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  1. The Minnesota Timberwolves made University of Georgia standout Anthony Edwards the first overall selection in the pandemic-delayed 2020 NBA draft on Wednesday. The Timberwolves, who finished 19-45 in the coronavirus-disrupted 2020 season, opted for Edwards, who averaged 19 points per game as a freshman, to bolster a roster that includes young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell. "I feel like I'm going to fit perfect with those guys because Russell likes to play off the ball sometimes, and I can play on the ball," Edwards said in a virtual press conference from his home in Georgia. "When he wants to play on the rock, I can play off the ball. And KAT is the best three-point shooting big man in the league. So I feel we can't go wrong with that, a lot of pick-and-pops, pick-and-rolls and such." The Golden State Warriors took center James Wiseman with the second overall pick and the Charlotte Hornets -- owned by NBA icon Michael Jordan -- made guard LaMelo Ball the third selection. Edwards, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound guard from Atlanta who spent his lone collegiate season at Georgia, joins a young Timberwolves core led by star center Karl-Anthony Towns and point guard D'Angelo Russell. Edwards led all Division I freshmen with 19.1 points per game and was the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year. The 2020 draft comes five months after it was originally scheduled in June and barely four weeks after LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers clinched the NBA Finals after a virus-disrupted season. And it comes just five weeks before the 2020-21 campaign tips off on December 22. That means the NBA's newest top recruits face being thrown in at the deep end after an unprecedented last leg of their journey to the league. "It makes for a lot of unknowns," said Golden State general manager Bob Myers of a year that saw the influential "March Madness" collegiate tournament cancelled and chances for NBA hopefuls to showcase their talent curtailed. The Warriors, who finished last in the Western Conference after a season marred by injuries to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, got another injury scare hours before the draft with what they called a leg injury to Thompson in training, the severity of which was not immediately known. In Wiseman they get a player who hasn't played organized basketball in more than a year. He played just three games for the University of Memphis to aim at the NBA draft. "This draft process has been the longest for me, so I've just been working on my game," said the 7ft 1in (2.16m) center who is an imposing presence at the rim. "I've actually been playing pickup games with pros already, so I've been getting a lot of experience. But really just focusing on myself. I'm truly ready to play with these great guys." Ball, the youngest of three basketball-playing brothers who already have their own reality TV show, was touted as a potential top selection. But erratic shooting ability may have weighed against the 6ft 7in 19-year-old from California whose path to the NBA included stints playing professionally in Lithuania and Australia. He averaged 17 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists in 31.2 minutes over 12 games for the Illawarra Hawks in Australia's National Basketball League this past season. The Chicago Bulls took Patrick Williams with the fourth pick, Isaac Okoro went fifth to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks took Onyeka Okongwu sixth overall. French point guard Killian Hayes, who has been playing with Ratiopharm Ulm in Germany, went seventh overall to the Detroit Pistons -- the highest overseas player taken this year Hayes, 19, averaged 11.6 points and 5.3 assists per game in 2019-20 in Germany's top league and is expected to combine well with last year's first-round pick, Sekou Doumbouya, who is also from France. Deni Avdija, 19, became the highest-drafted player from Israel when the Washington Wizards took him ninth. Avdija, who played for Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv at 16 and averaged 12.9 points per game in the 2019-20 EuroLeague season, was tabbed by the Wizards a year after they made Rui Hachimura the first player from Japan to be drafted in the first round. For the first time two players born in Nigeria -- Precious Achiuwa and Udoka Azubuike -- featured in the first round. Achiuwa was taken 20th by the Miami Heat and Azubuike 27th by the New York Knicks, both coming through US collegiate programmes, as did Aussie Josh Green who was taken 18th by the Dallas Mavericks.
  2. Leaders of the world's 20 biggest economies vowed on Sunday to spare no effort to supply COVID-19 drugs, tests and vaccines affordably and fairly to "all people", reflecting worries that the pandemic could deepen global divisions between rich and poor. The pandemic and prospects of an uneven and uncertain economic recovery were at the centre of a two-day summit under the chairmanship of Saudi Arabia, which will hand the G20 presidency to Italy next month. "The COVID-19 pandemic and its unprecedented impact in terms of lives lost, livelihoods and economies affected, is an unparalleled shock that has revealed vulnerabilities in our preparedness and response and underscored our common challenges," the final communique said. G20 nations will work to "protect lives, provide support with a special focus on the most vulnerable, and put our economies back on a path to restoring growth, and protecting and creating jobs for all." On vaccines, tests and treatments, the leaders said: "We will spare no effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all people." The world's economy has experienced a sharp contraction this year as measures to contain the spread of the virus have curbed transport, trade, and demand across the planet. The meeting was held by video link, like many such gatherings this year. Saudi Arabia's King Salman said in his closing remarks that the group had "adopted important policies that will achieve recovery all the way to an economy that is resilient, sustainable, inclusive, and balanced". G20 leaders said that while global economic activity has partially picked up thanks the gradual reopening of some economies, the recovery is uneven, highly uncertain and subject to downside risks. They reaffirmed their commitment to use "all available policy tools as long as required" to protect people's lives, jobs, and incomes. The G20 has endorsed a plan to extend a freeze in debt service payments by the poorest countries to mid-2021 and a common approach for dealing with debt problems beyond that, according to the communique. The Debt Service Suspension Initiative has helped 46 countries defer $5.7 billion in 2020 debt service payments, short of the 73 countries that were eligible, and promised savings of around $12 billion. The head of the International Monetary Fund called on Sunday for prompt and effective implementation of the G20 framework for debt treatments beyond the initiative and said other countries needed help as well. "Going forward, we must also help those countries not covered by the Framework to address debt vulnerabilities so that their economies can become more resilient," IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said in a statement after addressing the G20 leaders. In their joint statement, the leaders also said they strongly encouraged private creditors to participate in the initiative on comparable terms when requested by eligible countries. Debt relief for Africa will be an important theme of the Italian presidency of the G20 in 2021. The communique also stressed the importance of multilateral institutions. It called on the IMF to continue exploring additional tools that could help its members’ needs as the crisis evolves.
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  5. Striker Olivier Giroud scored twice to move closer to France's national team's scoring record as the Nations League group winner beat Sweden 4-2 and relegated it on Tuesday. Giroud's tally of 44 goals puts him seven behind France and Arsenal great Thierry Henry’s record of 51. “It always feels like he has to prove himself, he scored two good goals,” France coach Didier Deschamps said, praising Giroud. “We’re not talking about a player who has never done anything up until now. People are often too hard on him.” Unbeaten France had already booked its place in the Final Four after ensuring the top spot in League A, Group 3 with a 1-0 win at defending champion Portugal last Saturday. France ended with 16 points from a possible 18 and Deschamps praised his players for doing so in a considerably tough group. “I'm a very factual person. No other team has done or will do better. We had the World Cup runner-up (Croatia) in our group and the reigning European champion (Portugal),” he said. “Not everything was perfect, so we're not going to brag, but you also have to appreciate what we've done. We finished with panache, bravo to my players.” Croatia stayed in the top league despite losing 3-2 to Portugal at home, meaning Sweden finished bottom on goal difference behind the Croats. The Swedes took the lead at Stade de France in the fifth minute when midfielder Viktor Claesson broke into the area, skipped past two tackles and poked a shot that clipped defender Raphael Varane and wrong-footed goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. Marcus Thuram — son of famed France defender Lilian Thuram — was involved in both goals as Giroud equalized in the 16th and right back Benjamin Pavard put Les Bleus ahead in the 36th. After Giroud started a counterattack from midfield, the ball was fed to Thuram down the left and his pinpoint cross was adroitly turned into the bottom left corner by Giroud. Thuram then showed great footwork to weave past three defenders in the area and spin around a fourth. Although he lost control of the ball, it broke to Pavard on the right of the area and he drilled it firmly into the bottom left with the outside of his foot. Giroud, who has hardly played for Chelsea in the Premier League this season, should have scored when he headed Pavard's cross from the right wide when unmarked in the 53rd. But he made no mistake six minutes later, meeting substitute Kylian Mbappé's cross from the left with a diving header. Then Giroud almost set up Antoine Griezmann, directing a pass down with his chest which the Barcelona forward blazed over the crossbar in the 75th. Substitute Robin Quaison gave the Swedes hopes of rescuing a draw when he bundled in left back Pierre Bengtsson's cross with two minutes left in regulation time. With every Sweden player, including the goalkeeper, camped around the goal for a last-gasp corner, France cleared the ball and Kingsley Coman ran through from midfield to roll the ball into an empty net from 40 meters out with the game's last kick.
  6. The Taliban on Wednesday welcomed the Pentagon's announcement it would soon pull about 2,000 US troops from Afghanistan as a "good step" that will help end the country's long-running conflict. The Pentagon announced Tuesday that the US will slash troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq to their lowest levels in nearly 20 years of war after President Donald Trump pledged to end conflicts abroad. "It is a good step and in the interest of the people of both countries," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP, referring to the US and Afghanistan. "The sooner the foreign forces leave, the more the war will be prevented." Critics have expressed concerns that a precipitous departure could embolden the Taliban and erode gains made since 2001, when US-led forces ousted the hardline Islamists in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The latest Pentagon move would see 2,000 US troops quit Afghanistan by January 15, less than a week before President-elect Joe Biden is expected to be sworn into office. The withdrawal follows outgoing President Donald Trump's plan to end US military involvement in Afghanistan. Under a deal signed February 29, the Trump administration agreed to pull all foreign forces from the country by May 2021. In return, the Taliban promised not to attack US forces and said they would stop transnational jihadist groups like Al-Qaeda and Islamic State from operating in the country. Germany, which has hundreds of troops in northern Afghanistan, on Wednesday said it was worried the speedy US withdrawal could affect the bid to find peace in Afghanistan. "We are particularly concerned over what the US announcement could mean for the continuation of peace talks in Afghanistan," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. "We should not create additional hurdles -- something that a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan would most certainly lead to". The US-Taliban deal, signed in Doha, paved the way for peace talks to start between the Taliban and Afghan government on September 12. In the months since, negotiators have made almost no tangible progress and talks now appeared stalled. Afghan officials downplayed the US troop cut, which would leave about 2,500 American service members in Afghanistan after January 15. "The Afghan security and defence forces are already conducting 96 percent of the operations independently and are prepared to continue to defend the country against our enemies," Afghan National Security Council spokesman Rahmatullah Andar said. Since the US-Taliban deal, the Pentagon has shut several military bases across Afghanistan and rotated thousands of soldiers out of the country.
  7. Ten years after climbing out of the Championship, Exeter Chiefs were crowned kings of Europe 90 miles from home on Saturday when they beat Racing 92 31-27 in a superb Champions Cup final in Bristol full of tries and amazing defensive intensity. Playing in the showpiece match for the first time, Exeter were always ahead after scoring early tries but Racing, desperate to avoid a third final defeat, kept battling back and made it a one-point game going into the final 10 minutes, when Exeter were reduced to 14. The English side held out though in a heroic goalline defence that will go down in club folklore, before flyhalf Joe Simmonds slotted a last-minute penalty to settle it. It is an amazing success story for Exeter, who have gradually built themselves into a major force and who can complete a double when they face Wasps in next week's English Premiership final. Exeter drew first blood in their usual way — a catch and drive from a lineout that sent Luke Cowan-Dickie over in the eighth minute. They were virtually camped on the Racing line from then until going over for their second try through number eight Sam Simmonds after 15. Racing finally built some phases and a sharp pass by Finn Russell sent Simon Zebo over in the corner to bring them back into it at 14-5. Argentine wing Juan Imhoff, whose late try secured Racing’s semi-final victory over Saracens, then slipped through a rare gap for his side’s second try as Russell started to cause problems with a series of probing kicks. Exeter, however, cashed in on another error to gain territory and, after repeated assaults, almost inevitably rumbled over via Harry Williams to send them in 21-12 ahead at the break. Risky pass Racing really needed to score first after the restart and did so when Zebo finished well for his second try, but the high-risk side of Russell’s approach was exposed when Exeter's Jack Nowell intercepted a risky lofted pass deep in his own half and sent Henry Slade over to make it 28-17. Yet again though Racing fought back as powerhouse hooker Camille Chat forced his way over and a Maxime Machenaud penalty cut the lead to a point with 15 minutes remaining. Exeter then suffered what could have been a killer blow when replacement prop Tom Francis was sin-binned for a deliberate knock on, leaving them down to 14 for the last nine minutes. However, incredible goalline defending kept out relentless attacks as Racing went through 19 phases before the English side managed a decisive turnover. Exeter then earned a last-minute penalty that Joe Simmonds slotted, taking his goalkicking tally in the competition this season to a staggering 39 from 41 attempts. Exeter's celebrations were briefly put on hold as referee Nigel Owens tried to establish if the clock had ticked into the red before the ball split the posts, finally deciding it had. The only disappointment for a club that is at the heart of its community, was that no fans were there to see it, though remote celebrations are guaranteed to go long into the night. Exeter's win follows Bristol’s victory over Toulon in the Challenge Cup final on Friday.
  8. France's anti-terror prosecutor has confirmed that the suspect in Friday's gruesome beheading of a middle school teacher was a Chechen teenager and that the school had received threats prior to the attack. Police shot the suspect dead minutes after 47-year-old history teacher Samuel Paty was brutally murdered in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, in what President Emmanuel Macron described as an "Islamist terrorist attack". French police investigating the teacher's killing were questioning ten people in custody on Saturday, including the suspect's grandfather, parents and 17-year-old brother. Jean-François Ricard, France's anti-terrorism prosecutor, said the suspect was an 18-year-old Chechen born in Moscow, who was living legally in France as a refugee. He was not known to intelligence services. Ricard said the suspect, who was armed with a knife and an airsoft gun, approached pupils in the street and asked them to point out his victim before the attack. A text claiming responsibility and a photograph of the victim were found on the suspect's phone after he was shot dead by police a few streets away, the prosecutor added. France knife attacker asked pupils to point out his victim, prosecutor says The teacher had earlier this month shown his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a civics class on freedom of expression, reportedly angering a number of Muslim parents. Ricard said the father of a schoolgirl had sought the teacher's dismissal and launched an online call for "mobilisation" against him, naming Paty and giving the school's address. The teacher had filed a complaint for defamation after the school received threats. The prosecutor added that one of the people arrested in the wake of the attack had a relative who had been a member of the Islamic State (IS) group. 'Murdered for teaching freedom of expression' On Saturday, parents and teachers paid tribute to the murdered teacher, laying white roses outside the school and holding up placards saying "I am a teacher — Freedom of Speech". Martial, 16, said Paty had loved his job: "He really wanted to teach us things — sometimes we had debates." "According to my son, he was super nice, super friendly, super kind," Nordine Chaouadi, a parent of one of Paty's students, told AFP. Arriving at the scene of the attack on Friday night, Macron urged the nation to stand united against extremism. “One of our compatriots was murdered today because he taught (...) the freedom of expression, the freedom to believe or not believe,” Macron said. >> For a teacher in France, a lesson on freedom of expression was followed by death It is the second time in three weeks that terror has struck France linked to caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed. Last month, a young man from Pakistan was arrested after attacking two people with a meat cleaver outside the former offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The weekly was the target of a deadly newsroom attack in 2015, and it republished caricatures of the prophet this month to underscore the right to freedom of information as a trial opened linked to that attack. 'Between hammer and anvil' Friday’s terror attack came as Macron’s government works on a bill to address Islamic radicals, who authorities claim are creating a parallel society outside the values of the French Republic. Muslim leaders condemned the killing, which many public figures perceived as an attack on the essence of French statehood and its values of secularism, freedom of worship and freedom of expression. Deadly attacks by Islamist militants or their sympathisers was devastating for France's Muslim community, Tareq Oubrou, the imam of a Bordeaux mosque, said. "We are between hammer and anvil," he told France Inter radio. "It attacks the Republic, society, peace and the very essence of religion, which is about togetherness." Unions, anti-racism groups and Charlie Hebdo are organising a gathering in central Paris on Sunday to honour the murdered teacher. A national tribute will be organised for Wednesday, Macron's office said.
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