United blow away 36ers in NBL opener

Early championship favourites Melbourne United shook off some first-half rust before blowing the Adelaide 36ers away 89-65 in a lopsided NBL season opener.

Following the league’s longest-ever off-season – this was the first NBL game in 306 days – United trailed by two points following a tight opening half before making up for lost time, obliterating the Sixers 26-13 in each of the third and fourth quarters.

Chris Goulding and Jo Lual-Acuil (16 points apiece) led an even charge for Melbourne, while Daniel Johnson (29 points) was the only member of the outclassed 36ers who looked remotely up for the fight in Adelaide on Friday night.

With Goulding hot from the perimeter and boom recruit Jock Landale active on the glass, Melbourne jumped ahead 12-6 before 18-year-old Josh Giddey’s injection off the bench sparked Adelaide momentarily.

Giddey had an assist within his first six seconds as an NBL player, picked Lual-Acuil’s pocket for a steal and soared for a dunk, giving the Sixers their first lead.

Adelaide led 22-18 at quarter-time and still held sway 39-37 at half-time thanks chiefly to captain Johnson who had 18 by half-time, including 10 of the Sixers’ 17 second-quarter points.

He rattled off 14 of Adelaide’s 16 points either side of half-time, but he had no help whatsoever and Melbourne took full advantage, going on a 13-0 tear and, on the back of a spectacular Yudai Baba-to-Landale alley-oop, led 63-52 at three-quarter-time.

With Lual-Acuil proving a menace in the paint and Baba breathtaking in the open court, United produced another 14-0 run amid an overall 22-3 surge to leave Adelaide, with the obvious exception of Johnson, gasping.

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Coronavirus latest: London Heathrow takes pandemic blow as passengers stay away

The UK reported more than 1,300 deaths from Covid-19 on Friday, the highest daily figure since the pandemic began. Sadiq Khan, London’s mayor, said the spread of Covid-19 in London was “out of control”, adding that in some parts of the city one in every 20 people has been infected with the disease.

Indonesia has “lost control” of its coronavirus response, experts have warned, complicating a planned mass rollout of China’s Sinovac vaccine in the world’s fourth most populous country. The south-east Asian nation has been battling one of the region’s most stubborn outbreaks with ineffectual lockdowns.

While Europe suffers under a strict coronavirus lockdown, the airport in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates trade hub, has been rammed as British, French and Russian tourists flooded into what has recently become the world’s most open city, where visitors can enjoy restaurants, bars and even socially distanced raves.

The British government is to roll out mass community testing across England, to detect people who have Covid-19 but show no symptoms. The programme, announced by health secretary Matt Hancock on Sunday morning, will enable all 317 English local authorities to offer rapid testing.

Mike Speiser of Sutter Hill Ventures, which holds a $13.3bn stake in Snowflake

Private investors in Snowflake are collectively sitting on more than $48bn worth of shares. Its software product, which allows companies to remotely store and analyse large data sets, has proven wildly popular in public markets as investors clamour for businesses benefiting from the shift to remote working during the pandemic.

Commerzbank has raised its provisions for bad loans for the second time since November, as Germany’s second-largest bank braces for a bigger hit from the country’s latest lockdown. It is earmarking “at least” €1.7bn for loan losses, an increase of almost a fifth from its previous guidance.

Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury said he was “cautiously optimistic” about a recovery in aircraft demand as the plane-maker revealed a 34 per cent decline in deliveries during 2020 to 566, Mr Faury said the group still hoped to increase production of single-aisle aircraft in the second half of the year.

The Covid-19 vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer has been shown to work against the highly transmissible variants of coronavirus discovered in the UK and South Africa. Researchers at Pfizer and the University of Texas found that the vaccine can neutralise a virus engineered to contain the N501Y mutation.

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Stock pickers’ tech addiction delivers a harsh blow to workers

One fact that should sow concern at the end of any recession is that keeping a lean workforce is a time-honored way of driving profit growth. But for anyone counting on jobs to roar back as vaccinations proliferate, a subtler threat lies in the nature of the lockdown itself, a period when companies were rewarded grandly for figuring out ways of minimising the role of humans.

The market’s invisible hand can be seen guiding corporate decisions in real time. While growth in investment in plants, property and equipment slows among S&P 1500 companies, Valens estimates that spending on intangibles will rise 13.9 per cent this year, up almost five percentage points from what’s been typical over the last 10 years. (The firm uses research and development outlays as a proxy.)

While the market isn’t the economy, it’s a system for rewarding innovation, conditioning corporate managers to its tastes. This year, those tastes have been for asset-light businesses in which automation and online commerce shoulder profits while labor-intensive models are left behind. When similar alignments took hold in the past, the tidings for the labor market were poor.


Throughout history, economic recoveries heavy on intangible investments have been associated with slower labor market bounce-backs — in some cases twice as slow. Starting in the early 80s, when it took fewer than 30 months for employment to return to its prior peak, the recovery has gotten progressively longer: to 50 months following the dot-com bust, to 70 following the global financial crisis, data from Carlyle Group show. In each case, growth in outlays for intangibles expanded.

Nothing has defined the 2020 market more than the erosion in the value of human capital. Over 10 months of chaotic swings, companies whose profits rely least on people to generate beat those that depend the most by 27 percentage points, according to an analysis by StoneX Group Inc.’s Vincent Deluard, director of global macro strategy at the firm.

As a result, in a year when the S&P 500 is up 16 per cent, rallies in Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Alphabet (Google’s parent) and Microsoft average three times as much.

People hoping for a broadening distribution of the stock market’s bounty got signs of it starting in November, when progress on vaccines spurred gains in beaten-down sectors, loosely defined as the “value rotation.” The S&P 500’s best-performing industries since the end of October are banks and energy producers, industries that were down 23 per cent and 54 per cent in 2020 when their rebound began.

But a closer look shows the recovery is somewhat less than meets the eye. Value’s recent outperformance can actually be traced to just “four ‘good news’ days,” including coronavirus vaccine announcements and Janet Yellen’s selection as treasury secretary, according to Jonathan Golub, Credit Suisse’s chief US equity strategist. Since reports of Yellen’s appointment, value has lagged 70 per cent of the time, he estimates. Over the last month, information technology is still the best performing S&P 500 sector, up 6 per cent.

Analysts are yet again expecting earnings for technology companies to get a boost. Profit expectations for the S&P 500 Information Technology Index have been rising steadily since October, contrary to a decline for every other sector. Earlier this month, analysts upped their EPS growth projections for the sector by 4 per cent from one week to the next, matching the biggest ever jump in 2021 growth expectations for the sector.

Jessica Rabe and Nicholas Colas, co-founders of DataTrek Research, scoured industry predictions from top consulting companies and found a common theme: an expectation that the trend to automation, digitisation and remote work will stick.

Remote working has allowed millions of Australians to keep their jobs.Credit:Getty

One of advisory firm Gartner’s top predictions is that by 2025, customers will be the first people to touch more than 20 per cent of products around the globe, as factories and farms continue to be automated.

“Even with the expectation of vaccines being widely distributed next year, top industry consultants don’t see the trend to virtual or remote work, education, doctor visits and experiences slowing down,” Rabe and Colas wrote. “Automation will continue to dominate as a theme in the coming years as well.”

With assistance from Bloomberg’s Vildana Hajric, Claire Ballentine and Elena Popina.


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Trump rolls back the 80/20 rule in a blow to the wages of tipped worke

Less than 30 days before Trump is due to leave office, his Labor Department has imposed a rule that may significantly affect the wages of restaurant workers. By one estimate, it may collectively cost tipped workers more than $700 million a year.

The new Tip Regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act rolls back the so-called 80/20 rule, which previously required that 80% of the time a worker who makes the tipped minimum wage (which is lower than the regular tipped minimum wage) spends should be dedicated to tipped work, principally interacting with customers. In a published press statement, the Labor Department’s wage and hour administrator, Cheryl Stanton, said the rule was instated partly because it “provides clarity and flexibility for employers.”

But cutting this protection for workers has the potential to severely limit a tipped workers’ wage, according to Heidi Shierholz, director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), who previously served as Obama’s chief economist in his Labor Department. In an EPI release, she said that this “immense loophole” for employers could cost $700 million in servers’ wages annually—and that’s a pre-COVID-19 figure, which stands to be higher now.

Due to in-house dining cutbacks during the pandemic, many tipped workers are serving less and doing other tasks such as assembling takeout orders. Natasha , a restaurant server in midtown Manhattan we spoke to (we have chosen to omit her last name and the restaurant’s name to ensure job safety) says she’s cooking, cleaning, and even doing electrical work. “I’d say the fact that I work primarily for tips is almost insulting,” she says. “I would say that my job right now is almost entirely non-tipped work.”

The new rule is vague about the amount of time servers would have to perform non-tipped duties, only calling for “reasonable” time.

The directive also allows employers to implement “tip sharing,” whereby gratuity earned by tipped workers, usually servers, can be distributed among non-tipped workers, such as dishwashers and cooks, who are often “excluded from participating in tip pools in the past,” Stanton said in the department’s release. This pooling of tips is already legal in many states and will be permitted only if servers make the standard minimum wage for food workers, which varies to a great degree by state and city. Still, it’s a way for employers to skirt raising wages for kitchen staff.

When asked about the reasons for implementing the rule and the criticisms, a Department of Labor spokesperson simply sent a list of FAQs on tips.

“The Trump administration opting, in its last 29 days and during a pandemic, to take more than $700 million out of the pockets of service workers is an emblematic parting blow from this administration to the working people of this country,” EPI’s Shierholz stated in the release. It’s also not the fullest extent of what the Trump administration aimed to do; as early as 2018, it wanted to allow tips to also be shared with managers and supervisors. It walked that back after a compromise was reached between Senator Patty Murray and then-Labor Secretary Alex Acosta.

But the directive won’t take effect for another two or so months—at which point the Biden administration could potentially delay it or replace it with its own preferred guidance.

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Former firefighters blow whistle on ‘disaster waiting to happen’ at Chevron’s Gorgon project

Chevron’s Barrow Island emergency services team was once considered one of the best private firefighting forces in the country.

Collectively, the tight-knit group of former military and professional firefighters from around the country had hundreds of years of experience under their belts to match the serious dangers Chevron’s $54 billion Gorgon facility on the island, 60 kilometres off Western Australia’s Pilbara coast, could pose if something went wrong as it processed millions of tonnes of pressurised and highly flammable gas each year.

Millions of tonnes of highly flammable gas travels through the Gorgon plant every year.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

But over the past year a new contract between Chevron and its Barrow Island private emergency services contractor Parabellum International removed the requirement for professional firefighting experience for new emergency services officers, known as ESOs.

Now at least half of those skilled staff have either resigned or were made redundant and been replaced with cheaper staff with no real-world firefighting experience as both companies pursue cuts to wage bills and other costs in the face of falling energy prices.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity over fears of being blacklisted in their small industry, five former Parabellum employees, who have detailed knowledge of the plant’s emergency services operations, have blown the whistle on what they believe is a “disaster” waiting to happen.

The former employees said the situation had become so bad that new staff were being hired with no firefighting or hazardous materials experience and, despite job ads for Parabellum requiring new hires to have a truck licence and certificate III in firefighting, they didn’t even have those.

“I am genuinely concerned about the safety of all personnel over there at the moment, it is getting to a point where it is actually dangerous,” one former senior employee said.

“There are guys on the island who don’t even have [heavy rigid] truck licences and all the trucks on the island are heavy vehicles and you need an HR licence to drive them.

The new contract removed the requirement for ESOs to have firefighting experience.

The new contract removed the requirement for ESOs to have firefighting experience.Credit:Paul Jeffers

“Presently, if there was an incident there it would be a disaster.”

Another employee said Parabellum previously only hired ESOs with between five and seven years’ firefighting experience.

“These guys are doing a two-week course and they’re expected to stand up when something goes kaboom, it is just wrong,” he said.

An employee who was made redundant earlier this year said the plant would be in jeopardy.

“It’s in jeopardy now,” he said. “If there is an accident there now, they’ve got unskilled people. They are not equipped to operate the equipment that is designed to protect people.”

Pay cut problems

Parabellum International is a WA-based emergency services provider aimed at the resources sector, but its Gorgon contract is its biggest by far. Its previous five-year contract was worth nearly $15 million annually and required professional firefighting experience, but the new contract was negotiated for less money in the face of plummeting LNG prices and removed that requirement to broaden the pool of people eligible for the role.

In May, Parabellum itself revealed Gorgon was at risk of shutting down as it struggled to meet emergency staff requirements, which it blamed on COVID-19 and difficulties associated with bringing in its largely eastern states-based workforce.

The former employees rubbished that suggestion. They blamed staffing woes on cost savings that culminated in a proposal in September to alter the enterprise agreement to cut pays by 9 per cent and scrap paid flights to WA for eastern states workers.

“Presently, if there was an incident there it would be a disaster.”

Former senior Gorgon ESO

The ESOs voted down that proposal and launched a general protections claim in the Fair Work Commission after being angered by a suggestion from Parabellum management that severance payments would not be available to staff who wanted to leave if they didn’t vote yes.

The claim was eventually abandoned after the commission advised there was no dispute, but by October the number of ESOs on the island had dropped from 26 to 22.

Parabellum has since been hit with a wave of stress leave claims and employees said up to 10 more skilled ESOs had left since October, only to be replaced by less experienced workers.

One former senior employee said Gorgon was always designed to have qualified firefighters to respond to incidents and Chevron faced a “double whammy”, with the quality issues emerging in Gorgon’s highly pressurised propane kettles.

“You’ve already got public concerns about Gorgon to be able to operate safely and design issues and now you have the fire service, who are supposed to respond when the shit does hit the fan, and you don’t have enough of them,” he said.

Chevron's Gorgon LNG plant on Barrow Island off WA.

Chevron’s Gorgon LNG plant on Barrow Island off WA.Credit:

“What we’re seeing now is that Parabellum is unable to attain those levels of coverage, they don’t have enough people and the big one is they are now putting people’s lives at risk.”

Another former senior employee said recruiting skilled firefighters from within WA was always difficult because the state’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services workers were some of the best-paid in the country.

“Once upon a time the salaries were so good that people were leaving DFES to go and work on Barrow because they were making a lot more money, but in this day and age why would you leave a government job where you get to go home every night to go and work on Barrow Island?” he said.

Another former senior Parabellum employee said scrapping the experience requirement didn’t make sense because the risks remained the same.

“What has fundamentally changed in three years to need less qualifications?” he said.

“If a train goes down and you have 60 people on the island working in and around the gas plant instead of 160 people, there are still 60 people that are exposed so the risk is still there.”

Meeting expectations

Both Parabellum and Chevron confirmed the requirement for firefighting experience had been scrapped to allow people with emergency response experience outside of professional firefighting organisations to be hired.

Both companies rejected the former employees’ claim that safety was at risk on the island because of skill and staffing levels. A Chevron spokeswoman repeated a statement from November that Parabellum had at all times met and continued to meet all resourcing requirements.

A Parabellum International spokesman said the company was meeting its requirements.

“All Parabellum emergency services personnel hold the requisite qualifications for their position and are thoroughly skills-tested to ensure their capabilities meet the unique and complex environments in which we operate,” he said.

“We continue to comply with all relevant regulatory requirements and implement best-practice emergency response and management procedures.”

The safety regulator of Gorgon, the WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, was also unfazed by the employees’ concerns and said no official complaints had been received about the state of the emergency services team.

That plant will be in jeopardy. It’s in jeopardy now. If there is an accident there now, they’ve got unskilled people.

Former Gorgon ESO

DMIRS dangerous goods and petroleum safety director Steve Emery said Chevron must have clearly defined systems in place to ensure it complies with its safety plan that has been approved by the department.

“The department routinely inspects and audits Chevron to confirm its compliance with the safety plan and to ensure it continues to meet its overall regulatory obligations,” he said.

The former employees said they were not bitter about their departures from the island, with most already employed elsewhere.

They said they were concerned about their treatment while on the island and the erosion of skills that was putting pressure on the ESOs that remained on Barrow and degrading emergency response capabilities.

“You don’t want to have people who have to think about what they are doing,” one former senior employee said.

“When it goes flash to bang it is just all muscle memory, roll out, hit it as hard as we could with everything we could with an absolute avalanche of knowledge and technical expertise and then roll up at the end of it, job well done.”

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New York Jets win, blow No. 1 Draft pick, Trevor Lawrence, social media reacts

NFL basket case the New York Jets have done the unthinkable and come away with a win over the LA Rams.

But while the pictures of the players celebrating the end of the 13-game losing streak in 2020, the team’s long suffering fans were furious at the victory.

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Why would they be upset about a win?

Because it will likely cost them the chance to sign Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, a player described as a generational talent having led the powerhouse college team to a championship in 2018 and runners up in the nation last year.

The Jets now have a 1-13 record, the same as the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the NFL’s tie-breaker comes down to the strength of the team’s schedule.

The Jets had the third toughest run, while the Jaguars have had 22nd most difficult schedule in the league, meaning the Jaguars.

The Jaguars also have the 7-7 Bears next week and the 10-4 Colts in the final game of the season, and despite beating Indianapolis in week one, it appears unlikely Jacksonville will blow this chance at securing a star to rebuild the franchise around.

As for whether Lawrence will be in the 2021 Draft class, it appears likely with the superstar making all the right noises about moving into the big time.

“I think I’m ready,” Lawrence said on The Dan Patrick Show. “I think just being here at Clemson, my journey has taught me a lot. I’ve grown up a lot the past few years. I’m really just ready to take on whatever challenge it is and just have that opportunity.”

It comes just two weeks after a loss to the Las Vegas Raiders that saw the side blow a lead with just five seconds left after Derek Carr found Henry Ruggs for a 46-yard touchdown.

Fans could accept the tanking for Lawrence but the victory has left the supporters devastated by the win.

The Athletic ’s Jets beat writer Connor Hughes said “the Jets didn’t win as a franchise. Not really” after losing the No. 1 draft pick.

He quoted New York running back Frank Gore who said “I’m going to enjoy this one, then have a good Christmas” but added “The same can’t be said for Jets fans, who just received the equivalent of coal in their stockings.”

He also called it “another gut-punch” adding the dream isn’t over but the franchise now needs the Jaguars to somehow find a win.

In the New York Post, Mark Cannizzaro said it was “too bad” for fans unhappy about the win in a story titled “The Jets deserved this — Trevor Lawrence be damned”.

In For The Win, it was laid out as “The Jets were oh so close to being able to draft him and potentially fixing their quarterback woes that have plagued the team for years. Instead, they ended up winning a meaningless game in a lost season.”

In Sports Illustrated, Conor Orr said “Sunday was a 60-minute advertisement against the idea that any franchise can legitimately tank a season in this sport”.

Most of the NFL was expecting the Jets to claim just the third 0-16 season in history and fans were quick to take to social media to hammer the Jets.

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Bernard Tomic suffers fresh blow, fall from grace, career lifeline

Bernard Tomic teased us but in the end it was, sadly, the same old story as much of his career.

The Aussie tennis star was on the comeback trail in Brisbane and showed glimpses of promise as he qualified for the final of a local tournament on the weekend — but he didn’t even make it on the court for the decider.

Warming up before the final of the UTR Pro Tennis Series event, Tomic was hampered by a back issue and pulled out of the match, failing to take what would have been at least a small step forward as he looks to rejuvenate his stuttering career.

Followed by reporters while walking shirtless back to his car, Tomic answered “soon” after being asked when he would return.

“Unfortunately I couldn’t play today but hopefully I’ll improve,” he said. “I’ve been trying for a year to come back so I’ll try my best.”

The 28-year-old was a Wimbledon quarter-finalist in 2011 and once ranked as high as 17th in the world. Confident he had the game to win a grand slam, Tomic has since fallen onto the tennis scrap heap as his ranking and desire plummeted.

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He’s now ranked 226th in the world and can’t even get a gig on the main ATP Tour.

Tomic’s appearance at the UTR Pro in his home state of Queensland was supposed to be a stepping stone on his journey back to the big leagues but his long wait will have to continue.

Whether he ever makes it back at all — or even wants to — remains a mystery, especially from a man who has said repeatedly he doesn’t even like tennis and is perfectly happy sitting back counting his millions of dollars.

The Queensland Tennis Centre certainly wasn’t a setting for millionaires this past week. Tomic was forced to supply his own food, drinks and towel, and there was only a maximum of one linesperson allowed to officiate each match.

Not to mention, there was not a ballkid in sight, meaning Tomic had to pick up his own balls.

If ever there was a sign of how far Tomic has fallen, this was it.

He scraped through to the final courtesy of a tough three-set wins over world No. 282 Akira Santillan and fellow Australian Moerani Bouzige, who has an ATP singles ranking of 1872.

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Russia’s watered-down ban over doping probe described as a ‘blow to clean sport’

The Court of Arbitration for Sport’s (CAS) decision to only partially uphold a ban against Russia has been widely criticised.

The World Anti-Doping Agency was seeking a four-year ban from all sport for tampering with data that formed part of the years-long investigation into systemic doping in Russia.

The three-person panel presided over by Australian Mark Williams, SC, reduced the ban to two years in a 186-page finding that remains confidential.

It applies only to the Olympic and Paralympic Games and events equivalent to world championships and while officials are banned, provisos have been put in place exempting those who are IOC officials or government representatives who may be invited by heads of state to attend major sporting events.

Russian athletes not implicated in doping or covering up positive tests will still be allowed to compete at next year’s Olympics, the 2022 Winter Games and FIFA’s 2022 World Cup.

Neither the Russian flag nor the national anthem will be used, but the name Russia can be retained on uniforms if the words “Neutral Athlete” or “Neutral Team” have equal prominence, the court said.

The head of Sport Integrity Australia, David Sharpe, expressed disappointment.

“If this is the appropriate sanction under the current compliance rules then governments, the sport movement, national anti-doping organisations and athletes must all come together after the release of the full decision and immediately work to strengthen these rules,” he said.

WADA president Witold Banka was pleased “to have won” the case but was also left disappointed.

“In the face of continual resistance and denial from Russia, we clearly proved our case, in accordance with due process,” he said.

“We are, however, disappointed that the CAS panel did not endorse each and every one of our recommended consequences for the four-year period we requested.

“We believe they were proportionate and reasonable, but ultimately WADA is not the judge but the prosecutor and we must respect the decision of the panel.”

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The WADA president was happy Russia was found to have violated rules, but disappointed the recommended punishments were not upheld.

The strongest criticism came from the chief executive of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), Travis Tygart, who told The Ticket the only ones celebrating the decision were the Russians and for the rest “it’s a devastating blow”.

“I think it’s telling the Russians are claiming victory … and this may be the first time what they’re saying is true and accurate,” he said.

“It’s a rebranding, Russia will have their entire delegation there (at major sports events).

“It only applies to the Olympic Games, to world championships, I mean think about how ridiculous this is going to be for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“During the qualifying matches there will be the Russian team under the Russian flag and then when they get to the tournament itself, or the finals, they’ll be re-branded the ‘neutral athletes from Russia’ — just the flag won’t be there.”

Tygart says while the individual members of the CAS panel must be trusted athletes and others still question the decision.

“The perception and the problem the athletes have with this is that the IOC exclusively funds CAS, they have a big hand in appointing who the arbitrators are … and the IOC was a party to the case,” he said.

“Many of us called for an open hearing so that clean athletes could watch and hear the arguments being made by the parties.

“What we have is a summary of the decision by CAS and let’s hope that the parties agree to release the full decision and then we can get some answers at least as to what the IOC was arguing in the court it solely funds and runs and see what the basis of this decision ultimately said.

“But at the end of the day what we know is this is a tremendous blow to clean sport and it’s an unfortunate outcome.

“It’s just another chapter in a really dark 10-year period since these allegations first came to WADA and how they handled this and athletes want to see the system fixed.”

The concluding remarks in the CAS award states:

“This panel has imposed consequences to reflect the nature and seriousness of the non-compliance [to the World Anti-Doping Code] and to ensure that the integrity of sport against the scourge of doping is maintained.

“The consequences which the panel has decided to impose are not as extensive as those sought by WADA.

“This should not, however, be read as any validation of the conduct of RUSADA or the Russian authorities.

“In making its orders, the panel is limited by the powers granted under the applicable law, in particular the WADC and the ISCCS (International Standard for Code Compliance).

“It has considered matters of proportionality and, in particular, the need to effect cultural change and encourage the next generation of Russian athletes to participate in clean international sport.”

For the CAS to release the full hearing all parties to the case must agree, in this instance that includes WADA, RUSADA, the IOC, and 43 Russian athletes, among others.

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COVID blow for European champions Exeter

European champions Exeter Chiefs have found themselves on the backfoot as they seek to defend their Champions Cup crown following the cancellation of Sunday’s match against Toulouse because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

The Chiefs have reported a number of positive tests and are unable to fulfil the round two fixture at the Stade Ernest Wallon.

The knock-on effect is that Glasgow – Exeter’s opponents last weekend – are unable to field a side against Lyon due to the need for some of their players to self-isolate, meaning their game is also cancelled.

Tournament organisers EPCR will convene a match resolution panel to decide the result of the games once all four clubs have submitted their testing results.

If a 28-0 defeat is awarded against Exeter, it will put them in a difficult position in their quest to advance to the knockout phase as the truncated format to this year’s competition consists of only four group games.

The Chiefs thumped Glasgow 42-0 to launch their campaign with a statement win and have only two remaining fixtures – against Toulouse and the Warriors in January – to secure their place in the quarter-finals.

Their clash with Toulouse, a replay of last season’s semi-final, was the most eagerly-awaited fixture of round two and their first true test of 2020-21.

All but three of Glasgow’s matchday squad that faced Exeter are self-isolating under guidance from Public Health Scotland.

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US election 2020: Top Republican Mitch McConnell accepts Joe Biden is US president-elect in blow to Donald Trump | US News

The Senate majority leader has congratulated Joe Biden on becoming US president-elect – in a significant blow to Donald Trump.

Top Republican Mitch McConnell said the Electoral College – a group of people who voted to formally confirm the result of last month’s election – “had spoken”.

“Many of us had hoped the presidential election would yield a different result,” he admitted on Tuesday.

Joe Biden is due to be sworn in on 20 January

“But our system of government has the processes to determine who will be sworn in on 20 January.”

Mr McConnell described Democrat Mr Biden, who was vice president under Barack Obama and also a former senator himself, as someone “who has devoted himself to public service for many years”.

Kamala Harris says the Democrats won the US election
Kamala Harris will be the first woman vice-president of the US

He also congratulated vice president-elect Kamala Harris, saying “all Americans can take pride that our nation has a female vice president-elect for the very first time”.

Before those remarks, he poured praise on Mr Trump’s “endless” accomplishments during the last four years.

US President Donald Trump looks on after delivering an update on "Operation Warp Speed" in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on November 13, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Donald Trump is still refusing to accept he lost the election

The admission marks a crucial abandonment by one of the most senior GOP figures of the incumbent president’s position, which is to refuse to accept the election result.

Mr Trump has claimed – without evidence that has stood up to legal scrutiny – that the vote was rigged against him.

Republican Senator Roy Blunt, the chairman of the inaugural committee, also said on Tuesday the panel will “deal with” Mr Biden “as the president-elect”.

Just last week, the Republicans on the same committee had declined to publicly do so.

Mr Trump will become the first one-term president since 1992 when he leaves the Oval Office next month.

He will be replaced by Mr Biden, after the Democrat challenger managed to flip key red states blue – like Arizona, Georgia and Nevada.

His gain of Pennsylvania four days after polls closed gave him enough Electoral College votes to put him past the halfway line, and he eventually collected 306 to Mr Trump’s 232.

Mr Biden’s inauguration ceremony will be very different from the usual ceremonies used to induct new presidents into office, given the coronavirus pandemic.

The committee organising it said they wanted to ensure it “honours and resembles sacred American traditions while keeping Americans safe and preventing the spread of COVID-19”.

“Vigorous health and safety protocols” will be followed and “the ceremony’s footprint will be extremely limited, and the parade that follows will be re-imagined”, they clarified.

US residents are also being urged not to travel to attend the ceremony at the Capitol in Washington DC and instead watch from home.

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