Nick Wass/Associated Press
Per MLB Network Radio’s Steve Phillips, the Yankees “will not be in on Harper,” as their top priorities are expected to be Manny Machado and starting pitching.
It seemed like Harper wouldn’t be a priority for the Yankees when they re-signed Brett Gardner to a one-year deal Wednesday.
Retaining Gardner gave New York an outfield surplus that includes Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks. The team also has Jacoby Ellsbury, who missed all of last season because of a hip injury, under contract through 2020, and the 24-year-old Clint Frazier.
With Didi Gregorius out for an undetermined amount of time following Tommy John surgery in October, the Yankees could be in the market for an infielder capable of playing shortstop or—if Gleyber Torres moves to the left side of the infield—second base.
New York, which could lose starters CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ in free agency, has also been heavily connected to Patrick Corbin. The southpaw was an All-Star in 2018 and posted a 3.15 ERA with 246 strikeouts in 200 innings for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
A free agent for the first time in his career, Harper hit .249/.393/.496 with 34 homers and a career-high 100 RBI for the Washington Nationals in 2018.
(CNN) — “This fire has burned 4,000 years and never stopped,” says Aliyeva Rahila. “Even the rain coming here, snow, wind — it never stops burning.”
Ahead, tall flames dance restlessly across a 10-meter stretch of hillside, making a hot day even hotter.
A side effect of the country’s plentiful natural gas reserves, which sometimes leak to the surface, Yanar Dag is one of several spontaneously occurring fires to have fascinated and frightened travelers to Azerbaijan over the millennia.
It’s why the country earned the moniker the “land of fire.”
Such fires were once plentiful in Azerbaijan, but because they led to a reduction of gas pressure underground, interfering with commercial gas extraction, most have been snuffed out.
Yanar Dag is one of the few remaining examples, and perhaps the most impressive.
At one time they played a key role in the ancient Zoroastrian religion, which was founded in Iran and flourished in Azerbaijan in the first millennium BCE.
For Zoroastrians, fire is a link between humans and the supernatural world, and a medium through which spiritual insight and wisdom can be gained. It’s purifying, life-sustaining and a vital part of worship.
Today, most visitors who arrive at the no-frills Yanar Dag visitors’ center come for the spectacle rather than religious fulfillment.
The experience is most impressive at night, or in winter. When snow falls, the flakes dissolve in the air without ever touching the ground, says Rahila.
Despite the claimed antiquity of the Yanar Dag flames — some argue that this particular fire may only have been ignited in the 1950s — it’s a long 30-minute drive north from the center of Baku just to see it. The center offers only a small cafe and there’s not much else in the area.
Ateshgah Fire Temple
For a deeper insight into Azerbaijan’s history of fire worship, visitors should head east of Baku to Ateshgah Fire Temple.
“Since ancient times, they think that [their] god is here,” says our guide, as we enter the pentagonal complex which was built in the 17th and 18th century by Indian settlers in Baku.
Fire rituals at this site date back to the 10th century or earlier. The name Ateshgah comes from the Persian for “home of fire” and the centerpiece of the complex is a cupola-topped altar shrine, built upon a natural gas vent.
A natural, eternal flame burned here on the central altar until 1969, but these days the fire is fed from Baku’s main gas supply and is only lit for visitors.
The temple is associated with Zoroastrianism but it’s as a Hindu place of worship that its history is better documented.
Merchants and ascetics
Built like a caravanserai-style travelers’ inn, the complex has a walled courtyard surrounded by 24 cells and rooms.
These were variously used by pilgrims, passing merchants (whose donations were a vital source of income) and resident ascetics, some of whom submitted themselves to ordeals such as lying on caustic quicklime, wearing heavy chains, or keeping an arm in one position for years on end.
The temple fell out of use as a place of worship in the late 19th century, at a time when the development of the surrounding oil fields meant that veneration of Mammon was gaining a stronger hold.
The complex became a museum in 1975, was nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998, and today welcomes around 15,000 visitors a year.
Everything we know about midterm voters — including that there will be less of them and they’ll hail more from the parties’ bases than in a presidential cycle — means that the Trump factor will be on their minds at the polls.
“Both of these sides have been waiting for this moment since January 2017,” professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University (and CNN contributor) Julian Zelizer told me about this year’s midterm voters.
“These are people who have been encouraged or most aggravated by what’s happening in the news.”
Because of that, for campaigns this year (and increasingly over the last few cycles) it’s less about how to win voters over, but how to get the ones you want to the polls. Case in point: Trump’s hard pivot to the immigration issue in the last week of the election in an attempt to rile up Republican voters.
“It’s clear he’s trying to activate his base,” UNI political science professor Chris Larimer told me this week.
But will that strategy activate his base, or encourage those who dislike him?
At least nationally, we have a picture of just how polarized voters are on Trump, thanks to polling from CNN and SSRS earlier this month. Among Democrats, 92% disapprove of Trump — while 87% of Republicans approve of the President.
In key states like Florida, Arizona, Nevada and Georgia on Election Day, the difference will ultimately come down to which side is bigger — and who makes it to the polls.
The world’s largest producer of green stones has unearthed a 5,655-carat emerald crystal at its mines in Zambia.
The emerald is being called “Inkalamu,” which means “lion” in the local Zambia Bemba language. It will be cut into smaller pieces and auctioned in Singapore in November.
It has “remarkable clarity and a perfectly balanced golden green hue,” the statement said.
The 5,655-carat Lion Emerald Credit: Gemfields
The stone was found in an open mine on October 2, by geologist Debapriya Rakshit and emerald miner Richard Kapeta.
Elena Basaglia, Gemfields’ gemologist, said there’s been increasing interest in Zambia’s emeralds, particularly from dealers in Europe.
How do art auctions really work?
“We are experiencing strikingly increased demand for high-quality Zambian emeralds from the major brands, particularly in Europe, all of whom admire the rich color and unique transparency of our gems — qualities that make them unique among emeralds,” Basaglia said.
(CNN) — Mention Panama and most people will probably think about its eponymous canal. Maybe they’ll be reminded of 1980s dictator Manuel Noriega. Perhaps the more recent scandal of the Panama Papers leak of financial documents.
Or even wide-brimmed Panama straw hats (even though they originate from Ecuador).
But the southernmost Central American country’s true identity is largely centered on its location. And, according to those who live there, on the chaos and exploitation that defined its past.
Being “used” is key to Panama’s history, says filmmaker Abner Benaim, whose documentaries have explored the complex DNA of the country’s capital, Panama City.
“Panama is a country that’s been used by everyone,” Benaim tells CNN. “It does have its own identity, but that identity is made of chaos.
“It’s made up of people from all over the world who came here for different reasons. This is all to do with our location on the map. We’re that span that’s very easy to point out.”
The Isthmus of Panama is a bridge that connects North and South America as well as the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.
As a result, Panama, which covers an area of roughly 75,000 square kilometers, is right in the middle.
It’s become the hub of the Americas in terms of connectivity, with principal airport Tocumen International offering nonstop flights to 81 different cities.
A former colony of Spain, Panama became a part of the Republic of Columbia in 1821.
It separated from Colombia in 1903, but was infamously invaded by the United States in 1989 in an attempt to overthrow Noriega.
Today, Panamanian culture is a blend of indigenous (native Panamanians make up around 12.3% of the overall population,) European and African cultures, with the United States also proving a significant influence.
“What makes Panama interesting, to me at least, is that mix. The mix of history, coming from the north and the south,” adds Benaim. “If you ask people here about Latin American culture, they’ll probably know more about US culture.”
The Panama Canal is used by more than 15,000 vessels each year.
RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Image
The Panama Canal, labeled one of the seven wonders of the modern world by the American Society of Civil Engineers, has played a huge role in Panama’s evolution.
Before it existed, ships were forced to navigate around Cape Horn, a hazardous journey near the tip of South America.
Although France began the building process back in the late 1800s, the canal was eventually completed in 1914 by the United States, which had been granted control of the 10-mile-wide Canal Zone in exchange for $10 million, as well as annual payments.
The project wasn’t without its costs, both human and financial.
More than $375 million, equivalent to about $8.6 billion today, was spent by the United States to finish it. The bigger price was the five thousand lives lost as a result of diseases or accidents during the US construction period.
With the canal subsequently owned and operated by America for 70 years, it wasn’t until December 1999 that Panama gained complete control of this vital waterway that split the country in half.
Today, more than 15,000 vessels travel through the 82-kilometer canal each year.
It makes a contribution of up to 40% of Panama’s economy, registering a total of $2.238 million in toll revenues during fiscal year 2017 alone.
Benaim believes that Panama experienced a rebirth when it was granted free control of the canal.
“Historically Panama is just over a hundred years old, but it’s really only been independent since the Americans left,” he says.
Abner Benaim: “Panama is a very young country.”
“That’s the first time that Panama stood on its own. It’s a very young country in that sense. Growing up is hard. Being left alone and being independent is very hard.”
However, Panama has been carving out an identity of its own in the nearly two decades since then.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than in Panama City, which is home to around half of the country’s residents and the only capital city in the world that holds a rainforest within its city limits.
While its old town has been lovingly restored, a gleaming skyline of tower blocks and skyscrapers has emerged victoriously.
The latter has become a defining point of Panama City.
Panamanian real estate developer Octavio Vallarino played a significant role in modernizing the city and has five buildings under construction.
“Even though I’m a Panamanian, it impresses me to see the skyline,” says Vallarino. “I think it’s a reflection of prosperity, a reflection of confidence.”
The capital city is also home to Central America’s first urban rail system — the Panama Metro — which launched in 2014.
Vallarino is extremely proud of the progress Panama has made, but holds a somewhat controversial viewpoint on the reasons behind this.
“The invasion by the US gave Panama a good housekeeping seal that makes us one of the safest places in the world,” he says. “If the Americans had not been here, Panama would not be what it is today.
“It’s why we have a lot of foreigners that come to live here and do business. Some of them become residents, some become citizens of Panama.
Roberto Durán: Panama is “more beautiful” than ever.
“Somehow there’s a magic here that means people don’t want to leave.”
Panamanian boxer Roberto Durán, who’s a four-weight world champion as well as a national treasure, has also felt the shift.
“In the last 15 years, Panama has grown a lot,” he tells CNN.
“There’s been a lot of investment in hotels, in buildings — they have made Panama more beautiful than it was before.”
These developments are doing wonders for the spirits of Panamanians — if the Happy Place index is anything to go by.
It also came in sixth place on International Living magazine’s 2018 list of the top 10 places to retire abroad.
So what’s next for this “young” country?
“The picture is being drawn at the moment,” declares Benaim. “History with a capital ‘H’ hasn’t really been written here yet. Now people are understanding that we have to take responsibility. We have do things on our own — and make it good.”
CNN’s Holly Brown contributed to this story
WWE fans might be better off pretending Crown Jewel got canceled.
The event went on as planned in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and those fans with low expectations entering the event likely walked out of it surprised—and not in a good way.
Where to even start? How about at the top, with Hulk Hogan making his return to WWE after being banned for several years. He hadn’t been with the company since 2015 after making racially charged comments, though over the summer, he was reinstated into the WWE Hall of Fame.
“Why not?” seemed to be the flavor of the day. With so much negative attention around the pay-per-view going into it, why not get the long-awaited Hogan return over with? Not that Hogan did much. He walked out, cut a brief promo and left, which was something to be thankful for at least.
And as for the World Cup Tournament, well, it’s only fitting the final had two Cleveland boys in the ring and both came out losers somehow.
No, it’s not a prank making the rounds online. Dolph Ziggler and The Miz ended up in the final. The latter suffered an “injury,” so SmackDown Live Commissioner Shane McMahon inserted himself into the match and won. He won. No, really:
CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS?! @shanemcmahon just DEFEATED @HEELZiggler to become the BEST in the WORLD at #WWECrownJewel! #WWEWorldCup https://t.co/nfGlpS4Sut
So for those keeping track, Shane McMahon now has the “best in the world” status. A non-wrestler in jeans won the World Cup, marking a weird end to a tournament supposedly meant to find WWE’s best wrestler.
What stings most about this one is how many directions it could have gone in to tell a meaningful story. Maybe The Miz comes back and finds a way to help get Shane fired. Maybe Shane calls out an unexpected name from the back. Heck, maybe Shane makes a snap decision and brings out Drew McIntyre. We all know the split with Ziggler is coming. We all know he’s getting a universal title push.
Instead, nothing. WWE will try to use this as a way to build for Survivor Series. Sure, but that’s something better reserved for Raw and SmackDown and completely unnecessary—for starters, look how much hype the Ronda Rousey-Becky Lynch match is already getting without shenanigans that ruin it for other talents.
And hiding behind “this is a house show” doesn’t work, either. It’s not. It was the central focus of both weekly shows for weeks. It’s a big-money overseas event broadcast live on the WWE Network and had meaningful main-roster things going down.
Like the squashing of Braun Strowman.
Maybe Strowman’s demise at the hands of Brock Lesnar and failure to secure his long-awaited crowning as universal champ wasn’t the worst part of the event. But it was outright ridiculous in its execution.
To pull the whole “keep him looking strong in a loss” strategy, Strowman got hit in the back of the head with the belt by acting Raw GM Baron Corbin. The match started, Strowman took three F5s, another sent him out of the ring, he got back in, threw a kick and took another F5 for the loss.
Laughable. This guy got hit by a car. He got thrown in a trash compactor. He had the set itself fall on him. But that title to the back of the head was too much. He couldn’t possibly recover enough in time to get some offense in against a Lesnar who was visibly 20 or 30 pounds lighter than he was during his most recent appearance in a match that had to check in around the 10-minute mark at best?
Like the silly Shane win, this isn’t setting up anything exciting. If Strowman is the top guy while Roman Reigns is out, he doesn’t work in an underdog chasing role. And with the way WWE botched Reigns’ triumph over Lesnar, failing to pull the trigger at the right times, this one doesn’t figure to be any better.
And the fact that Lesnar needed an assist from someone like Corbin in the first place doesn’t exactly make him look great. A monster like Strowman chasing a beast like Lesnar just doesn’t work.
And hey, a rematch between A.J. Styles and Lesnar is great! But go figure. WWE puts the top title back on a part-time talent and then makes his next match a—wait for it—non-title match. And maybe don’t go into that one expecting another instant classic because it will take place even closer to Lesnar’s next UFC fight, meaning he isn’t going to do anything too risky. Expect some sort of outside interference so Styles gets his win back. Yikes.
Don’t think we forgot about the main event.
Four part-timers with a combined age of 206 clambered into the ring and threw down what could have been a fun nostalgia match were it not for ring rust and Father Time.
It doesn’t even need flowery language or a big explanation. Kane‘s mask and wig fell off. Michaels busted his face on the floor. Triple H tore his pec and couldn’t properly go for half the match (so much for a match with Batista soon). Kane, surprisingly, looked lost and took what might be the worst Pedigree of all time to end the match.
Kudos to Triple H for gritting through the match with an injury. And Michaels looked so-so at best. He would probably make for an interesting match against someone like Seth Rollins to carry him along now that he’s ruined the perfect retirement, but the mind can’t help but go back to the botched backflip onto the ground outside the ring.
It was a fitting end for a pay-per-view if there ever were one. Everyone involved in the main event had heart and did what they could, which is admirable, but that doesn’t mean it should have happened.
Somehow, WWE managed to put on a miserable show with one of the best rosters it has ever had while grappling with the constraints of nostalgia. Giving the show a big “no thanks,” as John Cena and Daniel Bryan did, isn’t something every wrestler on the roster can afford to do. But they look like geniuses for flexing the leverage they hold.
After all the drama surrounding the show, the guy with a theme song that chants “here comes the money” took home the title of “best in the world” at an event that almost got canceled but didn’t because it would hurt the bottom line. And because of that bottom line, part-time talents, a former banished legend and a longtime retiree all made appearances.
WWE leaves Saudi Arabia worse off in more ways than one. Its top belt is back on a part-timer. A key part-time talent willing to still go is on the shelf with an injury. A supposed World Cup sacrificed the SmackDown roster for a silly Survivor Series storyline that will take a back seat to better matches on an already-stacked card. And the champion of that blue brand, Styles, doesn’t have any serious competition.
Most figured Evolution would rip Crown Jewel to shreds in terms of quality. But Friday’s event did more harm than anticipated, and fans aren’t going to forget it as WWE tries to write itself out of self-inflicted wounds.