Buddhist monks protest arrival of Rohingya aid ship in Myanmar

Feb. 9 (UPI) — Buddhist monks and other protesters demonstrated in Myanmar against the arrival of a ship from Malaysia carrying aid for thousands of Rohingya people.

The protesters on Thursday waved Myanmar’s national flag and signs reading “No Rohingya” in Yangon’s Thilawa Port. Buddhist national groups are opposed to the presence of the ethnic Rohingya in Myanmar — calling them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, though many have lived in Myanmar for generations.

The protesters also oppose using the word “Rohingya” at all because, to them, they are people from Bangladesh living illegally in Myanmar. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in Myanmar.

The aid ship, the Nautical Aliya, which carried more than 2,200 of cargo for Rohingyas in Myanmar and Bangladesh, docked at about 3 p.m. The ship will drop off 500 tons of aid in Myanmar before departing to Bangladesh.

“We want to let them know that we have no Rohingya here,” a Buddhist monk from the Yangon chapter of the Patriotic Myanmar Monks Union said at the docks.

More than 66,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar since October 2016 after the army launched a military crackdown following an attack by a Rohingya militant group.

Malaysia has been critical of Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya since the start of the military crackdown accused of human rights abuses.

The ship was met by a crowd of about 100 people — including protesters but mostly journalists and local officials, such as Myanmar’s Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Minister Win Myat Aye, Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican and Malaysian Ambassador to Myanmar Mohd Haniff.

Miami Heat beat Milwaukee Bucks, extend win streak to 12

MILWAUKEE — Two teams headed in opposite directions maintained their current courses Wednesday night as Miami extended its winning streak to 12 games with a 106-88 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, who lost for the 11th time in their last 13 games.

Hassan Whiteside led the way, scoring 23 points with 16 rebounds, while James Johnson added 29 off the bench, and Wayne Ellington knocked down five 3-pointers to finish with 17 points.

Goran Dragic got things started for Miami. The veteran guard scored nine of his 16 points in the first quarter as the Heat raced to a 17-2 lead out of the gate.

They held Milwaukee to 7-for-21 shooting in the opening quarter and while the Bucks managed to get within six midway through the second, Miami clamped down on the defensive end, took an 11-point lead into halftime and never let the lead get lower than nine the rest of the way.

“We’ve developed a thick skin and some mental toughness,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’ve been through a lot of battles and a lot of close games, a lot of pain. We’ve gained some experience from that pain. And now we’re starting to execute better and with a little bit more poise at the end of the games.”

The Bucks were hoping to get a boost from the return of Khris Middleton, who had been sidelined since tearing his left hamstring on the eve of training camp and missed the first 50 games of the season.

Instead, they’re facing an uncertain future after forward Jabari Parker suffered a left knee injury midway through the third quarter.

Parker was driving to the basket when his left knee seemed to buckle, sending him to the ground. He had to be helped off the floor by his teammates and did not return.

The team called it a sprained left knee and Parker will undergo an MRI examination Thursday.

“It’s disappointing,” center Greg Monroe said. “At first, when he asked for a second, that’s when I realized it was kind of serious. It’s tough. I don’t exactly know what’s wrong with him at this point, so I can’t comment on it. I just know, for him, coming back from his previous injury and how hard he worked. I know he doesn’t want to be in that situation. So, we’re praying for him.”

Parker tore the ACL in the same knee just 25 games into his rookie season. He underwent surgery and missed the final 56 games of the 2014-15 campaign and the first four last season before returning to action.

But general manager John Hammond wasn’t in the mood to speculate.

“We’re not even going to go there until we know more and that won’t be determined until tomorrow,” Hammond said.

Before the injury, Parker was one of the few bright spots for the Bucks, hitting six of 11 shots for 14 points.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee with 22, including a pair of 3-pointers with eight rebounds and a pair of steals.

Michael Beasley was the only other Milwaukee player to score in double-digits, finishing with 11.

“There’s a lot of things we can clean up in that game,” Monroe said. “That’s it. That’s all we can say, really. They played harder than us.”

Milwaukee began the day 11th in the Eastern Conference, a game ahead of Miami. The teams now are tied, and sit two games behind Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

“We have to do a lot more energy and effort into what we’re doing,” said reserve guard Jason Terry. “We’ve done it. We’re just so inconsistent with that energy and effort that we have to look inside ourselves and figure it out.

“The season will be over quicker than you know it if we don’t figure this out.”

NOTES: Wednesday marked the season debut of G-F Khris Middleton, who missed the Bucks’ first 50 games after tearing his left hamstring on the eve of training camp. Middleton, the Bucks’ leading scorer a year ago, scored five points in 15 minutes of work. … The Heat’s 12-game winning streak is the longest in NBA history by a sub-.500 team and matches this year’s Golden State Warriors, who also won 12 straight. … Both C Roy Hibbert and F-C Spencer Hawes were inactive for the Bucks. Neither player has seen action since they were acquired last week from the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for C Miles Plumlee. Bucks coach Jason Kidd said he wanted them to get more practice time before seeing game action.

Birthday boy Klay Thompson leads Golden State Warriors past Chicago Bulls

OAKLAND, Calif. — Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson celebrated his 27th birthday Wednesday like none of the previous 26.

One day after attending the funeral of his grandfather, Thompson returned to the basketball court with a purpose — to win an NBA game on his birthday for the first time.

Six 3-pointers and 28 points later, mission accomplished.

“Third time’s the charm, I guess,” Thompson proudly stated after he and his Warriors teammates outscored the Chicago Bulls 45-12 from beyond the 3-point arc on their way to a comfortable 123-92 win.

The victory, which came three days after a loss at Sacramento, allowed the Warriors to extend their NBA-record streak of games without consecutive losses to 138.

Golden State is now 18-0 following a loss in the run that dates back to April 2015.

Kevin Durant recorded a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double with seven assists, and Draymond Green added 19 points to complement eight rebounds and six assists as the Warriors (44-8) recorded their seventh straight home win.

The Bulls (26-27) were playing without All-Star small forward Jimmy Butler, who missed his third consecutive game with a bruised heel, and shooting guard Dwyane Wade, who stayed at the team hotel because of an upper-respiratory illness.

“There’s never any excuses in this league,” said Bulls center Robin Lopez, who had team highs in points (17) and rebounds (10). “We didn’t come out the right way in the first quarter. We committed a lot of turnovers … so we were playing from behind.”

The game began with many, including Warriors coach Steve Kerr, wondering about his team’s mindset.

Golden State was playing at home against an outmatched team, had a possible look-ahead to an attention-grabbing back-to-back at Memphis and Oklahoma City, and had endured a second Durant-Green squabble Sunday night in Sacramento.

And then there was Thompson, who was away from the team Monday and Tuesday while dealing with his family matter.

Turns out, Thompson was the least of the Warriors’ worries.

“Tough time,” Thompson said of the aftermath of his grandfather’s death. “My family loves to watch me play. This was a good way to honor them tonight.”

The outcome wasn’t in doubt for long after the Warriors broke from an 11-11 tie with a 13-point flurry. Thompson contributed a pair of 3-pointers and Durant a three-point play to the early runaway.

The Warriors extended the lead to 15 in the second quarter and 20 in the third en route to a ninth consecutive home win this season against Eastern Conference competition.

All 13 Warriors scored, including newcomer Briante Weber, who not only dropped in a hoop but also participated in a late runaway.

“I loved the way we finished the game,” Kerr said. “We had the upper hand in talent with their injuries. We just had to stick with it.”

Thompson, who made his 400th career start, finished 10 of 18 from the field and 6 of 9 on 3-pointers, helping the Warriors go 15 of 28 from beyond the arc.

Green made five of his six 3-point attempts.

Stephen Curry had one of the 3-pointers but saw his streak of consecutive games with 20 or more points end at 16. He finished with 13 points in just 28 minutes.

The Bulls, meanwhile, missed 20 of their 24 3-point attempts.

Taj Gibson supported frontcourt mate Lopez with 15 points and nine rebounds for the Bulls, who fell to 2-2 on their six-game trip.

“Golden State … when they lost (to Sacramento) and had some time to recover and regroup, it’s a tough team to play against,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Especially when there’s some controversy (the Durant-Green dispute) that sounds like it was mostly (baloney).”

Backup Rajon Rondo had a game-high eight assists to go with 12 points and six rebounds for Chicago, which shot just 40.2 percent from the field.

The Warriors made 55.8 percent of their shots overall and totaled 37 assists on 48 hoops.

NOTES: Warriors SG Klay Thompson not only had lost on his birthday twice previously in his NBA career, but he averaged only 13.0 points in those games. … The Warriors’ next two games are Friday at Memphis, which has beaten Golden State twice already this season, and Saturday at Oklahoma City in SF Kevin Durant’s return. … The Bulls finish of their six-game trip at Phoenix on Friday and at Minnesota on Sunday. … Bulls SF Jimmy Butler (bruised heel) reported continuing pain during Wednesday’s shootaround, making him doubtful to return Friday. … The Bulls expect to get SG Dwyane Wade (upper respiratory infection) back for the Phoenix game.

Miller: History against Atlanta Falcons' return to Super Bowl

The Atlanta Falcons were one of the youngest teams to reach the Super Bowl, nearly won it but lost to an all-time great performance by an all-time great quarterback, and, you might think, left Houston well-positioned to make another championship run in 2017.

Don’t count on it.

History tells us it has become increasingly difficult for teams to make that second climb up the mountain after losing the Super Bowl. It was not always that way; in fact, in the early years of the NFL’s Roman numeral game, losers routinely came back to win soon after, sometimes the next year. Now, however, in an era of more intense pressure and scrutiny, it rarely happens.

Ernie Accorsi, a retired general manager who led the New York Giants to the Super Bowl and the old Cleveland Browns to the precipice, once explained the difference between then and now. Basically, it comes down to the scrutiny teams undergo when they lose.

Years ago, he said, a team would lose a big game, would get on its plane and come back home and perhaps a couple of local writers or broadcasters would ask a few questions and then move on.

Now, however, every game is magnified, every question seemingly is loaded with nuance, and the attention is much greater. In the case of the Falcons, perhaps even moreso because of their carelessness trying to protect a huge lead, with a coach who only two years earlier experienced what can happen against the New England Patriots if you’re not careful.

Yes, as much as Kyle Shanahan can be faulted for the play-calling that led to sacks that kept the Falcons from clinching the game, it was incumbent on coach Dan Quinn to tell Shanahan to tone it down late in the third and in the fourth quarter. That’s the head coach’s job. Especially a head coach who saw what happened to his own team 104 weeks earlier, when he was with a Seattle team that threw a pass it should not have thrown instead of handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch at the goal line.

The Falcons are young enough to be resilient. Eight of their 11 defensive starters in the Super Bowl were in their first two years in the NFL. So maybe they can close their eyes, pretend it didn’t happen or use it as a learning experience, and return next year fully prepared to make another championship run.

Perhaps.

But perhaps they will so damaged by the way their season ended, the young Falcons will have a hard time getting focused, psyched and prepared to undergo the mental and physical rigors of another climb through the NFL gauntlet. A quarterback named Dan Marino could tell them what happens when you lose a Super Bowl you expect to win early in your career, and count on getting another chance.

In the 1984 season, his second in the NFL, Marino threw 48 touchdown passes, at the time a record. But the Dolphins could score just one touchdown in the Super Bowl and were hammered by the San Francisco 49ers, 38-16. Marino played 15 more seasons, but never reached another Super Bowl.

Take a look at what happened to the Carolina Panthers, last year’s Super Bowl loser, whose quarterback Cam Newton was supposed to be the Next Big Thing in the NFL. Newton’s TD-interception ratio dropped from 35-10 to 19-14, his passer rating fell from 99.4 to 75.8, his rushing yardage fell from 636 to 359, and the Panthers, who were 15-1 in the 2015 regular season, were 6-10 in 2016.

Seattle, which lost the Super Bowl following the 2014 season (after winning the previous one), also has suffered a Super Bowl hangover. The Seahawks lost in the divisional playoff round the last two years.

Discounting New England, which has made the Super Bowl a regular part of its schedule with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, the only team in the last quarter-century that lost a Super Bowl and returned to win one within five years was Denver, with Peyton Manning. The Broncos were crushed by Seattle in the Super Bowl following the 2013 season, but beat Carolina two years later.

In the early years of the Super Bowl, however, it happened all the time. Kansas City lost Super Bowl I and won Super Bowl IV. Baltimore lost Super Bowl III and won Super Bowl V. Dallas, which lost Super Bowl V, won the next year, beating Miami, which then won the next two Super Bowls. Dallas lost Super Bowl X but came back to win Super Bowl XII.

Certainly, Atlanta will be a favorite in the NFC in the 2017 season. But the Falcons will have to hope a new offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, can help them put the Super Bowl disappointment aside, and they’ll have to hope their young players can manage to climb that mountain again while putting aside the avalanche that ended the 2016 season.

It’s not impossible, of course. But it doesn’t happen very often anymore.

Ira Miller is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the National Football League for more than five decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a national columnist for The Sports Xchange.

NBC's Bob Costas being replaced by Mike Tirico at Olympics

Tirico and Costas (Source: NBC)Tirico and Costas (Source: NBC)

NEW YORK (AP) – NBC’s Bob Costas is saying goodbye to the Olympics.

The network says the veteran sportscaster is stepping down as the prime-time host of NBC’s Olympics telecast, starting at the next winter games in South Korea.

He’ll be replaced by Mike Tirico, who has been the heir apparent since joining NBC from ESPN last year.

Costas has been the prime-time host for 11 Olympics televised by NBC since 1992.

He is 64 years old. He said he felt the time was right and that he was grateful NBC let him decide that on his own.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

GA Peanut Commission's 'Report Day' is underway

Last year's Peanut Show (Source: Tifton Grapevine)Last year’s Peanut Show (Source: Tifton Grapevine)
TIFTON, GA (WALB) –

The Georgia Peanut Commission is holding the annual Research Report Day, at the National Environmentally Sound Production Agriculture Laboratory (NESPAL), located on the University of Georgia Tifton campus.

The event provides growers and industry representatives an opportunity to hear the latest reports and newest information available on peanut research projects funded by GPC in 2016.

“The commission works to wisely invest peanut farmers’ dollars into research projects across Georgia in an effort to reduce production input costs and improve agronomic techniques,” says Donald Chase, GPC Research Committee chairman. “Although some of the findings are preliminary, the projects are exciting and many times new recommendations or observations are announced.”

The commission awarded $423,000 to peanut research facilities in the state last year. Thirty research projects from the University of Georgia and the USDA Agricultural Research Service were paid for by the commission.

The Georgia Peanut Commission’s research programs primarily focus on peanut breeding for higher yield and improved quality; economics, conservation methods, irrigation and water management, pests, weed and disease management, and peanut allergy research.
 

Copyright 2017 WALB.  All rights reserved.

TONIGHT: GA Firebirds host Sharks in storm benefit game

(Source: Jax Sharks)(Source: Jax Sharks)
ALBANY, GA (WALB) –

The Georgia Firebirds of the National Arena League will host the Jacksonville Sharks in a preseason game tonight (Feb. 9) at the Albany Civic Center, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.

The game is a charitable community event to benefit the victims of the South Georgia Tornadoes that struck Albany and surrounding communities January 21-22.

The Jacksonville Sharks are hosting a food drive that will take all donations up to Albany for the relief of those in South Georgia still recovering from the multiple tornadoes that devastated the region.

This will be the first of a home and home series with the two teams squaring off in Jacksonville in preseason 2018. This game will mark the Shark’s first preseason game in three seasons and will be the first official exhibition since joining the National Arena League.

The preseason game will not only benefit both teams with some early competition in preparation for the highly anticipated 2017 season, but will give fans something to celebrate, after a trying time brought on by the tornadoes.

Copyright 2017 WALB.  All rights reserved.

Mother of 2016 homicide victim pleads for answers, peace

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –

It’s been nearly two months since Pamela Davis lost her only child to an act of violence.

“Honestly, I am numb without my baby,” Davis said with tears in her eyes. “I be in my house everyday, and I look at his room everyday and he’s not here.”

On December 11, 2016, Davis began her day with a desperate search for her only child Justin King, even sending out a Facebook post asking for help. But hours later, her worst nightmare unfolded at the corner of East Broad and Old Blaylock Lane. When she arrived on the scene of the investigation late that Sunday night, an officer told her the news she feared the most.

“He said Pam…that’s Justin…and my world just collapsed,” Davis said.

“I just couldn’t believe that that was my baby on that railroad track.”

King was dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Now, a memorial stands at the site in his memory with a cross reading “Justice 4 Justin.” It’s a sign of his mother’s plea for answers, but weeks after King’s death, her son’s killer or killers have not been caught.

“I can’t bring my baby back, but the only thing I can ask for is some closure,” she said.

King’s death marked the 14th homicide in Albany in 2016 which was one of the city’s deadliest in decades. With 2017 off to a violent start, Davis is now not only pleading for answers for herself. She’s also pleading for peace.

“We having all these killings. All these senseless killings…it’s not understandable,” she said.

Since January, three people have been killed in Albany in two separate shootings. Davis says she knows on a first hand basis the pain those families are feeling.

“This gun violence it needs to stop. We need to come together as a community because our children are our future.”

She’s hoping that community will help her find closure in the midst of this pain.

“Please…I am pleading with you all in this community. Please if you know anything about Justin King and you know how he was please contact the numbers.”

Anyone with information is urged to call Crimestoppers at 436-TIPS.

Davis is planning a ‘Stop the Violence’ rally to be held on March 18 to honor her son’s birthday. She plans to release the details soon.

Copyright 2017 WALB. All rights reserved.

Remembering the Great Snowstorm of '73

Snowfall total 1973 (Source: National Weather Service)Snowfall total 1973 (Source: National Weather Service)
8 inches of snow fell in Americus8 inches of snow fell in Americus
ALBANY, GA (WALB) –

Once or twice every decade, snow will fall in South Georgia. It never amounts to much.

The rare weather event is about as short lived here as the snowmen built by children.

But in 1973, a winter storm unlike none ever seen before in these parts brought snow, and lots of it, below the “Gnat Line.”

The Great Southeastern Snowstorm began on February 9th and over the next three days it would drop one to two feet of snow from Alabama to the Carolinas.

Albany reported its largest ever snowfall total of 3 inches. Snow even fell as far south as Valdosta which picked up nearly an inch.

Further north, Americus received 8 inches of snow.

Central Georgia saw the largest totals with up to 20 inches of snow reported in the Macon area.

According to the National Weather Service, the conditions were brought on a by cold front that moved through Gulf of Mexico turning moisture into sleet, snow and freezing rain.

Wintry precipitation was reported from Texas to Jacksonville, Florida.

While it was quite the spectacle, it created a traffic nightmare.

Virtually every road was closed in Columbus and Macon. 

But the biggest mess was on I-75. A 200 mile stretch of the interstate was shutdown from central Georgia to the Florida line.

Some 44 years later, those snow totals have not been matched.

But it’s a reminder in this region of unpredictable weather, that yes, snow can happen.

Copyright 2017 WALB.  All rights reserved

Panthers eye region title sweep

AMERICUS, GA (WALB) –

Last year, the Americus-Sumter Lady Panthers won a state title.

This season, the boys’ team hopes to bring home some hardware.

The Panthers already claimed a regular season region title. Now they’ve got their eyes set on a clean sweep. 

Michael Hoffpauer’s bunch has really stepped up this season.

Led by six seniors, Americus-Sumter has launched themselves into the state title conversation. They’re ranked 5th in some Class AAAA polls, and senior forward Kiante Sims has turned into one of the most lethal scorers in the state.

The Panthers won eight of their last ten to close out the regular season, and are ready to finish what they’ve started in Region 1-AAAA.

“We’re a tight unit. We’ve got a good senior group,” says head coach Michael Hoffpauir. “Americus has always been the underdog, no matter what region we’re in. The kids have relished being the regular season champs, but they really want that tournament championship.”

A region title would guarantee at least two home state playoff games for Americus-Sumter. That’s good news, as the team is unbeaten in the Panther Den this season.

Copyright 2017 WALB. All rights reserved.