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World News Headlines

    U.N. human rights investigators have told Italy that a proposed decree formalizing the closure of Italian ports to aid groups that rescue migrants at sea violates international law. In a letter to Italy's government, the investigators said the decree appears to be 'yet another political attempt to criminalize search and rescue operations' that 'further intensifies the climate of hostility and xenophobia against migrants.' Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, a hard-line populist, has proposed the decree ahead of the European Parliament elections this week, where nationalist, anti-migrant parties are hoping to make strong gains. The letter from the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says the measures would violate migrants' human rights, which are enshrined in U.N. conventions. It said Italy is obliged to rescue migrants in distress and cannot impede others from doing so.
  • The Latest on Switzerland's referendum on tightening Swiss gun laws (all times local): 12:45 p.m. Swiss media are reporting that early exit polls show voters have approved a measure to tighten Switzerland's gun laws, bringing the Alpine country in line with many of its European partners over the objections of some law-abiding gun owners. Switzerland's public broadcaster says preliminary estimates show a solid majority nationwide has voted to align with a European Union directive on firearms adopted in 2017. The Swiss proposal would, among other things, require regular training on the use of firearms, special waivers for possession of some semi-automatic weapons and serial-numbering of major parts of some guns to help track them. Switzerland is not an EU member, but is in Europe's Schengen visa-free travel zone. ___ 8 a.m. Swiss voters are casting ballots in a referendum to decide whether to enact new restrictions on guns and line up with Switzerland's partners in the European visa-free travel zone who have already tightened gun rules following extremist attacks in Europe. The proposal could require regular training on the use of firearms, special waivers for possession of some semi-automatic weapons and serial-numbering of major parts of some guns to help track them. Supporters, including the Swiss parliament and executive branch, say similar measures adopted by the European Union after deadly extremist attacks in France are needed to ensure strong police cooperation and economic ties with Switzerland's partners in Europe's Schengen zone of visa-free travel. Switzerland is in the Schengen zone but is not one of the EU's 28 nations.
  • Corruption and the need for economic growth are the main campaign issues as Malawi goes to the polls Tuesday for a presidential election that pits the incumbent against his own vice president as well as the country's main opposition party. The need to protect people with albinism has also emerged as a hot election topic in this southern African country. More than 6 million people are registered to vote in the elections that also will decide 193 parliamentary seats in one of the world's poorest countries. As in previous elections, the results of the presidential vote likely will be challenged in court. Although seven candidates are running for president, just three are seen as having a chance at winning. As Malawi has no runoff election, whoever receives the most votes wins, even if the share is well below 50%. The 78-year-old President Peter Mutharika of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party is up against 46-year-old Vice President Saulos Chilima of the United Transformation Movement and main opposition Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera, 64 Former president Joyce Banda has dropped out of the race and is supporting Chakwera via a coalition with her People's Party. While Mutharika pursues a second five-year term, he has been dogged by rivals' accusations of corruption, which he has denied. Political analyst Andrew Mpesi said the graft charges could hurt the president in this election. 'Every Malawian is aware that almost every day the front pages of mainstream papers in this country reported government corruption, theft and abuse of public resources,' he said. Despite allegations of election-rigging being exchanged by Mutharika and Chilima, Mpesi said Malawi's electoral commission has been transparent during the preparation process, 'which gives people some confidence that we can have better elections.' Opposition parties appear to have improved their ability to monitor the process, he added. The killing and abduction of people with albinism, and the widespread impunity for those who carry it out, also has emerged as an election issue. Twenty-five people have been killed and 10 have gone missing since late 2014, according to the Association of People Living with Albinism. People with albinism are targeted for their body parts, which are sold to be used in potions made by witchdoctors who claim they bring wealth and good luck. Opposition candidate Chakwera has vowed to end the killings of people with albinism within a month of taking office. Mutharika has rebuked him, however, saying that 'it is immoral for any political leader to sink so low and use the suffering of our brothers and sisters with albinism for political gain.' Newcomer Chilima, whose party is only nine months old after breaking with Mutharika's party during a power struggle, is appealing to Malawi's younger voters, who make up 54% of those registered in this election. He is promising jobs in a country where unemployment is over 20%. Mutharika, meanwhile, says his government is committed to introducing more infrastructure development projects, pointing to the construction of roads, bridges and hospitals during his time in office. For the first time, the election is being carried out under a new law that regulates funding for political parties, which now must declare all donations exceeding $1,398 from individuals and $2,796 from companies. Campaigning for Tuesday's election ends on Sunday. Voting results are expected to be announced within eight days, though it took 10 days to announce results in the previous election in 2014. Voter Mark Likoswe, who repairs shoes in the city of Blantyre, expressed concern about possible unrest. 'I feel that violence might break out because there is tension due to the way rival parties have handled themselves,' he said. ___ Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa
  • Saudi Arabia does not want war but will not hesitate to defend itself against Iran, a top Saudi diplomat said Sunday amid heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf after attacks on the kingdom's energy sector. Adel al-Jubeir, the minister of state for foreign affairs, spoke a week after four oil tankers— two of them Saudi— were targeted in an alleged act of sabotage off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and days after Iran-allied Yemeni rebels claimed a drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline. 'The kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not want war in the region and does not strive for that... but at the same time, if the other side chooses war, the kingdom will fight this with all force and determination and it will defend itself, its citizens and its interests,' al-Jubeir told reporters. A senior Iranian military commander was similarly quoted as saying his country is not looking for war, in comments published in Iranian media on Sunday. Fears of armed conflict were already running high after the White House ordered warships and bombers to the region earlier this month to counter an alleged, unexplained threat from Iran. The U.S. also has ordered nonessential staff out of its diplomatic posts in Iraq. But President Donald Trump appears to have softened his tone in recent days, saying he expects Iran to seek negotiations with his administration. Asked on Thursday if the U.S. might be on a path to war with Iran, the president answered, 'I hope not.' The current tensions are rooted in Trump's decision last year to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers and impose wide-reaching sanctions, including on Iranian oil exports that are crucial to its economy. Iran has said it would resume enriching uranium at higher levels if a new nuclear deal is not reached by July 7. That would potentially  bring it closer to being able to develop a nuclear weapon, something Iran insists it has never sought. Energy ministers from OPEC and its allies, including major producers Saudi Arabia and Russia, are meeting in Saudi Arabia on Sunday to discuss energy prices and production cuts. Iran's oil exports are expected to shrink further in the coming months after the U.S. stopped renewing waivers that allowed it to continue selling to some countries. OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers have production cuts in place, but the group of exporters is not expected to make its decision on output until late June, when they meet again in Vienna. Saudi Arabia's King Salman, meanwhile, has called for a meeting of Arab heads of state on May 30 in Mecca to discuss the latest developments, including the oil pipeline attack. The kingdom has blamed the pipeline attack on Iran, accusing Tehran of arming the rebel Houthis, which a Saudi-led coalition has been at war with in Yemen since 2015. Iran denies arming or training the rebels, who control much of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa. 'We want peace and stability in the region, but we won't stand with our hands bound as the Iranians continuously attack. Iran has to understand that,' al-Jubeir said. 'The ball is in Iran's court.' Al-Jubeir also noted that an investigation, led by the UAE, into the tanker incident is underway. The state-run Saudi news agency reported Sunday that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss regional developments. There was no immediate statement by the State Department about the call. An English-language Saudi newspaper close to the palace recently published an editorial calling for surgical U.S. airstrikes in retaliation for Iran's alleged involvement in targeting Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure. The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Hossein Salami, was quoted Sunday as saying Iran is not looking for war, But he said the U.S. is going to fail in the near future 'because they are frustrated and hopeless' and are looking for a way out of the current escalation. His comments, given to other Guard commanders, were carried by Iran's semi-official Fars news agency. __ Associated Press writer Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran contributed to this report.
  • Swiss voters are casting ballots in a referendum to decide whether to enact new restrictions on guns and line up with Switzerland's partners in the European visa-free travel zone who have already tightened gun rules following extremist attacks in Europe. The proposal could require regular training on the use of firearms, special waivers for possession of some semi-automatic weapons and serial-numbering of major parts of some guns to help track them. Supporters, including the Swiss parliament and executive branch, say similar measures adopted by the European Union after deadly extremist attacks in France are needed to ensure strong police cooperation and economic ties with Switzerland's partners in Europe's Schengen zone of visa-free travel. Switzerland is in the Schengen zone but is not one of the EU's 28 nations. The issue, part of Switzerland's regular referendums that give voters a direct say in policymaking, has stoked passions in a country with a proud tradition of gun ownership and sport shooting, and where veterans of obligatory military service for men can take home their service weapons after their tours of duty. Opponents of the measure insist it will do little to stop terrorism. They say it will crack down mainly on lawful gun owners and ram through what they perceive as the latest diktat from Brussels on the rich Alpine country. About two-thirds of respondents in recent polls on the issue say they supported the measure. Switzerland has not faced major extremist attacks like those that have hit France, Belgium, Britain and Germany in recent years, leaving scores dead.
  • A jubilant Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison vowed Sunday to get straight back to work after a shock election victory by his conservative government that has left bewildered voters wondering how they were taken by surprise. The opposition Labor Party, meanwhile, began another bout of post-election soul searching while starting the task of finding a new leader, after Bill Shorten stepped down following an emphatic defeat Saturday in a poll many had seen as unlosable for his party. Center-left Labor, which has governed Australia for only 38 of its 118 years as a federation, was rated an overwhelming favorite, both in opinion polls and with odds-makers, to topple the conservative Liberal-National coalition government after its six years in power. Instead, Morrison — who became prime minister only last August when a contentious internal party vote dumped Malcolm Turnbull as its leader — swept the coalition to victory with what is likely to be an increased representation in Parliament. The result is much the same as the last election, which delivered the government a single-seat majority in 2016. Since then, public expectations have taken a roller coaster ride based on the media's reporting of polls. Opinion polling has been a factor in conservative and Labor governments ousting four of their own prime ministers in the past decade, mostly recently elevating Morrison to prime minister. Sydney University political scientist Stewart Jackson said the polls that had put Labor ahead of the government for the past two years were too consistent for too long to be credible. 'That indicates 'herding,' where the pollsters themselves are getting results that they don't think are right and are adjusting them,' Jackson said. 'Because statistically, polls should never come up like that.' Martin O'Shannessy, who headed the respected Newspoll market research company in Sydney for a decade until 2015, said he was 'shocked' by the government's victory, given the polling. 'It's not possible to tell exactly how the current polls are being conducted because they don't have the same method statement that polls in the past have had,' O'Shannessy said. Until Saturday, Newspoll had accurately predicted the winner of every Australian state and federal election since its inception in 1985. Australia has made voting compulsory, so pollsters' surveys of Australians' party preferences usually come close to the election result. Newspolls are published every few weeks and are reported by the Australian media like a game score of the government and opposition's popularity and achievements. Morrison's predecessor, Turnbull, justified overthrowing his predecessor, Tony Abbott, in 2015 on the basis of '30 losing Newspolls.' Turnbull's administration had trailed Labor in more than 30 Newspolls before his government replaced him with Morrison as elections loomed. O'Shannessy said Sunday, 'You should never sack the prime minister on the basis of a Newspoll — ever.' Labor lawmaker Anthony Albanese, who was defeated by Shorten in a ballot of the party leadership in 2013 and will contest for the job again, said he had expected to be in government based on polling. 'The truth is that clearly there is a major gap between what the polling was showing and what the outcome was,' Albanese said. 'That is something that no doubt will be examined over coming days and weeks.' With just over 75% of votes counted by Sunday evening, the coalition had won 73 of the 76 seats needed to form a majority government, according to calculations from the Australian Broadcasting Corp. With seven seats still undecided, the coalition was expected to make further gains by the end of counting. The government had gone into the election as a minority government, with just 73 seats. Labor was holding 65 seats, with independents and minor parties claiming six. The possibility remains that the coalition will again have to govern in the minority, relying on agreements with independent and minor party lawmakers to transact government business. Still, Shorten's move to concede defeat late Saturday night confirmed a resounding victory for the Morrison administration. Speaking before attending church in his electorate in southern Sydney on Sunday morning, Morrison thanked Australians for returning him to office. 'I give thanks to live in the greatest country in all the world,' he said. 'Thanks again to all Australians all across the country.' The 51-year-old, who received a congratulatory phone call from President Donald Trump earlier Sunday, said he was eager to return to work on Monday to form his new government. A key Morrison ally, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, paid tribute to his leader's campaigning for securing the victory. 'The prime minister led from the front,' Frydenberg told ABC TV. 'From the minute the starter's gun was fired in this campaign, we knew we were behind, but we also knew we were in it, and no one knew this better than the prime minister.' 'He crisscrossed the country with great energy, belief, and conviction. He was assured, he was confident, and he was across the detail, and he sold our economic plan to the Australian people, a plan that resonated with them,' Frydenberg said. Analysts credited the result also to a simple coalition platform centering on promises of keeping taxes to a minimum. Labor entered the race grappling with a low popularity rating for Shorten, a 52-year-old former union boss widely seen as having a pallid personality. Rather than frame the election as a battle between him and the more outgoing Morrison, Labor strategists instead pushed a broad platform of policies. Shorten campaigned heavily on reducing greenhouse emissions, while promising a range of other reforms, including the government paying all of a patient's costs for cancer treatment, and a reduction in tax breaks for landlords. While senior Labor lawmaker Chris Bowen conceded his party may have suffered for what, for an opposition party, was an unusually detailed campaign, Shorten insisted it had been right to fight the election on issues rather than personalities. 'I'm disappointed for people who depend upon Labor, but I'm glad that we argued what was right, not what was easy,' Shorten told supporters. Shorten would have been Australia's sixth prime minister in six years had he been elected. Many Australians have at least welcomed Morrison's announcement of a change in Liberal policy in that the party can no longer dump a prime minister by internal party vote, meaning they will lead the country for a full three-year term unless an early election is called. So high was public confidence of a Labor victory, Australian online bookmaker Sportsbet paid out 1.3 million Australian dollars ($900,000) to bettors who backed Labor two days before the vote. Sportsbet said 70% of wagers had been placed on Labor at the slender odds of $1.16 to $1.00. As Labor absorbed the defeat, deputy leader Tanya Plibersek and Albanese told reporters they were considering running for the party's leadership. ___ Associated Press writer Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.
  • Indians voted Sunday in the seventh and final phase of a grueling national election that lasted more than five weeks, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist party seeks to govern for another five years. The election is seen as a referendum on Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP's main opposition is the Congress party, led by Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has produced three prime ministers. Vote counting begins on Thursday, and the election result will likely be known the same day. The voting Sunday covered Modi's constituency of Varanasi, a holy Hindu city where he was elected in 2014 with an impressive margin of over 200,000 votes. Modi spent Saturday night at Kedarnath, a temple of the Hindu god Shiva nestled in the Himalayas in northern India. The final election round included 59 constituencies in eight states. Up for grabs were 13 seats in Punjab and an equal number in Uttar Pradesh, eight each in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, nine in West Bengal, four in Himachal Pradesh and three in Jharkhand and Chandigarh. In Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, voters lined up outside polling stations early Sunday morning to avoid the scorching heat, with temperatures reaching up to 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit). Armed security officials stood guard in and outside the centers amid fear of violence. While the election, which began April 11, was largely peaceful, West Bengal, located in eastern India, was an exception. Modi is challenged there by the state's chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, who heads the more inclusive Trinamool Congress party and is eyeing a chance to go to New Delhi as the opposition's candidate for prime minister. Modi visited West Bengal 17 times in an effort to make inroads with his Hindu nationalist agenda, provoking sporadic violence and prompting the Election Commission to cut off campaigning there. On Sunday, Nirmala Sitharaman, a BJP leader and the country's defense minister, accused Banerjee's supporters of attacking her party members and preventing them from voting at several places in six of the nine constituencies in West Bengal. She did not provide details. Prodeep Chakrabarty, a retired teacher in Kolkata, said Modi's BJP was desperate to win some seats against Banerjee's influential regional party. 'People are divided for many reasons. We have to wait for a final outcome to see who people are voting for. Things are not predictable like before,' he said. Minorities in India, especially Muslims, who comprise about 14 percent of the country's 1.3 billion people, criticize Modi for his Hindu nationalist agenda. Modi's party backed a bill that would make it easier to deport millions of Bangladeshis who have migrated to India since Bangladesh's independence in 1971. The bill, however, eases a path to citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsees and Jains — non-Muslims — who came from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan over decades. Voters were also up early Sunday in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh state, where election workers arranged for drinking water, shade and fans to cool them down. 'I straightaway came from my morning walk to cast my vote and was surprised to see enthusiasm among the voters,' said Ramesh Kumar Singh, who was among the first to vote. 'There were long queues of people waiting patiently to cast their votes, which is a good sign for democracy.' During the election campaign, Modi played up the threat of Pakistan, India's Muslim-majority neighbor and archrival, especially after the suicide bombing of a paramilitary convoy in Kashmir on Feb. 14 that killed 40 Indian soldiers. Congress and other opposition parties have challenged Modi over a high unemployment rate of 6.1% and farmers' distress aggravated by low crop prices. Some of Modi's boldest policy steps, such as the demonetization of high currency notes to curb black-market money, proved to be economically damaging. A haphazard implementation of 'one nation, one tax' — a goods and services tax — also hit small and medium businesses. Voter turnout in the first six rounds was approximately 66%, the Election Commission said, up from 58% in the last national vote in 2014. Pre-election media polls indicate that no party is likely to win anything close to a majority in Parliament, which has 543 seats. The BJP, which won a majority of 282 seats in 2014, may need some regional parties as allies to stay in power. A Congress-led government would require a major electoral upset. ___ Sharma reported from New Delhi. Associated Press writer Biswajeet Banerjee in Lucknow, India, contributed to this report.
  • Cheered by thousands of supporters in Bolivia's coca-growing Chapare region, President Evo Morales began his campaign for his third consecutive re-election Saturday amid opposition assertions the constitution prohibits him from running again. Morales, a one-time leader of coca farmers, became the Andean nation's first indigenous president in January 2006 and is one of the few remaining leaders of the wave of leftists who swept into office in South America in past decades. If he is re-elected in October and serves out the five-year term, he would have been president for almost two decades. Last year, Bolivia's top electoral court accepted Morales' candidacy for a fourth term despite a constitutional ban and a referendum in which 51% of Bolivians rejected his intention to modify the constitution to allow him to run again. 'Why five more years? To finish our great works. We feel strong; we have self-esteem; and with these crowds giving us energy we will guarantee the liberation of Bolivia forever,' Morales said to his supporters. He launched his campaign at the airport in Chimore, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) east of La Paz, where Morales said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had a base more than 10 years ago. Morales expelled DEA agents from Bolivia in 2008, and the choice of the airport to launch his re-election bid was symbolic. 'Our fight is for there to never again be an American base in Bolivia,' he said. 'The United States was the owner of Bolivia. Our struggle has always been to recover our homeland and dignity.' Polls show a competitive race heading into the Oct. 20 vote, which would go to a second round if no candidate wins an outright majority. Morales has presided over an economic boom and is credited with lifting millions out of poverty, but he has lost support following allegations about manipulation of the justice system, his insistence to run for another term and corruption scandals. Bolivia's opposition view him as a threat to the country's democracy. He supported a 2009 constitution that allowed only two consecutive terms — though he later argued the restriction took effect only after the new constitution was adopted. The former coca farmer was re-elected in 2009 and 2014. Bolivians rejected a constitutional amendment to allow more than two consecutive terms in a 2016 referendum. But Morales' party convinced the constitutional court to rule his candidacy was legal, saying term limits violate citizens' human right to run for office. Bolivia's top electoral court then accepted his candidacy.
  • Energy Secretary Rick Perry will lead a delegation to the inauguration of Volodymyr Zelenskiy's as Ukraine's next president. Zelenskiy is a popular comedian with no political experience. He defeated President Petro Poroshenko in a runoff last month by winning 73 percent of the vote. Ukraine's parliament set Zelenskiy's inauguration for Monday. President Donald Trump on Saturday announced Perry and delegation members including Kurt Volker, the U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations, and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Rudy Giuliani (joo-lee-AH'-nee), one of Trump's personal attorneys, recently scrapped plans to visit Ukraine to push for an investigation he thinks could benefit Trump politically. Democrats had denounced Giuliani's trip as an overt attempt to recruit a foreign government to influence a U.S. election.
  • The Latest on the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest (all times local): 2:00 a.m. The Netherlands is the winner of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest. Duncan Laurence's doleful piano ballad 'Arcade' was tapped as an early front-runner before Saturday's Grand Final. But it had to rely on the fan vote to secure the country's fifth win in the competition. Italy finished second, followed by Russia, Switzerland and Norway. Some 200 million people around the world were expected to watch the annual campy contest with 26 nations battling to be crowned Europe's best pop act. ___ 12:55 a.m. Europe's ultimate pop extravaganza is hosting the Queen of Pop. Madonna was the special guest Saturday at the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv where 26 nations were battling to be crowned Europe's best pop act. Some 200 million people around the world are expected to be watching the annual campy contest. Israel earned the right to host the show after Netta Barzilai carried off last year's prize with her spunky pop anthem 'Toy.' Madonna had faced calls to boycott the event by a Palestinian-led campaign. But she rejected them, saying she will 'never stop playing music to suit someone's political agenda.' Madonna performed her hit song, 'Like a Prayer,' marking 30 years to its release, and a new song 'Future' from her forthcoming album 'Madame X.' ___ 12:05 a.m. The 26 contestants in the Grand Final of the 64th Eurovision Song Contest have finished their acts. Now the voting gets underway. To maximize onscreen tension, performers are picked Saturday by a mix of fan votes and professional juries from the participating countries. Spectators cannot vote for their own country, but like-minded countries tend to fall into blocs that back their regional favorites. Israel earned the right to host the show after Netta Barzilai won last year with her spunky pop anthem 'Toy.' The Netherlands has been tapped as an early front-runner for Duncan Laurence's doleful piano ballad 'Arcade.' Other favorites include Switzerland's energetic 'She Got Me,' sung by Luca Hänni, Sweden's soulful 'Too Late for Love,' sung by John Lundvik, and Australia's breathy act, 'Zero Gravity,' by Kate Miller-Heidke. ___ 23:30 p.m. Iceland's controversial steampunk band Hatari has concluded their live performance without incident. The band had drawn attention in Israel by initially vowing to stay out, saying it would be 'absurd' to participate in Israel because of its policies toward the Palestinians. Later, they vowed to use the Eurovision spotlight to expose the 'face of the occupation.' But at a press conference after the semifinal, Hatari offered a purely positive message. 'We need to unite and remember to love,' it said, in the wake of 'hate that's on the rise in Europe.' In Saturday's final they belted out their grinding metal rock to cheers from the audience. They are not a favorite to win. Calls for performers to boycott the show have failed to generate much momentum. ___ 23:20 Israel's prime minister has called the country's Eurovision representative to wish him luck in the contest. Benjamin Netanyahu's office says he spoke to Kobi Marimi Saturday night to tell him the 'the entire nation is supporting you.' Marimi, with his song 'Home,' is considered a long shot to win. He has a tough act to follow after Netta Barzilai won it all for Israel last year with her spunky pop anthem 'Toy.' Israel has won the Eurovision four previous times and it has provided the country with some cultural touchstones. 'Hallelujah' became the country's unofficial national song after Milk and Honey won the contest Israel hosted in the late 1970s, and Dana International became a national hero and global transgender icon when she won with 'Diva' in 1998. ___ 22:00 The Grand Final of the 64th Eurovision Song Contest is under way. Europe's annual music extravaganza will crown one of 26 entries with dreams of following in the footsteps of past winners such as Swedish pop icons ABBA and Celine Dion, who represented Switzerland. The show is taking place at Tel Aviv's Expo Center, starting at 10 p.m. Saturday (1900 GMT.) Some 200 million people around the world are expected to be watching. Israel earned the right to host the show after Netta Barzilai carried off last year's prize with her spunky pop anthem 'Toy.' The show of European unity brings together acts from 41 countries, including those with little connection to Europe, such as Australia. The final round's winner will be influenced by TV viewers casting votes via text message.

Local News

  • President Jimmy Carter will not teach Sunday school in Plains as he originally planned.  The Carter Center released a statement Saturday saying that the former president 'underestimated the time he would need to recover' from his recent hip replacement surgery.  Carter, the oldest living president at 94, broke his hip Monday when he fell at his home in Plains. The surgery took place at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center in Americus. He was released from the hospital Thursday. We'll be LIVE in Plains where the former president is recovering. We'll have the latest on Carter's recovery, on Channel 2 Action News Sunday AM. TRENDING STORIES: Celebrity chef offers to hire lunch lady fired after giving lunch to student who couldn't pay Woman poses as sheriff, releases boyfriend from jail Plumbing fails hours before Preakness Stakes Carter still teaches Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church when he is able and planned to teach this weekend. 'He and his wife, Rosalynn, appreciate everyone's support and prayers and apologize for any inconvenience to those who traveled to hear his lesson,' The Carter Center wrote.  Carter's niece, Kim Fuller, will teach the lesson instead. 
  • Country music star Travis Tritt was “really shaken” after witnessing a head-on fatal crash on Highway 22 early Saturday morning.  Tritt and his crew were leaving Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, when the accident happened. “Thank God we are all okay,” he wrote. “I feel so bad for those who died needlessly tonight. I’m really shaken up by what I witnessed. God bless those who died.” Tritt, a Georgia native who lives in Hiram, said he was told the accident was caused by a wrong-way driver who “was obviously driving drunk or impaired.”  » These are the most famous folks from Cobb County He said his tour bus was sideswiped and sustained minor damage “as we tried to avoid the crash site in front of us.” Horry County emergency crews responded to the wreck around 3 a.m. A Jeep traveling in the wrong direction crashed into a Chevrolet truck head-on, said Cpl. Sonny Collins with the South Carolina Highway Patrol, the Charlotte Observer reported. The driver of the Jeep and a passenger in the truck were killed in the crash, Collins said. The driver of the truck went to the hospital. “I beg everyone to please, please, please drive sober,” Tritt tweeted. “Know when to admit that your are too impaired to drive.” Tritt and The Cadillac Three are scheduled to perform tonight at Anderson Music Hall in Hiawassee. 
  •  Athens wins a national water quality contest. From the Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation Office... Athens-Clarke County was named one of five national winners in the 8th Annual Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation. As part of the challenge, residents pledged to reduce their water use by 73.2 million gallons of water over the next year and to undertake behaviors ranging from fixing home leaks to reducing harmful runoff into local rivers and streams. The annual month-long public awareness campaign to improve drought resiliency and water quality was promoted by the Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation Office and ended on April 30 with mayors from 35 states vying to see whose city could be the nation’s most 'water wise.' 'The challenge is about reminding people across the country that we all need to work together to manage our water resources,' said marine life artist Wyland, who founded the Wyland Foundation in 1993. 'The campaign shows that there are many ways to do that, but it all starts with simple actions that most of us can do every day that make a big difference over time.' Residents from winning cities will now be entered into a drawing for thousands of dollars in water-saving or eco-friendly prizes, including $3,000 toward their annual home utility bill, 'Greening Your Home' cleaning kits from Earth Friendly Products (ECOS), home irrigation equipment from The Toro Company, and a water fixture makeover for a local school from Ecosystems LLC. A $500 home improvement store shopping spree will also be chosen from among the entire pool of U.S. participants. Additionally, participating residents were asked to nominate a deserving charity in their community to receive a 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Residents from Athens-Clarke County also pledged to reduce their use of 202,756 single-use plastic water bottles and eliminate 4,340 pounds of hazardous waste from entering watersheds. By altering daily lifestyle choices, residents pledged to send 1.9 million fewer pounds of waste to area landfills. Potential savings of 550,000 gallons of oil, 315 million pounds of carbon dioxide, 4.7 million kilowatt hours of electricity, and $941,655 in consumer cost savings rounded out the final pledge results. In addition to reducing water use, Athens-Clarke County collected more pledges than Gainesville, FL to win a friendly wager between the two cities, thus ensuring ACC Mayor Kelly Girtz would not have to don orange and blue while doing the 'Gator Chomp' during a future Mayor and Commission meeting. Instead, Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe will wear red and black while 'Calling the Dawgs' at an upcoming Gainsville City Commission meeting. Athens-Clarke County won in the population category of 100,000 to 299,999. Other winners were Rexburg, ID (5,000-29,999); Palm Coast, FL (30,000-99,999); Tucson, AZ (300,000-599,999); and Columbus, OH (600,000+). For more information on the challenge, visit www.mywaterpledge.com. The challenge, presented by the Wyland Foundation and Toyota, with support from the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, National League of Cities, The Toro Company, Earth Friendly Products – maker of ECOS, Ecosystems, LLC, and Conserva Irrigation, addresses the growing importance of educating consumers about the many ways they use water.
  • Georgia softball will make its 18th-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance this week as the Bulldogs travel to Minneapolis for regional action. #14 Georgia will open tournament play Friday against #25 Drake at 7 p.m., ET.    National seed #7 Minnesota hosts the regional that also features North Dakota State. The Minneapolis Regional is the only regional in the field that features three teams ranked in the most recent USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll and all four teams to have 40 or more wins.   Follow the Bulldogs » The Minneapolis Regional will air nationally on the networks of ESPN. Courtney Lyle and Amanda Scarborough will be on the call from Minneapolis.  » All games will be streamed live via Watch ESPN and the ESPN app.  » Live stats will be available for the Minneapolis Regional. Live stat links can be found on the softball schedule at GeorgiaDogs.com. » Live Twitter updates will be available at the official Twitter page of Georgia softball, @UGAsoftball.   BULLDOGS BULLETIN Series Histories Minnesota » Georgia leads the all-time series 4-2 » The Bulldogs and Gophers first met in North Carolina in 1998. The teams have met five times since, all in Athens (2010, 2012, 2016) » Minnesota won the first-ever meeting as well as the most recent  » The Bulldogs and Gophers have never met in the postseason  Drake  » Georgia leads the all-time series 2-0  » The only meetings came back on Mar. 25, 1998 in Athens; Georgia won 2-0, 1-0 North Dakota State » Georgia leads the all-time series 2-1 » All three meetings have been in Athens, first in 2011 then twice in 2013 » North Dakota State won the last meeting, 3-0   NCAA Tournament Tidbits » Georgia softball will make its 18th-consecutive NCAA Regional appearance this weekend  » Georgia is 67-37 all-time in NCAA Tournament action, advancing to 10 Super Regionals and four Women's College World Series. The 2009 and 2010 seasons saw the Bulldogs advance to the Final Four » In regional action alone, Georgia is 48-17 » In regionals away from Athens, Georgia is 21-11 all-time. Georgia has swept regionals on the road twice, 2008 and 2009  » Georgia will appear in Minneapolis for the NCAA Tournament for the first time » In 17 Regional appearances, Georgia has been on the road eight times. Three of those eight saw the Bulldogs emerge to go on and play in a Super Regional (2008, 09, 14). Only once has Georgia opened on the road in regional play and advance to a Women's College World Series (2009)    A Look Back Georgia trekked to College Station, Texas for the SEC Tournament last week. The Bulldogs opened play against Arkansas on Thursday. Georgia defeated the Razorbacks 4-1 for its first SEC Tournament win since 2015. The Bulldogs had to turn around to play that evening against top-seeded Alabama. The eight-inning game saw the Tide walk off, 2-1, ending Georgia's six-game winning streak.    Georgia in the Polls The Bulldogs dropped a spot to #14 in the week 14 USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll while jumping a spot to #16 in the USA Softball/ESPN.com Poll.    DiCarlo a Top 10 Finalist for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Senior Alyssa DiCarlo has been named a top-10 finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award. She becomes only the second Bulldog to earn a top-10 finalist spot. The 2019 season is the seventh season Georgia has placed a student-athlete in the top 25. Alisa Goler (2009) is Georgia's only other top-10 finalist in the history of the award. DiCarlo is one of four from the Southeastern Conference to appear on the list. The Top 3 Finalists will be announced on May 22. The 2019 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year will be revealed May 28.    Three Bulldogs Earn All-SEC Honors Senior Alyssa DiCarlo was chosen by the league's head coaches as a First Team All-SEC performer. Junior Ciara Bryan earned Second Team All-SEC accolades while rookie Lacey Fincher gained a spot on the Freshman All-SEC Team. DiCarlo, a native of Glendale, Arizona, concludes her career as a four-time All-SEC performer, this is her third time on the First Team, earning Second Team as a sophomore in 2017. Bryan makes her debut on an all-conference team in 2019. A native of Covington, Georgia, Bryan has been Georgia's top hitter in league play, hitting a team-best .310 while slugging .521 against conference opponents. In the field, Fincher began the season starting as the designated player before taking over duties at first base in early March. She's made appearances at short, behind the plate, and in the outfield throughout the season.   Avant Lands on SEC Community Service Team Junior Mary Wilson Avant was named to the 2019 SEC Softball Community Service Team. Avant, a pitcher from Macon, Georgia, has participated in such community service events such as the Special Olympics of Northeast Georgia including the Hometown Rivals baseball game, UGA HEROs where she has fundraised and served as a committee member with the purpose of improving the quality of life for children infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS, and Shop With A Bulldog where she has served as a mentor and raised funds to assist in providing clothing and personal supplies for underprivileged children.   Congrats, Grads!  Four Georgia softball student-athletes including Kylie Bass (Human Development and Family Science), Kendall Burton (Communication Studies), Cortni Emanuel (Masters in Sport Management), and Brittany Gray (Communication Studies) all earned their degrees at Commencement services Friday, May 10.    Thank you, Seniors!  Georgia honored the careers of two seniors who played their finals regular season games at Jack Turner Stadium: Kylie Bass and Alyssa DiCarlo. The two will go down among the best to wear the Red & Black. Bass will finish among career top-10 performers in ERA, wins, appearances, opponent batting average, and strikeouts. In her senior campaign, DiCarlo has broken Georgia's career records for home runs, RBI, extra-base hits, and total bases while raking among the top-10 in batting average, hits, at bats, runs, doubles, slugging, on-base percentage, walks, sacrifice flies, and assists. 
  • LaKeisha Gantt has been chosen as the president of the Clarke County Board of Education. The Board met in a special called session Thursday to vote on a replacement for departing School Board president Jared Bybee, who is leaving Athens for a job in California. Gantt won her seat on the Clarke County School Board in last year’s elections, defeating former incumbent Carol Williams to claim the District 7 seat. She has worked as a behavioral specialist in school districts and is now a counselor at the University of Georgia. 

Bulldog News

  • CORAL GABLES, Fla. — The symmetry appears uncanny on the surface, but Lawrence Cager’s football journey has been filled with twists and turns. Ultimately, Cager believes, fate has brought him to where he belongs and needs to be. Cager  hosted Georgia receiver J.J. Holloman when Holloman visited Miami as a prospect in November of 2016. A little more than two years later, Holloman was Cager’s host in Athens, Ga., for the Hurricane receiver’s visit last February. The two hit it off so well that they’re going to be roommates when Cager arrives in Athens on May 28 with business degree in hand and a national championship on his mind. “J.J. is like family to me,” Cager told DawgNation last weekend. “Out of high school, I wanted to be a Georgia Bulldog from the jump.” Cager has impact player written all over him, ready for a break-out season after a career-high 21 catches for 374 yards last season. Smart said more than once he’s concerned about the Georgia receiver position after four of the top five pass catchers from last season moved on. Cager is already on NFL radar, his 6-foot-5, 218-pound frame and impressive jumping ability leading to a team-high six TDs in 2018 at Miami. RELATED: Cager among four UGA players on Senior Bowl early radar It’s fair to assume Cager will be in the Red Zone mix at Georgia. Cager was recruited to Miami by current Georgia offensive coordinator James Coley, choosing the Hurricanes over Alabama and playing the 2015 season with Coley as his coordinator. “God works in mysterious ways,” Cager said. “I’m here now with the coach I loved at Miami (Coley), and the coach I loved at Alabama (Kirby Smart), so I couldn’t ask to be in a better position.”   Play ball! Growing up in baseball-crazy Baltimore, Cager fancied himself a future major leaguer and didn’t take football serious entering into his freshman year at Calvert Hall College High School in Maryland. Former five-time all-star Tori Hunter came to watch Cager hit when he was in eighth grade, and Lawrence’s high school coach was a regional scout for the Detroit Tigers. All signs pointed to baseball. Until they didn’t. Cager played football as a freshman “just to have fun” when coach Devin Redd, the CEO and co-founder of Baltimore’s Next Level Nation, altered Cager’s life with his observation. “Devin Redd said I could play on Sundays,” Cager said. “He told me ’you have something people don’t have; you move like a 5-foot-11 guy but you’re 6-5.” Cager scored 15 touchdowns and had more than 1,000 yards receiving as a freshman before moving up to varsity as a sophomore, a three-sport athlete also playing basketball and baseball. “Lawrence’s ascent began when he came into high school,” Calvert Hall coach Donald Davis said. “He wasn’t sure what direction he would go in; he dabbled in baseball, at one point thought about soccer, and he was a very good at baseball.” Then Cager decided to go out for track his junior year, and he ended up at the Penn Relays and Nationals, clearing 6-foot-11. By then, however, Cager had decided on football. “I knew football would take me where I needed to go,” Cager said, “when I got my first offers from Oregon State and Toledo my sophomore year.” Silent commit A strong showing at a Nike Camp in New Jersey led Cager to receive an invite to The Opening in 2014. Future Georgia receiver Terry Godwin was also there. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer invited Cager to the Buckeyes’ famed “Friday Night Lights” recruiting event, and Cager and his family were so impressed that he made a silent commitment on July 25, 2014. Cager already had an Alabama offer in hand, and then Michigan State offered, along with Notre Dame, Miami, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Nebraska. Cager found himself intrigued and wanted to take visits, particularly to the Top 5 Mississippi State-Alabama matchup in 2014. “The fact I wanted to visit there told me I didn’t need to be committed,” Cager said. “I wanted to see other schools before I could know.” Cager’s parents were pushing for Wake Forest because of the academics there, so the Deacons got the first official visit followed by Virginia Tech, and then Cager’s visit to the Michigan-Ohio State game. Cager headed to the U.S. Army All-American Game thinking he wanted to go to Alabama, while his parents were still encouraging him to go to Wake Forest. Shower commit Cager told the CBS team at the U.S. Army All-American Game he was going to commit to Alabama, live at halftime, during the Jan. 3 broadcast. But behind the scenes Cager’s parents were telling hm to re-think it; there was uncertainty over whether offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin would be returning to the staff the next season. “It was a tough phone call to Nick Saban,” Cager said of the days leading up to the game. Once game day arrived, Cager had an issue on his hands: A spot on CBS to commit before a live national audience, but uncertainty as to which school that would be. “During warm-ups before the game, I was trying to figure out which school I’m going to commit to,” Cager said. “So while everyone else is on the field getting ready to play, I was in the shower room calling schools … some were answering, but they said they’d already had a commitment or were full at the position.” That included Georgia when Cager reached out to Mark Richt. “They told me they were full, because Jayson Stanley had committed,” Cager said. “Coach Coley was the only one at a school I liked who would take my commit. “He said, ‘Change the game!’’ “ Cager’s coach told then-Miami head coach AL Golden that it was a TV commit. Cager was scheduled to visit Alabama the following Saturday, and then he’d visit Miami. “So I committed on TV to Miami without ever being in Miami in my life,” Cager said, laughing at the naivety of his youth. “It’s funny how God works, because that’s how he put Coach Coley in my life.” Until he wasn’t. Lawrence Cager’s upside has him on NFL radar. Rob Floyd/ Getty Images The Richt Years The score was 58-0 on Oct. 25, 2015, Clemson handing Miami the worst loss in the Hurricanes’ 90-year football history. “I know it isn’t far from outhouse to penthouse,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said, according ESPN. “I don’t celebrate anything from Miami’s bad day. I feel for him. I hate it, man.  Hurricanes’ coach Al Golden hated it even more when he was fired the next day, making way for Larry Scott to assume interim duties. Miami won the remained of the regular season games, but the Hurricanes elected to go with suddenly available Richt, a school alum who had parted ways with Georgia. RELATED: Mark Richt praised by rivals Saban, Fulmer, Spurrier Cager couldn’t wait to build off his freshman season, but then things took a turn for the worst — specifically, his knee. “I tore my ACL on the last play, on the last day of the last week of 7on -7 drills before camp, back in July of 2016 going into my sophomore season,” Cager said. “I was determined to come back quicker than they projected, so I was in the training room from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day until I could walk.” Cager was running in two weeks and running in three months, ready for spring drills, but Richt held him out as a precaution. The 2017 season, however, was at best “up and down” Cager said. “You think you won’t think about it (surgically repaired knee), but it’s in the back of your head, that what if I do this, or I do that, and I might hurt it again,” Cager said. Finally recovered, Cager was ready for a big redshirt junior season in 2018, but the Hurricanes’ offense struggled. The quarterback position was a revolving door, and the lack of consistency under center translated to a hot-and-cold passing game. Richt stepped down after the season, and Cager decided to exercise his eligibility as a graduate transfer. Georgia, with Coley recently promoted to offensive coordinator, was the first to call. “Kirby was like, ‘I’m not going to lose you this time, right?’ “ Cager said. “ ‘You’re going to come home now.’ “My mind went to Athens as soon as I made a decision to be a Bulldog, I felt right at home.” DawgNation in South Florida Kenny McIntosh draws comparisons to Sony Michel, Jordan Scarlett Lawrence Cager eager for Georgia touch down ’The Blueprint,’ championship plans for South Florida star Lawrence Cager with DawgNation   The post The fascinating story of how Lawrence Cager ended up at Georgia appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Kirby Smart has no intentions of leaving his post as Georgia football coach any time in the near future — or ever, for that matter. “Why would I leave home?” Smart said Thursday night in his hometown of Bainbridge, Ga., during a question and answer session,  according The Post Searchlight. “I have more passion and energy in my heart for the University of Georgia than you’ll ever realize,” Smart said. “Because it did more for me than anything I’ve been to in my life.” Smart was an All-SEC safety at Georgia and four-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll (1995-98), graduating from UGA’s celebrated Terry College of Business. Smart began his coaching career with the Bulldogs as an administrative assistant on Jim Donnan’s staff in 1999. He returned in 2005 to serve as an assistant to former coach Mark Richt. RELATED: Brandon Adams podcast discusses Kirby Smart as Georgia ‘coach for life’ Smart’s 32-10 record as Georgia’s head coach marks the highest winning percentage (.762) in UGA history. The Bulldogs recently had seven players selected in the 2019 NFL draft and are poised to break the program record next year as Smart enters his fourth season at the helm. RELATED: Kirby Smart’s 2020 draft class will set record Only 43 years old, Smart has already delivered an SEC Championship. UGA was seconds away from the College Football Playoff Championship in 2017 and narrowly missed a second College Football Playoff appearance in 2018. Smart has been paid appropriately for his success. He draws a $7 million per year salary as part of the seven-year, $49 million contract extension he signed last year. Still, there has been speculation that the NFL or Alabama might one day lure Smart away from his alma mater, as it has many other great coaches. Florida’s Steve Spurrier is a prime example. Spurrier was a Heisman Trophy winner for the Gators who came back to coach his alma mater for 12 years (1990-2001) before leaving for the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Spurrier ultimately returned to college coaching, but he did so at South Carolina, where he coached another 11 years. Smart could be different in the sense that he grew up and played his high school football in Georgia, whereas Spurrier was raised in Tennessee. RELATED: AJC columnist Mark Bradley asks, could Smart coach UGA for life? Smart’s appearance at the Bainbridge football fundraiser at the Bainbridge Country Club on Thursday night served as evidence of his loyal nature. “I get asked to speak a lot, but I asked to speak at this event,” Smart said, according to his hometown newspaper. “You got me now because you put Bainbridge back on the map, put it where it’s supposed to be.” Bainbridge, where Smart starred before choosing Georgia, beat Warner Robins 47-41 in triple overtime of the Class AAAAA State Championship Game last season. Smart shared how Bainbridge is what led him to the national level of success he’s enjoying at Georgia. “I had the great fortune of going (to Georgia),” Smart said. “Probably would have never gotten there without some of the great people in this room. “I assure you, it was what drove me to success.” Smart has been proactive designing future success for Georgia as well. It is Smart who is spearheading UGA’s aggressive scheduling model and seeking a facilities blueprint aimed at keeping the Bulldogs an annual title contender. RELATED: Smart shares visionary side of Georgia scheduling plan The Bulldogs recently scheduled a future home-and-home series with Oklahoma in 2023 (away) and 2031 (Athens). Smart’s comments this week make it clear he plans to be on the sideline for both, in Norman, and between the hedges in his “home.” More Kirby Smart DawgNation coverage • Kirby Smart takes playful jab at Florida • WATCH: Kirby Smart shares two most meaningful Georgia wins, bucket list • MORE: Kirby Smart ‘no regrets’ on Justin Fields’ situation • Kirby Smart says ‘We want to talk with our helmets’ • Kirby Smart makes key point defending Jake Fromm The post Kirby Smart plans to coach Georgia infinitely: ‘Why would I leave home’ appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – Having presided every one of what is now 33 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for Georgia, women’s tennis coach Jeff Wallace was asked if heading to Orlando this week to compete in the championship rounds seemed like old hat for him. Without missing a beat, Wallace pointed to the wide-brimmed, black sun hat atop his head – power G on the front — and deadpanned, “this is a new hat.” Georgia’s No. 2 doubles team of Elena Christofi and Vivian Wolff is undefeated this season at 16-0. (Kristin M. Bradshaw/UGA Athletics) Wallace is representative of his top-seeded and No. 2-ranked squad as it prepares for its Elite Eight matchup with Vanderbilt (19-7) on Friday. The Bulldogs (26-1) are upbeat, loose and confident as they make yet another run at a national championship. Wallace’s latest team might be his best one. It stood undefeated before finally blinking against a very good South Carolina team in the SEC Tournament finals. Since the calendar flipped to spring the Bulldogs have logged 12 4-0 victories. “Every year’s different; it’s hard to do comparisons,” Wallace said of how this group stacks up against his all-time best teams. “This has been a special year, when you win a national indoor title and you go undefeated in the regular season and win the SEC. But our goal all year has been to play our best tennis this coming weekend and that’s what we’re striving for.” Next in the pathway is Vanderbilt, a team Georgia already has beaten twice. The latest was a 4-1 drubbing in the final regular-season match. But the Commodores pushed them to 4-3 in the National Indoor semifinals back in early February in Seattle. The Bulldogs were ranked 5 to Vandy’s No. 2 at the time. “I think it’s a good thing,” junior Elena Christofi said of having to play Vandy a third time. “They know us but we also know them. We have an idea about what to expect and can share strategies with our teammates about who they face. We know what’s worked and we can do it again.” In an epic comeback, Christofi rallied from an 0-5 third-set deficit and fought off two match points to defeat Emily Smith 7-5 for Georgia to clinch that match. She is 15-2 on Court 5 this season. Christofi and sophomore Vivian Wolff are undefeated (16-0) at No. 2 doubles for the Bulldogs. Not coincidentally, Georgia has won 21 of 26 doubles points this season. From top to bottom the Bulldogs are a well-balanced squad of youthful talent and grizzled experience. No. 2-ranked Katarina Jokic leads the at No. 1 singles. Freshmen Lourdes Carle (23-6) and Meg Kowalski (23-1) have come in and dominated the competition at Nos. 3 and 6, respectively. Christofi and fellow junior Marta Gonzalez (ranked 19th in singles and playing No. 2) provide leadership. All but the two freshmen were around last year when the Bulldogs were bounced at this point. They lost to Stanford, the eventual NCAA champion. “The vibe is really, really positive,” Christofi said. “All of us are super pumped and excited to go to Orlando. Being in the Elite 8 is what we’ve worked for. Now we have an opportunity to show our work.” Just to add to the positivity, the Bulldogs added another team member this week. Head coach Drake Bernstein and his wife Cassidy had their first child Monday night, Brody, a boy. So it was with great optimism that Georgia boarded its flight for Orlando Tuesday. But this will be new territory. The Bulldogs, like many other teams, are making their first visit to the expansive USTA National Training Center in Lake Nona. The 100-court facility was thought to be a factor in the NCAA’s decision to skip over Athens as an NCAA Championship site when bids were accepted through 2022. “It’s going to be a new experience for me and for all of us,” Wallace said. “I’ll tell you what I think when I get back. I’m very, very biased. There’s no better place than ours and we’d love to get the NCAA Tournament back here and that’s our goal and hope.” The post No. 1 Georgia tennis heads to Orlando intent on returning with another NCAA championship appeared first on DawgNation.
  • University of Georgia sophomore right-hander Emerson Hancock has been named a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award, USA Baseball announced Wednesday. Hancock, who owns a 7-2 record and 1.31 Earned Run Average (ERA) this year is one of 25 semifinalists. The Golden Spikes Award annually goes to the top amateur baseball player in the country and USA Baseball has partnered with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation to host the award since 2013. The finalists will be announced on May 29, and the winner of the 42nd Golden Spikes Award will be named on June 14 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.   A 6-4, 215-pound native of Cairo, Ga., Hancock is the fourth Bulldog in school history to be named a semifinalist, joining shortstop Gordon Beckham (a finalist in 2008), pitcher Joshua Fields (2008) and first baseman Rich Poythress (2009). Hancock leads the nation in Fewest Hits Allowed Per Nine Innings (4.4) and WHIP (0.73) {Walks Plus Hits Per Innings Pitched} and is fifth in ERA (1.31). He has made 11 starts, tallying 75.2 innings with 81 strikeouts and only 18 walks. He has been one of the aces for the Bulldogs who are ranked No. 7 nationally with a 39-14 record including 18-9 in the SEC. Hancock is slated to pitch game three of the Alabama series at Foley Field on Saturday at 2 p.m.  “The twenty-five student-athletes honored as Golden Spikes Award semifinalists this year highlight the depth of elite amateur baseball talent in the United States,” said USA Baseball Executive Director and CEO Paul Seiler. “Each and every one of these athletes have excelled on the field this season and we are honored to continue our partnership with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation to recognize their contributions to their teams and schools.”  The list of semifinalists spans 20 different colleges and universities, one high school and nine NCAA conferences. The list also features 2018 Golden Spikes Award winner Andrew Vaughn (California). Along with Vaughn, recent winners of the Golden Spikes Award include Brendan McKay (2017), Kyle Lewis (2016), Andrew Benintendi (2015), A.J. Reed (2014), Kris Bryant (2013), Mike Zunino (2012), Trevor Bauer (2011), Bryce Harper (2010), Stephen Strasburg (2009) and Buster Posey (2008). Seventh-ranked Georgia plays host to Alabama at Foley Field starting Thursday at 7 p.m. with the entire SEC series sold out.    Students who present a valid UGA ID will still be admitted free via the 3rd base gate. Student admissions are first come, first serve until their held block has been exhausted. Game two of the series will be Friday at 7 p.m. and game three will be Saturday at 2 p.m. Georgia will honor its seniors before Saturday’s. game. The entire series will be available on SEC Network+ and broadcast on the Georgia Bulldog Sports Network.    Georgia (39-14, 18-9 SEC) closes out the regular season looking to secure a top four seed and a bye for next week’s SEC Tournament. The Bulldogs are two games behind second-ranked Vanderbilt (20-7 SEC) in the overall SEC race while fourth-ranked Arkansas leads the West with a 19-8 league mark. Georgia and fifth-ranked Mississippi State have identical 18-9 SEC marks with MSU holding the tiebreaker over Georgia. The Bulldogs need only to win one game or have Ole Miss or LSU, both 15-12 in the SEC, lose a game for Georgia to be a top four seed. Georgia is 25-3 at home this season. Also, the Bulldogs have a chance to become only the third team in school history to register 40 wins in the regular season. The two that have done it were the 2001 SEC Champions (40-16) and the 1990 National Champions (44-15).   The Bulldogs lead the nation in Fewest Hits Allowed Per Nine Innings at 6.1 and are seventh nationally in ERA at 3.21. Georgia’s record for lowest ERA in a season is 2.97 by the 1958 club and the next best is 3.26 by the 1967 squad. Opponents are hitting only .195 against the Bulldogs this year and that’s on pace to be a school record. The Bulldog rotation will feature freshman Cole Wilcox (2-1, 4.12 ERA) on Thursday, junior Tony Locey (9-1, 2.63 ERA) on Friday and sophomore Emerson Hancock (7-2, 1.31 ERA) on Saturday. Alabama has a 4.00 ERA and opponents are hitting .246 against them.   Alabama (30-23, 7-20 SEC) defeated Samford Tuesday and now are vying for the 12th and final spot in the SEC Tournament. Currently, they are tied with Kentucky and South Carolina. The Wildcats play host to the Commodores while the Gamecocks face MSU in Starkville. Alabama is 9-10 on the road this year. The all-time series with Alabama is tied 72-72-2. Last year, Georgia won a series in Tuscaloosa 2-1.   Georgia is batting .267 with a .421 slugging percentage and a .980 fielding percentage. The Bulldogs have a trio of .300 hitters in junior Aaron Schunk (.339-9-37), senior LJ Talley (.335-8-38) and redshirt sophomore Riley King (.307-7-40). Alabama is hitting .266 with a .397 slugging percentage and a .978 fielding percentage. Alabama’s leading hitters are junior Morgan McCullough (.323-3-29) and sophomore Tyler Gentry (.305-11-40).   On Senior Day Saturday, the Bulldogs will honor Talley, pitcher Adam Goodman and graduate John Cable plus managers Sam Carey and Travis Tindall. Manager Greg Bundrage graduated last week and already has begun an internship with the Arizona Diamondbacks in video operations.   GEORGIA vs. ALABAMA PITCHING MATCHUPS Thurs: Freshman RHP Cole Wilcox (2-1, 4.12 ERA) vs. Freshman RHP Tyler Ras (1-2, 3.41 ERA) Fri.: Junior RHP Tony Locey (9-1, 2.63 ERA) vs. Junior RHP Brock Love (5-4, 4.31 ERA) Sat.: Junior RHP Emerson Hancock (7-2, 1.31 ERA) vs. Senior RHP Sam Finnerty (6-7, 4.18 ERA)     Television/Radio Thurs. SECN+ Streaming Link with 1st pitch at 7:02 pm: http://www.gado.gs/2np Fri. SECN+ Streaming Link with 1st pitch at 7:02 pm: http://www.gado.gs/2nr Sat: SECN+, Streaming Link with 1st pitch at 2:02 pm Link: http://www.gado.gs/2nt   Radio (Entire series): Georgia Bulldog Sports Network from IMG College (David Johnston & Jeff Dantzler) Stations: 960 AM-WRFC and selected affiliates (check your local listings), also via the Georgia Bulldogs app and TuneIn app. Additional Coverage on Twitter: @BaseballUGA   Tickets:  -StubHub: http://www.gado.gs/2nv
  • ATHENS – The Georgia Bulldogs – and Davis Thompson in particular – picked a good time to get hot. Thompson won medalist honors to pace the No. 16-ranked Bulldogs to a dominating victory in the NCAA Athens Regional tournament. Thompson shot 8-under par over three rounds to win individual honors and Georgia shot 8-under as a team to stay ahead of No. 9 Duke (-1) and No. 4 Vanderbilt (+1) to claim the tournament victory. Davis Thompson brought a new Ping driver into play for this week’s regional and that move paid dividends. (Kristin M. Bradshaw/UGA Athletics) By finishing among the top five teams in the 13-team field, Georgia advances to the NCAA Golf Championships in Arkansas next week. To do so coming off a win makes it all the better. “Anytime you can win, it just gives you the confidence to know that you can win,” said Chris Haack, who notched his 63rd tournament victory as Georgia’s coach. “To do it on a big stage like the NCAA Regionals gives you even more confidence.” SMU (+16) and Liberty (+18) also advanced. Tennessee (+21) missed the final spot by three strokes. But the talk of the day was about Thompson, a 6-foot-3, 175-pound sophomore from St. Simons by way of Auburn, Ala. The son of former Georgia golfer Todd Thompson, Davis has been knocking on the door all year with third- and fourth-place finishes in the Bulldogs’ last two tournaments and five top 10s in his career. “It’s big,” Thompson said shortly after birdieing his final hole of the tournament at the UGA Golf Course. “I’ve been close before, so it just feels nice. A big sigh of relief.” Said Haack: “To see him finally validate his play was pretty special. These guys work so hard and get over the hump. That was his first college win, so to do it on a stage like this in front of lot of fans is pretty special. I think the best is yet to come from him.” The best news is Georgia knows it can play better. Freshman Trent Phillips was the only other Bulldog to break par Wednesday – he shot 69 to finish 10th individually — and Trevor Phillips (+13) and Will Kohlstorf (+11) carded uncharacteristically high rounds. Junior Spencer Ralston was his steady self as usual, finishing third at 4-under par after carding a 71 Wednesday. “It was good to see us jell a little bit and finish it off in style,” Haack said. The post Davis Thompson leads Georgia men’s golf to run-away win in NCAA Regional appeared first on DawgNation.