FIFA bans former top official Markus Kattner for 10 years

Soccer’s world governing body FIFA has banned Markus Kattner, a former leading official in the Zurich organisation, for 10 years and has fined him one million Swiss francs ($1.5 million) after a probe into bonus payments.

“The adjudicatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee has found Markus Kattner, former FIFA Deputy Secretary General and Acting Secretary General, guilty of conflicts of interest and having abused his position, in violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics,” FIFA said in a statement on Tuesday.

Markus Kattner was found to have abused his position.

Markus Kattner was found to have abused his position.Credit:AP

“The investigation into Mr Kattner covered various charges concerning bonus payments in relation to FIFA competitions that were paid to top FIFA management officials (including Mr Kattner), various amendments to and extensions of employment contracts, reimbursement of private legal costs, and Mr Kattner’s duties as an official.”

FIFA said in June 2016 that an internal investigation revealed that Kattner, FIFA’s former Secretary General Jerome Valcke and the organisation’s ex-President Sepp Blatter had received 79 million Swiss francs in compensation over five years, calling them “massive payouts”.

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India Bans TikTok, Calling It A Malicious App

Following rising domestic pressure to boycott Chinese-made goods, the Indian government on Monday ordered 59 Chinese apps to be blocked, including TikTok, WeChat, Shareit, and Clash of Kings.

The Indian government framed the move as protecting personal information from what it called “malicious apps,” that “harm India’s sovereignty as well as the privacy of our citizens.”

But tensions have been rising between the two nuclear powers for weeks, following a border clash in the Himalayas in which Chinese forces killed at least 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers died. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has faced domestic criticism, which undercuts his strongman image and conciliatory posture toward China, against which India has fought sporadically since a war in 1962.

“While the prime minister called for self-dependence recently, the idea would’ve been to build capability and not boycott products from India’s second-biggest trade partner,” Abhishek Baxi, a technology journalist and digital consultant, told BuzzFeed News. “While action against smartphone brands would be too much to handle, banning apps is a low-hanging fruit for political posturing.”

Among the 59 apps are some of the country’s most popular — and controversial. As of June 2019, the most recent date for which information was available, video-sharing app TikTok was used by an estimated 200 million people in the country as of October 2019. (Tiktok has not announced more recent user numbers for the country.) In April 2019, India banned the app for just over a week over child pornography concerns.

As that banning showed, restricting the apps is not as simple as a government decree. It requires the cooperation of Google and Apple, which run the stores where the apps are sold. As of Monday, those companies had not indicated whether or not they would comply with the order. Apple and Google have not yet responded to requests for comment.

On Tuesday night, TikTok issued a statement saying that the company’s executives had been “invited to meet with concerned government stakeholders for an opportunity to respond and submit clarifications.”

Earlier this month, Google removed an app called “Remove China Apps” from the Play Store in India, which had been downloaded 4.7 million times, and which claimed to scan people’s phones for Chinese apps and delete them.

TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, is one of the world’s most valuable companies, worth over $100 billion as of May, according to Business Insider. With its headquarters in Beijing, it’s also one of the main vectors of Chinese soft power, its popularity raising concerns around the world, including from US senators, Egyptian courts, and Australian regulators.

“This isn’t just India-specific,” Abhijeet Mukherjee, the founder of Guiding Tech. “There has been growing discontent with how some of such apps are ‘probably’ crossing the line.”

Also among the ban were group chat platform WeChat, owned by Chinese conglomerate Tencent, mobile game Clash of Kings, and file-sharing app ShareIt, which BuzzFeed News reported in February was being used by Kashmiris to evade an internet shutdown levied by the Indian government. Several prominent Chinese-owned apps were not included, among them certain apps owned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Despite liberalizing its foreign direct investment policies under Modi, the Indian government recently changed course. In April, China’s central bank acquired a 1.01% stake in India’s largest housing lender, after which the Indian government announced a new policy aimed at reducing Chinese investment in Indian firms. Although Chinese investment in India is small, its capital is disproportionately concentrated in the tech industry, with major stakes in 18 of the 30 largest startups, according to the Hindu.

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Reddit bans pro-Trump forum in content crackdown

Social media site Reddit said it had shut down r/The_Donald, a forum for supporters of US President Donald Trump, as it announced an overhaul of its content policies.

The site’s new content policy said communities and users that promoted hate based on identity or vulnerability would be banned.

US President Donald Trump.

US President Donald Trump.Credit:Bloomberg

Reddit also said it was banning about 2000 subreddits, the majority of which were inactive. The list included r/The_Donald and the left-wing forum r/ChapoTrapHouse.

“All communities on Reddit must abide by our content policy in good faith. We banned r/The_Donald because it has not done so, despite every opportunity,” Chief Executive Steve Huffman said in a post on the site.

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American Airlines removes passenger for refusing to wear mask—and bans him from future flights

American Airlines Group Inc. removed a passenger who refused to wear a face covering and banned him from taking flights in the future, capping a week in which U.S. carriers vowed to step up enforcement of mask use.

Brandon Straka won’t be allowed to fly on American until face coverings are no longer required, the company said in an email Thursday. Straka, a conservative activist with about 400,000 followers on Twitter, posted a video Wednesday saying he had been kicked off his flight for not wearing a mask. He also accused American’s employees of intimidating him.

Straka’s ban validates a warning U.S. airlines made this week when they vowed increased vigilance in requiring mask use amid mounting concerns about new Covid-19 infections. United Airlines Holdings Inc. pledged to ban passengers flouting the rules, which exempt small children and people with medical conditions or disabilities that prevent them from wearing face coverings.

In its statement, American said it was “committed to protecting the safety and well-being” of customers and employees.

“We expect customers who choose to fly with us to comply with these policies, and if necessary, we will deny future travel for customers who refuse to do so,” the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline said. “Restricting travel is a step we take very seriously, and it will only occur after a comprehensive review of the facts of an incident.”

Straka didn’t immediately respond to a message sent through his website. In a tweet earlier Thursday, he said he had been “inundated with death threats, attacks on social media & email” because of the incident.

According to American, Straka boarded his flight from New York’s LaGuardia airport with a face covering but later took it off. When asked whether he had a medical condition, he replied that he didn’t, American said. Later, “he gave our team a different answer,” the company said.

American said it was refunding Straka for the remaining leg of his trip and any upcoming flights on the carrier.

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Interstate travel bans should be ‘lifted immediately’: Treasurer

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has urged reluctant state governments to immediately lift domestic travel restrictions, rather than waiting until next month, in order to boost the nation’s flagging tourism sector.

Queensland and South Australia have announced they will lift the restrictions on interstate travel from July 10, pending no upsurge in COVID-19 cases.

However, Tasmania’s government has only committed to “considering” opening its borders in July.

Mr Frydenberg told Sky News “closed borders costs jobs.”

“We know tourism is a very big business in Australia, but also particularly in Queensland,” he said.

“There is no medical reason according to the deputy chief medical officer, as to why those border restrictions should be in place, and that’s why they should be lifted.

“If you see the lifting of those border restrictions, you will see our economy recover much faster.”

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Helicopter rescue team kept busy as Tasmanians go bush after coronavirus bans eased

People heading into Tasmania’s remote areas following the lifting of coronavirus measures have been told to be better prepared, after a weekend of rescues.

On Saturday, a 33-year-old man hiking on a track near Queenstown, in the state’s west, lost his mobile phone containing his maps.

In a statement, police said an EPIRB signal was detected from the area and the Westpac Emergency Rescue Helicopter was dispatched.

“The male was located and extracted from the area by the helicopter … [he] was not injured and was transported to Hobart.”

On the same day, police said they received a call “from a concerned relative” about a group of four adult bushwalkers who had planned to venture into the Leven Canyon area, in Tasmania’s north-west.

“A search and rescue team was mobilised, but the lost walkers emerged prior to the team’s deployment,” police said.

The group had intended to walk part of the Penguin to Cradle Trail, police said, but added the party had “no warm clothing, wet weather gear, or food and were ill-equipped for an extended walk and/or an overnight walk”. 

On Sunday, the rescue helicopter was involved in two incidents in the space of two hours.(Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service Tasmania Website)

The helicopter was also involved in an incident involving a 75-year-old man who police said sustained non-life-threatening injuries in a quad bike rollover while riding in bushland at Bridgenorth, near Launceston, on Saturday.

The helicopter was dispatched but was “unable to access the man due to the thick vegetation,” police said.

The man was transported by ambulance to the Launceston General Hospital with a suspected broken pelvis.

On Sunday at 1:00pm, the helicopter was dispatched during the medical evacuation of a 64-year-old female walker with a suspected broken leg in the Mount Direction Conservation Area, at Risdon, north-east of Hobart.

Two hours later, the helicopter assisted with a medical evacuation of a 63-year-old female walker with a broken leg from a walking track at Legacy Beach, in the Coningham Nature Recreation Area, south of Hobart. 

Police said both were “expected to make a full recovery”.

On Friday afternoon, restrictions on a number of activities were set aside, with Tasmanians allowed to travel freely around the state, with national parks and reserves open to all — an easing on the rule for people to only visit those within 30 kilometres of their place of residence.

On Sunday, police pleaded with members of the public to use common sense if exercising their right to go bush again.

“It is also recommended that bushwalkers advise family and/or friends of the location of their intended walks, estimated time of arrival and abide by any directions from Parks and Wildlife.”

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House of Commons bans virtual voting, opts for a queue – POLITICO

The House of Commons proved Tuesday just how much it loves a queue.

MPs backed a proposal to end virtual voting in the U.K.’s lower chamber, casting their votes using a socially-distanced queuing system for the first time.

Standing in a long line stretching from the chamber through to Westminster Hall and out of the building, roughly two-thirds of MPs slowly edged their way into the chamber to cast their votes in a process that took just over 45 minutes.

The system replaces the usual “divisions,” which see MPs walk through either the Aye or No lobby and usually take around 15 minutes, even if all 639 voting members are present.

Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg, who drew up the plan, said parliament must be conducted in person, asserting that during the pandemic MPs have “not been doing the important work of legislating” and that “voting while on a sunny walk or watching television does democracy a disservice.”

Many of his colleagues, who spent much of the afternoon waiting in what has been dubbed the “Rees-Mogg conga” by Opposition Chief Whip Nick Brown, were less convinced.

“Voting. In the 21st century. Yep,” tweeted Labour’s Liz Kendall. “This is a farce. I should think we will be back to remote voting before we are all much older,” added Conservative Steve Baker.

Shadow Leader of the House Valerie Vaz and women and equalities committee chair Caroline Nokes both labeled the plan “discriminatory” in a fiery debate before voting began.

Mogg was also blasted by Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael, who said that he had traveled for 18 hours, involving four different forms of transport, to get to London. He added the plan represented a “recipe for a parliament for people who live within driving distance of London.” The Scottish National Party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who has a similar journey from the Isle of Skye, called his long commute “a waste of time.”

Rees-Mogg had earlier promised an amendment would be put forward Wednesday to allow those who could not attend due to age or for medical reasons to take part in debates remotely — but not to vote. Pressure had grown on Rees-Mogg after MPs on all sides, including Conservative Robert Halfon, had publicly complained about the impact the new system would have on MPs who are shielding from coronavirus.

But MPs rejected — after another queue — an amendment from procedures committee chairwoman and former minister Karen Bradley to allow remote voting to continue and Rees-Mogg’s plan eventually passed with a majority of 91.

The Commons had operated hybrid proceedings since April, with members able to take part in debates either in person or virtually using Zoom. Digital voting was introduced after lengthy trials last month, with some MPs voting online from home on May 13 for the first time ever.

Many MPs looked visibly confused by the new system, which requires members to line up before stating their name and which way they wish to cast their vote. Welsh committee chair Stephen Crabb accidentally voted the wrong way, while countless MPs had to be told what to do as they entered the chamber, adding considerable amounts of time.

Happily for all concerned, MPs have another opportunity to try the system before they go home Tuesday night. Unhappily, it is forecast to rain Wednesday, when MPs will be back to do it all again.

The House of Lords, meanwhile, will start its own hybrid proceedings next Monday with the first digital votes held the following week.

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Trump bans most travelers from Brazil as coronavirus cases there skyrocket

The U.S. will prohibit the entry of most non-U.S. citizens arriving from Brazil, where coronavirus cases have spiked to the second highest in the world, expanding restrictions already placed on visitors from China and Europe.

The order begins at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, at which point the entry of foreigners who’ve been in Brazil during the 14-day period before their arrival into the U.S. will be halted, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Sunday.

The restrictions, foreshadowed earlier on Sunday by National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, don’t apply to the flow of commerce between the U.S. and Brazil. Exemptions apply for various individuals.

Trump said last week he was considering barring the entry of flights from Brazil, and he continued to float the idea, culminating in Sunday’s directive.

“Brazil is having some trouble, no question about it,” Trump said on May 19 at the start of a cabinet meeting. “I don’t want people coming in here and infecting our people.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that Brazil “is experiencing widespread, ongoing person-to-person transmission of” the coronavirus, according to Trump’s proclamation on Sunday.

O’Brien said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he hoped any action taken would be temporary — although restrictions placed on other countries haven’t been lifted so far.

‘Every Step Necessary’

“Because of the situation in Brazil, we’re going to take every step necessary to protect the American people,” O’Brien added.

Brazil added 15,813 new coronavirus cases on Sunday and reported another 653 deaths. The South American nation now has 363,211 confirmed cases, trailing only the U.S. globally. Its death toll of 22,666 is behind the U.S. and some of the most infected European countries, including the U.K. and Spain.

The U.S. has over 1.6 million confirmed cases and more than 97,000 deaths.

Trump’s move was announced on a day when Dias Toffoli, chief justice of Brazil’s Supreme Court, took medical leave after experiencing Covid-like symptoms after being in the hospital for an unrelated matter.

Neither Brazil’s presidential palace nor its foreign ministry immediately responded to a request for comment on the U.S. travel restrictions.

O’Brien said the rest of South America, where coronavirus cases are lower, would be looked at “on a country-by-country basis.”

Trump restricted entry into the U.S. from China in late January and suspended most European travel to the U.S. in March.

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Coronavirus travel bans killing economy, says NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres

NSW’s Tourism Minister has accused other states of hindering Australia’s economic recovery from coronavirus with border closures, and says the risk of transferring the bug through domestic travel “is low”.

Stuart Ayres called on the governments in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania to scrap their travel bans by July 1.

Those states and territories closed their borders in March at the height of Australia’s coronavirus crisis, and none have provided a timeframe to reopen them.

Mr Ayres said he wanted to see firm dates announced about when domestic travel could resume, and that businesses and citizens needed “a marker in the ground” they could work towards.

“The simple matter of the fact is, we can’t stay closed forever,” he said.

“If states believe they can keep their economies functional while keeping their borders closed, I think that’s a mistake.”

Stuart Ayres is not a fan of travel bans.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

NSW is Australia’s worst-affected coronavirus state, accounting for more than 40 per cent of Australia’s almost 7,000 infections.

But according to Federal Government data, it also provides the largest number of interstate tourists.

Last year, people from NSW made 11.47 million overnight interstate trips, mainly for holidays, visiting friends or family, and business.

Yesterday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was “very open” about wanting border restrictions scrapped around the country.

“I often joke with the Queensland Premier that I’ll end up going to Auckland before I go to Brisbane if we continue the way we are going,” she said.

Mr Ayres said the rate of coronavirus transmission in Australia was low, and said based on that, the risk of transferring COVID-19 based on travel was also low.

“Why you would deliberately close yourself off to that economic activity when it comes at a low health risk, I think deserves to be questioned,” he said.

“If you keep the borders closed, its an irrefutable fact, you are slowing down Australia’s economic activity.”

According to Federal Government data, overnight trips injected a record $80.7 billion into Australia’s economy last year.

NSW, which welcomed the most domestic overnight visitors in 2019, also stands to lose the most while borders are closed.

Last year, Sydney alone had 12.7 million visitors, about a third of which were for business.

There were significant increases in WA tourism last year, when 11 million visitors spent a record $8.6 billion, up 19 per cent on 2018.

WA Premier Mark McGowan has said he would not consider opening the border until coronavirus infections were at “virtually a zero rate”.

“If you are looking for a zero rate of infection, I think WA runs the risk of not ever opening its border,” Mr Ayres said.

“The reality is that COVID infections will be here to stay … until a vaccine is achieved.”

While the borders between NSW, the ACT and Victoria are still open, non-essential travel is banned.

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Farmers concerned by China’s barley tariffs, beef bans but not drawing formal link to political spat

Australia’s farm lobby has attempted to quash fears that China’s trade blitz on Australian agriculture could grow.

Just weeks after the ambassador representing Australia’s largest trading partner threatened a consumer boycott of Australian beef and wine, China has announced plans to effectively end imports of Australian barley, with an 80 per cent tariff and banned beef imports from four Australian abattoirs.

In response, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) said in a statement that it was concerned about the trade disruptions, adding “in relationships as significant as that between Australia and China, from time to time, issues do arise”.

The statement made no mention of fears the trade disruptions were the result of Australia’s political relationship with China, or the Prime Minister’s call for a COVID-19 inquiry which provoked the Chinese ambassador’s call for a boycott.

Some farmers fear the two are linked, and that more Australian exports could be targeted, including the high value wine and dairy industries.

‘Not a dairy issue’

United Dairyfarmers of Victoria spokesman Andrew Leahy told ABC Melbourne, his industry felt “like we’re the next in line to be a pawn in a political play from China.”

But the national lobby Australian Dairy Farmers refused to comment on the China situation, saying “it’s not a dairy issue”.

In 2018, some shipments of Australian wine to China were held up at Chinese ports, during a tense time in Australia’s political relationship with China.

Australian Grape and Wine’s Tony Battaglene has told the ABC he did not believe the barley tariffs or beef suspensions were linked to the political tensions between Australia and China.

Australia’s wine exports to China are worth about $1 billion a year.

Earlier, the Federal Opposition flagged concerns about Australia’s trade relationship with China, saying it has been contacted by several industry leaders following the announcement of the barley tariff and beef suspensions.

Trade clampdown should be no surprise

Global agriculture bank Rabobank says China’s tariffs on barley and ban on beef should not come as a complete surprise to Australian farmers.

“Regrettable as the trade clampdown has been, it can’t come as a complete surprise to Australia or its agriculture industry,” Head of Research at Rabobank Australia and New Zealand, Tim Hunt said.

“China has a history of using agricultural trade as a political lever going back at least 10 years.

“It’s used this lever with Australia itself in the past and its ambassador has warned Australia as long as a year ago that we were headed down this path,” Mr Hunt said.

Mr Hunt said while the timing and commodity at the centre of the clampdown was never certain, it was “completely forceable” that China would use its agricultural trade to send a signal.

Mr Hunt said the past decade had shown several examples of China’s willingness to use its agricultural trade as a political lever.

“In 2010 we saw a Norwegian-based panel awarded a Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident, in the years after that Chinese purchases of salmon from Norway were slashed,” Mr Hunt said.

“Canada arrested a Huawei executive in late 2018 that annoyed China, and China subsequently found reasons to block Canadian shipments into China of canola, beef and pork.”

“These things were never explicitly tied, but there always seems to be a history of loss of access to Chinese import markets in agriculture occurring at times if heightened political tension.”

Mr Hunt said it would depend on China, and Australia’s political response to China, as to whether or not the trade disruptions continued.

“Fingers crossed this is enough for China to send the signal it wants to deliver, but you can’t rule out its extension,” he said.

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