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College Basketball Sport

Kentucky and Michigan to Play a Game in London Next Season


Kentucky and Michigan will play a game in London next season as part of a new deal between the men’s basketball programs that lets Kentucky showcase its team abroad and gives Michigan a multiyear series against one of the top universities in the sport.

The arrangements include the universities trading games against one another on campus (known as a home-and-home series) in the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons, according to four people with direct knowledge of the agreements. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of a deal that had not been made public.

The London game is scheduled for December 2020 at the O2 arena, a stadium that has been used by the N.B.A. over the past few seasons.

Games outside the United States are not unusual for college basketball, but they generally come in the form of early season tournaments played in resort destinations like Cancún, Mexico, and the Bahamas. An individually scheduled regular season game outside the United States is far less common.

The Pac-12 Conference has held games in China each of the past five seasons. In college football, Notre Dame and Navy plan to open next season in Ireland, at Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Aug. 29, 2020.

The London event, which was organized as a fund-raiser for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, also includes a game between the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and Marist. U.M.B.C. has two players, R.J. Eytle-Rock and Daniel Akin, who are originally from London, and the team built significant name recognition in 2018 by becoming the first No. 16 seed in the N.C.A.A. tournament to defeat a No. 1 when it upended Virginia (which rebounded with a national title the next season).

Over the past two seasons, the Hall of Fame has also organized an early tournament in Northern Ireland featuring several mid-major programs, none with the cachet of teams like Michigan and Kentucky.

The deal is a shift from past practice for Kentucky Coach John Calipari, who previously moved away from a similar home-and-home arrangement with another Big Ten team, Indiana. Kentucky and Indiana have discussed renewing their longtime series that ended in 2011-12, but nothing has materialized. Under the new agreement, Kentucky agreed to play in Ann Arbor in December 2021 and to host Michigan in December 2022.

Calipari has a reputation for finding strategic advantages and embracing players destined for the N.B.A. He is perhaps best known in college basketball for his use of so-called one-and-done players, who plan to enter the N.B.A. draft after one season in college because of professional age restrictions.

In 2011 and 2012, Calipari coached the national team for the Dominican Republic, which put Kentucky in position to land a commitment from Karl-Anthony Towns, a Minnesota Timberwolves star who was the top pick in the 2015 N.B.A. draft.

Michigan Coach Juwan Howard, who was part of Michigan’s famed Fab Five team in the early 1990s, has a longstanding relationship with Calipari that helped lead to the deal. When Howard pursued the Michigan job last spring as an assistant coach with the Miami Heat, he reached out to Calipari as a confidant. Calipari was also instrumental in Howard’s decision to hire former St. Joseph’s Coach Phil Martelli as an assistant coach.

Michigan also has sports experience abroad. Its football program under Coach Jim Harbaugh has taken spring trips the past three years, to Italy, France and South Africa, giving the university a recruiting advantage financed by private athletic donations.



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Culture

Westworld season 3 trailer pits Dolores against Maeve in outside world battle: ‘Welcome to the end of the game’



HBO has released a brand new Westworld season three trailer.

The new look at the forthcoming episodes, which will premiere in March, reveals key details about what to expect.

Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) is hired by a newcomer played by Vincent Cassell to kill Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), who’s roaming the outside world.  

“Welcome to my world,” he tells her at one stage in the trailer

Dolores finds and ally in the form of Aaron Paul’s new character – how he relates to the wider story remains to be seen.



Other stars featured in the trailer include returning cast members Jeffrey Wright and Luke Hemsworth, alongside newcomer Vincent Cassel.

In an interview with The Independent, Breaking Bad star Paul revealed showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy told him how Westworld will end, calling their plans ”insane”.

Westworld returns to HBO on 16 March and will be available to watch on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV the following evening.



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Culture

Madonna makes risqué Game of Thrones joke during gig with star Gwendoline Christie: ‘Winter’s coming’



Madonna shared some friendly conversation – and a risqué joke – with Game of ThronesGwendoline Christie during a recent show.

The singer was performing at the London Palladium when she took time to chat with Christie.

Both artists are fans of each other – Madonna previously brought Christie on stage during a gig in Australia, back in March 2016, while Christie has said she’s loved Madonna since she was a child.

Madonna shared footage of her recent conversation with Christie on Instagram on Thursday, captioning it: “Madame X plays a Game Of Thrones with one of her favorite Knights!” – a reference both to her Madame X Tour and to Christie’s role as Brienne of Tarth in the series.


In the video, Madonna can be seen sitting down next to Christie for a casual chat, with Christie at one point telling her: “I love you!”

“Are you enjoying the show?” Madonna asks, to which Christie promptly replies: “You are so phenomenal tonight.”

Madonna later asks Christie: “Where’s your drink?”, prompting Christie to pull out a small beer bottle, in turn asking the singer: “Is this OK? Do you like beer?”

In response, Madonna takes a sip from the bottle before jokingly gargling with the liquid.

Some of the drink appears to spill onto Madonna’s face, leaving Christie to wipe it off, after which Madonna quips: “Winter’s coming.”

The joke is quickly met with laughs from Christie and the rest of the audience.



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College Basketball Sport

How Cassius Winston Greets His Late Brother Before Every Michigan State Game


The quiet gesture from Cassius Winston goes largely unnoticed amid the hysteria at the start of another Michigan State basketball game.

Just before tipoff, Winston greets his teammates at midcourt. Then he turns away, slaps his right hand toward the air in front of him, slides it near his left shoulder and leans forward, hopping into a shoulder bump.

The new pregame routine for Winston, the all-American point guard and team captain, isn’t to pump himself up. It’s a greeting he developed in high school, one he used almost daily. It is a handshake, and one of the many examples of how his habits — and the Spartans’ — have changed after the suicide of his brother Zachary in November.

“He’s out there with me,” Cassius Winston said, recounting how he and his younger brother developed the handshake. The shoulder bump was their third option for the finish. They were going to snap, but Zachary didn’t know how. They were going to clap, but Cassius had a broken left wrist at the time. “He’s out there with me on the floor, and we’re going to make it through together.”

Adjusting to the grief has not been easy for Winston or the team, which started the season ranked No. 1 and had regarded Zachary Winston, who played at Division III Albion College, as family. It has taken a toll, as well, on Tom Izzo, the Hall of Fame coach who has led Michigan State since 1995.

Izzo’s tenure includes the highs of an N.C.A.A. championship and eight Final Four appearances, but no interpersonal challenge quite like the suicide of a player’s family member.

“This is the hardest thing I’ve gone through,” Izzo said, adding: “It has been way worse than I have let on.”

Izzo has been slow at times to chastise Winston for on-court mistakes, fearful that it might be too much for the player to handle. Sometimes, when the team is celebrating a win in the locker room, the mood changes when Winston enters because, as Izzo said, “You don’t feel good about feeling good.”

Winston is aware of these moments, the sudden shifts. He tries his best not to allow the grief he is working through to dictate his team’s feelings. When it happens anyway, he feels guilty for letting his sadness become too evident in front of teammates and coaches who mean well and are trying to help him heal. The university has assigned the team a grief counselor.

Izzo asks Winston to give him signs when things are O.K., or when they aren’t. Sometimes, during practice, Winston’s mind will wander and he will think of his brother. Those are the times he struggles the most, he said.

He wants to be upfront with Izzo and his teammates, whose jerseys include a patch bearing Zachary Winston’s nickname, Smoothie, which Winston also writes on his sneakers and in occasional Instagram posts. Sometimes being upfront is not possible because Winston doesn’t know himself how he feels.

“It’s really confusing, and it’s hard to really focus on one thing because your mind is just jumping all over the place,” Winston said. “Usually you know yourself, you know when you’re ready, you know when you’re not ready. But when you’re confused and when everything’s happening so fast, it’s kind of hard to stay focused.”

Izzo said he has often felt devoid of good answers. In the past, he would turn to his former boss and mentor, Jud Heathcote, who led the program before he did. But the death by suicide has demanded a different level of understanding, Izzo said, because close family members sometimes blame themselves.

“I have no book for this. I’ll look up at Jud and say, ‘Where’s the chapter?’” Izzo said, adding an expletive directed at Heathcote, who died in 2017, to punctuate his frustration. “There’s no chapter on suicide.”

Izzo tells Winston to call him any time, if he needs someone to listen. But because he hasn’t personally coped with the suicide of a loved one, he feels that he can only do so much.

Izzo sought advice from the former N.F.L. coach Tony Dungy, whose son killed himself in 2005. The former coach is among a number of people who have told Izzo that at some point, he needs to establish some normalcy for the team, whatever that may look like moving forward. (When contacted for this article, Dungy said he preferred to keep his communication with Izzo between them.)

Izzo checks in with Winston each night with calls or texts, knowing that those are the times when Winston is likely to be alone in his apartment. Sometimes their conversations turn to basketball. Mostly, they are not about wins and losses on the court.

“You lose and there’s people mad at you and it’s death to people and we try to make games life and death, and they’re not,” Izzo said. “Even some of those things, as traumatic as they can be, they’re not life and death. And this — what makes it different — is life and death.”

Winston has pushed to maintain his leadership role with the team, while continuing to learn about himself with patience and persistence.

Time and his teammates have helped him heal. The process requires daily attention. Winston has learned to direct his sadness toward something positive. Some days are easier than others, but the process has allowed him to look at his life, basketball and his relationship with his late brother in a completely new way. And in the moments when he needs reminding that he isn’t alone, Winston, who graduated from Michigan State in three years with a bachelor’s degree in advertising management and is pursuing a master’s degree in sport coaching and leadership, remembers the elements of his new game day routine. In addition to the handshake, he also calls his parents, Wendi and Reg, and his other brother, Khy, before each game to make sure they are in a good space emotionally.

“The more that you see him play, the more that you realize that even if he’s not back to normal, that it’s getting there,” Khy Winston, a freshman at Albion College, told The Lansing State Journal on Sunday after his brother had a career-high 32 points against Michigan. “Every day is a different day. For today to be a good day is a good day for everyone. Just to see him finally get the groove back brings a smile to my face.”

Winston said speaking with them gave him peace of mind before stepping on the floor. Still, his thoughts are never far from Zachary.

“All the memories I have of him are good memories, and that’s all you can really ask,” Winston said. “There’s no bad memories. There’s nothing I regret. I appreciate what he did in my life, and I appreciate our relationship, so that’s my way of showing that I’m still out here, I’m still going hard for him and one day we’re going to see him again.”

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find a list of additional resources at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.



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Europe World

A TV Star’s Suicide Prompts a Blame Game in Britain


LONDON — On Saturday night, news broke in Britain that Caroline Flack — the former host of “Love Island,” a wildly popular reality TV show — had killed herself.

Within hours, British social media was flooded with tributes to the star, who died while awaiting trial for assaulting her boyfriend.

But those tributes were soon overtaken by something else: demands for a new law in Flack’s name, to stop Britain’s tabloid newspapers from publishing stories that relentlessly dive into celebrities’ private lives.

Flack had been a tabloid fixture, having had romances with Prince Harry and Harry Styles, among others, and social media users accused the newspapers of harming her mental health.

“The British media is the cesspit of our society,” wrote one Twitter user, adding the #carolineslaw hashtag.

On Monday, an online petition calling for a law that would prevent newspapers from “sharing private information that is detrimental to a celebrity, their mental health and those around them,” quickly gained over 400,000 signatures. Politicians also lined up to criticize the tabloids, as well as hate-fueled social media commenters.

The press “have to take responsibility as well,” Keir Starmer, the front-runner to become the next leader of Britain’s Labour Party, told reporters, accusing newspapers of amplifying negative social media chatter.

None of that debate was noticeable to readers of Britain’s tabloids on Monday. The Sun — the newspaper subject to the most criticism, with some social media users calling for a boycott — devoted seven pages to Flack’s death. Its front page led with criticism of the British Crown Prosecution Service for “its pursuit of fragile Caroline Flack” in forcing her to trial.

The authorities had decided to pursue the assault charge despite knowing Flack had self-harmed during the alleged assault, The Sun said.

Last year, The Sun featured blanket coverage of the assault allegations against Flack, even calling her “Caroline Whack.”

The rancor around Flack’s suicide is only the latest time British tabloids have come under scrutiny. It comes just weeks after Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, who have complained repeatedly about press intrusion into their lives, again threatened legal action against several British tabloids over invasive photos.

But media commentators said they did not think calls for #carolineslaw would be any more successful than past campaigns to strengthen privacy laws in Britain. Nor did they expect the campaign to dent the British public’s interest in such stories, which tend to be popular on social media.

“This is one of those great hypocrisies of the British public, that they indulge in reading, and often writing, about these celebrities and then when things go wrong, they turn on the media and say it’s all the media’s fault,” Roy Greenslade, a media columnist for The Guardian, said in a telephone interview. Greenslade once worked at The Sun and was also editor of The Daily Mirror, another tabloid.

Greenslade said he lived half of every year in Ireland and there seemed “less of an appetite” there to read about celebrity gossip. That was also the case in other European countries like France and Norway, he said. Gossip rags do exist elsewhere, he said — he cited the National Enquirer as one example — but they are not seen as also being serious newspapers like Britain’s tabloids.

Adrian Bingham, a historian who has written a history of Britain’s tabloid press, said in a telephone interview that British newspapers’ focus on people’s private lives first boomed in the 1930s as the publications competed for scoops. “People would have done anything then,” he said. “If they could have hacked phones in the 1930s, they would have.”

He didn’t expect anything to come from the calls for a #carolineslaw. The death of Diana, Princess of Wales, while pursued by journalists “didn’t lead to anything meaningful” around press regulation, he said. Flack was not as big a celebrity and the newspapers were already using their platforms to divert blame onto other people, such as the Crown Prosecution Service or the producers of “Love Island,” he added.

On Monday, the Daily Mail’s front page said Flack feared a “a show trial.” Inside, an opinion piece said Flack had been “tried and convicted by the merciless court of social media.”

The Daily Star, another tabloid, focused much of its coverage of Flack’s death on a backlash against ITV, the TV company that broadcasts “Love Island,” with fans asking if it gave her sufficient support after she left the show because of the assault case.

“Did the tabloids kill her?” asked David Yelland, a former editor of The Sun and deputy editor of The New York Post, in an email. “I think the reality is that popular newspapers are now just one part of the toxic ecology the very famous have to cope with.”

Social media and the tabloids “feed off each other in a way which creates a living hell for celebrities in the wrong place at the wrong time” he added. “It seems to be getting worse and there are no easy answers.”

Flack had a typical rise to fame in Britain, first making her name on children’s television before being involved in popular reality TV shows such as “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here.”

In 2014, she won “Strictly Come Dancing” — one of the most popular shows on British TV — and the following she year became the host of “Love Island,” a show in which contestants live in couples in a luxury villa. That show has stirred debate in Britain around the ethics of reality television shows, following the suicides of several former contestants. Its latest season didn’t air episodes on Saturday and Sunday nights following Flack’s death, although it was due to return on Monday night.

Throughout her career, Flack was a tabloid fixture. On Monday, The Sun carried a two-page article focusing on how her career highs “coincided with crushing personal lows.” It then listed her failed romances, bouts of depression and use of anti-depressants. “In a pattern often repeated, her career took off while her personal life was in tatters,” it said, after discussing her first public romance.

Last October, around World Mental Health Day, Flack posted on Instagram about her recent struggles. “The last few weeks I’ve been in a really weird place,” she wrote. “I guess it’s anxiety and pressure of life and when I actually reached out to someone they said I was draining,” she added.

“Be nice to people,” she added. “You never know what’s going on. Ever.”

Greenslade said he had read about the message and thought it was “a lovely plea” that he supported. But, he added, “if you’re a celebrity and you have depended on your media profile to make your fame and therefore create your income, it’s very difficult then to turn off the tap.”



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Television

Sonic the Hedgehog speeds to highest ever opening weekend for a video game adaptation



Sonic the Hedgehog has broken records by having the highest ever box office opening for a video game adaptation.

Despite poor reviews, the film adaptation of Sega’s hit platforming series has already made an impressive total of approximately $100m (£77m) worldwide, and $57m (£44m) in the US, beating the record of $54m (£41m) set in 2019 by Pokémon​: Detective Pikachu.

Starring Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation) as the voice of Sega’s iconic blue hedgehog, the film represents the first time the character has been brought to the big screen.


Sonic the Hedgehog also features Jim Carrey as the villainous Dr Robotnik, and James Marsden as the benevolent Green Hills sheriff, Tom Wachowski.

Fans had been unsure what to expect from the film, after a tumultuous development process saw the character of Sonic undergo an expensive redesign because people found the first iteration “creepy”. 

In the UK, Sonic has already grossed £4.8m.

The global box office take is especially impressive given that cinemas in China have been closed in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

 



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Sport

How Man City’s bitter feud with Uefa epitomises how dirty the game really is



It is hard to make sense of the strange dance Uefa and Manchester City are conducting over financial fair play. Two impenetrable organisations are locked in battle and the result will determine whether European football’s ruling body can exercise any control over the spending of the clubs that operate under its auspices.

This week the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) published details of City’s appeal against the decision of Uefa’s investigatory chamber to refer the club to the adjudicatory chamber over breaches of financial rules. CAS rejected City’s entreaties in November on the blindingly obvious grounds that there was no verdict or punishment to question. The adjudicatory chamber is yet to hand down its judgement. The documents provide a record of the arguments put before the Lausanne-based court four months ago.

Rewinding to the nub of the case, Uefa’s investigation began after the German magazine Der Spiegel published a cache of City’s internal emails three years ago. The hacked communications suggested that the club had misled the authorities over sponsorship that was supposed to have come from Etihad, the state airline of Abu Dhabi, but is alleged to have been provided by Sheikh Mansour, the owner and ruler of the Emirate.


City deny any wrongdoing but based their arguments to CAS on Uefa’s procedural mistakes in preparing the case. They also demanded damages for what they saw as “leaks” to the media by Uefa, which indicated that the club would be banned from the Champions League for at least a season.

This is where it gets interesting. Uefa were bullish about their position back in May when the investigatory chamber filed their charges but time has dragged on without an adjudicatory chamber ruling being declared. There has been a growing suspicion – even among Uefa insiders – that some sort of backroom deal was being arranged whereby City would escape a ban from European competition. The publication of CAS’s documents implies that this is not on the agenda. CAS makes its decisions public unless both parties agree to keep the details confidential. The paperwork of the Paris Saint-Germain case last year – where Uefa seemed to lose its nerve – was never released. Allowing the bitter exchanges with City into the open hints that a showdown is inevitable.

City’s complaints about the leaks raised eyebrows, too. Leaks, unattributed briefings – call them what you will – are common in football. All parties practise these dark arts and use them to set the agenda or heap pressure on their enemies. It is hard to take anyone who is sanctimonious about the use of leaks too seriously. In November, there were reports that a deal had been agreed and City would be hit with a fine rather than an expulsion from the Champions League. It is unlikely – given the mood in Uefa – that this came from Nyon.

Everybody likes to get their version of the tale out, ideally without leaving any fingerprints. Most football journalist could reel off countless occasions when the story for general consumption varied greatly with what was said in private when the Dictaphones were switched off.

It is still hard to predict what sentence the adjudicatory chamber will hand down. The decision has been made and if the worst-case scenario happens for City, there will likely be a number of time-consuming appeals. They already have one strike to their name at CAS but the club will probably challenge any ban any way they can, including through the Swiss courts.

If, as Uefa contend, City have transgressed against their financial fair play rules, then the Premier League will be forced to act, too. The same regulations will have been breached domestically. There is no real appetite to sanction the club but it would be inevitable. A points deduction would be the obvious option.

City could be banned from the Champions League for a season (Getty)

At that juncture it might make sense for City to back down, swallow their pride and take the punishment. In a season where they are 22 points behind Liverpool with no prospect of catching their rivals, being demoted a few places down the table would not be the worst thing, especially if they are suspended from the Champions League for next season. This would be painful but would have little long-term effect. Dragging everyone through the courts might end up significantly more damaging.

Uefa will make their decision clear soon. If the ruling body are feeling vindictive, they will announce it around City’s Champions League knockout round tie with Real Madrid. Real are leading lights in the old-money clique that have been ranged against the Etihad since the Abu Dhabi takeover. They would appreciate such spitefulness at the Bernabeu and Real would not be the only big club smirking if City and their nouveau riche ways get their comeuppance.

None of this is very edifying. At times like this the game feels dirty.



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Europe World

U.S. Faces Tough ‘Great Game’ Against China in Central Asia and Beyond


KHIVA, Uzbekistan — Inside the ancient walls of the Silk Road oasis town of Khiva, China has put down a marker of its geopolitical ambitions. A sign promotes a Chinese aid project to renovate a once-crumbling mosque and a faded madrasa.

Outside the town’s northern gate, a billboard-size video screen shows clips of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan meeting with world leaders. President Xi Jinping of China features prominently, but there are no shots of President Trump.

That China is advertising its aid efforts so boldly in this remote outpost linking Asia and Europe — where camel caravans once arrived after crossing the Kyzylkum and Karakum Deserts — is the kind of action these days that sets off alarm bells among American officials. The Trump administration is trying with greater force to insert itself into the political and economic life of Central Asia to counter China’s presence. American officials see the countries in the heart of the continent’s vast, arid steppe as critical battlegrounds in the struggle with China over global influence.

“Whenever we speak to countries around the world, we want to make sure that we’re doing what the people of those countries want,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week at a news conference in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.

The Uzbeks want a “good, balanced relationship,” he said.

“They have long borders,” he added. “They sit in a region where China and Russia are both present.”

Leaders of the five Central Asian nations that became independent republics after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 — Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan — are used to walking a regional tightrope. The area was contested during the so-called Great Game of the 19th century, when the British and Russian empires competed to establish influence and control.

Now a new game is underway. And officials in Central Asia, like many of their counterparts around the world, are hedging their bets when it comes to aligning with Washington or Beijing.

“I’d like to once again note that we want to see Central Asia as a region of stable development, prosperity and cooperation,” said Abdulaziz Kamilov, the foreign minister of Uzbekistan. “And we would really not like to feel on ourselves unfavorable political consequences in relation to some competition in our region between large powers.”

The State Department released a Central Asia strategy document on Feb. 5 that said the top priority was to “support and strengthen the sovereignty and independence of the Central Asian states” — a reference to warding off the influence of China and Russia.

It is a tough mission for the United States. The nations are in China’s and Russia’s backyards, and there have been decades of close interactions among them. Mr. Xi has made multiple state visits to the countries since he took power in 2012, most recently last year.

The Trump administration has hit major setbacks in its attempts to build a global coalition against projects by the Chinese government and by Chinese companies. In fact, Britain said on Jan. 28 that it would not ban technology made by Huawei, a Chinese telecom giant, from its high-speed 5G wireless network, despite intense pressure from American officials.

Mr. Pompeo made London his first stop on a recent six-day trip to Europe and Central Asia, and he said there on Jan. 30 that the Chinese Communist Party was “the central threat of our times.” The next day, he spoke about China with leaders in Ukraine.

But words go only so far. The Americans fail to present an economical alternative to Huawei. And the Trump administration is discovering that its belligerent approach toward allies has a cost when it comes to China strategy. Withdrawing from the global Paris climate agreement and the landmark Iran nuclear deal, starting trade conflicts with friendly governments and berating members of NATO make those nations less likely to listen to Washington’s entreaties on China.

A recent policy report on China by the Center for a New American Security said “critical areas of U.S. policy remain inconsistent, uncoordinated, underresourced and — to be blunt — uncompetitive and counterproductive to advancing U.S. values and interests.”

Some analysts say the constant hawkish talk on China by Mr. Pompeo and other American officials paradoxically makes the United States look weak.

“And that last point is just the core of it for me. A central problem of US foreign policy today, not just in Central Asia, is that it feels increasingly reactive to me — back footed and on defense, not least in the face of Chinese initiatives,” Evan A. Feigenbaum, a deputy assistant secretary of state on Central Asia and South Asia in the George W. Bush administration who is now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote on Twitter.

“To wit, the secretary of state just made the first visit by America’s top diplomat to Central Asia in five years — five! — but spent a hefty chunk of it talking about China,” he wrote. “The challenge for the US is to get off its reactive back foot and be proactive and on offense.”

The United States did not pursue serious partnerships in Central Asia until after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when the Pentagon needed regional bases for the war in Afghanistan.

China has taken a different approach. Beijing says it will help build up the region under what it calls the Silk Road Economic Belt, which is part of the larger Belt and Road Initiative, a blanket term for global infrastructure projects that, according to Beijing, amount to $1 trillion of investment. The Trump administration says the projects are potential debt traps, but many countries have embraced them.

The economic liberalization of Uzbekistan under Mr. Mirziyoyev, who took power in 2016 after the death of a longtime dictator, has resulted in greater trade with China.

China is Uzbekistan’s largest trading partner, and trade totaled almost $6.3 billion in 2018, a nearly 50 percent increase from 2017, according to Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency. Chinese goods, including Huawei devices, are everywhere in Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent and other Uzbek cities.

Uzbekistan is also committing to being part of rail and road networks that China is building across Central Asia.

Since 2001, China has worked with Central and South Asian nations as well as Russia in a multilateral group, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to address security issues.

China’s People’s Liberation Army has gained a new foothold in the region, in the form of a base in Tajikistan’s Pamir Mountains. For at least three years, Chinese troops have quietly kept watch from two dozen buildings and lookout towers near the Tajik-Chinese border and the remote Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan. The Afghan corridor is a strategic strip of land whose borders were drawn by Britain and Russia during the original Great Game as a buffer zone.

The United States had hundreds of troops at an air base in Uzbekistan that it operated with the Uzbeks. But it wants to move the relationship well beyond the military.

“We want private investment, American private investment sector, to flow between our two nations,” Mr. Pompeo said.

He added that the United States had committed $100 million to programs in Uzbekistan last year, and that it would give $1 million to help develop financial markets and another $1 million to increase trade and “connectivity” between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

On his trip, Mr. Pompeo also made a demand regarding human rights in China as he met with officials in Tashkent and Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan. He raised the issue of China’s internment camps that hold one million or more Muslims and urged the Central Asian nations, which are predominantly Muslim, to speak out against the camps. In Nur-Sultan, he met with Kazakhs who have had family members detained in the camps.

Yet, as in other predominantly Muslim nations, Central Asian leaders have remained silent on this. (Mr. Trump himself has said nothing, and Mr. Pompeo has been accused of hypocrisy by excluding Taiwan, the democratic island that China threatens, from a religious freedom alliance.)

In December, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, denounced Washington’s prodding of Central Asian nations on the Muslim issue: “If the United States once again tries to get up to its old tricks, it will certainly still be futile for them.”

Trump administration policies perceived as anti-Muslim undermine trust in Washington. On Jan. 31, Mr. Trump added Kyrgyzstan and five other nations, all with substantial Muslim populations, to a list of countries whose citizens are restricted in traveling to the United States. In an interview in Nur-Sultan, a Kazakh television journalist, Lyazzat Shatayeva, asked Mr. Pompeo, “What do you think that signals to the other countries and other governments in Central Asia on why it happened?”

Mr. Pompeo said Kyrgyzstan must “fix” certain things: “passport issues, visa issues, visa overstays.”

“When the country fixes those things,” he said, “we’ll get them right back in where they can come travel to America.”



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Video

10 worst video game film adaptations ranked: From Resident Evil to Sonic the Hedgehog



Ever since the dawn of cinema, filmmakers have been reaching into other mediums for inspiration.

From old classics like Great Expectations, to more recent gems like No Country for Old Men, the 20th and 21st centuries have yielded plenty of incredible literary and stage adaptations. However, when film studios decide to bring acclaimed video games to life on the big screen, the results are usually far less successful.

While there have been only a few video game adaptations that are regarded as successes – for perspective, 2019’s Detective Pikachu sits at the very top end of the critical spectrum so far – there are countless examples of game adaptations gone wrong, from child-focused fare like Sonic the Hedgehog, to gritty, violent schlock such as the Resident Evil franchise.

Even though many of them feature high budgets and A-list casts, there’s something about video games that fails to translate to the movies, time and time again.

Here are 10 of the worst video game film adaptations of all time, ranked from bad to very, very bad. 



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Storm Ciara news: Man City vs West Ham game postponed tonight



Manchester City’s Premier League game with West Ham United has been postponed because of adverse weather.

The extreme conditions brought on by Storm Ciara have hit sporting schedules across the UK on Sunday with the game at the Etihad, originally set for 4.30pm, the highest-profile to go.

A statement from Manchester City said: “Due to extreme and escalating weather conditions and in the interests of supporter and staff safety, today’s match has been postponed.


“This decision has been made by Manchester City’s Safety Officer following consultation with club stakeholders and officials at West Ham United.

“Further information regarding the rescheduling of today’s match will be published in due course.”

Tickets will remain valid for the rearranged fixture. 

The sell-out Women’s Super League north London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham was one of the first fixtures to fall victim to the weather on Sunday. Manchester United’s clash with Chelsea soon followed.

Other WSL games between Bristol City and Reading and Birmingham versus Reading were also postponed, as were the Championship games at Charlton, Coventry, Crystal Palace and Lewes.

All three race meetings in Britain and Ireland were abandoned because of the high winds and rain sweeping the British Isles.

The storm conditions extended to Europe where the Dutch Eredivisie and Belgian Pro League and the Belgian second tier postponed their fixtures.

Dutch champions Ajax saw their trip to Utrecht postponed, while Alan Pardew’s ADO Den Haag had their game at Sparta Rotterdam called off.

The Bundesliga in Germany was also hit as the Rhine derby between Borussia Monchengladbach and Cologne fell victim to the weather.



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