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'Totally unacceptable': U.S. secretary of state calls on China to free Two Michaels – National Post

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Antony Blinken told CBC that he has been advocating for the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in talks with Chinese counterparts

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Top politicians in the United States and Canada sounded off on China on the weekend, condemning the detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig and signalling plans to co-operate in securing the release of the two Canadians.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the detentions “totally unacceptable,” in an interview with CBC News aired on Sunday.

“Using people, human beings, as pawns for political purposes, it is totally unacceptable conduct by any country,” said Blinken, who met virtually with Canadian officials on Friday as part of a round of talks last week between the Canadian federal government and U.S. President Joe Biden’s new administration.

Kovrig and Spavor, known in Canada as the two Michaels, have been detained in China on espionage charges since December 2018. Canadian officials have decried their detention as political retribution or “hostage diplomacy” by China, since their arrests came shortly after the RCMP detained Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive with Chinese telecom giant Huawei, on an extradition request from the United States.

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Using people, human beings, as pawns for political purposes, it is totally unacceptable conduct by any country

“We stand strongly with Canada when it comes to the need to see the two Michaels released immediately and unconditionally,” Blinken told CBC. “We will continue to stand with Canada on that. I’ve made that clear in my own conversations with Chinese counterparts and we look forward to the day when they’re able to return home.”

Blinken’s comments on the matter echoed those of Biden, who pledged to help bring back the two Canadians during his summit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week.

“Human beings are not bartering chips,” Biden said. “We’re going to work together until we get their safe return.”

But it’s not clear exactly how the two nations will achieve that.

“These are processes that are ongoing,” Trudeau told a news conference on Friday. “The United States is taking their role in this very seriously and we look forward to working with them on bringing the two Michaels home as soon as possible.”

Blinken has repeatedly declined to comment on questions about whether the U.S. is considering a so-called deferred prosecution agreement — a form of plea deal that could allow Meng to return to China in return for an admission of wrongdoing.

Last week, a Justice Department spokesman confirmed to The Canadian Press that prosecutors were continuing to seek Meng’s extradition to the U.S., where she is facing fraud charges.

  1. U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, appearing via video conference call, give closing remarks at the end of their virtual bilateral meeting from the White House, February 23, 2021.

    Trudeau’s swipe at Trump in call with Biden: ‘U.S. leadership has been sorely missed over the past years’

  2. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks about the detention by China of Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, on July 1, 2020, in Washington. U.S. intervention in the extradition proceedings against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou could be one way to bring about their freedom.

    China, Canada or U.S. could each bring about Two Michaels’ freedom, says Kovrig’s wife

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In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press that aired on Sunday, Trudeau said Canada will honour its extradition treaty, accusing China of using “trumped-up” charges “to try and pressure us to release” Meng.

“The relationship with China in Canada is deeply coloured by the fact that they have arbitrarily detained two Canadian citizens, simply because we lived up to an extradition treaty with the United States,” he said in the pre-taped interview.

“They, shortly afterwards, arrested two Canadian citizens on national security trumped-up charges and have detained them for about 800 days and counting now, in an attempt to try and pressure us to release the executive. We, of course, are a country of the rule of law. We will not do that. We live by our treaties and live by the rule of law.”

We, of course, are a country of the rule of law. We will not do that. We live by our treaties and live by the rule of law

Trudeau said his talks with Biden were “very positive in us working together to try and resolve this situation and hold China to account.”

After his meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau on Friday, Blinken praised the Canadian government’s work on snuffing out politically motivated imprisonment around the globe, by getting countries to sign onto its Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention.

The declaration, a project initiated by former foreign affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne, is from a coalition of more than 50 countries opposed to the state-sponsored political detention of foreign nationals.

“Obviously we have to focus on bringing the two Michaels home, but more broadly we have to work together to establish a basic norm in international conduct that this is simply unacceptable,” Blinken told CBC on Sunday. “That takes time. It takes effort — it takes sustained effort.”

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Over the weekend, Michael Kovrig’s wife, Vina Nadjibulla, told Global News that she hopes the government will “seize this moment” and convert the fresh U.S. support into action.

“What I took away from that is that President Biden has compassion for the unjust suffering that our Michael and Michael Spavor are going through, as well as that he understands that Canada has been paying a really high price since it accepted the extradition request from the U.S. two years ago,” she said.

Asked how her husband was doing, Nadjibulla said she has received letters from him and noted “he is staying mentally strong.”

“His situation is so incredibly, unspeakably difficult and he continues to stay focused on what he can control,” she said.

—With files from The Canadian Press

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Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca

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It was something Dominique Ducharme said after his Montreal Canadiens played an abysmal game against the Ottawa Senators last week, something that only truly resonated after they lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday — a game that emboldened the struggle Jonathan Drouin’s currently enduring.

“Ninety per cent of the mistakes we made were mental, and the rest of it was above our shoulders.” the coach said after the 6-3 loss to Ottawa last Saturday, somewhat channelling New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra with this bit of wit and wisdom.

It was hard not to think of those words watching Drouin play the way he did on Wednesday. For much of this season, the talented left winger has played a primary role in Montreal’s success. He’s led them with 19 assists, been tenacious on the forecheck, physically engaged all over the ice, cerebral as always in his execution and, as he’s said on several occasions, relatively unconcerned by whether or not his name has been featured on the scoresheet.

But it seemed clear, after watching Drouin dump a breakaway into Jack Campbell’s chest with one of 32 shots the Maple Leafs goaltender turned aside to set a franchise record with his 10th consecutive win, he had diverted from that. And that affected the way he played the rest of the game.

It was Drouin’s fifth in a row without a point, his 18th without a goal, and he’d have to be a robot not to be suffering the mental wear of not seeing the puck go in more than twice since the season started, the torment of seeing only three per cent of his shots hit the back of the net through 36 games after 10 per cent of them resulted in goals through the first 348 games of his career.

“It is weighing on me where, when I have a chance and miss the goal, I might be trying to score too much,” Drouin said. “It’s something I obviously think about — every player would — and I’ve just gotta put it past me and just keep shooting pucks.”

Ideally, the 26-year-old wouldn’t be thinking about any of this. These are thoughts that weigh a player down and right now the Canadiens are in tough without Brendan Gallagher for the rest of the season and Drouin needs to be light and free to help account for that loss. And in order for him to do that, he needs to focus on what he does best.

Because the reality is that even though Drouin can score more, scoring isn’t what he needs to do in order to be at his best and really help this team.

“When his feet are moving and he’s making plays, Drou’s a pass-first guy,” explained Jake Allen, who made 29 saves in Carey Price’s absence. “When his feet are moving, his head’s always in it. When his feet are moving, he’s controlling the play, controlling the puck. He’s a guy who really can control the play for a whole line. You want the puck on that guy’s stick and let the other guys do the dirty work and he’ll find them.”

But when Drouin’s feet aren’t moving, there just isn’t enough of that other stuff happening.

When Drouin’s feet weren’t moving, he lost a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and allowed the NHL’s leading goal scorer to start the rush that resulted in the winning play of Wednesday’s game.

Auston Matthews to Mitch Marner, back to Matthews, off Allen and slammed into Montreal’s net by Zach Hyman with 9:39 remaining in the third period, with Drouin watching from just inside his own blue line.

“You give a 3-on-2 to the Matthews line and it’s the kind of play they’re going to make you pay on,” said Ducharme.

Was Drouin still thinking about that shot he didn’t bury in the second period?

It’s understandable if he was, but those are the kind of thoughts he needs to shake right now.

“He wants to do well, and I’m sure it’s getting a little bit in his head,” said Ducharme. “I think the best remedy for him is to be scoring that goal or making that big play, and I think he’s going to be energized by that and less thinking, more acting.

“It is a fine line. Those kind of thoughts is not something that you want to happen. But when you receive that puck and you see the opening and stuff, (the slump) comes back to (your mind). That’s why the mental part of the game is something that’s very tricky. It’s not his will to be thinking that way. Every player who’s going through a time like that will have that thought and scoring that goal will take him to a different level. At those kind of times you need to make it even simpler and being even more inside going at the net and finding a garbage (goal) right there and you put it in and sometimes you go on a little run. It might be that kind of goal that he needs to get that monkey off his back.”

It’s the kind of goal Corey Perry scored twice to give the Canadiens a chance in this game.

But Drouin isn’t Perry, who rightly pointed out after the game he’s made a career of scoring goals that way. And even if Drouin can borrow from what Perry does next time he has a chance like the one Brett Kulak set him up with for that breakaway, there are other ways he can positively impact the game.

You can appreciate that Drouin said he’s putting pressure on himself to score more and help make up for the goals the team will be missing with Gallagher sidelined, but that might not get him to where he needs to be mentally to contribute as much as he already has this season.

What would, though, is a sharp turn towards the mentality he described just days ago. The one that’s enabled him to be a much more consistent player this season than he has in seasons past.

“When I was younger, I’d stay on one game or stay on one play for too long and wouldn’t be able to let it go for a bit or a couple of days,” Drouin said. “But I think for me now it’s can I look at myself in the mirror after a game and did I give my good effort? Was I a part of this game? Was I doing something right in a lot of areas?

“That’s what I do now. I think points are there, goals are there, assists are there, but it’s just about playing that real game and playing to help your team win.”

Drouin’s done a lot of that this season and has a chance to get right back to it when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre Thursday.

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Scioscia to lead U.S. baseball bid for spot at Tokyo Olympics

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(Reuters) – Mike Scioscia, who won World Series both as a player and manager, was named manager of the U.S. men’s national baseball team on Tuesday, as they seek a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

After 19 seasons as manager of the Anaheim Angels, guiding them to their only World Series win in 2002, Scioscia will make his international coaching debut in June when the United States hosts the Baseball Americas Qualifier in Florida.

For the tournament the U.S. will be grouped with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua in Pool A while Canada, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela will make up Pool B.

The top two teams from each pool will advance to the Super Round, where the country with the best overall record will earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympic tournament.

Second and third-place finishers will advance to a final qualifier, joining Australia, China, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.

“Mike’s tenure with the Angels’ franchise was nothing short of spectacular, creating and celebrating a culture of success with six division titles, an American League pennant, and its first-ever World Series title,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler in a statement. “More impactfully, his leadership, integrity, and character are unparalleled in our game, making him the perfect fit for the USA Baseball family.”

The Olympic tournament will take place from July 28-Aug. 7 in Fukushima City and Yokohama.

Hosts Japan, Israel, South Korea, and Mexico have already secured a berth in the six-team field.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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Masters 2021: Tiger Woods says he'll miss Champions Dinner, running up DJ's bill – Golf Channel

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Dustin Johnson will host his first Champions Dinner on Tuesday night in the Augusta National clubhouse, and he’ll be joined by several past Masters champions.

One former winner who won’t be there is five-time champ Tiger Woods, who is still home in South Florida recovering from a serious car accident in February near Los Angeles. Justin Thomas, who is still working toward his invite to the prestigious dinner, said Woods texted him Friday night and was “bummed” to not be at the Masters this year.

Woods then tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he’ll miss one of his favorite nights of the year.

“I’ll miss running up @DJohnsonPGA’s bill at the Champions Dinner tonight,” Woods said. “It’s still one of my favorite nights of the year.”

Johnson responded to Woods’ tweet, saying: “Will miss having you here. This week isn’t the same without you.”

The PGA Tour announced that the club would leave a seat open for Woods at the dinner, though the tweet has since been taken down.

Johnson will serve a menu including filet mignon, sea bass and peach cobbler.

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