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    Xavi: My impending exit sparked Barça revival

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    Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández said his decision to step down in the summer has sparked the team’s recent revival in LaLiga and the Champions League.

    Barça are unbeaten in 12 matches since Xavi made his announcement in January, during which time they have climbed to second in the league and progressed to the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time since 2020, beating Paris Saint-Germain 3-2 in the first leg in midweek.

    Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

    «Since making the decision public, there has been more calm around the club and from the media,» Xavi said in a news conference ahead of Saturday’s trip to Cádiz in LaLiga.

    «It helps knowing there is an expiry date. With my decision, I was convinced we would be where we are now. That’s what I said to the president [Joan Laporta] at the time. I made the decision for the good of the club.

    «If I hadn’t made it, it would have been a disaster. It was the right decision. That calm is the reason we are where we are. Without it, it would have been much more difficult.»

    Barça host PSG in the second leg at the Olympic Stadium on Tuesday with the chance to reach a first Champions League semifinal since 2019.

    Before then, they face Cádiz, who currently occupy the third and final relegation spot in LaLiga, and Xavi says anything other than a win would end his side’s slim title hopes before next weekend’s Clásico against leaders Real Madrid, who are eight points clear with eight games to go.

    «Cadiz have only lost one of their last five games and are fighting to stay up, so they have a lot to play for,» Xavi said.

    «It’s a vital game and, if we don’t win, [winning] LaLiga is practically over for us. If we really want to push until the end — which will be tough but we won’t throw in the towel — we have to win on Saturday.

    «A title is up for grabs so I don’t think the players will need any extra motivation [after the PSG win]. But if we don’t win, the Clásico won’t mean very much next week.»

    Xavi will be forced to make changes against Cádiz, with Robert Lewandowski, João Cancelo and Iñigo Martínez all suspended, while Gavi and Alejandro Balde remained sidelined with injuries.

    Ilkay Gündogan could also be rested, but Frenkie de Jong and Pedri will both get minutes after they returned from injury layoffs against PSG on Wednesday.

    Lamine Yamal is also available for selection and doing well after a derogatory remark made about him on Movistar by on-air analyst Germán Burgos, who was later fired.

    Burgos, Diego Simeone’s former assistant at Atlético Madrid, said Yamal «could always end up [working at a traffic light]» if football did not work out for him in allusion to those who ask drivers stopped at traffic lights for money.

    «As you say, [the comment] was disgusting and condemnable,» Xavi said. «Lamine is doing OK. There is no need to speak about it any more.»



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    A Gaza teen spent last Eid surrounded by family. Now she’s collecting their bones.


    Sifting through the debris Najjar said the stench of death guided her to bodies that may be her relatives, some of whom she was able to identify by their clothes, others by belongings like medication. 

    “We identified him by his scarf stained with blood,” she said of one of her youngest relatives, Salam. “We just saw the tiny bones.”

    Whether his death will be documented remains unclear. 

    Health officials in Gaza say more than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the war erupted on Oct. 7 after Hamas burst across the border and rampaged in southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

    Zena Hasona, 10, is now in Rafah after being displaced from Gaza City.NBC News

    Six months on and many more bodies are thought to be buried under the rubble in Gaza, where hospitals have been destroyed, food and medicine is in short supply and most of the population of 2.3 million has been displaced.

    More than half sought sanctuary in the enclave’s southernmost city of Rafah, where some handed out small bags of sweets to children and performed Eid prayers in the ruins of a mosque, its minaret still standing but its dome collapsed in a heap.

    “It’s not Eid,” said Zena Hasona, 10, who fled to Rafah from Gaza City after Israel urged residents to leave when it launched its ground invasion in the north of the enclave. “We don’t have anything like we used to have. We had everything in Gaza, our family, relatives, house, and friends, but now no one is here.”

    Ahmed al-Jamal prays at the graveside of his 11-year-old son Bassam in Rafah.
    Ahmed al-Jamal prays at the graveside of his 11-year-old son Bassam in Rafah.NBC News

    Nearby, people flocked to a cemetery to pay their respects to dead relatives, an Eid tradition. 

    “May God have mercy upon him. He used to wake up in the morning and go to the mosque for (Eid) prayers with the children,” said Ahmed al-Jamal, speaking at the grave of his 11-year-old son, Bassam, who he said was killed in Israeli shelling last month. 

    “I don’t feel it’s Eid. It’s just an ordinary day,” he added, looking down at the single breeze block that marked his son’s burial spot. 

    Others have not been able to mark deaths in a dignified way. With morgues overburdened, some have been buried in mass graves, unidentified, robbed of their traditional funeral rites.

    Back in the dystopian wasteland of Khan Younis, Najjar said she was determined that that fate would not befall her relatives.

    “I won’t rest till I bury them all, bone by bone,” she said.



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    Infuriated House Democrats grapple with vote to blast Biden on Israel-Hamas war



    House Democrats are fuming over their Republican colleagues’ plans to hold a vote denouncing what they say is President Biden’s «one-sided pressure» on Israel.

    Why it matters: Many pro-Israel Democrats, particularly Jewish lawmakers, are struggling to balance their affinity for Israel with their support of the president — while accusing Republicans of playing politics with a war.


    • «There’s the work that all of the serious adults are trying to work on [to address] an incredibly complicated and gut-wrenching situation, and then there is this nonsense,» Rep. Greg Landsman (D-Ohio) told Axios.

    Zoom in: The three-page, non-binding resolution introduced by Rep. Maria Salazar (R-Fla.) opposes «efforts to place one-sided pressure on Israel with respect to Gaza.»

    Driving the news: The House on Friday voted to advance the resolution to a final vote, which is set to come up next week and will likely pass with near-universal support from Republicans.

    • But some Democrats plan to help pad their margins: Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) told Axios he will vote for the measure.
    • Rep. Don Davis (D-N.C.) suggested he would vote for it as well. «On that one – I tend to [be] very supportive of Israel, so I’m going to continue to be clear in that support,» he said.

    The backdrop: Republicans have held a score of Israel-related votes since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that Democrats say are primarily aimed at driving a wedge into their party — and it’s worked.

    • 46 Democrats broke with their party in voting for a standalone Israel aid package in February that Democratic leaders opposed because it did not include aid for Ukraine or Palestinians.
    • Several other Israel-related measures have garnered around a dozen Democratic defections, such as one in December equating antisemitism and anti-Zionism.
    • And 22 Democrats voted with Republicans to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) in November for her criticism of Israel.

    Yes, but: This resolution stands apart because it takes direct aim at President Biden.

    • Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) a member of Democratic leadership, told Axios of Democratic defections: «There could be a few, but [the measure is] pretty bad.»

    Between the lines: Many Democrats are still undecided, with some raging about Republicans «politicizing» the war in Gaza.

    • «This has nothing to do with helping Israel,» Landsman said, calling it a «partisan political resolution» that makes Israel «more divisive as an issue.»
    • Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) told Axios: «Look, I try to stand with Israel every which way I can, even though they’ve had resolutions that have divided this caucus … this is just another attempt to do that.»

    In a sign of Democrats’ tortured calculus, however, Moskowitz acknowledged there «are paragraphs in there that I agree with, obviously – it talks about the establishment of the state of Israel.»

    • Another undecided pro-Israel House Democrat said «obviously, there are points that are categorically true.»

    The other side: Several pro-Israel Democrats said they are firmly against the resolution and defended Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war.

    • Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) said Biden is «one of the best presidents for Israel» and that she’s «not about to start bashing him.»
    • Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said Biden has been «effective in getting Netanyahu to start providing more humanitarian aid … so I think Biden’s done a good job.»



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    Houston hospital halts liver and kidney transplants after doctor allegedly manipulates some records for candidates

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    A Houston hospital has halted its liver and kidney transplant programs after discovering that a doctor reportedly manipulated records for liver transplant candidates.

    «Inappropriate changes … effectively inactivated the candidates on the liver transplant waiting list,» Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center said in a statement published Thursday in the Houston Chronicle. «Subsequently, these patients did not/were not able to receive organ donation offers while inactive.»

    The New York Times, citing officials, identified the doctor as Dr. J. Steve Bynon Jr., a surgeon at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston who had a contract to lead Memorial Hermann’s abdominal transplant program.

    In a statement to CBS News, UTHealth Houston called Bynon «an exceptionally talented and caring physician, and a pioneer in abdominal organ transplantation.»

    «Our faculty and staff members, including Dr. Bynon, are assisting with the inquiry into Memorial Hermann’s liver transplant program and are committed to addressing and resolving any findings identified by this process,» UTHealth Houston spokesperson Deborah Mann Lake said in a statement.

    CBS affiliate KHOU reported last week that the hospital was putting a pause on its liver donation program, citing a «pattern of irregularities» with donor acceptance criteria.  That criteria included patients’ weight and age.

    The «irregularities» were limited to liver transplants, the hospital said, but kidney transplants were halted because the programs share the same leadership.

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is aware of the allegations, and an investigation is underway, according to a statement from the agency.

    «We are committed to protecting patient safety and equitable access to organ transplant services for all patients,» the statement said. «HHS will pursue all appropriate enforcement and compliance actions … to protect the safety and integrity of the organ procurement and transplantation system.»

    Memorial Hermann has seen an increasing number of liver transplant candidates die while on the wait list or become too sick for a transplant in recent years, according to data from the Organ Procurement Transplantation Network.

    Four patients died or became too ill for a transplant in 2021, 11 in 2022, 14 in 2023, and five so far in 2024, according to the data.

    UTHealth Houston, citing the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, said in its statement that «Dr. Bynon’s survival rates and surgical outcomes are among the best in the nation, even while treating patients with higher-than-average acuity and disease complexity.»

    Memorial Hermann has not said how long the programs will remain shuttered.

    The hospital said it was working with patients and their families to get them care and is contacting the 38 patients on the liver program transplant list and 346 patients on the kidney transplant list.

    Patients on the waiting lists do not receive organ offers when the transplant program is halted, but they accumulate waiting time, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. The patients may also be on multiple transplant waiting lists or transfer their wait time to another program, although each program has its own criteria for evaluating and accepting transplant candidates.

    In Houston, Houston Methodist, Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center and the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center also offer transplant programs.





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    Zendaya, Tom Holland look elated as they step out in London: See pic


    Zendaya and her beau Tom Holland seemed to be having a blast as they stepped out in London on Thursday evening.

    The duo were snapped after Zendaya’s appearance on the BBC’s The One Show as they returned to their hotel room in a taxi.

    In the photo, the Dune 2 actress can be seen laughing out loud, holding a drink in her hand. Tom, on the other hand, also put on an animated display as he looked at the camera.


    This comes after the duo quashed rumors of a split with PDA at Challengers‘ premiere. 

    Zendaya and Tom first met in 2016 while they filmed Spiderman: Homecoming. The duo began dating in 2021 and mostly keep their relationship private.

    The Euphoria star, 27, recently opened up about their relationship in an interview with British Vogue, noting how “beautifully” her boyfriend handled his rise to global fame after the first Spider-Man movie.

    “We were both very, very young, but my career was already kind of going, and his changed overnight,” she said.

    “I definitely watched his life kind of change in front of him. But he handled it really beautifully,” she added.

    Zendaya is currently promoting her movie Challengers and appeared on The One Show alongside co-stars Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist.



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    Tell Us: Has Elon Musk’s Behavior Affected How You View Tesla?

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    Endorsing an antisemitic post on X. Withholding Starlink satellite internet service from Ukraine to prevent a drone attack on Russian forces. Reposting conspiracy theorists who claim that the Biden administration’s immigration policies are part of a plot to increase the number of people who vote Democrat.

    Elon Musk’s behavior and public statements have clearly offended many people, especially left-leaning consumers who are the most likely to buy an electric vehicle.

    As a business reporter who covers Tesla, the company that Mr. Musk is chief executive of, I’m exploring to what extent his public persona is damaging the company’s brand and hurting sales. Or, as Mr. Musk has insisted, do people choose the best car regardless of what the chief executive says and does?

    If you own a Tesla, are thinking of buying one or have thought about buying one but ultimately chose another brand, I’d like to hear from you.

    I’ll read through each submission and reach back out to some respondents to learn more. I won’t share your contact information outside The Times newsroom or use it for any other reason than to follow up with you. And I won’t publish any part of your submission without reaching out to you and hearing back from you first.



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    «Very, very difficult» – Former agent with Saudi links discusses Eddie Howe’s position


    It’s been a fairly turbulent time for Eddie Howe at Newcastle United.

    The Magpies and their supporters were looking forward to what was expected to be a vintage 2023/24 campaign, but it’s turned out to be anything but.

    With only a handful of matches left in the season, there’s still no guarantee that Newcastle will be in Europe next season, and that has to be a disappointment for the club’s owners, the Saudi Public Investment Fund.

    They have ploughed millions into the club since taking over, in stark contrast to former owner, Mike Ashley, but still there’s no silverware in sight.

    Eddie Howe is still the man for Newcastle

    The pressure on Howe, therefore, must be immense, and former super agent, Jon Smith, who has direct links to movers and shakers in Saudi Arabia, has spoken about the likelihood of Howe being kept on at St. James’ Park.

    “The supporters reading this will know that the best chance of putting together a team and a system, and the variety of systems that play within it, is at the beginning of pre-season,” he told CaughtOffside for his exclusive column.

    “If a manager has a bad start but they’re allowed to get through to November before a change occurs, that’s not great for anyone for obvious reasons. In some cases the change happens as early as late August!

    “I think Eddie Howe is a very good manager and the Saudi Public Investment Fund will know that a question of whether to replace him is a very, very difficult one for them to answer.

    “He’s had a few months of unfortunate injuries and so if it was me, I wouldn’t knee jerk. I would take the risk, and I hope the Saudis will do the same. I think they probably will.

    “They’re in it for the long game so my guess is that they’ll let Howe and his team hang around for a little while longer.”

    Eddie Howe’s job at Newcastle United is not in doubt.

    It does make a refreshing change to see a set of owners that are not only willing to back their manager financially, but also give him the benefit of the doubt when things aren’t going so well.

    The injuries that Newcastle have suffered this season have been extensive, and to that end, there are very cogent reasons why the Magpies just haven’t been able to get any sort of consistency.

    Far too often these days, owners wield the axe in the wake of a few poor performances and results, without looking into the circumstances surrounding the same.

    Eddie Howe’s brand of football is dynamic and exciting, and a full St. James’ Park most weekends is testament to the enjoyment his side brings to the locals.

    At least PIF appear savvy enough to understand that and give the manager a little while longer to get things right.



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    National Sciences Academy Asks Court to Strip Sackler Name From Endowment


    The National Academy of Sciences is asking a court to allow it to repurpose about $30 million in donations from the wealthy Sackler family, who controlled the company at the center of the opioid epidemic, and to remove the family name from the endowment funds.

    The petition filed by the Academy in Superior Court in Washington, D.C., Thursday aims to modify the terms of the donations so the institution can use them for scientific studies, projects and educational activities.

    The move follows a report in The New York Times last year that examined donations from several Sackler members, including an executive of Purdue Pharma, which produced the painkiller OxyContin that has long been blamed for fueling the opioid crisis that has claimed thousands of lives.

    “The notoriety of the Sackler name has made it impossible for the Academy to carry out the purposes for which it originally accepted the funds,” Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, said in a statement released on Thursday.

    Daniel S. Connolly, a spokesman for the Raymond Sackler family, said it supported the National Academies in “using the funds as they see fit” and would have supported the change.

    “We would have said yes if we’d been asked, just as we will still say yes despite this unnecessary court filing and false assertions about us,” Mr. Connolly said in a statement.

    Those gifts, valued initially at $19 million, flowed into the institution, which acts as a federal advisory body and convenes panels to offer guidance on opioid policies to authorities like Congress and federal agencies. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine derives 70 percent of its funding from Congress and was founded by Abraham Lincoln to be an objective adviser to federal officials.

    The groups weighing in on pain policy included some experts who were criticized over undisclosed conflicts of interests that included ties to Purdue Pharma. In one case, a panel produced findings that suggested that chronic pain was vastly undertreated, a claim used to justify calls for more opioid prescriptions and drug approvals.

    Many prominent institutions and universities had publicly moved away from the Sackler largess years ago. Some organizations, including Tufts University and the World Health Organization, undertook reviews to examine the family’s influence on curriculum or guidelines. It is a step the Academies could consider taking, said Dr. Caleb Alexander, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University who has studied opioid overuse.

    “Equally important is for the National Academies to figure out how and why the Sacklers — and others with financial ties to opioid manufacturers — were able to exert such influence in the first place, and to institute mechanisms to ensure that this never happens again,” he said in an email. Dr. Alexander has been a paid plaintiff’s expert in opioid litigation.

    The Sackler family members gave the endowment funds to support scientific conferences, prizes and studies that would bear the family name.

    The donations started in 2000, when Dame Jillian Sackler, whose husband, Arthur, died years before OxyContin arrived on the market, began giving amounts that, by 2017, reached $5 million, Academies treasurer reports show.

    Members of the Sackler family who were involved in running Purdue Pharma donated the balance of the $19 million in donations beginning in 2008, when Dr. Raymond Sackler, his wife, Beverly and the couple’s foundation began contributing, according to the treasurer reports. Dr. and Ms. Sackler died in 2017 and 2019. A family spokesman said the donations were clearly described publicly as having nothing to do with pain or Purdue Pharma.

    After news media outlets and prosecutors began to shed light on members of the Sackler family’s roles in stoking opioid sales, the funds sat in National Academies coffers and gained value as investments.

    The Times’s article prompted a stir last year among National Academies members — elite scientists, engineers and doctors elected by their peers. In a letter, a group of 75 members, including eight Nobel Prize winners, called on the organization to explain why it failed for years to return or repurpose the money.

    “The long history of N.A.S. co-optation by the Sacklers has stained its reputation for years to come,” Robert Hauser, one of the authors of the letter, said in an email Friday. “My hope is that the N.A.S. will be able to remove the Sackler name from their contributions and repurpose them appropriately.”

    Dr. McNutt, the president, said in the statement on Thursday that the money would be used to tackle misinformation or to propose solutions to the unintended consequences of innovations in science.

    “We intend for the new fund to be used to bring our expertise and evidence-based approach to bear on many challenges facing society, including the opioid epidemic, which has taken such a terrible toll on individuals, families and our communities,” Dr. McNutt said.

    The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the controversial bankruptcy settlement for Purdue Pharma that would funnel billions of dollars into addressing the opioid epidemic in exchange for shielding members of the Sackler family from related civil lawsuits.

    Supervised by an independent monitor, Purdue no longer markets the opioids it produces, and the company would be dissolved if the bankruptcy plan is upheld. The Sacklers have not been on Purdue’s board since 2018.



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    Canadian grandmother of 12 breaks records for longest abdominal plank


    Woman breaks record for longest plank. — ABC News via Guiness World Records

    Donna Jean Wilde, a 58-year-old Canadian grandmother, has set a new Guiness World Record for holding the longest abdominal plank position by a woman, ABC News reported.

    The retired high school vice principal and teacher from Canada held the plank for 4 hours, 30 minutes and 11 seconds, beating the previous recoord by 10 minutes at her former workplace, last month.

    The previous record was set in 2019 by fellow Canadian Dana Glowacka according to Guinness.

    In order to set the new record, Guinness said Wilde needed to keep her forearms and toes on the ground at all times and the rest of her body needed to be lifted up from the ground and remain straight throughout the time period.

    Wilde’s 12 grandchildren were the source of her motivation for breaking the record, she told Guiness.

    Despite living with chronic pain in her hands and arms, Wilde said she fell in love with planking 12 years ago after sustaining a wrist injury.

    She even planked up to six hours a day while practicing to break the record.

    «I actually still can’t believe it,» she said of breaking the record. «It feels like a dream.»

    For anyone else inspired to break the record she set, Wilde said:»Keep trying and keep practicing. When you have to read or work on your computer, just get on the floor and do it on the floor.»



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    ERNEST on new album and overcoming a heart attack at 19 to follow his country music dreams


    Celebrated for his impromptu lyrics and catchy melodies, country music singer-songwriter Ernest Smith said he first realized his knack for songwriting in sixth grade when he listened to the «Space Jam» soundtrack.

    «I was ingesting rap at like, you know, second, third grade,» said ERNEST.

    His love for music blossomed in elementary school, where he honed his skills by freestyling at the lunch table and making up songs about friends.

    «They throw out words, I’d make up rhymes. And that was, that was kind of like when I realized I had a skill for it,» said ERNEST.

    That skill has earned him nine No. 1 hits and led to ERNEST writing with and for some of country music’s biggest names, like Kane Brown and ERNEST’s good friend, Jelly Roll.

    His songwriting took him to Nashville, where he signed a record deal and recently released an album named after his hometown, «Nashville, Tennessee.»

    «I call it ‘Nashville, Tennessee’ because the DNA of music city to me is, is based on and around songwriters and that’s what I want to display throughout this whole album. I want to put songwriters on the map,» said ERNEST.

    But ERNEST’s destination wasn’t always clear. 

    He was adopted as a baby. His dad was a baseball coach, so ERNEST grew up on the field, eventually earning a scholarship to play in college. But life had other plans. At 19, he experienced an unexpected heart attack due to a viral infection. 

    «When they told me I was having a heart attack, I was like, wow, you know? I was in great shape,» he recalled.

    That pushed him to leave college baseball and fully commit to his music career, a choice that has clearly paid off. 

    Now firmly established in his music career, ERNEST is selling out shows and recently performed two nights at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville — a venue that holds special significance for him. 

    «This is the one venue you can’t outgrow,» he said.

    In a touching tribute to his bond with the venue, ERNEST named his son Ryman, hoping to pass on the connection to future generations. 

    «I hope he always feels a connection to this place like I did. And like, when I’m gone, he can come here and feel me.»

    ERNEST says now is the time to share his perspective through his music.

    «This is the first record that I’ve been able to be selfish and like not give songs away,» he said. «I’m proud to say I was selfish with these because, uh, before I, I don’t regret any song I’ve given away, but I think if I were to give some of these away on this album, I might have regretted it.»



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