NCAA Tournament 2018 day one: Kansas and Duke start campaigns – live!

4.50pm GMT

And we’re off, with Oklahoma taking on Rhode Island in out first game. No10 seed Oklahoma are 24-21 up in the early stages. They have guard Trae Young, who leads the nation with averages of 27.4 points and 8.8 assists. If Oklahoma lose this one that could Young’s college career done as a freshman – he’s projected to go in the first round if he decides to enter the NBA draft.

2.23pm GMT

Hunter will be here shortly, in the meantime here’s our writers on who they think will win the tournament:

Villanova over North Carolina. Why not a repeat of 2016? However, this time the Wildcats won’t wait to win on a buzzer-beater. Instead, they will coast through the second half and establish a new dynasty on the Main Line and send Wright to the Hall of Fame. Les Carpenter

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Floyd Mayweather plans to start training in MMA with view to UFC bout

  • Forty-one-year-old eyes lucrative deal as mixed martial artist
  • Mayweather earned millions from fight against Conor McGregor

And so the circus begins. Again. Former boxing world champion Floyd Mayweather appears to be coming out of retirement to compete as a mixed martial arts fighter.

The 41-year-old made tens of millions of dollars from his boxing fight against UFC champion Conor McGregor last year and appears ready to follow that up with an MMA bout. He confirmed to TMZ Sports on Thursday that he plans to start training with UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley soon.

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Trump’s presidency is unravelling. But he won’t fall without a push | Gary Younge

The administration is mired in incompetence and calamity. So why aren’t his enemies presenting a hopeful alternative?

Even by Donald Trump’s standards, Tuesday was extraordinary. First came the tweet that he had fired his secretary of state Rex Tillerson. Then a state department spokesman issued a statement claiming Tillerson was “unaware of the reason” for his dismissal, and had heard about it on Twitter. A few hours later the spokesman had been fired too. Meanwhile the lawyer of porn actor Stephanie Clifford (stage name: Stormy Daniels), who allegedly had an affair with Trump, warned the country to “buckle up” as Clifford sought to extract herself from her non-disclosure agreement so she could “publish any materials, such as text messages, photos and/or videos relating to the president that she may have in her possession”. Back in Washington, the Trump team announced it would be hiring John McEntee, Trump’s former personal assistant, as a senior adviser for campaign operations. The day before, McEntee had been escorted from the White House because he is under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for serious financial crimes.

Related: Rex Tillerson was disastrous for the US. Mike Pompeo may be worse | Michael H Fuchs

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Betsy DeVos Is Now Fighting the Union at the Education Department

The union representing nearly 4,000 federal employees working for the U.S. Department of Education filed a complaint this week accusing the agency, run by Betsy DeVos, of union busting.

The complaint, filed with the Federal Labor Relations Authority on Tuesday, comes after the Education Department effectively declared itself free from union mandates by imposing upon the agency’s 3,900 staffers a “collective bargaining agreement” that commands no union agreement at all.

The move is a first, even for the boundary-pushing Trump administration. But DeVos has never been known for having positive relations with teachers unions. For decades prior to her joining the Trump administration, she funded politicians dedicated to weakening organized labor and backed school choice advocacy groups that depicted teachers unions as selfish enemies of deserving children.

On Friday, management officials at the Education Department informed their workers’ union, the American Federation of Government Employees Council 252, that they would no longer be bargaining with them. Instead, management issued a 40-page document the department is calling a “collective bargaining agreement.” This unilateral agreement supposedly took effect on Monday. Education Department staffers have been represented by the AFGE since 1982.

“AFGE did not agree to these unilateral terms,” said Claudette Young, AFGE Council 252 president, in a statement. “The agency has imposed an illegal document that we had absolutely no bargaining over. It’s a total attempt to strip employees of their collective bargaining rights and bust the union. This is an attempt to tie our hands.”

In an interview with The Intercept, AFGE Assistant General Counsel Ward Morrow said it’s “extremely unusual” to have to file a complaint over something like this. “You can’t even call it a ‘collective bargaining agreement’ because it wasn’t collective, it wasn’t bargained, and there was no agreement,” he said.

The new edict seeks to curtail union activity by imposing significant new rules and restrictions on the AFGE. “They take away union office space, all equipment, and we have officers who have already been locked out of the system, who are unable to access files and documents,” Young told The Intercept. Federal laptops, printers, and cellphones assigned to union members must be returned by March 26. Union office space must be vacated by April 11, unless the AFGE wants to start paying fair-market rent for its use.

Staffers who serve as union officers are now also being told that they will no longer receive paid leave for time spent performing union representational duties. “That impacts not only our salaries but our retirements,” said Young.

“You can’t even call it a ‘collective bargaining agreement’ because it wasn’t collective, it wasn’t bargained, and there was no agreement.”

In a statement released Wednesday, the AFGE said stripping officers of their paid time to focus on bargaining and union duties “is like asking the fire department to operate without fire trucks or a firehose.”

The Education Department did not return The Intercept’s request for comment, but Liz Hill, a department spokesperson, told Politico that the AFGE “spent more than a year dragging its feet on ground rules negotiations without reaching any agreement, and then failed to respond in timely manner to negotiate over the contract proposed by the Department.”

According to Young, the union had been hashing out ground rules between October 2016 and December 2017. They had another meeting scheduled for this month. Their last contract was negotiated in 2013.

“We did not have any sticking points, we were not at an impasse,” she told The Intercept. “We were negotiating ground rules and making progress at every negotiating session. We don’t believe that we had anything we would not have been able to reach an agreement over if bargaining were to continue.”

The Federal Labor Relations Authority is expected to launch an investigation in response to the complaint. (A spokesperson for the labor board did not return a request for comment.) Hill told Politico that the agency’s unilateral contract “complies with all statutory requirements and maintains union members’ rights under the Civil Service Protections Act and the Federal Labor Relations Act.”

The one-sided agreement includes a number of obvious deficiencies, union members said. For one thing, it’s not signed by anyone in the union. “In order for any contract to be legally binding, it must be illustrated by a signature,” said Sharon Harris, national executive vice president for Council 252. The document also uses the union’s logo on its front cover. “They didn’t get permission from AFGE to use that, and it gives a false perception that this was a joint agreement between management and the union,” Harris added. Moreover, the document includes a preamble which states:

The following articles of this agreement constitute a total and complete agreement on the subjects addressed in the articles, by and between the U.S. Department of Education … and the American Federation of Government Employees …

“Their preamble states they reached an agreement with our union, which they did not,” said Young.

Screen-Shot-2018-03-15-at-10.55.29-AM-1521126304-1521127615

The cover page of the Collective Bargaining Agreement issued by the Education Department.

DeVos has avoided the AFGE’s attempts to sit down in person, according to union leaders. They say they have made numerous attempts to schedule meetings with the education secretary, to no avail. Specifically, they say there have been at least three emails sent to her schedulers, and two in-person requests. 

“I saw her once, made an earnest effort to step forward and introduce myself and request a briefing, and she said, of course, send it to her scheduler, and we’ll put it on the calendar,” said Harris. “We got receipt of our request but never actually anything scheduled.”

Top photo: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks at the National Parent-Teacher Association’s 2018 Legislative Conference March 13, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia.

The post Betsy DeVos Is Now Fighting the Union at the Education Department appeared first on The Intercept.

Mail Bombs Are Killing People in Texas but Donald Trump Hasn’t Said a Thing. There’s a Reason for That.

I’ve written this story before – many times, in fact. It’s a story of white privilege and black pain. It’s a story of Islamophobia and bigotry. It’s a story about the United States of America.

On Monday, bombs went off in Austin, Texas.

That’s a big deal, right? Bombs – actual improvised explosive devices – going off in the middle of a major American city is a big fucking deal.

They weren’t found by a bomb squad and safely disposed of by a brave crew or a high-tech robot. Nah, they were left on the doorsteps of people’s homes all over Austin. Made to look like mail, the packages were then picked up by a mix of everyday people – black and Latino, young and old – who were then torn to bits by explosive shrapnel.

A report from ABC News outlined the level of sophistication of the explosives: The bombs had been designed by a “highly skilled” bomb maker – or makers —who used pieces of metal to generate shrapnel and set triggers that detonated the bombs with motion.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s a huge deal. Strangely, though, Donald Trump, the president of the United States, who campaigned on being tough on crime and terrorism, hasn’t said a word. He hasn’t tweeted concerns or condolences. Instead, he’s tweeting pictures of himself surveying border wall prototypes. Hours after the bombs were detonated in Austin on Monday, Trump was terminating his secretary of state on Twitter.

A full 10 days before most of the nation heard about the deadly bombs that were set off this past Monday, one tore through Anthony Stephan House, a 39-year-old African-American project manager, ripping his body to shreds.

“It didn’t sound like an explosion or what I think of an explosion. It sounded like a metal dumpster getting hit by a truck,” said a neighbor who rushed outside and found House with shrapnel embedded in his body. “His clothes were torn up and his face was torn up.”

House was pronounced dead an hour later.

What happened next is hard to process. Police initially called the death a homicide, but then changed that because they said House could have killed himself with a package bomb on the doorstep of his own home. According to the cops, the death was simply “suspicious” and “an isolated incident and that there is no continuing threat to the community.”

Then, this past Monday, a full 10 days after House was apparently murdered, virtually the same thing that happened to House happened at two additional homes in Austin.

One of the exploding packages was brought into a family home and exploded in the kitchen, killing 17-year-old Draylen Mason and critically wounding his mother. Mason, we have since learned, was a brilliant, African-American musician and young scholar who had been accepted into prestigious music programs across the country.

Another bomb exploded a few hours later and critically injured 75-year-old Esperanza Herrera, whom authorities think picked up a package intended for someone else, according to the local NBC affiliate. The president of the local chapter of the NAACP told NBC, “The intended target was another person who might be connected to the House and Mason families.”

The connection, said Nelson Linder, the NAACP official, was through the families’ attendance at a prominent black church congregation in Austin. “They have a long history and go to the same church,” Linder said.

After the more recent spate of bombings, police finally admit that their evidence shows that House’s killing appears to have been carried out by the same person or group.

Here’s what I know and what makes living in this country so damn exhausting: If the victims were white and the suspects were known to be Muslims, the president of the United States would care. In these cases, however, with no profile of the attacker available and a trail of black and brown victims, it seems like this square peg doesn’t fit into the round hole of Trump’s agenda.

Top photo: Authorities investigate an explosion at a home on Galindo Street in Southeast Austin, Texas, on Monday, March 12, 2018.

The post Mail Bombs Are Killing People in Texas but Donald Trump Hasn’t Said a Thing. There’s a Reason for That. appeared first on The Intercept.