy in bulk.

    To avoid food packaging, shop the bulk aisle at the market and bring your own glass containers. Weigh the jar beforehand to avoid being overcharged.

    5. Buy used items.

    Some household plastic is unavoidable, especially in modern appliances. So until they make an all-metal vacuum cleaner, Beth Terry, who writes the blog My Plastic-free Life, suggests buying secondhand, through Craigslist or at a thrift shop. “I’m not buying new plastic,” she said. “I’m also avoiding the packaging.”

    6. Recycle “good” plastics.

    Clear plastic bottles, bottles for shampoos, yogurt containers, toys and reusable food containers have a higher probability of being recycled. Disposable cutlery, cling wrap and coffee cups and lids have very low probability.

    7. Wear natural clothes.

    Synthetic fibers from clothing “are an enormous plastic pollution problem,” said Mr. Sinha, because they are a key contributor to microplastic pollution. Choose clothing made of fabrics like cotton, wool, hemp and silk.

    8. Make your own.

    With so many toiletries packaged in plastic, Chantal Plamondon, a founder of Life Without Plastic, became a home chemist. “We make our own toothpaste out of baking soda, coconut oil and essential oils,” she said. “We make body creams out of coconut or macadamia oil.”

    9. Do without.

    If it’s plastic or nothing, you can always choose nothing.

    Steven Kurutz joined The Times in 2011 and wrote for the City and Home sections before joining Style. He was previously a reporter at The Wall Street Journal and Details. @skurutz

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    MMA: Father-to-be Amir Khan eyeing rebound win at One Championship's Call to Greatness

    SINGAPORE – When local mixed martial arts fighter Amir Khan steps into the ring at One Championship’s Call To Greatness event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday (Feb 22), he will not be fighting for just himself.

    With his wife Cristina Leontyeva due to deliver the couple’s first child in March, he is eyeing a triumph over Ariel Sexton in their lightweight (up to 77kg) Grand Prix quarter-final match to set him on the path to success in the sport and a brighter future for his son.

    Asked what fatherhood meant to him, Amir told The Sunday Times: “It gives me extra motivation. Every fight I take part in will affect my career, and the more successful I am, the more I can provide my son with opportunities in life.

    “If I make it, he has a better life, and that’s all I want.”

    After a pause, the 24-year-old added with a smirk: “Maybe that, and for him to be able to say: ‘Daddy was a world champion’. I want him to be proud of his dad and be able to show off to his friends.”

    One Championship does not disclose fighters’ purses but its atomweight world champion Angela Lee makes a guaranteed six-figure sum per fight, excluding bonuses. Budding fighters may get about $1,300 per fight.

    This is the first time a Grand Prix tournament is being held in One Championship, and former Ultimate Fighting Championship star Eddie Alvarez is among the eight fighters in the mix. The winner of the Grand Prix will be also become contender to One’s world title.

    Amir earned his long-awaited title shot last November, but fell short at the final hurdle.

    Before a partisan 15,000-strong crowd in Manila, he showed plenty of heart and went the distance against veteran Filipino fighter Eduard Folayang, 34, but lost via unanimous decision after five rounds.

    Amir, who has 11 wins and four losses in his professional career, candidly admitted that he was second best on the night, and that Folayang’s well-executed game plan exposed “a lot of holes” in his game.

    He returned to the gym after just a week’s rest, after he received the call to face Costa Rican jiu-jitsu specialist Sexton (12 wins, four losses).

    The 37-year-old noted Amir is a “very dangerous striker” but believes his experience makes him a more well-rounded fighter than his much-younger rival.

    “It’s going to be a wild fight, it’s going to be fun, and I know that I’ll come out with my submission,” Sexton said on One’s website.

    Former Muay Thai fighter Amir, whose strength lies in his striking ability, has other ideas though.

    “He’s targeting a submission, I’m targeting a knockout, so we’ll see whose prediction will come true on Friday.”

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    Thompson RCMP officer cleared of perjury by police watchdog

    An RCMP officer has been cleared of possible perjury charges by the province’s police watchdog.

    The Independent Investigation Unit (IIU) said Thursday it had concluded its investigation into the officer, who was accused of misrepresenting herself in a 2018 Thompson murder trial.

    According to IIU, the officer represented herself as a drug recognition expert despite not being certified as such.

    The crown prosecutor filed a complaint with the RCMP.

    The IIU investigation found that the officer had, in fact, been a trained and certified drug recognition expert, but her certification had expired in 2016.

    The investigation found that while the officer should have clarified she was no longer certified, her testimony was technically correct, and she didn’t intend to mislead the court.

    Global News

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    Ivanka Trump leads the way at the Munich Security Conference

    Ivanka gives talk at the 55th annual Munich Security Conference alongside world leaders, Jared and the Pences

    • Ivanka attended the 55th annual Munich Security Conference on Saturday
    • With her husband in-tow, Ivanka schmoozed with world leaders and politicians
    • The 37-year-old seemed to enjoy the summit – unlike her father at G7 in 2017
    • She took a specific liking to Angela Merkle, complementing her ‘sense of humor’ 

    Ivanka Trump is said to be working hard behind the scenes of Washington DC to implement her paid family leave initiative – and she certainly didn’t shy away from the spotlight in Munich this week either.

    The President’s daughter, who herself is believed to have presidential ambitions, delivered a rousing speech at the 55th annual Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

    Accompanied by Vice President, Mike Pence, and her husband, Jared, Ivanka schmoozed with world leaders at the summit discussing a wealth of topics such as trade and international security, as well as the the future of NATO.

    Ivanka seemed to strike a particular accord with Angela Merkel, telling Bild she admired her ‘leadership on the world stage’, as well as her ‘company and sense of humor.’

    ‘The Chancellor’s dedication to vocational education and the economic empowerment of women are just two areas in which we share common goals and interests,’ she added.  

    In a stark contrast to her father’s solemn showing at a G7 summit in 2017, Ivanka seemed to revel in meeting with both leaders of today, and leaders of the future.  

    With Husband Jared in-tow, Ivanka arrives at the 55th annual Munich Security Conference in Germany, on Saturday

    According to political author Michael Wolff, the daughter of the President is determined to become the first female occupant of the White House

    Alongside Mike and Karen Pence (left), Ivanka listened to world leaders address global security issues

    Ivanka delivered her own rousing speech in front of world leaders at the annual meeting

    Ms Trump’s speech was met with a much warmer reception than Mike Pence’s yesterday, after sending the President’s regards was met with a five second silence

    International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde (right) seemed to take a shine to the 37-year-old

    Ivanka also held a lengthy chat with the Chairwoman of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union party Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer

    The mother-of-three was all smiles on her Instagram story too, as a lunchtime break turned to sight seeing

    Back to business, Ivanka shared a laugh with Germany’s defense minister Ursula von der Leyen (right)

    In a stark contrast to her father at 2017 G7 summit, Ivanka seemed to revel in meeting leaders, both current and future

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