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IOC decides not to lift Russian ban at Pyeongchang Winter Games

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The International Olympic Committee has voted unanimously against lifting the ban of Russia from the Pyeongchang Winter Games.

It means the 168 athletes competing as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” (OAR) will not be able to march under their country’s flag at Sunday’s closing ceremony.

IOC President Thomas Bach said a condition of Russia’s ban being lifted is that no further positive drug tests come out of Pyeongchang.

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Russian fan at Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics
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A Russian fan looks on at the Pyeongchang Olympics

Two of the four athletes who tested positive in Pyeongchang were Russian, including a curler who had to return his bronze medal.

“The IOC executive board decided first not to lift the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee for the closing ceremony,” Mr Bach said.

“Therefore, no delegation of the Russian Olympic Committee will have taken part in these Olympic Winter Games.”

Russia was banned in December from taking part in Pyeongchang following revelations of widespread doping at the 2014 Sochi Games.

But 168 athletes deemed doping-free were allowed to compete as neutrals at this year’s Games.

Sky News Asia Correspondent Katie Stallard-Blanchette said that while Russian athletes will appear in neutral uniforms today, they will likely soon compete under the national banner if no further doping charges are found.

“Despite the fact that two Russian Athletes appear to have been caught doping at these winter Olympics, it looks very much that shortly Russia will be back in Olympic competition,” she said.

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Great Britain's Isabel Atkin competes in a run of the women's ski slopestyle final event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Phoenix Park in Pyeongchang on February 17, 2018



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IOC member Nicole Hoevertsz from Aruba and head of the Russia implementation group said the Russian delegation met many of the criteria required for reinstatement during the Olympics.

However, he said the two failed drug tests were too much.

“Despite a good collaboration from the OAR delegation to respond to these (doping) cases in a prompt and transparent way, the implementation group was convinced that these cases caused significant concern,” Mr Hoevertsz said.

The final drug testing results might not be known for several days or even weeks.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Elena Valbe, president of the Russian cross-country skiing federation.

“Some athletes stayed behind later with the hope that they would be walking under the Russian flag. I’ve heard athletes say that they were staying just because they wanted to walk with the flag and in our uniform.”


The decision was made at the International Olympic Committee's HQ in Switzerland



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Dec 2017: Russia banned from 2018 Winter Olympics

Meanwhile, a high-level delegation of North Korean officials has arrived in Pyeongchang to attend the closing ceremony later.

North Korean officials were not expected to travel to the Games until Kim Jong Un announced on New Year’s Day that he wanted to send a team.

Ivanka Trump, the US President’s daughter, will also attend the closing ceremony after two days of visiting venues and meeting American athletes

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Ivanka Trump poses with Team USA members
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Ivanka Trump (centre) poses with Team USA members

“I’m so excited to be here. It’s just so incredibly inspiring,” she said.

“It’s been an amazing couple of days, and such an honour and privilege to be here with our allies in South Korea and celebrate all that we’ve accomplished as a culture, a society economically and, of course, in sport.”

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Daniel Pearl murder: British-born man acquitted over journalist’s killing to be released from Pakistan prison | World News

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The Supreme Court in Pakistan has ordered the release of British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh who was convicted, and later acquitted, over the beheading of a US journalist in 2002.

Mr Sheikh has been on death row since his initial conviction for Daniel Pearl’s murder 19 years ago, but his lawyer argued that his client “should not have spent one day in jail”.

Lawyer Mehmood A Sheikh added that the court also ordered the release of three other Pakistanis who had been sentenced to life behind bars for their part in Mr Pearl’s kidnapping and murder.

An appeal hearing in the Daniel Pearl murder case was held at the Supreme Court, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. The court on Thursday has ordered the release of Ahmad Saeed Omar Sheikh who was convicted and later acquitted in the gruesome beheading of American journalist Pearl in 2002. The court also dismissed an appeal of Sheikh's acquittal by Pearl's family. (AP Photo/Waseem Khan)
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The Supreme Court voted two to one in favour of Mr Sheikh. Pic: Associated Press

Mr Sheikh was formally acquitted of his involvement in April 2020.

The court also dismissed an appeal by the family of Mr Pearl and the Pakistani government over the acquittal of Mr Sheikh.

In statement released by their lawyer, Mr Pearl’s family said: “Today’s decision is a complete travesty of justice and the release of these killers puts in danger journalists everywhere and the people of Pakistan.”

The country’s three-judge Supreme Court ruled two to one in favour of upholding Mr Sheikh’s acquittal and ordered his release, Pearl family lawyer Faisal Siddiqi said.

The US government has previously said it would demand that Mr Sheikh be extradited to the US to be tried there.

“We urge the US government to take all necessary actions under the law to correct this injustice. We also hope that the Pakistani authorities will take all necessary steps to rectify this travesty of justice,” the Pearl family said.

Mr Siddiqi said that the only legal avenue left to pursue would be to ask for a review of the court’s decision, but added that would be carried out by the same court that upheld the appeal, meaning “in practical terms” there is no further legal route in Pakistan.

FILE - In this April 15, 2007, file photo, Dr. Judea Pearl, father of American journalist Daniel Pearl, who was killed by terrorists in 2002, speaks in Miami Beach, Fla. Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, ordered the release of Ahmad Saeed Omar Sheikh who was convicted and later acquitted in the gruesome beheading of American journalist Pearl in 2002. The court also dismissed an appeal of Sheikh's acquittal by Pearl's family. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
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Daniel Pearl (R) was beheaded after being lured to a meeting in Pakistan. Pic: Associated Press

Mr Sheikh was convicted of helping to lure Mr Pearl to a meeting in the Pakistani city of Karachi before the journalist was kidnapped.

Mr Pearl had been looking in to the link between Pakistani militants and Richard C Reid – the “shoe bomber”, who tried to blow up a flight between Paris and Miami with explosives in his shoes.

He went missing on 23 January, with his body being found in a shallow grave shortly after a video of his beheading was sent to the US consulate in Karachi.

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Kate Moss and daughter Lila star in Paris catwalk show together | Ents & Arts News

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She is one of the most famous supermodels in the world, and in recent years her daughter has been following in her catwalk footsteps.

So it was inevitable that British star Kate Moss and teenager Lila would one day walk the same runway.

Model Kate Moss, left, and her daughter Lila Grace Moss wear creations for Fendi's Spring-Summer 2021 Haute Couture fashion collection. Pic: AP
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It is reported to be the first time the mother and daughter pair have walked the same fashion show catwalk. Pic: AP


British model Kate Moss leaves the Topshop Unique Spring/Summer 2014 collection with her daughter Lila Grace during London Fashion Week
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Kate and Lila Moss pictured in 2014

Modelling for the Fendi spring/summer show in Paris on Wednesday, the mother-daughter pair were the stars of the show.

In 2016, they appeared on the cover of Vogue together, but this is believed to be the first time they have appeared on the same catwalk.

Lila, 18, whose father is Kate’s ex-partner Jefferson Hack, was pictured wearing a beaded caped dress, while Kate, 47, wore a silver satin dress.

Model Naomi Campbell wears a creation for Fendi's Spring-Summer 2021 Haute Couture fashion collection. Pic: AP
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Fellow British supermodel Naomi Campbell also walked the Fendi catwalk. Pic: AP
Demi Moore. Pic: Fendi/Shutterstock
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As did Hollywood star Demi Moore. Pic: Fendi/Shutterstock

Several other high profile stars and supermodels – including Naomi Campbell – also featured in the show, which featured clothing by designer Kim Jones.

Actress Demi Moore was dressed in a dramatic black top, trousers and long headpiece as she took to the Fendi runway.

Model Cara Delevingne wears a creation for Fendi's Spring-Summer 2021 Haute Couture fashion collection. Pic: AP
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Cara Delevingne and Bella Hadid (below) were also among the show’s stars. Pics: AP
Model Bella Hadid wears a creation for Fendi's Spring-Summer 2021 Haute Couture fashion collection. Pic: AP

Cara Delevingne walked the catwalk wearing a camouflage suit, while Bella Hadid wore a black gown underneath a cape.

Moss’s fellow 1990s supermodel Campbell, 50, wore a long metallic dress and headpiece for her appearance.

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COVID-19: South African coronavirus variant ‘between 20 and 200%’ more infectious than original | World News

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The KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform does not exactly trip off the tongue.

That’s probably why the people who work there, along with sister-organisation the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI), call it KRISP.

And the researchers at KRISP, led by Professor Tulio de Oliveira, have done some really important work in the last few months.

The identification of the so-called South African variant of COVID-19, a hardy and more infectious strain of coronavirus, was done in a congested KRISP laboratory tucked away on the ground floor.

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At the peak of the second wave in January, more than 20,000 people were being infected every day

It was a difficult moment for members of the team to describe – a brilliant piece of detective work that revealed a dangerous new episode in the pandemic.

Professor de Oliveira told me how it happened. “We got very busy in the middle and end of November,” he explained.

Clinical staff at one of main hospitals in Nelson Mandela Bay were seeing a very unusual increase of new cases.

“They were convinced that there was probably something different about the virus so we answered their call very quickly,” Prof de Oliveira added.

By extracting the genetic material from the variant, which they call 501YV2, and tracking the way it was spreading around the country, the team at KRISP was able to determine that it was anywhere between 20 to 200% more infectious that the original.

In an equally disturbing finding, their partners at AHRI discovered that antibodies developed by people in response to the original strain of COVID-19 are “much less able” to neutralise the South African variant.

It raises the prospect that people who have already had coronavirus could get it again.

Prof de Oliveira told me that his team had seen “multiple samples” of this viral re-infection.

The genomic surveillance performed at KRISP has been utilised in neighbouring states, with the South African variant identified in countries including Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and Malawi.

“In Zambia, the last 23 genomes that have been done, 22 of those were the 501YV2 variant,” the professor said.

“We have just finished analysing samples from Mozambique and informed the minister of health about the lineages that are circulating in the country. I believe today he will go to the public to announce (the results).”

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Prof de Oliveira, from KRISP, says his team has seen multiple samples of viral re-infection

Prof de Oliveira would not give me advance notice of their findings but it seems inevitable that 501YV2 has indeed been identified in Mozambique.

This research will concern people – and politicians – right across the continent.

South Africa, which boasts relatively modern infrastructure, has struggled to deal with this now dominant variant of COVID-19.

At the peak of the country’s second wave in early January, more than 20,000 people were being infected every day.

Hospitals and clinics faced chronic shortages of staff, beds and critical supplies like oxygen.

In other parts of Africa, people are largely on their own.

I asked KRISP’s Dr Richard Lessells, an infectious diseases specialist, whether the institute has pushed a proverbial alarm bell by identifying the variant and describing many of its characteristics.

“Yes, we are certainly trying to push the alarm bell and trying to make this point that we need help,” he said.

“We need help in South Africa (and) in the region and we need people to understand that this is a global pandemic and that if we leave Africa and African countries to try and deal with this themselves we are going to have a big problem.”

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