Gareth Bale's Tottenham return is a woeful move and shows how club has changed

Gareth Bale’s return to Tottenham is a woeful move by the club, a purely emotional piece of business.

It’s Jose Mourinho pulling the emergency rip cord and Daniel Levy looking for another distraction for supporters now the All Or Nothing documentary is starting to look a bit faded.

Bale’s return will tug on the heartstrings as fans reminisce about those warm, fuzzy feelings he gave them eight or nine years ago.

But in the here and now it smacks of the sort of moves Manchester United made after Sir Alex Ferguson left – a club going for any old marquee player who’s available because the foundations are creaking.

I’ve nothing against Bale, I love the player, and I’ve nothing against Spurs, either. I really like them as a club and have always respected them.

Spurs are paying Bale a huge salary to secure his services

But if they really are paying him £550,000 a week in wages for a nine-month loan then I can’t help thinking that money would have been far better spent on three, four, even five, top-notch loan signings who would have enhanced Tottenham’s squad far more greatly.

At 31, we know Bale still has some football left in him. The problem is, we don’t know how much.

He has suffered with injuries in recent seasons and what would concern me if I was a Tottenham fan is exactly how much of the season we will get out of him. Two-thirds? Half?

We’ll have to wait and see, yet for that sort of money we ought to know we’d be getting a player in his absolute prime week in, week out.

The Wales star was unveiled on Saturday

The other concern is that, if I was in that dressing-room, working my socks off week after week, for a fifth or sixth of the money earned by someone who isn’t playing every week, then that’s going to upset me.

So this deal just feels like back-pedalling by Spurs – a case of, ‘Let’s get the band back together’.

It’s like Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr being convinced to line up with a couple of jobbing musicians and people saying, ‘Great, The Beatles are back’.

Except it wouldn’t be, would it?

I know a lot of people think Bale doesn’t love football anymore, that he only loves golf, but I don’t buy into that.

What I do know, though, is that he’s not exactly shown a massive hurry to be playing football week in, week out.

Will Tottenham’s move to bring Bale back to the club backfire? Have your say here.

Doubts surround Bale’s ability to light up the Premier League as he once did

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He could have said at any point in the last couple of years, ‘You know what, I’ve been earning £650,000 a week for several years now – not just one or two – I’m not wanted here so I’ll go to somewhere for £100,000 a week and play again’.

He’d have had 10 massive clubs wanting to sign him, but instead, the only time he was tempted to leave was to go to China, the biggest backwater in world football, just for even more money.

By signing Bale at this stage of his career, Spurs look to be on the fast-track to the wilderness for four or five years, which is incredible if you look back to where they were under Pochettino.

I’m not pretending there were no issues towards the end of his reign but I’m certain they could have been ironed out.

Now it’s all about the smoke and mirrors you get with Mourinho these days, and after losing their first game to Everton and scraping through their Europa League qualifier on Thursday this smacks of them trying to pull another rabbit out of the hat.

Under Pochettino, Spurs were a forward-thinking, progressive club, but this move suggests that is no longer the case.

It is a disaster waiting to happen, the football equivalent of Boris Johnson’s Operation Moonshot.

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Cory Gardner says country needs time to mourn Ginsburg death 'before the politics begin'

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, up for reelection in a swing state, said Saturday the nation needs to “reflect” on the legacy of late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg “before the politics begin.”

Ginsburg, 87, died Friday due to complications from pancreatic cancer. The vacancy she left immediately begged the question of whether her seat would be filled before or after the next term of the presidency.

“I hope before the politics begin — because there will be plenty of time for that – that we have some time for this country to reflect on a great woman who led our nation’s highest court and the work that she has done for this nation, whether you agree or not,” Gardner said.

MARKEY THREATENS TO PACK SUPREME COURT, ABOLISH FILIBUSTER IF TRUMP FILLS SEAT

“There is time for debate and there is time for politics, but the time for now is to pray for the family and to keep [them] in our hearts and prayers as we mourn as a nation,” he said at a town hall Saturday.

Gardner said he agrees with moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, W.V., that  “out of decency and respect for this country, we need to make sure that we are giving time for personal reflection on this loss of an American icon.”

SUSAN COLLINS SAYS SHE OPPOSES VOTING ON SCOTUS NOMINEE BEFORE ELECTION 

Gardner did not say whether he would support a confirmation vote this year.

All eyes are on a handful of unpredictable Republican senators in swing districts to see whether they will agree to push through a new justice before the next term. Maine Sen. Susan Collins already said she opposes voting on a nominee before the election. Collins and Gardner are the only Republican senators up for reelection in districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

Gardner’s opponent, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, called on the senator to “uphold the commitment” he made previously when late Justice Antonin Scalia died in an election year. Hickenlooper has led consistently in polls.

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At the time, he said he thought Scalia’s February death was too close to the November election to prevent voters from weighing in, according to the Denver Post. “The president who is elected in November should be the one who makes this decision,” he said at the time.

Will a major world event rock the US election?

The October Surprise that American pollsters await with trepidation is usually a US domestic upset. Witness the seismic impact of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and it’s only mid September. But the past two decades have also seen major international events overshadow November elections.
A startling moment of opportunity looms for adversaries of Washington and the world order it still, perhaps reluctantly heads. And, from Moscow to Minsk, from Beijing to Tehran, three questions are key. Are you better off with another four years of Donald Trump? Is there anything you think you can pull off while he’s trying to be re-elected in the next 50 days?

And if “No” is the answer to those two, then the 75 days of likely chaos and wrangling that follow the election before inauguration present another opportunity. In the White House, there may be nobody at the wheel, instead under it, fighting for the car keys. Is that also a window for competitors to get stuff done?

Russian President Vladimir Putin is the more adept pragmatist and opportunist, despite also having the most to gain from another four years of Trump at the helm. His first term has allowed Putin to make substantial gains in the Middle East — something the Kremlin has done with both little US resistance and fanfare of Russia’s own achievements.
Putin is on a victory lap of the Middle East
But it is important to remember that Russian collisions with US patrols in Syria, and a Russian bounty plot to kill Americans in Afghanistan have both emerged mostly unchallenged in the last six months. The Kremlin is likely not only emboldened, but carefully calculating what the next 120 days might permit.

The protest movement against the brutal Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko is an uninvited but pressing quandary on Putin’s list. Russia has sent journalists, perhaps technical support, maybe even some security forces, to back up Lukashenko. But he is still faltering, and a long-term poor bet, as his plaintive body language when he met Putin in Sochi betrayed. It is hard to overstate how vital retaining control over Belarus is to Moscow and how essential it is for this protest movement – about personal freedoms that really disturb Putin, not the geopolitics that excite his nationalist base — to fail.

Retaining control of Belarus is vital to Moscow's interests.

Belarus is also very low on the US agenda. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was slow to back the protest movement — perhaps, in his slender defense, after a bid to court Lukashenko in the hope to turn him West.

The Kremlin is surely not embracing the idea of years more propping up a leader they will see as too weak to crush his own dissidents and too unpopular to face them down. Lukashenko is an expensive drag, and one they probably have a plan to rid itself of, while imposing a tighter union between Moscow and Minsk. The thorn will be the protests themselves — unpredictable and needing to keep momentum — if Putin thinks a distracted Washington may be unable to respond to his next move. To some degree, it is surprising Putin has not made greater use of a pliable US administration since 2017. He is ambitious, capable, and dexterous, yet has spent the past four years subtly pursuing his goals. That may change.

The West can gnash its teeth over Belarus. But there's little it can do to change things
Subtlety has not been evident in the “maximum pressure” the Trump administration has applied over Iran. You might be forgiven to argue it has been successful. Trump killed Iran’s top hardliner, Qassem Soleimani, in January, in a move many feared could set the region aflame. It didn’t. In fact, Tehran has steered clear of even lower-level retaliation, with Trump tweeting recently, in response to press reports that US diplomats might be at risk, that he would hit back 1,000 times harder.
Sanctions have been tightened almost to their elastic limit. And Covid-19 has affected Iran severely. Mysterious fires have hit the Natanz nuclear facility and other key infrastructure. Yet it would be a mistake to think this has wiped the fabled long memories of Tehran’s hardliners. Internally, in many ways, their hand has been strengthened by the collapse of the nuclear deal they despised. Trump has also given them the gift of a rift. Five years ago, the world was united behind the JCPOA’s ability to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Now Europeans hold their heads in their hands as Trump tears the deal to pieces, as Russia and China look on bemused at Washington denigrating its own allies.
Many feared for the worst when Trump ordered the attack on Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

And during this collapse, Iran has methodically and slowly made good on its promise to enrich again. Publicly, they have stepped outside the terms of the deal, yet not raced towards the 20% enrichment that would set alarm bells ringing. The IAEA now believes they have enriched 10 times the amount of uranium permitted under the deal, yet has also stated positively it will be able to inspect a second suspect site in the weeks ahead.

The given wisdom in Western capitals is that Iran understands the consequences of it getting the bomb would be so severe, it would outweigh any benefits. There’s a paradox there, in that a new nuclear power might be more relaxed about retaliation. And in the tit-for-tat world of the Gulf, Iran has yet to respond, knows Trump doesn’t want another war in the Middle East, and is patient.

Iran's response to the US may happen slowly and that's more concerning
Less patient is a key Trump ally — one of the few who have pursued goals totally contrary to US interests after a personal chat with the White House occupant — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. It feels like a decade since his forces invaded Syria, attacking US allies the Syrian Kurds and relocating US forces with sheer might. But it was just over a year ago.

Turkey has since consolidated its gains there, and been busy elsewhere. It briefly saber-rattled around Greece’s islands. And more significantly Erdogan has invested political and military capital backing for the UN-supported government in Libya. Russia has weighed in, similarly boosting its opponent in the oil-rich country’s East, with mercenaries from the Wagner group, heavy armor, missiles and other enablers, according to US officials. Peace talks are under way, but under the cloud of an intense build-up on both sides.

Presidents Putin and Erdogan may see America's neutrality in Libya, and Trump's hectic days ahead, as a reason to act if talks stumble

Putin and Erdogan once celebrated their blooming friendship, despite Turkey’s NATO membership. Now the shine on their grins has gone. And Moscow has a long history of talking peace while pouring greater resolve into war. Both Putin and Erdogan may see America’s neutrality in Libya, and Trump’s hectic days ahead, as a reason to act if talks stumble.

The next 120 days will be hostage to the last four years’ reliance on bluster, the myth of intense, yet ultimately flawed, personal relations between Trump and other leaders, and the stop-start nature of this White House’s foreign policy. US politics may hit a crisis long-predicted and even fomented by its adversaries. Yet the world will not stop, and hope this crisis resolves, and instead keep turning in ways a self-obsessed White House did not anticipate.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg dead at 87; tributes pour in from world of politics

Tributes poured in Friday for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose popularity with liberals young and old surpassed her high court colleagues and made her a cultural icon revered for her legal acumen and workout regimen.

Ginsburg, who was 87 and had battled cancer on multiple occasions, was labeled a “resolute champion of justice” in a statement from Chief Justice John Roberts, her colleague on the court she was appointed to in 1993.

“Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature,” Chief Justice John Roberts said. “We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her, a tired and resolute champion of justice.”

Former President George W. Bush, who rarely found himself on the same ideological side as Ginsburg, praised the high court justice as a “smart and humorous trailblazer.”

“Laura and I join our fellow Americans in mourning the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” Bush said in a statement. “She dedicated many of her 87 remarkable years to the pursuit of justice and equality, and she inspired more than one generation of women and girls. Justice Ginsburg loved our country and the law. Laura and I are fortunate to have known this smart and humorous trailblazer, and we send our condolences to the Ginsburg family.”

READ IT: SUPREME COURT ‘S STATEMENT ON PASSING OF RUTH BADER GINSBURG

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who, like other key Democrats called for Ginsburg’s seat to be filled only after the November presidential election, echoed Bush’s “trailblazer” plaudit.

“Tonight, we mourn the passing of a giant in American history, a champion for justice, a trailblazer for women,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a tweet. “She would want us all to fight as hard as we can to preserve her legacy.”

Former president, Jimmy Carter, who appointed Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1980, called her a “beacon of justice” and vowed to pray for her family.

“Rosalynn and I are saddened by the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” Carter said in a statement. “A powerful legal mind and a staunch advocate for gender equality, she has been a beacon of justice during her long and remarkable career. We join countless Americans in mourning the loss of a truly great woman.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D- Conn., called Ginsburg a “giant,” and urged the Senate not to fill her vacancy until after the November presidential election.

“The world is a different place because of her,” Blumenthal said. “More than the laws she forged are the lives she touched. She was soft-spoken and slight in stature, but packed a mighty punch. She will always be a uniquely American icon – breaking barriers with courage and conviction, and letting nothing stop her from the classroom to the courtroom.”

Two Arab nations embraced ties with Israel. Here's what's in it for all sides

“Together these agreements will serve as the foundation for a comprehensive peace across the entire region, something which nobody thought was possible, certainly not in this day and age,” Trump said. “These agreements prove that the nations of the region are breaking free from failed approaches of the past. Today’s signing sets history on a new course and there will be other countries very very soon that will follow these great leaders.”

The last time such a ceremony took place in Washington was in 1994, when President Bill Clinton looked on as Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Jordanian King Hussein signed a declaration that paved the way for a peace deal months later.

For Trump, the timing was crucial. Less than two months before an election in which he trails in the polls, normalization agreements between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain are major foreign policy achievements, even if the region was gradually moving towards these relationships regardless of who occupied the White House.

How did we get here?

For years, Israel has had covert relations with many of the Sunni Gulf states, driven in recent years by a mutual de facto alliance against Iran. Even so, the relations pre-date the Iran nuclear deal by more than a decade in some cases, as Gulf states looked to take advantage of Israel’s high-tech scene and Israel looked to secure its place in a turbulent Middle East.
Chief among these behind-the-scenes relations was the United Arab Emirates, with numerous public examples of the growing ties between the two states becoming more common. In late-2015, Israel opened a diplomatic-level mission to the International Renewable Energy Agency in Abu Dhabi. In 2018, then-culture minister Miri Regev made a state visit to the Grand Mosque on the heels of an Israeli gold medal at a judo tournament in the Emirates. Israel was also invited to Expo 2020 Dubai, a world expo that has since been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain to establish 'full diplomatic relations,' Trump says

Like the UAE, Bahrain also had covert ties with Israel stretching back years. In addition, Bahrain has a small but sustained Jewish community, with one of its members serving as the country’s ambassador to the United States from 2008-2013. The small Gulf kingdom also hosted the unveiling of the economic portion of the White House’s plan for Middle East peace, signaling a willingness to engage with the US — and subsequently Israel — on the issue, even at a time when no progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict appears possible.

Crucially the UAE and Bahrain are also close allies of the US, with each country hosting a significant US military presence. The US Air Force has deployed F-35 fighter jets to an air base in Abu Dhabi, while the Navy’s Fifth Fleet and Central Command are based in Bahrain. That military presence has drawn the leaders of the UAE and Bahrain closer to the US, and because of the anti-Iran alliance, closer to Israel.

What do Israel, the UAE and Bahrain get from this?

A prominent American rabbi who acts as a personal adviser to Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa once told me that for the Gulf Arab states, the road to Washington runs through Jerusalem. In other words, if these states wanted to grow closer to President Trump and the White House, building relations with Israeli leaders was a surefire way to achieve that goal.

Kushner says Israel-UAE deal 'should increase the probability' that UAE gets F-35 jets
The UAE made clear that one of the benefits it sees from the normalization agreement with Israel is that it should be easier to acquire F-35s from the United States, a view also shared by Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner. That would give the Emiratis the latest fighter jet in the US inventory and a significant edge over any other military in the region, with the exception of Israel.

The UAE also ensured a suspension of Israel’s intended annexation of parts of the West Bank, and made it clear this was one of its conditions for normalizing relations. Though it’s unclear how long the suspension lasts, for the UAE, this kept alive the possibility of a two-state solution, which it says is the only possible end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Speaking at the White House Tuesday, the Emirati foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed thanked Israel for “halting” the planned annexation of Palestinian territories, saying it “reinforces our shared will to achieve a better future for generations to come.”

Less clear is what specific goals Bahrain intends to achieve from the normalization agreement. For both the UAE and Bahrain, the agreements also open up the possibility of purchasing Israeli high-tech, including military technology such as the Iron Dome missile defense system, as well as cooperation on economics, health, tourism and more.

Israel-UAE agreement a meek version of the historic Mideast deal Trump pledged

Politically, it is also a win-win situation for the UAE and Bahrain. Either Trump wins a second term in November and they have already scored points with his administration, or a Biden administration takes over and they are on strong footing having secured normalization agreements with Israel.

As for Israel, Netanyahu gets to tout a major foreign policy achievement, one that only two other Israeli leaders have been able to achieve. Menachem Begin signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979. Yitzhak Rabin signed a peace treaty with Jordan in 1994. Netanyahu will sign normalization agreements with two countries in one day.

Crucially, the White House ceremony helps distract from Netanyahu’s domestic issues: a tattered economy dealing with 18% unemployment, a coronavirus crisis that has forced Israel into a second general lockdown, and his own trial on corruption charges. He has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence.

What was Trump’s role and why is this happening at the White House?

The Trump administration saw an opportunity in a shifting Middle East and took advantage of it. Unable to make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Trump and his advisors shifted focus to the rest of the region. Long gone are the days when the conflict defined the news cycle in the Middle East. Now the biggest regional battle is between Iran on one side the and Gulf Sunni states on the other. It is in this conflict where Trump saw an opening to push Israel closer to the Arab states.

United Arab Emirates and Israel to sign normalization agreement at White House next week

For decades, Washington has been the key broker of peace in the Middle East and the crucial moderator in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. It was President Jimmy Carter who stood between Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, and Bill Clinton between Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein. Now it will be Trump standing between Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain.

But now the White House vision of the region hardly includes the Palestinians. Trump has invited the Palestinians to the negotiating table, but only under a vision of the Middle East heavily skewed towards Israel and against the Palestinians. If they don’t want to engage, the White House seems more than happy to leave them behind.

Why is it happening now?

To be clear, these agreements looked inevitable, whether they happened now or in a few years. Trump and Netanyahu pushed for them to happen now. Beset by problems domestically — and with Trump trailing in the polls less than two months before an election — there was a shared will for an all-out push to make something major happen. In recent weeks, Kushner and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the region, trying to build on the momentum of the agreement between Israel and the UAE.

Those efforts aren’t over yet. The Gulf nation of Oman commended the agreement between Israel and Bahrain, signaling that they may be next in line to normalize relations with Israel. And Saudi Arabia? And while a similar deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia would represent a monumental shift in the region, it seems unlikely in the short-term.

Why do the Palestinians feel sold out?

In a word, the Palestinians feel betrayed. The 2002 Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative called for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before Arab states normalized relations with Israel. The UAE and Bahrain have flipped the narrative, moving towards normalization with no progress on the conflict. Palestinians accused the UAE and Bahrain of betraying Jerusalem, the al-Aqsa mosque, and the Palestinian cause.

And because this was pushed by the White House, it is another entry on the growing list of grievances Palestinian leaders have against Trump. The Palestinians cut off contact with the White House after the Trump administration moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem and took other pro-Israel steps.

But the list of options available to the Palestinians is shrinking. The Palestinians have the support of Iran, Turkey, and a few others, but its traditional Arab partners are moving closer to Israel. In a sign of that movement, the Arab League failed to pass a resolution backed by the Palestinians that would have condemned the UAE-Israel agreement.

CNN’s Jason Hoffman, Andrew Carey, Nada Al Taher and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.

Kushner on Middle East peace deals: 'The people in the region are tired of war'


His comments came hours after a White House ceremony, dubbed the Abraham Accords, marked the first Middle East White House peace signing in more than two decades.

“I think we had a very good breakthrough. What’s happened is in the Middle East, the deals have been so well received. That’s what helped Bahrain go quickly. They saw how well the deal was received in the United Arab Emirates and throughout the Muslim world. The people in the region are tired of war,” Kushner told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room.”

“They’re tired of conflict. They want to move forward, and they see bridging this gap and getting a better understanding between countries as a way to move forward.”

Asked specially about the prospect of Saudi Arabia recognizing Israel, Kushner pointed to Trump’s relationship with the country’s leadership and touted “a lot of changes” in the last three years.

“Quite frankly, also, when we put out our vision for peace you saw the Palestinian leadership reject it before it even came out — before they knew what was in it,” he said.

“So people are getting a little tired with the tactics played by the Palestinian leaders. They want to help the Palestinian people, but they’re not going to allow them to hold back the national interest of all these different countries.”

Trump has praised Kushner for his role in securing the deal to bring the UAE and Israel together to achieve normalization, which entails the establishment of political and economic ties for the first time in both countries’ histories.

The deal had been announced by the President last month when he told reporters in the Oval Office that he had a “very special call” with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, and that they had agreed to a peace agreement.

“We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history. After decades of division and conflict we mark the dawn of a new Middle East,” Trump said earlier Tuesday. “Thanks to great courage of the leaders of these three countries, we take a major stride toward a future in which people of all faiths and backgrounds live together in peace and prosperity.”

Still, Tuesday’s signing ceremony comes against the backdrop of a still raging coronavirus pandemic as the US approaches 200,000 deaths from the outbreak. Many attendees at the White House event didn’t wear masks or practice social distancing.

Kushner said administration staffers at the ceremony were tested beforehand and maintained that people know their “risk profile” at this point in the pandemic.

“At the end of the day in America we still have to figure out how to live our lives,” he said.

“We’re not going to all lock ourselves in our home because of the pandemic. I think we know a lot more today. We know who is at risk, we know how to mitigate the risk and we’re all going to act accordingly.”

Fans set for October return to stadiums despite coronavirus case surge

Fans remain set to return to sporting venues next month despite a recent surge in coronavirus cases across the country.

That’s according to a letter penned by MP Nigel Huddleston, who works in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

In the letter, Huddleston tells former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch that fans will return to Premier League stadiums and other elite sporting venues in limited numbers from 1 October onwards.

But he warned the plans are reliant on “wider public health conditions” and the success of ongoing pilot events.

Huddleston’s letter comes after fans were barred from the proposed pilot event and League Two clash between Cambridge and Carlisle last weekend following an increase in the ‘R number’.

Fans remain set for a return to stadiums in limited numbers next month

But the MP insists further pilot events will take place ahead of the heavily-regulated return of fans next month.

“The government wants to see spectators back at sports events as soon and as safely as possible,” Huddleston wrote.

“We have made important progress in staging a series of pilot and test events across different sports with more to follow.

“The pilot programme will continue throughout September, restricted to a maximum capacity of 1,000 people.

“The success of these events will be reviewed ahead of the current date of October 1 for reopening for socially distanced spectators under covid-secure conditions more widely if public health conditions permit.

Do you plan to attend a live sporting event next month? Have your say here.

Fans were socially distanced during a pilot event at Brighton’s Amex Stadium

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“The events have been selected to test a range of different event styles across the country’s major men’s and women’s sports.

“A number of successful pilots have already been completed, including snooker at the Crucible, cricket at Edgbaston and football at Brighton and Hove Albion.

“I know how important this is for sports clubs for whom paying spectators are vital. That is why we amended guidance to provide extra clarification for organisers of non-elite sport events to help them manage and admit spectators safely, adhering to social distancing.

“As stated in my previous response, it is up to the respective governing bodies to determine what constitutes the boundary between elite and non-elite within their sports.

“In football’s case, the FA’s definition means that only leagues below National League north and south can continue with spectators.

“However, subject to the successful staging of the pilot programme and the wider public health conditions, we hope to reopen elite sports fixtures including the National League for socially distanced spectators under covid-secure conditions from October 1.

“We continue to work closely with a whole range of sports to understand the latest thinking that may allow increased numbers of spectators to return.

“This includes the creation of a new Sports Technology Innovation Working Group of sporting bodies and health experts to analyse new technologies which might support this.”

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Trump administration blocks some Xinjiang goods from China suspected of being made with slave labor


Five companies or industrial parks in Xinjiang and one company in eastern Anhui province, which make apparel, cotton, computer and hair products, have been named in the new order by United States Customs and Border Protection (US CBP).

One of Xinjiang’s “vocational skills education and training centers” is also named in the order, a name used euphemistically by Beijing to refer to the large re-education camps where inmates from Muslim minorities are allegedly detained, made to pledge loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party, and work as free or low-cost forced labor in factories and nearby facilities.

“This is not a vocational center, it is a concentration camp,” said Ken Cuccinelli, the senior official performing the duties of the deputy secretary for the Department of Homeland. “A place where religious and ethnic minorities are subject to abuse and forced to work in heinous conditions with no recourse and no freedom. This is modern day slavery.”

The agency issued “Withhold Release Orders” for all six Chinese entities, which are intended to prevent goods suspected to have been made with forced labor from entering the US. The orders allow Customs and Border Protection to detain shipments at US ports and gives companies the opportunity to export their shipments or demonstrate that the merchandise was not produced with forced labor.

The new US actions fell short of what some had expected to be a more widespread ban on imports from China, which would have targeted all cotton and tomato products exported from the Xinjiang region to the US. Cuccinelli said that stronger action was still under review by the US administration.

“Because of its unique nature applying to a region, as opposed to a company or a facility, we are giving that more legal analysis,” he said, adding that the agency wants to ensure “once we proceed that it will stick.”

Cuccinelli denied that the delay in the regional order had anything to do with concerns about hurting the US-China trade deal.

US action on Xinjiang

The US trade action is the latest in a series of steps by the Trump administration targeting Chinese authorities and businesses over allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Up to 2 million Muslim minorities in Xinjiang have been imprisoned in mass re-education centers, including huge numbers of the Uyghur people, according to the US State Department, with reports emerging from the camps of abuse, indoctrination and sterilization.

The Chinese government has described the centers as voluntary and part of a wide-reaching deradicalization campaign.

In July, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on several Xinjiang officials, including Chen Quanguo, the region’s Communist Party secretary, saying the US would “not stand idly by as the (Chinese Communist Party) carries out human rights abuses.”
One month earlier, US President Donald Trump signed the Uyghur Human Rights Act into law, condemning the Chinese Communist Party for human rights abuses in the region.

Recently, US CBP has stepped up its efforts targeting forced labor — issuing 12 orders in fiscal year 2020, including eight focused on goods from China.

The new orders targeting forced labor in China followed two years of investigations by US CBP, according to Mark Morgan, the senior official performing the duties of the commissioner at the US CBP.

“It’s been the most aggressive year in using CBP’s authorities to fight forced labor in its history that I know of,” said Cuccinelli.

US Ambassador to China stepping down as tensions with Beijing rise


Branstad is expected to leave Beijing before the November US Presidential election, the source said.

The announcement comes amid increasing tensions between the US and China on several fronts. The Chinese government announced on Friday it would be imposing unspecified restrictions on senior US diplomats and personnel inside China after Washington put in place a similar measure targeting Beijing’s diplomatic corps on September 3.
In a Twitter post early Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thanked Branstad for his service to the American people as the US Ambassador.

“President (Donald Trump) chose Ambassador Branstad because his decades-long experience dealing with China made him the best person to represent the Administration and to defend American interests and ideals in this important relationship,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo didn’t give a reason for Branstad’s departure, or any announcement about a potential successor to the important diplomatic post.

Branstad was one of then-President-elect Trump’s first ambassadorial picks in December 2016, shortly after Trump won the US Presidential election.

Trump said at the time that the then-Iowa governor was picked for his experience in public policy, trade and agriculture, as well as his “long-time relationship with (Chinese) President Xi Jinping,” whom Branstad had known since 1985 through US-China government exchanges.

During that period, the two were believed to have maintained a friendship of sorts, with Xi meeting again with Branstad during a visit to the US in 2012 while still vice-president.

Originally Branstad’s appointment was welcomed by Beijing, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang lauding him as an “old friend of the Chinese people.”

But Branstad has overseen one of the rockiest periods of US-China relations in recent history. Since his appointment, the Trump administration has placed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods as part of a long-running trade war. It has also banned Chinese technology firms such as Huawei from the country’s communications infrastructure and receiving US components, and tightened visa restrictions on Chinese state media journalists working in the US.

On September 9, an opinion piece written by Branstad, in which he accused the Chinese government of “exploiting” US openness in recent decades, was rejected for publication by Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily for being “seriously inconsistent with facts.”

“If you do wish to publish this op-ed in the People’s Daily, you should make substantive revisions based on facts in the principle of equality and mutual respect,” the state media publication said in its rejection letter.

In response, Secretary of State Pompeo accused People’s Daily of “hypocrisy,” saying that if the Chinese government was a mature power, it would “respect the right for Western diplomats to speak directly to the Chinese people.”



Premier League faces further cash crisis after Boris Johnson statement on fans

The return of football fans has been thrown into doubt after coronavirus cases soared in England – with football clubs set to continue counting the huge cost.

Clubs were due to let in a quarter of their stadium’s capacity from October 1 under plans to socially distance fans – with some having recently held trial events.

But Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday that he will “review” plans to return audiences to stadiums from that date.

Downing Street has put the plans on hold after government scientists deemed the prevalence of the virus is currently too high for supporters to return to stadiums across the country.

Mr Johnson told a No.10 press conference: “We must revise plans to pilot larger audiences in stadiums & review our intention to return audiences to stadiums from the 1st October.”

He added: “That doesn’t mean we’re going to scrap the programme entirely. It just means we are going to review and abridge it.

Boris Johnson on Wednesday during a virtual press conference at Downing Street

“Organised sport will still be able to proceed.”

It’s understood some pilots of live audiences for arts or sport will still go ahead.

Yet they will be limited to 1,000 people and will not go ahead at all if they’re in areas which had high virus rates.

It comes as Premier League chief Richard Masters declared it is “absolutely critical” that fans are allowed back inside stadiums as soon as possible.

Brighton and Hove Albion fans adhering to social distancing

The Premier League’s clubs will face up to giant costs if supporters cannot return during the 2020-21 campaign – while EFL and Non-League sides are facing the prospect of far worse.

Masters told BBC Sport: “We have to get back to fans inside stadia as quickly as possible – that’s the big thing that’s missing, economic or otherwise – we need fans back inside stadiums for all sorts of reasons and it’s the number one priority.”

Premier League chief Richard Masters

Masters insisted that the Premier League has three main objectives in 2020-21: Ensuring 380 matches finish on time this season, getting fans back into full stadia, and returning the Premier League economy to full health.

It comes with Premier League revenue down £700million for the final quarter of last season, and having been forced to pay huge rebates to television broadcasters.

“It’s not just the loss of matchday revenue,” he said. “Every Premier League match on average generates about £20m for the economy both local and national so we want to play our part in helping the economy to recover as well.

“I think perhaps there is a perception the Premier League economy can withstand just about anything, but if you do lose £700m out of a planned budget it’s going to affect things and clubs have had to make some very difficult decisions.

“That is why it is important we focus on those three key objectives and obviously everyone hopes that from next season we can return to full normality, but it’s a huge challenge going forward.

“Financial issues are very real, they’re there, economic uncertainty is in front of us, and we just have to have a clear plan and stick to it.”

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister will also “revise” plans to pilot larger audiences in arts venues like theatres later this month.

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