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Scotland’s Stuart Hogg celebrates at the end of the match

Scotland narrowly avoided a nightmare end to their Six Nations campaign on Saturday, beating Italy 29-27 after trailing the perennial wooden-spooners for most of the game.

Scotland scored four tries and clinched the win with a late penalty but the result could well have gone the other way, with the expectant home crowd of 60,000 on the verge of celebrating Italy’s first Six Nations victory in three years.

Scotland broke the Azzurri down in the final ten minutes with a try by full-back Stuart Hogg, having already crossed the chalk through hooker Fraser Brown, captain John Barclay and winger Sean Maitland. Scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw drove the nail into Italian hearts in the final minutes with a penalty.

For Italy, fly-half Tommaso Allan scored two tries, with fullback Matteo Minozzi also crossing the line.
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FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired the FBI’s former No.2 official Andrew McCabe Friday, prompting McCabe to say he is being targeted because he is a crucial witness into whether President Donald Trump tried to obstruct the Russia investigation.

Sessions, in a statement on Friday, said he felt justified in firing McCabe after the Justice Department’s internal watchdog found he leaked information to reporters and misled investigators about his actions.

“The FBI expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity and accountability,” Sessions said.

But McCabe, who played a crucial role in the bureau’s investigations of Hillary Clinton and Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election, denied those claims and said he is facing retaliation by the Trump administration.

In a lengthy statement, McCabe said he believes he is being politically targeted because he corroborated former FBI Director James Comey’s claims that Trump tried to pressure him into killing the Russia probe.

Trump ousted Comey last year and acknowledged in a televised interview that he fired Comey over “this Russia thing.”

McCabe’s dismissal came two days before his 50th birthday, when he would have been eligible to retire from the Federal Bureau of Investigation with his full pension. The firing – which comes nine months after Trump fired Comey – puts McCabe’s pension in jeopardy.

It also is likely to raise questions about whether McCabe received an overly harsh punishment due to political pressure by the Republican president, who has blasted McCabe on Twitter and called for his ouster.

Comey’s firing paved the way for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to tap Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is now leading the investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Trump has denied there was any collusion.

“I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey,” McCabe said in his statement.

“This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort … to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally.”

Trump posted a message on his twitter account early Saturday, praising the action and blasting both McCabe and Comey.

Trump wrote, “Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!”

McCabe had stepped down from his position as FBI deputy director in January but remained on leave pending retirement.

His departure was triggered by a critical report from the Justice Department’s inspector general that eventually led the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility to recommend he be fired.

The report, which has yet to be made public, says McCabe misled investigators about his communications with a former Wall Street Journal reporter who was writing about McCabe’s role in probes tied to Clinton, including an investigation of the Clinton family’s charitable foundation.

In his statement, McCabe denied ever misleading investigators.

He added that the release of the inspector general’s report was “accelerated” after he testified behind closed doors before the US House Intelligence Committee where he revealed he could back up Comey’s claims. Comey’s firing has become central to questions about whether Trump unlawfully sought to obstruct the Russia investigation.

McCabe could potentially be a crucial witness in Mueller’s investigation.

Trump and other Republicans have accused McCabe, a lifelong Republican who worked at the FBI for more than 20 years, of political bias and conflicts in connection with his oversight of investigations related to Clinton.

Some of that criticism stemmed from the fact that his wife, Jill McCabe, a Democrat, received donations for her unsuccessful 2015 Virginia state Senate campaign from Terry McAuliffe, who was then the state’s governor and an ally of the Clintons.

McCabe did not start overseeing the investigations until after his wife’s campaign ended, the FBI has said, and therefore did not have a conflict of interest.

On Twitter last year, Trump questioned why McCabe was allowed to oversee an investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while his wife received donations from “Clinton puppets.” He said McCabe was “racing the clock to retire with full benefits.”

Behind closed doors, Trump also asked McCabe who he voted for in the presidential election and referred to his wife as a loser, according to a source familiar with the matter.

McCabe initially did not respond to Trump’s question but later told Trump he did not vote in 2016, the source said.

Asked about this in January, Trump said he did not recall asking McCabe whom he voted for.

The inspector general’s report is largely focused on how McCabe answered questions about whether he leaked to the press in advance of a story that was critical of his oversight into the Clinton foundation investigation.

McCabe contends he did not view this as a leak but as an authorized disclosure that is commonplace in Washington between reporters and government officials.

He said he answered questions truthfully, and later, when he felt investigators misunderstood his answers, he tried to clarify his responses with them.
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Tottenham's Christian Eriksen celebrates scoring their third goal

Tottenham Hotspur’s Christian Eriksen scored twice in a 3-0 victory at Swansea City as the north London club breezed into the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday.

The Dane’s exquisite left-foot strike put Spurs in front after 11 minutes in a one-sided tie at the Liberty Stadium.

Erik Lamela buried a right-foot shot past Swansea’s Swedish keeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt to make it 2-0 before the interval and Eriksen killed off the hosts just past the hour.

Swansea, playing in their first FA Cup quarter-final since 1964, were without cup-tied striker Andre Ayew and his bother Jordan, who was suspended, and offered little resistance as the visitors enjoyed a comfortable 90 minutes.

The home side’s only chance came just after halftime when Tottenham’s former Swansea keeper Michel Vorm made a fine double save to deny Martin Olsson and Tammy Abraham.

Eight-times FA Cup winners Tottenham are looking to lift the trophy for the first time since 1991, since when they have lost seven semi-finals, most recently to Chelsea last year.

Spurs will effectively enjoy home advantage in the semi-final because Wembley, which stages the semis, has been their temporary home this season while their new stadium is built.

Twelve-times winners Manchester United host Brighton & Hove Albion later on Saturday with Chelsea visiting Leicester City and third-tier Wigan Athletic hosting Southampton on Sunday.
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People sit in a truck with their belongings as thousands flee the Afrin region

Thousands of civilians streamed out of their towns to escape battles in the north and south of Syria on Saturday, where two different offensives have prompted an exodus in recent days.

A new wave of at least 10,000 people fled a rebel pocket to army lines in eastern Ghouta near the capital Damascus in the southwest. Rescuers and a monitor said air strikes pounded the besieged zone.

In the northern Afrin region, people ran from other frontlines closing in on their homes as Turkish jets struck the main town, Syrian Kurdish forces and the monitor said. More than 150,000 people have left the town in the last few days, a senior Kurdish official said.

The two offensives – one by the Syrian army with Russia’s support, and another led by Turkey with its allied Syrian rebels – entered decisive phases this week. Both have shown how foreign backers and their Syrian allies are reshaping the map after the defeat of Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate last year.

Syria’s conflict marked seven years this week, after killing hundreds of thousands, displacing at least 11 million more, including nearly 6 million who fled abroad in one of the worst refugee crises of modern times.

Turkey launched the cross-border offensive on Afrin in January against the Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters that control the region.

In its own month-long assault, the Syrian military has marched into much of eastern Ghouta, the last big insurgent bastion around Damascus.


Government forces have splintered Ghouta into three zones in one of the bloodiest offensives of the seven-year war. For the first time, residents began running in their thousands out of the southern pocket, around the town of Hammouriyeh, this week.

State media said 10,000 more civilians reached army positions on Saturday, and some others started leaving the Harasta zone as well in a new outflow.

Troops and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (Sarc) would take them to temporary shelters, it said.

Men, women, and children crossed the front by foot along a dirt road, staggering under the weight of bags and suitcases, footage on state TV showed. Many carried infants on their shoulders or pushed them in strollers. Some elderly people hobbled on wooden sticks.

The UN has said the exact numbers of people exiting are not known, nor are the destinations of all evacuees.

More than 30,000 people left on Saturday, the Interfax news agency cited a centre in Syria that Russia’s defence ministry runs as saying. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put it at 20,000 so far.

The UK-based monitoring group said air strikes on Zamalka, in the pocket that has seen the exodus, killed 30 people gathering to leave for government lines. The monitor and local rescuers in rebel territory said warplanes pounded the towns of Kafr Batna and Ain Tarma, as well as Zamalka.

Damascus and its key ally Moscow say they strike only armed militants and seek to stop insurgent mortar fire that killed dozens in the capital. They have accused the Ghouta factions of preventing people from leaving – which rebels deny.


An estimated 12,000-16,000 people had already left Ghouta before Saturday, while fighting in Afrin had reportedly displaced more than 48,000, a UN aid official in Syria has said.

Turkey’s military has pushed the YPG militia back from the border and advanced on the western and eastern flanks of Afrin town itself. Ankara sees the Kurdish forces as an extension of the outlawed Kurdish PKK which has waged a decades-long insurgency inside Turkey.

Turkish air and artillery strikes rained down overnight and in recent days, driving tens of thousands out of the main town, Kurdish authorities and the Observatory have said.

Hevi Mustafa, a senior member of the civil authority that governs Afrin, said people fled the main town to other Kurdish-held parts of the region and to government territory.

“The situation is tragic for the people inside,” she said. “And the displaced outside Afrin are out in the open without refuge or food.”

The Turkish military denied on Saturday it had struck a hospital in Afrin, and added it was waging the campaign in a way that would not hurt civilians. The YPG and the Observatory had said a Turkish air strike on the town’s main hospital killed 16 people the night before