Trump tweets that Covington Catholic students in viral video were ‘treated unfairly’

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This video clip went viral, throwing Covington Catholic into the national spotlight. Longer video has since emerged showing how the incident started.
Louisville Courier Journal

It took over 48 hours, but at long last, President Donald Trump has weighed in on the Covington Catholic video controversy.

In a tweet Monday night, Trump expressed support for the Kentucky high school students who were shown on video in a confrontation over the weekend, saying that the teenagers had been treated unfairly in the media.

“Looking like Nick Sandman & Covington Catholic students were treated unfairly with early judgements proving out to be false – smeared by media,” Trump’s tweet read. “Not good, but making big comeback! ‘New footage shows that media was wrong about teen’s encounter with Native American’ @TuckerCarlson.”

Trump was referring to Nick Sandmann, the junior at the Northern Kentucky high school at the center of the incident. Sandmann and dozens of classmates were seen on a viral video filmed Friday standing face-to-face with Native American activist Nathan Phillips, who was pounding an indigenous drum in Sandmann’s face and chanting.

Tucker Carlson, a Fox News media personality, spoke on his show earlier Monday about the incident, which drew national backlash against the Kentucky students and, later, against the Native American man involved in the confrontation.

More: McConnell has ceded all power to Trump in government shutdown, Yarmuth says

The initial impression was that Sandmann, seen smiling at Phillips while wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat as his classmates appeared to egg on the conflict, was acting disrespectfully toward the Native American man. In the aftermath, Covington Catholic High School and the Diocese of Covington condemned the behavior of the students, with the diocese promising to investigate.

That narrative was called into question Sunday when more videos from the incident emerged, showing a group of Black Hebrew Israelites taunting the students and calling them offensive names before Phillips and his group walked between the two groups. Some accused Phillips of fanning the flames and encouraging the confrontation.

More: What to know about Black Hebrew Israelites, group in Covington Catholic video

The student issued a statement later Sunday saying that he wasn’t trying to inflame tensions and that “outright lies (were) being spread about my family and me.”

RunSwitch PR, a Louisville-based public relations firm, later confirmed that it had been hired by the Sandmann family in the aftermath of the incident to “offer professional counsel with what has become a national media story” and “ensure an accurate recounting of events which occurred this past weekend.”

President Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., has been a vocal supporter of the students in the aftermath of the incident.

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, the congressman who represents the Covington area, and Sen. Rand Paul have also come to the defense of the Kentucky students.

Column: BuzzFeed’s failed Trump exposé has deepened the Trump-media crisis

More coverage: Massie defends Covington students: ‘It is my honor to represent them’

Check out some of Carlson’s segment below.

Lucas Aulbach: 502-582-4649; laulbach@courierjournal.com; Twitter: @LucasAulbachCJ. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/lucasa.

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Snap and WeWork have done an outstanding job showing the problems with making CEOs all-powerful

Silicon Valley has pioneered lots of dubious innovations in recent years, but the problems of one in particular seem to become more readily apparent by the day.

That innovation has less to do with technology than corporate structure. Somewhere along the way, investors in tech startups thought it would be a good idea to regularly give their founders outsized, often unchecked control over them in perpetuity.

The dangers of these schemes should have been obvious to everyone who enabled them. And yet we seem to be learning again the old adage that “power corrupts” and “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The latest lessons along those lines come this week from Snap and WeWork.

At Snap, CEO Evan Spiegel’s power to run things as he sees fit appears to be driving away numerous experienced executives and managers, further solidifying the leadership bubble he seems to exist in.

Meanwhile at WeWork, CEO Adam Neumann is reportedly taking advantage of his own unchecked position to make money off his own company in deals that appear to be heavily tainted by his serious conflict of interest.

Power corrupts, indeed.

Snap and WeWork both give their CEOs super-voting shares

Snap and WeWork are distinctly different companies — one public, one private — operating in separate sectors of the broader tech industry. What they have in common is a stock structure that gives extra votes to holders of certain classes of shares. In both cases — and at numerous other companies besides — those holders are the companies’ founders.

These dual-class stock structures effectively give the companies’ founders the votes needed to control them without having an equal amount of ownership in them. They essentially afford the founders unchecked power over their companies. They can appoint and remove board members at will, and they can decide the outcome of shareholder votes solely by themselves.

The tech companies that have increasingly adopted such structures have pitched them as a tool for allowing their farseeing founders to realize their visions for their firms by focusing on the long term.

While some founders may be doing just that, the reality is that the dual-class structures also insulate those leaders from the legitimate concerns of their managers, directors, investors, and the public at large. And the structures give those leaders nearly unchecked power to do what they want, even if it might not be in the best interests of their shareholders, society, or even their own companies.

Snap is stumbling

Take Snap. The company has been reeling since it launched a redesign early last year that was widely panned by users. Its stock is trading well below the price of its initial public offering, and its number of active users has been falling.

Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snap, which doesn’t give everyday investors any votes at all on corporate matters.
Getty

On top of all that, the company has been bleeding executives. On Tuesday, it announced that chief financial officer Tim Stone is leaving after only eight months on the job. He’s the company’s second CFO to leave in less than a year, the second top official at the company to leave this week, and one of some 20 Snap executives who have left in the less than two years since its IPO.

It’s generally a bad sign when that many top officials leave a company in that short a period. It’s an even worse sign when two of them oversaw the company’s finances.

Snap was at pains to reassure investors about Stone’s departure. He had “confirmed,” the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, that his departure had nothing to do with “any disagreement with us on any matter relating to our accounting, strategy, management, operations, policies, regulatory matters, or practices (financial or otherwise).”

Maybe Snap’s right. Maybe there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to its finances or operations. Of course, a lawsuit by the company’s former head of growth suggests otherwise; he charges that the company gave investors false metrics in advance of its IPO. Snap denies his charges.

Spiegel seems to be driving managers away

Regardless, Stone’s departure is one more red flag when it comes to Spiegel’s management style.

Stone left the company after clashing with Spiegel, in part over the scope of his job and his promotion prospects, the Financial Times reported. He also tried to circumvent Spiegel and appeal directly to the board for a raise, according to Bloomberg. His predecessor as CFO, Drew Vollero, also left after clashing with Spiegel, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Other officials left after Spiegel bungled an executive hiring and as he pushed through the company’s disastrous redesign. In a report about that redesign last month, The Journal painted a picture of Spiegel as an executive who operates in a bubble and doesn’t tolerate dissent.

Many CEOs have discretion to shape their teams, of course. What’s different about Spiegel is that no one can really question or check his decisions — not investors and not Snap’s board. He seems to be running Snap with that fully in mind, taking it where he sees fit, damn the consequences. And no one can do a thing about it — thanks to his super-powered shares.

WeWork’s Neumann is leasing the company his own buildings

WeWork’s Neumann seems to be using his own dual-class stock-enhanced power for a different end — enriching himself. He’s been buying up buildings in places including New York and San Jose, California, only to turn around and lease them to his own company, The Journal reported. He’s made millions of dollars in the process, according to The Journal.

Such deals have an inherent conflict of interest. They raise questions about whether the company is doing them because they’re in its best interests — or the best personal interests of its founder. For other investors, they raise obvious questions about whether WeWork could have gotten better terms or would have even signed the deals at all if Neumann didn’t own these buildings.

WeWork told The Journal that all deals are reviewed and approved by the company’s board of directors and disclosed to investors. According to The Journal, the company’s investors blocked a similar deal back in 2013 involving a building in Chicago. But then investors gave him effective voting control over the company a year later by giving him super-voting shares. Now, according to The Journal, numerous investors are concerned about what on the surface looks like self-dealing by Neumann, but they can’t do much to stop it, because he holds the power.

WeWork and Snap aren’t the only companies where the inherent flaws of dual-class structures have become apparent. The most obvious case lately has been Facebook, where CEO Mark Zuckerberg has near-absolute authority. That Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg still have jobs at the company after the disastrous year the company went through last year attests to just how effectively dual-class structures can be at insulating insiders.

The tech industry revitalized dual-class stock structures

To be sure, dual-class structures aren’t new. Like many of its innovations, Silicon Valley didn’t invent them. It just reinvigorated and perfected them.

Mark Zuckerberg has near-absolute control over Facebook thanks to his super-voting shares.
REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

The structures were commonly used in the late 19th and 20th centuries. But they fell out of favor and common usage after the New York Stock Exchange in the mid-1920s stopped listing companies that had different classes of shares with disparate voting rights.

Although the NYSE dropped that rule in the mid-1980s, such structures didn’t really start making a comeback until 2004. That’s when Google held its IPO and convinced institutional investors to back it, despite the fact that it had given super-voting shares to its founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Actually, Google used its dual-class stock structure as something of a selling point for its IPO. The company argued by insulating its leaders from worrying about short-term concerns, they could focus on the company’s long-term needs and opportunities.

Facebook took a similar stance when it followed Google in 2012 with an IPO that cemented Zuckerberg’s control over the company through his super-voting shares.

Such structures are becoming more common

At first such companies appeared to be the exception. It was thought that only the truly unique companies, those like Facebook and Google that had the prospect of dominating industries, could get away with dual-class structures.

But that assumption proved faulty. In the last two years, numerous tech companies have followed their lead, startups that in no way measure up to Facebook or Google. It’s not just Snap and WeWork, but Dropbox and even Roku.

Read more: Dropbox’s IPO is just the latest case of startup CEOs consolidating their power — and investors should be outraged

Although other companies with dual-class structures have gone public since Snap’s debut last year, the concept probably reached its most absurd epitome in the Snap IPO. The shares held by the company’s regular shareholders have absolutely no votes. None. Zilch. Their input matters so little that the company didn’t even have a formal shareholder meeting last year. Instead, it held a three-minute webcast during which Spiegel didn’t speak and shareholders weren’t able to interject questions.

Roku allotted super-voting shares to its CEO, Anthony Wood.
Roku

What Snap and its dual-class cohorts have come to realize is that investors — whether the venture capitalists who provide their initial backing or the institutional investors who back their IPOs — really only care about near-term growth.

As long as a company has a great sales-growth story, big investors don’t care much about its stock structure and who ultimately has control. Indeed, in some cases, investors have been willing to concede more control to founders just to be allowed in on the action.

For example, WeWork’s investors created a new class of stock for Neumann that gave him effective control over the company as part of a funding round in 2014, according to The Journal. In other words, even as his ownership stake in WeWork decreased, Neumann’s voting power increased.

That seems to be a common theme at the company. This fall, when SoftBank was considering investing $16 billion in WeWork, which would have given it a majority stake in the company, it was willing to leave Neumann with effective voting control over the commercial-real-estate firm, The Journal reported.

Early investors are cementing them in place

The biggest problem with dual-class structures is that many of them have no end date, and there’s no way for ordinary investors to force companies to set one. The VCs and institutional investors who could bar such structures or force companies to set a sunset date are instead cementing them in place for all future shareholders.

They may buy into the idea that founders will always know and do what’s best for their companies. But, as we’ve seen, that’s not the case. And thanks to the stock structures those investors permit, there’s little the rest of us can do about it.

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Academy Award nominations, Baseball Hall of Fame: 5 things to know Tuesday

Editors, USA TODAY
Published 4:07 a.m. ET Jan. 22, 2019 | Updated 4:24 a.m. ET Jan. 22, 2019

Government shutdown: Trump not attending economic conference 

The White House announced that its U.S. delegation would not attend a high-profile economic conference in Davos, Switzerland, due to the partial government shutdown, which is now is in its fifth week. The 2019 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, which started Tuesday, has become an annual happening for politicians seeking to burnish their global credentials, entrepreneurs looking to expand their businesses and various celebrities seeking to promote their charities. Last week, President Donald Trump apologized and blamed his cancellation on Democrats, who he’s been battling over $5.7 billion to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Over the weekend, Trump offered to extend protections for some young immigrants in exchange for border wall funding, but Democrats denounced the offer, saying it wasn’t enough to end the historic shutdown.  

And the (Oscar) nominees are …

Oscar season kicks into another gear Tuesday morning when the Academy Awards nominations are announced, giving film lovers and experts alike snubs and surprises to drive conversation right up to the ceremony on Feb. 24. The Oscars recognize the best in film, and some of the biggest contenders this year include “Black Panther,” “The Favourite,” “Roma,” “A Star is Born,” “Vice,” and “Eighth Grade.”  Up until now, the controversy surrounding the Oscars has been the lack of a host after comedian Kevin Hart stepped down in December after past homophobic comments resurfaced. Since then, it seems the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has decided to not have one host, and is instead recruiting stars to introduce segments, something that hasn’t happened in 30 years

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Who will make Baseball’s Hall of Fame? 

The 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame election results will be announced on Tuesday. Mariano Rivera, the embodiment of the Yankees’ dynasty, could become the first player to ever receive 100 percent of the vote and break Ken Griffey Jr.’s 2016 record of 99.32 percent.  Roy Halladay debuted on the Hall of Fame ballot a year after his death in a tragic airplane accident. The two-time Cy Young winner is expected to easily secure enough votes to be inducted on his first try, but his candidacy has an undeniable gravity in the wake of his passing. For Fred McGriff, this year is his last shot for a spot in the Hall of Fame. But like fellow candidate Gary Sheffield, he played during the height of the so-called steroid era that’s costing many of his contemporaries consideration for the Hall. USA TODAY Sports has five writers who are members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Here is how they voted

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Los Angeles teachers’ strike: When will it end?

After days of rallies and picket lines, Los Angeles’ striking teachers will now see whether they can maintain the momentum for a sixth school day Tuesday. Already, teachers have made their point. The strike, a rallying cry for better pay, smaller classes and support staff, has attracted nationwide attention and the endorsement of a host of prospective Democratic presidential hopefuls and celebrities. “What has happened this week in Los Angeles … has shifted the conversation back to where it should be, which is: ‘What do we need to do to help students succeed in neighborhood public schools?’” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. But both sides are feeling the pressure — teachers have braved four days of rain on the picket line and risk losing a week of pay, while the district saw attendance plummet and with it, the money it receives from the state. 

High winds to ease but next wave of cold will bring more storms

Winds are expected to ease in the East on Tuesday, but the cold that has been gripping parts of the Midwest and Northeast will remain. “In some cases, temperatures may plummet 40 degrees,” AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said. Temperatures across the Northeast were forecast to dip about 20 degrees below average for the time of year. By Wednesday, mild temperatures and rain could lead to flooding of rivers and streams particularly in the Mid-Atlantic region, the weather service warned. The frigid weather has contributed to at least seven deaths over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, the Associated Press reported.  

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Contributing: Associated Press

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Celebrity Big Brother season premiere recap: The drama begins!

It’s not unusual for a reality show to stretch its definition of “celebrity” for a season of TV, but it must be said that Big Brother hasn’t done too bad with its latest season of Celebrity Big Brother. Sure, there are some names here that may not be familiar to everyone, but each and every one of these people is a character in their own right, and that bodes well for the season. There’s Ryan Lochte, the Olympic swimmer who’s got an impressive athletic record and an even more impressive reputation for lying about being robbed in Brazil. There’s Anthony Scaramucci, the foul-mouthed, short-lived communications director for President Trump. There’s Tom Green, ’90s gross-out artist extraordinaire, and the outspoken Tamar Braxton. Kato freakin’ Kaelin is here! In other words, the cast is looking good.

It’s looking good because there’s such a wide range of personalities. That’s evident right off the bat, as the first six celebs move into the house and run down their personal and professional lives. Ryan Lochte, Olympic hurdler and bobsledder Lolo Jones, and former WWE wrestler Natalie Eva Marie all focus on how their passion for competition means they’ll be the ones to beat inside the house. Sure, Lochte does his best to say that he’s a “family man” now, but there’s no way he’s not itching to show everybody up. You don’t get biceps like that by being modest when it comes to your ambitions. On the other hand, Tom Green and Kato Kaelin, who’s known for being a star witness in the OJ Simpson murder trial, play up their underdog status. They want to be the weird outsiders who don’t stand a chance, flying under the radar to an easy win. Then there’s Tamar Braxton, singer, actress, and so many other things. She’s a Big Brother superfan, and she’s all confidence heading into the house, hiding her fandom so that she doesn’t get the boot early on.

As the first six make their way around the house, there’s an easy camaraderie. “There’s a bar! God is good!” shouts Tamar as they tour their living space. Everyone really seems to get along, the vibe more suited to move-in day at the college dorm rather than a reality show where you can take home $250,000. Green, in particular, keeps things light. “You think OJ’s going to walk through that door next?” he jokes with Kaelin. That kind of humor will either keep Green alive in this competition or get on everyone’s nerves and send him packing.

After laying claim to their beds, it’s time to meet the next six celebrities. There’s yet another athlete in Ricky Williams, the former NFL running back who was not only a great rusher but perhaps most known for testing positive for marijuana during a drug test with the Miami Dolphins. Williams struggled to change his reputation around the league and in the media after that, but now he’s getting his degree in Chinese Medicine and focusing on healing others. That’s a noble goal and makes him one of the more gentle athletes in the house. There’s Kandi Burruss, best known for writing the still-incredible “No Scrubs” for TLC, who has some good and bad music business history with Tamar. There’s another connection here too, as Jonathan Bennett, currently of Cake Wars but formerly of Mean Girls, can’t contain his surprise at seeing Dina Lohan walk into the competition. Blossom‘s Joey Lawrence is here looking jacked, but the most surprising and potentially volatile presence is that of Anthony Scaramucci. He still calls Trump a friend, but that might make him hard to trust inside the house.

Look, there’s only so much going on in this first episode. As is always the case, this is all a preamble for the second part of the two-part premiere, which airs on Tuesday. So, there’s a lot of mingling around, some vague ideas of who might be getting along, but it’s all pretty superficial at this point. Lolo worries that she and Lochte could be considered a “power couple” because they know each other from the Olympics; Lochte seems less worried, probably because the thought never crossed his mind. Tamar and Kandi clearly won’t be getting along any time soon. That’s about all you can really say at this point though. Everyone else feels like they’re just settling in, though Jonathan thinks Kaelin could easily win the competition because “he survived the hardest Head of Household ever.” Jonathan is my early favorite.

That brings us to the season’s first HoH competition, and it’s an exceedingly difficult one. Julie Chen-Moonves announces the twist first: the celebrities will be competing in teams of two, but only 10 total will get to compete, meaning two people are sitting out and unable to become Head of Household. “I’m not loving that there’s a twist on Day 1,” says the guy who worked for a White House full of unpredictable twists. Tamar picks Kandi as a way to “extend an olive branch” (Spoiler: that goodwill doesn’t last); Joey ends up with Ricky; Lolo picks Tom because she wants to lose but “put in an honest effort”; and Dina ends up with The Mooch because she couldn’t remember anyone else’s name. That leaves Kato Kaelin and Natalie Eva Marie on the outs, but that’s not a bad thing this time around. In the second of three twists in this hour, Julie tells them that they are both safe from the first eviction. Eva Marie gets to keep her spot after doing absolutely nothing, which is very similar to her run in WWE.

The competition is a tough one. The celebs are strapped into swings and must coordinate their movement so that one of them fills up a glass from a giant flowing bottle of “champagne” and then transfer that water to their partner’s glass, who then pours it into a giant champagne glass. When there’s enough water in the glass, a bubble pops out and that team wins. For a while, nobody can get their swing going. There’s like four solid minutes of everyone just moving their legs and nothing happening. It’s appalling. Eventually, Lochte figures it out and everyone else copies him. It’s a two-horse race though, as the team of Ryan Lochte and Jonathan Bennett are neck-and-neck with Lolo Jones and Tom Green. Yes, Lolo wanted to lose, but her competitive spirit gets the best of her.

Eventually, though, Lochte and Jonathan snag the win. Alas, the victory is bittersweet, Back in the living room, the specter of Julie tells them that they will be competing against each other to become Head of Household. Only one can win. But in even more devastating news, the loser will become the first celebrity nominated for eviction. Lochte is pretty confident that he’s going to win, but Jonathan’s feeling good too. “I have several participation trophies,” he quips. Like I said, Jonathan is my early favorite, and that’s where we leave it for tonight. On Tuesday, it’s Jonathan Bennett vs. Ryan Lochte in a battle for Head of Household. Bring it on.

 

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Australian Open 2019: Petra Kvitova sets up semi-final against Danielle Collins

Petra Kvitova suffered serious injuries to her dominant left hand in the knife attack in 2016
Australian Open 2019
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 14-27 January
Coverage: Daily live commentaries on the BBC Sport website, listen to Tennis Breakfast daily from 07:00 GMT on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and watch highlights on BBC TV and online.

Sixth seed Petra Kvitova reached her first Grand Slam semi-final since being stabbed in a knife attack as she beat Ashleigh Barty at the Australian Open.

The two-time Wimbledon champion, 28, overpowered her Australian opponent in a 27-minute first set, on her way to a 6-1 6-4 victory in Melbourne.

Barty, 22, provided resistance in the second, Kvitova saving two break points before winning the last three games.

“I did not imagine playing at this stage again,” said a tearful Kvitova.

Barty was bidding to become the first Australian to reach the last four since Wendy Turnbull 35 years ago.

Czech Kvitova will play unseeded Danielle Collins in the last four on Thursday after the American beat Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6 7-5 6-1 to reach her first major semi-final.

Kvitova’s victory also means Simona Halep, who lost in the last 16 to Serena Williams on Monday, will see her 48-week reign as world number one ended when the tournament finishes.

‘Fortunate to be alive’ Kvitova’s remarkable return continues

Kvitova required surgery on her left hand, which she plays with, after being attacked in a robbery at her home by intruders in December 2016.

The former world number two admitted she was “fortunate to be alive” and her return to the top end of the game has been one of tennis’s most heartwarming stories.

She remarkably reached the 2017 US Open nine months after the attack, and only four after returning to the court, but has now gone one stage further.

The 6ft-tall Czech landed 78% of her first serves, winning 71% of these points, and cracked 12 winners as she raced to the first set.

That helped somewhat quieten an enthusiastic and colourful home crowd, although they were buoyed again in the second set as Barty fought back.

The Queenslander was bidding to become the first Australian to reach the last four since Wendy Turnbull 35 years ago and possibly emulating Chris O’Neill’s achievement in 1978 by winning the women’s singles.

But Barty, who lost to Kvitova in the Sydney final earlier this month after winning the first set, was unable to capitalise on two break points and ultimately paid the price.

Kvitova saved a break point in the second game with a 105mph ace, then fought off another in the fourth with a vicious cross-court smash.

“I’m sorry guys – I beat Ashley,” Kvitova joked in her on-court interview.

“I started better than the final in Sydney, I served well took the first break.

“In the second she didn’t give me anything for free and I had to fight until the end.”

Unseeded Collins on a roll

Danielle Collins is ranked 35 in the world

Danielle Collins reached the semi-finals, having never won a Grand Slam main draw singles match prior to the tournament.

The American, 25, beat unseeded Pavlyuchenkova in two hours and 16 minutes.

Collins broke twice in the second set and won seven games in a row as she raced through the decider.

“It was my first time playing on Rod Laver and I didn’t even practise on here before so it was quite the experience,” said Collins. “I absolutely loved it.”

It was a feisty match from the start as the opening two games lasted 22 minutes and saw seven break points – including five which Collins could not take.

Collins, who knocked out world number two Angelique Kerber in the fourth round for the loss of just two games, was vocal throughout and showed plenty of emotion on court.

Pavlyuchenkova’s experience of four previous Grand Slam quarter-finals was evident in the first set as she remained calm and held off Collins’ early pressure.

The Russian, who beat 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens in a mammoth fourth-round tie that went on until 01:53 local time, fought back from 5-2 down in the second set to 5-5. But she had the stuffing knocked out of her when Collins broke again to level the match.

The American was full of momentum and went on to break twice in the final set, while Pavlyuchenkova won only nine points on her serve in the decider.

Collins could not convert a match point at 5-0 and was made to work in her last service game before she eventually secured victory on her third match point.

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Mnangagwa back in Zimbabwe, vows to probe protest crackdown

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa says he will investigate wrongdoing by security forces in the wake of their brutal crackdown on nationwide protests.

The president cut short a foreign tour and returned to Harare on Monday night to deal with the crisis.

Police and soldiers launched a large-scale operation against suspected protesters, activists and organisers of the strike last week, which was triggered by a sharp rise in fuel prices.

Mnangagwa said misconduct by the security forces towards demonstrators would be investigated, but he added the increase in fuel prices were the right thing to do.

“Violence or misconduct by our security forces is unacceptable and a betrayal of the new Zimbabwe,” Mnangagwa wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

“Chaos and insubordination will not be tolerated. Misconduct will be investigated. If required, heads will roll,” Mnangagwa said, calling for a “national dialogue” over the protests.

He also criticized the protesters. 

“Everyone has the right to protest, but this was not a peaceful protest,” Mnangagwa said Tuesday, noting “wanton violence and cynical destruction.”

At least 12 people were killed and 78 treated for gunshot injuries, according to the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, which recorded more than 240 incidents of assault and torture. About 700 people have been arrested.

People reported being hunted down in their homes by security forces and severely beaten. Some said arrests continued even after Mnangagwa had returned. 

There were reports of a “total internet shutdown” on Friday in what critics called an attempt by Mnangagwa’s government to prevent a security clampdown from being broadcast to the world.

The High Court in Harare ruled on Monday that government had no powers to order the shutdown of the internet which was imposed as protests swept across the country.

Economic crisis

Zimbabwe is going through its worst economic crisis in a decade. Low on cash reserves, the southern African nation is battling severe fuel shortages.

The government announced a 150 percent increase from $1.34 for a litre of petrol to $3.31 with diesel surging to $3.11 a litre, igniting widespread discontent and violent demonstrations.

Mnangagwa flew to Russia soon after making that announcement in a televised address to the nation.

Accused of conducting a deadly crackdown on dissent, the army and police denied any wrongdoing, saying some assailants raiding homes were wearing official uniforms to pose as security personnel.

The UN has fiercely criticised the government reaction to the protests as allegations mount of shootings, beatings and abductions of opposition figures, activists and ordinary residents.

Jacob Mafume, a spokesman for the opposition MDC party, said there was an urgent need for dialogue.

“The arrest of labour leaders and opposition members is a familiar script in Africa. We have called for dialogue until our voices have gone hoarse but have been ignored,” Mafume said.

Mnangagwa, who was seeking much-needed foreign investment on his tour, scrapped plans to attend the World Economic Forum of world leaders in the Swiss city of Davos this week.

He had visited Russia, Belarus and Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan before cutting his trip short on Monday night. 

Mnangagwa, 76, had pledged a fresh start for the country when he came to power in November 2017 after his predecessor Robert Mugabe was toppled in a military coup. 

But Zimbabweans say they have seen little evidence of the promised economic revival or increased political freedom. 

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Ronaldo in court for tax evasion charge

A smiling Ronaldo appears outside court, with TV cameras visible all around himImage copyright
Reuters

Image caption

A smiling Ronaldo was met by a media circus despite his request to avoid the front door

Football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has arrived in court in Madrid amid a huge media presence to face tax evasion charges which could result in an €18.8m (£16.6m) fine.

A judge refused the player’s request to appear by video or to enter the building by car to avoid the spotlight.

He is widely expected to plead guilty in a pre-agreed deal that would hand him a 23-month jail sentence.

In Spain, convicts are usually not sent to jail for sentences under two years.

The non-violent nature of Ronaldo’s offence means it is unlikely he would face any time at all in jail under the deal.

The current Juventus player, who made an appearance for the club in Italy the night before, arrived smiling and giving a thumbs-up despite his previous request to enter the courthouse by car.

His lawyers had argued that given his fame, avoiding the main entrance was needed for the player’s security.

Journalist Ruben Canizares posted a video of the footballer arriving at the provincial court with his fiancee Georgina Rodriguez.

What are the allegations against Ronaldo?

Ronaldo, five-time winner of Europe’s Ballon d’Or and often titled one of the world’s best players, is accused of avoiding paying tax in Spain between 2011 and 2014, when he was playing for Real Madrid and based in the Spanish capital.

The case centres around lucrative image rights deals. Prosecutors say the proceeds were funnelled through low-tax companies in foreign nations to avoid paying the required tax.

The amount was reported to be in the region of €14.8m.

In 2017, when the allegations first emerged, prosecutors said it was a “voluntary and conscious breach of his fiscal obligations in Spain”.

But Ronaldo’s lawyers said it is all down to a misunderstanding over what was and was not required under Spanish law, and deny any deliberate attempt to evade tax.

The deal, struck in June last year, had to be agreed with Spain’s tax authorities. It will be presented to the judge on Tuesday at a short court session. The judge will announce his verdict in the coming days.

Ronaldo is not the only high-profile player to face the wrath of Spain’s tax system.

His former Real Madrid team-mate Xabi Alonso is expected to appear in court on the same day for the first time, charged with similar image rights offences amounting to about €2m.

In recent years:

The recent crackdown on high-profile footballers follows the removal of a tax exemption in 2010. Known as the “Beckham law”, it had allowed footballers to curb their taxes.

Ronaldo also faces another ongoing legal battle: the football superstar is accused of rape in Las Vegas in 2009, a charge which he denies.

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