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Why Italy remembers Kobe Bryant ‘as a son, not as a star’

It's where he watched his father Joe play in the country's basketball league and where he ..

It's where he watched his father Joe play in the country's basketball league and where he took the first steps to becoming a global superstar. Like the rest of the world, Italy is still struggling to come to terms with the news that Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash Sunday.However, amid the tears, there is a determination to remember the legend's influence which transcended the sport of basketball. READ: The 24 moments that made Kobe Bryant a global superstarAC Milan, the Italian soccer club supported by Bryant, led the tributes ahead of its match against Torino Tuesday.Players wore black armbands, while a video showing pictures of Bryant and his daughter were played on the big screens in the San Siro stadium before kickoff.Milan's former captain Massimo Ambrosini, who made 489 appearances for the Rossoneri and represented the Italy's national team, said he was inspired by Bryant and was left in tears once the news had begun to sink in. "I was shocked, I couldn't believe it had happened. It was so strange that you cannot believe it," he told CNN. "He was such a big athlete, such a big human being." "The meaning he gave to the word obsession is something that made me feel very close to him. I lived my job like an obsession, every day was a chance to become better and better. I heard a lot of interviews with Kobe talking about that. "I started crying, not at the moment when I heard he was dead but when I heard again his words about obsession. It's terrible."READ: Kobe Bryant will be mourned for a whole week in Italy

'Fundamental piece of his formation'

During his time in Italy, Bryant bought into the country's culture and maintained a life long bond with the town of Reggio Emilia, where he moved with his family in the 1990s. The northern Italian town was where Bryant learned to speak fluent Italian and where he would spent almost every day playing basketball.Reggio Emilia has been particularly rocked by Bryant's sudden death but the town remains proud of just how successful their former "son" became. Such was his impact on the area, Mayor Luca Vecchi announced the square in front of the town's Basketball Center would be named in Bryant's honor."This town saw him growing up in the sports world, in basketball, in NBA, globally with the awareness that for him, Reggio Emilia wasn't a stop like any other, but a fundamental piece of his formation," Vecchi told CNN. "When at the end of his career Kobe Bryant showed up here in Reggio Emilia, I think that has been the moment during which the entire citizenship of the town understood the genuine depths of the connection." READ: The making of a global superstar in 24 picturesBryant's 'Cantine Riunite' youth team in the early 1990's in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Bryant is in the top row, third from the left.

'He had the Mamba mentality'

Bryant famously credits the town's youth team — Cantine Riunite — for developing his skills and many of his former teammates from that time still remember when a young Kobe first turned up to the team's training sessions. Due to his height and obvious ability, Bryant was often asked to play with the older boys but continued to stand out despite the age disadvantage."He was so good and at that age. It is very difficult for a kid to play with bigger guys but for Kobe, it wasn't. He was very good," childhood friend and former teammate Davide Giudici told CNN. He was born to play basketball, but for Kobe Bryant that was never enoughGiudici is left with fond memories of his short timRead More – Source

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Post-Soviet strongmen prescribe vodka, hockey and folk medicine against coronavirus

Take, for instance, Belarus, a small country sandwiched between Russia and European Union member Pol..

Take, for instance, Belarus, a small country sandwiched between Russia and European Union member Poland: President Alexander Lukashenko has shrugged off concerns about Covid-19, telling his people that hockey, vodka, and banya — a traditional sauna — are the best cures.Lukashenko, who has ruled the country of 9.5 million people for more than a quarter of a century, has imposed few restrictions to prevent coronavirus from spreading further.Restaurants, parks and bars remain open. Mass sporting events go on as scheduled and attract hundreds of spectators, in defiance of the World Health Organization's social distancing recommendations. The Belarussian Premier League is now the only soccer competition on the continent. And Lukashenko himself hasn't limited public appearances, opting to play in a hockey match on Saturday. "It's better to die standing than to live on your knees," he said, rinkside in full hockey gear, in an interview with state television. "This is a fridge, this is healthy, there is nothing better than sport, especially ice which is the real anti-viral medicine." Belarus has officially reported 94 cases of coronavirus — and no deaths — but Lukashenko's critics have cast doubt on those statistics, warning that authorities there could be downplaying the numbers as the country gears up for a presidential election later this year. Lukashenko has made his own recommendations to combat the virus, suggesting that Belarusians should drink vodka to "poison the virus," or attend a banya. "I once mentioned that people need to go to banya to fight different viruses, this one included, since Covid-19 doesn't like high temperatures and dies at +60 C, as the experts informed me," Lukashenko said, adding that if you don't have hand sanitizer, drink vodka. "When you get out of sauna you shouldn't just wash your hands — down a shot of vodka," he said. "I don't drink myself, and I don't advocate for it, but I'll be okay with, it's tolerable at least until Victory Day on May 9."There is no clear evidence to indicate that the coronavirus can be controlled by high temperatures, experts say.

Business as usual

Belarus has yet to close its borders — its response so far has been limited to a two-week quarantine order for all those arriving in the country. But all of its neighbors — Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia — have shut theirs. Work hasn't stopped either, as Lukashenko is concerned at how the coronavirus response is hurting the global economy. He says he found inspiration in US President Donald Trump's suggestion that the cure for Covid-19 should not be worse than the virus itself. "I liked his recent statements very much," Lukashenko said of Trump, during a visit to a plaster plant last week, according to an official transcript. "He said, 'If we do not immediately return to enterprises and start working, then much more Americans will die from unemployment than from coronavirus.' Now you understand why I didn't close the factories."In post-Soviet Central Asia, some local strongmen have also taken the path of coronavirus denial.In Tajikistan, a remote nation bordering Afghanistan, President Emomali Rahmon has continued a schedule of public appearances and plans to convene parliament in mid-April.'Better to die standing than to live on your knees,' says Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko at ice hockey matchLast week, Rahmon — who is referred to in government news releases as the "Founder of Peace and National Unity and Leader of the Nation" — paid visits to cities taking part in a nationwide beautification project, the Republic Flower Contest, and handed out gifts to orphans."This humane initiative of the Head of State caused great joy," the government news release stated.Rahmon also went ahead with massive celebrations for Nowruz, the Persian New Year, taking part in festivities at the central stadium in the city of Khujand on March 22. The government news release featured crowds of spectators in national dress watching a colorful, choreographed spectacle and a speech by theRead More – Source

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Coronavirus deals blow to Putin’s plans to stay in power until 2036

In a televised address to the nation Wednesday, Putin announced a sweeping array of measures to cope..

In a televised address to the nation Wednesday, Putin announced a sweeping array of measures to cope with the spread of the virus and its widening economic effects."Let's not rely on our Russian luck," he said. "Please do not think, as we often do: 'Oh, this will not touch me.' It can touch everyone. And then what is happening today in many Western countries, both in Europe and overseas, could become our immediate future."Some of the measures were meant to soften the economic blow. Starting on March 28, Russians will have a week's paid leave — to stay home. Russians will see a moratorium on mortgage payments, and enterprises will be given credit holidays. And families entitled to government payments to support multiple children will receive extra monthly payments.But coronavirus has taken on a political dimension for the Russian leader: Putin also announced that a nationwide referendum on constitutional amendments scheduled for April 22 has been postponed until further notice."We'll evaluate the situation and based only on the recommendations from doctors and specialists we will decide on a new date," Putin said.It's hard to understate how important that vote was to securing the Russian president's hold on power. Putin has grasped the reins of power in his country for two decades, but his current term ends in 2024, leaving Russia with a potential succession crisis. Putin's system of managed democracy means that power flows from one man: The president has no serious political competition, his friends and allies control the commanding heights of the economy and Putin is the ultimate arbiter of disputes between elites. The current constitution requires Putin to step down after his current term, meaning that the system he presides over could quickly unravel.The April 22 vote was supposed to remedy that, in typically Putinesque fashion. The country's rubber-stamp parliament rammed through amendments to the constitution that could pave the way for the president stay in power after his current term ends, potentially until 2036. Putin signed the amendments, and the constitutional court endorsed the proposed changes, which must now be put to the popular vote.Coronavirus, then, is a new political battlefield for Putin, and the Kremlin leader preceded his speech Wednesday with a public relations offensive.Russian President Vladimir Putin visits a hospital in Kommunarka in protective gear.On Tuesday, the Russian leader paid a visit to the main Moscow hospital for monitoring suspected coronavirus patients, donning protective gear to visit the hospital in the city's suburb of Kommunarka. It was the kind of costume play we're used to seeing from the Kremlin, and reminiscent of one of his earliest moves as Russia's acting president: flying to the war-torn republic of Chechnya in 2000 in the co-pilot's seat of an Su-27 fighter jet.Putin cast the current campaign against coronavirus in martial terms."I watched how they [the hospital staff] are working, everyone is at their battle positions," he said, according to a Kremlin statement. "Everyone works like clockwork, good and well-coordinated."Putin wasn't just playing the decisive commander-in-chief for a domestic audience. He also deployed his military as part of an international campaign to battle the pandemic. Over the weekend, the Russian military announced it was deploying a group of 100 doctors and virologists along with disinfection equipment to Italy to assist that country in countering the outbreak.Why Vladimir Putin is shaking up RussiaRussian Aerospace Forces Il-76 aircraft departed Sunday from Moscow's Chkalovsky military airfield with Russian military specialists and equipment aboard. The Russian Ministry of Defense posted a photo of one of the transport planes: the fuselage was decorated with a picture of two hearts, one each in the colors of the Italian and Russian flags."From Russia with love," the sign read in Russian, English Read More – Source

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Spain turns ice rink into a morgue as coronavirus deaths pile up

Bodies of people who have died of Covid-19 are now being transported by the country's emergency..

Bodies of people who have died of Covid-19 are now being transported by the country's emergency military unit to the Palacio de Hielo, or Ice Palace, in Madrid's Hortaleza neighborhood, the Madrid regional president's office told CNN on Tuesday. The regional government said this was a "temporary and extraordinary measure" designed to "lessen the pain of the families of the victims and the situation that's being recorded in Madrid's hospitals."Spain has the fourth highest number of confirmed cases worldwide — after China, Italy and the US — and the third highest number of deaths. The country has confirmed 39,673 cases and 2,696 deaths, the prime minister's office said Tuesday. The Madrid municipal funeral service, a major provider in the city, announced in a statement on Monday it would stop collecting the bodies of Covid-19 victims, because its workers don't have sufficient protective material. The service manages 14 cemeteries, two funeral parlors and two crematoriums in Madrid.The funeral service said that cremations, burials and other services for coronavirus victims would continue as normal, but only if the bodies are "sent by other funeral services businesses in a closed coffin."Madrid is one of the epicenters of the epidemics in Spain. The president of the Madrid region, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, said last week that the city expects 80% of its population to get Covid-19. "They will have mild symptoms," she told a local radio, but added that the illness will be a problem for the city's vulnerable population, which is around 15% of people.Members of the Spanish army's military emergency unit disinfect the Palacio de Hielo.Spain has been locked down and in a state of emergency since Friday March 13. The period was initially expected to last 15 days, but Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Sunday that the state of emergency could be extended for further 14 days. The parliament will debate the motion on Read More – Source

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