Monday, July 26, 2021

Global Supply Chains Driven to Breaking Point on New COVID Wave, Natural Disasters

By Jonathan Saul, Muyu Xu and Yilei Sun | July 26, 2021

LONDON/BEIJING – A new worldwide wave of COVID-19. Natural disasters in China and Germany. A cyber attack targeting key South African ports.

Events have conspired to drive global supply chains towards breaking point, threatening the fragile flow of raw materials, parts and consumer goods, according to companies, economists and shipping specialists.

The Delta variant of the coronavirus has devastated parts of Asia and prompted many nations to cut off land access for sailors. That’s left captains unable to rotate weary crews and about 100,000 seafarers stranded at sea beyond their stints in a flashback to 2020 and the height of lockdowns.

“We’re no longer on the cusp of a second crew change crisis, we’re in one,” Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, told Reuters.

“This is a perilous moment for global supply chains.”

Given ships transport around 90% of the world’s trade, the crew crisis is disrupting the supply of everything from oil and iron ore to food and electronics.

German container line Hapag Lloyd described the situation as “extremely challenging.”

“Vessel capacity is very tight, empty containers are scarce and the operational situation at certain ports and terminals is not really improving,” it said. “We expect this to last probably into the fourth quarter – but it is very difficult to predict.”

Meanwhile, deadly floods in economic giants China and Germany have further ruptured global supply lines that had yet to recover from the first wave of the pandemic, compromising trillions of dollars of economic activity that rely on them.

The Chinese flooding is curtailing the transport of coal from mining regions such as Inner Mongolia and Shanxi, the state planner says, just as power plants need fuel to meet peak summer demand.

In Germany, road transportation of goods has slowed significantly. In the week of July 11, as the disaster unfolded, the volume of late shipments rose by 15% from the week before, according to data from supply-chain tracking platform FourKites.

Nick Klein, VP for sales and marketing in the Midwest with Taiwan freight and logistics company OEC Group, said companies were scrambling to free goods stacked up in Asia and in U.S. ports due to a confluence of crises.

“It’s not going to clear up until March,” Klein said.

More Pain for Automakers

Manufacturing industries are reeling.

Automakers, for example, are again being forced to stop production because of disruptions caused by COVID-19 outbreaks. Toyota Motor Corp said this week it had to halt operations at plants in Thailand and Japan because they couldn’t get parts.

Stellantis temporarily suspended production at a factory in the UK because a large number of workers had to isolate to halt the spread of the virus.

The industry has already been hit hard by a global shortage of semiconductors this year, mainly from Asian suppliers. Earlier this year, the auto industry consensus was that the chip supply crunch would ease in the second half of 2021 – but now some senior executives say it will continue into 2022.

An executive at a South Korea auto parts maker, which supplies Ford, Chrysler and Rivian, said raw materials costs for steel which was used in all their products had surged partly due to higher freight costs.

“When factoring in rising steel and shipping prices, it is costing about 10% more for us to make our products,” the executive told Reuters, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“Although we are trying to keep our costs low, it has been very challenging. It’s just not rising raw materials costs, but also container shipping prices have skyrocketed.”

Europe’s biggest home appliances maker, Electrolux , warned this week of worsening component supply problems, which have hampered production. Domino’s Pizza said the supply-chain disruptions were affecting the delivery of equipment needed to build stores.

U.S. and China Struggle

Buckling supply chains are hitting the United States and China, the world’s economic motors that together account for more 40% of global economic output. This could lead to a slowdown in the global economy, along with rising prices for all manner of goods and raw materials.

U.S. data out Friday dovetailed with a growing view that growth will slow in the last half of the year after a booming second quarter fueled by early success in vaccination efforts.

“Short-term capacity issues remain a concern, constraining output in many manufacturing and service sector companies while simultaneously pushing prices higher as demand exceeds supply,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.

The firm’s “flash” reading of U.S. activity slid to a four-month low this month as businesses battle shortages of raw materials and labor, which are fanning inflation.

It’s an unwelcome conundrum for the U.S. Federal Reserve, which meets next week just six weeks after dropping its reference to the coronavirus as a weight on the economy.

The Delta variant, already forcing other central banks to consider retooling their policies, is fanning a new rise in U.S. cases, and inflation is running well above expectations.

‘We Need to Supply Stores’

Ports across the globe are suffering the kinds of logjams not seen in decades, according to industry players.

The China Port and Harbour Association said on Wednesday that freight capacity continued to be tight.

“Southeast Asia, India and other regions’ manufacturing industry are impacted by a rebound of the epidemic, prompting some orders to flow to China,” it added.

Union Pacific, one of two major railroad operators that carry freight from U.S. West Coast ports inland, imposed a seven-day suspension of cargo shipments last weekend, including consumer goods, to a Chicago hub where trucks pick up the goods.

The effort, which aims to ease “significant congestion” in Chicago, will put pressure on ports in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland and Tacoma, specialists said.

A cyber attack hit South African container ports in Cape Town and Durban this week, adding further disruptions at the terminals.

If all that were not enough, in Britain the official health app has told hundreds of thousands of workers to isolate following contact with someone with COVID-19 — leading to supermarkets warning of a short supply and some petrol stations closing.

Richard Walker, managing director of supermarket group Iceland Foods, turned to Twitter to urge people not to panic buy.

“We need to be able to supply stores, stock shelves and deliver food,” he wrote.

(Additional reporting by Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm, Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles, Hilary Russ in New York, Joe White in Detroit, Lucia Mutikani and Howard Schneider in Washington and Heekyong Yang in Seoul; editing by Simon Webb, Dan Burns and Pravin Char)

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Philip Morris International CEO said cigarettes should be banned and that the company will stop selling Marlboros in the UK within a decade (Kelsey Vlamis) 
A pack of Philip Morris International Inc. Marlboro Red cigarettes seen in a Tobacco Store.Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Philip Morris International CEO Jacek Olczak said the company will stop selling Marlboro cigarettes in the UK within a decade.

He also said cigarettes should be banned in the UK, similar to gas-powered cars.

Philip Morris International is separate from Philip Morris USA, which makes Marlboro cigarettes in the US.

The chief executive of Philip Morris International, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes abroad, said that his company will stop selling cigarettes in the UK within a decade.

CEO Jacek Olczak told The Mail on Sunday that the move is part of the company's goal to become smoke-free and to help end the use of traditional cigarettes.

Olczak also called on the UK government to outlaw cigarettes within a decade, comparing them to gas-powered cars, which will be banned from being sold in the country starting in 2030, according to The Telegraph.

Read more: Amazon, investment banks, and even big tobacco are spending millions of dollars to try to get favorable marijuana laws

"We can see the world without cigarettes. And actually, the sooner it happens, the better it is for everyone," he said. "With the right regulation and information it can happen 10 years from now in some countries. And you can solve the problem once and forever."

Philip Morris International is separate from Philip Morris USA, which makes Marlboro cigarettes in the US and is a division of the American tobacco corporation Altria. It split from Philip Morris USA in 2008 and recently announced plans to transform into a smoke-free company, as well as its intention to buy British pharmaceutical company Vectura Group, which makes asthma inhalers.

Anti-smoking groups in the UK criticized the move, accusing tobacco companies of trying to position themselves as anti-smoking while still selling cigarettes products, according to The Guardian.

Smoking kills more than eight million people worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization.

This natural health doctor has published over 600 articles claiming coronavirus vaccines are a fraud - he's part of the 'disinformation dozen' responsible for the vast majority of COVID-19 misinformation on Facebook

A report from the CCDH found that 12 people are responsible for the majority of online COVID disinformation. 
Roberto Serra - Iguana Press/Getty Images (Laura Casado) 

12 people are responsible for the majority of COVID-19 disinformation being spread online, a CCDH study found.

Number one is Joseph Mercola, a natural health doctor who publishes anti-vaxx claims to a following of 3.6 million on social media.

One of Mercola's articles, "Could Hydrogen Peroxide Treat Coronavirus?", was shared nearly 5,000 times on Facebook.

A March report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) found that most COVID-19 disinformation online is being spread by just 12 people. A Facebook analysis found that 73% of 689,000 anti-coronavirus vaccinations posts shared between February and mid-March came from this group.

Among the 12 are Robert F Kennedy Jr, the nephew of former President John F Kennedy, who has been an anti-vaxxer long before the pandemic. In the 1990s, Kennedy Jr began to spread disinformation that some vaccines given in childhood were connected to autism diagnoses and the development of allergies.

More recently, in a letter addressed to President Biden, Kennedy Jr. claimed that the CDC is administering propaganda and that "the sad reality is vaccines cause injuries and death." Later in the same letter, however, he also wrote that it'd be impossible for autopsies determine if death was caused by a "vaccine adverse event."

But beating Robert F Kennedy Jr to the No. 1 spot in the 'disinformation dozen' is Joseph Mercola, a natural health doctor based in Cape Coral, Florida.
Mercola is no newcomer to the anti-vaxx movement

A screenshot of Dr. Mercola (left) dispensing health advice in one of several appearances on the Dr. Oz show. Flap's Blog

According to the New York Times, Mercola has built his career on far-fetched health notions, including claims that spring mattresses amplify radiation and that tanning beds can reduce the chance of getting cancer. Cashing in on his followers, he sold them at-home tanning beds that cost between $1,200 and $4,000. He was then sued by the Federal Trading Commission and agreed to pay his customers refunds totaling $5.3 million, according to a 2016 report from the Chicago Tribune.

Video: Calling out COVID vaccine misinformation (KARE-TV Minneapolis-St. Paul)

During the coronavirus pandemic, Mercola has focused his zeal against COVID vaccines.

Articles published on his website include "Thyme Extract Helps Treat COVID-19" and another titled "Could Hydrogen Peroxide Treat Coronavirus?" which was published in April and shared on Facebook 4,600 times, according to screenshots in the CCDH's report.

Mercola later removed the hydrogen peroxide article, and others, from his site, due to what he called the "fearmongering media and corrupt politicians" censoring his content, which he alleges have led to personal threats.

US health officials have called out social media platforms and conservative news outlets, like Fox News, for their role in allowing the spread of vaccination misinformation, especially as new cases are again on the rise.

Over the past week, the US reported an average of nearly 50,000 new COVID-19 infections each day, according to CDC data. The rise in new infections come amid the spread of the more contagious delta variant of the disease. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky previously called the uptick in cases a "pandemic of the unvaccinated."

With an audience of 3.6 million over Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the CCDH report found that Mercola has been the most far-reaching spreader of COVID disinformation.

In an emailed response to the Times, Mercola said it was "quite peculiar to me that I am named as the #1 superspreader of misinformation."

While some social media platforms have taken steps to identify and remove disinformation, many of the 12 people's accounts are still active, including Mercola's, where he often shared multiple posts a day.

Noor Mukadam's murder exposes toxic misogyny in Pakistan

A 27-year-old woman was first shot and then slaughtered by a male acquaintance in Islamabad last week. Experts say Noor Mukadam's brutal murder puts a spotlight on toxic misogyny in Pakistani society.

Pakistan ranks as the sixth most dangerous country in the world for women

Noor Mukadam, a 27-year-old woman and daughter of Pakistan's former ambassador to South Korea, was brutally killed in Islamabad on July 20. The alleged killer, Zahir Zamir Jaffer, was reportedly her acquaintance. According to police reports, he beheaded Mukadam after shooting her.

Violence against women is widespread in Pakistan, but the recent spate of women killings has shocked the South Asian nation.

On Sunday, a man burned his wife to death in the southern Sindh province, while another man shot dead his wife, his aunt and two underage daughters in Shikarpur city on the same day. A 30-year-old woman who was raped and stabbed on Saturday in Rawalpindi city succumbed to her injuries on Sunday.

On July 18, a woman was tortured to death by her husband in Sindh. Last month, a man killed two women, including his former wife, in the name of "honor" in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

The recent cases have triggered a debate about the state's failure to protect women, the culture of impunity, and the reasons behind society's tendency to curtail women's independence and inflict pain on them.

Women's march in Pakistan faces extremist violence

Culture of impunity

Pakistan ranks as the sixth most dangerous country in the world for women, and is currently witnessing a rapid rise in cases of sexual crimes and domestic violence.

Rights activists blame a culture of impunity for the recent spike in violence against women.

"A man who stabbed a young female lawyer more than 12 times was recently released by the court. What message does it send to the perpetrators of violence against women?" Yasmin Lehri, a former lawmaker from Balochistan province, told DW.

Mukhtar Mai, a women's rights activist and a 2002 gang rape survivor, shares the same view: "Those who commit violence against women are not afraid of legal consequences," she told DW, adding that for most Pakistani men, beating a woman is not even a form of violence. Pakistani society is still entrenched in feudal and tribal customs, she says.

Other activists also blame society's patriarchal attitudes . "Women are taught to obey men, as they have a superior status in the family," said Mahnaz Rehman, a Lahore-based feminist, adding that when a woman demands her rights, she is often subjected to violence.

Patriarchy and religion

Shazia Khan, a Lahore-based activist, believes that in certain cases, men feel emboldened by religious teachings.

"Islamic clerics interpret religion in a way that it gives the impression that it allows men to beat women. They also support underage marriages and tell women to obey their husbands even if they are violent toward them," she said, adding that these clerics actually encourage men to commit violence against women.

PM Khan's 'victim blaming'

Many rights activists in Pakistan blame Prime Minister Imran Khan's "victim blaming" for the rise in violence against women in the country.

Last month, the conservative premier faced backlash following his comments that appear to put the blame for sexual abuse on women.

"If a woman is wearing very few clothes, it will have an impact on the men, unless they are robots," Khan said during an interview for documentary-news series Axios, aired by US broadcaster HBO. He proceeded to say that this was "common sense."

Earlier this year, he made similar remarks during a question and answer briefing with the public, suggesting that the rise in sexual violence in Pakistan was due to the lack of "pardah," the practice of veiling, in the country.

"PM Khan and his ministers continue to make anti-women remarks that encourage misogyny, and in a way violence against women, in Pakistan," said activist Shazia Khan.

Former lawmaker Yasmin Lehri believes that Khan's government hasn't done anything to protect women. Instead, she said, the government sent a bill to stop torture against women to Islamic clerics, who have stalled it.

Watch video 05:56  Pakistani society needs to confront victim blaming, says Amnesty's Rimmel Mohydin

Conservatives blame 'Western culture'

Just like PM Khan, the country's conservative sections, too, blame the "Western culture" for sexual and physical violence against women.

Samia Raheel Qazi, a former parliamentarian, says the recent incidents of violence involve people who have drifted away from Islamic teachings.

"In Noor Mukadam's case, the alleged perpetrator is a Westernized atheist," she told DW, adding that the weakening of the family system amid an onslaught of Western culture in the country is responsible for these crimes.

Lawmaker Kishwar Zehra agrees. "We need to revive our family values to stop these crimes."

Fresh email leak shines new light on Manchester City's financial conduct

The English champions were cleared of financial misconduct by CAS last year, but a new email leak has renewed scrutiny of the club's financial affairs. City are accused of artificially inflating their income in 2011.

Manchester City have been embroiled in a secret legal battle with the Premier League, according to a report.

A year on from being cleared of any wrongdoing by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), Manchester City's financial conduct a decade ago is back under the spotlight.

The club's appeal to CAS was successful and their two-year ban from the Champions League, imposed by UEFA, overturned.

It has emerged, however, via reporting by British newspaper Mail on Sunday, that City have been embroiled in a secret two-year legal battle with the English Premier League.

City have reportedly failed to comply with the Premier League's demands for documentation and prevented reporting of the case via a gag order in a British court. This order has now been lifted on the grounds of public interest.

City have yet to respond publicly to reports that they breached the Premier League's rules.

City have acquired some of the best players in the world, but questions remain over whether they've done it fairly.

What are Manchester City accused of?

According to Football Leaks, the club inflated its income in 2011 to circumvent financial fair play rules.

That summer, the club made some significant player signings that helped shape its decade of domestic dominance, including Samir Nasri midfielder for £24.75m ($34m) and Sergio Aguero for £36m ($49m), a then club-record signing and a player who went on to become the club's all-time highest goalscorer.

Indeed, in the 10 years to the end of 2020, City earned £1.7bn ($2.3bn) in commercial income. In the same period, Premier League rivals Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal averaged 1.1bn each. City, who are mostly reliant on sponsors from the United Arab Emirates, earned roughly £600m ($825m) more than those other clubs.

By 2015, City had sponsorship deals with six separate UAE entities, totaling 68% of its £179m ($246m) total sponsorship income. By 2019, the figure was £140m ($192m) of £250m ($344m), allowing City to buy up the best football talent in the world.

According to the Mail on Sunday, City had launched several challenges to the Premier League's attempt to obtain information from City, but this has been rejected. City are now fighting in court to keep these details private, at least until legal proceedings are no longer active.

Rui Pinto is the whistleblower behind Football Leaks

What do the leaked emails say?

A senior executive within the sports sponsorship team at Etihad Airways, City's main sponsor, composed an email to a contact in the partnerships department at City on April 12, 2011, appearing to query the £12m ($16.5m) shirt sponsorship deal City had with Etihad.

The email opened with: "Dear (redacted), there seems to be some confusion about an outstanding balance of the sponsorship fee for the 2010-11 season."

It goes on to explain that Etihad were only due to pay £4m, with the UAE's Executive Affairs Authority (EAA) due to pay the club the remaining £8m ($11m) of the contract, clearly not allowed under Premier League rules.
How does this break the rules?

Premier League clubs are not allowed to receive sponsorship from third parties that are closely associated with the owners of the club or related in any way.

City have therefore potentially benefited from artificially inflated sponsorship deals that dwarf those of their rivals, allowing them to gain an advantage on the field.

This is in direct contradiction to the Premier League's fair play rules and, even though the Premier League has also not commented on the ongoing legal battle with its reigning champions, the ramifications would be severe for City, with relegation from the league the ultimate punishment.

City have hired one of the UK's leading lawyers, Lord Pannick QC, to defend itself in court, with Pannick famous for having twice defeated the UK government over Brexit.

What is Football Leaks?  Who is Rui Pinto?

Football Leaks has been operating since September 2015, revealing the transfer fees, wages and contract information of some famous football players. Among its first leaks were the details of Neymar's contract with Barcelona and Gareth Bale's move from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid.

It was in late 2018 when Football Leaks came to widespread prominence though, partnering with German magazine Der Spiegel to reveal dramatic details of City's alleged deception of UEFA over Financial Fair Play and that several of Europe's top clubs had been in talks over a breakaway European Super League.

Rui Pinto is a Portuguese whistleblower and the creator of Football Leaks. He was arrested in January 2019 in Budapest at the behest of the Portuguese government on suspicion of extortion, violation of secrecy and illegally accessing information. After months under house arrest and a subsequent trial, however, Pinto was released in August 2020 without charge — he still remains on trial for a further 90 alleged offenses.

Pinto has gone on to do a deal with the Portuguese judicial system, turning over millions of documents to assist in its investigations into criminal activity. And according to the Mail on Sunday report, Pinto is also open to helping the Premier League in any investigation against City.

Pinto remains at liberty under a witness protection program.
In French first, same-sex Protestant pastors get married

The Protestant church has allowed same-sex marriage for clergy since 2015   PATRICK HERTZOG AFP

Issued on: 26/07/2021 
Paris (AFP)

France's Protestant church has celebrated its first wedding of same-sex pastors, authorities said Monday, six years after gay clergy first won the right to marry.

Emeline Daude and Agnes Kauffmann, both in their early thirties, tied the knot in the southern city of Montpellier on Saturday, they said.

"It's a step for the church," Kauffmann, who like her wife is undergoing the probationary period for pastors required by the United Protestant Church of France (EPUdF), told AFP.

Daude added that "LGBT people need to see other committed LGBT people, including in the religious sphere."

While heterosexual marriages have long been the norm for Protestant pastors, the church synod's 2015 decision to also allow same-sex unions among clergy remains controversial, and gives officials wide discretion on how to apply the rule.

"It's neither a right, nor an obligation," the text says, and cannot be forced "on any parish, or on any pastor".

The rule change followed two years of discussion within the church, EPUdF spokesman Daniel Cassou said. "It remains a touchy subject," he told AFP.

In general, Protestant doctrine does not consider marriage to be a sacrament, but the church can give its blessing in civil ceremonies to both heterosexual and homosexual couples.

"We're getting there, step by step," said pastor Jean-Francois Breyne who presided over Saturday's ceremony. "There's a big symbolic dimension," he told AFP.

Around 30 of the world's Protestant churches allow same-sex marriages of their clergy, according to Cassou.

Protestants are the second-biggest branch of Christianity worldwide after Catholicism.

The Catholic church requires priests to be celibate, and does therefore not allow them to marry, regardless of their sexual orientation.

© 2021 AFP

Tokyo Olympics: Kimia Alizadeh and her fight against her critics

Kimia Alizadeh is labeled many things: heroine, enemy of the state, refugee and Olympic bronze medalist in taekwondo. She thinks she failed in Tokyo after missing the medals podium — but the opposite is the case.


Kimia Alizadeh missed out on the podium in Tokyo but still made for an inspiring story

Her first name, "Kimiya," is embroidered in green, white and red colors on her blackbelt, which is concealed by her protective vest. The green is for Islam, the white stands for peace and friendship, and the red for blood spilled in war.

Kimia Alizadeh is Iranian. But when she steps onto the competition mat in Makuhari Exhibition Hall, located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) outside Tokyo, she is a stateless person competing for the Olympic Refugee Team.

'Kimiya' embroidered in green, white and red on Kimia Alizadeh's black belt

She is always fully focused, both in the tunnel and when the fight begins. For her, the only thing that matters is winning. But just like at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, she loses her semifinal match.

Back then, she won her bronze medal match to become the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal. A seminal moment for her and for Iran. Five years later, she came up short in her bronze medal match on Sunday, missing out on a chance to return to the podium.

An ambitious competitor, Alizadeh will probably consider the result a defeat. But after overcoming so much adversity, she can still count Tokyo 2020 as a victory.

Why did Alizadeh leave Iran?

In January 2020, Alizadeh announced on Instagram that she no longer wanted to live in Iran and decided to move to Europe. In the post, she said she didn't want to be a part of "hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery" as "one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran."

She also claimed that Iranian athletes were being exploited behind the scenes. "I wore whatever they told me and repeated whatever they ordered. Every sentence they ordered I repeated. None of us matter for them, we are just tools" — Alizadeh still receives threats on social media for the post.

After a short stay in the Netherlands, she has been living with her husband in Nuremberg, southeast Germany. Earlier this year, she received refugee status in Germany and was named part of the IOC's Refugee Olympic Team for Tokyo.

Kimia Alizadeh fought for the Refugee Olympic Team in the Tokyo Olympics

Since her escape, the Iranian Taekwando Federation has refused to allow her to represent another nation. In addition to the challenges of learning a language and culture far removed from her family, Alizadeh had been struggling with injuries since fleeing Iran.

She had to undergo surgery multiple times and was unable to compete internationally from 2018 until training camps with the refugee team began a few weeks ago.

"But many people who criticize her don't see that. They only look at results," said Helena Stanek, a spokeswoman for the German Taekwando Union (DTU).

Why Alizadeh doesn't speak to media

"Kimia is very ambitions. Just being there is not enough for her. She definitely wants a medal," Stanek said.

Alizadeh gives no comments to the press. After her matches, the 22-year-old walks past the media without answering questions.

"She doesn't want to talk until she has won a medal," explains Stanek, who was the first German to win an Olympic medal in taekwondo at the 2012 London Olympics.

Kimia Alizadeh does not speak with media after matches

With a podium finish, Alizadeh wanted to prove to her many critics that her achievements have nothing to do with a passport. That she is as good of a fighter as a stateless person as she was as an Iranian. That she deserves respect — as an athlete, as a woman, as a human being.

"She received a lot of negative reactions on social media after she escaped," Stanek said. "That she would have been much, much better if she had continued to fight for Iran."

That reaction really hurt Alizadeh, the DTU spokeswoman continued, and has held back since because of it.

Alizadeh's Tokyo Olympics

In her first fight in Tokyo on Sunday, she won her opening match against Iranian Nahid Kiani, her former teammate.

Kiani's coach was also Kimia's two years ago, Stanek says. Before the match, Alizadeh had said to Stanek: "Helena, those are friends from before."

Alizadeh defeated Kiani, Britain's Jade Jones and China's Zhou Lijun to reach the last four in the under-57kg category. Despite losing to Russian fighter Tatiana Minina, the 22-year-old still had a shot at the podium.

Kimia Alizadeh runs with an Iranian flag after losing her bronze-medal bout

But unlike Rio 2016, her bid for bronze came up short, losing 8-6 to Turkey's Hatice Kubra Ilgun. Despite not replicating her bronze-medal performance from five years ago, she ran around the arena cheering, donning a headscarf and waving the Iranian flag.

The defeat was still visible, perhaps hurting a bit more since she couldn't silence her critics with another Olympic medal — her shortfall may even embolden them more.

Once again, she didn't issue comments to the media. She didn't win a medal, after all. Yet she still has a worthy story to tell: about courage, the will to fight, fairness — all things her critics would know nothing about.

This article was adapted from German

Tokyo 2020: Germany gymnasts protest with full-body leotards

The Germany gymnastics team wore full-body suits during qualifications at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday in a protest against the sexualization of women in the sport.


Germany's female gymnasts took a stand against the sexualization of women in their sport by wearing unitards instead of the common bikini-cut leotards.

The team, made out of Sarah Voss, Pauline Schaefer-Betz, Elisabeth Seitz and Kim Bui, had already worn unitards during training on Thursday, but said the decision to compete in them was only made shortly before the meet.

"We sat together today and said, OK, we want to have a big competition," 21-year-old Voss said.

"As you are growing up as a woman, it is quite difficult to get used to your new body in a way.

"We want to make sure everyone feels comfortable and we show everyone that they can wear whatever they want and look amazing, feel amazing, whether it is in a long leotard or a short one."

Tokyo 2020 is the first Summer Olympics since the imprisonment of US coach Larry Nassar, who sexually abused hundreds of athletes, including superstar Simone Biles.

Germany's Kim Bui performing in the unitard at the Tokyo Olympics.

Voss said they wanted to become "role models" and the team's actions drew praise from their fellow athletes.

"I think it's really cool that they have the guts to stand on such a huge arena and show girls from all over the world that you can wear whatever you want," said Norwegian gymnast Julie Erichsen. "I applaud them for that."

Outfits covering legs are authorized in international competitions but up until now tthey had almost exclusively been worn for religious reasons.

Germany's gymnastics team did not qualify for finals.

ftm/ (Reuters/AP)

Diving star Daley: Olympic champion who grew up in the public eye

Britain's Tom Daley (left) and Matty Lee react after winning Olympic diving gold in Tokyo 

Issued on: 26/07/2021 

Tokyo (AFP)

Tom Daley's first Olympic diving title adds a golden chapter to a life lived in the public eye, during which he has become one of Britain's most recognisable athletes and prominent voices on gay rights.

The 27-year-old, along with Matty Lee, took full advantage of some uncharacteristically wayward Chinese diving to win synchronised 10m platform gold on Monday at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games.

It was Daley's first gold -- at his fourth Games -- to go with the bronzes he won at London 2012 and Rio 2016.

Afterwards, having wiped away tears on the podium, Daley said: "Oh my goodness, it's actually kind of unbelievable.

"I've dreamt of this -- as has Matt -- since I started diving 20 years ago."

Daley's story is a whirlwind tale sprinkled with success but also heartbreak, much of it played out in the glare of publicity.

He began diving at the age of seven and there was a media frenzy around him when he competed at the 2008 Beijing Games as a fresh-faced schoolboy of just 14.

A year later, in Rome, Daley won gold at the world championships to underline his prodigious talent and prove that he could justify the hype.#photo1

But there were growing pains. He was bullied at school and in 2011 his father, Rob, who did so much to support his diving career, died of cancer aged 40.

There was immense pressure on Daley as a home gold-medal prospect -- and one of the faces -- of the London 2012 Games.

He did not quite live up to the hype but still won bronze in the 10m platform.

Daley has said that it was only after the London Games that the death of his father really hit him.

There were also injuries, he considered quitting diving and speculation constantly swirled about his sexuality.

In 2017 he married Oscar-winning US screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, after coming out at the age of 19.

Together they have a young son, Robbie, named after Daley's father. He watched dad's Tokyo heroics on television.

At Rio 2016, Daley won bronze again, this time alongside Daniel Goodfellow, but he fluffed his lines in the individual event. It was seen at the time as his prime opportunity to finally claim gold.

- 'Unfinished story' -

Daley has transcended his sport. He is vocal on gay issues, including urging homosexual footballers to be open about their sexuality, in order to help young fans who are struggling with their identity.

At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where he won gold with Goodfellow, he called on nations in the Commonwealth that outlaw homosexuality to relax their anti-gay stance.

In recent months, Daley has made headlines once more back in Britain -- plenty of what he does ends up in newspapers -- this time for passing time under coronavirus lockdowns by getting into crochet and knitting.#photo2

He does not shy away from the limelight and has nearly 900,000 followers on his YouTube channel.

The gold medal freshly hanging around his neck, Daley said that his husband had a feeling that something special might happen in Tokyo.

There were suggestions in the build-up that this would be Daley's last Games, but he played down the idea of retirement after his triumph.

"It was my husband who said to me that my story wasn't finished," he said.

© 2021 AFP
Russian men win rare Olympic artistic gymnastics team gold

The Russian team won a dramatic men's team final at the Tokyo Olympics 

Issued on: 26/07/2021 - 
Tokyo (AFP)

Nikita Nagornyy led the Russian team to men's artistic gymnastics gold at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday.

Defending champions Japan took silver and China the bronze.

The Russians, competing under a neutral banner in Tokyo due to their doping suspension, last won the coveted men's team title in 1996.

The outcome of the first title on offer at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre was in the balance until the final tumble on the floor.

China were within less than a point of the Rio silver medallists going into the sixth rotation, with Japan set for third.

But a brilliant last throw of the dice on the horizontal bars from Tokyo teenager Daiki Hashimoto, earning a high 15.100 points, jumped the 2020 Games hosts back into at least second.

With the temperature rising and pulses racing, Nagornyy chalked up his feet and took to the floor to try and get the Russian Olympic Committee team over the line.

And the world all-around champion pulled it off superbly, his score of 14.666 securing the ROC a memorable win.

They finished with a total of 262.500 points, with Japan on 262.397 and China with 261.894.

© 2021 AFP

US fencer Lee Kiefer makes history, winning gold in women's individual foil

Josh Peter, USA TODAY 3 hrs ago

TOKYO – Lee Kiefer practiced on a fencing strip in her parents’ basement when COVID-19 kept her from visiting her club in Lexington, Kentucky.

On Sunday she fenced at the Tokyo Games – and became the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in individual foil.

A gold medal, at that.

Kiefer, 27, beat Inna Deriglazova of Russia in the gold medal match, 15-13.

“What just happened?’’ she said before congratulating her coach. “What just happened?’’

Among those watching the tightly contested bout was her husband, Gerek Meinhardt, a member of the U.S. men’s fencing team. They built the fencing strip in her parents’ basement together.

“Where is my husband?’’ Kiefer asked after the victory.


“I was here at the venue all day with her,’’ Meinhardt told USA TODAY Sports. “I was doing everything I could to help her out and keep her focused.’’

Later, Kiefer reflected on her post-match emotions – “I was so confused,’’ she said. “My coach was like sobbing in my arms. I was soaking it in but very much confused.’’ – and having had her husband with her throughout the day.

© Matthias Hangst, Getty Images, Lee Kiefer of Team United States celebrates after winning the Women's Foil Individual Fencing semifinal 2 against Larisa Korobeynikova.

“Basically, it felt like he was out there fencing with me,’’ she said.

After failing to win an Olympic medal at the 2012 London Games and 2016 Rio Games, Kiefer said she thought her Olympic career was over.


That next year, she became the first American woman to earn the No. 1 world ranking in foil fencing, helping propel her toward the Tokyo Games. Along the way, she enrolled in medical school at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

During the pandemic Kiefer, who has trained with Bluegrass Fencers' Club in Lexington, was forced to practice in her parents’ basement. The idea of building the fencing strip surely struck her parents as the sensible thing to do.

At its core, the Kiefers are a fencing family.

Her father, Steve, was the captain of the fencing team at Duke. Her older sister, Alexandra, won the 2011 NCAA championship in foil fencing for Harvard. Her brother, Axel, finished runner-up in 2019 for NCAA championship in foil fencing for Notre Dame.

“We grew up training together,’’ Kiefer said. “We had so much fun. We had so many fights. Like, we are so close because of fencing.

“It still brings us together. It’s a joy for all of us.’’

Then there’s her husband.

Teammates at Notre Dame, they graduated before marrying in 2019. Now they have emerged as one of the sport’s most decorated couples.

Meinhardt won an Olympic bronze medal as part of the men’s team at the 2016 Olympics. He heads into the foil competition at the Tokyo Games on Monday ranked No. 2 in the world, but on Sunday night his focus was on his wife.

“It was incredible,’’ Meinhardt said. “I know how hard she works every day, how much she wants it, how important a part of our lives fencing is.’’

Important enough to build their own fencing strip when there was nowhere else to practice.

“It started out really exciting, and then after a few months it was like pulling teeth because no one’s in sight,’’ Kiefer said. “But we kept motivating each other. We held each other accountable, and eventually the world started to open back.’’

In March, Kiefer withdrew from medical school to focus on preparing for the Tokyo Games. She said plans to resume her studies next March, although she was slightly distracted Sunday night.

With a feeling she described as incredible.

“I wish could chop it up in little pieces and distribute it to everyone that I love,’’ Kiefer said.

Contributing: Shannon Russell of the Louisville Courier-Journal
Clashes erupt outside parliament after Tunisian president ousts PM, suspends legislature
Supporters of Tunisian President Kais Saied and the Ennahda party clashed in front of Parliament. © Fethi Belaid, AFP

Issued on: 26/07/2021 - 
Text by: FRANCE 24

Street clashes erupted on Monday outside Tunisia's army-barricaded parliament, a day after President Kais Saied ousted the prime minister and suspended the legislature, plunging the young democracy into a constitutional crisis.

Saied sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and ordered parliament closed for 30 days, a move the biggest political party Ennahdha decried as a "coup", following a day of angry street protests against the government's handling of the Covid pandemic. The president on Monday also announced he would replace the country's defence and justice ministers.

Soldiers from early Monday blockaded the assembly in Tunis while, outside, the president's supporters hurled volleys and stones at backers of Ennahdha, whose leader staged a sit-in to protest being barred entry.

Saied's dramatic move – a decade on from Tunisia's 2011 revolution, often held up as the Arab Spring's sole success story – comes even though the constitution enshrines a parliamentary democracy and largely limits presidential powers to security and diplomacy.

It "is a coup d'état against the revolution and against the constitution," Ennahdha, which was the biggest party in Tunisia's ruling coalition, charged in a Facebook post, warning that its members "will defend the revolution".

The crisis follows prolonged deadlock between the president, the premier and Ennahdha chief Rached Ghannouchi, which has crippled the Covid response as deaths have surged to one of the world's highest per capita rates.

"I have taken the necessary decisions to save Tunisia, the state and the Tunisian people," Saied declared in a statement on Sunday, a day that had seen angry Covid street protests in multiple cities.

The president's announcement sparked jubilant rallies by his supporters. Large crowds took to the streets of the capital late Sunday to celebrate and wave the national flag, as car horns sounded through the night and fireworks lit up the sky.

"Finally some good decisions!" said one Tunis protester, Maher, celebrating in defiance of a coronavirus curfew. Others held up signs with a simple message to the sacked government: "Game Over".

'Most delicate moments'

Before the president's announcement, thousands had marched in several cities protesting against Ennahdha, criticising the largest party in Tunisia's fractious government for failures in tackling the pandemic.

A senior Ennahdha official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, alleged that the protests before the president's announcement, and the subsequent celebrations, had all been choreographed by Saied.

"We are also capable of organising large demonstrations to show the number of Tunisians who are opposed to these decisions," this official said.

Since Saied was elected president in 2019, he has been locked in a showdown with Mechichi and Ghannouchi, who is also house speaker. The rivalry has blocked ministerial appointments and diverted resources from tackling Tunisia's many economic and social problems.

"We are navigating the most delicate moments in the history of Tunisia," Saied said Sunday.

He said the constitution did not allow for the dissolution of parliament, but did allow him to suspend it, citing Article 80 which permits it in case of "imminent danger".

In a later Facebook post, he clarified that the suspension would be for 30 days.

Saied said he would take over executive power "with the help" of a government, whose new chief will be appointed by the president himself.

He also said that parliamentary immunity would be lifted for deputies.

'Birth of a dictator'

In the 10 years since the revolution which toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has had nine governments, some of which have lasted only a few months, hindering the reforms necessary to revamp its struggling economy and poor public services.

Tunisia has recently been overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases which have raised the death toll to more than 18,000.

Last week, Mechichi fired his health minister over his handling of the pandemic as cases skyrocketed – the latest in a string of health ministers to be sacked.

In Sunday's Covid protests, hundreds rallied in front of parliament, shouting slogans against Ennahdha and premier Mechichi.

Demonstrations were also reported in the towns of Gafsa, Kairouan, Monastir, Sousse and Tozeur.

Several protesters were arrested and a journalist was injured when people hurled stones and police fired tear gas canisters, an AFP reporter said.

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"The people want the dissolution of parliament," the crowd had chanted.

After Saied's announcement, many Tunisians expressed relief.

Nahla, brandishing a Tunisian flag, was jubilant and told AFP: "These are courageous decisions – Saied is unblocking Tunisia. This is the president we love!"

But one man, aged in his forties, watched on without enthusiasm and said: "These fools are celebrating the birth of a new dictator."

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Tunisia’s democracy is in crisis. Here’s a timeline of key events

The sacking of Tunisia’s parliament is the latest step along a bumpy road since the country’s 2011 revolution.

Demonstrators gather in front of police officers during an anti-government protest in Tunis, July 25, 2021 [Zoubeir Souissi/ Reuters]

26 Jul 2021

Tunisian President Kais Saied has sacked the government and frozen the parliament in one of Tunisia’s biggest political crises since the 2011 revolution that introduced democracy.

Here is a timeline of Tunisia’s bumpy decade of democracy and the path to Saied’s decision on Sunday.

December 2010 – Vegetable seller Mohamed Bouazizi sets himself on fire after police confiscated his cart. His death and funeral spark protests over unemployment, corruption and repression.Protesters demonstrate against Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunis, January 14, 2011 [Zohra Bensemra/ Reuters]

January 2011 – Strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali flees to Saudi Arabia as Tunisia’s revolution triggers the Arab Spring uprisings across the region.

October 2011 – Moderate Islamist party Ennahdha, banned under Ben Ali, wins most seats and forms a coalition with secular parties to plan a new constitution.

March 2012 – Growing polarisation emerges between Islamists and secularists, particularly over women’s rights, as Ennahdha pledges to keep Islamic law out of the new constitution.

February 2013 – Secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid is assassinated, prompting street protests and the resignation of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali. Fighters mount attacks on police
Tunisians hold a placard of late opposition leader Chokri Belaid during his funeral procession in Tunis, February 8, 2013 [Anis Mili/Reuters]

December 2013 – Ennahdha cedes power after mass protests and national dialogue, to be replaced by a technocratic government.

January 2014 – Parliament approves a new constitution guaranteeing personal freedoms and rights for minorities, and splitting power between the president and prime minister.

December 2014 – Beji Caid Essebsi wins Tunisia’s first free presidential election. Ennahdha joins the ruling coalition.

March 2015 – ISIL (ISIS) attacks on the Bardo Museum in Tunis kill 22 people. In June, a gunman kills 38 at a beach resort in Sousse.

The attacks devastate the vital tourism sector and are followed by a suicide bombing in November that kills 12 soldiers
Flowers laid on the beach at a resort that was attacked by a gunman in Sousse, Tunisia, June 28, 2015 [Zohra Bensemra/Reuters]

March 2016 – The army turns the tide against the ISIL threat by defeating dozens of fighters who rampage into a southern town from across the Libyan border.

December 2017 – The economy approaches crisis point as the trade deficit soars and the currency slides.

October 2019 – Voters show dissatisfaction with the major parties, first electing a deeply fractured Parliament and then political outsider Kais Saied as president.

Tunisian President Kais Saied addresses the nation, July 25, 2021 [Screengrab from Tunisian President’s Office

Tunisian men flash the victory sign as tyres burn on blocked roads in Tataouine to protest the government’s failure to keep its promise to provide jobs and investments, February 12, 2021 [Fathi Nasri/ AFP]

January 2020 – After months of failed attempts to form a government, Elyes Fakhfakh becomes prime minister but is forced out within months over a corruption scandal.

August 2020 – Saied designates Hichem Mechichi as prime minister. He quickly falls out with the president and his fragile government lurches from crisis to crisis as it struggles to deal with the pandemic and the need for urgent reforms.

January 2021 – A decade on from the revolution, new protests engulf Tunisian cities in response to accusations of police violence and the devastation the COVID pandemic wrought on an already weak economy.

July 2021 – Saied dismisses the government, suspends Parliament and says he will rule alongside the new prime minister, citing an emergency section of the constitution. The move is dismissed by Ennahdha and others in Parliament as a coup.

Tunisia’s president accused of ‘coup’ after dismissing PM

Tunisian president sacked PM Hicham Mechichi and suspended parliament after day of anti-government protests.

People celebrate in the street after Tunisian President Kais Saied announced the dissolution of parliament and Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi's government [Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]
25 Jul 2021
Tunisia’s president has suspended parliament and dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi in a move condemned as an attack on democracy by his rivals but which others greeted with celebrations on the streets.

President Kais Saied said on Sunday he would assume executive authority with the assistance of a new prime minister after violent protests broke out in several Tunisian cities over the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy.

It is the biggest challenge yet to a 2014 constitution that split powers between the president, prime minister and parliament.

“Many people were deceived by hypocrisy, treachery and robbery of the rights of the people,” he said in a statement carried on state media.

“I warn any who think of resorting to weapons … and whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets,” he added.

He also suspended the immunity of members of parliament, insisting his actions were in line with the constitution.

The statement followed an emergency meeting at his palace after thousands of Tunisians marched in several cities, with much of the anger focused on the Ennahdha party, the biggest in parliament.
Tunisian President Kais Saied has said he will assume ‘executive authoritiy’ after dismissing the prime minister and suspending parliament [File: Karim Jaafar/AFP]

Tunisian Parliament Speaker Rached Ghannouchi accused President Saied of launching “a coup against the revolution and constitution” after the move.

“We consider the institutions to be still standing and supporters of Ennahdha and the Tunisian people will defend the revolution,” Ghannouchi, who heads Ennahdha, told the Reuters news agency by phone.

The party also condemned the president’s move as a “state coup against the revolution”.

“What Kais Saied is doing is a state coup against the revolution and against the constitution, and the members of Ennahdha and the Tunisian people will defend the revolution,” Ennahdha wrote in a statement on its Facebook page.
‘No leadership’

Saied has been enmeshed in political disputes with Prime Minister Mechichi for more than a year, as the country grapples with an economic crisis, and a flailing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saied and the parliament were elected in separate popular votes in 2019, while Mechichi took office last year, replacing another short-lived government.

Tunis-based journalist Rabeb Aloui told Al Jazeera that Saied’s move did not come as a surprise, as he had threatened to dissolve parliament and sack the prime minister.

“Since last September we (have) lived under a political crisis,” Aloui said.

She said many young Tunisians, particularly those who were protesting on Sunday, have expressed joy at the announcement.

The demonstrators had also called for social and economic reforms, however, and those issues still need to be addressed, Aloui added.

“We are really living under an economic crisis, with the health crisis too [from] the coronavirus pandemic,” she said.

Tunisia has been overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases, with more than 18,000 people dying from the disease in the country of about 12 million.

“There’s a failure of governments and the president himself is offering no leadership,” 

Thousands protest

Thousands of people had defied virus restrictions and the scorching heat to demonstrate earlier on Sunday in Tunis, the capital, and other cities. The crowds of mostly young people shouted “Get out!” and slogans calling for the dissolution of parliament and early elections.

The protests were called on the 64th anniversary of Tunisia’s independence by a new group called the July 25 Movement.

There was heavy security presence, especially in Tunis where police blockades blocked all streets leading to the capital’s main road, Avenue Bourguiba. The avenue was a key site for the Tunisian revolution 10 years ago that brought down a dictatorial government and unleashed the Arab Spring uprisings
A Tunisian protester lifts a national flag at an anti-government rally as security forces block off the road in front of the parliament in the capital Tunis [Fethi Belaid/AFP]

Police were also deployed around the parliament, preventing demonstrators from accessing it.

In Tunis on Sunday, police used pepper spray against protesters who threw stones and shouted slogans demanding that Prime Minister Mechichi quit and parliament be dissolved.

Witnesses said protesters stormed or tried to storm the offices of Ennahdha in Monastir, Sfax, El Kef and Sousse, while in Tozeur they set fire to the party’s local headquarters.

Ennahdha, banned before the revolution, has been the most consistently successful party since 2011 and a member of successive coalition governments.
Tunisia police storm Al Jazeera office in Tunis

Security forces involved in the raid said they were carrying out instructions and asked all journalists to leave.

26 Jul 2021

Tunisian police has stormed Al Jazeera’s bureau in the capital Tunis, expelling all the staff, after President Kais Saied late on Sunday ousted the government in a move his foes called a coup.

At least 20 heavily armed plainclothes police officers entered the office on Monday, Al Jazeera journalists in Tunis reported, saying the officers did not have warrants for the raid.

“We did not receive any prior notice of the eviction of our office by the security forces,” Lotfi Hajji, Al Jazeera’s bureau chief in Tunisia, said.

Security forces involved in the raid said they were carrying out instructions from the country’s judiciary and asked all journalists to leave.

Reporters said they were ordered by security officers to turn off their phones and were not allowed back into the building to retrieve their personal belongs.

The officers confiscated other equipment.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it “condemns the storming of Al Jazeera’s office in Tunisia and the media’s involvement in political conflicts.”
Parliament suspended

President Saied suspended parliament and dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi on Sunday in a move condemned as an attack on democracy by his rivals but which others greeted with celebrations on the streets.

The presidency said the parliament would be suspended for 30 days, though Saied told reporters the 30-day period can be extended if needed “until the situation settles down.”

Saied said he would assume executive authority with the assistance of a new prime minister after violent protests broke out in several Tunisian cities over the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy.

It is the biggest challenge yet to a 2014 constitution that split powers between the president, prime minister and parliament.

“Many people were deceived by hypocrisy, treachery and robbery of the rights of the people,” he said in a statement carried on state media.

“I warn any who think of resorting to weapons … and whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets,” he added.

He also suspended the immunity of members of parliament, insisting his actions were in line with the constitution.

The People’s Movement party hailed his move as “a path towards correcting the course of the revolution which has been violated by anti-revolutionary forces, led by Ennahda.”

However, the Democratic Current party rejected the president’s measures and called for unifying efforts to get the country out of the crisis by respecting democracy, human rights and fighting political corruption.