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  • US government shuts down over Mexican wall standoff

    The US goverment has partially shut down following a deadlock between Democrats and Republicans on funding President Donald Trump's proposed wall at the Mexican border.

    The US government began a Christmas shutdown early Saturday, after Congress adjourned without passing a federal spending bill or addressing President Donald Trump's demand for money to build a border wall.

    Operations for several key agencies ceased at 12:01 am Saturday (0501 GMT), despite last-ditch talks that continued on Capitol Hill between White House officials and congressional leaders in both parties.

    Trump has dug in on his demand for $5 billion for construction of a wall on the US border with Mexico. Democrats are staunchly opposed, and the absence of a deal means federal funds for dozens of agencies lapsed when the clock struck midnight.

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  • Mbappe stars, ball-tampering scandal, Serena outburst: 2018 sporting highlights

     

    It was a memorable year for sport in 2018, with the World Cup in Russia, a cricketing controversy and Serena Williams' bizarre outburst grabbing the headlines.

    Here, AFP Sport takes a look at 10 sporting highlights from the last 12 months:

    FRANCE WIN WORLD CUP

    France won the World Cup on July 15 in Moscow, beating Croatia 4-2 in the highest-scoring final for 52 years. Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann all hit the target. Mbappe was not even born when France claimed the World Cup on home soil in 1998, their only previous win.

    THOMAS TAKES TOUR DE FRANCE

    AFP/File / Jeff PACHOUD Geraint Thomas became the first Welshman to win the Tour de France

    Welshman Geraint Thomas savoured the sweetest of Tour de France victories on July 29, eclipsing all challengers including Sky teammate Chris Froome, the four-time former winner, in the showcase Champs-Elysees finish to win his maiden Grand Tour title.

    MOURINHO'S THIRD-SEASON JINX

    AFP/File / Jose Mourinho, sacked by Manchester United, says he is proud of his time at the world's wealthiest football club

    Jose Mourinho's third-season jinx struck again when he was fired by Manchester United on December 18 after a lengthy slump in fortunes at Old Trafford. He was sacked from his two previous jobs, at Chelsea and Real Madrid, following similar third-season slumps.

    SERENA'S US OPEN TIRADE

    AFP/File / Eduardo MUNOZ ALVAREZ Serena Williams' argument with chair umpire Carlos Ramos overshadowed Naomi Osaka's win at the US Open

    Serena Williams' bid for a 24th Grand Slam title imploded in a furious tirade against umpire Carlos Ramos in the US Open final on September 8. Williams called him a thief after he docked her a point for two code violations. Her explosion then earned her a game penalty, prompting a further outburst and putting Japan's Naomi Osaka within one game of victory. Osaka went on to win her first Grand Slam 6-2, 6-4.

    REAL MADRID'S TRIPLE

    AFP/File / Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos (C) lifts the trophy after winning the Champions League final against Liverpool in Kiev on May 26

    Real Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1 in Kiev on May 26 to win the Champions League for the third time in a row under coach Zinedine Zidane and the 13th in total for the Spanish giants. It proved to be Zidane's last game at the club who were also weakened by the departure of star striker Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus.

    FIFTH IN A ROW FOR HAMILTON

    AFP / GIUSEPPE CACACE Lewis Hamilton collected his fifth world title

    Lewis Hamilton dominated the 2018 Formula One season, winning 11 grands prix in a fault-free year and taking his fifth drivers' championship as the challenge from Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari faded in the second half of the year. The 33-year-old Briton, who drives for Mercedes, says he is now ready to compete for a sixth title.

    CRICKET IN CRISIS

    AFP/File / STR, SAEED KHAN Captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft were all banned by Cricket Australia

    Australian cricket was engulfed in a cheating scandal that triggered national soul-searching about sport and fair play. Test captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and opening batsman Cameron Bancroft were banned, while coach Darren Lehmann resigned after ball-tampering was caught by cameras during the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town.

    KOREAN OLYMPIC THAW

    AFP/File / Fabrice COFFRINI North Korean cheerleaders made their mark at the Winter Olympics

    The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February produced a thaw in ties with nuclear-armed North Korea, who sent a team to take part in the Games as well as cheerleaders and the highest-ranking diplomatic delegation ever to venture south of the heavily defended inter-Korean border.

    IRELAND BEAT ALL BLACKS

    AFP / Paul FAITH Ireland beat the All Blacks for the first time on home soil

    Less than one year out from the World Cup, Ireland ended a 100-year wait on November 17, beating world champions New Zealand for the first time on Irish soil. The 16-9 victory marked a memorable end to an outstanding year for the Irish who won 11 out of 12 Tests, claiming the Six Nations Grand Slam, winning their three-Test series against Australia 2-1 and establishing themselves as genuine World Cup contenders in 2019.

    LEDECKA'S OLYMPIC FIRST

    AFP/File / LOIC VENANCE Ester Ledecka scored a unique ski and snowboard double at the Winter Olympics

    Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic sealed the first ski-snowboard double in Olympic history at the Pyeongchang Winter Games. The snowboard world champion and favourite performed brilliantly to win the women's snowboard parallel giant slalom on February 24, a week after stunning the alpine skiing world by capturing gold in the Super-G.

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  • The end of the Messi-Ronaldo era? Football rings the changes in 2018

    One of the enduring images from 2018 will remain Kylian Mbappe consoling Lionel Messi in the Russian city of Kazan, just after the final whistle in France's 4-3 win over Argentina in the last 16 of the World Cup.

    This was to a large extent Mbappe's year, as the teenage superstar exploded on the world stage by scoring twice in that game, the first World Cup brace by a teenager since Pele in 1958.

    Still just 19 at the time, Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe also became the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Pele as France won the trophy for the second time by beating Luka Modric's Croatia 4-2 in the final on a dark and damp Sunday in Moscow.

    The World Cup itself was a joy to watch, a richly entertaining tournament full of memorable games and concluding with the highest-scoring final since 1966.

    From Spain's 3-3 draw with Portugal in the group stage, featuring a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick, to Belgium's 2-1 quarter-final win over Brazil and Croatia's epic semi-final defeat of England in extra time, it was studded with memorable matches.

    But it was much more than that. "Maybe this is one of the weirdest World Cups," said Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic.

    His team's remarkable run to the final and the premature exits of Germany, Spain and Argentina showed that international football can still be unpredictable.

    AFP/File / Johannes EISELE Luka Modric won the Ballon d'Or after driving Croatia to the World Cup final and winning another Champions League with Real Madrid

    It will also probably be remembered as the tournament that marked the end of Messi and Ronaldo's dreams of lifting the World Cup.

    They were eliminated on the same day in the last 16, and 2018 could be remembered as the year when the Messi-Ronaldo era ended.

    Both enjoyed prolific years, with the Argentine driving Barcelona to a Spanish league and cup double and Ronaldo winning another Champions League with Real Madrid before moving to Juventus in the transfer of the year.

    - Modric takes Ballon d'Or -

    However, their numbers are down on the phenomenal figures of past years, and instead it was the impish playmaker Modric who won the Ballon d'Or, and FIFA's best player award, on the strength of his role in Madrid's Champions League triumph and Croatia's World Cup run. He was also the best player in Russia.

    Ronaldo and Messi had shared the Ballon d'Or between them for the last decade, winning five each. Ronaldo was second this time, while Messi was fifth, behind Antoine Griezmann and Mbappe.

    "Nobody has the right to compare themselves to them. They are among the best in the history of the sport," Modric told France Football. "To follow on from them is incredible, and I am proud of it."

    Crowned the best young player, Mbappe will hope the future belongs to him.

    AFP/File / FRANCK FIFE Gareth Bale came off the bench to score twice as Real Madrid beat Liverpool in the Champions League final in Kiev

    At club level, his PSG side are among the teams desperate to end Real's run of three straight Champions League titles.

    The Spaniards beat Liverpool in this year's final in Kiev with Gareth Bale scoring twice, and will hope to retain the trophy next year with the final in Madrid.

    Meanwhile, there is lots to look forward to at international level in 2019.

    - Nations League finals -

    The new UEFA Nations League has been an instant hit. It will conclude with the four-team finals in Portugal in June, with the hosts facing Switzerland and England playing the Netherlands in the last four.

    GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File / RONALD MARTINEZ Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd of the United States -- they will be defending the World Cup in France in 2019

    "We want to go beyond where we went last summer, and we're in the mix for what is a really important staging post in our development," said England manager Gareth Southgate of that competition.

    However, the main international events in 2019 are elsewhere.

    The first 24-team Asian Cup takes place in the UAE in January and February, before Brazil hosts the Copa America and the United States defend the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

    France are hoping to win another World Cup, as they host the 24-team women's tournament in June and July, with the USA the defending champions.

    And a decision is expected soon on whether Egypt or South Africa host the 24-nation Africa Cup of Nations in June and July after the Confederation of African Football stripped Cameroon of the tournament due to delays in their preparations.

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  • African players in Europe: Aubameyang leads golden boot race

    Arsenal sharpshooter Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang took the African honours in Europe at the weekend by scoring twice to become the English Premier League leading scorer.

    A brace from the Gabonese helped see off Burnley 3-1 at the Emirates and lifted his season tally to 12 -- one more than Liverpool and Egypt star Mohamed Salah and Harry Kane.

    Ghanaian Jeffrey Schlupp struck the goal that set Crystal Palace on the way to a stunning 3-2 victory at defending champions Manchester City.

    England

    MOHAMED SALAH (Liverpool)

    Liverpool's Egyptian king continued his return to form by nonchalantly stabbing home the Premier League leaders' opener in a 2-0 win at Wolves that sent them four points clear at the top. Salah also set up Liverpool's second goal at Molineux as his cross was converted by Virgil van Dijk.

    PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Arsenal)

    Despite scoring, Salah dropped to second in the race for the golden boot alongside Kane on 11 goals for the season as Aubameyang's double in a 3-1 win over Burnley moved the striker into the lead with 12. Aubameyang struck early in each half, his second strike, in particular, a fine finish that flew high past Joe Hart, as Arsenal moved level on points with Chelsea in fourth.

    AFP / Paul ELLIS Jeffrey Schlupp equalised for Crystal Palace as Roy Hodgson's men stunned Manchester City

    JEFFREY SCHLUPP (Crystal Palace)

    Winger Schlupp played a big part in the surprise of the weekend as Palace stunned Manchester City 3-2 at the Etihad. City dominated the early stages and led 1-0 until Schlupp stormed past Kyle Walker and arrowed a low left-footed shot into the far corner to put Palace on course for a famous win.

    Spain

    MUBARAK WAKASO (Alaves)

    The Ghanaian international midfielder helped Alaves secure a crucial second consecutive clean sheet as the season's surprise package claimed a 1-0 win at Real Sociedad to move fifth in La Liga, just one point behind Real Madrid.

    Italy

    KALIDOU KOULIBALY (Napoli)

    AFP / Carlo Hermann Kalidou Koulibaly (L) celebrates Napoli's victory over SPAL

    The highly-rated Senegal centre-back helped Napoli to an eighth Serie A clean sheet of the season as Carlo Ancelotti's men edged out SPAL 1-0 to remain only eight points adrift of leaders Juventus.

    HAMED JUNIOR TRAORE (Empoli)

    Ivorian teenager Traore set up Francesco Caputo to score against Sampdoria, with the goal confirmed by VAR after first being disallowed for offside. Traore, 18, then missed a chance to score his first top-flight goal for the promoted Tuscany side when his daisy-cutter was fingertipped away from goal. Empoli finished 4-2 losers.

    BASTOS (Lazio)

    Lazio's Angolan defender elbowed Cagliari's Joao Pedro in the face resulting in a yellow card for himself and a penalty which the Brazilian converted to allow the Sardinians pull a goal back in Rome. Lazio, nevertheless, won 3-1 to move fourth and into the Champions League places.

    Germany

    SALIF SANE (Schalke 04)

    The Senegal centre-back claimed his first goal for Schalke in a 3-1 win at Stuttgart in fortuitous circumstances as his header flew in off the shoulder of Germany striker Mario Gomez. It was Sane's first goal for the Royal Blues since joining in June and helped his team to their first Bundesliga win since early November.

    AMADOU HAIDARA (RB Leipzig)

    AFP/File / ROBERT MICHAEL Haidara celebrates scoring against Leipzig in a Europa League tie for Salzburg in September

    The 20-year-old Mali international is tipped to be a future Bundesliga star after the central midfielder signed a four-year deal to join RB Leipzig on Saturday and inherited the No 8 shirt vacated when Naby Keita joined Liverpool at the end of last season.

    "There aren't too many players of his age who have so much potential and he has all the capabilities to follow in Naby Keita's footsteps," said Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick after signing Haidara, currently sidelined with a knee injury, from sister club Red Bull Salzburg.

    France

    NICOLAS PEPE (Lille)

    A run of four straight games with a goal was ended in a 2-1 loss to Toulouse. Meanwhile, amid mounting interest from some of Europe's leading clubs, sporting director Luis Campos slapped an 80-million-euro ($91 million) price tag on the Ivorian. However, club president Gerard Lopez added that Pepe has said on several occasions he wants to see out the season at Lille.

    MAX-ALAIN GRADEL (Toulouse)

    AFP / FRANCOIS LO PRESTI Max-Alain Gradel (R) has scored eight goals this season

    The Ivory Coast winger scored a pair of second-half penalties as Toulouse inflicted a first home defeat of the season on Lille. Gradel equalised just after the interval and then hit the winner on 64 minutes in a 2-1 victory after he was fouled in the area by Yves Dabila. He has accounted for eight of Toulouse's 17 goals this season.

    WAHBI KHAZRI (Saint-Etienne)

    The Tunisian returned from suspension to bag his team-leading ninth goal this term in a 3-0 defeat of Dijon. His thumping first-time strike on 64 minutes saw Khazri match his personal best haul from the 2014/15 season with Bordeaux. His outstanding form also saw him collect the Ligue 1 player of the month award for November.

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  • Hunt for survivors as Indonesian tsunami death toll climbs to 373

    Dozens of filled body bags were hauled away from buildings flattened by Indonesia's volcano-triggered tsunami Monday, as the death toll climbed to 373 and search teams pushed on with the grim hunt for corpses.

    Rescue teams used their bare hands, diggers and other heavy equipment to haul debris from the stricken area around the Sunda Strait, as thousands were evacuated to higher ground.

    Experts warned that more deadly waves could slam the devastated region after Saturday night's disaster, as questions swirled over why the killer wave caught a disaster-prone country's monitors completely off guard.

    The powerful tsunami swept over popular beaches on southern Sumatra and western Java and inundated tourist hotels and coastal settlements.

    AFP / Simon MALFATTO Maps showing the formation of Anak Krakatoa after the explosion of the Krakatoa volcano in 1883

    Some 1,459 people were injured with another 128 missing, disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said, giving an updated toll late Monday.

    "The lack of a tsunami early warning system caused a lot of victims because people did not have the time to evacuate," he said.

    Hundreds of buildings were destroyed by the wave that left a tangled mess of corrugated steel roofing, timber and rubble at Carita beach, a popular spot for day-trippers on the west coast of Java.

    Beachside cottages at one resort were flattened while the dining room's mud-caked floor was strewn with smashed chairs and tables, utensils and spilled cups of ice cream.

    In the lobby, a Christmas tree remained standing, surrounded by fallen holiday ornaments and toppled-over flower pots.

    "The military and police are searching the ruins to see if we can find more victims," said Dody Ruswandi, a senior official at the disaster agency, adding that the rescue effort was likely to last a week.

    - 'No time to evacuate' -

    Indonesia's disaster agency initially said there was "no tsunami threat" even as the wave crashed ashore.

    It was later forced to issue a correction and an apology as it pointed to the area's lack of early warning systems.

    BISNIS INDONESIA/AFP / Nurul HIDAYAT Experts say Saturday's disaster was most likely caused by a moderate eruption of the Anak Krakatoa volcano in the Sunda Strait

    Unlike those caused by earthquakes, which usually trigger alert systems, volcano-triggered tsunamis give authorities very little time to warn residents of the impending threat.

    Experts say Saturday's disaster was most likely caused by a moderate eruption of the Anak Krakatoa volcano in the Sunda Strait that triggered either a large and very fast moving flow of molten rock into the sea or a sudden and massive submarine landslide -- both would displace large amounts of water, resulting in a tsunami.

    The evidence so far suggested that a section of the volcano collapsed and slid into the ocean, triggering a tsunami, said Dwikorita Karnawati, head of Indonesia's meteorological agency.

    AFP / SONNY TUMBELAKA Indonesian officials say the rescue effort in the devastated region is likely to last a week

    It was the third major natural disaster to strike Indonesia in the space of six months, following a series of powerful earthquakes on the island of Lombok in July and August and a quake-tsunami in September that killed around 2,200 people in Palu on Sulawesi island, with thousands more missing and presumed dead.

    It also came less than a week before the 14th anniversary of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, one of the deadliest disasters in history that killed some 220,000 people in countries around the Indian Ocean, including some 168,000 Indonesians.

    The vast archipelago nation is one of the most disaster-hit nations on Earth due to its position straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide.

    - 'Saw the water coming' -

    In devastated Sukarame village, Sunarti waded through knee-deep water as she searched for belongings outside her destroyed house -- and waited for aid to arrive.

    "There's been no help at all so far," the 61-year-told AFP from the flattened hamlet.

    "Some people are starving."

    Survivor Ade Junaedi recounted seeing nature's fury firsthand.

    "It happened very quickly," he said.

    "I was chatting with a guest at our place when my wife opened the door and she suddenly screamed in panic. I thought there was a fire, but when I walked to the door I saw the water coming."

    AFP / ADEK BERRY Survivors waded through knee-deep water searching for belongings outside destroyed homes

    Richard Teeuw, a geohazard expert from the University of Portsmouth in England, said the eruption and landslide may well have destabilised the volcano, heightening the risk of another tsunami.

    "The likelihood of further tsunamis in the Sunda Strait will remain high while Anak Krakatoa volcano is going through its current active phase because that might trigger further submarine landslides," Teeuw said.

    Dramatic video posted on social media showed a wall of water suddenly crashing into a concert by pop group "Seventeen" -- hurling band members off the stage and then flooding into the audience.

    At least two band members were killed along with its manager and a crew member, while Indonesian media said the band's missing drummer was found dead Monday.

    The surviving lead singer's wife is missing. Front man Riefian Fajarsyah posted a picture online of he and his wife kissing in Paris with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

    "Today is your birthday -- I want wish you a happy birthday in person. Come home soon, honey," he wrote in the caption of the photo, which was posted Sunday.

    Anak Krakatoa, which forms a small island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, emerged around 1928 in the crater left by Krakatoa, whose massive eruption in 1883 killed at least 36,000 people and affected global weather patterns for years.

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