MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The NBA is investigating the incident between Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes and Knicks coach and former teammate Derek Fisher, a situation Barnes said is “personal matter” involving someone who was a good friend at one point.
“Life happens, and being a professional athlete, you have to be able to maneuver and separate your personal life from your professional life,” Barnes said Thursday after the Grizzlies’ morning shootaround, noting the league’s investigation of the incident in California. “And I’m here to play basketball, so there won’t be any distractions.”
The veteran said in video posted by The Commercial Appeal that he has not spoken with the NBA yet.
“All the real details will come out at some time,” Barnes said.
A person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the incident occurred Saturday while Fisher was attending a gathering at the home of Barnes’ estranged wife, Gloria Govan. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no details were publicly released.
Fisher and Barnes were teammates with the Los Angeles Lakers from 2010-12. The Grizzlies wrapped training camp in Santa Barbara earlier Saturday.
At Knicks’ practice Thursday in Greenburgh, New York, Fisher wouldn’t comment when asked if he might press charges. He said he has talked directly with both management and his players.
“It’s still something I can’t comment on until the situation or the process plays completely out,” Fisher said. “If I decide to or have the opportunity to address it later, I guess I will. At this point, that’s probably not the right thing to do.”
Redondo Beach Lt. Joe Hoffman said police responded to an incident Saturday night, but would not confirm that it was a fight involving Barnes and Fisher.
“There’s no basis for criminal charges, we are not providing any additional information about the location or who was involved,” Hoffman said. “Because no arrest was made, there is no criminal charge being filed, so at this point it’s not a law enforcement matter.”
Memphis acquired Barnes in a draft-day trade in June. Coach Dave Joerger told reporters Thursday that the Grizzlies support Barnes, and the veteran said the support of his new team feels good.
“I explained to them what happened, and they completely understand and had my back,” Barnes said.
Fisher is in his second season with the Knicks after spending most of his playing career in Los Angeles, where his children remain. Fisher missed practice Monday — the team announced at the time it was for personal reasons — and the coach said Thursday plane issues delayed his return. Fisher led the Knicks in their exhibition opener Wednesday night against a Brazilian club team.
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in New York and AP writer Amanda Myers in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
LUXEMBOURG (AP) — The latest developments as hundreds of thousands of people seeking safety make an epic trek through Europe. All times local.
The Czech Republic is planning to further boost its police presence on the border with Austria to be able to deal with a possible influx of migrants.
After the Czechs beefed up security on the Austrian-Czech border on Sept. 13 in response to Germany’s decision to restore border controls, they have been making random controls at 14 border crossings.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Lucie Novakova says that such measures will be done on all 20 crossings, starting Saturday.
The ministry insisted Thursday the Czechs aren’t restoring border controls, at least for now.
But it says if neighboring Austria closes its border, the Czechs would react with further security measures, including canceling some international trains.
Czech territory is so far rarely used by the migrants on their way to Germany and other rich Western countries compared with the Balkans, Hungary and Austria.
Police in Berlin have issued a public appeal for information about the whereabouts of a 4-year-old Bosnian migrant child and an unidentified man who may have abducted him.
Mohamed Januzi was last seen leaving the central registration center for migrants in Berlin with the man on Thursday afternoon.
Police in the German capital said it was unclear how Mohamed became separated from his mother and siblings, but that a crime couldn’t be ruled out.
Spokeswoman Patricia Braemer said the state police’s homicide division has taken up the case.
The man was described as being of central European appearance, aged 35 to 50, with a slender build, dark hair and a beard.
Police published photos and video of Mohamed and the man on their website.
A U.N. official says a wish expressed by some European countries or communities to accept only Christians fleeing war in countries such as Syria could be very “dangerous” because it would lead to divisiveness and breed hostility toward anyone deemed as not belonging there.
Heiner Bielefeldt, a U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, says equating religion with territory could lead to a kind of “religious cleansing” where long-time inhabitants of a country who aren’t adherents to the dominant religion could be labelled as “outsiders at best.”
He says that could, in turn, plant “the seed of violence” and ultimately undermine the messages of peace that religion aims to transmit.
Bielefeldt was speaking Thursday after the end of a regional conference on ways of preventing religious violence.
The governor of Bavaria says his government is considering “self-defense measures” in response to the influx of migrants across the German border.
Horst Seehofer told German daily Bild that the state government will agree on a wide-ranging package of measures Friday that includes “integration, education and training.”
Bild quoted him saying Thursday that “this explicitly also includes self-defense measures to restrict immigration, such as turning people back at the border with Austria and immediately sending asylum seekers elsewhere in Germany.”
Seehofer’s office confirmed the accuracy of the quotes.
Any move to close the German border to migrants would require authorization from federal authorities in Berlin.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she doesn’t support limiting the number of asylum seekers coming to Germany.
Slovakia is following the Czech Republic in offering Hungary police officers to help protect the external border of the European Union and Europe’s visa-free Schengen zone.
Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kalinak announced Tuesday in Luxembourg his country can send 50 officers to Hungary.
Kalinak was attending a meeting of interior ministers of all EU countries.
His announcement came hours after his Czech counterpart, Milan Chovanec, said his country is ready to dispatch 50 police officers and up to 100 soldiers in Hungary.
He said Poland is also considering possible help.
The four EU countries form an informal grouping known as V4.
The U.N. Security Council will vote Friday morning on a resolution that would authorize the European Union and individual countries to board and seize vessels on the high seas off Libya being used to smuggle migrants or for human trafficking to Europe.
France’s U.N. Ambassador, Francois Delattre, confirmed the timing of the vote.
Security Council members had until Thursday morning to raise objections to the final draft but none did.
The draft says the resolution’s intention is to disrupt “organized criminal enterprises engaged in migrant smuggling and human trafficking and prevent loss of life”
It says disposal of seized vessels must be taken in accordance with international law “with due consideration of the interests of any third parties who have acted in good faith.”
The Hungarian government has authorized allowing troops from countries in the European Union or NATO to help defend the country’s borders in the midst of the migrant crisis.
A government decree published Thursday says up to 1,000 troops from Hungary’s allies can take part until March 15 in the “Common Will” operation of border defense. Their tasks may include participating in joint exercises as well as direct support of the Hungarian troops on the border. Some 4,700 Hungarian soldiers are now at the country’s southern borders with Serbia and Croatia.
Zsolt Nemeth, head of Parliament’s foreign relations committee, saw nothing unusual about EU countries sending troops to guard a border with another EU country, even if Croatia is not in the EU’s Schengen zone of passport-free travel.
“The EU has to be able to defend border sections which some countries can’t protect from migrants,” Nemeth said earlier this week in an interview with The Associated Press.
Over 330,000 migrants have entered Hungary this year.
The European Union has committed to speeding up and intensifying the deportation of people who do not qualify for asylum.
A statement of the meetings said: “Increased return rates should act as a deterrent to irregular migration.”
A meeting of EU interior ministers agreed that the Frontex border agency set would start the organization of return flights and promised more staff for the organization to deal with the crisis.
It said detention could be used as a measure of last resort to make sure failed applicants actually go back and insisted enough pre-departure detention centers should be available.
At the same time most member states backed proposals to reinforce the EU’s porous external borders.
The European Union has earmarked more than 400 million euros ($451 million) in additional funding to tackle the refugee emergency.
Most of the money — 300 million euros — will be used to help Syrian refugees in countries outside the EU, including Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
It will also fund the creation of 120 jobs in the three key European agencies working on the migration frontline; the Frontex border agency, the EASO asylum support office and the policy agency Europol.
Some 56 million euros will be devoted to humanitarian aid. ———
Police in southern Sweden say they have removed an illegal tent camp that stateless Palestinians set up in early August outside the Swedish Immigration Agency to protest against the rejection of their asylum applications.
Ewa-Gun Westford, police spokeswoman in Malmo, says the protesters are welcome to stay but their tents have been removed.
She said Thursday’s action came after Sweden’s third- largest city on Sept. 22 banned the camp housing some 100 people on public property.
Westford said three people were arrested for violence against civil servants and refusing to obey police orders. It was not immediately clear whether they would be charged.
France is proposing to beef up the European Union’s external borders by committing member states to contribute more personnel to the EU’s border agency and eventually setting up a largely autonomous international “corps” that could intervene wherever a crisis appears.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve made the proposal to his EU counterparts at Thursday’s meeting in Luxembourg. French officials said it would be developed by EU leaders at next week’s summit.
The EU is struggling to contain a migrant crisis which has exposed huge weaknesses in both cooperation and manpower as hundreds of thousands have entered the continent fleeing war and seeking a better life.
French officials, who spoke under the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that in the short term, member states would be obliged to contribute more personnel to the Frontex border agency based on their population, wealth and other criteria.
In the long term, France proposes a multinational European border guard corps which would have much more autonomy to act along the EU’s external frontiers when crises appear.
The Czech Republic is ready to dispatch 50 police officers and up to 100 soldiers in Hungary to help protect the external border of the European Union and Europe’s visa-free Schengen zone.
Interior Minister Milan Chovanec says he offered that at a meeting of interior ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia in Luxembourg Thursday ahead of a meeting of interior ministers of all EU countries.
Chovanec says Slovakia is also likely offer officers while Poland is considering a possible help.
Over 324,000 migrants and refugees entered Hungary, which has built fences on its southern borders with Serbia and Croatia in an attempt to control their flow.
The Czech government already agreed to dispatch 25 soldiers on the Hungarian border with Croatia to help protect the Schengen border.
More than any other topic, Austria’s stance toward refugees is determining Sunday’s race for Vienna’s city hall, pitting voters who welcome them against those who fear that a surge of immigrants threatens their own well-being.
Only a fraction of the nearly 200,000 people who crossed into this country last month stayed, with most traveling on to Germany. Still, the Interior Ministry counted over 46,000 requests for refugee status by the end of August, compared to around 28,000 for all of 2014.
A pro-migrant demonstration Saturday brought over 100,000 people to Vienna. But the asylum numbers and the nightly newscasts showing masses of people entering Austria have increased support for the Freedom Party, which believes immigration threatens traditional Austrian values and hurts an already shrinking job market.
Vienna would be a key prize for the Freedom Party, since the city has been governed for 60 years by the Socialists, alone or as the dominant coalition partner.
Romania’s president says the influx of refugees could spark a resurgence of racism in Europe which he says countries have a duty to reject.
President Klaus Iohannis spoke Thursday at an event to commemorate the Holocaust. Between 1940 and 1944, about 280,000 Jews and 11,000 Roma, or Gypsies, were killed during the pro-fascist regime of Romanian dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu.
Romania was one of four eastern European countries to oppose a European Union resettlement plan for 120,000 asylum-seekers but has since modified its stance.
Iohannis reasserted that Romania could overcome “this complicated situation” with refugees “and easily cope with it.”
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Clashes intensified Thursday between Syrian troops and insurgents in central and northwestern Syria, part of what a top general called a “wide-ranging” offensive aided by Russian airstrikes and apparently aimed at clearing positions near government strongholds on the coast.
U.S. defense officials said as many as four of the 26 long-range cruise missiles that Russia said Wednesday it fired at Syria landed instead in Iran, but it was unclear if they caused any significant damage. Russia said all of its missiles fired from warships hit their targets.
Russia’s involvement in Syria, which began with airstrikes Sept. 30 and escalated Wednesday with cruise missiles, “raises serious concerns,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said after a meeting of the alliance’s defense ministers in Brussels.
Russia says its air campaign in Syria is aimed against militants of the Islamic State and al-Qaida-linked groups, but the West accuses it of intervening to support President Bashar against even moderate rebels in the civil war.
The Syrian government’s multipronged offensive began Wednesday, and state-run media said it seized several villages in central Syria, with fighting continuing Thursday. The government media and activists reported heavy fighting in Sahl al-Ghab, a vital plain bordering Assad’s stronghold of Latakia on the Mediterranean.
The plain also lies between Hama and Idlib, the northwestern provinces seized from government troops in September. Insurgents have been advancing there since summer, threatening the coastal region where Assad’s family and the Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, are concentrated.
The Islamic State — also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh — has strongholds in Raqqa and Aleppo provinces, while Syria’s al-Qaida affiliate, the Nusra Front, has a strong presence in Idlib.
Gen. Ali Ayoub, the Syrian army’s chief of staff, said Russia’s airstrikes had weakened the Islamic State fighters and other insurgents so that his troops could keep up the initiative.
“Today, the Syrian Arab armed forces began a wide-ranging attack with the aim of eliminating the terrorist groups and liberating the areas and towns that suffered from their scourge and crimes,” Ayoub said in rare televised remarks. The government uses the term “terrorists” to refer to all armed opposition groups in Syria.
Russia said its warplanes flew 22 sorties and carried out 11 airstrikes on IS training facilities in Hama and Raqqa provinces.
The Russian Defense Ministry also said its aircraft destroyed firing positions in rural Hama, where fighting has raged, and struck militants’ underground facilities in rural Latakia with concrete-piercing bombs.
Syrian TV showed government troops loading and firing artillery as helicopters flew over rural Hama and Idlib. It also showed tanks and airstrikes. The state run SANA news agency said joint Syrian-Russian airstrikes hit 27 targets belonging to Nusra Front.
Heavy fighting was concentrated in the rural parts of Idlib, Hama and Latakia provinces — areas of operation for an array of insurgent groups that includes the Nusra Front. The Western-backed Free Syrian Army also has a presence in the area, while the Islamic State has a limited presence in western Hama, where activists reported no fighting or airstrikes.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other activists said a military helicopter was downed in Kfar Nabouda, in northern Hama. Local media said the helicopter belonged to the Syrian government. The Observatory said Russian jets bombed areas near the site.
The ultraconservative militant group Ahar al-Sham, part of the coalition known as the Army of Conquest that controls Idlib, posted video showing it launching Grad rockets at government troops. The troops advanced on a village previously controlled by the rebels.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told state TV the Free Syrian Army, an umbrella group for dozens of Western-backed rebel groups, is no different from other militants.
“There is no difference between Nusra Front, Daesh and the Free Syrian Army — if it still exists,” he said. “They started (the armed opposition) and taught Daesh and Nusra all these crimes committed against Syria now.”
The Observatory, which has a network of activists across Syria, said the Russian airstrikes in Idlib killed at least seven civilians Wednesday.
The Violations Documentation Center, a Syrian rights group, said at least 43 civilians, including nine children and seven women, were killed Sept. 30, the first day of Russia’s airstrikes, in central Homs province. The group, relying on witnesses and video, said the strikes hit predominantly civilian areas in three villages and towns, including homes and a bread distribution center.
The Russians maintain no civilians were killed.
The group said it documented the use of at least two vacuum bombs — thermobaric weapons “which are entirely indiscriminate in nature and impossible to evade, even when taking shelter.” The group alleged the attacks constituted a “grave violation of international humanitarian law and, as a result, a war crime.”
Syria’s conflict, which began as an uprising against Assad in March 2011 but became a full-blown civil war after a fierce government crackdown, has killed 250,000 people, according to U.N. figures.
Russia said Wednesday it launched 26 cruise missiles from warships in the Caspian Sea that hit targets in the Syrian provinces in the north and northwest, taking flight paths over Iran and Iraq.
As many as four landed instead in Iran, according to three U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. One of the officials said the number of missiles that went off course was four.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Thursday that “all rockets fired from ships found their targets.”
Iranian government officials could not immediately be reached for comment, but the semi-official Fars news agency said Western news reports of missiles going astray amounted to U.S. “psychological warfare” against Russia’s intervention in Syria. A report Wednesday by Fars quoted Iraj Saghafi, acting governor of Takab in northwestern Iran, as saying an explosion heard in the region was “possibly related to work in a nearby rock quarry.”
Russia’s intervention has alarmed the West and its NATO allies, particularly Turkey, which shares a long border with Syria and has been a leading backer of the Syrian rebels.
On Thursday, the alliance signaled its readiness to defend Turkey if needed from any threats from Moscow. Russian jets twice violated Turkish airspace over the weekend.
“NATO is able and ready to defend all allies, including Turkey, against any threat,” Stoltenberg said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Moscow has insisted it is striking facilities of the Islamic State militant group, but that so far this hasn’t matched up with the targets Russia is blasting from the air.
“They have initiated a joint ground offensive with the Syrian regime, shattering the facade that they’re there to fight ISIL,” Carter said.
Russia’s support for Assad “will have consequences for Russia itself,” he said, adding: “I also expect that in coming days the Russians will begin to suffer casualties in Syria.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Moscow’s military action in Syria endangered trade ties with his country, saying Ankara could look elsewhere for gas supplies and cancel the construction of its first nuclear power plant, which is being built by Russia. Russia supplies 60 percent of Turkey’s gas needs.
President Vladimir Putin was informed of Erdogan’s remarks but hoped they would not affect relations between the two countries, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
“We sincerely hope that these relations will continue to expand according to the plans mapped out by Putin and Erdogan because this cooperation is genuinely mutually beneficial and is in the interests of both our countries,” Peskov said.
El Deeb reported from Beirut. Associated Press writer John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.
VIENNA (AP) — Just a few days after more than 100,000 people turned out in Vienna to support refugees, an anti-refugee party is poised to land a huge coup — a win at the polls that could see them take control of the Austrian capital.
More than any other topic, Austria’s stance toward refugees is determining Sunday’s race for Vienna’s city hall, pitting voters who welcome those fleeing into Europe against others who fear that a surge of refugees threatens their own well-being.
Only a fraction of the nearly 200,000 people who crossed into this country last month stayed, with most traveling on to Germany. Still, the Interior Ministry counted over 46,000 requests for refugee status by the end of August, compared with around 28,000 for all of 2014.
Organizers of Saturday’s demonstration say the turnout shows pro-immigrant sentiment in Vienna.
But the asylum numbers and the nightly newscasts showing masses of people entering Austria have increased support for the Freedom Party, which believes that immigration not only threatens traditional Austrian values but also cuts into an already shrinking job market.
In a video produced by its youth organization, a voiceover accompanying rapidly changing images of shrouded women asks: “Did you know that you will become a stranger in your own country? Did you know that you soon could become jobless?”
Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache has toned down his anti-immigrant rhetoric ahead of the Vienna vote in an attempt to win over critics. But he returned to the theme Thursday, as he addressed about 2,000 boisterous supporters braving light rain in front of Vienna’s iconic St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
Warning that attacks by Islamic radicals will increase through the migrant influx, he asked: “Would you open your windows and doors so that strangers can walk into your home?”
Others are even blunter. After an airline refused to fly an Afghan asylum-seeker out of the country because she put up a spirited fight, Freedom Party legislator Dagmar Belakowitsch-Jenewein suggested using military transport planes “where they can scream as loud as they want.”
Polls say the Socialists, who dominate the city’s two-party coalition, are still in front with more than a third of the vote, but the Freedom Party is gaining support and is close behind.
The Freedom Party already has made huge gains in several provincial elections this year, at the expense of the Socialists and the centrist People’s Party, but it has not won outright. Those establishment parties have governed on all levels in Austria with few exceptions since the end of World War II.
Runoff mayoral elections also are being held Sunday in 44 communities in Upper Austria province. But “Red Vienna” is a special prize.
The city has been governed for 60 years by the Socialists, alone or as the dominant coalition partner. Beyond the cachet of controlling the capital as mayor, that post is a major stepping stone toward Strache’s ultimate goal of becoming Austria’s chancellor.
His party has always drawn support from right-of-center voters, Euroskeptics, anti-Semites and xenophobes. More recently, with joblessness growing, it has threatened to usurp the Socialists as the nation’s blue-collar party.
This time, the Freedom Party is reaching out to all voters in hopes its anti-immigrant message will resonate with those fear the future.
“The majority of Austrians are faced with a real or imagined economic or social downturn,” said political analyst Andreas Filtzmaier. “This is makes it easy for the Freedom Party to say, ‘Things will only get worse because of mass immigration.'”
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — They are there every football game, those men in caps and vests moving in unison on the sideline following every play. The sideline crew “chain gang” plays a vital role marking the line of scrimmage and distance for a first down and keeping track of the downs.
They happily exist in the background, unless they mess up.
Chain gangs found unwanted spotlight in two major-college games last week. In the Big Ten, Illinois was forced to turn over the ball to Nebraska after a third down because the sideline crew and officials thought it was fourth down. Even a video review failed to correct the mistake. In the Big 12, the incorrect placement of the first-down marker after a penalty resulted in Oklahoma State being wrongly awarded a first down.
Illinois got the ball right back on an interception and ended up winning 14-13 at home. Kansas State, however, was adversely affected because the phantom first down kept alive a touchdown drive in Oklahoma State’s 36-34 win in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Big Ten and Big 12 both issued statements acknowledging the errors.
Both incidents occurred on the weekend of the 25th anniversary of perhaps the most notorious chain-gang gaffe of all time, the “Fifth Down Game” in Columbia, Missouri. Colorado beat Missouri on a fifth-down play as time ran out and went on to win a share of the national championship.
Schools are responsible for hiring the sideline crew for their home games. At Nebraska, for example, the chain gang is made up of current or former high school football officials. Training is on the job, and each man earns about $50 a game.
“It’s not rocket science to stand there and hold a pole,” said Greg Maschman, who heads the crew at Nebraska home games, “but we do take it pretty seriously.”
Illinois coach Bill Cubit said the jobs of sideline crews and on-field officials have become more difficult because of the increasing speed of the game. Kansas State coach Bill Snyder offered no solution for the problem he encountered last Saturday but said, “Maybe we need a better system than what we have. I’d like to labor under the assumption that those things will be taken care of by other people.”
College crews have five members positioned on the sideline opposite the press box, and they’re under the supervision of the linesman.
There are two “rod men,” one who holds the pole marking the spot where the current set of downs began and the other who holds the pole marking the line to gain for a first down. The “box man” sets a pole at the current line of scrimmage, and he also flips the down number located in the box at the top of his pole. The “clip man” attaches a clip to a link in the chain at the nearest 5-yard line, ensuring accuracy if the chains are taken onto the field to measure for a first down. The fifth man records penalties.
A two-man auxiliary crew works the opposite sideline so players, coaches and officials on that side can see the distance needed for a first down.
The linesman’s first instruction to the chain gang members is to stay safe, meaning to drop their poles and flee if a play is coming their way.
As a box man, Maschman checks and re-checks to make sure he and the linesman agree on the down. Maschman wears a down indicator on his hand, an elastic band that slips over one, two, three or four fingers depending on the down. Also, after each play Maschman writes the down and yard-line on a strip of athletic tape he sticks on the back of the box at the top of his pole.
“I try to concentrate and do my job, and I probably take it more serious than I would need to,” he said. “I say that, and then something that happens at Illinois happens, and you’re damn glad you do take it seriously so it never happens to us.”
David Mercer and Luke Meredith contributed.
This version corrects to Illinois winning at home in 4th paragraph.
BEIRUT (AP) — Activists say Islamic State militants have shot and killed three Assyrians from among nearly 200 members of the Syrian Christian minority abducted in February.
The Assyrian Human Rights Network said in a statement on Facebook Thursday that the three were killed last month on the first day of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday.
A video circulated by IS supporters on Wednesday showed militants shooting three men in orange jumpsuits in the back of their heads. Three other captives then introduce themselves, with one asking that “appropriate measures” be taken for their release.
IS kidnapped nearly 200 Assyrians in February. At least 45 have been released through negotiations.