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Suicide attack on Shiite mosque in Afghanistan kills 47

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Suicide attack on Shiite mosque in Afghanistan kills 37

KABUL, Afghanistan — Suicide bombers attacked a Shiite mosque packed with worshippers attending Friday prayers in southern Afghanistan, killing at least 47 people and wounding 70, a Taliban official said. It was the deadliest day since the U.S. military withdrawal.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the carnage at the Fatimiya mosque in Kandahar province. The attack came a week after a bombing claimed by the local Islamic State affiliate killed 46 people at a Shiite mosque in northern Afghanistan.

The sectarian bloodletting has raised fears that IS — an enemy of both the Taliban and the West — is expanding its foothold in Afghanistan.

Hafiz Sayeed, the Taliban’s chief for Kandahar’s department of culture and information, said 47 people had been killed and at least 70 wounded in the attack.

Murtaza, a worshiper who like many Afghans goes by one name, said he was inside the mosque during the attack and reported four explosions: two outside and two inside. He said Friday prayers at the mosque typically draw hundreds of people.

Another witness, also named Murtaza, was in charge of security at the mosque and said he saw two bombers. He said one detonated explosives outside the gate, and the other was already among the worshippers inside the mosque.

He said the mosque’s security personnel shot another suspected attacker outside.

Video footage showed bodies scattered across bloodstained carpets, with survivors walking around in a daze or crying out in anguish.

The Shiite Assembly of Ahl al-Bayt, a global religious society, condemned the attack in Kandahar, accusing the security forces in Afghanistan of being “incapable” of addressing such assaults.

The Islamic State group, which like Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban is made up of Sunni Muslims, views Shiite Muslims as apostates deserving of death.

IS has claimed a number of deadly bombings across the country since the Taliban seized power in August amid the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The group has also targeted Taliban fighters in smaller attacks.

If the attack was carried out by IS, it would be the first major assault by the extremist group in southern Afghanistan since the U.S. departure enabled the Taliban to consolidate control of the country. Recent attacks in the north, the east and the Afghan capital have cast doubt on the Taliban’s ability to counter the threat posed by IS.

Neighboring Pakistan, which has urged world leaders to work with the ruling Taliban, condemned the “despicable attacks on places of worship” in a statement from its foreign ministry.

The Taliban have pledged to restore peace and security after decades of war and have also given the U.S. assurances that they will not allow the country to be used as a base for launching extremist attacks on other countries.

The Taliban have also pledged to protect Afghanistan’s Shiite minority, which was persecuted during the last period of Taliban rule, in the 1990s.

Both the Taliban and IS adhere to a rigid interpretation of Islamic law, but IS is far more radical, with better-known branches in Iraq and Syria.

And while the Taliban say they are creating an Islamic state in Afghanistan, within the borders of that country, IS says it is THE Islamic State, a global caliphate that it insists all Muslims must support. It is contemptuous of the Taliban’s nationalist goals and doesn’t recognize them as a pure Islamic movement.

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Akhgar reported from Istanbul.

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Whicker: UCLA’s Tyger Campbell broadens his game as Bruins stifle Colorado

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Whicker: UCLA’s Tyger Campbell broadens his game as Bruins stifle Colorado

LOS ANGELES — The immediate goal for UCLA is to put last Tuesday’s nightmare a little bit deeper into the rear-view in each game.

Tyger Campbell was invisible against Gonzaga, as were several Bruins in that ballyhooed 20-point loss. He was present and up front in Wednesday night’s Pac-12 opener.

Campbell was content to include everyone else in the offense as UCLA barged to a 16-point halftime lead over Colorado. When the Buffaloes came back, Campbell reined them in, with 13 points and no turnovers in the second half of the fifth-ranked Bruins’ 73-61 win, a game they led by only four points with 9:35 left.

Campbell got three baskets in the next four minutes and the Bruins led by 12 again. Despite the best efforts of Colorado’s Jabari Walker, whose dad Samaki once played for the Lakers, UCLA handled the rest of it and improved to 7-1.

For the game, Campbell had 21 points, seven assists and one turnover. Coach Mick Cronin thought that was nearly as impressive as Myles Johnson’s 12 points, 10 rebounds and 14 deflections in the middle.

Like Johnson, Campbell has been in the coach’s crosshairs.

“For us to be the type of team we want to be in March, that’s the way he has to play,” Cronin said.

“I accepted he was a young player the first couple of years, trying to develop him to what he can be. Their strategy tonight was to force him to shoot, but I like the fact that he didn’t even hesitate. I’ve seen that guy in practice.”

“It wasn’t about me being super-aggressive or anything,” Campbell said. “When I’m out there, I’m just looking at the defense. Tonight my teammates got me the ball and I was able to knock them down.

“But I like to take the big shots. I think every player does. I believe in myself and I know the coaches believe in me.”

Campbell also got some counseling from Russell Westbrook, the Lakers’ All-Star who donated the money for the Bruins’ practice court in the Ostin Center. He was honored at Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday.

“To me, it’s just great that he comes here and sees us play,” Campbell said. “We remember the days when he was here. He’s such a great player. The legacy he left, with all the Final Fours … he just told me to keep shooting.”

It was an efficient night for the Bruins, who took 12 Colorado turnovers and turned them into 23 points. They suffered only nine turnovers themselves, and Campbell (4 for 7) and Johnny Juzang combined for 5-for-10 shooting from the 3-point line.

Colorado missed 10 of its first 12 shots but rallied to shoot 42.1 percent, and Walker put together 22 points and 11 rebounds.

Cronin wasn’t satisfied with UCLA’s second-half defense, but then Jaime Jaquez Jr. played only 7:14 and sat out the second half. He banged his head on the court, and assistant coach Michael Lewis told Cronin that Jaquez “doesn’t look 100 percent” after warmups at halftime.

UCLA is still missing Cody Riley in the post, and Cronin is hoping his return, plus a higher comfort level for Team USA member and freshman Peyton Watson, will accelerate the Bruins. To that end, he experimented with five bench players together for a short period in the first half.

“I think that helped us wear them down in the second half, but I still think Johnny and Tyger played too many minutes,” Cronin said. Juzang had 35 minutes, Campbell 33.

The 6:30 p.m. start held the crowd to 7,941, although UCLA’s frenzied win against Villanova last month was supposed to make every home game an occasion.

Writing this win off as a routine errand wouldn’t be wise. Colorado has won twice in Pauley since 2018 and beat the Bruins, 70-61, in Boulder last year.

“The margin for error is limited against UCLA,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “Even when they lose somebody like Jaquez they keep coming at you.”

UCLA’s theme now is to reject satisfaction. Johnson was a defensive specialist at Rutgers and Campbell was a distributing point guard, but Cronin is trying to push them past their definitions.

The Bruins don’t believe in looking back, either, but then they already know what’s there.

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MLB owners lock out players, 1st work stoppage since 1995

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MLB owners lock out players, 1st work stoppage since 1995

IRVING, Texas — Major League Baseball plunged into its first work stoppage in a quarter-century when the sport’s collective bargaining agreement expired Wednesday night and owners immediately locked out players in a move that threatens spring training and opening day.

The strategy, management’s equivalent of a strike under federal labor law, ended the sport’s labor peace after 9,740 days over 26 1/2 years.

Teams decided to force the long-anticipated confrontation during an offseason rather than risk players walking out during the summer, as they did in 1994. Players and owners had successfully reached four consecutive agreements without a work stoppage, but they have been accelerating toward a clash for more than two years.

“We believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote in a letter to fans. “We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time. This defensive lockout was necessary because the players’ association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive.”

Talks that started last spring ended Wednesday after a brief session of mere minutes with the sides far apart on the dozens of key economic issues. Management’s negotiators left the union’s hotel about nine hours before the deal lapsed at 11:59 p.m. EST.

MLB’s 30 controlling owners held a brief digital meeting to reaffirm their lockout decision, and MLB delivered the announcement of its fourth-ever lockout — to go along with five strikes — in an emailed letter to the Major League Baseball Players Association.

“This drastic and unnecessary measure will not affect the players’ resolve to reach a fair contract,” union head Tony Clark said in a statement. “We remain committed to negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement that enhances competition, improves the product for our fans, and advances the rights and benefits of our membership.”

This stoppage began 30 days after Atlanta’s World Series win capped a complete season following a pandemic-shortened 2020 played in empty ballparks.

The lockout’s immediate impacts were a memo from MLB to clubs freezing signings, the cancellation of next week’s annual winter meetings in Orlando, Florida, and banishing players from team workout facilities and weight rooms while perhaps chilling ticket sales for 2022.

The union demanded change following anger over a declining average salary, middle-class players forced out by teams concentrating payroll on the wealthy and veterans jettisoned in favor of lower-paid youth, especially among clubs tearing down their rosters to rebuild.

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Trump tested COVID-positive pre-debate, ex-aide says in book

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Trump tested COVID-positive pre-debate, ex-aide says in book

By JILL COLVIN

Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19 three days before his first presidential debate in September 2020 with Joe Biden, according to a new book by Trump’s former chief of staff.

In “The Chief’s Chief,” obtained by The Guardian before its Dec. 7 release, Mark Meadows writes that the then-president received a negative test shortly after the positive test and resumed his usual activities, including attending the debate against his Democratic challenger. Trump on Wednesday called the story “Fake News.”

The revelation, if confirmed, would further show that the Trump White House did not take the virus seriously even as it spread among White House and campaign staff and eventually sent Trump to the hospital, where he required supplemental oxygen and experimental treatments.

The former president said Meadows’ story “of me having COVID prior to, or during, the first debate is Fake News. In fact, a test revealed that I did not have COVID prior to the debate.”

Meadows retweeted Trump’s statement. In an interview late Wednesday with Newsmax, Meadows said the story was being spun by the press.

“Well, the president’s right, it’s fake news,” Meadows said. “If you actually read the book, the context of it, that story outlined a false positive. Literally he had a test, had two other tests after that that showed that he didn’t have COVID during the debate.”

The book’s publisher, All Seasons Press, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The White House began a testing regimen for Trump’s senior aides and those who would be in contact with him after earlier positive cases. But aides repeatedly refused to disclose when Trump was tested the week of the debate, leading to speculation that he may have had COVID-19 while onstage with Biden.

Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News had said previously that he believed Trump may have had COVID-19 at the time of the debate because of the virus’ incubation period. It typically takes several days between the time a person is exposed to the virus and when there is enough viral load to be detected.

Trump was 74 and Biden was 78 at the time, putting them at higher risk of serious complications from the virus. COVID-19 vaccines were not then available.

Trump announced in a tweet early on Oct. 2, 2020, that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus. He was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center later that day.

But Meadows writes that Trump received a positive test on Sept. 26, three days before the debate and the same day that he held a Rose Garden ceremony for his final Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, according to the paper. Trump traveled that evening to a rally in Pennsylvania.

Meadows, Trump’s fourth and final chief of staff, writes that he received a call from the White House doctor as Trump’s helicopter was lifting off from the White House for the rally. Meadows says he was informed that Trump had tested positive and was instructed to stop the president from departing.

When Meadows told Trump of the result, the president’s reply, according to The Guardian, “rhyme(d) with ‘Oh spit, you’ve gotta be trucking lidding me.’”

But Meadows said the test had been conducted with an old model kit and he told Trump it would be repeated with a newer version. After “a brief but tense wait,” Meadows reported that the second test had come back negative.

Trump took that result as “full permission to press on as if nothing had happened,” Meadows wrote, according to The Guardian. In subsequent days, he held news events, met with Gold Star families at the White House, attended several fundraisers and appeared at the debate.

On the day of the debate, Sept. 29, Meadows wrote that Trump looked slightly better — “emphasis on the word slightly.”

“His face, for the most part at least, had regained its usual light bronze hue, and the gravel in his voice was gone. But the dark circles under his eyes had deepened. As we walked into the venue around five o’clock in the evening, I could tell that he was moving more slowly than usual. He walked like he was carrying a little extra weight on his back,” Meadows was quoted as writing.

Meadows noted that both candidates were required to test negative for the virus within 72 hours of the debate, but wrote that, “Nothing was going to stop (Trump) from going out there.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s top medical adviser, who also served in the Trump administration, said he was not aware of the test results but anyone who tests positive should isolate from other people.

“I’m not going to specifically talk about who put who at risk, but I would say as I said, not only for any individual, but everybody, that if you test positive you should be quarantining yourself,” he said at a news briefing Wednesday.

Biden brushed off the report. “I don’t think about the former president,” he told reporters.

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This story has been corrected to reflect that the book publisher is All Seasons Press, not All Season Press.

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