ILLINOIS TEEN DIES AFTER BEING PUNCHED AT PARTY

A Clinton County, Illinois high school senior’s dreams to graduate and attend college were shattered after authorities said another student struck him with a fatal blow.

The county coroner said the incident happened at a party Saturday night at a party near Germantown. Somebody hit 18-year-old Jacob J. Arter. Friends rushed Arter to the hospital in their own car. He was pronounced dead less than an hour later.

“It’s an unfortunate tragedy that affects two families,” said Clinton County Sheriff Doug Maue.

Arter’s family is mourning his loss. He was enrolled at Central High School in Breese. The suspected student behind the attack also attended Central High School. That individual remains in juvenile custody.

People at Central High School were stunned that Arter is gone.

“He was very smart and nice. People liked to be around him and he was very involved in school. He played football and he did activities in school,” said Shawnee Zimmer, Arter’s schoolmate. “I was very shocked. I didn’t think that would ever happen here in the community.”

FLYNN MAY HAVE BROKEN LAW BY NOT DISCLOSING RUSSIA DEALINGS

WASHINGTON — Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser, may have violated federal law by not fully disclosing his business dealings with Russia when seeking a security clearance to work in the White House, top House oversight lawmakers from both parties asserted on Tuesday.

The revelation came after Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah and chairman of the House oversight committee, and other lawmakers on the panel examined classified documents related to Mr. Flynn, including a form he filled out in January 2016 to receive his security clearance. The form is known as an SF-86 and is required by anyone in the government who handles classified information.

As part of the review, Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the committee’s senior Democrat, said Mr. Flynn did not disclose in those documents payments totaling more than $45,000 that he received from the Russian government for giving a speech in Moscow in 2015, among others.

The development is the latest trouble for Mr. Flynn, who also did not disclose payments from Russian-linked entities on a financial disclosure form that the Trump administration released in late March. Earlier in March, Mr. Flynn filed papers acknowledging that he worked as a foreign agent last year representing the interests of the Turkish government, causing another uproar and more unfavorable headlines for the Trump administration.

ESPN TO LAY OFF ABOUT 100 EMPLOYEES, INCLUDING ON-AIR TALENT

It’s a dark day at ESPN.

The sports broadcasting network sent a memo to employees early Wednesday, informing them that a series of previously announced layoffs would take place today. The number of employees cut will be around 100, Fox News has learned.

The memo, from ESPN President John Skipper, noted that the network’s new talent lineup will be announced soon. The layoffs are expected to impact some of the network’s popular on-air personalities.

“Dynamic change demands an increased focus on versatility and value, and as a result, we have been engaged in the challenging process of determining the talent—anchors, analysts, reporters, writers and those who handle play-by-play—necessary to meet those demands,” Skipper wrote to employees. “We will implement changes in our talent lineup this week. A limited number of other positions will also be affected and a handful of new jobs will be posted to fill various needs.

“These decisions impact talented people who have done great work for our company. I would like to thank all of them for their efforts and their many contributions to ESPN.”

ESPN TO CUT ON-AIR TALENT

Fox News has learned that ESPN employees were being informed of the cuts early Wednesday. A source with knowlege of the situation told Fox News that despite buzz that the planned number of layoffs has grown in recent weeks, the gameplan was always to cut around 100 people.

ESPN also outlined the network’s new strategy in a post on its media website published Wednesday. The company is placing an increased focused on its ESPN App with a “multi-screen approach around big events.”

“On the horizon is more live news video and enhanced video and audio streaming,” the release stated.

ESPN also plans to bolster its online presence.

“Our goal continues to be to maximize our unparalleled scale in every medium with storytelling that stands out and makes a difference. We are well-equipped to thrive going forward by embracing these themes.

TO PREVENT A SHUTDOWN, TRUMP BEGINS AN EMBARRASSING SURRENDER

Just last week, Donald Trump’s White House tried to play a little hardball. With a government-shutdown deadline looming, Team Trump sent word to Capitol Hill that the president expects any spending bill to include taxpayer money for a border wall. Since there was no chance Democrats would agree to such a demand, it meant one of two things would happen.

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Either Trump would shut the federal government down on Friday at midnight, which would be politically problematic for him and his administration, or Trump would surrender, which would be politically problematic for him and his administration.

The president has apparently chosen the latter.

President Donald Trump has indicated that he’s willing to back away from his demand that a government funding bill include money to build a wall on the Southern border, a move that could help clear the way for Congress to avoid a shutdown.

A senior administration official tells NBC News that the president is open to obtaining funding for the border wall in the regular appropriations process for 2018 later this year instead of insisting it be included as part of the large spending bill to keep the government’s lights on past this week.

According to a Washington Post report, the president personally hosted a private meeting with some conservative media figures yesterday afternoon and told them he’s prepared to delay funding for the wall “until September.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters yesterday. “The president is working hard to keep the government open.” And by “working hard,” Mnuchin apparently meant, “crawling away from the corner he backed himself into without any plan for success.”

Democrats are likely to agree to some new funding for border security, in the form of investments in “technology and border agents,” and it’s easy to imagine the president pretending that this is money for some kind of symbolic, metaphorical wall, but let’s not play games: Trump and his team effectively told Democrats, “Allocate money for the wall or else.” Calling the White House’s bluff, Democrats replied, “No.”

And in response, Team Trump blinked.

For a guy who billed himself as a world-class expert in negotiations, the president is remarkably bad at this. It was painfully obvious from the start that this strategy would fail, but Trump and his aides pursued this gambit anyway.

The fact that the White House took one posture last week, only to take a more conciliatory line this week, doesn’t count as a flip-flop, per se. It’s actually something far worse: it’s an example of Trump talking tough, only to quit when the pressure rose and no one much cared about his chest-thumping.

For a fairly new and unpopular president, developing a reputation for failing to follow through on threats will carry consequences. Trump said he desperately needed a Muslim ban. He vowed to unveil a cybersecurity plan. He swore his voter-fraud commission would tackle important work. He’d demand an up-or-down vote in the House on the American Health Care Act. He’d label China a currency manipulator. Each of these commitments were either ignored or forgotten about by an easily distracted president who, everyone now knows, doesn’t always mean what he says.

Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy is known for having said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Donald Trump’s maxim appears to be, “Speak bigly and carry a small golf club.”

PASTOR TYLER CAIN WEEKLY INSPIRATIONAL MESSAGE

All Things Are Pure

To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. Titus 1:15

Your heart’s condition will be expressed through your life. It will be evident by your attitudes, your words, and your behavior. Jesus said that you can clearly see others only when your own eyes are unobstructed (Luke 6:42). If your vision is hindered by sin, you will not look at others properly. If your heart is pure, you will approach life without malice. You will not question the motives of everyone around you; you will not doubt the truth of everything others tell you; you will not look for fault in others. Instead, you will look for the good in others, finding what is praiseworthy. You will not be naive or gullible, but you will seek what is good rather than what is evil. If your heart is pure, you will see others the way God sees them (Matt. 6:22). If your heart is defiled, everything with which you are involved will seem corrupt as well. You will assume evil motives in others because you know what you would do given the same circumstances. You will be cynical about what you hear because your own words are deceitful. You will be drawn to evil people and evil things. How do you look at the words and actions of others? Are you critical of them? Are you judgmental? If so, ask God to purify your heart. Once He has, you will be free to see yourself and others as God does.

CLIPPERS GET CLIPPED IN PIVOTAL GAME 5 LOSS TO THE JAZZ

LOS ANGELES — With 2 minutes, 59 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Gordon Hayward tips out an errant George Hill 3 and the ball finds its way into the waiting hands of Joe Johnson, the unlikely influencer of this 4-vs.-5 first-round series. He takes a half-step back beyond the arc and, with a swish, the Utah Jazz climb to a crisp five-point lead.

Timeout, Los Angeles Clippers.

The Clippers Hoop Troop runs onto the court to rally the 19,171 in attendance for the critical push the home team needs in a teetering Game 5. When a series is tied 2-2 in NBA history, a road winner of Game 5 has won the series 63.8 percent of the time.

Along with them, a six-foot high inflatable totem is rolled onto center court with “LOUD” emblazoned down the side. Staples Center gets loud.

Then, unexpectedly, the air-filled polyurethane cylinder expands vertically to reveal “LOUDER” striped down the side of the second level. As the arena buzzes to a fever pitch, more air is pumped in and a “LOUDEST” third tier emerges — but not before toppling over.

“You know, it’s a tough loss, but it’s not like I’m going to go bury my head or anything like that,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said after the 96-92defeat that seemed to let the air out of Los Angeles’ hopes of returning to the second round.

“We lost the game. You know, defensively overall I thought we played pretty well. Offensively, I didn’t think we played well at all. There were a lot of things that I did like about the game, and there were a lot of things I didn’t. I think they’re all fixable.”

In a choppy affair that bore the hallmarks of Game 1, sharpshooter JJ Redick finally fought free of the offball clutches of Utah’s handsy wings. Redick zigged to the rim when the Jazz leapt through screens, and zagged from deep when feeling a lock and trail. L.A.’s third-leading scorer this season finished with 26 points on 7-of-12 shooting and 10 free throw attempts.

Yet while the Clippers might have deciphered the Jazz’s perimeter finger trap, how to handle the oversized iteration of small ball continues to mystify. Utah trotted out lineups for several minutes in Game 5 that featured four wings of at least 6-foot-7 and no traditional point guard.

“Well, we’ve played a lot of different lineups because we’ve had — we have four point guards on our roster,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said after the game. “There was a point where I think two or three of them were hurt. We’ve used Joe Ingles at that position. I’m confident in our wings’ ballhandling ability …

“If it’s Rodney [Hood], Gordon, Joe Ingles and Joe, there’s no pure point guard and you worry a little bit about guys getting pressure. But hopefully they can just share it, and it makes us pretty good defensively at times. I felt like Hood did a great job tonight, but we still wanted to use that lineup, and particularly George Hill looked fatigued to me tonight at certain points, so we’re trying to get him a little bit of rest. It’s always a little nerve-wracking for me to do it, but our guys have confidence in it, so usually I just go with it.”

It’s yet another wrinkle Utah has added to a series that, despite unanticipated injuries, has largely unfolded to the design of the lower seed. Game 5 played to the slow tune the Jazz dictated yet again — a melody that has carried over from the outset of the series.

“We’re making [execution] mistakes,” Clippers forward Luc Mbah a Moute said after the loss. “We really haven’t gotten into a game where the whole game we makin’ them play the way we want to make ’em play, you know? They’ve gotten a lot of 3s and we’re trying to take them away from 3s, but somehow they’re still getting it.”

And for a team that spent a season under the cloud of whether it could bring back a core that has yet to enjoy a deep playoff run, the immediate reality is a question of whether the Clippers can even come back to host a Game 7.

SPURS TAKE A COMMANDING 3-2 LEAD BEHIND MANU GINOBLI’S PLAY

SAN ANTONIO — Nobody’s bottling it yet in San Antonio.

But Patty Mills described the extra kick provided by the inspired play of 39-year-old Manu Ginobili as the “grandpa juice” that fueled the San Antonio Spurs‘ reserves to high-octane production in the team’s 116-103win over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 5 of the Western Conference playoffs.

The victory gave San Antonio a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 set for Memphis on Thursday night.

“He brought that grandpa juice, [which] is what I call it, and we all followed,” Mills said. “It’s inspiring. We shouldn’t wait for him to do that before we get into gear. But it really is inspiring when you see him dive on the ball, putting his body on the line, hard drives, hard cuts. It gets us all going. We shouldn’t need that to get going, but he’s a hell of a player, hell of a competitor. It trickles down, and we feed on it for sure.”

Make no mistake: Of this group of bench players that outscored Memphis’ reserves 46-30, Mills owns the title of hero, having knocked down 5-of-7 from deep for the game, including 4-of-4 for 12 points in the fourth quarter, as he finished with a career postseason-high 20 points.

Ginobili scored 10 points, on 4-of-6 shooting, knocked down a 3-pointer, dished three assists and gobbled up three steals. But perhaps the most inspiring part of the performance stemmed from how Ginobili rebounded from abject failure.

Over the first four games of the series, Ginobili hadn’t scored a single point, having gone 0-for-15 from the field in that span. In Memphis, before Game 4, Ginobili admitted he wasn’t feeling totally comfortable. Then, just before Game 5, everything changed.

“You try to isolate,” said Ginobili, when explaining how he dealt with the slump. “It’s not that I read, but I know how my games have been. There are games like Game 3 and 4, the ones we lost. You’re a little harder on yourself because you know the team needed you more. It was tough. I’d never been through a four-game slump like that. It was great today to feel important, to feel useful. I needed one like this. I was feeling good. I don’t know what was the difference. I guess I relaxed a little more. I said I didn’t care if I was in a slump or made shots or not. It’s not like the team needs me to score to win.”

Ginobili connected on his first basket of the series on a driving 6-footer off the glass with the Spurs down 14-8 with 4 minutes, 40 seconds left in the first quarter, and hit the ensuing foul shot for a quick start. Ginobili followed up just 33 seconds later with a 3-pointer that tied the score at 14, before dropping in a finger roll that put the Spurs ahead by five points (19-14).

“I’m tired of him,” said Grizzlies coach David Fizdale, who faced Ginobili several times during his days as an assistant with the Miami Heat. “He can go back to Argentina, too [when he retires]. I don’t even want to see him on the sideline. He has hurt me so many times. He’s just a fantastic pro. I really have a lot of respect for all of those guys. We have ripped each other’s hearts out enough times in this business that you just have a deep respect for guys like that. Manu is one of those guys. Tony [Parker], and the rest of those guys that I battled for titles. Those guys aren’t going to lay down. We really have got to dig in and refocus. The good part is I have a locker room full of guys that really want to come back here to play Game 7. Game 6 is obviously our Game 7.”

Told of Fizdale’s comments, Ginobili, in typical fashion, stepped back in surprise before cracking a joke.

“Tired of me?” Ginobili said. “I’ve been helping him. He should be tired of Kawhi [Leonard].”

Perhaps so, as Leonard blistered the Grizzles for 28 points with six assists and a steal.

But even Leonard lauded Ginobili for his “great competitive nature,” and the fact that “he wants to win every game.”

Leonard scored each of San Antonio’s final 16 points in regulation during an overtime loss at Memphis in Game 4, in which he played 44 minutes. Mills mentioned at practice on Monday that the Spurs needed to get the forward some help.

After all, the reserves had provided plenty of assistance throughout the regular season. San Antonio’s bench outscored or matched the production of their opponent’s reserves in 57 games during the season, including 22 of the past 27 games. The Spurs’ reserves ranked No. 1 in assists per game (10.4), and led the league in 3-point percentage (.402).

Leonard made 7 of 10 from 3-point range in San Antonio’s Game 4 loss at Memphis, while the rest of the team connected on 2 of 20 attempts from deep. San Antonio’s backups went 7-for-23 from the field in the loss.

“That energy that we all brought off the bench is what we need to be able to do to help Kawhi, to help LaMarcus [Aldridge] and lift pressure off them because they’re doing a hell of a job,” Mills said. “They’re busting their behinds to help the team and we need to lift our weight as well. What we did tonight on both ends of the floor, as a bench group, is what we need; an aggressive mindset on the offensive end, getting into the paint, moving the ball, finding open shooters. On the defensive end, playing physical, getting up into them, and out of their rhythm. I thought we did that tonight.”

Ginobili served as the bench’s catalyst.

Late in the third quarter when he dove to the floor to try to wrest away a loose ball from Vince Carter, the veteran hopped back up with a pink abrasion under his right eye, and a thunderous round of applause from the near-capacity crowd at the AT&T Center, chanting “Manu, Manu, Manu.”

“I get the chants in the most awkward situations,” Ginobili said.

Yet, in this instance, the timing seemed perfect.

ROCKETS WIN SERIES 4-1, WESTBROOK AND BEVERLY EXCHANGE JABS

HOUSTON — When these two young middleweights get old, maybe they will sit down and sip sweet tea and laugh together about their battles.

For now, basketball needs Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley.

Tuesday night was such great theater at the Toyota Center, as Westbrook and Beverley fought for 94 feet. Sure, Beverley had some help from his Houston Rockets teammates in guarding the Oklahoma City Thunder‘s star guard. But for the majority of the night, it was Westbrook vs. Beverley.

This series ended with the Rockets knocking off the Thunder in five games and clinching the series with a 105-99 victory.

This game was so contested and emotional that mild-mannered Rockets owner Leslie Alexander rose from his courtside seat to chastise referee Bill Kennedy over a call. Even the Thunder’s majority owner, Clay Bennett, made his way to the arena floor, standing in the back corner to watch his superstar take 34 shots against Beverley and a Rockets team that proved it was better.

In the five games, Westbrook averaged a triple-double: 37.4 points, 10.8 assists and 11.6 rebounds. But against Beverley, Westbrook was a mere mortal. He shot 7-for-27 with five turnovers for 27 points in the series. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Beverley guarded Westbrook for 38 half-court plays and held him to 0.71 points per play.

On Tuesday, Westbrook wore down yet again, due in large part to the number of bodies, led by Beverley, that the Rockets ran at him. Westbrook was pitiful in the fourth quarter, when he shot 2-for-11 for nine points. He didn’t score his first bucket until 2:14 remained.

You could say Beverley had something — or everything — to do with it.

The two men fought so hard that they reached their breaking point with 7:23 remaining in the fourth quarter, when they started jawing at each other. The referees had to do something, so double technicals were given.

Here’s Beverley’s take: “It’s actually the first time we exchanged words this postseason. He’s a really good player. He applies a lot of pressure due to his athleticism, his creating ability. He shocked me because he said, ‘Look up’ and said, ‘Nobody can guard me. I got 40 points.’ I said, ‘That’s nice. You took 34 shots to get it.’ I’m not trying to bash anybody. Men lie, women lie, and the numbers don’t. Collectively, as a unit, we did a great job on him, tried to make him take a lot of tough shots, and the numbers show.”

Here are Westbrook’s thoughts on the exchange: “He was talking first-team all-defense. I didn’t know what he was talking about ’cause I had 42 at the time. I have no idea what he was talking about. Maybe he was dreaming or some s—. I don’t know what he was talking about. I guess he wanted to be first-team all-defense. Maybe he was dreaming about it. I don’t know.”

There’s truth in what each is saying.

Beverley says he believes he should be named to the first-team All-NBA defensive team. He has had a wonderful season on the defensive end, and he raised his offensive game, too.

Of course, Westbrook is correct in saying that he was fantastic in this series. You can’t dismiss a triple-double average over five games, including a 51-point night, and say it was nothing. There’s a reason Westbrook is an MVP candidate. He presented all sorts of fits for the Rockets’ defense. The game plan was for Westbrook to do his thing, to make it hard on him and to allow the other Thunder players to have an impact if they could.

The Rockets had little respect for Andre Roberson‘s game, and though he performed well in the series, he missed six of seven shots in the elimination game. Victor Oladipo was another player the Rockets allowed to shoot, as he went 5-for-26 in the first two games. He settled down some but then reverted to form. In the game to save OKC’s season, Oladipo missed 13 of 17 shots.

By sending different defenders at Westbrook after Beverley handled him, the goal was to wear him down, and that’s what happened in the fourth quarter.

Beverley was doing just fine on offense in the clincher, going 6-of-10 from the field, and his floater to start the fourth quarter ignited a 14-4 run that pushed the Rockets to an 86-81 lead before Billy Donovan called timeout with 9:15 to play.

The Thunder played catch-up for most of the fourth, as Westbrook missed shot after shot. Beverley, Eric Gordon, James Harden and Lou Williamsall got in his way.

When the night was over, Westbrook left the court, and Beverley hugged it out with whomever was left on the floor.

Although this series was in part about the MVP candidates Harden and Westbrook, it also created another great rivalry between Westbrook and Beverley. Personality-wise, Westbrook and Beverley are the same. Each plays with an angry fury and has Harden as one of his closest friends.

Westbrook and Beverley. Beverley and Westbrook. It doesn’t matter whose side you’re one. These two men are what the NBA needs.

As the Rockets move along to the next round and the Thunder head home thinking about what might have been, one thing is certain: We’ll see Beverley and Westbrook again.

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