Iran Breaches Uranium Stock Limit Set In 2015 Deal, Defies Signatories

Dubai/ Vienna: 

Iran has breached the limit of its enriched uranium stockpile set in a 2015 deal with major powers, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday, according to the ISNA news agency, defying a warning by European co-signatories to stick to the deal despite U.S. sanctions.

Zarif confirmed that Iran had exceeded the relevant limit of 300 kg of uranium hexafluoride (UF6), but Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Iran’s steps to decrease its commitments to the nuclear deal were “reversible”.

The International Atomic Energy agency (IAEA) said that its inspectors were verifying whether Iran had accumulated more enriched uranium than allowed.

“Our inspectors are on the ground and they will report to headquarters as soon as the LEU (low-enriched uranium) stockpile has been verified, a spokesman for the U.N. agency said.

Enriching uranium to a low level of 3.6% fissile material is the first step in a process that could eventually allow Iran to amass enough highly-enriched uranium to build a nuclear warhead.

Last Wednesday, the IAEA verified that Iran had roughly 200 kg of low-enriched uranium, just below the deal’s 202.8 kg limit, three diplomats who follow the agency’s work told Reuters. A quantity of 300 kg of UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) corresponds to 202.8 kg of LEU.

After talks on Friday in Vienna, Iran said European countries had offered too little in the way of trade assistance to persuade it to back off from its plan to breach the limit, a riposte to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision last year to quit the deal and reimpose economic sanctions.

Mousavi urged them on Monday to step up their efforts. “Time is running out for them to save the deal,” state TV quoted him as saying.

The deal between Iran and six world powers lifted most international sanctions against Iran in return for restrictions on its nuclear work aimed at extending the time Iran would need to produce a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, from roughly 2-3 months to a year.

Israel Worried

Iran says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, including generating power. Its regional adversary Israel, which Iran does not recognise, says the program presents it with an existential threat.

Joseph Cohen, head of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, urged the international community to stop Iran from “stepping up enrichment”.

“Just imagine what will happen if the material stockpiled by the Iranians becomes fissionable, at military enrichment grade, and then an actual bomb,” he told the Herzliya security conference before Zarif’s announcement.

“The Middle East, and then the entire world, will be a different place. Therefore, the world must not allow this to happen.”

In May, Washington piled pressure on Tehran by ordering all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil, and tensions have been growing in the Gulf ever since.

Washington has dispatched extra forces to the Middle East, and U.S. fighter jets came within minutes of conducting air strikes on Iran last month after Tehran downed an unmanned American drone.

In a speech on Monday broadcast on state TV, Iranian Zarif said: “Iran will never yield to pressure from the United States … If they want to talk to Iran, they should show respect …

“Never threaten an Iranian … Iran has always resisted pressure, and has responded with respect when respected.”

Trump has called for negotiations with Iran with “no preconditions”, but Tehran has ruled out talks until the United States returns to the nuclear pact and drops its sanctions.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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Neville irritated with USWNT over hotel visit

England Women’s manager Phil Neville was irritated to discover the Americans scoping out England’s hotel as he prepared for the World Cup semifinal against the United States.

U.S. coach Jill Ellis said it was a sign of good preparation rather than arrogance, but Neville suggested it could be a disciplinary matter for the staff dispatched to the hotel and bad etiquette.

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Full Women’s World Cup fixtures schedule

A pair of U.S. staffers visited the Fourviere Hotel, which is close to the old town, while England were out at a practice Sunday. The winners of Tuesday’s semifinal get to stay in the hotel while they prepare for the July 7 final, which is also being played in Lyon.

“I think that’s important to do your job,” Ellis said. “So in terms of arrogance I think that’s got nothing to do with us. That’s planning and preparation for our staff. So I think that’s pretty normal.”

However, Neville disagreed.

“We were training, I hope they enjoyed the hotel but it’s not something we would do – sending someone round to another team’s hotel,” Neville said. “But it’s their problem.

“I am sure that Jill probably wouldn’t have been happy with that arrangement. I wouldn’t have been if that was my team ops person going round. I am sure they will be dealing with their own infrastructure within their own discipline problem.”

Based on information provided by FIFA to the media, the Americans are staying at the less luxurious Residence Lyon Metropole, which is in the north of Lyon.

“I just thought, ‘What are they doing?'” Neville said of the Americans. “It’s not etiquette, really. It’s not something I would allow from our organisation.”

The planning for the final hotel is the latest indication of self-assuredness from a team that saw U.S. defender Ali Krieger say it is the world’s best team as well as the world’s “second-best.”

“It’s important that our team has confidence,” Ellis said. “I don’t think in any way this is an arrogant team.

“I think this team knows that they’ve got to earn everything, that we’ve got tough opponentsstill ahead of us and we have to earn every right to advance in this tournament.”

Meanwhile, U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher played down the incident.

“Just heard about that five minutes ago before coming in [to media],” she said in a news conference to preview the semifinal. “That, to be honest, has nothing to do with the game.

“Our managers, our operations, have scouted, checked out every hotel we’ve ever potentially stayed in to make sure we’ve got Plan A, Plan B, Plan C. It has nothing to do with the game.

“It’s just our operations checking all the boxes and preparing us for whatever path we take.”

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NHL free agency primer: Teams to watch, bold predictions and more

NHL free agency begins at high noon ET on Monday, July 1. While there have already been major moves this offseason — including Erik Karlsson re-signing with the Sharks, P.K. Subban being traded to the Devils and Phil Kessel joining the Coyotes via trade — the immediate future for a number of premium players remains up in the air.

To help get you ready for the flurry of deals, we gathered our writers to answer some big questions:

Who signs Artemi Panarin?

Greg Wyshynski, senior NHL writer: It seemed like the Florida Panthers for months, but … BAH GAWD THAT’S LOU LAMORIELLO’S MUSIC! The New York Islanders, willing to pay whatever price necessary for the star winger, have emerged as late front-runners for the Columbus Blue Jackets‘ free agent. Lou knows his way around signing (and gaining the confidence of) Russian players, and New York was always one of Panarin’s preferred destinations. The idea of Panarin as the centerpiece of a New York Rangers‘ offensive core is tantalizing, but the Islanders were clearly in “by any means necessary” mode to add Panarin to their forward group. Could it still be Florida? Sure. But my inkling is that it’s the Islanders.

Emily Kaplan, national NHL reporter: The Florida Panthers; when there have been signs of smoke for this long, there should be a fire. However, I wouldn’t be shocked if it’s either New York team, especially the Islanders. Isles general manager Lou Lamoriello historically keeps things close to the vest. Nobody knows what he’s up to. And, like Florida, he has the ability to sign both Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky as a package deal. And the Rangers? The rebuild has gone better (and quicker) than anticipated, and they typically can’t help themselves when it comes to flashy, high-profile free agents.

Chris Peters, hockey prospect and draft analyst: I’ll also go with the Panthers. I think Panarin will be tempted by the bright lights of New York, but the lack of a state income tax in Florida could help the Panthers’ cause. He should be able to command massive dollars and had such success playing under Joel Quenneville in his first two seasons that the familiarity should also help. That’s a big piece added to a team that should have greater expectations this season.

Dimitri Filipovic, hockey analytics writer: The Panthers, just because they check the most boxes. They’ve really been calling their shot the entire way, shrewdly moved out a bunch of future money by dumping the combination of Nick Bjugstad, Jared McCann, Roberto Luongo and James Reimer‘s contracts to position themselves to spend big this summer. They not only have the room to essentially hand both him and Bobrovsky blank checks, but also to wield the added bonus of an advantageous state tax situation. On the ice, Panarin joins his former coach Quenneville, under whom he enjoyed plenty of success in Chicago, gets to play alongside the best center he’s ever had in Aleksander Barkov, and slides into a high-octane offense that had the second-best power play last season.

What will be the best value signing?

Wyshynski: I’m not sure how much of a “value signing” Joonas Donskoi is going to be once the unrestricted free agent inflation is applied to his salary, but he was one of my “smart gambles” in my free-agent tiers. The San Jose Sharks forward, 27, finished last season with a 57.33 expected goals percentage at 5-on-5 and a 55.91 goals-for percentage. He’s a shifty winger who has 14 goals in each of the past two seasons and is begging for an increased role somewhere else. Evolving Wild has him at a $2,796,060 cap hit on a three-year deal. Anything in that neighborhood would be a steal.

Kaplan: Noel Acciari isn’t the most exciting name available (if your team signs him, it’s not like you’re going to suddenly start fantasizing about a Stanley Cup parade). He’s likely to stay in Boston — probably doubling his $725,000 salary from last season — but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Bruins get priced out on the 27-year-old. I even think at $2 million, Acciari would be a value. After watching the Bruins extensively this postseason, I’m all-in on Acciari as the ultimate fourth-liner: smart, great motor, offensive abilities and the willingness to block every and any shot.

Peters: Corey Perry, coming off of an injury-shortened season and a buyout, should be available for fairly cheap. A veteran, middle-six forward who still has quick hands around the net, plays nasty and has something to prove? Good recipe. One wonders how many teams are interested, and what that does to the price, but if you can keep that cap hit nice and low, there’s value to be had, assuming Perry is back to full health.

Another super under-the-radar player who could provide low-money value to a team is Group 6 free agent John Gilmour. He had 54 points in 70 AHL games last season, and could be a good fit for a team looking for a bottom-pairing guy. He’s 26 and needs an NHL job.

Filipovic: The big-name restricted free agents. Especially the ones such as Brayden Point and Timo Meier, who are on loaded teams that always seem to take care of their own business. It’s kind of cheating, but it’s technically the truth. I couldn’t in good conscience pick any of the names on the unrestricted list because the large majority of them will either be grossly overpaid or not make a tangible difference. Everyone is working themselves up into a frenzy talking about all of the potential offer-sheet machinations this summer, but I’d be surprised if any of the big names actually went that route. Without that, most of these young guys will get leveraged into taking deals that don’t really line up with their actual on-ice contributions. It’s obviously fun to think about that finally changing, but I’ve followed this league long enough to know that until something actually happens, we shouldn’t expect anyone in the NHL to go against the system and rock the boat.

What is your bold prediction for the rest of the offseason?

Wyshynski: The Taylor Hall drama drags into the season. He’s been steadfast in taking a wait-and-see approach to the New Jersey Devils, and I imagine that wait-and-see doesn’t end with what GM Ray Shero does this summer to bolster the roster. Next summer will be Hall’s first taste of contractual freedom, and one imagines he’ll take his time in surveying the landscape before making a long-term commitment. This doesn’t mean he won’t be a Devil for the eight years following summer 2020, but I’d be surprised if he signed something now.

Kaplan: The Colorado Avalanche emerge in the fall looking like the next NHL superpower. After arriving ahead of schedule two years ago, and exceeding expectations again in 2018-19, the Avs are poised for sustained success thanks to a talented young core, smart drafting and frugal contracts (anyone want to argue Nathan MacKinnon at $6.3 million per year isn’t the best deal in the league?). They’ve added some offensive talent lately, particularly via the Andre Burakovsky trade, and I don’t think they’re done shoring up the forward group (Ryan Carpenter would be a solid fit at fourth-line center and absorb some of Carl Soderberg‘s responsibilities). Future Norris Trophy winner Cale Makar gets his first full season, too. I’m all-in on this team.

Peters: Sabres GM Jason Botterill will be the quiet assassin of this offseason. I don’t think he’s going to make a big splash out there in free agency beyond the Jeff Skinner re-signing that’s already done, but I can see him taking significant steps toward getting out of this hole. They might not be moves that help in 2019-20, but they will look better over time. The Colin Miller trade is the first small-ish deal, but I don’t think Botterill is anywhere close to being done with remaking this roster.

Filipovic: We shouldn’t be too quick to write the Columbus Blue Jackets off for dead. They’re obviously going through a nearly unprecedented exodus of big names this summer, but it’s not like they’re automatically jumping back to square one, either. They have a core of Seth Jones, Zach Werenski and Pierre-Luc Dubois around which to build, and all of them are under 25 and playing the two cornerstone positions teams agonize over trying to fill — they effectively have two No. 1 defensemen, and Dubois is developing into a solid, two-way center. They have just less than $30 million in cap space to improve their team this summer and a sneakily deep roster of contributors who can combine to cover for a lot of the offense they’re losing. If they can use some of that money to fill those holes in the depth chart with secondary market guys such as Gustav Nyquist and Marcus Johansson, they should be able to reload on the fly and be competitive once again next season.

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Lowe: How the Nets pulled this off, and what’s next

Three years ago, the Brooklyn Nets were as dead as any NBA team has ever been. They had just wrapped a 21-win 2015-16 season. They had no young players of consequence. They had few draft assets; the Boston Celtics owned most of them through 2019 thanks to a trade that was and is considered one of the great heists in basketball history.

If Rondae Hollis-Jefferson signs with another team this summer, there will be zero players remaining from that 2015-16 outfit.

Just after the All-Star break that season, the Nets hired Sean Marks to be their new general manager. The team’s Russian-based ownership group had been leaning until the very last minute to Bryan Colangelo. At All-Star Saturday night in Toronto, R.C. Buford, the San Antonio Spurs GM and then Marks’ boss, approached Dmitry Razumov, then the Nets chairman, at a private event and told Razumov he might not even grant the Nets permission to interview Marks unless the Nets guaranteed Marks carte blanche to do the job the way he wanted, sources have told ESPN. Several other executives, including Bob Myers, the Golden State Warriors‘ president of basketball operations, chatted with Razumov that night about Marks’ credentials. Brooklyn changed course.

The Nets had no first-round pick in the 2016 draft. Even so, Marks especially wanted to meet with one young player at the draft combine: Caris LeVert. Marks peppered LeVert with tough questions about his foot injury and how he might respond to Brooklyn’s intensive sports science program. At the draft a few weeks later, Marks traded Thaddeus Young to the Indiana Pacers for the right to select Levert 20th overall.

It was the first move in the gradual reinvention of the Nets — a remarkable story with very little precedent of a team that had nothing, worked every fringe avenue possible to find players and a measly three years later has somehow ended up with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. (They also are signing DeAndre Jordan, i.e., the big man version of Jarrett Jack in that his primary value at this point appears to be that he is friends with better players.)

Unless free agency guts the Toronto Raptors, the Nets with Durant recovering from an Achilles tear will probably enter next season in the second tier of Eastern Conference playoff teams — ironically, right next to the Celtics, who pillaged the Nets in that 2013 Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett trade only to watch Brooklyn swipe a good chunk of their carefully planned rebuild today.

Irving is significantly better than D’Angelo Russell, but he does not by himself elevate a 42-win team into title contention. The hope is that the mega-leap comes with Durant’s return in 2020-21.

And it is a hope, not a lock. Durant might never be the same player again. We all hope he is, because Durant before crumpling to the court in Game 5 of the NBA Finals was on pace to be (at worst) one of the 10 greatest players ever — with an outside shot at breaking the all-time scoring record.

We just don’t know. If Durant is 90 percent of his old self, a four-year max deal that might cap out the Nets going forward will be good value. If he’s 70 or 75 percent or whatever figure you’d like to attach to “doesn’t look the same,” there is a downside to this contract that is unpleasant to think about. But even if he hits that 90 percent, it is hard to know what that missing 10 percent represents — if it is the difference between an All-NBA player and a guy who can function as the best player on a championship team.

Being 7-feet tall with an untouchable feathery jump shot helps. That alone will make Durant a fun pick-and-roll partner for Irving, the way he was with Stephen Curry for three seasons — only the Nets figure to lean on that action more than the Warriors did. Ever since the rumblings about Durant and Irving joining forces burbled up, there has been noise within league circles that perhaps they will not fit all that well together — that they will suffer from the “only one ball” problem.

Nah. They are both elite shooters who carry immense value away from the ball. The defining quality of Durant’s on-court career is his ability to play alongside superstar teammates without sacrificing any of what makes him great or taking away anything that makes those teammates great. He is in some stylistic ways — namely, time spent controlling the ball and the offense — the greatest second option of all time.

Joining with a ball-dominant point guard dashes any dreams of seeing Durant fully unleashed as the undisputed No. 1 option. There will be no permanent Slim Reaper posting 33-9-9 lines over full seasons. Working with Irving might resemble his partnership with Russell Westbrook on the Oklahoma City Thunder.

And that’s fine. Durant as he recovers from traumatic injury and ages into his 30s will need a younger All-Star to carry chunks of the offense the way LeBron James needed Irving to win a title with the Cleveland Cavaliers. They will form a lethal, switch-proof, pick-and-roll combination that works both ways: Durant screening for Irving, and vice versa. Remember: Irving has a long history working that action with James.

But that is a year away. How Brooklyn builds out its team around its new stars will be intriguing. The Nets can retain all of LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen, Rodions Kurucs and whoever else is leftover once they make room for Durant and Irving. They have agreed to sign Garrett Temple, per reporting from Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. They still need frontcourt depth; they might bring back Jared Dudley, sources say.

Look at those names. The Nets got Dinwiddie and Harris for nothing. Any contender would welcome them now. They selected Allen with the pick — No. 22 — they received from the Washington Wizards in exchange for a half-season of Bojan Bogdanovic. At 27, Harris is the oldest among the younger foundation. Together with Russell, they comprised the core of a feisty postseason team.

Reaching that status in the East is not some crowning achievement. But the Nets did it with young players they could sell as long-term pieces of a good team. They could credibly look Irving and Durant in the eyes and say: See what Russell and these guys did together? Imagine what you might do.


Perkins: Nets are the ‘perfect situation’ for KD

Kendrick Perkins reacts to Kevin Durant’s decision to sign with the Brooklyn Nets alongside Kyrie Irving.

Brooklyn selected good character players and built a culture of work, selflessness and fun around them. The Nets could feel it coming together in 2016-17 — the first season for both LeVert and Kenny Atkinson, the head coach charged with the league’s toughest rebuilding challenge. At a team dinner before their last game that season, Irina Pavlova, then president of Onexim Sports and Entertainment Holding and liaison between the team and its Russian owners, fought back tears as she stood to give a toast, players and coaches recall. “In my seven years here, this is the first time it feels like a team,” she said, “and not just 15 players on a roster.”

The Nets weren’t perfect. No team is. They got lucky when other teams matched their grandiose offer sheets, then inexplicably spat in the face of that luck by trading for Allen Crabbe on the same toxic deal Brooklyn had foisted upon the Portland Trail Blazers.

But the Nets hit way more than they missed. They built a cutting-edge practice facility in Brooklyn and housed it with one of the best sports science staffs in the league. They encouraged players and coaches to bring their families along. They resisted the temptation to microwave a 45-win team by splurging on veterans. They refused to tank, even this season, when they finally had their pick back. They would play hard and try to win.

“Once they win, they will get everyone they want,” Luis Scola told me in the summer of 2017, after playing part of just one season in Brooklyn. “But all those other things don’t matter until you have a good team.”

They built a good team. Now they have a chance for something more.

LeVert has a chance to grow into a championship third option, which is probably his appropriate NBA ceiling. He is still just 24, with potential to become an All-Star, two-way wing. His jump shot — he is a career 32.9% shooter from deep — might be the swing factor. The presence of Irving and Durant ensures Levert will not be overburdened as a primary on-ball creator.

LeVert is eligible for an extension now, and the salary attached to it will be big. But if he improves, it will be at worst a movable contract. Dinwiddie is on a bargain deal. Allen has two years left on his rookie contract. Harris is a free agent after next season, but his market will go only so high. Even if the Nets don’t have much (or any) cap room in the Durant-Irving era, they will have the flexibility to pivot in other directions — including chasing a third star.

Irving will have to prove he is not toxic to team chemistry. It helps that even while injured, Durant will hover over him, the true franchise alpha. The Nets are betting Atkinson’s fearless, sometimes loud style will work better with Irving. Atkinson will not back down.

Regardless of what comes next, this is a historic day for the Nets. It is the transformational point of one of the most stunning reconstruction projects in recent sports history.

It is obviously a gut punch for the New York Knicks, who traded their own franchise player to unlock cap space — and, sure, for lots of other reasons — and have no major player to spend it on. Their buffoonish owner, James Dolan, took the unusual and bombastic step of boasting during a radio interview in the middle of the season about how the Knicks would “have a very successful offseason when it comes to free agents” — how players and their representatives had told them so.

Perhaps when you have almost zero record of competent team-building over two decades, you should hold off on the premature braggadocio. Just a thought. Our Adrian Wojnarowksi and Ramona Shelburne reported late Sunday that New York would not offer Durant a max contract due to concerns about how he might recover. Fair. Where was this caution in 2010 when the Knicks signed Amar’e Stoudemire?

The Knicks will spin about how they are well-prepared for the future with RJ Barrett, some other young players who might or might not amount to much, extra picks from the Dallas Mavericks via that Kristaps Porzingis deal and cap space they might theoretically use at some point on someone better than Stoudemire (or, you know, Porzingis). (Julius Randle, New York’s big Day 1 signing on a three-year, $63 million deal, would have made for a nice fit next to Porzingis.)

They’re not entirely wrong. But they are stung at Madison Square Garden — and embarrassed. They were not able to show Durant or Irving proof of concept the way the Nets did with Russell and Brooklyn’s young team. So on we go, to do this again next summer and the summer after that.

The Warriors hurt too, and they will forever have to contemplate how they handled Durant’s final chapter with the team — from Draymond Green deriding him in that infamous November game against the LA Clippers to the fateful decision (made in conjunction with Durant’s doctors) to clear him for Game 5 of the Finals.

But they knew this was in play when they signed Durant three summers ago — that he might win with them, then seek his own path. The Warriors were never going to be his team. He knew that. They felt it. Durant went through periods when he was distant and quiet. A lot of people within the organization were convinced in the middle of the 2017-18 season that he would leave that summer, sources have said.

Golden State can never come close to replacing his talent. The Warriors did get more wiggle room filling a roster that looked perilously thin in the Finals without Durant (and then Klay Thompson). (Again, there is downside to Durant’s new contract.) Using it to turn Durant’s departure into a sign-and-trade for D’Angelo Russell — on a max contract — would be a bold and risky asset play.

It would cost them Andre Iguodala, a cultural touchstone. His departure, almost more than Durant’s, would mark an end to an era. The Warriors would never look the same without him. More importantly: Golden State would have to attach a lightly-protected 2024 first-rounder to dump Iguodala’s contract onto Memphis, as reported by Wojnarowski. That pick has some upside for Memphis. Golden State has time to acquire a replacement, and they will need picks to transition into the post-Splash Brothers era.

Russell would have to prove he is worth this, and the proof may be in whether the Warriors can flip him for value once Thompson returns. In the meantime, he would fill a hole and allow for Steve Kerr to scale back Stephen Curry’s minutes. But Russell’s fit with Curry and Thompson is not clear. He is making too much to come off the bench.

Yeah, the Warriors are getting both weirder and older. They haven’t exactly killed it in the draft since 2012, which is really not a fair criticism considering where great teams draft. Green is up for a massive extension that would vaporize a lot of that cap-and-tax flexibility. Thompson might not be the same until the 2020-21 season after tearing his ACL in Game 6 of the Finals.

But count the Curry/Thompson/Green trio out at your own peril. Their record when Curry played and Durant did not was a sterling 34-4 over three seasons, before the Finals against Toronto. And even against a great Raptors team, the Warriors went 2-3 in games Thompson played — including Game 6, when he left late in the third quarter with that knee injury. Who knows: Had Thompson stayed healthy for the duration, the Warriors might have won the whole damned thing in Game 7 in Toronto.

The Warriors will be good, even amid a Western Conference in which the Utah Jazz, the Los Angeles Lakers and a few other teams are loading up to take a run at their throne. They might even contend again once Thompson recovers.

But the Warriors’ ceiling will never be the same without Durant. They have to restock the depth they jettisoned to get him.

It was worth it, though: two titles and heavy favorite status for a three-peat until Durant’s calf betrayed him. Now Brooklyn gets its chance — sooner than anyone could have reasonably expected three years ago, when Durant signed with Golden State. What a turnaround.

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Answering biggest NFC South questions: Is Cam healthy? Can Arians fix the Bucs?

It might seem as though summer just got into full swing, but we are a few weeks from the start of NFL training camps and only two and half months from the 2019 season.

NFL Nation is setting up the biggest storylines for each division. Here’s what to look for in the NFC South.

More questions: NFC East | AFC East | NFC West | AFC West


Can the New Orleans Saints revive their passing offense?

Quarterback Drew Brees had a season for the ages last year at age 39 — up until Thanksgiving, anyway. He was the MVP front-runner through his first 11 games, when he averaged 285 yards per game, with 29 touchdowns, two interceptions and an astounding passer rating of 127.3. But he and the Saints’ passing offense began to crater in December, particularly when it came to getting the ball down the field. Brees averaged just 234.5 yards over his final six starts, with seven TDs and five interceptions, including the playoffs, which ended with his overtime interception against the Rams in the NFC Championship Game. Part of the problem was a banged-up offensive line. A bigger issue was New Orleans’ lack of reliable pass-catchers (Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara were the only two Saints with more than 35 catches last season). Adding free-agent tight end Jared Cook should help, as should getting Ted Ginn Jr. back healthy and getting more development from New Orleans’ young backup receivers. — Mike Triplett

Can Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton‘s throwing shoulder hold up after his second surgery in three offseasons?

So far, so good on the rehab of Newton’s shoulder. He threw some at the June minicamp and might be slightly ahead of schedule. Team officials insist the cleanup of scar tissue from Newton’s shoulder he underwent in January was a minor procedure and that the 2015 NFL MVP should be ready for the season. But remember, Newton came into 2018 feeling better than he has in years. He had the Panthers off to a 6-2 start before the shoulder became an issue, forcing him to miss a lot of throwing in practice. Carolina lost seven straight, and Newton was shut down for the final two games. He insists he’ll always be a running quarterback, so he’ll continue to take more hits than most. To be successful, Newton must make it the entire season without a setback. His backups are unproven, and as Newton goes, so go the Panthers. — David Newton

Can the Atlanta Falcons be as dominant on offense with coordinator Dirk Koetter as they were during the 2016 Super Bowl run, when they averaged 33.8 points per game?

The Falcons have all the tools to be explosive on offense, with 2016 MVP Matt Ryan at quarterback, arguably the most dangerous receiver in the league in Julio Jones, plus a shifty running back in Devonta Freeman. Throw in receivers Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu along with Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper and that makes for a rather intimidating crew. Ryan’s familiarity with Koetter, who is back for his second stint as offensive coordinator, should help the offense flow a little better than last season. Having Mike Mularkey as the tight-ends coach, with his history for taking a smash-mouth approach, should be an asset in short-yardage, goal-line situations. If Jones and Freeman, who have dealt with nagging injuries over their careers, remain healthy, and if the rebuilt offensive line, with rookie first-rounders Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary, stands strong, the Falcons should push for 30 points per game. Then the question becomes, will Dan Quinn’s defense keep opposing offenses out of the end zone? — Vaughn McClure

Can the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quickly become contenders under head coach Bruce Arians?

Bruce Arians led the Indianapolis Colts to a 9-3 record and the playoffs as interim head coach while Chuck Pagano was undergoing cancer treatment. He led the Arizona Cardinals to two playoff berths in four seasons. Can he infuse the same winning mentality for a Bucs team that has had two winning seasons over the past 10, hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2007 and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2002? Further, can he turn Jameis Winston into an NFL winner like the quarterback was at Florida State? While teams such as the Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and New York Giants have essentially cleaned house and started over in recent years, the Bucs believe Arians can orchestrate a quick turnaround. He said the day he was officially hired, “We aren’t rebuilding. We’re reloading.” — Jenna Laine

Will the Denver Broncos‘ offseason moves be enough to end a three-year slide?

Yes, if their three biggest moves work out the way the Broncos hope. First, Vic Fangio, who waited more than three decades as an NFL assistant coach to get his first head-coaching job, has to be up to the challenge. Fangio’s no-nonsense, tell-you-straight style won over players early. It included an old-school team-bonding “Field Day” carnival to end offseason workouts. But now it’s about game-day management and handling the day-to-day of the regular season. Second, quarterback Joe Flacco, 34, has to have as much left in the career tank as the Broncos believe he does. The Broncos need the former Super Bowl MVP to push the ball down the field and give the offense some much-needed big-play pop. Third, offensive line coach Mike Munchak, who also interviewed for the job Fangio got, has to settle down a unit that has simply struggled to find any sort of continuity since before Peyton Manning retired. — Jeff Legwold

Will defensive changes get the Kansas City Chiefs to a Super Bowl 50 years after their last one?

The important thing to remember about the Chiefs’ defense in 2019 is they won’t have to be perfect or great in order to help Kansas City to a championship. The Chiefs merely need to be better than they were last year. That’s not an unreasonable expectation after they hired veteran coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to lead a new defensive coaching staff, switched their base system to a 4-3 and acquired as many as seven new starters, including end Frank Clark and safety Tyrann Mathieu. While the Chiefs won’t be dominant defensively, they’ll be improved. It’s difficult to picture the Chiefs in 2019 losing five games in which they scored 40, 51, 28, 31 and 31 points, as they did last year — including the AFC Championship Game. That overtime loss to the New England Patriots kept them from returning to the big game for the first time since Super Bowl IV. — Adam Teicher

Can the Los Angeles Chargers ride Melvin Gordon to a championship?

That’s the plan. Even though the Chargers were 4-0 in games Gordon missed last season, the Bolts’ offense is more dangerous when the Wisconsin product is the engine driving it. Gordon limped through the playoffs last season because of two balky knees. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn likes to lean on the running game and said he will limit Gordon’s touches in the preseason and during the regular season with the hope that Gordon is more fresh at the end of year. Gordon, who averaged a career-high 5.1 yards per carry last season, said he worked this offseason on becoming a faster and more explosive runner. Like Natrone Means during the team’s lone Super Bowl run in 1994, the Bolts are banking on Gordon’s violent running style leading them back to the title game 25 years later. “I want to be an all-around back,” Gordon said. “I say it every year. Even the things I’m good at, I want to be great. Things I’m average at, I want to be great. That’s just who I am. I just want to keep working, keep grinding and just be the best running back out there.” — Eric D. Williams

Antonio Brown and Derek Carr have become “besties” this offseason, but how will their relationship endure if the Oakland Raiders get off to a slow start and Brown is not getting as many targets as he would like?

Brown, whose ugly exit from Pittsburgh has been well-documented, has done and said all the right things upon his Oakland arrival, from his legendary work ethic to his preternatural ability to get open and catch the ball. But the Raiders have the toughest schedule in the NFL, exacerbated by a brutal start that sees them play their first two games at home and then not play in Oakland again until Nov. 3. With so many new pieces, especially on defense, a 1-6 start (four of the Raiders’ first seven opponents were in the playoffs last season) would not be shocking. And Brown is used to getting the ball, as evidenced by his having averaged more than 11.3 targets per game since 2014. Jordy Nelson, Carr’s top target at wideout last season, averaged just under 5.9 targets per game. Brown came to Oakland to win and be productive, not that those two things are mutually exclusive. But if the Raiders are getting clobbered early and Brown is getting the Nelson treatment, the honeymoon will be over in short order. — Paul Gutierrez

Will the Kliff Kingsbury-Kyler Murray experiment work for the Arizona Cardinals?

Will it? We won’t know for months. Can it? Absolutely. This is a rare match. Kingsbury — the Cardinals’ first-year coach — recruited Murray — the Cardinals’ rookie quarterback — out of high school seven years ago and they were finally paired together in April when the team took Murray with the No. 1 overall pick. Murray has run a version of Kingsbury’s Air Raid since the eighth grade. They talk all the time. Each understands what the other is trying to do. Kingsbury knows how to handle young players possibly better than anyone in the NFL, having spent the past six years as the head coach at Texas Tech. Sure, Kingsbury’s offense could’ve worked with someone else running it, but there may not have been a better fit from a personality and history perspective than Murray. — Josh Weinfuss

Will Todd Gurley‘s uncertainty and health keep the Los Angeles Rams from another Super Bowl?

With a roster that returns two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and each skill position starter, including receiver Cooper Kupp, who is coming off a season-ending knee injury, the Rams are in position to appear again in the Super Bowl. However, uncertainty looms over the health of running back Todd Gurley’s left knee and whether it will allow him to contribute at the volume with which he has contributed over the past two seasons. The offense, which produced 32.9 points per game last season, also must adapt to two first-time starters on the line in center Brian Allen and left guard Joe Noteboom. The defense received a boost by adding veteran pass-rusher Clay Matthews and safety Eric Weddle, but inexperienced players — Greg Gaines and Micah Kiser — will be expected to step up at nose tackle and inside linebacker, respectively, after the departures of Ndamukong Suh and Mark Barron. — Lindsey Thiry

Can Jimmy Garoppolo bounce back from a torn ACL and emerge as the franchise quarterback the San Francisco 49ers believe he can be?

The 49ers have been unwavering in their belief in Garoppolo since he led them to five straight victories to close the 2017 season. They paid him like a franchise quarterback and went into last season with outsized expectations despite a 6-10 record the year before. The question with Garoppolo isn’t talent so much as it is durability. Garoppolo played just two-plus games in 2018 before a knee injury ended his season. This offseason, the Niners put many of their resources into the defense, but did spend two Day 2 picks on receivers and signed running back Tevin Coleman. There’s plenty of potential on the roster offensively, but Garoppolo is the man charged with making it all work. It starts with staying healthy. If Garoppolo can play all 16 games in coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense, there’s reason to believe he can establish himself as the organizational centerpiece the team believes he is. — Nick Wagoner

Can Russell Wilson top his ultra-efficient 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks?

Last season may have been Wilson’s best, considering he set a career high in touchdown passes with 35 and tied his career low with seven interceptions. It was undoubtedly his most efficient season, given that Wilson did that on his fewest passing attempts (427) since 2013. But the departure of his longtime No. 1 target, Doug Baldwin, leaves Tyler Lockett and Jaron Brown as his only receivers with more than three seasons of NFL experience. Though the inevitable growing pains that come with young receivers could work to Wilson’s detriment, it should help that he enters his second season under coordinator and de facto quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer. No, the Seahawks won’t need to rely on Wilson more because they just made him the highest-paid player in NFL history. They’re going to be one of the NFL’s most run-heavy teams as long as coach Pete Carroll is in charge. But the defense lost firepower for the second consecutive offseason and has a major question mark at pass-rusher. Seattle may need Wilson to have another 2018 stat line if the Seahawks are going to earn their eighth playoff berth in 10 seasons under Carroll. — Brady Henderson

Can the Bills’ decision-makers survive missing the playoffs in 2019?

Yes. Coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane earned goodwill from fans in 2017 when they led the franchise to its first playoff appearance since 1999. That kept fans off their backs when the Bills finished 6-10 last season, which was partly the result of trading quarterback Tyrod Taylor and drafting Josh Allen — and then watching their developing rookie quarterback become injured midseason. Fans understood Beane and McDermott did not see Taylor as the foundation of a long-term contender and are more hopeful Allen can be the franchise quarterback. As long as Allen takes a step forward in 2019, Beane and McDermott can survive into 2020 without making the playoffs. The top decision-makers seem to have sold the fan base on incremental improvements over instant gratification. — Mike Rodak

Can Josh Rosen keep the Dolphins from drafting a QB in the first round in 2020?

Rosen has to win the starting job first, and then we can discuss him being a part of the Dolphins’ long-term future. This spring, it has been the Ryan Fitzpatrick show, as the veteran has outplayed Rosen during organized team activities and minicamp. But the competition should heat up in training camp. Rosen has said he’s treating this like a one-year tryout to prove to the Dolphins he can be their franchise quarterback. After seven years of Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins can’t afford to settle at quarterback anymore. Rosen can prove himself worthy of further evaluation beyond 2019 if he can show consistent examples of leadership when he gets his chance to start. On a rebuilding team, the eye test — in practice and games — will have to be the true barometer for Rosen. If there are doubts about him, the Dolphins have to be prepared to draft a quarterback high in 2020. — Cameron Wolfe

How will quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots adapt after tight end Rob Gronkowski’s retirement?

This question might not have a definitive answer until deep into training camp. The Patriots’ offense under coordinator Josh McDaniels and Brady has always shaped itself to the personnel available, so if no more additions are made at tight end, it could lead to a de-emphasis of the position. Four-year veteran Matt LaCosse was running with the first unit in spring practices, but is he a realistic option to maintain a Gronk-type standard? No, but who really is? Veteran Benjamin Watson could be part of the mix, but he will miss the first four games of the season while serving an NFL suspension. “Move” option Stephen Anderson and 2018 seventh-round pick Ryan Izzo are next on the depth chart. However, there is always the possibility the Patriots swing a trade or an unexpected player comes available on the market. — Mike Reiss

Can quarterback Sam Darnold show significant improvement in Year 2, following the recent trend of Jared Goff, Mitchell Trubisky and Carson Wentz?

Darnold’s situation is similar to those of Goff and Trubisky in that he is going from a defense-minded coach (Todd Bowles) to a coach with an offensive background (Adam Gase). There’s nothing better for a young quarterback’s development than having a coach who sees the game through the eyes of the quarterback, as Goff and Trubisky showed with Sean McVay and Matt Nagy, respectively. It’s unrealistic to expect a Goff-like jump for Darnold because his supporting cast (see: offensive line) isn’t as strong as that of the Los Angeles Rams — or Wentz’s Philadelphia Eagles cast, for that matter. But Darnold has enough talent, and enough talented people around him, to replicate what Trubisky did in his second season — 24 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. Darnold should be able to raise his completion percentage (57.7) by a few points; the additions of RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Jamison Crowder will help in that respect. The key will be to cut down his interceptions (15 in 13 games), and he can do that by not throwing into tight coverage as often as he did last season. — Rich Cimini

Can Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz get over the injury bug?

Having suffered season-ending injuries each of the past two years (torn ACL/LCL, stress fracture in back), Wentz spent part of the offseason studying how to take better care of his body. He improved his diet and tweaked his training regimen in hopes it will lead to better health and greater career longevity. The Eagles are banking on Wentz staying upright. They moved on from Nick Foles and handed Wentz a four-year, $128 million contract extension. Only time will tell whether that investment will prove a wise one. What we know for now is Wentz looked like his old self this spring and has full intentions of returning to MVP-caliber form. This Eagles team is stacked from top to bottom. If Wentz can stay on the field, Philadelphia has a legit chance of going the distance. — Tim McManus

What will coordinator Kellen Moore bring to the Cowboys’ offense?

The Cowboys’ offense grew stale the past couple of seasons. While they ran the ball effectively and had timely plays under Scott Linehan, Dallas lacked explosive plays. The Cowboys had 39 pass plays of 20 yards or more in 2018. As a first-year coordinator, Moore will have a learning curve. He has one year of coaching experience, serving as the quarterbacks coach last season. He has never called plays but has long been considered a coach-in-waiting dating to his Boise State days, when he became the winningest quarterback in college football history. The base of the Cowboys’ offense remains — which coach Jason Garrett implemented as coordinator in 2007 — but Moore is bringing different elements that will marry some of the spread and run-pass options that have come from the college game to the NFL. In the offseason, Moore used more shifts and motions to run the same plays out of different looks, similar to what coach Sean McVay has done with the Los Angeles Rams. Moore’s creativity on the fly will be a bonus. Teammates have lauded his ability to see the game clearly in real time, which should allow the Cowboys to adjust better than they have in the past. — Todd Archer

When will rookie Dwayne Haskins take over as the Redskins’ starting quarterback?

The Redskins have consistently used one word when discussing their first-round draft pick: patience. They liked what they saw this spring in terms of Haskins’ talent and intelligence. The phrase “arm talent” has been used quite a bit. But before and after the draft, it was clear the Redskins felt he needed work. Haskins started 14 games at Ohio State, so his learning curve is bigger — Kyler Murray has similar experience, but his legs add a weapon Haskins lacks. Washington needs Haskins to improve his footwork — and some of that will come from quickening his reads so he doesn’t feel rushed under duress. The underlying issue: coach Jay Gruden’s job security. He’s entering Year 6 after missing the playoffs three straight seasons. He needs to win, and his desires might clash at times with the organization’s, knowing that Haskins’ development is key to the franchise’s future. But if the Redskins struggle early with Case Keenum or Colt McCoy, then there’s no good reason to keep Haskins sitting. — John Keim

Can the Giants’ offense be better without wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.?

New York is going to need an improved offense overall this season to achieve any level of success. The Giants have 61% of their salary cap earmarked for their offense, with only 37% on their defense. That puts the fate of their 2019 season on quarterback Eli Manning & Co. It seems like a ridiculous premise to improve without Beckham, who is one of the most lethal offensive weapons in football. But the Giants improved their offensive line, still have ample targets and are going to lean heavily on running back Saquon Barkley. It’s possible they’ll produce more with their spread-it-around “village” approach, considering they were a well-below-average unit (27th in points per game through eight games) for a good chunk of last season. — Jordan Raanan

Can Alvin Kamara or Christian McCaffrey join the exclusive 1,000-1,000 club?

Former 49ers great Roger Craig randomly ran into Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey last year at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco for a showing of the Broadway hit “Hamilton.”

But there was nothing random about Craig’s message to the former Stanford star. It was a direct hit.

“You can do it,” the former running back recalled of his conversation with the eighth pick of the 2017 draft. “You can join the 1,000-1,000 team.”

It’s a small team — as in two. Craig and Marshall Faulk are the only players in NFL history to record 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.

Craig was the first, rushing for 1,050 yards on 214 carries and catching 92 passes for 1,016 yards in 1985 for Bill Walsh’s Niners. As a third-year fullback, no less.

Faulk did it in 1999 for the St. Louis Rams, rushing for 1,381 yards on 253 carries and catching 87 passes for 1,048 yards.

Nobody has done it since.

McCaffrey came close last season, with 1,098 yards rushing on 219 carries and 867 yards receiving on a whopping 107 catches — an NFL single-season record for a running back.

Several backs today have a shot at the 1,000-1,000 club, with the two most prominent being from the NFC South in McCaffrey and the New Orleans SaintsAlvin Kamara, who had 883 yards rushing and 709 receiving in 2018.

The Los Angeles RamsTodd Gurley and the New York GiantsSaquon Barkley also are candidates. Each already has had a season with more than 1,000 yards rushing and 700 yards receiving.

But for Craig’s money, he’ll take McCaffrey.

“He will definitely get the 1,000-1,000,” said Craig, now the vice president and director for business development at TIBCO Software in the San Francisco area. “It’s in his DNA to make that happen. He’s got the tools. He’s built for it. His day will come.”

Here’s a look at the two NFC South backs who have a shot:

Christian McCaffrey, Panthers

Factors shaping whether McCaffrey can reach 1,000-1,000:

Playing time: Craig says because he was a fullback — which meant he blocked in addition to rushing and receiving — he played about 98 percent of the snaps. McCaffrey played 91.3 percent of the offensive snaps last season, far more than any other back. You have to be on the field for all three downs. While the Panthers are looking for a player who can do all of the things McCaffrey does to take some of the load off, they haven’t found one. McCaffrey spent the offseason getting faster and stronger than he was a year ago to handle the load. Of the other active backs, Barkley was the only one who came close to McCaffrey’s snap count last season, and he had 112 fewer.

System: Craig played in Walsh’s West Coast system that relied heavily on an all-purpose back and a high-percentage passing game. Norv Turner’s offense at Carolina does the same thing, and Turner doesn’t mind leaning heavily on that running back. Pro Football Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson had 339 carries and 59 receptions his rookie season with the San Diego Chargers, when Turner was the offensive coordinator. The system is particularly important to the receiving yards part of this equation, which is the hardest to complete. “I mean, Gurley, he gets keyed on a lot, and it’s tough to key on Christian,” Craig said. “It’s really hard because he’s so flexible and he runs such good routes.”

Other weapons: Craig played on a team with receivers Dwight Clark, Freddie Solomon and Jerry Rice in 1985. McCaffrey doesn’t have nearly as much proven talent around him in second-year receiver DJ Moore and third-year back Curtis Samuel, so the likelihood he’ll be fed the ball increases.

All-purpose skills: McCaffrey, as it has been well documented by experts, runs the full route tree better than most receivers. He can line up in the backfield, slot and out wide. He also is a solid runner between the tackles. Remember, McCaffrey broke Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders’ NCAA record for all-purpose yards at Stanford, with 3,864 in 2015.

Biggest obstacles: Start with quarterback Cam Newton. While Newton completed a career-best 67.9 percent of his passes last season, his percentage was only 58.5 over his first seven seasons. He also is coming off a second shoulder surgery. For McCaffrey to reach 1,000 receiving yards, Newton has to be on his game. Craig lined up with Hall of Fame signal-caller Joe Montana — who had a career completion percentage of 63.2 — when he set the standard. Not having a lot of proven receiving weapons also could work against McCaffrey, because teams will be more likely to emphasize stopping him with double-teams.

Alvin Kamara, Saints

The factors shaping whether Kamara can reach 1,000-1,000:

Playing time: This is Kamara’s biggest hurdle, since the Saints like to use multiple backs. But when Mark Ingram was suspended for the first four games last season, Kamara played 82 percent of the offensive snaps. And through those four games, Kamara was on pace for a staggering 1,100 rushing yards and 1,344 receiving yards (as well as 24 touchdowns). When Ingram returned, Kamara went back to playing 59 percent of New Orleans’ offensive snaps. Ingram is gone now, but the Saints have replaced him with another veteran complementary back in Latavius Murray.

System: Saints coach Sean Payton also comes from a West Coast background and loves throwing to his backs. In 2017, Kamara and Ingram combined for a total of 1,852 rushing yards and 1,242 receiving yards. And dating back to his days as offensive coordinator for the Giants and Dallas Cowboys, Payton has had a running back catch at least 69 passes 12 times (Tiki Barber three times, Richie Anderson once, Reggie Bush twice, Darren Sproles three times, Pierre Thomas once and Kamara twice). Barber had 1,006 rushing yards and 719 receiving yards in 2000, even while splitting time with “Thunder and Lightning” partner Ron Dayne.

Other weapons: Last season, Kamara (81 catches) and wideout Michael Thomas (125 catches) were the only two New Orleans players with more than 35 receptions. The Saints added tight end Jared Cook in free agency. But they also lost Ingram, who caught a total of 175 passes over the previous four seasons. Murray isn’t expected to be as heavily involved in the passing game as Ingram was.

All-purpose skills: The Saints always knew they would use Kamara heavily in their passing game when they stole him in the third round out of Tennessee (where he also split time). But they admittedly didn’t realize he would be such an asset as a runner between the tackles. Kamara has averaged 5.1 yards per carry so far, and his carries vaulted from 120 as a rookie to 194 last season — in 15 games played. Kamara said he still feels like he has more to offer heading into Year 3. “That’s where the anxiety comes from with me. It’s not like a bad anxiety, but a good anxiety. Like, I’m so anxious to see, ‘What else? Where could I line up, what else could I do, how else could I be successful?'” Kamara said. “That’s like the best part of this profession for me. ‘OK, he was good last year.’ But how are you gonna prove that you are what you are? What’s the next step you’re gonna take?”

Biggest obstacle: Usage. The Saints obviously don’t want to use Kamara in quite the same type of every-down role as McCaffrey — which they proved by signing Murray to a four-year, $14.4 million deal. As good as Kamara was in that role for the first four weeks last season, he took a pounding. The Saints would prefer to keep him fresher, if possible. But that could change if injuries force their hand.

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World’s First Battery-Powered Cruise Ship To Sail For The Arctic


The world’s first cruise ship propelled partially by battery power is set to head out from northern Norway on its maiden voyage, cruise operator Hurtigruten said on Monday.

The hybrid expedition cruise ship, the Roald Amundsen, can take 500 passengers and is designed to sail in harsh climate waters.

Named after the Norwegian explorer who navigated the Northwest Passage in 1903-1906 and was first to reach the South Pole in 1911, the ship heads for the Arctic from Tromsoe this week and will sail the Northwest Passage to Alaska before heading south, reaching Antarctica in October.

While the engines run mainly on marine gasoil, the ship’s battery pack enables it to run solely on batteries for around 45 to 60 minutes under ideal conditions, Hurtigruten Chief Executive Daniel Skjeldam told Reuters.

The company estimates that the battery pack will reduce fuel consumption and save about 20% in carbon dioxide emissions, compared to if the ship was operating on marine gasoil alone.

The ship heads for the Arctic this week and will sail the Northwest Passage to Alaska before heading south, reaching Antarctica in October.

“It’s designed to take excessive energy from the engines and put into the battery when the ship doesn’t need it, and put it back into the engine when the ship needs it — it is a way of reducing emissions significantly without having charging stations available,” Skjeldam said.

The company, which operates scenic cruise lines along the country’s fjords and into the Arctic, was inspired by Norway’s fleet of hybrid ferries and also its growing fleet of electric cars, he said.

Battery technology for propelling ships is in its infancy, even on shorter routes, as few ports provide charging stations.

“We expect batteries to be an important part of shipping in the years to come, but of course we don’t expect our ships to be able to operate only on batteries, because the ship can sail up to 18-20 days in areas where there are no charging points,” Skjeldam said.

Hurtigruten expects infrastructure will improve on its traditional routes along the Norwegian coast, while currently charging services are only provided in Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city.

The future for batteries on larger ships also hinges on suppliers’ capacity to develop lighter, more powerful systems.

“We expect a revolution on battery technology for ships, we expect batteries to be lighter, more effective, and we’ve set aside extra room for more batteries to be installed when battery packs become more effective,” Skjeldam said.

He added that the second hybrid cruise ship the company has on order, to be delivered later this year, will have battery pack with twice the capacity of the Roald Amundsen.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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MLS Power Rankings: LAFC clings to top spot as Rapids, San Jose rise

A heavy midweek schedule and a full weekend slate combined to make Week 17 of the 2019 MLS season one of the wildest in recent memory.

The best team in the league lost to what used to be the worst team in the league; another team that used to be the worst team in the league (or in the running, at least), rolled a rival in front of a massive crowd; the league’s current (and unchallenged) worst team gave up a touchdown worth of goals to heap misery on an already terrible season.

What does it mean? Almost everybody’s moving and some teams that managed to win this week will actually go down as the rankings make room for the hotter teams jumping over them. The rankings do not care. The rankings do what the rankings must.

Previous rankings: Week 16 | Week 15 | Week 14 | Week 13 | Week 12 | Week 11 | Week 10 | Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1

1. LAFC (11 wins, 4 draws, 2 loss)

Previous ranking: 1

2. New York City FC (6-8-1)

Previous ranking: 3

3. Philadelphia Union (9-5-4)

Previous ranking: 2

5. LA Galaxy (10-1-7)

Previous ranking: 4

6. FC Dallas (7-5-7)

Previous ranking: 6

7. San Jose Earthquakes (7-4-6)

Previous ranking: 14

8. New York Red Bulls (8-3-6)

Previous ranking: 9

9. DC United (8-7-4)

Previous ranking: 8

10. Colorado Rapids (5-4-9)

Previous ranking: 18

11. Montreal Impact (9-3-8)

Previous ranking: 10

12. Seattle Sounders (8-5-4)

Previous ranking: 11

13. Houston Dynamo (7-3-6)

Previous ranking: 7

14. New England Revolution (5-5-8)

Previous ranking: 19

15. Portland Timbers (6-2-8)

Previous ranking: 15

16. Minnesota United (7-3-7)

Previous ranking: 16

17. Orlando City (6-3-8)

Previous ranking: 12

18. Real Salt Lake (7-2-8)

Previous ranking: 18

19. Vancouver Whitecaps (4-8-7)

Previous ranking: 18

21. Sporting Kansas City (4-7-5)

Previous ranking: 21

22. Chicago Fire (4-7-7)

Previous ranking: 22

23. Columbus Crew (5-2-11)

Previous ranking: 23

Next MLS match: July 3 at Real Salt Lake, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Our completely-made-up-but-totally-plausible polling data shows 97% of Columbus Crew fans and 100% of Columbus Crew head coaches would like the Gold Cup to just end early already.

24. FC Cincinnati (3-2-13)

Previous ranking: 24

Next MLS match: July 6 v. Houston, 7.30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Someone said something about “progress” re: FC Cincinnati last week, but we can’t remember who it was. Pretty sure it wasn’t us. Nope. *puts fingers in ears and yells “LA LA LA”*

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Suspecting Affair, Pak Man Kills Wife, 2 Children, 6 Others Of Her Family


A man shot his wife, their two children, and six of her family members on Monday and then burned the bodies when he set her family’s home on fire in an alleged dishonour killing in central Pakistan, police said.

Muhammad Ajmal committed the attack as revenge for a suspected affair by his wife Kiran, said Imran Mehmood, a District Police Officer for the city of Multan, where the killings occurred. Ajmal returned to Pakistan from Saudi Arabia, where he worked as a tailor, 25 days ago intending to carry out the killings, he said.

Mehmood said Ajmal confessed to the killings.

“This is clearly an honour killing. He saw a picture of his wife with another man and believed she was having an affair,” Mehmood said. “He does not repent his actions.”

In addition to killing his wife and their two children, Ajmal also killed his three sisters-in-law, two of their children, and his mother-in-law.

Ajmal and his father, who was with him at the time of the murder, are both in custody and have been charged with murder, Mehmood said. Police are searching for his brother, who is also believed to be involved.

The deaths add to the hundreds of women and girls killed in Pakistan each year, according to human rights groups, by family members angered at the perceived damage to their honour, which may involve eloping, fraternizing with men or any infringement of conservative values regarding women.

Kiran’s brother Ali Raza told Reuters that Ajmal and his sister were having marital problems and she had recently moved back to Pakistan and was living with her family.

“I am left with just my father, my whole family is gone,” he said.

Mehmood said Ajmal has not been assigned an attorney yet and Reuters was unable to contact any of his family members for a comment.

Pakistan adopted legislation against dishonour killings in 2016, introducing tough punishment and closing a legal loophole that allowed killers to walk free if pardoned by family members.

Police in Pakistan’s most populous province of Punjab, where honour crimes have been rampant, said recently that the number of such killings had fallen since the law was introduced but rights groups estimate that nearly 1,000 such killings take place annually.

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Wikipedia founder calls for social media strike

People are being urged to stop using social media for up to 48 hours later this week in an effort to pressure the networks into restoring control of personal data to users.

The call to strike has been issued by Dr Larry Sanger – a co-founder of the Wikipedia online encyclopaedia.

In his call to action, Dr Sanger said the strike – from 4 to 5 July – would show the “massive demand” for change.

However, some people have questioned how much impact the strike will have.

Those taking part will avoid social networks on those two days to show they have a “serious grievance” against the services.

Big changes

“We’re going to make a lot of noise,” wrote Dr Sanger in a blog setting out his reasons for calling the two-day boycott.

“We’re going to flex our collective muscles and demand that giant, manipulative corporations give us back control over our data, privacy, and user experience,” he said.

The more people who join, said Dr Sanger, the more it will show how dissatisfied people are with the current situation.

Dr Sanger hopes that the strike will prompt changes at the large social networks, which will then grant people more control over their data.

He also hopes the networks become more open and interoperable so that a post made on one service can show up on others.

“This is how social media should have been developed from the beginning, rather than walled off in separate, competing networks,” he said.

Those striking are also being asked to sign the Declaration of Digital Independence drafted by Dr Sanger.

The Declaration calls for social networks to be decentralised and turned into systems that respect the rights of free speech, privacy and security.

The BBC has contacted the Internet Association, which represents social networks, for its reaction to Dr Sanger’s call.

The strike call has circulated widely on Reddit, Twitter and several other networks. Dr Sanger has asked supporters to spread the word on Facebook as he maintains no presence on that network.

Despite the growing interest in the strike, some questioned its impact.

On the Hacker News list that shares tech headlines one commenter said: “I feel that even if everybody who cared went on strike, the difference in daily visitors would probably be in the error margin.”

They added: “I think most people who really care have already left the centralised social media or scaled it down to the point that a non-strike day is an exception.”

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