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I did not scam my way into the games

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Elizabeth Marian Swaney from Hungary competes in the Women's Ski Halfpipe Qualifications in Pyeongchang, South Korea, February 19, 2018.

Mike Blake | Reuters

Elizabeth Marian Swaney from Hungary competes in the Women’s Ski Halfpipe Qualifications in Pyeongchang, South Korea, February 19, 2018.

Hungarian freeskier Elizabeth Swaney, under heavy criticism about her qualifications to even compete in the Winter Games, told CNBC on Wednesday she was “striving to achieve” the level of an Olympic skier.

Swaney, actually born and raised in the U.S., became an internet sensation on Monday when she came in last place in the women’s ski halfpipe for Team Hungary.

Viewers were perplexed and captivated to see the 33-year-old’s less-than-stellar performance and her inability to complete even the most basic tricks like her competitors.

In an interview from Pyeongchang, South Korea, Swaney said she is capable of landing several high-flying tricks on waterski ramps, such as frontflips, backflips and 360s.

“I have all the skills that I need to be a great competitor at the World Cup level,” she told “Squawk on the Street.” “I just haven’t been comfortable enough yet to land those tricks on snow.”

Swaney — whose grandparents are from Hungary, allowing her to compete for that country — was able to land a spot on the team through a loophole. Swaney met the requirements of the International Ski Federation, which governs the sport, by finishing in the top 30 at certain World Cup events that had less than 30 competitors and scoring a minimum number of points.

Some have suggested Swaney’s participation in the games is a scam.

However, Swaney told CNBC she doesn’t understand the criticism, citing her participation in the World Cup over the last two years. “I just didn’t perform my best at the Olympics.”

Still, Swaney has gained a strong reaction from Twitter:



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Man City make transfer bid for Tottenham striker

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Harry Kane of England scores a penalty in a shootout at the end of extra time during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Round of 16 match between Colombia and England at Spartak Stadium on July 3, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. 

Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

Manchester City have made a £100m bid for Tottenham striker Harry Kane.

City are open to including players in addition to the cash offer, but Tottenham are expected to reject the bid.

Sky Sports News exclusively reported last month that Kane had told Spurs he wanted to leave this summer with Man City, Manchester United and Chelsea interested.

Kane is valued at upwards of £120m and Tottenham keen to keep him despite the 27-year-old believing he has a gentleman’s agreement with Daniel Levy.

The England captain is said to be fully focused on the Euros, with a decision on his club future not expected before the conclusion of the tournament.

Man City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said after last month’s Champions League final that the club will be “competitive and aggressive” this summer, and are aiming to strengthen by bringing “quality to the squad in a couple of key positions”.

The Premier League champions’ priority is to replace Sergio Aguero, with Kane being considered along with Erling Haaland, Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.

Man City begin their Premier League title defense by travelling to Tottenham on August 15, live on Sky Sports.

Kane insists that neither a lack of fitness nor speculation over his future at Tottenham have been the reasons for his disappointing start to Euro 2020.

Kane was substituted in England’s opening win over Croatia and their underwhelming 0-0 draw with Scotland following below-par performances in both games.

His displays have come as a surprise given he enjoyed an impressive season with Spurs, topping the Premier League charts for goals and assists, despite his club’s struggles.

And while he did sustain a couple of ankle injuries during the campaign, he returned from the most recent of those nearly two months ago, and was a regular for Spurs until the end of the season.

Kane won the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup – a factor that has only added to expectations on him at Euro 2020 – and although he admits he became fatigued in Russia three years ago, he says that is not the problem this time around.

“Gareth [Southgate] is within his rights to make the changes he thinks are best for the team,” Kane told The Guardian when asked for his reaction to being replaced in both of England’s games so far.

“What we’ve learned over past tournaments is about trying to peak at the right time. The best time to be peaking is in the knockout stages and hopefully kick on from there.

“Maybe in Russia there were times, towards the quarter and semi-final, when I wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be. In the end we didn’t get to where we wanted to go, maybe partly for that reason.

“It’s about managing the squad, making sure everyone is feeling as fit and sharp as possible. In my case, it was a tough couple of games and it’s about making sure I’m right for the rest of them.

“I didn’t have any issues. I didn’t feel physically I wasn’t up to it. I felt going into those games as good as I’ve felt all season, if I’m honest.”

Although Kane was one of the standout players in the Premier League during the 2020/21 season, Spurs endured a difficult campaign, finishing seventh in the table, without a trophy or a manager, having sacked Jose Mourinho in April.

The club was also rocked by the news that Kane had told them he wanted to leave this summer due to their failure to regularly compete for – and win – trophies.

Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea are all understood to be keen on signing the striker but, despite his future promising to be one of the main plotlines of this summer’s transfer window, Kane says it is not affecting his international performances.

“Absolutely not,” he insisted. “All my focus is on how I can help this team and how we can be successful in this tournament.

“I understand from a media point of view there is speculation, but I am fully focused on the job here.”

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Belarus sanctioned after diversion of Ryanair flight to arrest journalist

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In this Sunday, March 26, 2017 file photo, Belarus police detain journalist Raman Pratasevich, center, in Minsk, Belarus.

Sergei Grits | AP

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration slapped a slew of sanctions against Belarus on Monday amid Western fury over the forced diversion of a Ryanair flight to arrest an opposition journalist.

Last month, a passenger plane flying from Greece to Lithuania was suddenly diverted to Minsk, the capital of Belarus. The Ryanair flight was escorted to Minsk by a Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jet. Upon landing, authorities arrested opposition journalist Roman Protasevich.

The extraordinary diversion of a commercial airliner was described by some European Union leaders as a “hijacking.” The 27-nation bloc swiftly imposed sanctions against Belarus that included banning its airlines from using airspace and airports within the European Union.

The State Department has now followed suit, imposing sanctions on 46 Belarusian officials for their involvement in the arrest of Protasevich. In addition, Treasury announced sanctions on 16 individuals and five entities.

“These steps are also in response to the continuing repression in Belarus, including attacks on human rights, democratic processes, and fundamental freedoms,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote in a Monday statement, adding that the sanctions were aligned with Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom.

“These coordinated designations demonstrate the steadfast transatlantic commitment to supporting the Belarusian people’s democratic aspirations,” Blinken wrote.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a stalwart defender of Russian President Vladimir Putin, faced widespread calls for resignation following a disputed election that returned him to a sixth term. The almost daily protests rocked Belarus for nearly three months.

“The persons designated today have harmed the people of Belarus through their activities surrounding the fraudulent August 9, 2020, presidential election in Belarus and the ensuing brutal crackdown on protesters, journalists, members of the opposition, and civil society,” Treasury wrote in a statement.

Members of the Belarus diaspora and Ukrainian activists burn white and red smoke grenades during a rally in support of Belarus people protesting vote rigging in the presidential election, outside the Belarusian embassy in Kiev on August 13, 2020.

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

Those sanctioned by the United States on Monday include some of Lukashenko’s closest associates: his press secretary Natallia Eismant and former chief of staff Natallia Kachanava who currently serves as his presidential envoy to Minsk, Mikalai Karpiankou, Belarus’ Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and the current commander of the Belarusian police force and Belarus’ prosecutor-general Andrei Shved.

The U.S. also imposed sanctions on the State Security Committee of the Republic of Belarus, also known as the Belarusian KGB.

“The Belarusian KGB has detained, intimidated, and otherwise pressured the opposition, to include Pratasevich,” Treasury wrote in a statement, adding that the organization upped its offenses following the fraudulent 2020 election of Lukashenko.

Treasury also sanctioned the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, a Belarusian police force, for the violent suppression of peaceful protesters since the 2020 presidential election. 

The sanctions against Belarus, a Russian ally, come on the heels of President Joe Biden’s first face-to-face meeting with his Russian counterpart in Switzerland, where the two agreed to resume nuclear talks and return their ambassadors to their foreign posts.

National security advisor Jake Sullivan said Sunday that the U.S. was prepping additional sanctions against Russia over Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment.

“We are preparing another package of sanctions to apply in this case,” Sullivan said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday program. “It will come as soon as we have developed the packages to ensure that we are getting the right targets,” he added.

Concern over Navalny’s imprisonment and worsening health condition is the latest drumbeat in the already tense relations between Moscow and the West.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, accused of flouting the terms of a suspended sentence for embezzlement, attends a court hearing in Moscow, Russia February 2, 2021.

Moscow City Court | Reuters

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Iran’s President-elect Raisi rules out meeting Biden, oil markets look to nuclear deal’s future

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Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi attends a news conference in Tehran, Iran June 21, 2021.

Majid Asgaripour | WANA News Agency | Reuters

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran’s president-elect Ebrahim Raisi gave his first press conference since the country’s election, saying Monday that his government’s priorities would be to improve ties with regional neighbors and revive the 2015 nuclear deal — and at the same time squarely ruling out meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden. 

“We support the negotiations that guarantee our national interests … America should immediately return to the deal and fulfil its obligations under the deal,” Raisi, the hardline cleric who is himself under U.S. sanctions, said according to a Reuters translation. 

The 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, officially named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and led by the Obama administration and several other world powers, lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs to its nuclear program. Former President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions on Iran, crippling its economy. 

Tehran has since ramped up its nuclear activity far beyond the deal’s limits in what it says is protest against the sanctions — sanctions that Washington says it will not lift until that increased nuclear development activity, like dramatically increased uranium enrichment and stockpiling, is reversed. 

And despite ongoing negotiations between JCPOA signatories in Vienna and talk of “progress,” the two adversaries still appear to be at a stalemate on major sticking points, such as Iran’s transparency with nuclear inspectors. 

Oil markets are now watching the talks and Raisi’s messages to glean what this might mean for the world’s supply of the commodity. 

Iran’s oil exports were slashed to a mere fraction of what they once were as a result of Trump’s sanctions; a revival of the deal and lifting of the levies could bring back 3.8 million barrels per day of oil output to the market over time from a current 2.1 million barrels per day, its oil ministry officials say. But that could be a long process due to underinvestment in oilfields and its recent years of reduced output. 

Pressure on oil prices?

The deal “if revitalised, would provide a substantial lift to Iran’s economy — it could plausibly expand by 8-10% per year in 2021-23,” Jason Tuvey, senior emerging markets economist at London-based consultancy Capital Economics, wrote in a note before the election. But he added that its higher crude output would pressure other dynamics in the region. 

“Higher Iranian oil output would act as a drag on global oil prices and could prompt governments in the Gulf countries to keep fiscal policy tight, weighing on their recoveries,” Tuvey said. 

If and once Iran is able to return its barrels to the global market, there won’t be any shortage of demand for it, according to Herman Wang, senior oil writer at Platts. 

“Many of Iran’s former oil customers, particularly in Asia, have said they are eager to resume buying, as soon as they get the sanctions all-clear,” Wang said. He added that many of Asia’s refineries are well-suited to Iranian crudes, “which would add competition for neighboring Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Oman and other producers of heavier, sourer grades, and Iranian condensate would vie with similar condensates produced by Qatar, the US and Australia.” 

“This could well put pressure on oil prices, though OPEC and its allies will be hoping that rising demand will mean a bigger pie for everyone,” Wang added.

No ‘imminent return’ of Iranian oil?

“At this stage we’re still watching the negotiations among JCPOA parties in Vienna as the more significant variable for oil prices in the near term,” Ed Bell, director of commodities research at Dubai-based bank Emirates NBD, told CNBC.

Despite Raisi having signaled that he would support a deal, “that doesn’t address the differences that still exist among JCPOA parties, including the fact that Raisi himself is under U.S. sanctions,” he said.

“The timeline for a return of freely exportable Iranian crude keeps getting pushed back later into 2021 and as such we don’t see any imminent return that would help to alleviate the tightness currently in the market,” Bell added.

Meanwhile, oil doesn’t seem too bothered by the prospect of a revived deal; international benchmark Brent crude continued its steady upward climb on Monday, trading at $74.65 a barrel at noon ET, up 45% year-to-date and up 70% from this time last year. 

A more pressing longer-term issue, Bell said, would be how a Raisi administration positions its relationship within OPEC and its oil-producing allies. Would Iran accept a production quota if sanctions are lifted, or would it try to maximize its market share to compensate for lost time?

“While Iran on its own wouldn’t be enough to push oil markets back into surplus this year, a race for market share could push other members of OPEC+ to do the same and risk putting downward pressure on oil prices,” Bell said.

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