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Public smiles, private problems as Saudi prince visits White House

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Saudi Arabia’s crown prince received an effusive welcome Tuesday at the White House from US President Donald Trump, who hailed a “great friendship” with the kingdom — but made no public mention of the sticking points in the burgeoning alliance. In front of the cameras, it was all back-slapping, handshakes, smiles and warm [...] The post Public smiles, private problems as Saudi prince visits White House appeared first on The Manila Times Online......»»

Category: newsSource: manilatimes_net manilatimes_netMar 21st, 2018

Cyberattacks are costly, and things could get worse: US report

        Cyberattacks cost the United States between $57 billion and $109 billion in 2016, a White House report said Friday, warning of a "spillover" effect for the broader economy if the situation worsens. A report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers sought to quantify what it called "malicious cyber activity directed at private and public entities" including denial of service attacks, data breaches and theft of intellectual property, and sensitive financial and strategic information. It warned of malicious activity by "nation-states" and specifically cited Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. The report noted particular concern over ...Keep on reading: Cyberattacks are costly, and things could get worse: US report.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsFeb 17th, 2018

Bolton says he’s no longer allowed to see Trump – CNN News

A hawkish ally of Donald Trump claims he cannot see the President due to &'8220;staff changes&'8221; at the White House. John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the UN who at one point was a candidate to lead the State Department, claimed in a National Review op-ed published Monday that his plan for the US to exit the Iran nuclear deal had to be presented publicly, because staff changes at the White House have made &'8220;presenting it to President Trump impossible.&'8221; CNN has reached out to the White House for comment. His alleged snubbing is the latest development in the tug-of-war for influence over Trump's White House between firebrands such as Bolton and those who have taken a more moderate approach to foreign policy, such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis. Bolton's op-ed comes days after Sebastian Gorka, who advocated a hawkish stance against terrorism, left his position as a White House adviser. Chief of staff John Kelly, who assumed the role in late July, has been conducting a review of the West Wing that includes assessing individual staffers' portfolios. In a memo drawn up after a July directive from Steve Bannon, the recently ousted White House chief strategist, Bolton pushes for selling the idea of leaving the Iran deal to the public in a &'8220;white paper&'8221; and lays out a strategy for the &'8220;campaign&'8221; and its &'8220;execution.&'8221; Bolton has been frustrated at the rise of more traditional foreign policy thinkers within the White House, such as Mattis and Tillerson, who have favored remaining in the deal. The agreement curbs Iran's nuclear weapons program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. Iran remains under multiple sanctions for terrorism-related activities. &'8220;Trump can and should free America from this execrable deal at the earliest opportunity,&'8221; Bolton writes. Where proponents of the deal, including lawmakers and former Obama administration officials, see the pact as a way to get visibility on Iran's nuclear activities, and, at least for the time being, stop it's nuclear program, Bolton sees only danger. &'8220;The JCPOA is a threat to US national-security interests, growing more serious by the day,&'8221; Bolton writes, though he doesn't offer evidence. &'8220;If the President decides to abrogate the JCPOA, a comprehensive plan must be developed and executed to build domestic and international support for the new policy.&'8221; His memo, he says, fills that function. &'8220;It is only five pages long, but like instant coffee, it can be readily expanded to a comprehensive, 100-page playbook if the administration were to decide to leave the Iran agreement,&'8221; Bolton writes. He adds that there is no need to wait for the next deadline in October, when the US must next certify that Iran is sticking to the deal. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the JCPOA, was an international agreement hammered out over 20 arduous months of negotiations. China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, the US, the EU and Iran reached a deal in July 2015 and it was implemented in January 2016. The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency has regular access to nuclear sites inside Iran and verifies that it is implementing its side of the deal; in exchange, the US, UN and EU lifted nuclear related sanctions. Every 90 days, the US president must certify that Iran is keeping up its end of the deal. Trump campaigned against the deal and continues to criticize it, but because Iran is complying, he has certified it twice on the advice of his national security staff. But officials in his administration have clearly been looking for ways to find wiggle room to get out of the deal. Some, like US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, have used the line that Iran is not complying with the &'8220;spirit&'8221; of the deal, pointing to Tehran's activities in the region, including its support for Houthi rebels in Yemen and its backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Bolton says that Trump can bolster his case for abrogating the deal &'8220;by providing new, declassified information on Iran's unacceptable behavior around the world.&'8221; These activities, though, are not part of the JCPOA, deliberately left as a separate issue by the Obama administration and the other international negotiators, who said that to include every single gripe with Iran would make negotiations too unwieldy to resolve. Some proponents of the deal, watching the Trump administration's moves, are already campaigning to keep it. They point to the security consequences of an Iran without constraints on its nuclear weapons program and to the economic fallout as European and Asian firms would likely continue to do business with Tehran while US firms are shut out. &'8220;Accordingly,&'8221; Bolton writes, &'8220;we must explain the grave threat to the US and our allies, particularly Israel.&'8221; But many in Israel's security establishment argue for keeping the deal in place, and making sure its implementation is as rigorous as possible. Bolton makes the case for a four-step campaign that begins with &'8220;early, quiet consultations with key players such as the UK, France, Germany, Israel and Saudi Arabia, to tell them we are going to abrogate the deal based on outright violations and other unacceptable Iranian behavior, and seek their input.&'8221; That would be followed by a detailed white paper that includes declassified intelligence explaining why the deal hurts US security interests; a diplomatic campaign against the deal, especially in Europe and the Middle East; and efforts to sway lawmakers and the [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsAug 30th, 2017

Trump asked me to let Flynn investigation go – CNN News

Fired FBI Director James Comey aimed a dagger blow at Donald Trump Wednesday, saying the President had demanded his loyalty, pressed him to drop a probe into ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn and repeatedly pressured him to publicly declare that he was not under investigation. Comey magnified the political crisis engulfing the White House by releasing his opening statement ahead of a blockbuster appearance on Capitol Hill on Thursday. The dramatic document sketched a stunningly detailed account of Comey's intimate meetings with the President, included direct quotes from Trump and revealed the former FBI chief's discomfort with the President's behavior. The testimony appeared to bolster the case of Trump critics who believe that the President may have obstructed justice and abused his power in his dealings with Comey, who he later fired. Comey said that Trump asked him to drop FBI investigations into Flynn centering on his calls with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition, which eventually led to his dismissal as national security adviser after it emerged he had lied about the conversations to Vice President Mike Pence. Interactive: The many paths from Trump to Russia He wrote that Trump said: &'8220;'I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.&'8221; &'8220;I replied only that 'he is a good guy.'&'8221; Comey wrote, describing a private meeting with Trump in the Oval Office on February 14, then added: &'8220;I did not say I would 'let this go.'&'8221; The exchange took place after a meeting between Trump and senior intelligence and homeland security officials, after which the President asked to speak to the FBI Director alone. Comey said in his testimony that he understood the President to be requesting that he drop the investigation into Flynn, who had resigned the day before. But he says he did not understand Trump to be referring to the wider Russia investigation. &'8220;Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI's role as an independent investigative agency.&'8221; Trump critics contended that this encounter appears to be tantamount to an inappropriate pressure on the FBI by the President, an allegation that if proven could have dire consequences for Trump's presidency itself. Comey's account of this encounter conflicts with Trump's own statements. At a press conference on May 18, the President was asked whether he had asked the FBI Director to pull the plug on the Flynn component of the Russia investigation. &'8220;No, No, next question,&'8221; Trump said. &'8220;There is a criminal investigation going on of one of the President's top associations &' he gets fired, he is under under investigation and the President brings in the FBI Director and says 'please stop your investigation,'&'8221; said CNN's senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. &'8220;If that isn't obstruction of justice, I don't know what is,&'8221; Toobin said. But Trump's defenders were quick to seize on the document as well, arguing that it supported Trump's claims that the former FBI chief had told him three times that he was not personally being investigated in the Russia probe. Comey wrote in his testimony that he twice told Trump he was not being investigated once before the inauguration and once when he was President and also said that he had told congressional leaders that the FBI was not &'8220;personally investigating President Trump.&'8221; Trump's camp argued that fact vindicated the President and sought to use it to sweep away the Russia questions that have been clouding his White House ever since the inauguration. &'8220;The President is pleased that Mr. Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the President was not under investigation in any Russian probe,&'8221; said Marc Kasowitz, Trump's personal attorney. &'8220;The President feels completely and totally vindicated. He is eager to continue to move forward with his agenda.&'8221; Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen told CNN, &'8220;Comey's statement released today needs to be carefully scrutinized as his testimony claims the president was concerned about the dossier.&'8221; The Republican Party also singled out the same helpful passages of Comey's testimony. &'8220;President Trump was right,&'8221; said Republican National Committee Chairwoman McDaniel. &'8220;Director Comey's statement reconfirmed what the president has been saying all along &'8212; he was never under investigation,&'8221; McDaniel said in a statement that did not mention the other aspects of Comey's testimony. The testimony was posted without notice on the website of the Senate Intelligence Committee, instantly electrifying Washington, which has been on edge for days ahead of Comey's planned testimony. The dramatic intervention was classic Comey: the towering FBI chief, branded a &'8220;showboat&'8221; by Trump, has a reputation for theatrical public coups, and his move will only intensify the anticipation for his appearance on Thursday. &'8220;The President feels completely and totally vindicated. He is eager to continue to move forward with his agenda.&'8221; Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen told CNN, &'8220;Comey's statement released today needs to be carefully scrutinized as his testimony claims the president was concerned about the dossier.&'8221; The Republican Party also singled out the same helpful passages of Comey's testimony. &'8220;President Trump was right,&'8221; said Republican National Committee Chairwoman McDaniel. &'8220;Director Comey's statement reconfirmed what the president has been saying all along &'8212; he was never under investigation,&'8221; McDaniel said in a statement that did not mention the other aspects of Comey's testimony. The testimony was posted without notice on the website of the Senate Intelligence Committee, instantly electrifying Washington, [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsJun 8th, 2017

Republicans lose patience with FBI on Russia, Trump campaign ties information – CNN News

Top Republicans in Congress expressed their dissatisfaction Wednesday about getting answers from the FBI, as lawmakers trying to investigate Russia's meddling in the US election say they've continued to see no evidence of President Donald Trump's claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor. The FBI's decision to brief the Senate Judiciary Committee comes after the committee's Chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, threatened to not schedule a vote for Rod Rosenstein to be deputy attorney general unless his panel got the FBI briefing he and the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, requested weeks ago. Grassley &'8212; a stalwart Republican with a powerful post &'8212; expressed his exasperation the FBI hours before a private meeting at the Capitol with Comey. He called the scheduled meeting a &'8220;positive step,&'8221; but also added: &'8220;I don't want to say that's enough at this point.&'8221; Grassley said he was frustrated that officials haven't been as forthcoming as lawmakers would like, and said his committee hasn't been given the respect it deserves for its oversight of the executive branch. &'8220;That's very irritating,&'8221; Grassley told CNN. He wasn't the only Republican venting his displeasure: Sen. Lindsay Graham, who sits on a subcommittee that's seeking FBI answers, said earlier that he would subpoena the agency for information if it wasn't provided to him and fellow subcommittee member Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. &'8220;We wrote a letter &'' Sen. Whitehouse and myself &'' wanting to know if there's evidence of a warrant issued by the Trump campaign,&'8221; the South Carolina Republican told CNN's Chris Cuomo on &'8220;New Day. &'8220;He hasn't answered that letter or confirmed if there's a real investigation of the Trump campaign.&'8221; &'8220;He needs to answer the letter and give the nation some information about what's going on here,&'8221; Graham said. Whitehouse and Graham said later Wednesday they had received a letter from the FBI saying they would respond to their questions next week in a classified letter. It was also announced Wednesday that Comey will testify at the House Intelligence Committee on March 20 hearing and there will be a second hearing in the committee March 28, the committee's chairman said. In a Fox interview with Tucker Carlson Wednesday, the President defended his decision to tweet about wiretapping before producing evidence by hinting &'8212; again without evidence &'8212; that more information will emerge in the weeks to come, presumably proving his point. &'8220;Wiretap covers a lot of different things,&'8221; Trump said. &'8220;I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.&'8221; House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes said he does not believe Trump's claim that Obama wiretapped him, but said it's possible Trump communications may have been gathered in &'8220;incidental&'8221; intelligence collection. &'8220;I don't believe Trump Tower was tapped,&'8221; Nunes told reporters Wednesday. &'8220;We don't have any evidence that that took place and, in fact, I don't believe &'8212; just in the last week of time, the people we've talked to &'8212; I don't think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower,&'8221; Nunes said at a news conference in reference to the claim originally made by Trump several weeks ago. Nunes and Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said they want to see any evidence of wiretapping by their March 20 hearing or they may also issue a subpoena for the records. Asked if he had seen any evidence that Trump aides spoke with Russian officials other than Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak, Nunes said, &'8220;Not that I'm aware of.&'8221; But Schiff added: &'8220;I wouldn't answer that question as categorically as my colleague. We're not privileged to talk about the contents of the investigation but, you know, I think we need to be very precise when we talk about this. And I just don't think that we can answer it categorically in this forum.&'8221; Nunes and Schiff also sent a letter to the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency demanding information on the leaks regarding Russia's contact with Trump advisers by Friday. The two leaders of the House investigation said their work has been stalled so far by trouble accessing computers used by the director of national intelligence &'8212; Schiff said he has been taking handwritten notes when he views evidence. The two have not yet interviewed former national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn and declined to say whether he would appear at a public hearing. Schiff added that he is very concerned about Trump adviser Roger Stone's admission that he communicated with &'8220;Guccifer 2.0&'8221; &'8212; who was later determined by intelligence agencies to be a Russian hacker or group of hackers. Stone has described his contact with Guccifer as limited to a &'8220;brief exchange with him on Twitter&'8221; and any suggestion otherwise, he told CNN, is &'8220;a fabrication.&'8221; The White House has vacillated on Trump's claims in the last two days. Press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that Trump did not mean literally that Obama personally wiretapped him. But on Tuesday, Spicer said Trump was &'8220;extremely confident&'8221; he would be vindicated by the evidence. &'8220;I think there's significant reporting about surveillance techniques that existed throughout the 2016 election,&'8221; Spicer said, without providing any examples. &'8220;He feels very confident that what will ultimately come of this will vindicate him,&'8221; Spicer said. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Wednesday he never gave Trump any reason to believe the GOP candidate [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsMar 16th, 2017

Top Saudi prince to meet Trump in White House visit

RIYADH — The White House confirmed yesterday that President Donald Trump will meet this week with Saudi Arabia's second-in-line to the throne in the highest-.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMar 13th, 2017

Obama to block Saudi 9/11 prosecution

WASHINGTON: Barack Obama will on Friday veto legislation allowing 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, risking public outrage and the first congressional override of his presidency. The White House confirmed Thursday that Obama would veto the legislation.....»»

Category: newsSource:  manilatimes_netRelated NewsSep 23rd, 2016

Decades-old Saudi cinema ban ends, public screenings start

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia launched its first commercial movie theater on Wednesday, ending a nearly 40-year ban on cinemas under a push by the crown prince to modernize the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom. A red carpet invitation-only gala event attracted senior government officials, foreign dignitaries, and select industry figures to watch Marvel’s superhero movie Black […] The post Decades-old Saudi cinema ban ends, public screenings start appeared first on BusinessWorld......»»

Category: newsSource:  bworldonlineRelated NewsApr 19th, 2018

Trade issues expose the limits of Trump-Abe ‘bromance’

      PALM BEACH, Florida --- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe courted the new American president with a golden driver not long after Donald Trump won the White House. He's met with the billionaire businessman more than any other world leader, and he's Trump's second-most frequent caller.   Yet the "bromance" between Trump and Abe has its limits.   Trump appeared to be successful Tuesday in reassuring Abe that he would take Japan's concerns to heart during his upcoming meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong Un. But Wednesday brought public disagreements, as Trump spurned his guest's top economic and trade priorities. Principal among them: ...Keep on reading: Trade issues expose the limits of Trump-Abe ‘bromance’.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsApr 19th, 2018

Saudi Arabia unveils first new cinema with Black Panther screening

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, April 18, unveiled its first cinema in over 35 years with a private screening of the blockbuster Black Panther, the first in a series of trial runs before movie theaters open to the wider public. The invitation-only gala event comes after the ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsApr 19th, 2018

‘Make America Smart Again’: hundreds rally for US science

Gesturing towards the White House, home to President Donald Trump who has called himself "a very stable genius," Isaac Newton begged to differ. "Knowing many geniuses, and being one myself, I would venture to say that was rather a boastful claim on his part," said "Newton," actually Dean Howarth, a Virginia high school physics teacher in period dress. Howarth was among hundreds of people who turned out to a "March for Science" Saturday in Washington to "create tangible change and call for greater accountability of public officials to enact evidence-based policy," according to organizers. That was the formal message of the rally, one of more than 200 events being carried out ...Keep on reading: ‘Make America Smart Again’: hundreds rally for US science.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsApr 15th, 2018

Aquino on Senate Dengvaxia report, LTFRB on Grab, White House on Mueller | Evening wRap

Today on Rappler: The camp of former president Benigno Aquino assures the public he will continue to face complaints against him over the Dengvaxia issue.  The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board orders Grab to lower its surge pricing cap during peak hours from 2 to only 1.5 times the normal fare.  Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa says removing Chief Justice Maria ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsApr 11th, 2018

Saudi crown prince visits France, seeks strategic partner

PARIS --- The crown prince of Saudi Arabia is making his first official visit to France, which is hoping to profit from his shake-up of the conservative kingdom. No big weapons contracts are expected to be signed during the visit of Mohammed bin Salman, but a "strategic partnership" is to be announced Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron. French media say the prince arrives Sunday. The 32-year-old heir to the Saudi throne, now at the center of the kingdom's power structure, has instigated major reforms to shed the kingdom's austere image. Changes include giving women the right to drive, introducing concerts and promising movie theaters. France hopes to join in that ...Keep on reading: Saudi crown prince visits France, seeks strategic partner.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsApr 8th, 2018

Trump to host UAE Crown Prince, calls for Gulf unity

WASHINGTON, D.C.: The White House said Friday that President Donald Trump would host the United Arab Emirates’ Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahayan, but did not specify a date. The news comes after Washington said Trump would host Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on April 10 in an effort to end a [...] The post Trump to host UAE Crown Prince, calls for Gulf unity appeared first on The Manila Times Online......»»

Category: newsSource:  manilatimesRelated NewsApr 7th, 2018

Saudi Arabian prince helps abused OFW

Thanks to the generosity of a Saudi prince and representations made by the Philippine government, the Filipino domestic helper scalded by her employer in 2014 will finally be coming home.   In a Wednesday press briefing, House Assistant Minority Leader and ACTS-OFW Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III announced that Pahima Alagasi was expected to arrive "hopefully in two weeks' time."   Alagasi got second-degree burns when her Saudi employer doused her with boiling water in 2014 after she had accidentally dropped the cap of the water heater while making coffee.   While she later managed to escape and find refuge at a center run by the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, Ala...Keep on reading: Saudi Arabian prince helps abused OFW.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsApr 4th, 2018

Sealed and delivered: Royal wedding invitations dispatched

LONDON (AP) --- Time to check that mailbox. Kensington Palace said Thursday that invitations for the wedding between Prince Harry and his American fiance Meghan Markle have been dispatched. Some 600 people have been invited to the May 19 nuptials at noon at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. All 600 have also been invited to a lunchtime reception given by Queen Elizabeth II at St George's Hall. Harry and Markle will also celebrate with some 200 guests at a private evening reception given by Charles at Frogmore House, a royal mansion near Windsor Castle. The palace declined to comment on who is on the list. The invitations, which are beveled and gilded along the edg...Keep on reading: Sealed and delivered: Royal wedding invitations dispatched.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMar 23rd, 2018

Dapecol roads are not for public use, superintendent insists

Tagum Agricultural Development Co. (Tadeco) maintains that the farm roads under the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) are not for public use. During the House hearing conducted on Tuesday, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez questioned Gerardo Padilla, acting superintendent of Dapecol, about the illegal road closure within the sprawling banana plantation. Alvarez asked Padilla if the roads were public or private. Padila said the roads were considered government property. "Public. Ggobyerno ang may-ari hindi ba? So bakit mo isinara?" asked Alvarez. Padilla explained that the roads were closed by virtue of a memorandum between the local agriculture office and the provincial government. ...Keep on reading: Dapecol roads are not for public use, superintendent insists.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMar 21st, 2018

Filipinos to have national IDs soon after Senate, House pass bill

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos will soon have a single and unified proof of identity to facilitate their public and private transactions, after the Senate and the House passed the bill creating the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys). The Senate on Monday, March 19, approved Senate Bill 1738 on 3rd and final ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsMar 19th, 2018

Trump approves official travel to Taiwan

WASHINGTON, D.C.: President Donald Trump signed off Friday on new rules allowing top level US officials to travel to Taiwan to meet their Taipei counterparts, a move that will anger Beijing. The White House said Trump had signed the “Taiwan Travel Act,” which “encourages visits between officials of the United States and Taiwan at all [...] The post Trump approves official travel to Taiwan appeared first on The Manila Times Online......»»

Category: newsSource:  manilatimes_netRelated NewsMar 17th, 2018

Trump ‘may’ attend Jerusalem embassy opening

Trump ‘may’ attend Jerusalem embassy opening WASHINGTON, D.C.: Donald Trump floated a fraught trip to open the new American embassy in Jerusalem, as the US president hosted Israel’s equally embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House Monday. The two leaders — both under career-threatening legal investigations — tried to cast their domestic problems [...] The post Trump ‘may’ attend Jerusalem embassy opening appeared first on The Manila Times Online......»»

Category: newsSource:  manilatimesRelated NewsMar 6th, 2018

New era, new challenges emerge for Warriors

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst "It’s the lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believe in myself. He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life. I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest." -- Muhammad Ali Ali defended his heavyweight championship 20 times, during two eras: when he was young and unstoppable, after beating Sonny Liston in Miami in 1964, and when he was old and vulnerable, after beating George Foreman in Zaire in 1974. He was the fastest heavyweight ever in the first era; he was smart and could take a punch in the second. A generation later, the Golden State Warriors are defending their NBA title for a second time, in three years. But they, too, are doing so in two eras. In 2014, no one had seen anything like what Golden State did on a basketball court, and how Stephen Curry’s and Klay Thompson’s shooting range changed the geometry of NBA defenses. They stretched to the breaking point trying to get out to Curry and Thompson. They couldn’t figure out how to handle the Warriors’ five-man switching defenses. They couldn’t stand up under Golden State’s withering pace. There is no need to hold a telethon yet for the Warriors, three years later. They are 49-14 today, with four All-Stars among their five starters, including Kia MVP candidate Kevin Durant, in the prime of his career, who wasn’t there when the Warriors first beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2015 Finals. They are still first in the league in Offensive Rating, first in True Shooting Percentage, first in Effective Field Goal Percentage. They still are unsolvable to most opponents. But maybe not all, not anymore. The margin of separation between Golden State and the rest of the league is still there, most of the time. But there are tiny signs of slippage. Tiny. You recall what Warriors assistant coach Bruce Frasier said in the preseason, when no one is injured and everyone thinks they’re going 82-0. “Teams are starting to figure us out a little bit,” he said then. “We’re talented, so that sometimes overrides strategy. But I feel like teams are figuring certain things out to do to counter what they’ve seen. Year one, it was really hard, because it was all new. The pieces have changed a little bit, but I feel like our challenge will be to see if we can layer on some of the offense, our fluid movement, and counters, and change things up, and execute better. Defense is always big, too, so I wouldn’t go into the complacent (problem). I think it’s going to be more execution, and how smart can we really be, and can we keep that energy up through this year?” In each of their previous three seasons, the Warriors led the league in margin of victory -- 10.1 points in 2014-15, 10.8 points in 2015-16 and 11.6 points last season. This year, though, they’ve fallen to third, behind the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors -- and their win margin is down to 8.5 points per game. Two years ago, the Warriors were fourth in the league in Defensive Rating (100.9). Last season, Golden State was second (101.1). This season, the Warriors are fifth, at 103.4. In 2014-15, they were 14th in the league in points allowed in the paint; this year, they’re 24th (to be fair, they were 23rd last year, when they won it all anyway). Are they bored? Tired? Aging? Is their bench inconsistency this year the result of vets saving themselves for the playoffs, or guys just getting old? And will it matter against anyone other than Houston? “Once you start getting a little older, it’s harder and harder,” guard Shaun Livingston said last week. “We definitely need the youth, we definitely need the health. We’ve got to be healthy. We’ve got to be healthy. Sometimes you see teams that maybe are over the hill -- they have the experience, but maybe not (the ability). It’s human nature. Obviously, I don’t think we’re there yet. We’ve got guys that are still in their prime. It’s mental now.” In the Jean-Pierre Coopman phase of their latest title defense (oh, how one misses spectacles like Ali fighting Coopman, the “Lion of Flanders” -- with Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier on the call!), the Warriors came to Washington last week. There was no White House visit on the docket, only time with D.C. area kids and a trip to the African-American History Museum, with owner Joe Lacob and GM Bob Myers on the trip as well. They have been in the public eye for five years now, back to Mark Jackson’s last season as coach, when the Splash Brothers exploded into the national consciousness. That’s a long time for one NBA team to have all that light and heat on it. For a minute, the Warriors tried to convince themselves that there was a backlash building against them nationally, that people had grown tired of their 3-pointers and video game point totals. It was, of course, a ridiculous posit -- Golden State and its players are more popular than ever, the love for Curry such that he felt perfectly comfortable posting a photo of the glass table he accidentally smashed in his hotel room on Instagram, any criticism surely to be muted amid America’s love for the two-time MVP.   when you feel like you’re on the @pgatour so you gotta get some swings going in the hotel room 😂😂😂 #idiot A post shared by Wardell Curry (@stephencurry30) on Mar 1, 2018 at 1:33pm PST “There was a little guy who was probably eight years old, and he came up and introduced himself,” Steve Kerr said. “His name was Ryan, and I’m talking to him, and he goes ’oh, my God, there’s Quinn Cook!’ And he ran over to Quinn Cook. Not Steph, not me -- he loved Quinn Cook. That was cool.” Throughout the Warriors’ run, they’ve faced down different challengers in the Western Conference -- the first iteration of the Rockets with Harden, a hybrid inside-out attack where Houston unhappily and unsuccessfully tried to meld Harden and Dwight Howard in the post. The Durant/Russell Westbrook one-two combo in Oklahoma City. The Spurs, morphing from the Tim Duncan/Tony Parker-led team to the Kawhi Leonard-dominant one. The “Lob City” Clippers, followed by the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin halfcourt version. But this season’s Rockets, with Paul at the point, may be the most unique and dangerous threat to the Warriors. They are much more than a team that just rains 3-pointers on you -- though they most certainly do that, and do it historically well. They’re also an outstanding defensive team, with the additions of P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute giving them a grit they haven’t had in past seasons to pair with the shot blocking and rim presence of Clint Capela. The numbers are stark: Houston is 32-1 this season when Paul, Harden and Capela all play, including two wins over the Warriors The Rockets have no obvious weakness. They have no fear of Golden State, either, having won two of the three meetings with the Warriors this season. It’s not just that they’re good, it’s how they’re good that makes them look like the greatest challenge yet to Golden State’s hegemony in the West. “I mean, yes, because they do it a different way, I guess,” Curry said last week. “They adopted the power of the three ball and try to use it as a main weapon, and obviously with James and CP together. Honestly, we know that they’re playing well. We’re chasing that number one seed and keeping tabs on how they’re playing and whatnot. But at the end of the day, we’ve got a lot of time left before we have to face them again. We know they’re serious. But so are we.” The Warriors have had to deal with great adversity during their run, to be sure. The biggest challenge came about this time last year, when a collision between teammates -- Zaza Pachulia and Durant, in D.C., ironically -- culminated in a Grade 2 MCL sprain and bone bruise for Durant, taking him out of the lineup at the worst possible part of the season. Golden State had just ripped off wins in 23 of its previous 27 games since a lamentable Christmas Day loss to the Cavs. Curry had started to figure out how to play with KD, and vice versa. They were in the middle of a brutal stretch of seven road games in eight overall, with the one brief return home to play the Celtics. When Durant went down, the initial fear was that he’d torn his ACL and would be out for the season. The Warriors’ locker room was funeral after the Wizards game. “Obviously, we were trying to figure out if he was like ’done-done’ for the year, or whether or not there was going to be a chance he’d return,” forward David West said. “We were, at the time he got hurt, we were just starting to figure out the sort of roles, everybody was getting comfortable with roles. We basically had to reset., change some of the functions we were doing. We lost a few games  trying to literaly just figure out and recalibrate and re-balance. That was one of those periods where we were just looking at each other, trying to start this thing -- we lost this huge, huge piece.” Yet the Warriors figured it out on the fly. And how they responded then provides a big clue to how they might respond to the challenge the Rockets present to them now. “It took us, I think we needed to get home before we were able to stablize,” Kerr said. “I want to say we lost three of the last four on the trip or something  (they did lose three of four, but one of the three losses was at Oracle in that one home game with the Celtics). We got home and righted the ship and got going. But sometimes (an injury is) a galvanizing force when a guy gets hurt, and you have to do certain things. Like, for us, when Kevin got hurt, we talked about it and we said we have to be the best defensive team in the league. We don’t have that luxury of throwing the ball to Kevin and saying ’get us 30 points tonight.'” During that stretch without Durant (March 2, 2017 to April 5, 2017), who returned just before the start of the playoffs, the Warriors led the league in the league in Defensive Rating (100.0, just head of San Antonio’s 100.2), first in opponent field goal percentage (.429), tied for second in opponent 3-point percentage (.316) and fourth in opponent points allowed per game (100.9). And once Durant returned for good, the Warriors again flexed. They tore through the West, winning all but one game en route to a third straight NBA Finals. And they took the Cavaliers apart in five games for their second title in three years. “You could see Draymond, Klay, Andre, Shaun, those guys, even Loon (Kevin Looney), were like, ’we didn’t have KD last year,’ ” West said. “For someone like myself, I just followed their lead. Klay got a little more aggressive. Draymond sort of settled everybody defensively. And we started winning.” That muscle memory will come in handy this year. Durant and Curry have missed time with injuries, and Golden State hasn’t figured out things at center just yet. (Would it shock me if rookie Jordan Bell played a big role there down the stretch? No, it would not.) But the Warriors still are smoking people in the second halves of games; per teamrankings.com, the Warriors lead the lead in third-quarter scoring margin at 5.3 points per game, more than double the margin of the second-place Denver Nuggets. Whether it’s adjustments or something else (“mainly, fiery halftime speeches, Knute Rockne style,” Kerr opines), they have again put a lot of opponents away with 12 minutes to spare. Since the All-Star break, they’re fourth in the league in opponent field goal percentage (.433) and Defensive Rating (100.3). “This year, obviously, knock on wood, we want to stay healthy,” Curry said. “We want to continue to push in the right direction. Every year’s different. That’s the fun part about this league. No matter how much success you’ve had and what your expectations are, it’s a different journey every year. We’re right in the middle of that right now. We have an amazing record, considering how we’ve played. I think we’d all say we haven’t lived up to our own expectations. That’s okay. We have an opportunity to build the right habits and the right momentum going into the playoffs this year and do it, all 15 guys.” Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 6th, 2018