Meghan Markle gets baptized and confirmed in secret ceremony

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Ivanka Trump, top N. Korean general to come face-to-face at PyeongChang closing ceremony

Ivanka Trump, who is also a senior adviser to her father, will be joined by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who will give particular support to the female athletes competing at the Games.

“Sarah’s going as a female to help cheer on all of the female athletes and highlight the women’s sports and success our female athletes have had at this year’s Olympic Games,” a White House official said.

Other members of the delegation include the junior US senator from Idaho, Jim Risch, and US Army National Guard soldier and Olympic medal-winning bobsledder Shauna Rohbock.

“I am honored to lead the US delegation to the closing ceremonies of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics,” Ivanka Trump said.

“We look forward to congratulating Team USA and celebrating all that our athletes have achieved. Their talent, drive, grit and spirit embodies American excellence, and inspire us all.”

The delegation’s main aim is to highlight American athletes’ achievements at the Olympics, and to reaffirm US cooperation with the Games’ host, South Korea.

The 36-year-old presidential adviser is set to have dinner with South Korean leader Jae-in Moon during her three-day visit to South Korea.

Much attention will be on the American delegation’s stance towards representatives of North Korea, with whom the US has consistently exchanged war threats.

The Games curtain-raiser, staged on February 9, saw US Vice President Mike Pence sitting next to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong.

North Korea’s eight-member delegation for the closing ceremony will be headed by Kim Yong-chol, a senior general who is in charge of inter-Korean affairs. He is also believed to have masterminded several attacks on South Korea, including on the vessel ‘Cheonan’ in 2010 that killed 46 sailors.

South Korea had blacklisted Kim for supporting the country’s nuclear and missile programs, but decided to accept the North’s Olympics delegation amid the newly established thaw in relations between the two states.

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FIFA announce star-studded World Cup final draw for Kremlin ceremony

Laurent Blanc, Gordon Banks, Cafu, Fabio Cannavaro, Diego Forlan, Diego Maradona and Carles Puyol comprise the star-studded helpers at the event, representing World Cup winning nations. They will join Nikita Simonyan, the Soviet footballing legend who was earlier announced as the representative of host nation Russia.

The eight will decide the fate of the 32 participating teams in next year’s football showpiece, which is the first to be held in Russia, and will share the stage with presenters Gary Lineker, the former England international, and Russian TV journalist Maria Komandnaya.

Just seven months remain until the tournament, which will be held from June 14 to July 15 at 12 host venues across 11 host cities. The draw is the final major FIFA event before the tournament kicks off.

Argentine great Maradona will be reunited with a familiar foe in Lineker. The two former Barcelona stars played against each other in a quarter-final match between their respective nations at the Mexico ‘86 tournament, now most famous for the ‘Hand of God,’ which saw Maradona brazenly punch the ball over ‘keeper Peter Shilton to open the scoring.

That match ended 2-1 to Argentina, courtesy of a further Maradona goal, this time a wondrous solo effort beginning inside his own half. Lineker netted a late consolation for the ‘Three Lions.’ Maradona went on to lead ‘La Albiceleste’ to World Cup glory in Mexico, beating West Germany 3-2 in the final, and Lineker claimed the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer.

Only Simonyan and Uruguay’s Diego Forlan are the only draw assistants not to have won the tournament. Forlan was instrumental in Uruguay’s run to the 2014 semi-finals, which earned him the Golden Ball trophy as the best player in Brazil. Spartak Moscow great Simonyan, 91, had his finest hour with the national side at the 1958 Olympic Games, where the Soviet team won gold.

Brazil legend Cafu, who captained his side to World Cup 2002 success in Japan and South Korea, will reprise his assistant role of four years ago before the World Cup in his home country.

“The Final Draw is a moment when the whole planet joins in enthusiasm and expectation, so it makes me happy to be a part of that once again,” said the former full-back, who appeared in three finals – a joint record he shares with compatriot Pele.

“I was fortunate enough to come to Russia several times over the course of this World Cup cycle and I am quite certain that the country will deliver yet another fantastic event in Moscow.”

Carles Puyol, Spain’s victorious captain in 2010, wrote on social media: “I’ve been part of many great teams throughout my career, but this one is simply from another world. It’s an honour to share the stage with these FIFA Legends and be there to help decide the groups for the Russia 2018.”

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said: “It is a great line-up and I am delighted to have FIFA legends from all of the former World Cup winning countries represented in the Final Draw show.”

Infantino was one to heap praise on Russia for their hosting of the 2017 Confederations Cup last summer, which is a dress rehearsal tournament for the World Cup.

READ MORE: ‘We heard about hooligans & racism, but no incidents, all ran smoothly’ – FIFA chief Infantino

“[Before the tournament], we heard about a lot of problems: that no one would care, that the teams don’t want to come, they don’t want to play. We heard about violence, hooligans, incidents, racism – we had nothing, we had no incidents, everything ran smoothly,” he said at a press conference after the Confed Cup final.

“If this is what a problematic tournament looks like, then I hope there are many problematic tournaments, because it went very well. We can expect same warm welcome next year. This is what it is about – enjoying football,” he added.

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Cremation ceremony for late Thai king begins

Hundreds of thousands of Thais dressed all in black took to the streets of Bangkok to pay their last respects to the late monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Crowds of mourners followed a chariot carrying a symbolic funeral urn representing Bhumibol’s remains to the cremation site, with buildings along the route draped in yellow marigold. Thailand has been in mourning since the king’s death on October 13, 2016. A five-day funeral ceremony officially started on Wednesday with Buddhist merit-making rites, performed by the current king, Maha Vajiralongkorn, Bhumibol’s son. The late king will be cremated later on Thursday in a royal pyre lit by his son.

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Loretta Lynn’s surprise appearance caps off 2017 Country Music Hall of Fame ceremony

The surprise appearance of Loretta Lynn at the 2017 Country Music Hall of Fame ceremony on Sunday night was the perfect emotional cap to what was a pretty special evening in Nashville. The organization’s annual Medallion Ceremony took place at the Museum CMA Theater, and on this night it was Alan Jackson, Don Schlitz and the late Jerry Reed who were inducted as the 57th class for the iconic Hall of Fame.

The real headline from the night came from 1988 inductee Loretta Lynn, who had been staying out of the public since she suffered a stroke at her Tennessee home back on May 4. Her appearance at the event wasn’t announced ahead of time, and even seemed to surprise the night’s honorees, in addition to Lynn herself. The 85-year-old Lynn was reportedly assisted in walking onto the stage and up to the podium by country star George Strait and an unnamed assistant.

“I told [Alan Jackson] he was going to be one of the greatest singers in country music,” she said over the microphone. “He hasn’t let me down. … He’s the only one who could bring me here.”

Lynn’s surprise appearance was just one of many special moments at the event. Another came when Jerry Reed’s daughters took the stage to induct their late father with an emotional speech.

“Making music is what I love and it’s all I know,” Lottie Zavala said about her iconic dad. “Every dream I ever dreamed has come true and then some.”

Jamey Johnson delivered a performance of Reed’s signature classic, “East Bound and Down,” while Mary Chapin Carpenter, Charlie Worsham, Thom Schuyler and Vince Gill just to name a few, each played various songs from Don Schlitz’s equally famous catalogue. Lee Ann Womack, George Strait and Alison Krauss were on hand to play musical tribute to Jackson.

“These men came to Nashville with no earthly idea of the mark that they would make,” the Museum’s CEO Kyle Young said about this year’s class during the ceremony. “They believed in the enduring power of music.”

Congratulations to all of this year’s Country Music Hall of Fame inductees and their families. 

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Kaeper-Kicked: Cleveland Cops, EMTs Blow Off Kneelin’ Browns Opening Ceremony

Apparently when you insult Cleveland cops and paramedics, and the symbols they revere, they’re not the types to say “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” So after a dozen Cleveland Browns players refused to stand for the National Anthem in a preseason game, Cleveland’s finest won’t be holding a huge Old Glory on the field at the Browns’ home opener, as they’d previously agreed to.

Those Browns players, in an apparent effort to take the “lovable” out of “lovable losers,” (1 – 15 last season!) were emulating the currently unemployed Colin Kaepernick – he of the pig policeman socks and Fidel Castro fan-boy gear. We all know Kaepernick’s story. The cynical take is that he started sitting for the Anthem to make it politically problematic for the Niners to cut him and his fading talents. The more charitable view is that he’s just a jerk.

After the Browns caught the Kaepernick flu, the Cleveland Patrolmen’s and EMS unions pulled out of the home opener ceremony. EMS union head Daniel Nemeth told Fox 8 Cleveland, “This hit home with me. I am a veteran, an 8-year veteran with the U.S. Marine Corps. So, to disrespect the flag by taking a knee is not something I was going to be a part of.”

Fox 8 reached out to police union president Steve Loomis. “I’m here at a national police convention,” said Loomis, “and soon as they hear that I’m from Cleveland, the first question is ‘What about those stinking Browns?’” (In fairness, that’s a question anybody from Cleveland is apt to hear at any time. Did I mention they were 1 – 15 last season?) “So if the ownership of the Browns and the league are going to allow that type of stuff to happen, and then come to us and say, ‘We want you to help us with the flag,’ that’s hypocritical. We’re not gonna participate.”

Well said, Mr. Loomis. And you’re not alone. At this writing, it doesn’t look like Colin Kaeperhick’s going to be participating in games either.

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Police Hold Secret Ceremony Honoring Cops Involved in “Trafficking, Raping” Underage “Sex Slave”


Oakland, CA — An abused little girl was only 12-years-old when she was forced into the sex trade, forever altering the course of her life. For years, this little girl was “exploited by pimps” when she finally broke away and made it to an Oakland police officer. For a brief moment, she thought she was safe — but, according to a recent lawsuit, she was wrong.

When the young girl thought she was getting help, she was actually being brought into a depraved circle of cops from multiple departments who would continue to abuse her for years to come.

Instead of helping her, more than 30 other law enforcement officers “continued to traffic, rape, victimize and exploit a teenage girl who needed to be rescued,” according to a legal claim filed with the Oakland city attorney’s office. “Instead of helping [the teen] find a way out of exploitation, they furthered and deepened her spiral down into the sex trade,” the claim continued.

Now, as a recent report from the East Bay Express notes, some of the officers involved in covering up this explicit case of child sex trafficking are not only being promoted — but honored.

Knowing that if they conducted their honors ceremony in public, they would likely see a huge backlash, the Oakland police department held a secret ceremony in a church Friday.

Several of the officers honored at the ceremony were the same ones involved in covering up, mishandling, or otherwise participating in the sex-crime incident.

As the Express notes, two dozen protesters picketed the ceremony at the church’s entrance, accusing Mayor Libby Schaaf and the department of rewarding officers who should instead be punished.

“They seem to be resisting change,” said Gwen Hardy, a longtime Oakland resident who has been involved in efforts to reform the OPD since the 1980s, according to the Express. Hardy said the Coalition for Police Accountability, which spearheaded the creation of the city’s new police commission, met with Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick earlier this year. Kirkpatrick told the activists she wouldn’t hesitate to discipline, and even fire, bad cops.

“But why promote them?” Hardy asked.

Normally, when police officers honor themselves with awards and promotions, these events are broadcast out into the public light as to bolster their public image. However, when they are honoring those who facilitated a child sex scandal, they have to do it in secret. No media was allowed in the event and, in fact, they were forced to stand 50 yards away from the entrance.

As the Express noted, in the past, media were invited to these functions — not anymore.

Roland Holmgren was one of the officers honored at Friday’s ceremony for his recent promotion to captain.

Holmgren was one of the dozens of cops referred to in a special court investigator’s report as having mishandled the Celeste Guap case, in which multiple Oakland cops raped and trafficked a young woman, and illegally accessed department records, among other crimes, according to the Express.

Several other officers, including Capt. Kirk Coleman, who now runs the Internal Affairs Division, were in attendance. Coleman was also involved in the sex trafficking cover up and named in the report for failing to notify the District Attorney about the criminal behavior of the officers in the case.

The public became aware of the investigation after Guap went public and the investigation revealed a massive conspiracy to cover up the sexual abuse by dozens of California cops.

“It appears to be a cesspool here,” local attorney, John Burris, responsible for a 2003 federal probe into the Oakland police department said at the time. “But you gotta keep working at it to drain the swamps.”

As Oakland scrambles to hold on to what little shred of dignity they think they have left, moves like this one only serve to stoke the divide even further.

With sex trafficking on the rise in the United States, it is no wonder government is admitting they have no way to stop it. After all, if they are awarding police officers for covering up one of most reported on underage sex trafficking cases in the country, why on earth would we expect them to do anything to stop it?

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‘Make sure you come in time!’ Bumper Confed Cup closing ceremony planned in St. Petersburg

The acts performing at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup closing ceremony at St. Petersburg Stadium on July 2 have been announced.

READ MORE: Ballet, pop stars & folk dances as Russia welcomes FIFA Confederations Cup (PHOTOS)

Pop star and current ‘The Voice’ judge Polina Gagarina, rapper Egor Kreed, and DJ Smash have been confirmed as the acts to perform the prelude to the final match and farewell to the ‘Tournament of Champions,’ which was the first to be held in Russia.  

Публикация от Smash (@djsmash) Июн 20 2017 в 2:53 PDT

The teams contesting the Confed Cup final are as yet unknown, with the semifinals stage of the tournament to take place this week.  

Portugal will take on Chile in Kazan on June 28 before Germany faces Mexico a day later in Sochi, with the winners of both games meeting at St. Petersburg Stadium, also the venue for the tournament’s opening game, the following Sunday.

“The spectacle will combine elements from the history, culture and art of St. Petersburg, the competition’s main city, as well as motifs from the Confederations Cup, its former winners and current participants,” FIFA said in a press release.  

The ceremony, scheduled to start at 7:15 local time and last for approximately 20 minutes, will also feature Stanislav Litvinov from the Leningrad Centre theatre, who orchestrated the first performance of the Opening Ceremony, and Russian ballerina and choreographer Vera Arbuzova.  

During the tournament’s Opening Ceremony before the game between Russia and New Zealand on June 17, Arbuzova, who performed the solo dance from ‘The Firebird,’ says her performance will be “dedicated to ballet” on Sunday.

“Ballet is one of Russia’s calling cards and we have tried to make it interesting for the audience, combining classical ballet with modern dances,” she said.

“We’re not going to reveal all the dances; instead we look forward to seeing spectators and football fans at the Closing Ceremony. Make sure you come to the stadium in time!”

READ MORE: ‘Super friendly, welcoming & humble!’ – Mexican fans on Russian Confed Cup welcome

The opening ceremony was a coruscating festival of color with more than 2,000 actors involved in the performance and featured a magic forest set and characters from Russian folklore, and the mascot for the cup and 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, ‘Zabivaka’ the Wolf.

The four host cities of the tournament – Sochi, Moscow, Kazan, and St. Petersburg will also be represented at the event.

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