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  • Curry, Durant lift Warriors over Clippers in NBA thriller


    Stephen Curry scored the last of his 42 points on a driving layup with a half-second remaining Sunday and reigning NBA champion Golden State edged the Los Angeles Clippers 129-127.

    Kevin Durant added 35 points and 12 rebounds for the Warriors (23-11), who won for the eighth time in 10 games despite the Clippers hitting 18-of-23 three-point attempts.

    Curry did not play when the Clippers beat the Warriors in overtime earlier this season but the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player lifted Golden State on his shoulders in the rematch and closed out the victory with his dramatic winning shot.

    "Just got to make a play and not rush and beat them downhill and I made the play," Curry said. "It was a great way to finish."

    The Warriors are 15-3 at home but have stumbled early and are in a fight for the Western Conference lead.

    "Teams get hot and we have some slip-ups," Curry said. "We just have to figure out how to weather the storm and get the win."

    Durant was powerful defensively, blocking three shots, and all his rebounds came on the defensive end.

    GETTY/AFP/File / RONALD MARTINEZ Andrew Wiggins scored 30 points to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to a narrow 114-112 win over the Oklahoma City, at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma, on December 23, 2018

    "We buckled down in the third and fourth quarter and it was good to make them have to make some tough shots," Durant said.

    "Steph got it going. We wanted to keep feeding him and make it easy for us. The last play was phenomenal."

    Durant said being tested early will toughen the Warriors for games later in the season as they chase a fourth NBA crown in five seasons.

    "I like the groove we're in," Durant said. "We've won some tight games. That experience of playing in some tight games. That's going to help us down the stretch."

    In another dramatic finish, Oklahoma City's Paul George missed a three-point shot at the buzzer and Minnesota held off the Thunder to win 114-112.

    Andrew Wiggins scored 30 points to lead the Timberwolves while George had a game-high 31 points and 11 rebounds.

    Russell Westbrook had a triple double in a losing cause with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

    - Celtics win, Lakers lose -

    Kyrie Irving scored 25 points to lead the Boston Celtics over visiting Charlotte 119-103 while Tyler Johnson scored 20 of his 25 points in the third quarter of Miami's 115-91 win at Orlando.

    Jaren Jackson scored a game-high 27 points to lead visiting Memphis over the Los Angeles Lakers 107-99 despite 22 points, a game-high 14 rebounds and seven assists by LeBron James.

    Bahamas big man Deandre Ayton, the top pick in June's NBA Draft by Phoenix, scored 26 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in a losing cause as Brooklyn ripped the visiting Suns 111-103.

    Damian Lillard scored a game-high 33 points to lead Portland over Dallas 121-118 in overtime. Luka Doncic, a 19-year-old Slovenian rookie forward, sank a three-pointer at the buzzer to pull Dallas level at 107-107 and force overtime.

    Finnish forward Lauri Markkanen scored 31 points, hitting 5-of-10 three-point shots, to lead the Chicago Bulls over host Cleveland 112-92.

    Sacramento's Buddy Hield scored 28 points while Willie Cauley-Stein added 22 points and a career-high 17 rebounds as the Sacramento Kings rallied from 11 points down in the fourth quarter to defeat visiting New Orleans 122-117.

    Myles Turner had 18 points and 17 rebounds for Indiana in a 105-89 victory over visiting Washington while Vince Carter led six Atlanta double-digit scorers with 18 points and Alex Len grabbed 17 rebounds to lift the Hawks over Detroit 98-95.

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  • National Christmas Tree goes dark, Trump fumes in Washington chaos

    Washington's National Christmas Tree went dark Monday on the third day of a US government shutdown that left President Donald Trump fuming at opponents and stock markets teetering.

    The tree, whose spectacular lights were switched on at a ceremony attended by Trump earlier this month, became a forlorn symbol of the dysfunction gripping Washington two years into his presidency.

    The National Park Service tweeted that it would remain unlit and closed to the public "until further notice," with checks being made for damage following an attempt by an intruder on Friday to climb the tree.

    The parks service is one of the many state institutions suffering from a suspension of funding triggered by Trump's refusal to sign a broad spending package unless Congress agrees to allocate $5 billion for his controversial barrier along the US-Mexican border.

    The budget standoff could drag on into January, when the new Congress is seated, although negotiations were planned for Thursday, offering a glimmer of hope.

    GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP / MARK WILSON The area around the National Christmas Tree near the White House has been closed by the partial government shutdown, which US Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said could last into 2019

    Trump made a Mexico border wall one of his main campaign promises and the idea is popular with many Republicans backing the president's message that illegal immigration is out of control.

    Democrats and some Republicans in Congress oppose the plans as impractical, unnecessary and fueling xenophobia against Central Americans.

    The shutdown only adds to uncertainties spooking global stock markets after a tumultuous week in which respected Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned and the president stepped up attacks on the supposedly independent chairman of the Federal Reserve.

    - 'He can't putt!' -

    He renewed the invective on Monday, comparing the Fed to a blundering golfer "who can't score because he has no touch - he can't putt!"

    Trump's Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had spent much of the weekend in damage control mode following reports that Trump had privately asked cabinet members whether he has the authority to fire Fed Chairman Jerome Powell.

    Last week, the central bank hiked rates, infuriating Trump who has ignored a traditional respect for the Fed's independence, calling it "crazy", "out of control" and a greater economic threat than China.

    Mnuchin on Saturday quoted Trump as denying any plan to remove Powell.

    The Dow Jones index dropped 400 points or 1.8 percent in early trading Monday, following deep losses in Europe.

    AFP / Eric BARADAT Litter spills out of a public dustbin next to the Washington Monument on the National Mall

    Domestic issues are just part of the far from merry Christmas picture, with Trump also juggling a trade war with China and fallout from his abrupt decision to pull US troops from Afghanistan and Syria.

    Forced to delay his annual winter vacation in Florida, Trump cuts an increasingly lonely figure in the White House, where he presides over a government lacking a permanent defense secretary, attorney general or White House chief of staff.

    In six rambling morning tweets, Trump lashed out at congressional opponents, rejected widespread criticism that his Syria and Afghan decisions had left allies in the lurch, and denied responsibility for market wobbles.

    "AMERICA IS RESPECTED AGAIN!" he declared defiantly.

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  • Cameroon: Catholic Church caught in the crossfire of worsening Anglophone crisis

    The Catholic Church is increasingly caught in the middle of an escalating crisis in Cameroon’s North West and South West regions with priests shot dead, property destroyed and frequent detentions by armed separatists, according to a high-ranking church official.

    “They threatened that they’re going to kill us,” said Bishop Michael Bibi of the Bamenda archdiocese, following a recent detention by armed separatists.

    Bibi was detained twice this month by armed groups. On 5 December he attempted to travel from Bamenda, the capital of the North West region, to Kumba, 170 kilometres to the south west, intending to celebrate mass. However, on the road near Batibo his car was stopped and held up by a group describing itself as the “Amba Boys”.

    The Amba Boys are one of a number of armed separatist groups fighting the Cameroonian security forces in the North West and South West of the country. The crisis in the Anglophone regions began with protests over perceived marginalisation of Anglophones by the Francophone majority, but has become increasingly violent.

    “They saw that I was a Roman Catholic bishop, but they were not willing to listen to me, they demanded my phone and the phones of my driver and his brother,” said Bibi, describing how their car was forced off the road into a clearing in the forest. The Ambazonia fighters brandished hunting rifles and rudimentary weapons.

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  • Congolese opposition slams decision to delay elections

    Several members of the Congolese opposition have criticised the electoral commission for delaying long-awaited presidential elections by a week. The DRC's election body said it was necessary to push the polls back after voting materials were destroyed in a warehouse fire last week.

    “More than two years after the expiration of the constitutional deadline, no delay is justifiable,” said the opposition Lamuka coalition, headed by presidential candidate Martin Fayulu. “In effect, the electoral commission and the illegitimate government of [President Joseph] Kabila have had ample time to prepare good, credible, peaceful elections,” a joint statement added.

    Jean-Pierre Bemba, president of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo party and one of the leaders of the Lamuka coalition, went further and questioned the nature of the fire itself and whether it did in fact destroy the electronic voting machines, as announced by the electoral commission.

    “There’s no proof that there were machines in this warehouse, no photos or images have been shown displaying burnt out electronic voting machines,” Bemba told RFI. “We absolutely don’t believe that the voting machines were burnt. I think it was an excuse,” he said, adding that they had “information about exactly what happened”.

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  • Macron in Chad to meet French troops, boost G5 Sahel

    French President Emmanuel Macron has had pre-Christmas dinner with French soldiers deployed in the Sahel in the Chadian capital N'Djamena, ahead of talks with his counterpart Idriss Deby, to confirm his commitment to the fight against extremism in the region.

    Macron was greeted by Deby at Kossei air base upon arrival Saturday before dining with French troops stationed in the region as part of the anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane.

    Macron brought along the Elysées Palace chef, Guillaume Gomez, and enough champagne, foie gras and chocolate for 1,300 troops.

    The President also addressed commanders of the British, Estonian, German and Spanish units that are taking part in the operation.

    Macron is using his first visit to Chad to reaffirm his commitment to the fight against extremism in the region. The French government's objective is to strengthen its partnership with the new anti-jihadist force of the G5 Sahel supported by Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad.

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