Jacque Vaughn discusses Cam Thomas’ in Nets 125-123 win over Wizards, Thomas Talks Kyrie Irving

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Jacque Vaughn discusses Cam Thomas’ 44 points in the Brooklyn Nets 125-123 win over the Washington Wizards. Vaughn and Thomas address Kyrie Irving’s trade request.
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Armie Hammer was ‘suicidal’ after scandal and ‘molested’ by a pastor as a child

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Armie Hammer was in such despair in February 2021 after being accused of assault, emotional abuse and cannibalism at the height of the #MeToo movement that he almost killed himself.

“I just walked out into the ocean and swam out as far as I could and hoped that either I drowned, or was hit by a boat, or eaten by a shark,” Hammer told Air Mail in his first interview since the collapse of his career.

“Then I realized that my kids were still on shore, and that I couldn’t do that to my kids.”

Hammer denies any criminal wrongdoing — and Air Mail details how some of his accusers may not have been as truthful as originally thought — but he owns up to being a jerk.

“I’m here to own my mistakes, take accountability for the fact that I was an a–hole, that I was selfish, that I used people to make me feel better, and when I was done, moved on,” he said.


Armie Hammer's mugshot.
Armie Hammer’s history of alcohol abuse and BDSM and infidelity was chronicled in the “House of Hammer” documentary series.
Twitter/armiehammer

Hammer also reveals in the largely sympathetic profile by writer James Kirchick that he was allegedly molested by a youth pastor at his family’s church when he was 13. The resulting trauma may have kick-started his interest in BDSM and other sex fetishes, he said.

“What that did for me was it introduced sexuality into my life in a way that it was completely out of my control,” Hammer said. “I was powerless in the situation. I had no agency in the situation. Sexuality was introduced to me in a scary way where I had no control. My interests then went to: I want to have control in the situation, sexually.” 

Hammer’s past history of alcohol abuse and BDSM and infidelity was chronicled in “House of Hammer,” a three-part series on Discovery+ delving into the Hammer family’s “sinister secrets that money and power couldn’t hide forever.”


Armie Hammer presenting at the 2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards.
After the allegations were made public, Hammer was dropped by his agent and cut from several film deals.
Getty Images

He says now that he’s sober after a stint in rehab and at peace — despite having been dropped by his agent and cut from a number of movies he had been signed to star in after the scandal first hit.

““I’m now grateful for everything that’s happened to me, because, as it says in the ‘Twelve and Twelve’ [‘Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions,’ the guidebook of Alcoholics Anonymous], pain is the touchstone of spiritual progress,” Hammer said.

“I’m now a healthier, happier, more balanced person. I’m able to be there for my kids in a way I never was. I’m able to be there for my dad as he’s dying in a way that I would have never been able to be. I’m truly grateful for my life and my recovery and everything. I would not go back and undo everything that’s happened to me.” 


Armie Hammer poses with his then-wife, Elizabeth Chambers, their toddlers, and Mickey Mouse.
Hammer said he contemplated suicide but stopped after thinking about his two young children.
Getty Images for Feld Entertainm

Hammer married Elizabeth Chamber in 2010, and they had two children before splitting up in July 2020.

Six months later, Hammer became the subject of shocking sexual assault and cannibalism accusations after the Instagram account “House of Effie” began sharing screenshots of sickening messages purportedly penned by the star.

In March 2021, the woman behind the Instagram account — initially known only as Effie — came forward, accusing Hammer of violently raping her for four hours at a Los Angeles hotel in April 2017. Her name has since been revealed as Efrosina Angelova.


Armie Hammer pictured at a movie premiere.
Hammer alleged that he was sexually assaulted as a young teen.
Gareth Cattermole

Since then, multiple other women also come out claiming to have been sexually assaulted and mistreated by the star — including one who claimed he tied her up and told her he wanted to “break my rib and barbecue and eat it.”

But Angelova’s claims are disputed in the Air Mail story. Kirchick obtained direct messages that Angelova sent to Hammer’s then-wife Chambers disclosing the affair and allegedly writing, “I was pretty much chasing him.”

Hammer said the “rape” she described was a consensual “scene” they planned together in advance.

“She planned all of the details out, all the way down to what Starbucks I would see her at, how I would follow her home, how her front door would be open and unlocked and I would come in, and we would engage in what is called a ‘consensual non-consent scene,’ CNC,” Hammer said. “Every single thing was discussed beforehand. I have never thrust this on someone unexpectedly. Never.”


Armie Hammer and Elizabeth Chambers together at a red carpet event.
Hammer is now divorced from Elizabeth Chambers, the mother of his two children.
Getty Images

Hammer estimates that, between legal fees and acting jobs he was fired from, he lost somewhere between $14 million and $16 million in 2021 alone. “My financial status is I am not only broke; I am massively in debt.” 

Currently, Hammer is working as a sober companion for a fellow recovering addict just out of rehab.

“I’m going to move in with him and live with him, get him on a healthy routine, get him into a good schedule of [recovery] meetings, take him to the gym, cook healthy food for him,” he says. “It feels like my recovery has taken a turn from me being the one who needs help staying sober to me being able to help others. Twelve steps in action.”


Armie Hammer at "The Lone Ranger" premiere in 2013.
Hammer denies that he raped his accusers.
WireImage

Hammer couldn’t help but take a shot at so-called “cancel culture” in the profile.

“No one will hire me. No one will insure me. I can’t get bonded for a project — nothing,” he said. “And no one will touch me because if they hire me, then they are the people who support abusers.

“And then they’re liable to get canceled themselves because this fire that is burning itself through town — when they throw someone like me on the fire to protect themselves, what they don’t realize is happening is all they’re doing is making the fire bigger. And that fire is now out of control and it’s going to burn everyone. And they’re just continually throwing people on it as sacrifices to protect themselves.”

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or are experiencing a mental health crisis and live in New York City, you can call 1-888-NYC-WELL for free and confidential crisis counseling. If you live outside the five boroughs, you can dial the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention hotline at 988 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.

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Prince Harry served in Samantha Markle suit against Meghan

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Both Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are expected to testify in the defamation case the Duchess’ sister is bringing down against her, a report said.

Samantha Markle filed paperwork Friday demanding the ex-royals take the stand in her quest to prove Meghan had made “false and malicious statements” during the couple’s March 2021 interview with Oprah, the Mirror reported.

Samantha wants the duo to be deposed on the same day, but in separate on-camera interviews.

The disgruntled half-sister wants the Duchess to make 38 separate admissions during her deposition, the outlet reported.

Samantha not only wants Meghan to admit that she lied about their relationship and upbringing in order to sell a “rags-to-royalty” story, but wants Meghan to take back allegations she made against the royal family by claiming “Queen Elizabeth was not a racist” and “King Charles is not a racist.”

In the documents, Samantha, who shares a father with Meghan, accused her of withholding evidence and stonewalling discovery.


Samantha Markle
Samantha claims Meghan made “false and malicious statements” during the couple’s 2021 Oprah interview.
@TuckerToday/Twitter

Thomas Markle — the women’s father — is expected to testify, in addition to former royal aide Jason Knauf, Samantha’s daughter Ashleigh Hale and online security expert Christopher Bouzy.

Samantha, 58, and Meghan, 41, had been at odds for years before the famous 2021 Oprah interview — Meghan has repeatedly accused her half-sister and father of selling stories to the British tabloids.

Samantha filed the $75,000 lawsuit after Meghan told Oprah that she grew up as an only child and allegedly lied about the last time the sisters saw one another. The lies subjected Samantha to “humiliation ad hatred,” she argued.


The couple will be deposed on the same day, but in separate on-camera interviews.
The couple will be deposed on the same day, but in separate on-camera interviews.
Getty Images

She has continued to fire shots at her half-sister and brother-in-law as the couple continues putting out documentaries and memories. Last month, she accused Prince Harry of being “emotionally underdeveloped.”

A mediator has been appointed in an attempt to avoid a trial, the documents show, but Meghan is trying to get the case she calls “meritless” tossed out.

Her lawyers argued the complaint “has no place in this court or any other” because they feel it is asking jurors to split hairs on the meaning of a “close” relationship.

“She is asking the court to decide whether she and Meghan “had ever ‘been close,’ how many times the two ‘crossed paths’ as adults and whether Meghan’s feelings that she ‘grew up as an only child’ are ‘true’ or false,’” Meghan’s lawyers said.

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Several Questions About China Spy Balloon Still Up In The Air

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WASHINGTON (AP) — What in the world was that thing?

The massive white orb that drifted across U.S. airspace this week and was shot down by the Air Force over the Atlantic on live television Saturday triggered a diplomatic maelstrom and blew up on social media.

China insists the balloon was just an errant civilian airship used mainly for meteorological research that went off course due to winds and had only limited “self-steering” capabilities. It also issued a threat of “further actions.”

In a statement after the craft was shot down, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the use of force by the U.S. was “an obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practice.”

It added: ”China will resolutely uphold the relevant company’s legitimate rights and interests, and at the same time reserving the right to take further actions in response.”

The United States says it was a Chinese spy balloon without a doubt. Its presence prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a weekend trip to China that was aimed at dialing down tensions that were already high between the countries.

The Pentagon says the balloon, which was carrying sensors and surveillance equipment, was maneuverable and showed it could change course. It loitered over sensitive areas of Montana where nuclear warheads are siloed, leading the military to take actions to prevent it from collecting intelligence.

A U.S. Air Force fighter jet shot down the balloon Saturday afternoon off the Carolina coast. Television footage showed a small explosion, followed by the balloon slowly drifting toward the water. An operation is underway to recover the remnants.

A look at what’s known about the balloon — and what isn’t:

IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE, IT’S A … SPY BALLOON

The Pentagon and other U.S. officials say it was a Chinese spy balloon — about the size of three school buses — that moved east over America at an altitude of about 60,000 feet (18,600 meters). The U.S. says it was being used for surveillance and intelligence collection, but officials have provided few details.

U.S. defense and military officials said Saturday that the balloon entered the U.S. air defense zone north of the Aleutian Islands on Jan. 28 and moved over land across Alaska and into Canadian airspace in the Northwest Territories on Jan. 30. The next day it crossed back into U.S. territory over northern Idaho. U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive topic.

The White House said Biden was first briefed on the balloon on Tuesday. The State Department said Blinken and Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman spoke with China’s senior Washington-based official on Wednesday evening about the matter.

In the first public U.S. statement, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said Thursday evening that the balloon was not a military or physical threat — an acknowledgement that it was not carrying weapons. He said that “once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.”

Even if the balloon was not armed, it posed a risk to the U.S., said retired Army Gen. John Ferrari, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The flight itself, he said, could be used to test America’s ability to detect incoming threats and to find holes in the country’s air defense warning system. It may also have allowed the Chinese to sense electromagnetic emissions that higher-altitude satellites cannot detect, such as low-power radio frequencies that could help them understand how different U.S. weapons systems communicate.

On Wednesday as the balloon loitered over Montana, Biden authorized the military to shoot it down as soon as it was in a location where there would not be undue risk to civilians. Due to its massive size and altitude, the debris field of its sensors and the balloon itself was expected to stretch for miles. So, top military and defense leaders advised Biden not to take it down over land, even when it was over sparsely populated areas.

At 2:39 p.m. Saturday, as the balloon flew in U.S. airspace about 6 nautical miles off the coast of South Carolina, a single F-22 fighter jet from Virginia’s Langley Air Force Base — flying at an altitude of 58,000 feet — fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder into it. The Sidewinder is a short-range missile used by the Navy and Air Force primarily for air-to-air engagements, the missile is about 10 feet long and weighs about 200 pounds.

Live news feeds showed the moment of impact, as the balloon collapsed and began a lengthy fall into the Atlantic.

The F-22 was supported by an array of Air Force and Air National Guard fighter jets and tankers, including F-15s from Massachusetts and tanker aircraft from Oregon, Montana, Massachusetts, South Carolina and North Carolina. All pilots returned safely to base and there were no injuries or other damage on the ground, a senior military official told reporters in a Saturday briefing.

As the deflated balloon was slowly drifting down, U.S. Navy vessels had already moved in, waiting to collect the debris.

The Federal Aviation Administration had temporarily closed airspace over the Carolina coast, including the airports in Myrtle Beach and Charleston, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina. And the FAA and Coast Guard worked to clear the airspace and water below the balloon.

Once the balloon crashed into the water, U.S. officials said, the debris field stretched at least 7 miles, and was in water 47 feet deep. That depth is shallower than what they had planned, making it easier to retrieve pieces of the sensor package and other parts that may be salvageable.

Officials said the USS Oscar Austin, a Navy destroyer, the USS Carter Hall, a dock landing ship, and the USS Philippine Sea, a guided missile cruiser, are all part of the recovery effort, and a salvage vessel will arrive in a few days. They said Navy divers will be on hand if needed, along with unmanned vessels that can recover debris and lift it back up to the ships. The FBI will also be present to categorize and assess anything recovered, officials said.

As for intelligence value, the U.S. officials said the balloon’s voyage across the U.S. gave experts several days to analyze it, gather technical data, and learn a lot about what it was doing, how it was doing it and why China may be using things like this. They declined to provide details, but said they expect to learn more as they gather and scrutinize the debris

SPY BALLOONS HAVE A HISTORY

Spy balloons aren’t new — primitive ones date back centuries, but they came into greater use in World War II.

U.S. officials said Saturday that similar Chinese balloons transited the continental United States briefly at least three times during the Trump administration and once that they know about earlier in the Biden administration. But none of those incidents lasted this length of time.

During World War II, Japan launched thousands of hydrogen balloons carrying bombs, and hundreds ended up in the U.S. and Canada. Most were ineffective, but one was lethal. In May 1945, six civilians died when they found one of the balloons on the ground in Oregon, and it exploded.

In the aftermath of the war, America’s own balloon effort ignited the alien stories and lore linked to Roswell, New Mexico.

According to military research documents and studies, the U.S. began using giant trains of balloons and sensors that were strung together and stretched more than 600 feet as part of an early effort to detect Soviet missile launches during the post-World War II era. They called it Project Mogul.

One of the balloon trains crash-landed at the Roswell Army Airfield in 1947, and Air Force personnel who were not aware of the program found debris. The unusual experimental equipment made it difficult to identify, leaving the airmen with unanswered questions that over time — aided by UFO enthusiasts — took on a life of their own. The simple answer, according to the military reports, was just over the Sacramento Mountains at the Project Mogul launch site in Alamogordo.

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Ellen Knickmeyer, Matthew Lee, Aamer Madhani and Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.

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Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani spring plans set despite unknown future

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Though Shohei Ohtani’s long-term future with the Los Angeles Angels is decidedly uncertain as he heads into the final season under contract, the two-way superstar’s plans for the spring are all set.

Ohtani will make one start on the Cactus League mound this month for the Angels before he heads to Japan on March 1 for the World Baseball Classic, Halos general manager Perry Minasian said Saturday.

Whatever Ohtani wants to do in the tournament is entirely up him and the Japanese team, since the Angels will stick to their long-standing policy of allowing him to do whatever he feels is best for his growth on his unique career path.

“I am not worried about Shohei Ohtani,” Minasian said. “He’s been in Arizona for a while now. He’s preparing for the season. He’s doing everything he needs to do to be ready to go when the bell rings. He’ll get the proper work in when he needs it. He’s the least of my concerns.”

Ohtani’s future beyond 2023 might be the most of Minasian’s concerns, although the GM isn’t giving much insight into the Angels’ hopes of retaining the player who won the 2021 AL MVP award and finished second in last season’s vote after going 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA while also batting .273 with 34 homers and 95 RBIs.


Los Angeles Angels' Shohei Ohtani pitches against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Oct. 5, 2022.
Ohtani may take his skills to another city as he looks to play for a contender.
AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vasquez, File

Ohtani will make $30 million this season under his final year of team control. Angels fans are clamoring for their team to sign Ohtani to a long-term deal at any price, while fans from Boston to San Diego are salivating at the prospect of adding the majors’ greatest two-way player.

Minasian deftly avoided any definitive statements about the Angels’ chances of keeping Ohtani beyond this summer.

“Obviously, we love Shohei Ohtani,” Minasian said. “This whole organization would like nothing more than to see him here for a long, long time. … We love the player. We love what he’s about. He’s somebody that we can envision here for a long, long time.”

Speculation about the Angels’ chances of signing Ohtani has fluctuated wildly since they completed their seventh consecutive losing season and eighth consecutive non-playoff season — both the worst droughts in the majors.


Shohei Ohtani, left, of Los Angeles Angels, and Japan's manager Hideki Kuriyama, right, pose together during a press conference in Tokyo, Japan, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023.
Ohtani’s spring plans include him playing for Japan in the World Baseball Classic.
Iori Sagisawa/Kyodo News via AP

At 28 as he heads into his sixth big league season, Ohtani has made it clear wants to play for a winner, and the Angels have not been winners since the middle of the previous decade. But aside from the usual optimism of a fresh season with new signings and the possibility of improved roster health, Orange County fans still have hope because of Ohtani’s loyalty and the Angels’ willingness to allow him to train and to play in any way he chooses.

“There’s a respect level here, obviously,” Minasian said. “He chose to play here, and I think that was one of the reasons he chose to play here. We’ve been able to agree on two deals over the last two years, which is not easy to do. There’s a respect and trust level there that I don’t think will change. I think the relationship is outstanding.”

Angels owner Arte Moreno explored a sale of the season throughout the winter before deciding last month that he will keep the team. Moreno’s departure likely would have brought in a wealthy new owner capable of making a splash by paying top dollar to Ohtani amid a new commitment to winning, but Moreno is also capable of handing out lavish contracts — even if most of his biggest deals have gone wrong.

Minasian obviously couldn’t speculate on whether Moreno’s retention of the team improved or hurt its chances of keeping Ohtani.

“He’s already invested in this club throughout his whole ownership,” Minasian said. “We’ve been top-10 in payroll for a long time. I don’t see that changing. Knowing (Moreno) and knowing how much he wants to win, I wouldn’t put anything out of the realm of possibility.”

Minasian said first baseman Jared Walsh and pitchers Griffin Canning and Chris Rodriguez will be ready to go for an essentially normal spring training after missing much of 2022 due to injuries. The GM also confirmed the Angels are still looking for bullpen additions, and they haven’t decided on the identity of their sixth starter in the rotation around Ohtani.

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An Impractical Joker & Post Malone almost got arrested

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They almost became the “Imprisoned Jokers.”

While filming Season 10 of “Impractical Jokers” in a Gramercy parking garage, Brian “Q” Quinn and guest star Post Malone almost got driven to jail.

The two posed as parking attendants at Little Man Parking on E. 22nd Street, which was in on the joke. But the customers were not — and one ultimately called the cops.

“Thankfully they were fans of the show,” said James “Murr” Murray of the arriving police. “We almost got Q and Post Malone arrested.”

In the episode, Malone pretends to have smoked pot in an unsuspecting customer’s car.

“Boss, thanks for letting me smoke that up in there, man,” the rapper says to Quinn in front of the bewildered customer, coughing as smoke billows out of the vehicle.


impractical jokers and post malone
The Impractical Jokers and Post Malone had some fun with customers’ cars at a parking garage in Gramercy.
aysia marotta

Another disgruntled patron placed the NYPD call but was forgiving after he learned he was on the hidden-camera show.

“The guy who called the cops actually had a very generous attitude about it once we told him what was going on,” Quinn explained.

For the new season, premiering on truTV and TBS on Feb. 9, the comics were filmed in every borough, a welcome return after a lot of controlled shoots in New Jersey during the pandemic.


Impractical Jokers and John Mayer
John Mayer was the first fan to ever email the Jokers.
Ryan Muir

“You’re gonna see us in New York City supermarkets again and delis and like all the places that we used to,” said Quinn. “We were able to shoot back in Tompkins Square Park.”

And they’re already spitballing ideas for a series finale.

“One day, many years from now, when the show ends, the loser is forced to go back to high school,” said Murray. “Like you go to school every day … in your late 40s.”

For these three pranksters, the classroom re-do would likely be at Monsignor Farrell High School on Staten Island, where they first met in 1990.

The trio, all 46, credits the improv club at the all-boys school in Oakwood for putting them on the road to success.

“I don’t know where this would have ended up exactly if I didn’t take improv in high school and fall in love with that and then also start doing it with each other,” Sal Vulcano told The Post. “I mean, I don’t know if this goes the same way.”

The forgotten borough is honoring its goofy sons by declaring Feb. 6 and every first Monday in February moving forward as Impractical Jokers Day.


Real estate photo of Ariemma's Italian Deli in Staten Island for Practical Jokers story.
“You’re gonna see us in New York City supermarkets again and delis and like all the places that we used to,” said Quinn, who named Ariemma’s Italian Deli as one of his favorite spots on Staten Island.
white

“Are we getting paid for this in some way?” asked Murray. “I’ll tell you what … I’ll take maybe one free Verrazzano toll per month. That’ll be worth it.”

“I think we get a giant key to Staten Island,” added Quinn, who hopes it will gain him entry to “a mysterious cave in the center of Staten Island [where] Cornelius Vanderbilt is still alive.”

Another celebrity guest this season is John Mayer, who sent the troupe its first fan email in 2011.


For these three pranksters, the classroom re-do would likely be at Monsignor Farrell High School on Staten Island, where they first met in 1990.
For these three pranksters, the classroom re-do would likely be at Monsignor Farrell High School on Staten Island, where they met in 1990.

“We didn’t believe it was from him,” explained Murray. “We’re like, ‘BS. This is not John Mayer. Send us proof of life.’ And five minutes later he sends us a photo of him holding up a picture of us on his iPad.”

Now, over a decade later, the guys can’t even take the subway without getting recognized.

“It’s a mixture of just like bear hugging us and making us call their wives or just telling us what we need to do on the show,” said Vulcano of their fan encounters.

Most also assume they are on TV whenever they see them.

“I was at a Giants game … at halftime [at the] urinal,” said Murray. “And the guy to my left leans over, whispers in my ear, and says, ‘Am I on TV right now?’”

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Biden failed with Chinese spy balloon handling, pols claim

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Washington reacted to the President Biden’s handling of the Chinese spy balloon with mixed reviews, with praise and criticism falling mainly along party lines.

“Joe Biden was tested on the world stage and abysmally failed,” New York’s Elise Stefanik, the No. 3 House Republican tweeted hours after the balloon was shot down.

“The Chinese spy balloon should never have been allowed to cross into our sovereign nation gathering intelligence.”

Two US Air Force fighter jets took out the balloon over a week after it first breached the US border.

By the time it was shot down off the coast of North Carolina Saturday, the spy device had covered more than 4,000 miles of American territory.

Biden admitted that the Pentagon had known about the huge white orb — the size of three school buses — since it entered US air space, but decided to keep their knowledge of the balloon a secret.


The suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts to the ocean after being shot down off the coast in Surfside Beach, South Carolina.
The suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts to the ocean after being shot down.
REUTERS

The administration also decided to allow the balloon to travel the length of the country because shooting it down over water would be safer than over land, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said.

“If it was worth shooting down, why was it permitted to drift across the continental US first? And can its mechanisms be recovered and examined?” Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) questioned.

Democrats were mostly quiet about Biden’s decision to shoot down the balloon, but those who spoke up took the opportunity to criticize China.


President Xi Jinping
The Chinese government claimed that the surveillance balloon was a weather balloon.
Xinhua News Agency via Getty Ima

U.S. President Joe Biden gestures to reporters before boarding Air Force One.
Politicians slammed Biden for waiting to shoot down the balloon over a week after it entered US airspace.
REUTERS

“I strongly condemn President Xi’s brazen incursion into American airspace, and I commend President Biden’s leadership in taking down the Chinese balloon over water to ensure safety for all Americans. Now we can collect the equipment and analyze the technology used by the CCP,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said.

“It’s down folks!” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) tweeted.

China claims that the balloon was a “civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes” that had unintentionally crossed into American airspace.


Representative Elise Stefanik, a Republican from New York, speaks during a news conference in Washington.
Rep. Elise Stefanik said Biden “abysmally failed” after waiting over a week to shoot down the balloon.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Louisiana’s Republican Rep. Mike Johnson said the balloon “SHOULD have been removed as soon a it crossed into U.S. territory days ago. This fiasco was as dangerous to our national security as it was unacceptable. The American people deserve answers.”

“First Biden refused to defend our borders. Now he won’t defend our skies,” Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said.

“Joe Biden knew the Chinese spy balloon was coming,” the House Republican Committee on the Judiciary tweeted amid a long stream of condemning posts.

“Tried to hide it from the American people. Let it fly across the ENTIRE COUNTRY. And only after the entire country begged him to act, our great military shot it down. Embarrassing. Scary. Sad.”

Congressman Matt Rosendale, who represents the Montana city of Billings where footage of the balloon first alerted the public to its existence, had complained about the government’s lack of transparency concerning the spy device before it was shot down.

“Now that China has gathered information about our infrastructure and military for over a week, we finally bring down the balloon!” he tweeted after it was eliminated.


Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi and ranking member of Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, speaks during a hearing.
Sen. Roger Wicker claimed Biden may have gone against US airspace protocol.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Ryan Zilke, who also represents Montana, suggested that the Biden administration should have taken the opportunity to shoot the balloon when it was seen hovering over his state, claiming that his constituents “do not bow. We shoot it down.”

Sen. Sussan Collins (R-ME) reiterated Zilke’s statement, offering that there was ample opportunity to take out the balloon over remote areas in Montana or Alaska.


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Luke Skywalker Actor Mark Hamill Selling Signed ‘Star Wars’ Posters For Ukraine’s Drones

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Luke Skywalker aka Mark Hamill is about to sell a limited number of autographed “Star Wars” posters to raise funds to maintain Ukraine’s drone operation in the nation’s “inspirational” fight against the Russian military, the actor told Politico.

The sale is expected to start next week ahead of the Feb. 24 one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine, just as Russia is planning a major new offensive.

It’s “not something” he typically does, Hamill told Politico Friday, but he’s eager to pitch in now to support Ukraine, whose fight against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invading army is “nothing short of inspirational,” he said.

Details of the poster sale haven’t yet been worked out. It may involve “hundreds of thousands” of interested people participating in an auction or some kind of competition, said Hamill.

Hamill told Politico that a message of “Star Wars” is to do the “right thing for the good of everyone, rather than being all about self-interest.”

But he warned that comparing “Star Wars” to the actual war with Russia shouldn’t trivialize “the true horrors of what Ukrainians face.”

“One is really a fairy tale for children, originally that’s what Star Wars was,” he noted. “And the reality, the stark reality of what’s going on in Ukraine, is harrowing.”

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Islander’ Bo Horvat can ‘do it all’

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SUNRISE, Fla. — Connor McDavid has spent his career dealing with Bo Horvat in the Pacific Division. So the Oilers star, who is universally acclaimed as the NHL’s best, knows well what the Islanders are How the betting market reacted to Islanders’ Bo Horvat trade, who will make his debut with his new team on Monday in Philadelphia after he was acquired from the Canucks this past week.

“He’s gonna be somebody that brings it each and every night,” McDavid said. “Somebody that can play at both ends of the rink. Obviously he’s having a career year scoring goals. Defensively, he’s solid. He’s great on the kill. Obviously his faceoff numbers speak for themselves. They’re kind of getting somebody that can do it all.”

It likely won’t be clear where Horvat will slot into the Islanders’ lineup until they take pregame rushes Monday. But the educated guess is he will be taking faceoffs on the top line with Mathew Barzal, though who would slide over to play the wing is an open question.

Horvat’s 31 goals this season have already matched his career high. With his shooting percentage at an unsustainable 21.7 percent, it’s unlikely he’ll score at a 50-goal pace beyond this season if he stays with the Islanders. But they are getting a player capable of scoring at least 30 times annually — something they needed to add to their lineup badly.


Central Division forward Cale Makar (8) of the Colorado Avalanche reaches for the puck against Pacific Division forward Bo Horvat (14) of the New York Islanders during the first period of a semifinal game during the 2023 NHL All-Star Game at FLA Live Arena.
Bo Horvat to the Islanders sends one of the NHL’s best scorers to Long Island.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY

“I just think his confidence is there,” McDavid said. “He got off to a real good start, that helps so many different things. Obviously namely confidence. He feels good about himself, I think he feels good about his game. It just shows out there.”

Horvat skated with McDavid and the rest of the Pacific Division All-Stars on Saturday, though he wore an Islanders jersey at the skills competition Friday night. 

“We talked about it,” said Pettersson, Horvat’s former teammate with the Canucks. “Whatever happens, make sure we score one together.”

Horvat’s focus now will turn to getting acclimated with the Islanders, who will practice on Sunday before going to Philadelphia.


Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers competes in the Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting during the 2023 NHL All-Star Skills Competition at FLA Live Arena on February 03, 2023 in Sunrise, Florida.
McDavid commended his former Bo Horvat, his now ex-Pacific Division rival, for his play.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

“[All-Star] was great, but at the same time, I wanted to get going,” Horvat said. “Enough’s enough now. Let’s start playing some games and get to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

He has at least gotten a chance this weekend to meet Brock Nelson and Ilya Sorokin, his new Islanders teammates and fellow All-Stars.

“He’s gonna bring a huge element to our team up front, depth, scoring,” Nelson said. “He does a little bit of everything. Kills, power play, five-on-five. So he’s gonna be a huge part of our team. That’s a big move for us, a big move by Lou [Lamoriello] to kinda try to get things going.”

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’80 for Brady’ scores a touchdown at the box office

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The sports comedy “80 for Brady” scored a touchdown at the box office Friday, with $5.45 million in sales on its opening night, according to IMDB’s Box Office Mojo.

The flick, which The Post called “a fumble” follows four friends — played by Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sally Field and Rita Moreno — who travel to the 2017 Super Bowl to witness their hero Tom Brady play football.

Landing in second was the thriller “Knock at the Cabin,” with a $5.4 million take. The Post called the film “[director] M. Night Shyamalan’s latest sledgehammer.”

“Avatar: The Way of Water” which held the top spot last Friday, seven weeks after its release, plunged to third place with $2.35 million in sales.

The theatrical release of the crowdfunded series about Jesus Christ, “The Chosen” Season 3: Episode 1 & 2, came in fourth, taking home $2.27 million.

“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” which was in second place last Friday, crawled its way down to fifth, earning $1.69 million.

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