Axon body camera supplier will not use facial recognition in its products — for now

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San Francisco supervisors approved a ban on police using facial recognition technology, making it the first city in the U.S. with such a restriction. (May 14)
AP, AP

LOS ANGELES — A major supplier of body cameras to law enforcement agencies across the country has decided to forgo selling facial recognition technology with its products. 

Axon, which supplies 48 police departments in major cities with body cameras, made the decision after the company’s ethics board concluded the technology was not accurate enough to be implemented in the field and could potentially cause major trust issues between law enforcement and their communities. 

In a 42-page report, the ethics board detailed concerns with the inaccuracy of the software, saying results showed it was less accurate when identifying women, younger people, and “worsens when trying to identify people of color compared to white people, a troubling disparity that would only perpetuate or exacerbate the racial inequities that cut across the criminal justice system.”

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The board is composed of experts from different professions, including law enforcement, robotics and policy, and advises Axon on the potential effects its technology could have on society.

“Some police departments are sophisticated and would understand the limitations on (facial recognition) and would put their own guardrails in place around the use of that technology by their officers. But there are some police departments that would not take those same precautions and may not appreciate the implications of using a technology that’s not ready yet for prime-time,” said board member Jim Bueermann, who served as a police officer for over 30 years and is now president of the National Police Foundation.

Axon CEO Rick Smith said the company is “moving cautiously” because of these implications.

“There are companies out there actively promoting using facial recognition on body cameras,” said Smith. “From our perspective, we believe taking the time to do the ethical analysis up front in the product design process will have much better outcomes in the long haul.”

Smith says the company might reconsider incorporating the technology in their products in the future once the inaccuracies are solved, but must balance that with privacy and safety and put in “safeguards” to avoid misuse of facial recognition. 

“We don’t believe that the right answer is that the police should deploy face recognition with no controls and go wild with it, but similarly we don’t believe that it makes sense to say police should never use face-recognition technology because there’s many cases where it’s pretty universally known that it will be a good thing,” said Smith. 

Facial recognition has been a hot-button topic around the country as concerns of privacy and accuracy have made some cities skeptical about the technology, leading San Francisco to ban it altogether, with cities such as Oakland and Berkeley considering following suit. California might ban it state-wide if Gov. Gavin Newsom signs the Body Camera Accountability Act this summer. The Somerville City Council in Massachusetts banned facial recognition just this week.

While these cities are turning their backs to this technology, others are welcoming it. The Orlando Police Department is testing Amazon’s ‘Rekognition’ software, although not in public or for investigative use. According to the New York Times, Detroit signed a $1-million deal to set up facial recognition in the city’s surveillance cameras with broad rules on how law enforcement can utilize the footage.

Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, compares facial-recognition software to when law enforcement started using DNA testing as an investigative tool.

“There was a lot of concern then as well about ‘the government is going to have my DNA, they’re going to know all about me, how is this going to be used?’ and I think today those fears have generally gone by the wayside,” said Johnson.  

Privacy and who’s tracking you: Apple, Google, Amazon and their tracks

Johnson says facial recognition can be utilized in the same way DNA testing is — to confirm identities, solve crimes and exonerate the innocent. 

“I don’t think it’s providing the government any more identification (information) than they already have,” said Johnson. “I think if people are concerned about surveillance, they’ve kind of missed the boat.”

Facial recognition is being used by more than law enforcement. The New York school district will be the first in the country to deploy the software for added security, including to identify potential school shooters and sex offenders.

“AI is so powerful, it is going to be either the greatest or the worst thing we as a human species has ever developed, and using such a powerful tool, I think the developers of that should have a mechanism of objective, interested people they can rely on to say, ‘Just because we can do this, should we?’” said Bueermann.

Follow Madeline Purdue on Twitter.

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Ankara warns Haftar over arrests as LNA says hit Turkish drone

Flights have resumed at the capital of Libya‘s only functioning civilian airport after it was hit by forces loyal to renegade General Khalifa Haftar, amid rising tensions between the eastern-based commander and Turkey.

Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which has been waging an armed campaign to seize Tripoli from the United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), said on Sunday its air force destroyed a Turkish drone parked at Mitiga International Airport.

“Our fighter [jets] targeted and destroyed a Turkish Bayraktar aircraft as it was taking off,” the LNA said in a statement on Facebook. “The aircraft had been prepared to target our armed forces’ positions,” it said.

Earlier on Sunday, Turkey’s foreign ministry accused Haftar’s forces of arresting six of its citizens, and warned that the LNA would become a “legitimate target” if the Turks were not released immediately.

For its part, the LNA said it had arrested two Turks in the northeastern oil town of Ajdabiya.

Ankara has supplied drones and trucks to forces allied to the GNA, while Haftar’s GNA has received backing from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, according to diplomats. Turkey says it is in Libya to support “regional peace and stability”. 

Gharyan loss

The LNA launched an offensive on April 4 to capture the capital but it has been pushed back by the Tripoli government’s forces.

Pro-GNA fighters this week retook the strategic town of Garyan, in a surprise attack and a major setback for Haftar.

Following the loss of Garyan during a GNA operation he accused Ankara of backing, Haftar ordered his forces to target Turkish companies, ban flights and arrest Turkish nationals in Libya, his spokesman said on Friday.

Ankara has warned that it is ready to retaliate against attacks.

Haftar’s Tripoli offensive has upended UN-led plans to stabilise Libya after years of conflict that have left the oil-producing country divided and caused living standards to plummet.

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Protests escalate as Hong Kong marks anniversary of handover to China

Ken Moritsugu, Associated Press
Published 4:54 a.m. ET July 1, 2019

HONG KONG – Combative protesters tried to break into the Hong Kong legislature Monday as a crowd of thousands were marching in that direction on the 22nd anniversary of the former British colony’s return to China.

With a crowd of a hundred or so people around them, a small group of people repeatedly rammed a cargo cart and poles into a glass panel. After they managed to get the cart wedged into the damaged panel, police grabbed the cart away from them. They also posted a sign saying to the protesters, stop charging before we use force.

The unexpected disruption delayed the march, but the crowd of thousands soon began moving out of Victoria Park even as police asked the marchers to change their route or cancel the march.

Both the combative protesters and the marchers oppose a government attempt to change extradition laws to allow suspects to be sent to China to face trial. The proposal has increased fears of eroding freedoms in the territory that was returned to China in 1997.

More: Hong Kong activists: We’re protesting for our freedom from brutal Chinese authoritarianism

More: What’s next for Hong Kong? Controversial extradition bill suspended, not scrapped

The embattled leader of Hong Kong pledged to be more responsive to public sentiment in a speech at a flag-raising ceremony. Carrie Lam has come under withering criticism for trying to push through the legislation. She said a series of protests and marches that have attracted hundreds of thousands of students and other participants in recent weeks have taught her that she needs to listen better to the youth and people in general.

“This has made me fully realize that I, as a politician, have to remind myself all the time of the need to grasp public sentiments accurately,” she said in a five-minute speech to the gathering in the city’s cavernous convention center.

She insisted her government has good intentions, but said “I will learn the lesson and ensure that the government’s future work will be closer and more responsive to the aspirations, sentiments and opinions of the community.”

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Security guards pushed pro-democracy lawmaker Helena Wong out of the room as she walked backward shouting at Lam to resign and withdraw the “evil” legislation. She later told reporters she was voicing the grievances and opinions of the protesters, who could not get into the event.

The annual march starting in the afternoon was expected to be larger than usual because the proposed extradition bill has awakened broader fears that China is eroding the freedoms and rights guaranteed to Hong Kong for 50 years under a “one country, two systems” framework. Two marches in June against the legislation drew more than a million people, according to organizer estimates.

The government has suspended debate on the bill indefinitely, but protest leaders want it formally withdrawn and Lam’s resignation. They also are demanding an independent inquiry into police actions during a June 12 protest, when officers used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters who blocked the legislature on the day debate on the bill had been scheduled to resume.

The police say the use of force was justified, but have largely since adopted softer tactics, even as protesters besieged police headquarters in recent days, pelting it with eggs and spray-painting slogans on its outer walls.

The area around Golden Bauhinia Square, where the flag-raising ceremony took place, was blocked off from Saturday to prevent protesters from gathering to disrupt it. Before the morning ceremony, protesters trying to gain access to the square were driven back by officers with plastic shields and batons, the retreating protesters pointing open umbrellas to ward off pepper spray.

“We are horrified, this is our obligation to do this, we are protecting our home,” said Jack, a 26-year-old office worker who would only give his first name. “I don’t know why the government is harming us. It’s harming the rule of law, the rule of law is the last firewall between us and the Chinese Communist Party.”

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Associated Press journalists Raf Wober, Alice Fung, Johnson Lai and Dake Kang contributed to this story.

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Wimbledon, new laws on California ammo sales and opioids: 5 things you need to know Monday

Editors, USA TODAY
Published 3:32 a.m. ET July 1, 2019 | Updated 3:32 a.m. ET July 1, 2019

Young guns may break through at Wimbledon

The most important tennis tournament of the year will begin Monday, as it always seems to, with a sense of inevitability. Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – the three dominant names for the last 16 years in men’s tennis – will surely steal the Wimbledon spotlight. But is it finally time for a young star to emerge victorious? On the women’s side, Serena Williams – who just graced a Wheaties box for the first time in her career – isn’t the favorite to win it all (that would be Ash Barty), but she should never be counted out. “I know how to play tennis,” she said with a smile Saturday. 

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California set to require background check for ammo sales

A new California law that will require almost all buyers to go through background checks before being able to buy bullets goes into effect Monday, potentially increasing the amount of time and money it takes to make purchases. As it is, California has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation — the state bans most assault weapons and restricts the sale and possession of large capacity magazines. There’s also a 10-day waiting period prior to the sale or transfer of a firearm, among other restrictions. The new law is meant to protect the public by keeping ammunition from getting into dangerous hands, the state says. Advocates, though, remain convinced that the inconvenience to law-abiding gun owners is necessary for the public good. 

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In Singapore, the punishment for having a gun is to be beaten with canes with no less than six strokes.
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E-cigarettes get much more expensive in Vermont 

With vaping on the rise among teenagers and adults alike, a 92% tax on e-cigarettes is set to go into effect Monday in Vermont. Wholesale dealers and consumers must abide by rule changes around the 92% excise tax — a “Tobacco Products Tax” — starting July 1. Items included in the legislation include e-cigarettes, vaping liquid, vaping liquid cartridges and more. Consumers purchasing products named in the legislation will abide by taxes already in effect for “other tobacco products” — meaning they must pay a sales tax on top of the Tobacco Products Tax. 

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Twice as many high school students used nicotine-tinged electronic cigarettes this year compared with last year, an unprecedented jump in a large annual survey of teen smoking, drinking and drug use. (Dec. 17)
AP

Distracted drivers targeted by new law in Tennessee 

Tennessee’s newest driving law, which takes effect Monday will target motorists who are holding their cellphones while driving. No more watching, recording or broadcasting videos while driving. No more holding your phone as you use turn-by-turn directions. The new “Hands Free Law” allows drivers to push one button to accept or end a phone call, but that’s it, Tennessee Highway Patrol Lt. Don Boshears said. There were over 24,600 crashes in Tennessee involving distracted drivers, roughly 67 crashes a day, in 2018, according to Hands Free Tennessee, and the state  had the highest rate of distracting driving deaths, according to a recent study.

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If there wasn’t something else for older generations to not like about the younger generations…. Buzz60’s Mercer Morrison has the story.
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Laws restricting opioids go live in three states

New state laws in Michigan, Florida and Tennessee will greatly limit the amount of opioids that doctors are allowed to prescribe patients. Beginning July 1, Michigan doctors will be prohibited from prescribing more than a seven-day supply of opioid medication for patients in acute pain. The law is aimed at making prescription opioids less accessible. The idea behind the law: Fewer opioids will mean fewer chances to abuse them. Fewer chances for abuse will mean fewer overdose deaths. But some pain patients who have become dependent on opioids feel scapegoated as more doctors scrutinize the use of medications.

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This is a compilation of stories from across the USA TODAY Network. 

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Patrick Beverley to Re-Sign with Clippers on 3-Year, $40M Contract

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 02: Patrick Beverley #21 of the LA Clippers participates in the announcement of a major gift to renovate nearly 350 public basketball courts in the city at Jim Gilliam Recreation Center on April 02, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

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The Los Angeles Clippers and guard Patrick Beverley agreed to a three-year, $40 million contract, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Beverley’s agent, Kevin Bradbury, told Wojnarowski the news. Beverley also confirmed it himself with a tweet.

The 30-year-old spent the last two seasons with the Clippers. He averaged 7.6 points and 3.8 assists in 2018-19 after being limited to 11 games in 2017-18 because of microfracture surgery.

“I like to go out there, put my game on the line and that’s more than just talking,” Beverley said in August, per Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints. “I’m feeling really, really strong, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in my life and we’re going to see soon.”

The 2017 All-Defensive team member was among the Clippers’ vocal leaders in their surprise postseason appearance last season:

“We are the best team in L.A. I know Lawrence Frank didn’t give you guys exactly what you wanted to hear but I’ll tell y’all right now, we are the best team in L.A. for sure. We are going to give our best effort every night and we are making the playoffs. The makeup of our team, the depth of our team, we are fortunate to be playing for a great city like L.A.”

Beverley spent his first five NBA seasons with the Houston Rockets, developing a reputation as a defensive menace. He’s also improved his game every year offensively and turned into an underrated three-point shooter. His 38.0 career three-point percentage is above league average, though his scoring has dipped a bit this season.

Microfracture surgery is a big concern. We’ve seen careers be completely derailed and guys come back as lesser versions of themselves after the procedure. He is still not fully himself despite staying mostly healthy this season.

However, Beverley is still a thorn in the side of opponents, and he will help round out the Clippers’ starting lineup.

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Analysis: Warriors’ loss of Kevin Durant will hurt for years to come

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SportsPulse: Kevin Durant is headed to Brooklyn and may have just created the new super team. As Jeff Zillgitt explains, despite Durant likely missing all of next season the Nets are in prime position for years.
USA TODAY

For the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant’s departure for the Brooklyn Nets is even more devastating than the site of Durant going down with a ruptured Achilles during the NBA Finals.

Chances are, Durant will recover from the injury.

Chances are, the Warriors will not recover from the loss of Durant — “recover’’ being measured by their five-year status as a juggernaut in the NBA Finals, winning three titles during their run as Western Conference favorites.

Signing Klay Thompson to a five-year, $189.6 million max deal is an important step forward in securing the Splash Brothers. Thompson and Steph Curry likely will remain together for at least another three years, with Curry entering the third year of a five-year, $201 million deal. But on Sunday that felt like a consolation prize after Durant agreed to a max deal with the Nets.

TRACKER: Analysis, numbers on all the big names and big deals

Yes, Curry and Thompson remain arguably the best shooting backcourt in NBA history. On top of that, Draymond Green, the Warriors’ All-Star forward, has gone from good to great. And the Warriors’ bench is deep and talented. 

The Warriors also could lose DeMarcus Cousins, who at times looked formidable during the NBA Finals, to free agency. And Thompson, who is recovering from a torn ACL suffered during the NBA Finals, is expected to be sidelined at least until December. But those are minor issues compared to Durant’s departure.

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The Brooklyn Nets hit the jackpot while the New York Knicks were left with jack squat. USA TODAY Sports Jeff Zillgitt breaks down the winners and losers in the early going of NBA free agency.
USA TODAY

During the NBA Finals, the Toronto Raptors exposed how Durant’s absence weakens the Warriors. And with the Los Angeles Lakers having added Anthony Davis to pair with LeBron James and still in the hunt for Kawhi Leonard, the Warriors will need to work some magic to remain title-worthy.

Their first move in attempting to do that was reaching a deal to acquire 23-year-old All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell via a sign-and-trade. Of course the deal, which is slated to pay Russell $117 million over four years, also resulted in another loss: key cog Andre Iguodala will be shipped to the Memphis Grizzlies along with future picks. 

The 2016 free agency period was perhaps the most glorious for the Warriors. They landed Durant. And so the 2019 free agency period will be remembered as one of the most painful.

They are headed for a new arena in San Francisco without their two-time NBA Finals MVP. The only good news: The Warriors will avoid paying a massive luxury tax.

Follow Josh Peter on Twitter @joshlpeter11

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Explosion hits Kabul’s diplomatic district: Media reports

The Taliban has claimed responsibilty for a powerful explosion that rocked Kabul’s downtown area near the ministry of defence and a follow up attack that has killed at least 10 people and sent dozens to the hospital.

The bomb went off during morning rush hour in the capital when the streets were filled with people. 

Mohammad Karim, a police official in the area of the attack, said a car bomb exploded outside a defence ministry building.

At least three fighters then ran into a nearby high-rise located near the ministry’s engineering and logistics department, a government security official said.

“Gunmen have entered a building and they are clashing with the Afghan forces after the powerful blast,” said interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi.

Ongoing fighting

Police and special Afghan security forces cordoned off the area. Sporadic gunfire could be heard.

The heavily-secured neighbourhood is home to some military and government buildings, including one shared by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency and defence ministry, as well as the Afghan Football Federation and the Afghan Cricket Board.

“Some of our colleagues are trapped inside, we have reports of some injuries. We don’t know if the attackers have entered the building,” Shams Amini, a football federation spokesman said.

At least 68 people including nine children were taken to hospitals, health ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar said.

Kabul in Afghanistan

The explosion rocked Kabul’s Police District 16 early on Monday [Facebook]

No group immediately claimed responsibility, and police said they did not yet know the target or nature of the blast.

Both the Taliban and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, ISIS) are active in Kabul.

The attack comes two days after the Taliban and the United States began a seventh round of talks in Qatar, where the armed group maintains a political office.

The negotiations have so far centred on four issues — counterterrorism, the foreign troop presence, an intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent ceasefire.

A potential deal would see the US agree to withdraw its troops after nearly 18 years in Afghanistan, igniting deep concerns among many Afghans who fear the fighters will return to some semblance of power.

In return the Taliban would guarantee the country would never again become a safe haven for violent groups, as happened with Al-Qaeda before the September 11, 2001 attacks.

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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With D-Lo to Warriors, Lakers Playing High-Risk Poker Waiting for Kawhi Leonard

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard speaks at a news conference alongside the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player trophy after the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, June 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Ben Margot/Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — The first night of NBA free agency overflowed with blockbuster deals. One by one, top names came off the board like Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Kevin Durant and Jimmy Butler (assuming the sign-and-trade to Miami eventually goes through). Not a peep out of Los Angeles on the Lakers.

Word that D’Angelo Russell would sign (via trade) with the Golden State Warriors erased the Lakers’ backup plan. At this point, it’s Kawhi Leonard or nothing.

The Lakers are playing a high-stakes game of poker. They could have tried to go all-in on Russell or any of the other big names, but they held their cards, hoping that Leonard will choose to leave the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors for Los Angeles.

And not just L.A., but the Lakers. Not to the Clippers, the other local team that is in the very same boat. The Clippers hoped to pair another star free agent with Leonard but didn’t get a commitment from Durant, Butler or Al Horford. The Lakers already have their two stars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis (coming via a pending trade with the New Orleans Pelicans).

“Kawhi Leonard will not take any meeting with teams today, as he’ll ramp up the process over the next couple of days,” Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweeted.

A couple of days? Tuesday? Will the Lakers have any viable free agents to choose from by then?

George Hill is returning to the Milwaukee Bucks. Trevor Ariza is already headed to the Sacramento Kings, and so is Dewayne Dedmon. DeAndre Jordan will join Durant and Irving in Brooklyn with the Nets. Taj Gibson will play for the New York Knicks, JJ Redick the New Orleans Pelicans, and Terrence Ross is staying with the Orlando Magic.

The Lakers’ potential wish list of players is quickly shrinking.

Now if they land Leonard, who cares? They’d immediately be the instant favorite for the NBA title. The Lakers have already made a leap on paper, even with just three players on the roster (Kyle Kuzma, James and Davis). With Leonard, Los Angeles could easily flesh out the rest of their roster with their $4.8 million room exception and minimum players to win 60 games.

Ben Margot/Associated Press

No Leonard, the Lakers better hope that Danny Green is still around in a few days or the likes of Seth Curry, Enes Kanter, Boban Marjanovic, Willie Cauley-Stein, Elfrid Payton, Kelly Oubre Jr., Richaun Holmes, T.J. McConnell, Markieff Morris, etc.

Some of those names would be tremendous additions alongside Leonard, but three or four individual signings won’t near what the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player would mean on his own to the Lakers.

Per Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, “Magic Johnson spoke with Leonard and his uncle, Dennis Robertson, on Sunday. … They had a positive conversation about the direction of the Lakers.”

The story went on to note that Johnson’s “perspective matters to Leonard.”

That’s an interesting wrinkle, given Johnson abruptly resigned from his position in the team’s front office on the final day of the regular season. He has since gone on national television blasting the franchise and general manager Rob Pelinka.

Perhaps Leonard is concerned about joining a dysfunctional front office and needs to understand why Johnson left. Naturally, Johnson is going to do whatever he can to get Leonard to come to the Lakers. Despite how his tenure ended, Johnson is still close with owner Jeanie Buss and has vowed multiple times to support the team in any way he can.

Johnson would also get some credit, retroactively, for his rebuild of the Lakers leading to the All-Star triumvirate of Leonard, Davis and James. He’s a natural salesman, but to date, it’s unclear if Leonard is buying.

The Clippers can offer Doc Rivers, Jerry West and Steve Ballmer along with Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, provided Leonard wants to return to Los Angeles area where he grew up. Or perhaps he’ll stay with the Raptors and president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri.

“The Raptors need to show a further willingness to spend,” one executive said.

Toronto was one of five taxpayers this past season, hit with a $25.2 million penalty. Even without Leonard, the team has roughly $111 million in players invested in nine players. Pencil in $15 million for Green and $32.7 million for Leonard, and the team would be back in the tax at $158.4 million for just 11.

Keep an eye on Green over the next “couple of days” while Leonard decides his fate. If the Raptors lose Green, Leonard’s teammate dating back to their days with the champion San Antonio Spurs, perhaps Leonard will decide it’s time to head home to Los Angeles. Maybe even to the Lakers.

   

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.comn Twitter @EricPincus.

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The 3rd Chapter Begins: What Move to Nets Means for Kevin Durant’s Legacy

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant paces around the bench during the first half in Game 3 of the team's first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, April 18, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Seconds after free agency began Sunday evening, Kevin Durant made official what had been reported an hour earlier after gaining momentum for the past week: He and Kyrie Irving will, in fact, team up in New York, as had been rumored for the better part of a year.

The curveball is the team. As first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the two superstars will be joining the Brooklyn Nets, not the New York Knicks.

It was the counterintuitive choice based on all the noise that’s been circulating around the NBA for the last year. But it was ultimately the one that made the most sense for the next chapter Durant wants to write.

Durant had been linked to the Knicks for most of this past season. For months, Golden State Warriors staffers had operated under the assumption that he was gone this summer. The notion that he would be suiting up at Madison Square Garden next year appeared to be as much of a foregone conclusion in behind-the-scenes league circles as LeBron James’ imminent signing with the Los Angeles Lakers was thought to be during the 2017-18 campaign.

In a perfect world, Durant would make historic MSG—the Mecca—home by lifting a franchise from the dead. The Knicks would resurface as the focus of the basketball world, and KD would position himself to earn a championship unlike any he captured in Golden State.

But the devastating ruptured Achilles tendon Durant suffered in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals changed everything. Any team signing him this summer was now making a move for the 2020-21 season rather than building an instant contender.

TORONTO,ONTARIO - JUNE 10:  Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors tries to get the crowd to show their respect for an injured Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors during Game Five of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena on June 10, 2019 in Toro

Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Despite suffering the worst injury a basketball player can endure, Durant’s pedigree is enough to make a max contract worth the gamble. The Warriors, by all accounts, were prepared to offer him a five-year, $221 million deal, and the Nets got it done for the most money they could put on the table: four years and $162 million.

Durant would be one of the greatest players in the history of the sport if he retired today. Even at age 30 and coming off an Achilles injury, he has more than earned the benefit of the doubt that his days as a high-level performer won’t be over.

But according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Knicks owner James Dolan wasn’t willing to go there, which only underscores the difference between the two New York organizations. That he, or someone close to him, felt the need to put that information out there is a staggering misread of the room. If the Knicks thought that explanation would make them appear prudent, or that it would provide cover for Durant choosing an objectively better situation across town, it actually had the opposite effect.

If the Knicks passed up the chance to sign arguably the best player of his generation, even with legitimate injury concerns, it only validated every gripe the team’s fans have had about Dolan for the past two decades.  

This isn’t the first time the Knicks and Nets have competed for A-list free agents. Both were in the running for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the summer of 2010, and both ultimately struck out. In subsequent years, both franchises mortgaged their futures in win-now moves—the Knicks by trading a cadre of young players and picks for Carmelo Anthony, and the Nets by trading their next half-decade of first-round picks for past-their-prime Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

BROOKLYN, NY - SEPTEMBER 30: (L-R) Joe Johnson #7, Paul Pierce #34, Kevin Garnett #2, Head Coach Jason Kidd, Brook Lopez #11, and Deron Williams #8 of the Brooklyn Nets pose for a portrait during Media Day at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. NOTE TO U

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Neither franchise has managed to contend after those moves, one 54-win Knicks season in 2012-13 notwithstanding. Both have felt the long-term effects of those shortsighted endeavors for years.

This time, the Nets won out with the one thing that has eluded the Knicks in that time: competence. 

Brooklyn doesn’t have the iconic arena, the world-famous brand or the mystique. What it does have is a strong roster of role players who have gotten better each year while on cheap contracts, a creative front office and a well-regarded coaching staff led by Kenny Atkinson.

The Nets’ situation offered the best of both worlds for Durant. They’re set up to compete without him—maybe not for a title, but certainly to build on a breakthrough 2018-19 campaign in which they made the playoffs for the first time in four years. Irving is an upgrade over departing point guard D’Angelo Russell, who was an All-Star in his own right. His addition, along with the improvement of youngsters Caris LeVert, Rodions Kurucs and Jarrett Allen, should put them squarely in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff pack.

That was supposed to be their progression anyway. The jump from fringe playoff team to legitimate title contender is not one that typically happens overnight, and letting Durant spend the full year rehabbing his injury will give them cover to progress organically. 

In 2018-19, the Nets were eliminated in five games by the Philadelphia 76ers after years in the lottery. The logical next step will be to win a playoff series, which they’re capable of doing with the players they’ll have on the floor next season.

For Durant, that’s crucial, as his third chapter will also be his first post-Achilles chapter. If he is even 80 percent of his former self when he returns in the 2020-21 season, it will dovetail nicely with what would have been the Nets’ ideal timeline for contending anyway.

It’s not often a team gets to have it both ways, but Brooklyn is set up nicely with Durant and Irving in the fold.

Had Durant joined the Knicks without a second star in tow, he would have been playing with a group of largely unproven youngsters including Kevin Knox, Allonzo Trier, Frank Ntilikina and this year’s No. 3 overall pick, RJ Barrett. It would have been a far less appealing on-court situation, especially when combined with the dysfunction that has plagued the Knicks’ organization for years. 

If Durant is going to leave a dynasty, it has to be worth his while on the court. The mystique of Madison Square Garden alone wasn’t going to cut it.

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 5: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors talks with Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics after the game on March 5, 2019 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by do

Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

Durant joined the historically great Warriors in 2016 while seeking rings, and he got two of them in three years. With that he thought would come validation, but he and his Golden State teammates quickly became widely reviled for “ruining” the NBA. Fans would never love him the way they did Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, who were draft picks made by the franchise and were on board for the dynasty’s first title in 2015.

This season, considering the tensions between Durant and Green and the near-constant speculation about his future, felt like the logical conclusion of that run even before Durant’s significant injury. The controversial handling of Durant’s quad injury in the second round of the playoffs, which led many to question whether the Warriors cleared his Finals return prematurely, didn’t help matters, either.

Durant could have re-upped with the Warriors, rehabbed on their dime for a year and attempted to salvage what looked to be a dynasty on its last legs. With Klay Thompson also out for the foreseeable future rehabbing a torn ACL, Golden State isn’t expected to contend next season. But every great run has to come to an end, and at times, this Warriors team felt like the 2003-04 Lakers, 1997-98 Bulls or 2013-14 Heat. By moving on now, Durant can start fresh as he attempts to overcome the biggest hurdle of his career.

In Brooklyn, he now has the opportunity to write his own final chapter.

The Nets team he’s joining is a good one, but it’s not a 73-win juggernaut. No one will accuse him of frontrunning if he wins a title with them. They don’t have the Knicks’ name-brand recognition, but if he brings a title to Brooklyn, Durant can build that from the ground up for a Nets team that has struggled to gain a foothold in New York.

And this time, it will be his team. There’s no confusion about that, as there was when he joined the Warriors. If he was frustrated by the lack of personal credit he got in Golden State, he’ll get plenty by winning in Brooklyn. Any hardware he picks up in his third stop will mean more because he did it on his terms.

Durant and Irving joining the Nets was not the outcome anyone expected. But for the NBA, and for the third act of Durant’s story, the chance to build his own empire in Brooklyn could be the most compelling one.

Sean Highkin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. He is currently based in Portland. Follow him on Twitter at @highkin.

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White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham bruised amid scuffle between reporters, North Korean guards

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Stephanie Grisham, who also serves as the first lady’s deputy chief of staff, will become President Trump’s third press secretary in three years.
USA TODAY

Incoming White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham received bruises when she got caught in the middle of a tussle between U.S. reporters and North Korean security officials during President Donald Trump’s trip to the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea.

The incident occurred after Trump on Sunday became the first U.S. president to cross the DMZ and step onto North Korean soil. Chaos ensued as reporters and photographers jostled to get the best positions to witness the historic moment and security officials tried to rein them in. At one point, Kim appeared to chuckle at the ruckus as people shouted at each other to get out of the way. 

After shaking hands on the border, Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met in a room in the Freedom House on the southern side of Panmunjom.

North Korean guards pushed and shoved members of the U.S. press pool as they tried to block the reporters from entering the room, The Associated Press reported. Grisham was injured and left with bruises in the exchange, which ended when Secret Service agents intervened. 

More: Grisham’s unlikely path from Arizona politics to Trump’s White House

“To add to madcap day at DMZ, the North Korean security was a little overzealous, at times trying to block US reporters’ view,” tweeted Jennifer Jacobs, senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg. “New WH press secretary Stephanie Grisham threw herself into it to make sure the US TV camera got into House of Freedom, and it came to body blows.” 

ABC News White House correspondent Jonathan Karl reported that Grisham “was not having it” when the North Korean security officials tried to block the U.S. reporters, “physically clearing the way for the WH press pool by elbowing and pushing aside a security guard.” 

A video appearing to show at least part of the incident, which a source described to CNN as a “brawl,” was shared on social media. 

Trump announced last week that Grisham had accepted his offer to replace Sarah Sanders as his White House press secretary. She will be the third person to hold the job since Trump took office. Grisham is also taking over as White House communications director, a position that had been vacant since former Fox News executive Bill Shine resigned in March.

Grisham had been serving as first lady Melania Trump’s communications director. She has a long relationship with the Trump family and worked as aide on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. 

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“Stepping across that line was a great honor,” Trump told Kim after entering North Korean territory. He was said it was a “legendary” moment that could lead to progress on negotiations aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. 

But the Trump administration’s efforts to get Kim to scrap his nuclear arsenal have not yet met with success. And many experts said the recent meeting at the DMZ was largely symbolic and unlikely to achieve any more results than Trump’s two denuclearization summits with Kim. 

Contributing: David Jackson and Michael Collins, USA TODAY; The Associated Press 

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