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Olympics-Athletes warned against speaking up on human rights at Beijing Games

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Athletes travelling to next month’s Beijing Olympics were warned on Tuesday about speaking up on human rights issues while in China for their own safety by speakers at a seminar hosted by Human Rights Watch.

Rights groups have long criticised the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for awarding the Games to China, citing the treatment by the Chinese government of the Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups, which the United States has deemed genocide. China denies the allegations of human rights abuses.

“There’s really not much protection that we believe is going to be afforded to athletes,” Rob Koehler, the director general of the Global Athlete group, said in the seminar. “Silence is complicity and that’s why we have concerns.

“So we’re advising athletes not to speak up. We want them to compete and use their voice when they get home.”

Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter states that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas”.

“Chinese laws are very vague on the crimes that can be used to prosecute people’s free speech,” Human Rights Watch researcher Yaqiu Wang said.

“People can be charged with picking quarrels or provoking trouble. There are all kinds of crimes that can be levelled at peaceful, critical comments.”

Noah Hoffman, a cross-country skier who represented the U.S. at the 2014 and 2018 Winter Games, said the American team was being shielded from questions about human rights.

“I feel fear for my team mates going to China,” Hoffman said. “I know my team mates are being shielded about questions on these issues for their own safety.

“We should never be having to protect athletes from speaking out about issues that they think are really important.

“My hope for athletes there is that they stay silent because they are not only going to be prosecuted by the Chinese authorities, but they could also be punished by the IOC.”

Concerns about data privacy and spying at the Games were raised on Tuesday when a smartphone app built by China to monitor the health of attendees was reported to contain security flaws.

“When it comes to surveillance, we know it’s there,” Koehler said.

“There are reasons that several countries have come out and asked athletes not to bring their own mobile devices. Any person of a sane mind who hears these things must have concerns.”

The IOC said in an emailed response to a request for comment from Reuters that the Olympic body “recognises and upholds human rights  as enshrined in both the Fundamental Principles of the Olympic Charter and in its Code of Ethics” at all times.

The Winter Olympics are set to begin on Feb. 4. Several countries including the United States, Britain, Japan and Australia have announced diplomatic boycotts of the Games over concerns about human rights in China.

 

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)

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Great Start from Kikuchi, Jays Beat Rays – Bluebird Banter

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Rays 1 Blue Jays 4

Off the top, let’s just acknowledge how great Matt Chapman is with the glove. With almost anyone else at third base, this would have been a different game. In the sixth inning, it looked like Yusei Kikuchi was starting to lose it. He gave up back-to-back singles to start the inning. Then there was a bouncing ball up the third-base line, that Chapman pitched up, touched third and made an excellent throw to first for the double-play. The next batter hits almost exactly the grounder, a fair bit harder (103.1 MPH) that Chapman again grabbed (further) behind the bag and again made a great throw to first, getting the third out. In the seventh, he made a great catch on a popup hit behind third.

Kukichi had a terrific start. Going six innings, he gave up a solo homer, the two singles mentioned above, and one other single, just one walk with eight strikeouts. He was in charge all the way through. He may have had one more inning in him, but I was all for taking him out while things were good. Without Chapman, his last inning wouldn’t have been great.

On offence, two big swings did all the damage. Teoscar Hernandez crushed a no-doubter in the second inning, a two-run shot, 419 feet. And Santiago Espinal had his own two-run homer in the seventh. Not a no-doubter, just over the left-field wall, into the Jays bullpen, caught by David Phelps.

We only had 9 hits on the day. Teoscar (3) and Espinal (2) had 5 of the 9 hits.

Opener Matt Wisler pitched a scoreless first. After that, Ryan Yarbourgh pitched the bulk of the game, giving up 8 hits, 4 runs, and 1 walk without a strikeout, in 5.1 innings. I thought Kevin Cash left him in a little too long, but both teams have a lot of baseball ahead this weekend.

Vlad, Chapman and Moreno had 0 fors.

From the pen:

  • Trent Thornton gave up a hit and had a strikeout in the seventh
  • Phelps gave up a walk and got a strikeout in the eighth.
  • Cimber got the save (pitching his third game in a row). His fourth of the season. He finished it with a strikeout.

Jays of the Day: Kikuchi (.258 WPA), Teoscar (.189) and Espinal (.171). I’m giving Chapman an honourable mention, despite his -.076 WPA, for his glove.

No one had the Suckage number. Bo (-.087), Moreno (.080, but deserves points for helping Kukichi navigate the game) and Vlad (-.070) all came close.

Tomorrow we have a day game for Canada Day, a 3:00 Eastern start. Jose Berrios 5-4, 5.86 ERA, is hoping to bounce back from a terrible start. Corey Kluber (3-4, 3.45) gets the start for the Rays.

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Trial of WNBA star Brittney Griner begins in Russia – Al Jazeera English

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The trial of United States professional basketball player Brittney Griner, who was arrested in Russia in February after authorities found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage, has begun in Moscow.

Griner, a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) all star and two-time Olympic gold medallist, arrived at a courtroom on the outskirts of the Russian capital on Friday for the trial, in which she faces up to 10 years in prison.

Arriving at Khimki City Court in handcuffs, the 31-year-old athlete wore a T-shirt showing guitar icon Jimi Hendrix and was accompanied by three people. US embassy staff were in attendance at the proceedings. Cameras were not permitted in the court.

Two witnesses were questioned by the prosecution: an airport customs official, who spoke in open court, and an unidentified witness in a closed session. according to the state news agency RIA-Novosti. The trial was then adjourned, it said, when two other witnesses did not show up, and the next session was set for July 7.

Alexander Boykov, an attorney for Griner, told reporters outside court that “I wouldn’t want to talk on the specifics of the case and on the charges and to comment on our position on it because it’s too early for it.”

US Charge d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood told reporters at the trial that Griner told her she was “keeping the faith” and that she was doing “as well as can be expected”.

The US State Department has labelled Griner “wrongfully detained” and is negotiating for her release amid tanked relations with Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine. Griner’s arrest came just days before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into the neighbouring country on February 24.

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On Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the case was politically motivated.

“I can only operate with known facts, and the facts indicate that the eminent athlete was detained with illegal drugs that contained narcotic substances. There are articles in Russian legislation that provide for punishment for such crimes,” he told reporters.

“Only the court can pass a verdict.”

Griner’s detention has prompted concerns that Moscow could use the athlete to seek the release of a high-profile Russian in US custody, with Senator Tim Kaine warning the forward for the Phoenix Mercury could be used as a “negotiating chip”.

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Some of Griner’s supporters have called on the US to offer such a swap.

High-profile figures across the sports world have also called for Griner’s release, with NBA players wearing T-shirts that say “We are BG” at some games.

WNBA players, who are paid considerably less than their male counterparts, are often offered lucrative contracts by the Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League to play during the US off-season.

Some have now left the Russian league, amid Griner’s detention and Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.

US officials say Griner is one of two citizens wrongfully detained by Russia. Paul Whelan, a former US marine, has been held in Russia since 2018 after being convicted of spying. He has denied the allegation.

Russian news media have repeatedly raised speculation that she could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed “the Merchant of Death,” who is serving a 25-year sentence on conviction of conspiracy to kill US citizens and providing aid to a “terrorist” organisation.

Others have suggested that she could be traded in tandem with Whelan.

After Griner’s hearing, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted: “We – and I personally – have no higher priority than bringing her and other wrongfully detained Americans, including Paul Whelan, home.

“We won’t stop working until they are reunited with their loved ones.”

Blinken, when asked Sunday on CNN whether a joint swap of Griner and Whelan for Bout was being considered, sidestepped the question.

“As a general proposition … I have got no higher priority than making sure that Americans who are being illegally detained in one way or another around the world come home,” he said. But he said he could not comment “in any detail on what we’re doing, except to say this is an absolute priority”.

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Kevin Durant Has Suns As Preferred Team In Trade, Heat At No. 2 – RealGM.com

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Kevin Durant appears to have the Phoenix Suns atop his wish list following his trade request from the Brooklyn Nets. 

“Phoenix is the place he wants to go, I feel reasonably confident of that,” said Brian Windhorst on his podcast. “I think Miami is second. What I’m not confident over is that Phoenix is going to be able to give Brooklyn what they want. And I’m also not confident in what Brooklyn is going to prioritize.”

Tim Bontemps interjected that he expects Durant to end up with the Suns.

“If you look at these trade, there’s a nexus point between what the player wants and the team wants,” said Bontemps. “Kevin Durant would like to play for the Suns. We can all agree on that. The Phoenix Suns also have a lot of stuff the Brooklyn Nets would want. They’re not going to get Devin Booker in this trade, but they’ve got Mikal Bridges, they’ve got Deandre Ayton they can put in a sign-and-trade, and they have Cam Johnson.”

The Suns also control all of their own draft picks, which makes assembling a competitive trade offer for Durant easier. 

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