This year’s 1455 Summer Literary Festival — an annual free 3-day virtual program sponsored by a group of universities in Virginia — featured over 200 authors, poets, and creative artists sharing their insights into the art of storytelling. Maxim Moskalkov has the story. Camera: Mike Maisuradze
Amazon.com Inc has been hit with a record $886.6 million (746 million euros) European Union fine for processing personal data in violation of the bloc’s GDPR rules, as privacy regulators take a more aggressive position on enforcement.The Luxembourg National Commission for Data Protection (CNPD) imposed the fine on Amazon in a July 16 decision, the company disclosed in a regulatory filing on Friday.Amazon will appeal the fine, according to a company spokesperson. The e-commerce giant said in the filing it believed CNPD’s decision was without merit.CNPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, requires companies to seek people’s consent before using their personal data or face steep fines.Globally, regulatory scrutiny of tech giants has been increasing following a string of scandals over privacy and misinformation, as well as complaints from some businesses that they abuse their market power.Alphabet’s Google, Facebook Inc, Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp have drawn heightened scrutiny in Europe.In December, France’s data privacy watchdog handed out its biggest ever fine of 100 million euros ($118.82 million) to Google for breaching the nation’s rules on online advertising trackers.
Usain Bolt might be long gone from the sprint scene. It doesn’t mean Jamaica has slowed down one bit.Nobody has, at least not on the women’s side of the sport.An opening day at the Olympics that’s supposed to produce little more than a brisk jog for the world’s best at 100 meters turned into something very different Friday.Reigning world champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce ran her heat in the nearly empty Olympic Stadium in 10.84 seconds. Her Jamaican rival, defending Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah, finished in 10.82. And Marie-Josee Ta Lou, the Ivory Coast sprinter who finished an excruciating fourth in Rio de Janeiro, kept saying “Wow! Wow!” after she crossed the finish line in a blistering personal best of 10.78.“I’m in shock, actually,” Ta Lou said. “But I know I’m ready.”They were the fifth, sixth and seventh-fastest times of the year, produced on a day when seven of 54 sprinters hit a personal best — all in an opening round that’s supposed to be designed more for shaking out cobwebs than watching the clock.All that even though the field was missing this season’s third-fastest runner, Sha’Carri Richardson, who is back home in the United States following a doping ban.By comparison, only one runner, Fraser-Pryce, cracked 11 seconds in the opening round five years ago in Rio de Janeiro. She went on to win the bronze, behind Thompson (who has since gotten married) and American sprinter Tori Bowie.“I mean, a lot of sprinters are dominating,” Thompson-Herah said.Fraser-Pryce came in as the favorite for Saturday’s final, which is already showing signs of living up to the hype. She ran a 10.63 back in June that has some thinking even Florence Griffith Joyner’s 33-year-old world record of 10.49 seconds could finally be at risk this year.“Honestly, I have no idea,” Fraser-Pryce said when asked about the mark. “It’s super, super competitive. You want to make sure you focus on each round and the things you’re supposed to do.”There were so many unknowns coming into the Olympics – namely if the year-long delay, the empty stadium or the stress of being cooped up in a hotel room in the lead-up to the Tokyo Games would hurt the athletes. At least one group — the women’s sprinters — answered all those questions with an emphatic “No.”Another unknown: Would this be a fast track?“Clearly,” said Daryll Neita of Britain, who ran a personal best 10.96. “It’s going to be a very fast championship, let’s put it that way. It feels amazing.”The first of 48 gold medals on the line over the nine-day meet was up for grabs later Friday in the men’s 10,000. Favorites include Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda and Selemon Barega of Ethiopia.Other morning action on Day 1 went to form. Rai Benjamin of the United States and world-record holder Karsten Warholm of Norway cruised easily through their heats in the 400-meter hurdles, keeping a gold-medal showdown in the cards. Will it take another world record to win?“Maybe someone else will do it,” Warholm joked. “I’ve done my job.”Athing Mu, a contender in the women’s 800, moved through the first round of her race and didn’t seem too bothered that the track announcer mispronounced her name. (For the record, it’s pronounced “uh-THING moh”).“I’m sure everyone saw my face,” the American said. “I don’t even know what he said. It was terrible.”Ju’Vaughn Harrison made it to the high jump final, keeping alive the American’s quest for a high jump-long jump double. Also advancing in high jump was world champion Mutaz Barshim, who wowed his home crowd two years ago when he won the world title in Doha.With thousands of empty green, white and burgundy seats staring back at them, all the “oohs” and “ahhs” for this one came from the athletes themselves. After Round 1 of that women’s 100, there was plenty to get excited about.“It’s whoever gets to the line first wins,” said another contender, Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria, whose 11.05 felt ordinary on this day. “Sometimes it’s not about the time, but about the position.”But sometimes, maybe this time, it could be about both.
There is growing international criticism of Israel following allegations that software from the private security company NSO was used to spy on journalists, dissidents, and even political leaders around the world. A group of American lawmakers is urging the U.S. government to take punitive action against the company, which denies any wrongdoing. In Israel, some experts are calling for better regulation of cyber exports. Linda Gradstein reports for VOA from Jerusalem.
Big tech companies are making it mandatory for employees in the United States to get COVID-19 vaccinations before entering campuses, as the highly infectious delta variant of the coronavirus drives a resurgence in cases.Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. said on Wednesday all U.S. employees must get vaccinated to step into offices. Google is also planning to expand its vaccination drive to other countries in the coming months.According to a Deadline report, streaming giant Netflix Inc. has also implemented a policy mandating vaccinations for the cast and crew on all its U.S. productions.Apple Inc. plans to restore its mask requirement policy at most of its U.S. retail stores, both for customers and staff, even if they are vaccinated, Bloomberg News reported.Apple and Netflix did not immediately respond to requests for comments.Many tech companies, including Microsoft Corp. and Uber, have said they expect employees to return to their offices, months after pandemic-induced lockdowns forced them to shift to working from home.In April, Salesforce said it would allow vaccinated employees to return to some of its offices.Google also said on Wednesday it would extend its global work-from-home policy through Oct. 18 due to a recent rise in cases caused by the delta variant across different regions.”We’ll continue watching the data carefully and let you know at least 30 days in advance before transitioning into our full return-to-office plans,” the company said.
Japan’s Aaron Wolf and Shori Hamada grabbed gold medals in their respective judo finals Thursday, taking the host nation’s tally to eight golds from the sport at the Tokyo Games and matching their record haul from Athens 2004.Wolf, 25, and world champion in 2017, threw South Korean Cho Gu-ham to secure a dramatic ippon victory that ended more than five minutes of grueling Golden Score sudden-death overtime in the men’s -100kg final.It was the first time in 21 years that a Japanese judoka had dominated the -100 kg category at the Olympics.Wolf, whose mother is Japanese and whose father is from the United States, raised his fist in victory and burst into tears when he won the final. He later said he had used painkillers on both his bad knees the previous day.”What I’ve done up until now paid off finally, so I felt the surge of emotion,” he told reporters.
“I was just brought up as Japanese in the low city area of Tokyo. Japanese athletes of mixed parentage are increasing, so I hope that will help diversity among Japanese as a whole.”Earlier, Wolf overcame Uzbekistan’s Mukhammadkarim Khurramov to make it to the quarter-finals, where he defeated Israel’s Peter Paltchik.In the semi-finals, Wolf beat Georgian Varlam Liparteliani, the world number one and Rio silver medalist, with a dynamic o-uchi-gari throw to score a waza-ari victory.South Korea’s Cho won silver, while the bronze medals went to Jorge Fonseca of Portugal and Niiaz Iliasov of the Russian Olympic Committee.In the women’s -78 kg division final, 2018 world champion Hamada defeated French world number one Madeleine Malonga with a quick and solid pin to win the gold medal.Earlier, Hamada, 30, had pinned Beata Pacut of Poland for an ippon victory in the elimination round of 16, then downed Aleksandra Babintseva of the Russian Olympic Committee via a sliding lapel choke to reach the semi-finals.Hamada, ranked second in her division, triumphed over German Anna-Maria Wagner with a cross armlock for an ippon victory in the semi-finals.The bronze medals went to Wagner and Mayra Aguiar of Brazil.
As the U.S economic recovery continues, many Americans want to buy new cars and trucks. But finding them is hard amid a global semiconductor shortage. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more on how COVID-19 continues to affect supply and demand in the automotive industry.
Producers: Kane Farabaugh, Adam Greenbaum. Videographer: Kane Farabaugh.
Face mask requirements are returning to the United States in some communities and workplaces, along with directives for mandatory coronavirus vaccinations, in a new push to curb the easily transmissible delta variant of the infection that has already killed more than 611,000 Americans.
On the Independence Day holiday earlier this month, U.S. President Joe Biden heralded the strides the country had made in combating the coronavirus. But now he said he was seriously considering requiring that the more than 2.1 million federal workers be vaccinated, and that he would adhere to face mask rules when he visited parts of the country where the virus was surging.
The U.S. is now recording more than 60,000 new coronavirus cases each day, the government said, up from fewer than 12,000 a day in late June.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, has reimposed a mask requirement in the chamber.
The western state of Nevada, where the popular Las Vegas gambling mecca is located, is reimposing mask rules for indoor gatherings, as is the Midwestern city of Kansas City, Missouri. A major newspaper, The Washington Post, said it would require that all its journalists be vaccinated before returning to the office in mid-September.
The requirements follow new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which said Tuesday that new data suggested even vaccinated people could pass on the virus if they became infected. The CDC said masks should be worn inside public places in communities that have seen a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“I know this is not a message America wants to hear,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told CNN on Wednesday. “With prior variants, when people had these rare breakthrough infections, we didn’t see the capacity of them to spread the virus to others, but with the delta variant, we now see that you can actually now pass it to somebody else.”
She stressed that vaccines against the coronavirus were preventing greater levels of hospitalization and death. But millions of Americans remain skeptical of the vaccines and are refusing to get inoculated, or are saying they are unlikely to do so.
Walensky said unvaccinated people were accounting for “a vast majority” of new infections. Two-thirds of the vaccine-eligible population of people 12 years and older in the U.S. have received at least one dose. Still, the government said slightly less than half of the U.S. population of more than 328 million people had been fully vaccinated.
“We can halt the chain of transmission,” Walensky said Wednesday on “CBS This Morning.” “We can do something if we unify together, if we get people vaccinated who are not yet vaccinated. If we mask in the interim, we can halt this in just a matter of a couple of weeks.”
With the new federal guidance, numerous state and municipal governments across the U.S. are reconsidering or rescinding their earlier easing of mask rules.
The CDC also called on school systems across the country to require masks for students, teachers and visitors as they start the new school year in August and September. But some states in the South have passed laws banning masks in schools, leaving it unclear as to how they may react to the new CDC guidance.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press.
In just under six months Myanmar has become one of the worst jailers of journalists in the world, with at least 32 currently detained, a media freedom watchdog said Wednesday.
The targeting of media since the February 1 coup marks a “drastic reversal” of positive inroads made by the Southeast Asian country toward greater freedom of expression since the end of its last period of military rule, the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a special report.
Since Myanmar’s army toppled the elected civilian government and arrested its de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, over 900 people have been killed and 5,400 arrested, charged or detained including dozens of journalists, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma).
As well as arrests, authorities have periodically imposed internet blackouts, revoked media licenses and issued warrants for reporters, a move that CPJ says is driving critical reporters underground or into self-imposed exile.
“As of July 1 at least 32 journalists were being held behind bars either on false news related charges or uncharged altogether,” Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative, told VOA. “This is repression unlike I think probably we’ve seen anywhere in the world over the last six months. This is a worse situation than China. This is a worse situation than in Turkey.”
Those two countries usually account for the highest numbers of imprisoned journalists, according to CPJ’s census carried out each December. But Crispin said the data on those currently held in Myanmar make the country a close third. For comparison, last December Myanmar had only one journalist in jail.
At the height of the repression in June, CPJ documented at least 45 journalists behind bars. Myanmar later freed some of those. But for those still detained, conditions are dire with reports of torture and overcrowding.
The CPJ said the full number being held may be higher, with many media organizations reluctant to identify their contributors for fear of reprisals.
“It seems pretty clear that the junta regime is aiming to eliminate free press altogether,” Crispin said, describing the current environment as an “humanitarian crisis for journalists.”
Local media have borne the brunt of repression but international news outlets have been restricted and at least four foreign journalists detained. Three of those—American reporter Nathan Maung, and correspondents from Poland and Japan—were later released.
But Danny Fenster, the American managing editor for English-language local publication Frontier Myanmar, has been in custody for over 65 days.
Fenster, who is being held in Yangon’s Insein prison, told his lawyer he has the coronavirus but has not been provided with medical assistance. A court hearing scheduled for Wednesday was pushed back and his family have limited contact or updates on his wellbeing.
The journalist, originally from metro Detroit, had been working in Myanmar for a couple of years. He was arrested on May 24 at Yangon airport, when he tried to fly home for a family visit.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday the Myanmar military’s refusal to respect rights is “flatly unacceptable” and called for the release of those detained.
Media freedom record under Suu Kyi’s elected government was far from flawless. Two Reuters reporters who reported on abuses against the Rohingya Muslim minority were imprisoned for over 500 days.
But under the junta, CPJ’s Crispin says, Myanmar has used expanded laws around false news and incitement to target journalists as it seeks to “black out the news” of the deadly crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners.
“We found that many news outlets that were free to operate under Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government are now effectively operated underground. That means they have to close the bureaus,” he said, adding that many report from safe houses or while on the run.
American journalist Maung told VOA his team at Kamayut Media knew they could face danger at any time.
On March 9 around 40 armed soldiers raided their news outlet, and arrested Maung and his colleagues.
“They interrogated me for the first four days, they didn’t give me water for three days,” Maung told VOA.
The journalist said his captors kept him handcuffed, blindfolded and in stress positions.
“The first few days when I was being tortured I thought I could be killed anytime,” Maung said.
His colleague Hanthar Nyien suffered too. CPJ’s report says Nyien was forced to kneel on an ice block, burned with cigarettes, and threatened with rape to force the journalist to hand over the code to unlock his smartphone.
The prison guards later learned that Maung was American, and he was released after 98 days. Nyien remains in custody.
“My body is in the United States but my mind everyday stays with my friends in the prison,” Maung said.
Myanmar’s military council has not directly responded to VOA’s queries on the treatment of detainees, but a spokesperson said the questioning of suspects is “in accordance with the rule and regulations.”
In a seemingly unrelenting crackdown “it’s hard to find positive strength in what’s happening right now in Myanmar for free press,” Crispin said. “They really are trying to erase the opening that allows the free press to take hold.”
But print outlets have pivoted to news shared over Facebook, and citizen journalists are risking arrest, bullets and tear gas to record the actions of the security forces.
A number of journalists have sought sanctuary in neighboring countries including Thailand and India.
“The junta can’t stop the internet, they can’t shut down Facebook…they can’t shut down information,” said one Myanmar reporter.
The journalist, who is in hiding outside the country, asked for their identity and location to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
“We don’t want to settle here. We want to keep working and reporting for Burma. We’re illegal here. We don’t have any document, so they [the authorities here] can arrest us and deport us back to Burma any day. We have to be low profile and very cautious,” the journalist said.
Crispin urged neighboring countries to provide a safe haven for journalists in hiding.
“It’s our hope that they will be allowed sanctuary in neighboring countries that would make it a little safer for them to report the news,” he said.
The Taliban will lose the international legitimacy they gained through their negotiations in Doha if the group does not fulfill its obligation to negotiate with the Afghan government for a political settlement to the conflict, the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said Wednesday in Kabul.
“If there is no movement at the negotiating table, and instead human rights abuses and, worse still, atrocities occur in districts they control, the Taliban will not be seen as a viable partner for the international community,” Deborrah Lyons said while addressing a meeting of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB), created in 2006 for coordination between the Afghan government and the international community.
The Taliban have been officially talking to a team of Afghans that includes government representatives since September last year but there has been little movement in that discussion.
Earlier this month, a high-level delegation of Afghans led by Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), went to Doha to meet the Taliban negotiation team in an effort to boost the process, with little success.
The Taliban promised to negotiate with an Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (IRoA) team, as the Afghan team is called, in a deal it signed with the United States in February 2020 that paved the way for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
However, only parts of that deal were met. Other parts that included meaningful intra-Afghan negotiations for a political settlement, and a permanent and comprehensive cease-fire as a result of that settlement, are yet to materialize.
On the contrary, the level of violence in Afghanistan has surged since the announcement that foreign troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan. In the last several months, the Taliban have made swift territorial gains and surrounded several cities, even if they have not captured a city yet.
Lyons said the Taliban had “inherited responsibility” for the areas they have taken over.
“The world is watching closely how they are acting, especially towards civilian populations, women and minorities,” she said.
At the meeting attended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah, Lyons also pointed to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the wake of the increased violence.
“Eighteen million Afghans today are facing dire humanitarian needs. That is twice the number of the same category last year. It represents half the country,” she said.
The crisis, which includes millions of people internally displaced due to violence, has been exacerbated by waves of COVID-19 and a persistent drought.
According to the U.N., civilian casualties this year are 50% higher, compared to the same period last year. Half of all those killed or wounded are women and children.
Former U.S. president Barack Obama has purchased a minority share of NBA Africa, the National Basketball Association announced Tuesday.NBA Africa was established this year to oversee the league’s business activities on the continent.The NBA said in a statement that Obama is a strategic partner and would use any profits from the new entity to “fund Obama Foundation youth and leadership programs across Africa.”NBA Africa was created in May as a partnership between the NBA and the International Basketball Federation. The Basketball Africa League, the continent’s first professional basketball league featuring top teams from 12 countries, is part of the entity. The league began play for the first time in May after being delayed for a year by the coronavirus pandemic.African NBA Scout Eyes Talent in BAL TourneySarah Chan, manager of Africa scouting for the 2019 NBA champion Toronto Raptors team, says the BAL tournament will be a breeding ground for the next generation of African athletesThe NBA has had a presence in Africa for decades. It opened its African headquarters in Johannesburg in 2010 and has since promoted basketball through the NBA Africa Games, the launch of the BAL, social responsibility initiatives, corporate partnerships and player development.”I’ve been impressed by the league’s commitment to Africa, including the leadership shown by so many African players who want to give back to their own countries and communities,” Obama said in the NBA’s press release.”That’s why I’m proud to join the team at NBA Africa and look forward to a partnership that benefits the youth of so many countries.”Voice of America radio simulcast the BAL’s 26 games in English and French and provided play-by-play coverage in Bambara, Kinyarwanda, Wolof, and Portuguese for the games involving teams from Mali, Rwanda, Senegal, Angola, and Mozambique.The broadcasts were aired on more than 30 VOA-owned and operated FM radio stations in 16 African countries and were available to VOA’s network of commercial and public radio stations across the continent.Information from Reuters and AP was used in this report.
Simone Biles will not defend her Olympic title. The American gymnastics superstar withdrew from Thursday’s all-around competition to focus on her mental well-being. USA Gymnastics said in a statement on Wednesday that the 24-year-old is opting to not compete. The decision comes a day after Biles removed herself from the team final following one rotation because she felt she wasn’t mentally ready. Jade Carey, who finished ninth in qualifying, will take Biles’ place in the all-around. Carey initially did not qualify because she was the third-ranking American behind Biles and Sunisa Lee. International Gymnastics Federation rules limit countries to two athletes per event in the finals. The organization said Biles will be evaluated before deciding if she will participate in next week’s individual events.
The Biden administration is throwing its support behind congressional legislation that would require companies to report major data breaches by hackers, including the ransomware attacks that are increasingly targeting U.S. critical infrastructure.
“The administration strongly supports congressional action to require victim companies to report significant breaches, including ransomware attacks,” Richard Downing, a deputy assistant attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice, told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
“In particular, such legislation should require covered entities to notify the federal government about ransomware attacks, cyber incidents that affect critical infrastructure entities, and other breaches that implicate heightened risks to the government, the public or third parties,” Downing said.
The announcement came as members of Congress are advancing more than a dozen bills in response to a recent escalation in ransomware attacks, while the administration has taken a whole-of-government approach to respond to what it sees as a public safety, economic and national security threat.
Emphasizing that information sharing is critical between companies and the government, Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin said there is “general bipartisan support” for congressional action in response to the cybersecurity threat.
“And I hope it leads — I think it will — to specific legislation to deal with this,” said Durbin, a Democrat.
Last week, a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Cyber Incident Notification Act of 2021, a bill that would require federal agencies and contractors as well as critical infrastructure operators to notify the government within 24 hours of a cyber breach that “poses a threat to national security.” To encourage information sharing, the bill would grant limited immunity to companies that report a breach.
“We shouldn’t be relying on voluntary reporting to protect our critical infrastructure,” Democratic Senator Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said in a statement last week. “We need a routine federal standard so that when vital sectors of our economy are affected by a breach, the full resources of the federal government can be mobilized to respond to and stave off its impact.”
The bill’s Republican co-sponsors include Senators Marco Rubio, vice chair of the Intelligence Committee, and Susan Collins, a senior member.
Once seen as a financial crime, ransomware attacks have grown in both number and severity over the past year and a half. Testifying before Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the attacks have surged by 300% over the past year. This year alone, Mayorkas said, ransomware attacks have resulted in economic losses of $300 million.
In May, a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, the operator of the largest fuel pipeline in the country, disrupted its operations for several days, setting off fuel shortages and panic buying. In June, meat processor JBS USA said it paid $11 million to cybercriminals following a ransomware attack that disrupted its operations.
Legislative proposals such as the Warner bill seek to address what law enforcement officials have long identified as a major impediment to their ability to respond to a ransomware attack: a reluctance by businesses to notify law enforcement about cyber breaches.
Companies are not currently required to disclose when they have been attacked by ransomware criminals. Fearing loss of operations or reputational harm, most victims choose not to report. The FBI estimates that about 25% to 30% of such incidents get reported, according to Bryan Vorndran, assistant director of the FBI’s cyber division.
The FBI has long encouraged victims of ransomware attacks to notify law enforcement, saying such information sharing can help it better understand and respond to the threat. Now, it wants notifications made mandatory.
“Because far too many ransomware incidents go unreported, and because silence benefits ransomware actors the most, we wholeheartedly believe a federal standard is needed to mandate the reporting of certain cyber incidents, including most ransomware incidents,” Vorndran testified.
“The scope and severity of this threat has reached the point where we can no longer rely on voluntary reports alone to learn about incidents,” Vorndran said.
In addition to ransomware attacks above a to-be-determined threshold, Downing said, the Justice Department wants mandatory notifications for two other types of breaches: supply chain attacks that could give outsiders access to critical U.S. infrastructure and government systems, and attacks involving high-value trade secrets related to critical infrastructure.
“Of particular significance, entities should be required to report any ransom demand; the date, time and amount of ransom payments; and addresses where payments were requested to be sent,” Downing said.
While supporting mandatory breach notifications, Downing and other officials opposed calls to make ransom payments illegal. Jeremy Sheridan, an assistant director for the U.S. Secret Service, told lawmakers that banning ransomware payments “would further push any reporting to law enforcement into obscurity.”
Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.
Simone Biles withdrew Tuesday from the women’s gymnastics team final at the Tokyo Summer Games, saying she needed to concentrate on her mental health.
The 24-year-old U.S. Olympian hoped to win six gold medals that would make her the greatest female Olympic champion of all time after winning 30 world and Olympic medals.
But after one uncertain vault Tuesday, Biles said she was not in the right “headspace” to compete and had to drop out from the final competition to protect herself, leaving her future participation in the Games in doubt.
Biles had been expected to participate in all six events that included a defense of her all-around crown Thursday, followed by four event finals next week.
“I do not trust myself anymore,” Biles said tearfully at a news conference. “I have to focus on my mental health.”
“We also have to focus on ourselves, because at the end of the day we’re human, too,” Biles added. “So, we have to protect our mind and our body, rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.”Official statement: “Simone Biles has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue. She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions.”Thinking of you, Simone! pic.twitter.com/QA1GYHwWTv— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) July 27, 2021Biles left open the possibility of competing Thursday, noting, “It’s going to be a quick turnaround” and that “Whatever happens, happens and it’s going to be completely fine.”
Without Biles, the team representing the Russia Olympic Committee surged past the U.S., earning a score of 169.258 to win the country’s first Olympic team gold in nearly 30 years.Yet another upset occurred in women’s tennis as Japan’s Naomi Osaka, the world’s second-ranked player, suffered a shocking 6-1, 6-4 defeat to Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in the third round. Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam winner and a favorite to win gold for her native country, struggled during the match with 32 unforced errors.Earlier at the Tokyo Aquatics Center, the highly anticipated contest in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke between Lilly King of the United States, who won the event in the 2016 Rio Olympics, and Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa, ended in an upset when Lydia Jacoby, King’s 17-year-old teammate, edged both women to win the gold. Schoenmaker finished in second place to win the silver medal while King ended in third, taking home the bronze medal. Gold medalist Lydia Jacoby, center, of the U.S., stands with silver medalist Tatjana Schoenmaker, left, of South Africa, and bronze medalist Lilly King, of the U.S., after the final of the women’s 100-meter breaststroke.Hundreds of people packed into a railroad terminal in Jacoby’s hometown of Seward, Alaska, launched into a wild celebration as they watched her come from behind in the last lap overtake Schoenmaker.STAND UP ALASKA!17-year-old Lydia Jacoby WINS GOLD, and everybody’s celebrating! From left to right, Britain’s Duncan Scott, South Korea’s Hwang Sunwoo and Britain’s Tom Dean swim in a 200-meter freestyle semifinal at the 2020 Summer Olympics, July 26, 2021, in Tokyo.Olympic history was also made Tuesday when Italo Ferreira of Brazil and Carissa Moore of the United States won the first-ever gold medals for men and women’s surfing. Ferreira, the reigning World Surf League champion, overcame a broken board on his first wave on his way to his historic victory at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach in Ichinomiya town, outpointing Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi and Owen Wright of Australia, who won the silver and bronze medals respectively. The Hawaii-born Moore, a four-time world champion and current top-ranked surfer, dominated her first two waves in the finals for a combined 14.93, easily outpointing South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag, who scored 8.46 to win the silver medal. Amuro Tsuzuki of Japan took home the bronze. In other Olympic events Tuesday, Flora Duffy of Bermuda won the women’s triathlon in 1:55:36 (one hour, 55 minutes, 36 seconds), which included a 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike ride and 10-kilometer run. Duffy’s gold medal victory is the first for the Caribbean island nation, and the second-ever Olympic medal since boxer Clarence Hill won bronze in the 1976 Montreal Games. Georgia Taylor-Brown won the silver medal, while Katie Zaferes of the United States won bronze. Another gold medal event is taking place later Tuesday in Tokyo when the U.S. takes on host country Japan in women’s softball in Yokohama Baseball Stadium.The United States leads the overall medal count with 22, with China in second place with 22 and host country Japan in third with 17. The U.S., China and Japan are all tied in the gold medal count with nine, followed by five for the ROC. Host country Japan took gold in women’s softball, defeating the U.S. team 2-0.The United States leads the overall medal count with 25, with China in second place with 21 and host country Japan with 18. Some information for this report came from the Associated Press.
Sparsely populated and isolated from most of the outside world, Turkmenistan has finally won its first Olympic medal since independence from the Soviet Union.Weightlifter Polina Guryeva won a silver medal for the Central Asian nation at the Tokyo Games on Tuesday, and then predicted she would go down in the country’s history.”I was in shock because it’s the first Olympic medal in the history of the Turkmen people. It’s the first medal, which I won. No sport in Turkmenistan has had a medal, not one medal,” the 21-year-old Guryeva said. “I think I’ve entered the history of Turkmenistan by winning a medal. I’m so in shock.”Guryeva lifted a total 217 kilograms in the 59-kilogram category, edging Mikiko Andoh of Japan for second place. Kuo Hsing-Chun of Taiwan won gold by lifting 236kg.Guryeva, who calls Kuo her “idol” and copies her training exercises, finished in 28th place at the 2019 world championships while competing one weight category higher. On her coach’s advice, she used the one-year Olympic delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic to reset, dropping down a class.”When the pandemic began, I didn’t have a chance of qualifying,” she said. “In October, I dropped down and started training. And I went to the Asian Championships in Uzbekistan, lifted 211 total, and then I got the chance to go to the Olympics. And then I started training even harder to get this medal.”Guryeva will return home to a country which has often had little contact with the outside world but is trying to make its name in the world of sports. The gas-rich nation sent two medalists to the Soviet Union’s Olympic teams for the 1956 and 1960 Games but success has been rare since.Hosting the 2018 weightlifting world championships at a lavish new sports complex in the capital, Ashgabat, was one step toward raising the country’s profile. Turkmenistan’s authoritarian president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, is a fan of cycling and the country was scheduled to hold the track cycling championships this year, too, but they were moved because of the pandemic.The Turkmenistan government says it has not had any cases of COVID-19 but has made vaccinations mandatory.For Kuo, the victory was about completing a set of major championship medals. The Taiwanese lifter finally added Olympic gold to her four world titles.”I have all the pieces together. Now I am very happy,” she said through a translator.Andoh lifted a total of 214kg for bronze despite what she later revealed was severe pain in her feet. After her last lift, she fell to the ground on stage with a smile and was helped away by her coaches.In the 64-kilogram category, Maude Charron got hear a song at the Olympics that her “idol” never did — the Canadian national anthem.Charron won an unusually open competition with six women in the running for a place on the podium ahead of their last lifts. Charron’s total of 236kg was four more than silver medalist Giorgia Bordignon of Italy and six ahead of Chen Wen-Huei of Taiwan.Christine Girard, the Olympic champion from the 2012 London Games, never got to stand on the top step of the podium while “O Canada” was played because she originally finished in third place. The lifters that finished above her, from Kazakhstan and Russia, both later tested positive for doping.”I asked her how to prepare for the games, how not to be too intimidated by the rings, and she wrote me a message,” Charron said. “Now I just feel like that’s her medal, that’s her moment because she didn’t have it in real time.”Weightlifting has reallocated dozens of past Olympic medals and cut the Tokyo allocation for countries which racked up the most doping offenses.”For sure anti-doping made a great deal in just cleaning the sport,” Charron said. “There is a progression in this clean way.”
When Olympic diver Tom Daley announced in 2013 that he was dating a man and “couldn’t be happier,” his coming out was an act of courage that, with its rarity, also exposed how the top echelons of sport weren’t seen as a safe space by the vast majority of LGBTQ athletes.
Back then, the number of gay Olympians who felt able and willing to speak openly about their private lives could be counted on a few hands. There’d been just two dozen openly gay Olympians among the more than 10,000 who competed at the 2012 London Games, a reflection of how unrepresentative and anachronistic top-tier sports were just a decade ago and, to a large extent, still are.
Still, at the Tokyo Games, the picture is changing.
A wave of rainbow-colored pride, openness and acceptance is sweeping through Olympic pools, skateparks, halls and fields, with a record number of openly gay competitors in Tokyo. Whereas LGBTQ invisibility used to make Olympic sports seem out of step with the times, Tokyo is shaping up as a watershed for the community and for the Games — now, finally, starting to better reflect human diversity.
“It’s about time that everyone was able to be who they are and celebrated for it,” said U.S. skateboarder Alexis Sablone, one of at least five openly LGBTQ athletes in that sport making its Olympic debut in Tokyo.
“It’s really cool,” Sablone said. “What I hope that means is that even outside of sports, kids are raised not just under the assumption that they are heterosexual.”
The gay website Outsports.com has been tallying the number of publicly out gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and nonbinary athletes in Tokyo. After several updates, its count is now up to 168, including some who petitioned to get on the list. That’s three times the number that Outsports tallied at the last Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. At the London Games, it counted just 23.
“The massive increase in the number of out athletes reflects the growing acceptance of LGBTQ people in sports and society,” Outsports says.
Daley is also broadcasting that message from Tokyo, his fourth Olympics overall and second since he came out.
After winning gold for Britain with Matty Lee in 10-meter synchronized diving, the 27-year-old reflected on his journey from young misfit who felt “alone and different” to Olympic champion who says he now feels less pressure to perform because he knows that his husband and their son love him regardless.
“I hope that any young LGBT person out there can see that no matter how alone you feel right now you are not alone,” Daley said. “You can achieve anything, and there is a whole lot of your chosen family out here.”
“I feel incredibly proud to say that I am a gay man and also an Olympic champion,” he added. “Because, you know, when I was younger I thought I was never going to be anything or achieve anything because of who I was.”
Still, there’s progress yet to be made.
Among the more than 11,000 athletes competing in Tokyo, there will be others who still feel held back, unable to come out and be themselves. Outsports’ list has few men, reflecting their lack of representation that extends beyond Olympic sports. Finnish Olympian Ari-Pekka Liukkonen is one of the rare openly gay men in his sport, swimming.
“Swimming, it’s still much harder to come out (for) some reason,” he said. “If you need to hide what you are, it’s very hard.”
Only this June did an active player in the NFL — Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib — come out as gay. And only last week did a first player signed to an NHL contract likewise make that milestone announcement. Luke Prokop, a 19-year-old Canadian with the Nashville Predators, now has 189,000 likes for his “I am proud to publicly tell everyone that I am gay” post on Twitter.
The feeling that “there’s still a lot of fight to be done” and that she needed to stand up and be counted in Tokyo is why Elissa Alarie, competing in rugby, contacted Outsports to get herself named on its list. With their permission, she also added three of her Canadian teammates.
“It’s important to be on that list because we are in 2021 and there are still, like, firsts happening. We see them in the men’s professional sports, NFL, and a bunch of other sports,” Alarie said. “Yes, we have come a long way. But the fact that we still have firsts happening means that we need to still work on this.”
Tokyo’s out Olympians are also almost exclusively from Europe, North and South America, and Australia/New Zealand. The only Asians on the Outsports list are Indian sprinter Dutee Chand and skateboarder Margielyn Didal from the Philippines.
That loud silence resonates with Alarie. Growing up in a small town in Quebec, she had no gay role models and “just thought something was wrong with me.”
“To this day, who we are is still illegal in many countries,” she said. “So until it’s safe for people in those countries to come out, I think we need to keep those voices loud and clear.”
Four journalists have been arrested on propaganda charges in Afghanistan, Afghan officials said Tuesday.
They were arrested in the city of Kandahar after traveling to the disputed border town of Spin Boldak to interview commanders of the Taliban, which has been clashing with Afghan security forces, according to the Afghan media watchdog known as Nai.
The watchdog said the location of the journalists on Tuesday was unknown.
An Interior Ministry spokesman said the journalists have been charged with spreading propaganda for the Taliban after ignoring a warning from the government’s intelligence agency not to enter the area.
“The government of Afghanistan respects and is extremely committed to freedom of expression, but any propaganda in favor of the terrorist and the enemy, as well as against the interests of the country, is a crime,” interior ministry spokesperson Mirwais Estanikzai said.
Taliban spokesman Mohmmad Naeem denounced the arrests and argued the journalists were simply trying to “follow the events and try to reveal the facts.”
The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee called on the government to release the journalists “as soon as possible and to refer the case to the Media Complaints Commission to ascertain whether any violation has taken place or not.”
International rights group Amnesty International also called for release of the journalists, tweeting it is “concerned” about their detention.
The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee identified the journalists as Bismillah Watandoost, Qudrat Soltani, and Moheb Obaidi, employees of the local radio station Mellat Zhagh, and Sanaullah Siam, a cameraman of the Xinhua News Agency.
Tuesday’s slate of competitions at the Tokyo Olympics has been filled with a number of stunning defeats and setbacks over a variety of events.One of the biggest shocks of the day came when U.S. gymnast Simone Biles, seeking to burnish her already legendary career, withdrew from the overall team finals after failing to execute her planned maneuver in the vault and stumbling backward on her landing. She then briefly left the floor with her coach, then returned to rejoin her teammates with her ankle wrapped in a bandage.”Simone Biles has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue. She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions,” said a statement from USA Gymnastics.Official statement: “Simone Biles has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue. She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions.”Thinking of you, Simone! Gold medalist Lydia Jacoby, center, of the U.S., stands with silver medalist Tatjana Schoenmaker, left, of South Africa, and bronze medalist Lilly King, of the U.S., after the final of the women’s 100-meter breaststroke.Hundreds of people packed into a railroad terminal in Jacoby’s hometown of Seward, Alaska, launched into a wild celebration as they watched her come from behind in the last lap overtake Schoenmaker.STAND UP ALASKA!17-year-old Lydia Jacoby WINS GOLD, and everybody’s celebrating! From left to right, Britain’s Duncan Scott, South Korea’s Hwang Sunwoo and Britain’s Tom Dean swim in a 200-meter freestyle semifinal at the 2020 Summer Olympics, July 26, 2021, in Tokyo.Olympic history was also made Tuesday when Italo Ferreira of Brazil and Carissa Moore of the United States won the first-ever gold medals for men and women’s surfing. Ferreira, the reigning World Surf League champion, overcame a broken board on his first wave on his way to his historic victory at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach in Ichinomiya town, outpointing Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi and Owen Wright of Australia, who won the silver and bronze medals respectively. The Hawaii-born Moore, a four-time world champion and current top-ranked surfer, dominated her first two waves in the finals for a combined 14.93, easily outpointing South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag, who scored 8.46 to win the silver medal. Amuro Tsuzuki of Japan took home the bronze. In other Olympic events Tuesday, Flora Duffy of Bermuda won the women’s triathlon in 1:55:36 (one hour, 55 minutes, 36 seconds), which included a 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike ride and 10-kilometer run. Duffy’s gold medal victory is the first for the Caribbean island nation, and the second-ever Olympic medal since boxer Clarence Hill won bronze in the 1976 Montreal Games. Georgia Taylor-Brown won the silver medal, while Katie Zaferes of the United States won bronze. Another gold medal event is taking place later Tuesday in Tokyo when the U.S. takes on host country Japan in women’s softball in Yokohama Baseball Stadium.The United States leads the overall medal count with 22, with China in second place with 22 and host country Japan in third with 17. The U.S., China and Japan are all tied in the gold medal count with nine, followed by five for the ROC. Host country Japan took gold in women’s softball, defeating the U.S. team 2-0.The United States leads the overall medal count with 25, with China in second place with 21 and host country Japan with 18. Some information for this report came from the Associated Press.