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UCLA basketball players arrested in China

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY

Three UCLA men’s basketball players were arrested in China for shoplifting on Tuesday, media said, a day before U.S. President Donald Trump arrived on his first official visit.

The players arrested were freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, according to USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and ESPN, all of which cited unnamed sources familiar with the incident. Ball is the younger brother of National Basketball Association rookie Lonzo Ball of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Reached by telephone at a hotel in the eastern city of Hangzhou on Wednesday, Ball declined to comment. ESPN said the three had been picked up by police at their hotel on Tuesday and released on bail early on Wednesday. They were confined to their hotel pending legal proceedings, it said.

The University of California, Los Angeles, declined to confirm the arrests but said it was “aware of a situation involving UCLA student-athletes in Hangzhou, China”.

“The university is cooperating fully with local authorities on this matter, and we have no further comment at this time,” UCLA Athletics said in a statement provided by spokeswoman Shana Wilson.

The UCLA team had arrived in China on Sunday with plans to play Georgia Tech in both teams’ regular-season opener on Saturday, according to statements from both teams.

It traveled to Hangzhou, about three hours by bus from Shanghai, to visit the campus of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd <BABA.N>, sponsor of the annual Pac-12 games in China.

The three players were questioned about stealing from a Louis Vuitton store next to the hotel where the team is staying, ESPN said. UCLA representatives, including coach Steve Alford, were at the police station while they were there, it said, citing an unidentified source.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement the conference was “disappointed by any situation that detracts from the positive student-athlete educational and cultural experience that this week is about.”

“Whether in the United States or abroad, we expect our student-athletes to uphold the highest standards. We will continue to closely monitor the situation,” he said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Wednesday the Chinese government had reported the case to the U.S. side in accordance with consular agreements.

“China is handling this case in accordance with the law and will guarantee the lawful rights in accordance with the law of those involved in this case,” she said.

In a video posted on Twitter on Wednesday by Arash Markazi, a senior writer at ESPN, LaVar Ball said his son, LiAngelo, would be fine.

“He’ll be fine. Everyone’s making it a big deal. It ain’t that big a deal,” said Ball, the outspoken CEO of athletic apparel maker Big Baller Brand.

Chinese President Xi Jinping led Trump on a private tour of the Forbidden City to kick off his visit on Wednesday.

White House officials could not be immediately reached for comment. Alibaba declined to comment, as did the Hangzhou police.

A U.S. State Department official said the department was aware of reports of three citizens arrested in China and stood ready to provide assistance but had no further comment due to privacy considerations.

Three players from Georgia Tech were questioned by the authorities in China on Tuesday at their hotel in Hangzhou but were later released by police, Georgia Tech athletics spokesman Mike Flynn said in a statement.

“During the questioning, it was determined that Georgia Tech student-athletes were not involved in the activities being investigated. They have resumed their scheduled activities,” Flynn said.

 

(Reporting by John Ruwitch in Shanghai and Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago,; Editing by Ben Klayman, Matthew Lewis and Nick Macfie)

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‘Making of a Murderer’ case may go to Supreme Court

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A Wisconsin man convicted of murder in the case that was chronicled in the Netflix documentary, “Making of a Murderer,” on Tuesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to toss out his 2005 confession that his attorneys claim was coerced by investigators, the Washington Post reported.

Attorneys for Brendan Dassey, 28, made a similar argument to the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago in December and failed. The judges voted 4-3 to uphold his conviction in the slaying of Teresa Halbach.

Dassey confessed when he was 16 of helping his uncle, Steven Avery, rape and kill Halbach, a freelance photographer, in 2005. Her charred remains were found on Avery’s property about 80 miles north of Milwaukee in Manitowoc County.

Steven Avery is pictured in this undated booking photo obtained by Reuters January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department/Handout via Reuters

The pair were convicted of the murder in separate trials. Avery is now 55. Both men are in prison in Wisconsin.

The case was the basis for a 10-part documentary, “Making a Murderer,” which questioned the handling of the investigation and the motives of Manitowoc County law enforcement officials.

A dissenter in the 7th Circuit Appeals Court decision, Chief Judge Diane Wood, said Dassey was a low-functioning teenager with an IQ in the low 80s, and that without his confession, the case against him was “almost nonexistent.”

Wood wrote, “Even if we were to overlook the coercion, the confession is so riddled with input from the police that its use violates due process.”

In 2016, a U.S. magistrate judge overturned the guilty verdict against Dassey, citing coercion. Then a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit upheld the magistrate’s ruling, and Wisconsin prosecutors asked for the review by the full circuit.

In October, a Wisconsin judge denied Avery a new trial.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)reuter

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George Clooney Donates $500,000 and Pledges to March in Student-Led Gun Control March

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Reuters

Thousands of teenagers are taking matters into their own hands after last week’s shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, replaced Columbine as the deadliest high school shooting on American soil. Outspokenly unwilling to sit on their asses and wait for adults to do something to help prevent more massacres from taking place, they’re advocating for stricter gun laws and more mental health resources for treating their peers, swiftly mobilizing in a way that is commanding attention of the world.

Calls to action have spread across social media, from school walkouts to a march on Washington.

Student organizers got the surprise of their lives when George Clooney donated half-a-million dollars in support. The actor even pledged that he’d be there, alongside wife Amal.

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“The mission and focus of March For Our Lives is to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues,” according to their website. “No special interest group, no political agenda is more critical than timely passage of legislation to effectively address the gun violence issues that are rampant in our country.”

Other celebrities have voiced their support for the students’ efforts on social media, including Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Cher.

The March For Our Lives will take place on March 24.

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Haters can say it’s fake, but Justin Timberlake has No. 1 album

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Justin Timberlake snagged the No.1 Spot on the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart with “Man of the Woods,” despite harsh reviews and a Super Bowl halftime show that was deemed underwhelming on social media and by music critics.

“Man of the Woods,” Timberlake’s first studio album since 2013, sold more than 242,000 units in its first week of release, according to Nielsen Music data released on Monday.

The Billboard 200 chart tallies units from album sales, song sales (10 songs equal one album) and streaming activity (1,500 streams equal one album).

“Man of the Woods” marks Timberlake’s fourth Billboard No.1 album and was the biggest-selling album in the U.S. since Taylor Swift’s “Reputation” in December 2017, Billboard said.

It debuted at No.1 after a Feb. 4 Super Bowl performance consisting mostly of Timberlake’s old hits that also featured a controversial segment featuring a huge projection of Prince, who died in 2016.

The former NSYNC singer also took heat on social media for failing to mention, or perform with, Janet Jackson after an infamous 2004 Super Bowl appearance which ended with Timberlake ripping off Jackson’s top and accidentally briefly exposing her breast.

Nevertheless, the Super Bowl and halftime show were watched by some 103 million Americans on television. Nielsen Music reported last week that on-demand audio and video streams for all of the songs performed by Timberlake jumped 45 percent on the day after the game, compared to the day before.

Timberlake, best known for pop tracks like “SexyBack” and “Rock Your Body,” promoted “Man of the Woods” as a country-inspired album that took him back to his Memphis roots.

But the album had few fans among music reviewers. Esquire called it “disappointing” and “kind of embarrassing,” while USA Today said the album “can’t pull off its Americana-pop fusion.”

On the digital Billboard songs chart, which measures online single sales, Timberlake had three songs in the top 20 – “Say Something” featuring Chris Stapleton, “Man of the Woods,” and his 2016 hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” Canadian rapper Drake took the top spot with “God’s Plan,” with more than 55,00 units sold.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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