Slick Murray downs Kyrgios as title expectations grow

LONDON Andy Murray saw off the mercurial challenge of Australian Nick Kyrgios with little fuss on Monday, before just as smoothly playing down growing expectations that a second Wimbledon title is his for the taking.The second-seeded Scot's straight sets win over a dangerous opponent maintained his standing, following the shock third round exit of world number one Novak Djokovic, as the bookies' odds-on favorite to lift the Challenge Cup again on Sunday.Murray, who in 2013 beat Djokovic to became the first British man to win Wimbledon since 1936, has finished runner-up to the Serbian in both of this year's grand slams in France and Australia.On Monday he reached his ninth consecutive Wimbledon quarter-final, hanging on to Kyrgios's coat-tails for much of a pulsating first set before the Australian lost focus to concede the second and third sets tamely in a 7-5 6-1 6-4 defeat.Murray has not yet dropped a set -- but neither has Roger Federer, who beat the Scot in last year's semi-final.The presence of the Swiss seven-times champion looms large on the other side of the draw, which goes a long way toward explaining why the thought of lifting the trophy again has yet to enter Murray's head. PASSING THE TESTDescribing Monday's win as "very good", the Briton said his only focus was on his next match, a quarter-final against French 12th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga."I know the next one is a very tough match against Tsonga. He's a really, really good grass court player, very, very dangerous," Murray told reporters. "I'm aware I'll have to be playing at my highest level to win." For much of Monday's first set on a packed Centre Court, Murray played second fiddle to 15th seed Kyrgios, who thudded down serves at close to 140 mph that the world number two struggled to reach let alone control.Murray's serve, meanwhile, was misfiring and, under darkening skies and roared on by a partisan crowd, he had to dig deep to stay on terms with the Australian. The set and the match turned in the 12th game, when a combination of Kyrgios errors and two inspired Murray backhands presented the Scot with three break points. Kyrgios saved the first two with booming serves but Murray converted the third.Thereafter Kyrgios went walkabout, the Briton breaking him twice in a second set that flew by in 26 minutes. He broke once more in the third, closing out the contest with an ace on his third match point.The Australian, who described his performance after the first set as "pretty pathetic", has now -- in common with a multitude of Britons -- hitched his wagon to the Murray camp."I hope (Murray wins)... I hope so, definitely. I think he's definitely got a great chance," Kyrgios told reporters. (Reporting by John Stonestreet; editing by Ken Ferris) Read more

USA to head to Rio without James

LeBron James was a glaring absentee from the United States Olympic lineup as USA Basketball unveiled its squad for the Rio Games on Monday.U.S. media reported last week that James, who led the Cavaliers to victory over the Golden State Warriors in a seven-game NBA Finals series, had asked USA Basketball to remove his name from Olympic consideration.The three-times NBA champion and four-times league Most Valuable Player won gold medals with Team USA at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics but after six consecutive trips to the NBA Finals James decided he needed rest.He joined a long list to players to turn down invitations to Rio.Among the other American NBA players who opted out of consideration are twice reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Chris Paul, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, John Wall and LaMarcus Aldridge.While a handful of athletes from other sports have pulled out of the Aug. 5-21 Olympics due to health fears over the Zika virus in Brazil, no NBA player has yet to cite the mosquito-borne virus for his decision.Zika can cause crippling birth defects and, in adults, has been linked to the neurological disorder Guillain-Barre. "I think I can speak for the entire coaching staff and say we're extremely excited about the team we will field for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro," said Jerry Colangelo, managing director of the USA men's national team."I love our depth, which is another indication of the depth of talent our national team program is blessed with. We've got a great mix of talent, scorers, past gold medal winners and outstanding youth." Despite the absence of many top players, the U.S. will still head to Rio as heavy gold medal favorites as they go in search of a third consecutive Olympic title. The U.S. will now be led by former NBA MVP Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving.Durant, who collected MVP honors in leading the USA to gold at the 2010 world championship and finished as the U.S. team's leading scorer at the 2012 London Olympics by averaging an American Olympic record 19.5 points a game,Other members of the team include New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony, Chicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler, Sacramento Kings DeMarcus Cousins, Indiana Pacers Paul George, Clippers DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry and three members of the Golden State Warriors - Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. "I'm anxious to get on the court and along with my great coaching staff, get to work," said USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski."Looking at this team, our overall balance is what strikes me."We have lightning-quick guards who can score as well as distribute the basketball. We have great shooters and explosive scorers, we're big and athletic, and I think we'll really be able to defend." (Reporting by Steve Keating in Omaha, Editing by Ed Osmond) Read more

Fiat Chrysler to investigate crash that killed 'Star Trek' actor

WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said on Monday it would investigate a crash that killed "Star Trek" actor Anton Yelchin in his recalled 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee.Yelchin was killed when the SUV rolled away and pinned him against a fence in Los Angeles, police said on Sunday. Fiat Chrysler in April recalled more than 1.1 million cars and SUVs worldwide because vehicles may roll away after drivers exit, an issue linked to 41 injuries, 212 crashes and 308 reports of property damage, though it had no immediate fix for owners.Yelchin died of accidental blunt force asphyxia, Los Angeles County Coroner Assistant Chief Ed Winter said in a phone interview Monday. The results of toxicology tests to determine if Yelchin was under the influence of any substances are not due back for at least six weeks, he added. In a May 24 letter to dealers, Fiat Chrysler said it anticipated having the software updates required to fix the vehicles no later than July or August. The company previously had told owners it hoped to come up with a "permanent" remedy by the fourth quarter.The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said late Monday in a statement it is in contact with local authorities and Fiat Chrysler "to understand all of the facts related to this tragic crash, including whether or not this was caused by the current issue under recall."The recall was done at NHTSA's urging, which again warned owners that "until all of these recalled vehicles are fixed, owners should take extra care to make sure their car is in park and turned completely off before exiting."Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said Monday that "while waiting for a recall remedy to be developed, the predictable happened. Anton Yelchin died. How many more people will be killed or injured waiting for a recall remedy of this fatal manufacturing flaw?" Fiat Chrysler spokesman Eric Mayne said the company would conduct a "thorough investigation" of Yelchin's accident. "It is premature to speculate on its cause at this time," he added.Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman Jane Kim said on Monday that investigators were aware of the recall issue with the Jeep and were looking at whether that played any role in the fatality.Yelchin, a 27-year-old Russian native, would be the first death reported to be linked to the defect. In 2014, a U.S. study said nearly 100 people were killed and 2,000 injured annually from vehicles that rolled away between 2008 and 2011.Fiat Chrysler said in April that the recall was linked to 700 incidents because drivers mistakenly believed they had placed the vehicles in park before exiting. Fiat Chrysler said some drivers might have been confused by the electronic gearshift system, which moves more like a joystick than along a gate path like conventional gear selectors.The company said in April that it planned to update the vehicles to automatically prevent them from moving, under certain circumstances, even if the driver fails to put the vehicle in park.NHTSA, which upgraded a probe into the rollaway injuries and complaints in February, said in April that the shifter was "clearly a safety issue" leading to hundreds of crashes and dozens of injuries. Fiat Chrysler sent a letter to vehicle owners after announcing the recall in April, warning them to make sure the vehicles are in park.NHTSA said in April that testing of the shifter found it was "not intuitive and provides poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver, increasing the potential for unintended gear selection."Yelchin's death comes a month before the release of "Star Trek Beyond," in which the late actor played Chekov, the young Russian navigator of the starship, USS Enterprise. The cast and creators of "Star Trek Beyond" paid tribute to Yelchin on Sunday, with producer J.J. Abrams posting on Twitter, "You were brilliant. You were funny as hell, and supremely talented. And you weren't here nearly long enough." Yelchin has appeared in numerous films and was in the TV series "Huff," starring Hank Azaria, who wrote on Twitter that he was devastated. "He was a very sweet kid. My heart goes out to his family."Early in his career as a teenager, Yelchin gained wide attention appearing with Anthony Hopkins in the 2001 film "Hearts in Atlantis" and with Robin Williams in 2004's "House of D." (Additional reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy in Los Angeles Reporting by David Shepardson) Read more

Canadian lawmakers vote to make national anthem gender neutral

OTTAWA Canadian lawmakers voted on Wednesday to alter the country's national anthem to make the lyrics gender neutral, a move that comes as the new Liberal government focuses on being more inclusive toward women.The bill would change the English version of "O Canada" to remove the words "in all thy sons command" and replace them with "in all of us command." The changes, brought forward as a private member's bill by a Liberal Party lawmaker, passed easily in the House of Commons, which is controlled by the Liberals. It now goes to the appointed Senate, which generally approves measures passed by the elected House.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made gender inclusivity a focus since he was elected last October and named an equal number of men and women to his 30-member Cabinet. It was the first time gender parity had been achieved by Canada's team of ministers. Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu, speaking before the vote, said the change was an important step toward ensuring inclusivity in Canada's cultural symbols."I think it's really important as a very strong symbol of our commitment to gender equality in this country," she told reporters. Some Conservative lawmakers opposed the change, which they said was being made without adequate consultation with Canadians. The former Conservative government suggested changes to the anthem's lyrics in 2010, but backed off after a public outcry.The song was composed in 1880 and the original lyrics were in French. The English-language version, which is not a direct translation from French, was penned in 1908 and tweaked over the years. It was adopted as Canada's official anthem in 1980. After the vote passed, lawmakers stood in the House of Commons and sang the anthem in both national languages. (Reporting by Leah Schnurr in Ottawa and Julie Gordon in Vancouver; Editing by Peter Cooney) Read more

Unlikely casualty in California's renewable energy boom: natural gas

In February of 2001, then California Governor Gray Davis stood at the site of Calpine Corp's new Sutter natural gas power plant and unveiled his plan to fast-track construction of similar stations to add 20,000 megawatts of modern, efficient generation to the state in three years. Natural gas, Davis said, was "the most environmentally friendly, clean, appropriate fuel" to help the state move beyond the energy crisis it had just endured and enable its 34 million residents "to enjoy the good life that California represents." Today, the plants inaugurated that day are among the casualties of a monumental shift in the U.S. energy landscape. An unexpected combination of oversupply of natural gas and a boom in solar and other renewable energy has depressed power prices and threatened the viability of natural gas plants that sell power into the Golden State's electricity market. These developments are good for consumers and the environment, but tough on power producers who placed huge bets on natural gas. "The world is really changing for these independent power producers," said Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, in an interview. "We don't need a lot of gas." Calpine, in fact, shut down its Sutter plant earlier this year because of "poor economics." And rival Dynegy has said it plans to leave the California market, citing the state's focus on renewables. To offset losses, Rockland Capital, Calpine and other plant owners, including General Electric and the Carlyle Group's Cogentrix, are asking the state for help. They argue that it is in the state's interest to support the natural gas plants because they provide stability and reliability -- attributes that are important to the state's power grid and something weather-dependent wind and solar can't offer. If the plants don't get needed support, their owners have warned, a critical safety net for the grid could disappear. GE, which owns the Inland Empire Energy Center in Southern California, said in a statement that state policies "rank reliability and cost as low priorities," adding that generators may be forced to shut down prematurely. And in a letter to California officials in April, Rockland Capital called its 13-year-old La Paloma plant in Kern County "one of the victims" of the rise of large amounts of renewable power, and warned the plant could shut down later this year. Power producers want more long-term contracts that will compensate them for being there when wind and solar power are unavailable or when demand is particularly high. "You do need natural gas generation as a backup for solar,"said Andrew Bischof, an analyst who tracks the power industry for Morningstar.Nuclear power plant owners have made similar arguments in Illinois and New York, where they are competing with renewables and cheaper gas-fired power. But last week, nuclear power plant operator Exelon said it would close two Illinois plants due to a lack of progress on state legislation to support them. Texas faces similar challenges due to an abundance of wind energy, but the Lone Star state has far more nuclear and coal-fired power than California, which would see shakeouts first. SOLAR'S RISEBuilt largely after California's 2000 and 2001 energy crisis, the state's new fleet of natural gas plants were meant to address a shortfall in power supplies and fuel population and economic growth for decades to come. Some plants had 10-year contracts that have now lapsed, while others were built to support the state's spot power market. But power prices in California fell to their lowest level since at least 2001 last year, and in 2016 so far are trading even lower. The low price of natural gas, thanks to the fracking boom, is largely responsible. But renewables also depress spot prices because those prices are determined by the cost of the fuel source, which for wind and solar is zero. California's big push for renewable power began in earnest with Davis' successor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a decade ago. He set a goal for the state to obtain 33 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020, an ambitious target that the state's top three utilities are on track to exceed because of government support for wind and solar power and a dramatic drop in the price of those technologies. Graphic on growth of renewable energy in California: the same time, rooftop solar capacity has soared faster than expected while older gas-fired power plants have not retired as quickly as state energy officials had projected. On a recent Thursday, solar was able to provide more than 40 percent of the state's power in the middle of the day -- making the state's new goal of sourcing 50 percent of its power from renewables by 2030 seem in reach. With eight times the solar capacity online than there was just three years ago, gas-fired units built to satisfy mid-day demands are increasingly being asked to kick in quickly as the sun goes down. Last month, California's grid operator, the Independent System Operator, said in a report that revenue estimates for many natural gas power plants are substantially below their fixed costs, adding that new gas-fired capacity "does not appear to be needed at this time." Relief is not expected soon. A Moody's report last year forecast that margins for gas power generators selling into California would fall an additional 30 percent by 2019. (Additional reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by Edward Tobin) Read more

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