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Feature: Charm of table tennis in Houston fans' eyes******
HOUSTON, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- There are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people's eyes. But in the eyes of local fans in Houston, U.S., where the World Table Tennis Championships open on Tuesday, the sport is fun for anyone of any age.。
As a game for both recreation and competition, table tennis has been booming in Texas' largest city and across America in recent years, members of a Houston table tennis club told Xinhua earlier this month.。
"I think American people are starting to play ping pong more than before," said club owner Dylan Nguyen. "We have exactly 12 tables right now and are looking into increasing by eight more tables during the first quarter of 2022."
Table tennis is a lifelong sport that can be played at any age for both physical and mental health benefits, said Nguyen, noting that the Texas Table Tennis Training Center, which he set up in 2013, now has more than 150 members whose ages range from five to 84 years old.。
According to Nguyen, it's safe to play table tennis in his club even during the pandemic, since all players are required to have been fully vaccinated and the width and length of the tables perfectly meet the U.S. CDC's guidelines for keeping a six-foot social distance.。
Santiago "Jimbo" Valdez, one of the five coaches in the club, started playing table tennis in a local bar 15 years ago at the age of 41. "I started late and I decided I'm too old to get really good," he explained to Xinhua why he chose to become a coach.。
"I really enjoy the game. I love promoting table tennis. I'm always watching videos, mostly Chinese videos on how to get better. I watch them a lot and I pass that knowledge onto my students," said Jimbo.。
"It's a very friendly game. It's good for your health. It's good for your mind. So I just said, I'm going to learn this. And it's really helped me physically and mentally. It's just such an awesome game. I love table tennis," he said.。
Jimbo added that table tennis can help improve people's self-discipline. "A table tennis player is very much disciplined, physically, mentally and socially also," he observed. "I've trained kids to teenagers and most of them start doing better in school. They do better with their parents. They're learning disciplines better."
Hector Bennet, 63, comes to the club with his 15-year-old son about three times a week, and likes the fact that ping pong is a safe, non-contact sport.。
"My health has deteriorated. I am doing chemo and radiation and all kinds of stuff. So whenever I get a chance, I try to practise," said Bennet, adding that he started playing table tennis at six years old when he lived in Jamaica.。
Bennet said his son also started playing table tennis in childhood until "electronic games got him".。
"But now he is trying to get back into it. He wants to play again. I think he is using table tennis as bonding for us," said Bennet.。
Elsewhere, Hannah Song is a 14-year-old U.S. junior national team member whose curiosity and desire for new experiences was piqued by table tennis. "I feel like table tennis brings me a lot of unpredictable things. I think people underestimate table tennis," she said, revealing that her dream is to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.。
Vicktor Sabonj, a teacher and assistant principal at a high school in Houston, currently teaches about 10 students in the club during his spare time.。
Starting at nine years old in Novi Sad, Serbia, Sabonj, who moved to the United States in the 1990s, considers ping pong "by far the most special sport". "You can continuously improve your skill level from being a little kid until you are a hundred years old."
Furthermore, "if you look into our club here, this feels like you are in the middle of the United Nations," the part-time coach marveled. "We have people from all over the world, from China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan to the Middle East, Europe, and Africa."
"Honestly, we are a United Nation and table tennis is the perfect glue for everybody," he said. "Table tennis is the best way to unite people in the world, I would say." Enditem。
Lawmakers elect Scholz as German chancellor******
German lawmakers elected Social Democrat Olaf Scholz as chancellor on Wednesday, ending 16 years of conservative rule under Angela Merkel and paving the way for a pro-European government that has promised to boost green investment.。
Scholz, 63, who over the past four years served as vice chancellor and finance minister in coalition with Merkel, got a clear majority of 395 votes from lawmakers in the lower house of parliament, Bundestag President Baerbel Bas said.。
Wearing a black face mask, Scholz waved as he received a standing ovation from lawmakers and lavish bouquets of flowers and a basket of apples from the leaders of the parliamentary parties.。
Scholz was formally nominated by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in the nearby Bellevue Palace before returning to parliament to take the oath of office in front of lawmakers and become Germany's ninth chancellor since the end of World War Two.。
Scholz swore, among other things, to devote his energies to the welfare of the German people. But he did not ask for God's help, a phrase that is usually included in the oath of office and was spoken by Merkel.。
Back in Bellevue Palace, the ministers of the new cabinet received their appointment certificates from the president.。
In the afternoon, Merkel will officially hand over the chancellery to Scholz as the country faces a brutal fourth wave of coronavirus infections and challenges to its democratic order from authoritarian governments.。
With his down-to-earth and no-nonsense manner, Scholz has positioned himself as Merkel's natural successor and a safe pair of hands to steer Europe's largest economy through challenges ranging from tackling the climate crisis to dealing with a more confrontational Russia and increasingly assertive China.。
Scholz will lead an unprecedented three-way ruling coalition on the federal level with the pro-spending, environmentalist Greens and the fiscally more conservative, libertarian Free Democrats (FDP) - unlikely political bedfellows in the past.。
Scholz is an experienced negotiator and veteran politician who as SPD party secretary general from 2002 until 2004 defended controversial labour market reforms and social welfare cuts under former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.。
As labour minister from 2007-2009 in Merkel's first ruling coalition, Scholz pushed for a generous short-time work scheme that helped protect millions of workers from the fallout of the global financial crisis.。
After being mayor of the northern port city of Hamburg from 2011-2018, Scholz returned to Berlin as Merkel's finance minister - a role in which he got rid of the goal of balanced budgets and enabled record new borrowing to shield companies and employees from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.。
On the European level, he worked closely with France and persuaded Merkel to support a debt-financed European Recovery Fund worth 800 billion euros ($900 billion) to help EU member states hit hardest by COVID-19.。
Merkel, 67, a lover of opera and hiking in the little spare time she has had in the last 16 years, has given few clues about what she plans to do in retirement.。
Alaba, Vazquez give Real Madrid win over Barcelona******
Barcelona's Gerard Pique (R) vies with Real Madrid's Karim Benzema during a Spanish first division league football match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid in Barcelona, Spain, on Oct. 24, 2021. (Photo by Gustavo Valiente/Xinhua)
MADRID, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- Goals from David Alaba and Lucas Vazquez gave Real Madrid a 2-1 win in El Clasico away to FC Barcelona on Sunday afternoon.
Madrid won the game by being organized at the back and taking their chances on the break. Sergio Aguero scored in the 97th minute for a Barcelona side that otherwise failed to test Real Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois.
Both sides lined up more or less as expected with Jordi Alba passed fit to accompany Gerard Pique, Eric Garcia and Oscar Mingueza in defense, while Memphis Depay partnered Ansu Fati in attack for Barca.
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti fielded experienced trio Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro in midfield, with the pace of Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo partnering Karim Benzema in attack.
The game began with both teams looking to press high up the field, with the result that there was a lot of tension, but that both keepers were virtual spectators.
Vinicius was looking dangerous for Real Madrid, causing Mingueza problems with his pace and dribbling ability, and the Brazilian had a penalty appeal turned down after turning the defender and then going down after slight contact.
He then had a shot blocked after turning Marc-Andre Ter Stegen inside out, although a late offside flag spared his blushes.
At the other end, Sergino Dest should have scored when Fati's dummy left him with just Courtois to beat, but the American blazed over the bar as the game opened up.
Real Madrid made Barca pay for Dest's miss in the 32nd minute when Alaba thumped home from the edge of the area to finish a counter-attack that he had started deep in his own half. After taking a pass from Vinicius, the defender hit his shot across Ter Stegen into the far corner of the net.
The Austrian then blocked Fati's effort in the last minute of the half as Barca looked to react.
Koeman ended Mingueza's misery at half-time, replacing him with Philippe Coutinho and dropping Dest back into defense, and Coutinho was quickly into action with a shot blocked by the Madrid defense, before Courtois saved from Fati.
Barca were pressing without really calling Courtois into action, while at the other end Dest almost gifted Vinicius a second for Madrid with a weak backpass, but recovered in time to frustrate the winger, before Benzema shot tamely at Ter Stegen after great work from Modric.
Madrid's attacks always looked slightly sharper than Barca's, and with 15 minutes left to play, Aguero replaced the tiring Fati, while Sergi Roberto replaced the disappointing Frenkie de Jong.
Aguero saw a header loop over the bar as Barca tried to make something happen, with Madrid packing their box and slowing the game down when they had the ball.
Courtois went down holding his knee in the last minute of normal time, but was able to continue just before Madrid scored their second of the game.
Coutinho failed to take a chance in the Madrid area, and after a scramble in their area, the visitors broke with the ball falling to Marco Asensio, and although Ter Stegen saved his shot, Vazquez was on hand to put the ball into the empty net.
Aguero pulled a goal back after good work from Dest, but it was too late for Barca. Enditem
Barcelona's Sergio Aguero (L) vies Real Madrid's Ferlan Mendy during a Spanish first division league football match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid in Barcelona, Spain, on Oct. 24, 2021. (Photo by Gustavo Valiente/Xinhua)
Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho (L) vies Real Madrid's Casemiro during a Spanish first division league football match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid in Barcelona, Spain, on Oct. 24, 2021. (Photo by Gustavo Valiente/Xinhua)
Real Madrid's Vinicius Jr. reacts after a Spanish first division league football match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid in Barcelona, Spain, on Oct. 24, 2021. (Photo by Gustavo Valiente/Xinhua)
Barcelona's Sergi Roberto (L) vies Real Madrid's Karim Benzema during a Spanish first division league football match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid in Barcelona, Spain, on Oct. 24, 2021. (Photo by Gustavo Valiente/Xinhua)
US sanctions Putin, Lavrov over Russian military operation in Ukraine******
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily press briefing in the White House on February 25, 2022.
The administration of US President Joe Biden will sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over Moscow's ongoing military operation in Ukraine, the White House confirmed on Friday.
"In alignment with the decision by our European allies, the United States will join them in sanctioning President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov and members of the Russian national security team," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told a regular news briefing on Friday, adding more specifics will be announced later in the day.
The US move followed that of the European Union and Britain, which announced sanctions targeting the top Russian leadership earlier on Friday.
Biden on Thursday announced additional US sanctions against Russia targeting the country's major financial institutions and an additional number of Russian individuals and their family members with ties to the Kremlin, on top of the so-called "first tranche" of sanctions imposed on Russian state-owned banks, the Russian sovereign debt market as well as individual elites.
Asked about the possibility of his Russian counterpart, Biden didn't commit to that on Thursday, only saying it remained an option on the table.
Psaki said Friday the reason Biden waited until after the EU and Britain announced their sanctions against the Russian president to decide on his own move is that his "strong principle ... has been to take actions and steps in alignment with our European partners."
Also on Friday, a senior administration official said future US sanctions will not target Russian oil and gas industry.
"The sanctions will not target the oil flows as we go forward," Amos Hochstein, the State Department's senior energy security adviser, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television.
Hochstein said doing so won't necessarily reduce Russia's oil and gas revenue, and may instead lead to a scenario where "the United States and our allies would suffer the consequences."