Tag Archives: returns

GTX 1050 Ti Rides Again: 2016 Budget GPU Returns With Zero Improvements, Elevated Price

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At least some manufacturers have followed through on putting old GPUs back on the market again. Japanese vendor Kuroutoshikou has restarted sales of the GTX 1050 Ti, with a 4GB card retailing for 22,800 yen, or roughly $ 200. The card in question, the GF-GTX1050Ti-E4GB / SF / P2, originally sold for $ 140 when the GTX 1050 Ti launched in late 2016.

There are absolutely no new features, capabilities, or functions to report regarding the new card, which is reportedly manufactured by Palit. The GTX 1050 Ti offers gamers a chance to return to the halcyon days of 2016, when we were also (coincidentally) discussing an ongoing GPU shortage.

At the time, however, we were only chewing on AMD and Nvidia for launching cards they couldn’t ship for ordinary reasons, like low yields. Lower-end cards that were launching at the time, such as the RX 460 and GTX 1050 / 1050 Ti, were easier to find than their higher-end counterparts.

Last year, AMD and Nvidia offered tentative hope that the GPU market might stabilize as Q1 2021 drew to a close. Q1 2021 is officially drawing to a close, so take a moment to enjoy some of the better GPU deals you can currently purchase at Newegg. To those of you who don’t feel like clicking, a screenshot of current GTX 1050 Ti prices should tell the story well enough:

At $ 200, the Palit-built GTX 1050 Ti cards above would actually be a great value if they came to the US, where the cheapest card is currently $ 262. Under ordinary circumstances, we might expect high 1050 Ti prices at this point in time simply because the card is no longer manufactured, but that’s not what’s driving up prices. Even GPUs like the GeForce GT 1030, introduced at $ 80, are now selling for $ 140+.

Right now, your best bet for an economical graphics solution is to rely on CPU-based graphics. This is easier on Intel CPUs than AMD, because Intel offers an integrated GPU on all non-F CPUs, while AMD only offers a handful of APUs, and none equipped with either the Zen 2 or Zen 3 CPU architectures. There are no parts in-market currently selling at anything resemblant of a reasonable price and estimates for when market prices might approach a reasonable range from the end of Q2 to Q1 2022. We’re still hoping for the earlier part of that range, but no bets.

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NASA’s Super-Fast Solar Probe Returns Amazing Image of Venus

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NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe in 2018, but the spacecraft just returned an amazing shot of Venus from its most recent flyby. According to NASA, Parker spotted a previously unseen glow that could be a product of oxygen in the inhospitable planet’s atmosphere. The unexpected clarity of surface features also has scientists reassessing how sensitive Parker’s cameras are. 

Parker is designed to study the sun, but it also spends a lot of time near Venus. To analyze the sun’s corona without getting fried, Parker moves at incredible speeds. It’s currently the fastest human-made object, moving at almost 300,000 miles per hour (466,000 kph) relative to the sun. With the aid of its multi-layered heat shield, Parker can blast through the super-hot corona fast enough to take readings and come out the other side unscathed. It’s moving faster now than it was at launch thanks to regular gravity assists from Venus. 

It was during one of these close passes in July 2020 that NASA turned the vessel’s WISPR wide-angle camera toward the planet — the image you see above is what they got back. The camera shows a bright glow along the edge of the planet, which may be “night glow.” This comes from oxygen atoms emitting a few photons of light when they recombine into molecules on the planet’s dark side. Astronomers probably spotted the same thing on Mars recently

Perhaps more interestingly, the image shows surface features of Venus. As you may know, Venus has a thick, choking atmosphere of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid. Most instruments can’t see the surface at all, but Parker’s snapshot shows the dark outline of Aphrodite Terra, the largest highland region on the planet. 

NASA says this could have two notable impacts on future observations. First, Parker’s WISPR camera could be more sensitive to infrared wavelengths of light than the team realized — they’re currently running laboratory tests to see how deep into the infrared Parker can see. It’s possible this could open new methods of studying dust around the sun. It also suggests there may be a wavelength of infrared light that acts as a “window” through Venus’ atmosphere. The team is looking into that as well. 

And what of all the streaks in the image? Scientists are still discussing that. The current thinking is this is the result of charged particles bouncing off dust. The number of streaks varies depending on where Parker is in its orbit, but this is a lot of streaking. We might have some answers soon. Parker just completed another flyby of Venus on February 20th. The team hopes to process and release that data in April.

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Megan Rapinoe returns to U.S. national team after year-long absence

It was quite a year for Megan Rapinoe. Her book came out, she hosted an HBO special and she got engaged to girlfriend Sue Bird.

One thing was largely missing, however: soccer.

That’s changing now that Rapinoe has returned to the U.S. national team for its January training camp in Florida after sitting out most of last year.

“I actually feel really good physically and just refreshed in a lot of ways, mentally and emotionally. I’ve spent obviously a lot of time quarantining at home with Sue and just being able to relax,” Rapinoe said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters.

“But I’m obviously so excited to start playing again. It was really difficult to not be out on the field with my teammates and to not have a consistent training environment. Anyone who really knows me knows I hate to work out on my own as it is.”

When the coronavirus began to take hold in the United States last March and the National Women’s Soccer League called off its season, Rapinoe — who plays for OL Reign — hunkered down at home.

She opted out of the NWSL’s Challenge Cup tournament in a bubble in Utah last summer and the league’s fall series. She also opted out of the national team’s October camp.

She said part of her reasoning for the break was fear of COVID-19, but she was also exhausted from the whirlwind that came after the U.S. victory in the World Cup in France. Rapinoe earned FIFA Best Player and Ballon d’Or honours following her play in soccer’s premier tournament.

The last time Rapinoe played for the national team was on March 11, when she scored in a 3-1 SheBelieves Cup victory over Japan.

The game was notable because the national team players, embroiled in a contentious discrimination lawsuit over equal pay with U.S. Soccer, wore warmup jerseys inside out in protest of the federation’s controversial tactics in defending the suit. That ultimately led to the resignation of U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro.

The national team settled its dispute with the federation over unequal working conditions in December, leaving the pay dispute still unresolved.

Throughout her career, Rapinoe has been a vocal advocate for equal pay and other social justice issues, including LGBTQ rights. She sparred with President Donald Trump via Twitter during the World Cup and last year was involved in get-out-the-vote initiatives in support of President-elect Joe Biden.

She called last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol “very unsettling and scary.”

“I think the courage of the lawmakers to get back in there and continue their work, and the utter bottomlessness of some of these lawmakers to continue to incite violence and still call for overturning the election when the mandate’s been given by the United States and by the people of United States, is just absolutely insane,” she said. “They should be held accountable.”

Rapinoe got emotional when she was asked about how she felt watching fellow NWSL players kneel and speak out against systemic racism during the Challenge Cup. In 2016, Rapinoe knelt in solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. U.S. Soccer reacted by prohibiting players from kneeling during the anthem, a rule that was rescinded last June.

“I have just a huge amount of pride and respect for so many people going through the journey and learning and growing, and feeling more comfortable speaking out about things,” she said. “What we saw through the summer and just through the pandemic, with the protests, hopefully a lot of people’s eyes are opened up, particularly my fellow white teammates.”

Kept busy in time off

She praised U.S. Soccer for apologizing over the ban.

Rapinoe, 35, has scored 52 goals with 68 assists in 168 appearances with the national team since her first call-up in 2006. She scored on a penalty kick in the United States’ victory over the Netherlands in the 2019 World Cup final.

During her break this summer, she hosted the HBO special “Seeing America,” which included U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and she released a memoir, “One Life.” In October, she and WNBA veteran Sue Bird announced their engagement.

Coach Vlatko Andonovski said Rapinoe has not disregarded her fitness during the layoff. He expects Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd, who hasn’t played since last spring because of injury, to get minutes in a pair of exhibition games against Colombia later this month in Orlando.

“Megan and Carli have been doing a tremendous, tremendous job. Our high performance department, high performance coach, has been monitoring everything that they’re doing,” Andonovski said. “We have a pretty good idea of where they stand. In fact, both of them are a little bit ahead of what we expected them to be in January camp from the physical standpoint.”

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Altidore returns to U.S. national soccer team roster after 18-month absence

Jozy Altidore is back with the U.S. national team for the first time in 1 1/2 years.

The 31-year-old Toronto forward is among 12 players invited Tuesday to a training camp starting Jan. 9 in Bradenton, Fla., ahead of a contemplated exhibition against Serbia in late January at Orlando. At 115 international appearances, Altidore is the senior player on the roster ahead of Seattle forward Jordan Morris, second with 39.

Altidore is a veteran of the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. He has 42 international goals and last played for the U.S. at the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Morris and Seattle midfielder Cristian Roldan also are on the roster. They have not played for the national team since a 4-0 win over Cuba in the CONCACAF Nations League on Nov. 19, 2019 but were part of last January’s camp.

Tristan Blackmon, a 24-year-old Los Angeles defender, is the only player in the group selected by coach Gregg Berhalter with no previous national team camp experience. New England goalkeeper Matt Turner has attended camp but not played in a national team match.

Toronto midfielder Michael Bradley, 33, and Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan, 36, were not selected.

World Cup qualifying set to begin in September

The dozen senior players will be joined for the match by American under-23 team players training with coach Jason Kreis ahead of the delayed Olympic qualifiers for the North and Central American and Caribbean region, which are expected to be played in March.

Because the match is not on a FIFA international match date, Europe-based players will not be at the national camp. The full roster is expected to be available for a pair of March exhibitions and the CONCACAF Nations League semifinal against Honduras in June, followed by a game against Mexico or Costa Rico in either the championship or third-place match.

Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup is scheduled to start in September.

Orlando midfielder Andres Perea was invited to train with the under-23 team after practicing with the national team in December. Perea has played for Colombia’s under-17 and under-20 teams and could switch to the U.S. national team program, but he is not currently eligible to appear in a match.

PSV Eindhoven and Wolfsburg midfielder Bryang Kayo were asked to train with the U-23s.

Because of the delay in the Tokyo Games caused by the novel coronavirus, the eligibility of the under-23 player pool was extended by a year by FIFA.

National team roster

Goalkeepers: Sean Johnson (New York City), Matt Turner (New England)

Defenders: Tristan Blackmon (Los Angeles), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (Colorado), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Cristian Roldan (Seattle)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto), Paul Arriola (D.C.), Jordan Morris (Seattle), Chris Mueller (Orlando)

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Greg Vanney returns to L.A. to coach Galaxy, try to make ‘iconic’ club contender

Former Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney is back in Los Angeles, where it all started.

While Vanney’s Dec. 1 exit as TFC boss was unexpected, his landing in L.A. as the new Galaxy head coach does not come as a surprise. The 46-year-old made his name as a player with the Galaxy after finishing at UCLA.

Vanney, who won everything but the CONCACAF Champions League title with Toronto, said he needed a new challenge after more than six successful years at TFC. He will get one in Los Angeles, which fired Guillermo Barros Schelotto on Oct. 29 with three games remaining in the regular season.

At the time, the Galaxy had lost nine of its last 10 while being outscored 26-8. L.A. finished 20th in the league at 6-12-4, some 22 points behind Toronto (13-5-5).

Toronto continues its search for a replacement for Vanney with Patrick Vieira, Chris Armas, Ben Olsen and Steve Cherundolo among those reported to have drawn interest.

Vanney, taken 17th overall by the Galaxy in the 1996 MLS draft, spent six seasons in Los Angeles before heading to France to join SC Bastia. Returning to MLS, the former U.S. international defender finished out his playing career with the Galaxy in 2008 after stints with FC Dallas, the Colorado Rapids and D.C. United.

“Greg is focused on building a culture that will serve as the foundation of this club,” Galaxy president Chris Klein said in a statement. “He is detail-oriented, a fierce competitor and has a deep understanding of our league and what it takes to succeed on and off the field. He will be an outstanding ambassador for the L.A. Galaxy, our supporters and Los Angeles.”

WATCH | Longest tenured Toronto FC head coach steps away:

Greg Vanney breaks down while thanking his players during his media availability after stepping down as Toronto FC’s head coach. 3:12

Galaxy GM Dennis te Kloese called Vanney a “consistent winner with a championship pedigree.”

“Greg is a part of the history of the L.A. Galaxy and we are confident that he is the right person to lead our team moving forward. His accolades as Toronto FC’s manager are evidence of his ability to create and sustain success in our league. We look forward to working with Greg to continue to build a team that will compete for trophies.”

Unfinished business

Winning a title with the Galaxy represents unfinished business for Vanney.

While he helped L.A. to the Supporters’ Shield (1998), CONCACAF Champions’ Cup (2000) and U.S. Open Cup (2001) as a player, the Galaxy lost the MLS Cup final in 1996, 1999 and 2001.

“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to coach the L.A. Galaxy,” said Vanney. “The L.A. Galaxy are an iconic club with a rich history in Los Angeles, MLS and North American soccer over the last 25 years. I am committed to working tirelessly for this club, our fans and Los Angeles to win a championship.

“I look forward to this new challenge in my career and am eager to get started.”

Vanney played seven seasons with the Galaxy in two stints before beginning his successful coaching career. (Jeff Gross/ALLSPORT/Getty Images/File)

Vanney made 193 of his 270 career MLS appearances in Galaxy colours — ranking him seventh on the club list in player appearances. While with the Galaxy, Vanney was named to the MLS Best XI twice (2000, 2001). Twenty-six of his 32 playoff appearances were with L.A.

The Galaxy said Vanney’s coaching staff will be announced at a later date. It’s likely they will include some familiar faces for Toronto fans.

Familiar faces

TFC assistant coach Dan Calichman is a former Galaxy captain while Jim Liston, Toronto’s director of sport science, served as L.A.’s strength and conditioning coach.

The Los Angeles Times reported both are joining Vanney in L.A.

Vanney played at UCLA with Nick Theslof, another TFC assistant coach. The two also worked together at Chivas USA where Vanney was an assistant coach and technical director of the youth academy prior to joining Toronto in 2013 as academy director and assistant GM.

Then-GM Tim Bezbatchenko elevated Vanney to TFC head coach and technical director in August 2014 after Ryan Nelsen was fired. Thus began Toronto’s turnaround from MLS doormat to championship contender.

L.A. has been going the other way.

While the Galaxy leads all MLS clubs with five league titles, its last MLS Cup triumph came in 2014 and it has missed the playoffs in three of the last four years.

Barros Schelotto was hired in January 2019 after winning two championships in Argentina with Boca Juniors. His record at the Galaxy helm was 21-26-6.

Dominic Kinnear, a former successful head coach in San Jose and Houston, finished out the season as interim Galaxy coach.

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Durant returns with 22 as Nets rout Warriors in NBA season opener

Kevin Durant looked good as new against his old team, Kyrie Irving was even better and the Brooklyn Nets emphatically kicked off the Steve Nash era with a 125-99 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night in the NBA’s season opener.

Durant shook off 18 months of rust in a matter of moments and finished with 22 points in 25 minutes of his first official game since rupturing his Achilles tendon while playing for Golden State in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals.

Irving led Brooklyn with 26 points and Caris LeVert scored 20 as the Nets led by as many as 38, pouring on the points the way the Phoenix Suns did when Nash was their point guard, or more recently Golden State did when Durant was their All-Star forward.

The Nets are expected to contend for the Eastern Conference title after finally getting Durant and Irving on the court together and they used the first game of the shortened, 72-game season to prove they might be worth the hype.

Stephen Curry had 20 points and 10 assists for the Warriors, a depleted team that looks nothing like the powerhouse that won two titles in Durant’s three seasons there.

Durant left shortly after having surgery following his injury and was expected to sit out the entire 2019-20 season even before it was suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Teammates who have worked out with him said the four-time scoring champion was back in top form and Durant quickly backed up their boasts in a mostly empty Barclays Center.

He made his first three shots, one a three-pointer and another while being fouled, and was in double figures in fewer than five minutes. He did everything but keep up with Irving, who made three triples and had 17 points in 9 1/2 minutes of the opening quarter, when the Nets led by as many as 21.

Irving, himself coming back from injury after playing just 20 games last season because of shoulder problems, had Brooklyn’s last two baskets of the first half, including a deep three-pointer with 4.1 seconds left that made it 63-45.

Durant then scored 10 more in Brooklyn’s 36-point third quarter, ending his night for good late in the period.

No. 2 pick James Wiseman started at centre despite his limited preparation and had 19 points and six rebounds. But the Warriors, playing without Draymond Green because of a sore right foot, need to find more shooting around Curry with Klay Thompson set to miss a second straight season.

Andrew Wiggins was 4 for 16 for his 13 points and Kelly Oubre Jr. was 3 for 14.

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Hayabusa2 Spacecraft Completes Mission, Returns Asteroid Sample to Earth

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The Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft launched a few years back with an ambitious mission ahead of it: orbit an asteroid, deploy rovers, shoot the asteroid, and collect samples for return to Earth. In the last couple of years, Hayabusa2 has accomplished every single one of those objectives. After six years in space, the Hayabusa2 sample container landed on Earth, providing scientists with the first significant samples collected directly from an asteroid. 

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched Hayabusa2 in 2014. It took about two years for the probe to rendezvous with a space rock known as Ryugu, which is a rare spectral type Cb asteroid, with qualities of both a C-type and B-type asteroids. Asteroids like Ryugu have remained mostly unchanged since the earliest era of the solar system. So collecting a sample could allow us to look back in time and learn about this part of our history. Getting pristine samples from an asteroid is no simple feat, though. 

Hayabusa2 reached Ryugu in summer 2018 and spent the next several months gathering data so the team on Earth could evaluate sample collection locations. The team found that Ryugu was much more craggy than expected, a finding confirmed when NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe reached the asteroid Bennu. Along the way, Hayabusa2 dropped off its robotic surface explorers and mapped the entire surface of Ryugu. 

Last year, Hayabusa2 dropped down to the surface and fired a tantalum slug into the asteroid. This launched the regolith upward into the collection mechanism. Later, the probe deployed its Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI), which fired an explosive-accelerated impactor into the surface to produce a small crater. After bombing the asteroid, Hayabusa2 dropped down to get another sample from the newly uncovered area. 

Hayabusa2 began the journey home in late 2019, using its ion engines to leave Ryugu behind forever. The spacecraft reached Earth over the weekend and released the 35-pound (16 kilograms) sample return capsule. As planned, the container entered Earth’s atmosphere over Australia, deploying its parachute as it descended in the Woomera test range. Teams recovered the capsule after spotting its parachute snagged on a bush. 

The team set up a “quick look” facility at Woomera to inspect the payload. They siphoned off gas from the inside of the container, but it’s unclear at this time if the gas came from the asteroid. The mission was designed to collect about 100 micrograms of material — that might not sound like a lot, but it’s by far the most asteroid material we’ve ever had to analyze. JAXA will send some of the samples to NASA (among others), which will have its own asteroid samples in a few years when OSIRIS-REx returns to Earth. That mission may have collected several kilograms of material from Bennu, so scientists will have plenty of material to conduct experiments.

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NWSL’s Toni Pressley returns to strange times after cancer fight

Toni Pressley was looking forward to a comeback season with the Orlando Pride after overcoming breast cancer.

But then life threw the veteran defender another curve with the coronavirus pandemic and the impact it had on the Pride, who had to withdraw from this summer’s Challenge Cup tournament because of positive tests.

“You go through things through soccer, and it can kind of be an up and down roller coaster, like you’re starting, you’re not starting, you perform well, you might have a bad game here and there, you have injuries and whatnot,” Pressley said. “But I think, in general, we’re all a lot stronger than we think we are and we can overcome almost anything. I’ve certainly learned that with going through having breast cancer, that I don’t think we’re given anything we can’t handle.”

Pressley has been a mainstay around the National Women’s Soccer League, and with the Pride since 2016. Last year, just as she was settling back into the starting lineup after a season-opening injury, she noticed she was tired and achy a lot. There was also a small lump in her right breast.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Signa Butler speaks with NWSL’s new commissioner Lisa Baird

CBC Sports’ Signa Butler speaks with the NWSL’s new commissioner Lisa Baird about the league’s core values and its return to play. 4:45

At first, it didn’t make sense. Breast cancer didn’t run in her family. She was only 29. She was an athlete. A vegan. But her fear mounted quickly.

“I kind of knew it would be a possibility just because of all the doctor’s appointments that I had been going to leading up to that moment. By that time, I had a mammogram, I had a biopsy, I had an MRI. So I kind of put it in my mind, `OK, going through all these different appointments and this process, this could be a real possibility that you could have breast cancer.”‘

The day after she was told, she played in a game.

Pressley ultimately chose to have a double mastectomy. She triumphantly returned for the Pride’s final game in October last season, entering as a sub in the final moments.

Finally healthy, she was looking forward to this season. Then it all came to an abrupt stop in March, just as teams had opened training camps, because of the coronavirus.

The NWSL put together a plan to bring all the teams to a bubble in Utah for the Challenge Cup, becoming the first professional team sports league in the U.S. to play amid the pandemic. But a week before the tournament began, the Pride was hit by a number of positive COVID-19 tests and they were forced to withdraw.

Watching from afar

Pressley said it was difficult to watch from afar as the rest of the league celebrated a successful tournament.

“It was really tough, just with how last season went and the challenges and hurdles that I went through personally. And then to go off into the off-season and work really hard and then to come back, and to have that happen to us as a collective, to not be able to go to the Challenge Cup,” she said. “It was really disappointing because we all worked really hard to display all of our hard work, through our performance, in this tournament, And to have that taken away, it was really disappointing.”

Once the Challenge Cup concluded, teams went back to their local markets for a fall series of matches against regional foes. The Pride wraps up its four-game series Saturday against the North Carolina Courage, a game which will be nationally televised on CBS.

The Pride (0-2-1) are coming off a 2-1 loss to the Houston Dash last weekend. Pressley came in at the half, providing veteran help on defence for goalkeeper Brittany Wilson, who was making her NWSL debut.

“Toni is composed,” Pride coach Marc Skinner said. “That comes from understanding who she is as a person and understanding her game.”

With the fall series nearing an end, Pressley is already looking toward next season.

“Last season, I felt really confident and obviously, having cancer was a major setback, but I don’t really feel like I’m still hindered by that. I feel like I did before. I feel normal. I feel, you know, healthy. I feel fit,” she said. “So I’m just really looking forward to showing that in these final games and then hopefully next season as well.”

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Freed hostages returns home, say Mali extremists killed Swiss woman

A 75-year-old French aid worker held hostage for four years by Islamist extremists in Mali was reunited Friday with her grandchildren in France, as relatives also welcomed home two Italians and a Malian politician freed with her this week.

They were released earlier this week, days after the Malian government freed nearly 200 Islamist militants in an apparent prisoner exchange.

But the homecoming was muted by the announcement later Friday that a Swiss woman held captive by the same extremist group had been killed. The Swiss foreign ministry didn’t name the woman or provide more details other than to say she was killed about a month ago. It said it had received the information from French authorities, who were notified by “the recently released French hostage.”

“It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of our fellow citizen,” Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said in a statement. “I condemn this cruel act and express my deepest sympathy to the relatives.”

Earlier on Friday, the 75-year-old aid worker, Sophie Petronin, descended from a plane at the Villacoublay military airport southwest of Paris, where she was greeted by French President Emmanuel Macron. Wearing a white veil and a trench coat, Petronin held her grandsons in her arms.

Petronin embraces a relative on Friday. (Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool Photo via AP)

“The French and I are glad to see you back at last, dear Sophie Petronin,” Macron tweeted. “Welcome home.”

Petronin met with Macron for about an hour at the airport. They did not speak to the press.

Macron expressed joy and relief at her release, thanked the Malian authorities and promised that the French military would continue its fight against terrorism in the West African region.

In an emotional reunion late Thursday in the Malian capital, Petronin’s son Sebastien Chadaud cried when describing how he fought for her release, telling his mother: “I did my best.” She comforted him, saying, “You did what you could.”

As her son kissed her head, she said she just wanted to spend time with him, “to look at him and tell him, ‘Forgive me, I caused you so much pain, so much difficulty, so much work to help me get out.”‘

Petronin stands with her son Sebastien Chadaud-Petronin as they speak to the media in Bamako, Mali, on Friday. (Paul Longerie/Reuters)

Petronin was released with the two Italians and a prominent Malian politician this week.

Rev. Pierluigi Maccalli and Nicola Chiacchio arrived at Rome’s Ciampino airport on Friday afternoon aboard an Italian government jet, welcomed by Premier Giuseppe Conte and Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio.

Wearing face masks over their beards and clad in sweat suits, the two men greeted the officials on the tarmac and then proceeded into an airport VIP lounge.

Former hostages Rev. Pier Luigi Maccalli, right, and Nicola Chiacchio land at Rome’s Ciampino airport on Friday. (Angelo Carconi/Pool Photo via AP)

Soumaila Cisse, a three-time presidential candidate in Mali, recounted months of arduous conditions before a precarious trip to their extraction point, arriving in Mali’s capital 48 hours after first being released in the country’s remote north.

There was no immediate information about the five other foreign hostages that the Islamic militants from Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslim (JNIM) are believed to still hold. It also was not known whether a ransom was paid, though extremist groups in that region have long funded their operations with such payments from European governments.

Cisse, who had been kidnapped earlier this year while campaigning for re-election as a legislator, told Mali’s state broadcaster ORTM that after months of captivity things began to move quickly at the end of September.

He said late Thursday that he had made a proof of life video on Sept. 26, and earlier this week he was freed. Still, security conditions prevented them from reaching the northern town of Tessalit for two more days.

Soumaila Cisse arrives at his home in Bamako, Mali, on Friday a day after his release. (Michele Cattani/AFP via Getty Images)

“I spent six months in … very difficult living conditions, in almost permanent isolation, but I must confess that I was not subjected to any violence, neither physical nor verbal,” Cisse told ORTM.

The Italian hostages included Maccalli, a Roman Catholic missionary priest from the African Missionary Society who was kidnapped from neighbouring Niger in 2018.

In a tweet, the Italian bishops’ conference expressed “gratitude to those who worked for liberation as we continue to pray for those who are missing.”

Among those missing is Colombian nun Gloria Cecilia Narvaez Argoti, last seen in a 2018 video alongside Petronin.

In Maccalli’s birthplace of Crema, a city east of Milan in northern Italy, bells tolled in the cathedral to welcome the news of his liberation.

“I hope that the release of Fr. Gigi is a promising sign of hope for all the others who are prisoners for their faith and their struggle for truth, justice and reconciliation; and may it be a seed of peace and trust for the Niger he loves so much,” Crema Bishop Daniele Gianotti said.

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How the Raptors stack up as NBA returns to play

At long last, it’s time to see whether the defending champion Toronto Raptors can run it back.

The Raptors were riding a four-game winning streak, capped by a solid road win in Utah on March 9, when Jazz centre Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the league to suspend the season.

Toronto had been enjoying a surprisingly successful campaign: second in the East after losing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in free agency, thanks largely to the emergence of Pascal Siakam as an all-star.

Now, the title defence picks up nearly five months later from the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., where 22 teams will live in a bubble environment to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as the rest of the season is played out.

Players began arriving in early July and are tested daily for the virus.

The road to the NBA Finals will be familiar in some ways. After eight regular-season games to finalize playoff seeding, the NBA will launch its regular playoff format, with one twist for teams in contention for the eighth seed.

The Raptors aren’t worried about that. Sitting 6.5 games behind the No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto likely won’t be able to improve its position. Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics sit three games back of the Raptors — a tough gap to make up in just eight games, but definitely possible.

Toronto’s first game is Saturday night against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bubble life

The league’s latest coronavirus report on Wednesday revealed zero positive tests among all players. That’s the second straight blank report.

The bubble, then, seems to be working, even as some players have left and re-entered.

New Orleans Pelicans phenom Zion Williamson left for a family emergency, but after four days of quarantine — and daily negative tests — upon his return, was cleared to rejoin his team. Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams left for a similar reason, but was caught going for wings at a strip club in Atlanta. He’s currently back in Florida in the middle of a 10-day quarantine because of that visit.

The NBA will use three courts at Disney: The Arena, Visa Athletic Centre and HP Field House. Players, when on the sidelines, will sit in assigned chairs, physically distanced from each other.

Of course, they’ll eventually get up and sweat on each other on the court. But the optics are nice.

For fans, the league has been experimenting with fake crowd noise from the NBA2K video game. A live feed featuring 300 virtual fans projected along the sidelines will be used for some games.

During Raptors games, play-by-play man Matt Devlin and analysts Jack Armstrong and Leo Rautins will do their jobs from studios in Toronto. 

Social justice movement

Fans will also notice that player names will be absent from the backs of jerseys for the first four days of games. As part of the NBA’s social justice movement, players were allowed to choose from a list of 29 league-approved messages to wear on their jerseys instead.

Seven Raptors will don a ‘Black Lives Matter’ message, Kyle Lowry chose ‘Education Reform’ and Serge Ibaka is going with ‘Respectez Biso’ — a French dialect translation of ‘Respect Us.’

After the first four days of games, the messages will remain, but player names will be restored below the numbers on jerseys.

The phrase, ‘Black Lives Matter’ will also be painted on all three courts. And it’s expected players will participate in some form of demonstration during the playing of the American national anthem, and perhaps during the Canadian anthem too. At the WNBA opener, players left the court before the anthem played.

Led by head coach Nick Nurse, the Raptors recently began an initiative urging American expats living in Canada to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

Back to basketball

It was just one year ago the shine of a championship began to fade and questions arose about the new-look Raptors. Sure, they maintained the guts of their roster, but gone were two key starters in Leonard and Green.

The 2019-20 Raptors answered those questions emphatically. Led by the veteran Lowry, the Raptors evolved into a plucky, hard-working, intelligent basketball team. At the pause, Toronto ranked second in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) while maintaining 12th in offence.

Placing in the top 10 in both categories is typically the sign of a true title contender, and the Raptors nearly managed it while overcoming injuries to almost every player of significance on the roster.

Now, the team is finally healthy, Marc Gasol got skinny and the players seem ready to prove themselves on the Florida stage.

Nurse will be key during the post-season. Likely to win coach of the year, he proved his adaptability in last year’s playoff run, from switching Leonard onto Bucks star Giannis Antentokounmpo in Game 3 of the conference finals to coming up with creative defensive solutions to stop Stephen Curry in the Finals.

Similar adaptability should be of utmost importance amid these unusual circumstances.

But Antentokounmpo stands in the Raptors’ way once again. His Bucks improved on last year’s impressive regular season, but now have even more to prove after fizzling out in the playoffs. The Greek Freak is in line to win consecutive MVP awards — and may have used quarantine to improve his one weakness: shooting.

Leonard, last season’s answer to Antentokounmpo, now plies his trade for the L.A. Clippers. That means Siakam and third-year forward OG Anunoby will be forced into bigger defensive roles, should the Raptors and Bucks meet.

It also means team defence, the Lowry identity and Nurse’s creativity — qualities that made these Raptors who they were — must stand out even more in order to reach a second-straight Finals.

The longest one-season championship reign ever will soon come to an end. Can some Disney magic help the Raptors make it two in a row?

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CBC | Sports News