China lowers 2015 growth target to ‘approximately 7%’

China has lowered its 2015 economic growth target to "approximately seven percent", as authorities seek a more sustainable path for the world's second-largest economy after its decades-long boomChina lowered its 2015 economic growth target to "approximately seven percent" Thursday, scaling down expectations in the face of "formidable" difficulties for the world's second-largest economy after its decades-long boom. The figure announced by Premier Li Keqiang is the lowest since a similar goal in 2004 and comes after China's gross domestic product (GDP) expanded 7.4 percent in 2014, the slowest pace in 24 years. Last year's target was "about 7.5 percent". Beijing also reduced multiple other targets including trade growth and inflation.


China extends military splurge with 10.1% budget increase

Chinese soldiers attend a winter training session in Heihe, northeast China's Heilongjiang province, January 28, 2015China unveiled a fresh double-digit spending boost for its military on Thursday with a 10.1 percent increase in 2015, as it is embroiled in a series of territorial disputes with its neighbours. Beijing plans to raise its military spending to 886.9 billion yuan ($141.4 billion), according to a budget report to the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), the communist-controlled legislature. The figure is a five year low, but China has for years been raising spending on the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in double-digit steps, flexing its military and economic might as it asserts its claims in a series of rows with Japan and others.


Packers Must Double-Dip, Address Need at ILB in Both Free Agency and Draft

Undoubtedly, the Green Bay Packers‘ biggest need this offseason is at inside linebacker, a thin position at which they have one potential starter in Sam Barrington and not a whole lot of depth behind him.

Head coach Mike McCarthy made it clear that the team will address the position this offseason.

“I think the inside linebacker position could probably be compared to where we were last year at the safety position,” McCarthy said in his media session at the combine. “Obviously, we had a number of moving parts there. We’ll see what this process that we go through as far as player acquisition, how that affects it.” 

However, the need is so pressing—expect the Packers to add at least two, if not three, players this offseason—that Green Bay shouldn’t wait until the draft to address it. The Packers should sign a veteran inside linebacker in free agency and then supplement the position further through the draft. 

The Packers cut former starters A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones within one week of one another. That leaves Barrington as the most likely starter, with a spot for open competition available next to him in the middle. 

Barrington started seven games in 2014. “I like the step Sam Barrington made,” McCarthy said at the combine, via ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky. “I thought he made a huge step and that’s what you look for.” 

Jamari Lattimore started five games in 2014 but will become a free agent in less than a week’s time. As Demovsky reported on Wednesday, general manager Ted Thompson and vice president of player finance Russ Ball have been so focused on trying to retain Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga that they have made little progress with their other free agents.

Thus, the Packers could lose their third inside linebacker of the season by next Tuesday. The most proactive response would be to bring in a veteran who can either start alongside Barrington or rotate in as a rookie gets his bearings.

Behind Barrington, if Lattimore walks in free agency, the Packers have 2014 undrafted free agent Joe Thomas on the roster and fourth-rounder Carl Bradford, who started off outside last preseason before being moved inside. However, he was a healthy scratch throughout the entire regular season.

If Lattimore signs with another team, the Packers will have 1,344 snaps to replace at the position, using last year’s data. 

The Packers are currently about $32.7 million under the cap, per Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. If they get deals done with Cobb and Bulaga, a perfect low-cost free-agent target is Mason Foster of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Foster would be the perfect combination of experience and affordability for the Packers. The middle linebacker is only 26 and counted just $1.5 million against the Bucs’ cap last season. With the average age of Green Bay’s inside linebackers being just 23—and that’s including the 26-year-old Lattimore, who may be leavingFoster could be a needed veteran presence.

After all, the average age of Green Bay’s inside linebackers will only decrease when it adds players through the draft. 

The 6’1″, 241-pound Foster called the plays for the Buccaneers in Lovie Smith’s system in 2014. That role required him to strengthen his coverage skills. 

Injuries to his shoulder and Achilles caused Foster to miss six games in 2014, but he played well in 2013. That season, Foster had 63 total tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble, three interceptions for two scores and seven passes defended.

Thompson doesn’t get involved in many Day 1 deals in free agency, and Foster could certainly stay on the market for a few days as bigger commodities like David Harris of the New York Jets and Brandon Spikes of the Buffalo Bills field their offers.  

Foster would give the Packers some versatility as they figure out the second starter in the middle and add some necessary competition to training camp. 

If the Packers are unable to sign either Cobb or Bulaga, there’s a possibility they might be willing to bring in a player who could be an instant starter next to Barrington while their draft prospects develop. That, of course, would cost more.

Spikes, for instance, had a cap hit of $3.25 million in 2014 after he signed a one-year, $3 million deal with Buffalo coming off his rookie contract with the New England Patriots

Spikes has spent his career trying to prove to teams he can be a three-down linebacker. The Patriots didn’t think so and let him walk in free agency. In Buffalo, Spikes played 46.3 percent of the defensive snaps, per Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, and started 10 games. He had 33 total tackles, a sack and three passes defended, but he was a key part in improving Buffalo’s run defense. 

The Bills finished the season 11th in run defense, allowing an average of 106.4 rushing yards per game. Green Bay was 23rd. That’s where Spikes becomes an interesting prospect. He may not be the complete three-down linebacker Green Bay is seeking—in the draft, that player could be UCLA’s Eric Kendricks or Clemson’s Stephone Anthony—but he could certainly improve the run defense. 

Other free-agent inside linebackers include the pricey David Harris and the Cincinnati Bengals‘ Rey Maualuga. Ultimately, however, Foster could be the best decision for the Packers to add more experience to the group to complement the rookie—or rookies—they add at the position in April.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Stars: Where Are They Now?

Can you guys believe Buffy The Vampire Slayer first hit the airwaves in 1997?!

We can’t either!

The WB classic is not only one of the most critically acclaimed television shows in history, it launched the careers of so many A-list stars including Sarah Michelle Gellar, David Boreanaz, and Alyson Hannigan!

And while the show ended in 2003, the drama still resonates with fans to this day.

However, just exactly what are the students of Sunnydale High School doing since they graduated?!

While some went on to bigger, brighter things, some faded into the light, just like a vampire.

To see what the stars of Buffy The Vampire Slayer are up to…

CLICK HERE to view the gallery, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer Stars: Where Are They Now?”

CLICK HERE to view the gallery, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer Stars: Where Are They Now?”

CLICK HERE to view the gallery, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer Stars: Where Are They Now?”

CLICK HERE to view the gallery, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer Stars: Where Are They Now?”

CLICK HERE to view the gallery, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer Stars: Where Are They Now?”

[Image via WENN.]

Jordan Scores 23, Leads St. John’s To 67-51 Win Over Marquette

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Rysheed Jordan scored 23 points and led four players in double digits as St. John’s beat Marquette 67-51 on Wednesday night.

Jordan was 6 of 11 from the field including five 3-pointers. D’Angelo Harrison added 21 points, six rebounds and three assists for the Red Storm (21-9, 10-7 Big East Conference). Phil Greene IV had 11 points and eight rebounds and Sir’Dominic Pointer had 10 points and grabbed 13 boards. The team finished shooting 23 of 59 (39 percent) from the field, including 12 of 24 (50 percent) from distance.

Harrison sank three 3-pointers early in the second half and Jordan hit another midway to extend the Red Storm’s 34-27 halftime advantage to 53-41 with 8:42 to play. Harrison and Jordan teamed up for back-to-back 3s with 2:07 remaining to seal the win.

Matt Carlino led the Golden Eagles (11-18, 3-14) with 17 points.

(Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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