Portugal, Chile, Cuba, Czech Republic, Estonia and Kazakhstan gather this week in Matosinhos, just north of Porto, where Portugal host the 2018 FIVB Men's Volleyball Challenger Cup, starting Wednesday, to determine one team to gain promotion to the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League.

The winner of the Volleyball Challenger Cup, a new competition to complement the Volleyball Nations League, gets promotion to next year's edition, replacing the bottom-ranked of the Challenger teams in the VNL.

Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Korea are this year's Challenger Teams in the VNL. After Week 4 of the VNL, Korea are bottom of the table, with no chance of catching up with any of the other contenders in their last three remaining matches of pool play.

The six participating teams in the Volleyball Challenger Cup (1 host and 5 teams from continental VCC qualification tournaments - two from Europe and one each from Asia, South American and North Central America & Caribbean) will be divided into two pools of three. The top two of each pool will meet in crosswise semifinals, followed by the bronze medal match and final.

Pool A: Portugal, Estonia, Kazakhstan.
Pool B: Chile, Cuba, Czech Republic.

Full schedule of the 2018 FIVB Men's Volleyball Challenger Cup in Matosinhos (all times local, GMT+1):

Wednesday, 20 June:
18:00 - Cuba v Czech Republic
21:00 - Portugal v Estonia

Thursday, 21 June:
18:00 - Estonia v Kazakhstan
21:00 - Czech Republic v Chile

Friday, 22 June:
18:00 - Chile v Cuba
21:00 - Kazakhstan v Portugal

Saturday, 23 June:
15:00 - Semifinal 1A v 2B
18:00 - Semifinal 1B v 2A

Sunday, 24 June:
15:00 - Bronze medal match
18:00 - Final

  • Published in Sports

Cuban Despaigne´s bat gets scorching hot in Japanese baseball

Cuban Alfredo Despaigne had an amazing performance last weekend in the Japanese Professional Baseball League (NPB).

Despaigne, who plays for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in the NPB Pacific League, hit homeruns in three consecutive games and now amounts 16, thus ranking second in this stat tied with two other players and only behind Hotaka Yamakawa (18) of the Saitama Seibu Lions.

Last Friday, he batted 1 for 3 with a 3-RBI homer in the 8-0 win of the Hawks, which won again 6-2 on Saturday with Despaigne hitting 1-3 again, including a solo homer and two RBIs.

But on Sunday, the NPB defending champions lost 4-13 despite the Cuban player batted 2 for 4, with two homeruns and three runs batted in.

Despite having a terrible start this season, the Cuban slugger has considerably improved his performance and now has batting average (BA) of .233 in 62 games, in addition to 41 RBIs, appearing 6th in this stat.

Two other Cubans, LHP Livan Moinello and utility Yuribel Gracial, also play for the Hawks; the latter is currently injured, while Moinello ranks 6th among the best setuppers in the NPB this season.

The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks appear 4th in the NPB Pacific League, 4 ½ games behind the leader Saitama Seibu Lions, but only 2 ½ and ½ behind the Nippon-Ham Fighters and the Orix Buffaloes, who rank 2nd and 3rd in that order.

  • Published in Sports

Trump Wants to Ship 25 Million Mexicans to Japan: Report

That would make the Japanese PM Shinzo Abe lose an election, President Trump argued during the recent G7 summit.

President Donald Trump told Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe he could send 25 million Mexicans to the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan, in an attempt to argue that immigrants are bad for electoral victories and trying to prompt a sense of empathy from Abe but failing dramatically.

RELATED: Trump's Tariffs, Protectionism Debated at Disjointed G7 Meeting

The most recent G7 meeting turned out to be a diplomatic disaster as the leader of the world's new rogue state, U.S. President Donald Trump, made a series of unfortunate remarks that will actually affect international affairs.

According to the Wall Street Journal, at one point of the G7 discussion Trump attempted to appeal to his counterparts by saying that immigration is a big problem for Europe, and then directed his words to Abe: “Shinzo, you don't have this problem, but I can send you 25 million Mexicans and you'll be out of office very soon.”

Among all Trump's disappointing remarks, this one certainly created a sense of irritation among world leaders, who struggled with the POTUS during the whole meeting.

Trump didn't specify where he would get the Mexicans from, if he would ship them from the 36.3 million legally residing in the U.S., from the unknown number of immigrants that crossed the border risking their lives to search for a better future, or take them directly from Mexico.

The summit ended in failure when Trump rejected the joint statement and bashed Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was hosting the meeting, for being “very dishonest and weak.”

The leaders gathered at the summit, including Germany's Angela Merkel, Canada's Trudeau, Japan's Abe, France's Emmanuel Macron, Italy's Giuseppe Conte and the U.K.'s Theresa May were reportedly “dismayed by [Trump's] verbal jabs” during the discussions ranging from wide and sensitive topics such as terrorism and migration, according to the WSJ.

When the discussion reached Iran's nuclear deal and terrorism, Trump turned to Macron and made some serious accusations.

“You must know about this, Emmanuel, because all the terrorists are in Paris,” Trump was reported saying.

The meeting focused on patching the wounds between traditional allies resulting from the new tariff regime imposed on Europe, Mexico and Canada by the Trump administration.

"The EU believes these unilateral U.S. tariffs are unjustified and at odds with World Trade Organization rules. This is protectionism, pure and simple," Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera.

Other world leaders also tried to confront Trump's threats to impose stiff tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

In response, Trump described Juncker as a "brutal killer" in reference to the European Union's antitrust and tax fines against U.S. tech companies.

While some of the world's top Western leaders struggled to find common ground, small groups of protesters clashed with riot police on the highways leading to the summit. A hundred or so protesters, dressed in black, burned couches to block the entrance of Highway 440.

G7 summits have frequently been met with mass protests, notably in 2015 when protesters managed to make it to the security fence surrounding the meeting.

  • Published in World

Cuba Releases Film about Life of Che's Guerrilla Fighter

Movie ''Ernesto'', by Japanese filmmaker Junji Sakamoto, will be premiered here today on the occasion 90th anniversary of the birth of the Cuban-Argentinean guerrilla.

In an exclusive interview with Prensa Latina, the filmmaker of the Japanese-Cuban co-production explained that he decided to narrate the life of the young Freddy Maymura, a member of Ernesto Guevara's troop, because 'until that moment it was unknown and for him it is necessary to show the history of those who sacrifice themselves to achieve something,' he said.

'I think that it is not necessary to reflect the cinematographic work of famous or well-known people; for me expressing that does not have great meaning, on the contrary, I like the films in which we talk about those who remain hidden in the darkness and are little known,' Sakamoto said.

Those who have made efforts to achieve something in life are worth bringing to light. That's my way of thinking, he said. The Japanese filmmaker expressed it was important for him to tell how was Maymura's existence, a descendant of practically unknown Japanese family, who fought with Che and died in the guerrilla.

Four years ago I knew the story of the young Bolivian, son of Japanese immigrants, and I decided to tell his story. After a deep research, the movie's producer and I agreed to do the work. Then, the selection process came up, said the filmmaker.

During that process, we had not yet decided the story to tell about Freddy's life and we chose the one about his time as a student in Cuba when he began his medical career; that was the initial start of this co-production, which involved filming mostly on the island, he said.

Sakamoto highlighted Che's stage when he visited the city of Hiroshima and Maymura's relationship with the Missile Crisis in 1962, a time reflected in the first scenes of the film.

'During the student period of this young man, there was an event that marked his moments of permanence on the island and it was called the October Crisis, a conflict between the United States, the former Soviet Union and Cuba that month, which has a direct relationship with Feddy,' he said.

At that time, a nuclear war was about to be unleashed in the world and the events were related with the Bolivian guerrilla, because it was when he studied here. That was one of the reasons why we started with those scenes, he said.

The other reason was that, being a Japanese filmmaker, I could perfectly reflect Che's visit to Hiroshima, the director added.

Sakamoto also spoke about the implication of carrying out this project, taking into account the insertion of three very diverse and unequal cultures such as Bolivia, Japan and Cuba.

  • Published in Culture

Antonio Becali Visits Japan

Cuban sport's top leader Antonio Becali visiting Japan met Masatake Yamanaka, vice president for the Baseball Federation of Japan according to Carlos Miguel Pereira, Cuban ambassador to the Asian nation.

During the meeting, both managers exchanged new ways of cooperation, in both the training of athletes and the practice of baseball. They also celebrated the return of baseball to the 2020 Olympics.

INDER president and the delegation that accompanies him also shared with Cuban baseball players who play in the NPB: Alfredo Despaigne, Livan Moinelo, Yurisbel Gracial, Raidel Martinez, Ariel Martinez and the batting coach of the Dragons of Chunichi, Omar Linares .

Becali referred to the positive contribution of the Japanese League in the formation and development of our players and highlighted the willingness of its directors and franchises to expand and consolidate cooperation with Cuba.

  • Published in Sports

Japanese Ambassador in Cuba Visits Agricultural Sites in Camaguey

Japan's Ambassador to Cuba, Masaru Watanabe visited on Tuesday the city of Camaguey to inaugurate the development of three production and conservation of seeds projects in urban and suburban agriculture financed by the Asian embassy on the island.

The objective of the initiative is for the socio-economic development of the local communities and its inhabitants, said Watanabe and mentioned the cooperation between both nations in over 100 similar programs that make up the donation of high quality agricultural machinery.

He highlighted the importance in the increase of biological elements as an indispensable aspect to strengthen Cuban agriculture with the objective of hiking the productivity through agro-ecological practices and guaranteeing the protection of the cultivations.

In his tour through the Los Ranchos urban farm of the Agricultural and Animal Company in Camaguey where the project was in its validation stage during five years, the Japanese diplomat observed some of the almost 30 varieties of 10 vegetable species, fruits and others that were harvested.

He also saw the work of the machinery that was installed like a cold chamber for the conservation of seeds, four equipment to decontaminate and produce them, a water purifier and room to plant, grow and dry.

The Director of urban, suburban and family agriculture of the Ministry of Agriculture Office in Camaguey, Javier Rodriguez Guerrero said that over four thousand producers from the territory are benefited with the projects that allowed a harvest of over 91 tons of vegetables in 2017.

These programs allowed to obtain 790 kilograms of seeds in 2017, meaning an increase in the productivity that should continue this year to reach one thousand for its use in over 166 hectares, said Rodriguez Guerrero and added that the project will be expanded to benefit 11 farms in the province.

The Japanese ambassador expressed to the workers that improving the yield of the cultivation and increasing the rate of food efficiency will contribute in reducing the use of foreign currency for imports in the area.

He added that the development in the agricultural sector is a priority for the Cuban government and the countries that cooperate with the Caribbean island, according to what has been defined through dialog on economic cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment.

The Japanese diplomat will continue his tour on Wednesday through Camaguey with a visit to the Patricio Lumumba community in the municipality of Sibanicu, to inaugurate a rehabilitation and maintenance project of the water supply system in the region.

  • Published in Cuba

Cuban Players shine in Japanese Professional Baseball Pre-Season

Cubans Alfredo Despaigne and Livan Moinelo maintained their good performance in the preseason of the Japanese Professional Baseball (NPB), although their team, the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, lost 3-4 to the Chunichi Dragons.

According to the NPB website, Despaigne batted 3 for 4, including a solo homer, double and a single, and drove in a run, thus raising his batting average to .421, and now totals four homers and seven RBIs.
Last season, in the Pacific League, the Cuban slugger finished as homerun and RBI leader with 35 and 103, respectively.

Meanwhile, lefty reliever Moinelo pitched two-thirds of scoreless innings, to reduce his ERA to 5.40.
The 2018 NPB season kicks off next March 30th and the Hawks of the Cubans Despaigne and Moinelo will face at home the Orix Buffaloes at the Yafuoku Dome.

  • Published in Sports

Exhibition of Japanese Contemporary Art Inaugurated in Havana

An exhibition entitled “Going Away Closer” of Cuban and Japanese artists will be inaugurated on Friday afternoon at the Wilfredo Lam Contemporary Art Center in Havana

The work of young Japanese artists will be exhibited like Takahiro Iwasaki, Natsunosuke Mise, Tadasu Takamine, Futoshi Miyagi, Yuko Mohri, kasutomo Tashiro and Atsuko Mochida.

The four Cuban artists are Glenda Leon, Reynier Lyva, Leandro Feal and Jose Manuel Mesias.

The assembly process lasted two years where Japanese Yumiko Okada and Hiroyuki Hattori and Cuban Abel Gonzalez and Blanca Victoria Lopez worked together.

The key work within the concept is Distance, a representation of the temporary space dimension that exists between both nations, in addition to its different cultures; in a demonstration that included installations, photography, painting and performance; and will be presented in Tokyo next July.

This cooperation process between both countries in the cultural sector will extend to other manifestations like dance.

According to the National Arts Council, this is the moment to offer the Cuban people a reference of contemporary art of other nations in order for the national scene to increase its exchange with other realities. (ACN)

  • Published in Culture
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