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Reports suggest GOP House hopeful got racy texts from aide

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A Christian minister seeking the congressional seat of a disgraced Arizona congressman is labeling reports that that he traded suggestive texts with a female staffer who included a topless photo of herself in one of the exchanges as “tabloid trash.”

But former state Sen. Steve Montenegro didn’t deny that he received the messages.

Meanwhile, one of the other Republican front-runners in the race to replace former Rep. Trent Franks, former state Sen. Debbie Lesko, is under fire for transferring $50,000 from her old state campaign fund to an independent group backing her congressional election bid.

The revelations are likely to roil the 12-way GOP race in the final days leading up to Tuesday’s special primary election to fill the vacant U.S. House seat in the state’s 8th Congressional District, a Republican stronghold in the western Phoenix suburbs.

The reports come on the day mail-in ballots, which represent about 3/4 of those expected to be cast in the primary, should be postmarked. It’s unclear whether they could bolster a Democrat’s chances to win the GOP-heavy district in the April general election.

Montenegro called the Arizona Republic and KPNX-TV 12 reports “tabloid trash that conservatives around this country have to deal with on a regular basis.”

“I am blessed with an amazing wife and marriage,” he said in a statement. “The media wants to drag us down with just a week to go, but we are not going to dignify this false tabloid trash with any further response.”

Montenegro was Franks’ district director and touts himself as a Christian minister and family man with a wife and young daughter.

The Republic said it reviewed a series of flirtatious messages on a cellphone account Montenegro has used in conversations with its reporters. The junior-level staffer who sent the messages repeatedly declined to speak with the newspaper.

The messages The Republic reviewed run between June 15 and Feb. 1. Much of the time, the messages involve work, personal lives, the weather, swimming pools and hot tubs, and the World Series.

But during one exchange in November, the woman sent him a topless photo of herself, which came while he was in Tennessee at a summit on education reform.

Montenegro reportedly responded: “You should have come.”

Franks resigned in December after acknowledging he had discussed surrogacy with two female staffers. A former aide told The Associated Press that he pressed her to carry his child and offered her $5 million to be a surrogate.

The resignation triggered a special election, with the primary on Tuesday and the general election on April 24. Two Democrats are seeking their party’s nomination.

On the day Franks resigned, the staffer sent a message alluding to the scandal: “Yeah, you would never, ever have to worry about me. So I hope that puts you at some ease,” adding, “I just saw that Trent Franks thing.”

She received the response: “Crazy.”

The allegations against Montenegro prompted a powerful state Capitol player, Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod, to say he should step aside.

“There comes a time when one has to speak out regardless of how difficult it might be when it regards a friend,” Herrod tweeted Wednesday. “Absent a clear denial or evidence to the contrary, I call upon him to withdraw from #az08 race.”

Former Gov. Jan Brewer, a Lesko supporter, also called on Montenegro to immediately “deny, confess, or withdraw.”

Former state Rep. Phil Lovas, another GOP contender in the crowded primary, said Lesko should quit the race, and if the allegations are true, Montenegro also should step aside.

“Think about what’s happened in this congressional district in the last two-plus months,” Lovas said Wednesday. “The congressman had to resign due to a sexual harassment scandal. His hand-picked successor has reportedly had racy texts sent to him. Another candidate is running an illegal money laundering scheme with state money in a federal account.”

Lovas said he filed complaints Wednesday with the FEC and the state attorney general for Lesko’s transfers.

Lesko transferred $50,000 from her old state Senate campaign fund to an independent group that is backing her congressional campaign. Debbie Lesko’s campaign consultant supplied a legal opinion that called the transfer above-board.

The transfer was first reported by an affiliate of the Arizona Capitol Times and disclosed in a Federal Election Commission filing earlier this week.

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Tokyo Olympics: Opening ceremony was ‘respectful, hopeful but sombre night’ | World News

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Olympic opening ceremonies are something of a unique art form. Playing to a global audience but with the host nation wanting to make the night their own.

Japan chose sombre. It was a respectful, hopeful but above all sombre night. They didn’t want to show off when everyone has lived through such hardship – and while so many people continue to do so.

Their display using 1,824 flying drones combining like a swarm of giant worker bees to create a giant globe stood out.

Naomi Osaka of Japan holds the Olympic torch after lighting the Olympic cauldron
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Naomi Osaka of Japan holds the Olympic torch after lighting the cauldron

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There were no Team GB fans at the 2021 summer olympic opening ceremony in Tokyo due to COVID-19 but Japan put on a stunning visual show regardless

So too Japanese tennis superstar Naomi Osaka who was given the honour of firing up the hydrogen-fuelled Olympic cauldron.

But it was their courteous bow towards the pain of the pandemic that defined the evening.

Video montages of empty cities during lockdowns, and athletes cobbling together training regimes in their back gardens – it all made for an understated opening ceremony.

Outside, the protests in the streets continued among those still vehemently against the Games taking place while Tokyo remains in a state of COVID emergency.

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There were also people outside who just felt drawn to the Olympic stadium – to come and wave to the very select numbers of VIPs and media going inside. It was as close as they could get to the Games that they had waited almost a decade for.

While these Olympics will feel unusual there were reminders too of the magic they can create.

There was a towering Tongan taekwondo player who strode into the stadium with his bare oiled chest puffed out as he carried his island nation’s flag like a warrior on a mission.

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Protests held outside Olympic stadium

The Olympics can still produce special moments like that and there will be plenty more over the coming weeks.

There will be more COVID-19 disruption too but the Games of 2020 are finally open, just one year late.

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Business leaders have ‘obligation to speak up’, ex-Unilever boss says amid Ben & Jerry’s row | Business News

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Unilever’s ex-boss has said business leaders have an “obligation to speak up” after his former company became embroiled in a row with Israel over its Ben & Jerry’s business.

Paul Polman mounted a defence of the need to “fight for what is right” in remarks to Sky News after the ice cream brand said it would stop selling its products in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Ben & Jerry’s is owned by consumer goods giant Unilever – whose array of brands ranges from Marmite spread to Dove soap – but has an independent board to take such decisions.

Alan Jope, Unilever chief executive
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Current boss Alan Jope has spoken to Israel’s prime minister about the matter

Its announcement is one of the strongest steps taken by a well-known company over Israel’s settlements, which are widely seen as illegal by the international community.

The move drew condemnation from the Israeli government, whose new prime minister Naftali Bennett said this week that Israel would “use the tools at its disposal – including legal – on this issue” and that those taking such action “need to know that there will be a price to pay”.

Mr Polman, speaking to Sky’s Ian King Live, said it would be inappropriate to say how he would have handled the issue had he still been in charge of Unilever.

But he added: “What is very important is if we want humanity to function for the long term we need to be sure that we fight for the basic values, the basic values of dignity, respect, equity, compassion.

“If we see these values being violated anywhere in the world I think we have an obligation to speak up.

“What we’ve seen in the US in the last few years – too few people, also from the business side, spoke up against things that then bit by bit moved the boundaries and put us in a very difficult situation.

Naftali Bennett will serve as prime minister for two years
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Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett said there would be a “price to pay”

“So, fight for what is right and one of the few things we should fight for always is, these basic human rights.”

Mr Polman was speaking a day after current Unilever boss Alan Jope, in a conference call to discuss latest results, said the company remains “fully committed” to doing business in Israel but gave no indication that Unilever would press Ben & Jerry’s to reverse the decision.

Mr Jope, who has spoken to Mr Bennett on the phone to discuss the matter, said that it was a “complex and sensitive matter”.

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Tokyo Olympics 2020: Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine withdraws to avoid facing Israeli competitor Tohar Butbul | World News

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An Algerian judo competitor has withdrawn from the Tokyo Olympics after learning he could have faced an Israeli opponent.

Fethi Nourine said his political support for the Palestinian cause made it impossible to compete against Tohar Butbul.

He told Algerian TV he would not “get his hands dirty” and his “decision was final”.

“We worked a lot to reach the Olympics, and the news came as a shock, a thunder”, he added.

Tohar Butbul of Israel
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Tohar Butbul of Israel

The 30-year-old was drawn against Sudan’s Mohamed Asdalrasool on Monday for his first match in the men’s 73kg class. If he had won that match, he would have faced Butbul, who has a first-round bye, in the next round.

Nourine also withdrew from the world championships in 2019 for the same reason.

At the time, his coach Amar Ben Yaklif was quoted in Algerian media saying: “We were unlucky with the draw. We got an Israeli opponent and that’s why we had to retire. We made the right decision.”

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Tensions between Israel and Palestinians flared in Jerusalem earlier this year causing the worst violence in the region since 2014.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Judo - Training Sessions - Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan - July 22, 2021. Technicians work on the mat in Nippon Budokan Arena, during training sessions. REUTERS/Sergio Perez
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Judo training sessions take place at the Tokyo Games

The conflict between the two sides has been going on for decades and has seen athletes from Iran and Egypt also previously refuse to compete against Israeli opponents.

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The opening ceremony for this year’s Olympic games took place on Friday, with fans not allowed in the national stadium for the event due to COVID-19 concerns.

Instead, around 1,000 dignitaries and members of the media were allowed the witness the spectacular event.

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