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Yankees, LeBron James to invest in AC Milan soccer team

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Yankees, LeBron James to invest in AC Milan soccer team

NEW YORK (AP) — Baseball’s elite are getting involved with one of Europe’s most celebrated soccer clubs.

The New York Yankees are becoming a minority investor in Italian champion AC Milan, the second soccer team the baseball power will partially own after MLS’s New York City.

A Los Angeles-based fund that includes LeBron James also is becoming a minority investor in the seven-time European champion under RedBird Capital Partners, The Financial Times reported Tuesday. RedBird is nearing a deal to purchase a controlling interest in Milan for 1.2 billion euros ($1.2 billion).

Gerry Cardinale, who founded RedBird in 2014 and is a managing partner, announced a preliminary agreement in June to buy Milan from fellow American firm Elliott Management. The closing is to take place by the end of September.

Yankees Global Enterprises, the baseball team’s parent company led by the Steinbrenner family, will take a stake of about 10% in Milan, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the final deal has not been announced.

“We’re very confident that the Yankee brand is the most famous sports brand in the world, and we think we can help boost the revenue of AC Milan by being associated with it,” Yankees president Randy Levine said Tuesday.

Milan declined to comment.

The Yankees agreed in 2013 to purchase a 20% stake in the New York City Major League Soccer team that launched in 2015. City Football Group, Manchester City’s parent company, is the controlling owner.

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Yankees Global Enterprises also owns stakes in the YES Network and Legends Hospitality, formed in 2008 with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

“It came about based on our relationship with Gerry and RedBird that goes back over 25 years,” Levine said. “The Steinbrenners were one of the original investors in RedBird when Gerry started it. We worked very closely with Gerry when he was at Goldman Sachs in building the YES Network and Legends Hospitality. He was involved with Goldman’s work on the new Yankee Stadium when RedBird was formed and YES was purchased back from Disney, RedBird became a partner with us and YES.”

The Yankees, 27-time World Series champions, are signing a separate marketing agreement with Milan, a 19-time Italian champion, that will include broadcasting replays of games on the YES Network, as Manchester City does. There also will be cross-merchandising between the pinstripes and the Rossoneri.

“We have a little familiarity with soccer — we’ve learned a little since our relationship with City Football Group,” Levine said. “We think it’s a good investment. Like with Man City, we do not intend to get involved in running the soccer side. We leave it to the experts. We’ve got enough to do on the baseball side.”

New York City plays most of its home games at Yankee Stadium, and Levine is helping lead the search for a site for a soccer stadium for the MLS team.

Milan is coming off its first Italian title in 11 years.

Main Street Advisors, the fund supported by James, also counts the rapper Drake among its partners, as well as English Premier League club Liverpool and the Boston Red Sox.

James and Drake will be passive investors in Milan through the fund and have not taken direct stakes, according to The Financial Times, which first reported the investments.

RedBird also has a stake in Fenway Sports Group, parent company of Liverpool and the Red Sox. Champions League rules prohibit two clubs in the competition from being under the same ownership to protect the integrity of games on the field. UEFA likely will have to make a judgment on the extent of RedBird’s influence on decision-making at Liverpool.

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RedBird is set to become Milan’s fourth owner in five years.

Milan was owned by Silvio Berlusconi from 1986 until 2017. Italy’s prime minister from 2001-06 and 2008-11, Berlusconi sold control to a company controlled by Sino-Europe Sports Investment Management Changxing Co. The American hedge fund Elliott provided financing and took control of the team in 2018 when loan payments were not made.

Inter Milan, Roma, Fiorentina and Bologna are among other foreign-owned teams in Serie A.

“Italian soccer is still experiencing financial contraction,” Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta said of the Milan transaction. “We’ve gone from a period of patronage by the Morattis and the Berlusconis who brought (trophies) to Milan and Inter to a situation in which both clubs have foreign ownership. And thank goodness they came.

“Most of the foreign owners are American and they’ve brought in a new business model, and a different mentality in which economic and financial sustainability is very important.”

Having previously failed to qualify for Europe’s elite competition for seven consecutive years, including a one-year UEFA ban for breaking financial monitoring rules, Milan is playing in the Champions League for a second consecutive season. That competition can increase revenue by about 100 million euros ($100 million) in UEFA prize money and help restore the club’s global brand.

Milan shares one of soccer’s iconic venues, San Siro, with rival Inter Milan. With a capacity of about 80,000, the stadium opened in 1926, was extensively renovated ahead of the 1990 World Cup and is scheduled to host the opening ceremony of the 2026 Winter Olympics. There are few luxury suites and fan amenities in the venue, formally known as Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, and both Milan and Inter have discussed building a new stadium adjacent to the current arena.

“As we help the City Football Group here in New York,” Levine said, “in commercial ways and trying to get through a stadium and a whole bunch of other things, we think in our brand there could be synergies between us and Milan that will raise the value of Milan significantly.”

Former longtime team captain Paolo Maldini will stay on as Milan’s technical area director despite the ownership change, a person involved in the negotiations said, adding that Stefano Pioli is safe in his job as Milan’s coach. That person also spoke the AP on condition of anonymity because the final deal has not been announced yet.

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The only Italians investing in the deal are media rights executive Riccardo Silva and his brother, Saverio Silva, the person said.

Riccardo Silva owns the Miami soccer club, which plays in the second-tier USL Championship. He founded the Miami team together with Maldini, who withdrew his ownership stake in Miami when he took on his current role at Milan.

The deal could involve players from Milan’s youth academy spending time at Miami.

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Dampf reported from Rome. AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf

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Lawyers for the US tell a UK court why WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange should face spying charges

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Lawyers for the US tell a UK court why WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange should face spying charges

LONDON (AP) — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange won’t find out until next month at the earliest whether he can challenge extradition to the U.S. on spying charges, or if his long legal battle in Britain has run out of road.

Two High Court judges said Wednesday they would take time to consider their verdict after a two-day hearing in which Assange’s lawyers argued sending him to the United States would risk a “flagrant denial of justice.”

Attorneys for the U.S., where Assange has been indicted on espionage charges, said he put innocent lives at risk and went beyond journalism in his bid to solicit, steal and indiscriminately publish classified U.S. government documents.

Assange’s lawyers asked the High Court to grant him a new appeal — his last roll of the legal dice in the saga that has kept him in a British high-security prison for the past five years.

The judges overseeing the case reserved their decision, and a ruling on Assange’s future is not expected until March at the earliest.

If judges Victoria Sharp and Jeremy Johnson rule against Assange, he can ask the European Court of Human Rights to block his extradition — though supporters worry he could be put on a plane to the U.S. before that happens, because the British government has already signed an extradition order.

The 52-year-old Australian has been indicted on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse over his website’s publication of a trove of classified U.S. documents almost 15 years ago. American prosecutors allege Assange encouraged and helped U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks published, putting lives at risk.

Lawyer Clair Dobbin, representing the U.S. government, said Wednesday that Assange damaged U.S. security and intelligence services and “created a grave and imminent risk” by releasing the hundreds of thousands of documents — risks that could harm and lead to the arbitrary detention of innocent people, many of whom lived in war zones or under repressive regimes.

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Dobbin added that in encouraging Manning and others to hack into government computers and steal from them, Assange was “going a very considerable way beyond” a journalist gathering information.

Assange was “not someone who has just set up an online box to which people can provide classified information,” she said. “The allegations are that he sought to encourage theft and hacking that would benefit WikiLeaks.”

Assange’s supporters maintain he is a secrecy-busting journalist who exposed U.S. military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have long argued that the prosecution is politically motivated and he won’t get a fair trial in the U.S.

Assange’s lawyers argued on the first day of the hearing on Tuesday that American authorities are seeking to punish him for WikiLeaks’ “exposure of criminality on the part of the U.S. government on an unprecedented scale,” including torture and killings.

Lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said there is “a real risk he may suffer a flagrant denial of justice” if he is sent to the U.S.

Dobbin said the prosecution is based on law and evidence, and has remained consistent despite the changes of government in the U.S. during the legal battle.

She added that the First Amendment does not confer immunity on journalists who break the law. Media outlets that went through the process of redacting the documents before publishing them are not being prosecuted, she said.

Assange’s lawyers say he could face up to 175 years in prison if convicted, though American authorities have said the sentence is likely to be much shorter.

Assange was absent from court on both days because he is unwell, WikiLeaks said. Stella Assange, his wife, said he had wanted to attend, but was “not in good condition.”

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Assange’s family and supporters say his physical and mental health have suffered during more than a decade of legal battles, including seven years in self-exile in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

“Julian is a political prisoner and he has to be released,” said Stella Assange, who married the WikiLeaks founder in prison in 2022.

“They’re putting Julian into the hands of the country and of the people who plotted his assassination,” she added, referring to unproven claims by Assange’s lawyers that he was a target of a CIA plot to kidnap or kill him while he was in the Ecuadorian Embassy.

Supporters holding “Free Julian Assange” signs and chanting “there is only one decision — no extradition” protested outside the High Court building for a second day.

Assange’s legal troubles began in 2010, when he was arrested in London at the request of Sweden, which wanted to question him about allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two women. In 2012, Assange jumped bail and sought refuge inside the Ecuadorian Embassy.

The relationship between Assange and his hosts eventually soured, and he was evicted from the embassy in April 2019. British police immediately arrested and imprisoned him for breaching bail in 2012. Sweden dropped the sex crimes investigations in November 2019 because so much time had elapsed.

A U.K. district court judge rejected the U.S. extradition request in 2021 on the grounds that Assange was likely to kill himself if held under harsh U.S. prison conditions. Higher courts overturned that decision after getting assurances from the U.S. about his treatment. The British government signed an extradition order in June 2022.

Meanwhile, the Australian parliament last week called for Assange to be allowed to return to his homeland.

Andrew Wilkie, an Australian lawmaker who attended the hearing, said he hoped that sent a strong message to the U.K. and U.S. governments to end the legal fight. “This has gone on long enough,” he said.

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Associated Press video journalists Kwiyeon Ha and Jo Kearney contributed to this report.

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Biden to create cybersecurity standards for nation’s ports as concerns grow over vulnerabilities

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Biden to create cybersecurity standards for nation’s ports as concerns grow over vulnerabilities

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order and created a federal rule aimed at better securing the nation’s ports from potential cyberattacks.

The administration is outlining a set of cybersecurity regulations that port operators must comply with across the country, not unlike standardized safety regulations that seek to prevent injury or damage to people and infrastructure.

“We want to ensure there are similar requirements for cyber, when a cyberattack can cause just as much if not more damage than a storm or another physical threat,” said Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser at the White House.

Nationwide, ports employ roughly 31 million people and contribute $5.4 trillion to the economy, and could be left vulnerable to a ransomware or other brand of cyberattack, Neuberger said. The standardized set of requirements is designed to help protect against that.

The new requirements are part of the federal government’s focus on modernizing how critical infrastructure like power grids, ports and pipelines are protected as they are increasingly managed and controlled online, often remotely. There is no set of nationwide standards that govern how operators should protect against potential attacks online.

The threat continues to grow. Hostile activity in cyberspace — from spying to the planting of malware to infect and disrupt a country’s infrastructure — has become a hallmark of modern geopolitical rivalry.

For example, in 2021, the operator of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline had to temporarily halt operations after it fell victim to a ransomware attack in which hackers hold a victim’s data or device hostage in exchange for money. The company, Colonial Pipeline, paid $4.4 million to a Russia-based hacker group, though Justice Department officials later recovered much of the money.

Ports, too, are vulnerable. In Australia last year, a cyber incident forced one of the country’s largest port operators to suspend operations for three days.

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In the U.S., roughly 80% of the giant cranes used to lift and haul cargo off ships onto U.S. docks come from China, and are controlled remotely, said Admiral John Vann, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard’s cyber command. That leaves them vulnerable to attack, he said.

Late last month, U.S. officials said they had disrupted a state-backed Chinese effort to plant malware that could be used to damage civilian infrastructure. Vann said this type of potential attack was a concern as officials pushed for new standards, but they are also worried about the possibility for criminal activity.

The new standards, which will be subject to a public comment period, will be required for any port operator and there will be enforcement actions for failing to comply with the standards, though the officials did not outline them. They require port operators to notify authorities when they have been victimized by a cyberattack. The actions also give the Coast Guard, which regulates the nation’s ports, the ability to respond to cyberattacks.

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Jill Biden is announcing $100 million in funding for research and development into women’s health

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Jill Biden is announcing $100 million in funding for research and development into women’s health

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jill Biden on Wednesday announced $100 million in federal funding for research and development into women’s health as part of a new White House initiative that she is heading up.

The money is the first major deliverable of the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research, which was announced late last year. The money comes from the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, which is under the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

The first lady announced the ARPA-H Sprint for Women’s Health during an appearance in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Biden has said women don’t know enough about their health because the research historically has been underfunded and lacking. The White House initiative aims to change the approach to and increase funding for women’s health research.

The $100 million will be used to invest early in “life-changing” work being done by women’s health researchers and startup companies that cannot get private support, Biden said.

“We will build a health care system that puts women and their lived experiences at its center,” she said. “Where no woman or girl has to hear that ‘it’s all in your head,’ or, ‘it’s just stress.’” Where women aren’t just an after-thought, but a first-thought. Where women don’t just survive with chronic conditions, but lead long and healthy lives.”

President Joe Biden created the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health in 2022 to work on advancing solutions to health issues. The agency is part of what he called his “ unity agenda.”

In the coming weeks, the agency will solicit ideas for groundbreaking research and development to address women’s health, according to the White House.

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The first lady said last year when the White House initiative was announced in November that it grew out of meeting she had had with Maria Shriver, a women’s health advocate and former California first lady. Shriver, Biden said, spoke of the need for a public-private effort to close the gaps in women’s health research. Shriver also participated in Wednesday’s announcement in Massachusetts.

The White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research is led by Jill Biden and the White House Gender Policy Council.

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