NFL Might Only Keep Pass Interference Review Changes for 2019-20 Season

Referee Walt Anderson (66) signals from the field during an NFC wild-card NFL football game between the Seattle Seahawks ad Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019.(AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

Roger Steinman/Associated Press

The NFL is allowing reviews on pass interference calls and non-calls starting in the 2019 season, though it may not extend beyond that. 

According to the NFL Football Operations, the league’s competition committee voted to only enact the changes for next season, meaning it could be a one-and-done rule change based upon its positive or negative effect.

In March, the NFL owners voted to have pass interference calls and non-calls reviewable, which would include coaches being able to use their challenges on such plays and the replay booth handling any close calls in the last two minutes of each half and in overtime. 

It passed by a 31-1 vote.

While pass interference calls have long been a point of contention, given how subjective they can be, the issue became a major controversy during the NFC Championship Game, when Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman clearly hit New Orleans Saints wideout Tommylee Lewis before the pass reached him on a crucial third-down attempt in the fourth quarter.

Despite the clear pass interference, no call was made. Had pass interference been called, the Saints could have run down the clock before attempting a game-winning field goal. Instead, they kicked the field goal immediately and the Rams had enough time left on the clock to kick their own game-tying field goal before winning in overtime.

“We think it was a good change,” Saints head coach Sean Payton told reporters in March about the rule change. “We’re trying to address the two fouls that most impact games. … The last three years coaches are being a little bit more judicious with their challenges. I think that will continue especially the minor fact that you now have a more meaningful play you can challenge.”

While this is universally seen as a good change, it doesn’t alter the fact that interference calls include a certain level of subjectivity. That will even extend to the replay officials, who may all have slightly different ideas of what constitutes a clear and obvious interference call.

As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk noted, the above play represents the sort of judgment calls that could remain controversial, even with replay:

“Would the replay official have concluded based on the real-time play and full-speed replay review that the officials clearly and obviously missed [Mike] Williams shoving [Kendall] Fuller away, as Fuller was interfering with Williams? Maybe the replay official would have seen it, maybe the replay official wouldn’t have seen it. The replay official and the replay assistant will have to make those decisions quickly.”

As he added, the uncalled interference on Williams wasn’t nearly as obvious as Robey-Coleman’s blatant transgression. So while adding replay review on interference calls is an obvious plus, it won’t alleviate all controversy when it comes to these types of judgement calls.

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Tom Felton Says Harry Potter Was ‘Constantly Crushing’ On Draco Malfoy

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, chances are you’ve got a few favorite character pairings. Some folks like to think Harry and Hermione Granger make a great pair. Others, including actor Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), think Harry was actually in love with his Slytherin rival the whole time. Hey, it could happen!

Felton, along with Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), James Phelps (Fred Weasley), Oliver Phelps (George Weasley), and Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick) stopped by AOL’s In The Know segment to play a quick round of “Fact of Fanfiction?” to hilarious effect.

Giphy

The Harry Potter co-stars were grilled about some of the fanfics and content they’ve en online over the years, with Felton admitting he had seen quite a few Draco and Hermione fanfics while browsing online.

“I feel like I’ve seen some fanfics along that line,” said Felton. “I’ve seen some pictures. Some alarming ones.” But the funniest part of the segment was definitely when he shared his thoughts on one popular pairing online: Malfoy and Harry. While most of the cast included in the segment were quick to blow the idea off, Felton and Grint approached it with a hilarious mindset.

“Harry was constantly crushing on Draco,” joked Felton. “He just couldn’t hide it.”

“I think he made quite an impression on Ron, as well,” added Grint.

Okay, so Felton and Grint were joking, but honestly, work with us here. It’s totally not out of the realm of possibility! A million fanfics couldn’t be wrong, after all…could they? Sure they can’t!

They broached a few other topics, such as how sexy Voldemort is to some individuals, first kisses, and some other absolutely side-splitting thoughts about the Harry Potter fandom. If you needed a laugh today, the clip’s Malfoy and Weasley reunion alone should get you giggling…even if there may be a hint of truth to it.

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‘Historic’ UK decision outlaws arms sales for Saudi war on Yemen

London, United Kingdom – Campaigners hailed an “historic” ruling by the United Kingdom‘s court of appeal declaring British arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in its war against Yemen unlawful as a potential turning point in the conflict.

The decision in London on Thursday follows a challenge by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) that accused the UK government of licensing arms sales despite a clear risk their use could breach international humanitarian law.

Although it will not halt the Saudi-led war in Yemen – in which an estimated 100,000 people have died since 2016 – it adds enormous support to international efforts to end the conflict.

“This ruling is huge,” said Sam Perlo-Freeman, a research coordinator at CAAT.

“We can see that arms sales for use in Yemen are now being challenged internationally – in the US and Europe – but this from a court in one of Saudi Arabia’s top two arms suppliers takes that to a whole new level.

“It is historic in terms of the government’s approach to export licences being found to be illegal and adds huge momentum to the campaign both in this country and internationally for a halt to arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the Saudi-led coalition.”

Since the Saudi-led coalition began its military intervention in Yemen in 2015, the UK has licensed at least 4.6 billion pounds ($6bn) worth of arms to Saudi forces. Weapons and military support from Britain to Saudi Arabia – that now accounts for 43 percent of London’s arms exports – is crucial to the war effort.

However, public disquiet has grown about Britain’s role with a poll commissioned by CAAT indicating only six percent of people in the country support arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

CAAT’s Andrew Smith talks to Al Jazeera following the court’s ruling

The UK’s sales have significantly bolstered the Saudi air force’s capability to carry out air attacks in Yemen. The final six Typhoon jet fighters of 72 ordered in 2007 were delivered in 2017. The following year, Riyadh signed a memorandum of intent to buy an additional 48 Typhoons

CAAT has been arguing for three years that the sales break UK laws, which block export licences if there is a clear risk of weapons being used in “serious violations” of international humanitarian law.

Perlo-Freeman added: “We welcome this verdict but at the same time really think it should not have taken a three-and-a-half-year court procedure to get the UK government to even start considering doing the right thing.

“The British government’s whole priority in promoting arms exports over everything else and in choosing to support and enable the Saudi-led war on Yemen – which is causing the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world – is fundamentally wrong.”

Can ruling end the war?

The UK government must now change the way it assesses the risk of breaches of international humanitarian law before approving exports. Prime Minister Theresa May has already said the government will appeal against the ruling.

The court’s decision also does not mean that licences to export arms to Saudi Arabia must immediately be suspended, and it will not affect existing stocks of weapons held by the country or ground support and maintenance provided to the Saudi air force by BAE Systems personnel.

“We are now calling for an immediate end to all arms sales to Saudi Arabia and that the UK simply should not be supporting the Saudi-led war in Yemen at all,” Perlo-Freeman said.

Anna Stavrianakis is a senior lecturer in international relations at the University of Sussex and an expert on the arms trade. “This legal decision finally provides some accountability for the UK’s role in the war in Yemen and the humanitarian disaster it has caused,” she told Al Jazeera.

“Not only has the government spent four years providing diplomatic cover for the Saudi-led coalition’s abuses committed with UK- and US-supplied weapons, it has also expended significant amounts of energy in trying not to know, or be seen to know, about possible violations of international humanitarian law.

“At long last, the government has been held accountable for its reckless policy.”

The London-based Stop the War Coalition welcomed the court of appeal’s decision. Spokesperson Lindsey German said it should result in a complete change of British policy and end any logistical or political support for the war.

“We are delighted at the ruling but it should never have come to court,” German told Al Jazeera. “Our government has repeatedly been prepared to sell arms to the Saudis, one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

“This should stop immediately, and the British government should apologise to all those who have suffered as a result of its policy.” 

But the UK government has significant interests at stake and “will do as much as it can to carry on supporting the war”, added German.

“Most people in Britain are opposed to the killing of civilians and to the Yemen war. We must continue to build protests and organise against it, making clear to whoever becomes prime minister that this barbarism has to end.”

Humanitarian crisis

The humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Yemen has been described as the world’s worst and has put nearly 10 million people at risk of starvation.

Human rights groups have long dismissed British government arguments – that its approach was lawful, that it operated “robust” export controls, that its military advisers working with Saudi forces had not been directing air raids, and the Saudi-led intervention was endorsed by the United Nations.

Earlier this year British ministers provided an additional 200 million pounds ($250m) to Yemen to help feed 3.8 million people, bringing total UK humanitarian support to the war-torn country to 770 million pounds ($980m).

Aid organisations such as Oxfam have said this “incoherent policy means that what it gives with one hand, it takes away with another”, while other groups claim the UK is ignoring alleged Saudi war crimes.

Mark Kaye of the Save the Children charity, which works in Yemen to alleviate poor humanitarian conditions, said: “The ruling essentially is what we have been pushing the UK government to acknowledge for the last three to four years of this conflict – that continuously fuelling this conflict by selling weapons to the Saudi-led coalition is both morally and legally wrong.

“We are pushing the UK government to accept that this new legal advice means it needs to reevaluate its engagement with the Saudis, it needs to cancel all of the arms exports that it currently has, and do a proper review of its processes and policies to make sure that there are no British-made bombs resulting in the deaths of innocent people in Yemen.”

Kaye added the poor humanitarian conditions in Yemen – from a cholera outbreak to mass displacement by flooding and the destruction of hospitals in Saudi air raids – are as bad as ever.

“We are seeing very little tangible improvement on the ground – in fact, if anything, we are seeing things getting worse.”

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Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert Released from Hospital After Suffering Stroke

FILE - In this Nov. 1, 2018, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert speaks during a news conference in Cleveland about the 2022 NBA All -Star game. Gilbert remains hospitalized while recovering from a stroke suffered last month. Quicken Loans CEO Jay Farner said in a statement Wednesday night, June 5, that Gilbert’s family reported he “maintains his strong sense of humor and focus on constant improvement.” (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Cleveland Cavaliers team owner Dan Gilbert has been released from the hospital after recovering from a stroke he suffered May 26, according to ESPN.com.

“Dan is looking forward to beginning an intensive rehabilitation program and is eager to continue the progress he has made over the last several weeks,” Quicken Loans CEO Jay Farner said in a statement.

Gilbert, who was discharged Wednesday, will undergo his rehabilitation at an an in-patient center. 

The 57-year-old purchased the Cavaliers in 2005, and under his watch, the organization won the NBA title in 2016 and reached the Finals five times.

He also infamously wrote an incendiary open letter to the city of Cleveland and Ohio in general after LeBron James left for the Miami Heat in 2010, calling James’ televised announcement a “several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his ‘decision’ unlike anything ever ‘witnessed’ in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.”

Gilbert also guaranteed that the Cavaliers would win a title before James won one with Miami, though James and the Heat won titles in 2012 and 2013.

But the two patched things up before LeBron’s return in 2014, and James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love led the organization to its first title two years later.

James left again last summer, and the Cavaliers have undergone a rebuild around young point guard Collin Sexton. Love remains on the team, though he’s a potential trade candidate for the young Cavaliers, who also hold the No. 5 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft. 

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Trump: ‘Iran made a very big mistake!’

Remotely piloted aircraft

An MQ-1B Predator remotely piloted aircraft flies past a MQ-9 Reaper RPA as it taxis during a training mission at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada. | Isaac Brekken/Getty Images

Defense

Updated


President Donald Trump warned Thursday that Iran “made a very big mistake” after the Islamic Republic claimed responsibility for shooting down an American drone, further ratcheting up a week of heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it destroyed the drone because it violated Iranian airspace, while the U.S. military’s Central Command asserted that the unmanned aircraft was taken down in “an unprovoked attack” over international airspace above the Strait of Hormuz.

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“We do not have any intention for war with any country, but we are fully ready for war,” Gen. Hossein Salami, the Guard’s commander, said in a televised address, according to the AP.

Hours later, Trump weighed in online, tweeting: “Iran made a very big mistake!”

The strike follows explosions on two oil tankers last week in the Gulf of Oman, which the Trump administration has blamed Tehran for perpetrating. A U.S. Navy official said Wednesday that a limpet mine used in the attack on one of the tankers, the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, bore a striking resemblance to similar Iranian explosive devices, according to the AP.

Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami insisted Wednesday that Tehran was not behind the tanker assaults, declaring that “the accusation against Iran is totally a lie and I dismiss it firmly,” according to the semi-official Fars news agency and the AP.

The Pentagon on Monday announced the deployment of 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East “for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats” in the region, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a statement.

But Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, insisted Wednesday that “there will not be a military confrontation” between his country and the U.S., while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted later in the day that Trump “does not want war” with the Islamic Republic.

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Video: Hope Solo Previews USA’s Women’s World Cup Group-Stage Finale vs. Sweden

Former United States women’s national soccer team goalkeeper Hope Solo breaks down Team USA’s first real test of the World Cup versus Sweden, set for Thursday at 3 p.m. ET.

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All about the mysterious ‘brain fever’ killing children in India

More than 110 children in India, mostly from poor rural families, have died this month from encephalitis, a type of brain disease that has afflicted the eastern state of Bihar for more than two decades.

Health experts have long been dumbfounded by the cause of the encephalitis outbreak, commonly known as brain fever, in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district.

Recent studies have suggested that natural toxins in lychees could harm undernourished children by blocking their ability to produce enough blood sugar, which can lead to death.

The link to the fruit, however, is inconclusive, said Alok Ghosh, the Muzaffarpur district magistrate, who said that in about half of the more than 400 known cases of encephalitis, the children had not consumed lychees.

Three medical sources at the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital, where some 95 patients have died, said they thought serious dehydration was likely to blame.

What is encephalitis?

Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain, caused by any one of a number of viruses.

Early symptoms can be similar to those of flu, with patients suffering from high temperatures or headaches. But symptoms can worsen within hours, and can include serious complications like seizures, paralysis and coma.

In Bihar, children were typically taken to hospital with fevers.

How could lychees cause sickness?

Researchers who conducted a study of 390 children who fell sick in 2014 in Muzaffarpur said that lychees contained hypoglycin A, an amino acid that can disrupt metabolism, lowering blood sugar levels. That can trigger hypoglycaemia, and in extreme cases, death.

The study by India’s National Centre for Disease Control and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, added that when the brain lacks glucose, it turns to other sources of energy, which are rapidly depleted, eventually pushing people into coma.

“The synergistic combination of (lychee) consumption, a missed evening meal, and other potential factors such as poor nutritional status, eating a greater number of litchis, and as yet unidentified genetic differences might be needed to produce this illness,” the researchers said in their study, which was published in the Lancet in 2017.

Retired virologist T. Jacob John also raised the possibility that encephalitis cases in Muzaffarpur could be associated with lychees in a 2014 study published by Indian science journal Current Science. Muzaffarpur is a major hub for growing lychees, which ripen at this time of year.

Any other hypothesis?

Doctors and officials are testing children for a variety of conditions and many are divided on the cause of the disease.

But dehydration as a heat wave sweeps India could be to blame, according to medical staff in Muzaffarpur.

“In my observation it is nothing but an epidemic of heat stroke,” Gopal Shankar Sahni, the head of the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital’s paediatric department, was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

Still, another doctor visiting Muzaffarpur from India’s financial capital of Mumbai said eating lychees could exacerbate dehydration symptoms.

“The child is hypoglycaemic and if they eat them it gets worse,” said Ravikant Singh.

How are authorities reacting?

Officials are scrambling to contain the outbreak, but victims’ relatives say poor hospital facilities have allowed the death toll to balloon.

Two lawyers have filed a petition to the Supreme Court criticising government “inaction”, citing an inadequate number of doctors and hospital beds, according to a report by Reuters partner ANI.

District magistrate Ghosh told Reuters officials were running door-to-door awareness campaigns in villages by asking people to stay clean and hydrated. Other officials are ensuring children get sweets at breakfast to maintain glucose levels.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has sent special teams of paediatricians and paramedics to Bihar, and also made 10 ambulances available.

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