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Court Rules Discrimination “Necessary” for Female Runners With High Testosterone

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  • The Court for Arbitration for Sport has ruled that it is “necessary” to discriminate against female track athletes with naturally high levels of testosterone.
  • The decision upholds a rule imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations that requires athletes classified with differences of sexual development (DSD) to take hormone suppressants in order to compete in certain races.
  • The case was brought forward by Caster Semenya, a female runner with higher testosterone levels, who has been battling the IAAF for the last decade.

IAAF Regulation Upheld

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled Wednesday that discrimination against female track athletes with naturally high levels of testosterone is necessary to protect other female competitors.

The decision from the highest court in international sports upholds a regulation put in place by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the governing body for track and field. The IAFF regulation requires female runners who have certain levels of testosterone to use hormone suppressants to lower their levels.

Athletes that do not comply will not be allowed to compete in certain races at major competitions like the Olympics.

The case was brought to the CAS by South African track star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya, who asked the court to overturn the rule. Semenya is a woman who has naturally occurring high levels of testosterone. The new IAAF regulations, first introduced in 2018, would force her to suppress her hormones in order to compete in her main event, the 800 meter.

The IAAF has said that the regulations were necessary to even the playing field, arguing that athletes classified with differences of sexual development (DSD) have an unfair advantage.

The organization says this is particularly true for women who have high testosterone levels who run in women’s events ranging from the 400 meter to the mile, because those races can be won by a hundredth of a second.

IAAF claims this is because women with high levels of male hormones have more muscle mass, strength, and higher oxygen-carrying capacity.

Court Decision

According to an official a summary of the case, CAS found that the IAAF regulations are “discriminatory,” but still ruled in favor of them in a 2-to-1 decision.

“Such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the legitimate objective of ensuring fair competition in female athletics in certain events and protecting the ‘protected class’ of female athletes in those events,” the summary said.

However, the court did express “serious concerns” about the “practical application” of testosterone limits, such as athletes struggling to maintain the required hormone levels even with the suppressants, and the fact that it may be impossible for some athletes to comply because of the side effects caused by the suppressants.

CAS was also concerned about a lack of evidence that suggests DSD runners really have a significant advantage at longer-distance races like the 1,500 meter and the mile. Regarding this, the court asked IAAF to consider not applying the rule to those races until they have more evidence.

Semenya’s Record

While the court’s decision certainly comes as a blow to Semenya, this isn’t the first time that she has had to deal with this kind of problem.

In 2009, Semenya won a gold medal in the 800-meter race at the world track and field championships when she was only 18. However, her win raised questions about her gender, which prompted IAAF to subject her to a gender verification process.

This resulted in IAAF deeming her ineligible to compete for 11 months. IAAF’s handling of the situation was widely criticized, with South African officials and others saying that the tests were racist and sexist.

Semenya, for her part, has always said that she is a woman and that she should be able to compete in women’s events without suppressants or body-altering measures.

“God made me the way I am, and I accept myself,” she said in a magazine interview in 2009. “I am who I am, and I’m proud of myself.”

In 2011, IAAF adopted new regulations regarding eligibility for DSD women. This move did not seem to impact Semenya, who went on to win her first Olympic gold in 2012.

However, the rule did disproportionally effect other women, promoting CAS to overrule the regulation in 2015 when female Indian sprinter Dutee Chand brought it to the court after she had been indefinitely banned from competing.

Following that decision, Semenya went on to win gold again at the 2016 Olympics. However, her win angered IAAF president, Sebastian Coe, who said he would challenge CAS’s ruling. That ultimately led to IAAF introducing the new, more restrictive regulations in 2018.

In a statement released news outlets Wednesday, Semenya expressed her dismay for the court’s decision, but said the ruling would not hold her back.

“I know that the IAAF’s regulations have always targeted me specifically. For a decade the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger,” she wrote. “The decision of the CAS will not hold me back. I will once again rise above and continue to inspire young women and athletes in South Africa and around the world.”

Support for Semenya

Other’s have echoed Semenya’s sentiments and expressed support for her.

The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) criticized the decision in a statement to the Associated Press, saying “We maintain that the rules are ill-thought and will be a source of distress for the targeted female athletes.”

The official twitter account for the Government of South Africa quoted Tokozile Xasa, the former South African Minister for Tourism, in a tweet showing support for Semenya.

Additionally, the World Medical Association called on doctors all over the world to not implement the rule.

“We have strong reservations about the ethical validity of these regulations,” the Association’s president, Dr. Leonid Eidelman said in a statement. “They are based on weak evidence from a single study, which is currently being widely debated by the scientific community.”

U.S. tennis star Billie Jean King also expressed dissappointment with the court’s decision and showed her support for Semenya on twitter, writing “I stand with you.”

Support for IAAF

However, not everyone is upset about the decision.

The IAAF celebrated their win, writing in a statement, “The IAAF is grateful to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for its detailed and prompt response to the challenge made to its Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification for athletes with differences of sex development.”

The decision was also supported by some female runners, like Paula Radcliffe, the world-record holder in the women’s marathon, who reportedly said that she respected CAS’s decision “for ruling that women’s sport needs rules to protect it.”

What Comes Next?

Semenya will now have the opportunity to appeal the case to Switzerland’s Supreme Court, which has jurisdiction because CAS is based in Switzerland. Athletics South Africa (ASA) has already said they are going to look into this option, comparing the decision to Apartheid.

“South Africa knows discrimination better and CAS has seen it fit to open the wounds of Apartheid, a system of discrimination condemned by the whole world as a crime against humanity,” ASA said in a statement. “For CAS does not only condone discrimination, but also goes to lengths to justify it.”

However, the Supreme Court often does not overturn decisions from CAS. As of now, if Semenya wants to defend her title at the world championships in September, she and others with DSD will have to take hormone suppressants.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Associated Press) (The Guardian)

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Egypt Seizes Ship That Blocked Suez Canal Until Owners Pay Nearly $1 Billion

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  • Egyptian authorities seized the Ever Given, a mega-ship that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week last month, after a judge ruled Wednesday that the owners must pay $900 million in damages.
  • The ship was seized just as it was deemed fit to return to sea after undergoing repairs in the Great Bitter Lake, which sits in the middle of the Suez Canal.
  • The vessel’s owners said little about the verdict, but insurance companies covering the ship pushed back against the $900 million price tag, saying it’s far too much for any damage the ship actually caused.

Ever Given Still in Egypt

An Egyptian court blocked the mega-ship known as the Ever Given from leaving the country Wednesday morning unless its owner pays nearly $1 billion in compensation for damages it caused after blocking the Suez Canal for nearly a week last month.

The Ever Given’s ordeal started when it slammed into the side of the canal and became lodged, which caused billions of dollars worth of goods to be held up on both sides of the canal while crews worked round the clock to free the vessel. An Egyptian judge found that the Ever Given becoming stuck caused not only physical damage to the canal that needed to be paid for but also “reputational” damage to Egypt and the Suez Canal Authority.

The ship’s Japanese owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha, will need to pay $900 million to free the ship and the cargo it held, both of which were seized by authorities after the ship was transported to the Great Bitter Lake in the middle of the canal to undergo now-finished repairs. Shoei Kisen Kaisha doesn’t seem to want to fight the judgment in court just yet. It released a short statement after the ruling, saying that lawyers and insurance companies were working on the claims but refused to comment further.

Pushing Back Against The Claim

While Shoei Kisen Kaisha put in a claim with insurers, those insurance companies aren’t keen on just paying the bill. One of the ship’s insurers, UKP&I, challenged the basis of the $900 million claim, writing in a press release, “The [Suez Canal Authority] has not provided a detailed justification for this extraordinarily large claim, which includes a $300 million claim for a ‘salvage bonus’ and a $300 million claim for ‘loss of reputation.’”

“The grounding resulted in no pollution and no reported injuries. The vessel was re-floated after six days and the Suez Canal promptly resumed their commercial operations.”

It went on to add that the $900 million verdict doesn’t even include payments to the crews that worked to free the ship, meaning that the total price tag of the event could likely be far more for Shoei Kisen Kaisha and the multiple insurance companies it works with.

See what others are saying: (Financial Times) (CNN) (The Telegraph)

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Treated Radioactive Water From Japanese Nuclear Power Plant Will Be Released Into Ocean

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  • The Japanese government confirmed Tuesday that it will officially move forward with plans to dump millions of gallons of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.
  • The government spent a decade decontaminating the water, only leaving a naturally occurring isotope in it that scientists recognize as safe for people and the environment.
  • Despite the safety claims, protesters took to the streets in Tokyo to show disapproval of the decision. Local business owners, in particular, have expressed fears that more municipalities worldwide could ban Fukushima products, including fish, because of distrust in the water.
  • Meanwhile, officials have insisted that the dump is necessary as the water takes up a massive amount of space, which is needed to store highly radioactive fuel rods from the remaining cores at the now-defunct nuclear facility.

Editor’s Note: The Japanese government has asked Western outlets to adhere to Japanese naming conventions. To that end, Japanese names will be written as Family Name followed by Given Name.

Radioactive or Bad Publicity?

After years of discussions and debate, the Japanese government announced Tuesday that it will dump radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.

Government officials consider the move necessary, but it’s facing backlash from local businesses, particularly fisheries, over potential consequences it could have. Many are especially concerned that the decision will create bad press for the region as headlines about it emerge. For instance, a headline from the Guardian on the issue reads, “Japan announces it will dump contaminated water into sea.”

While the water is contaminated and radioactive, it’s not nearly what the headlines make it out to be. The government has spent the last decade decontaminating it, and now it only contains a trace amount of the isotope tritium. That isotope is common in nature and is already found in trace amounts in groundwater throughout the world. Its radiation is so weak that it can’t pierce human skin, meaning one could only possibly get sick by ingesting more than that has ever been recorded.

According to the government, the decontaminated water at Fukushima will be diluted to 1/7 of the WHO’s acceptable radiation levels for drinking water before being released into the ocean over two years.

Something Had To Eventually Be Done

Over the last decade, Japan has proposed this plan and other similar ones, such as evaporating the water, which the International Atomic Energy Agency said last year met global standards.

The water has been sitting in containers for years, so why is there a push to remove it now? Space and leakage seem to be the primary reasons.

The water containers are slowly being filled by groundwater, and the government expects to run out of space relatively soon. Space is sorely needed, as Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide has pointed out in the past that the government wants to use the space to store damaged radioactive fuel rods that still need to be extracted from the plant. Unlike the water, those rods are dangerously radioactive and need proper storage.

Regardless, Suga reportedly recognizes that removing the water is going to end up as a lose-lose situation.

“It is inevitable that there would be reputational damage regardless of how the water will be disposed of, whether into the sea or into the air,” he said at a press conference last week. As expected, the government’s decision did trigger backlash, prompting many demonstrators to take to the streets of Tokyo Tuesday in protest.

To this day, eleven countries and regions still ban many products from the Fukushima prefecture despite massive clean-up efforts that have seen people returning to the area to live.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (KBS World) (NBC News)

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Greta Thunberg To Skip U.N. Climate Change Conference, Citing Vaccine Inequality

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  • Young environmental activist Greta Thunberg will not attend the U.N.’s climate change conference set to take place in Glasgow, Scotland this November.
  • “Inequality and climate injustice is already the heart of the climate crisis. If people can’t be vaccinated and travel to be represented equally that’s undemocratic and would worsen the problem,” the 18-year-old tweeted Friday, adding, “Vaccine nationalism won’t solve the pandemic. Global problems need global solutions.”
  • Since rollouts began late last year, 40% of vaccines have been administered in wealthy and Western countries, according to The Washington Post.
  • Scientists have warned that the longer the virus continues to circulate widely, the more chances it will have to change and potentially develop vaccine resistance.

Thunberg Points To Vaccine Inequality

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has said she is skipping the UN’s climate change conference.

The COP26 summit is set to take place in Glasgow, Scotland in November, but 18-year-old Thunberg told BBC she won’t attend because she’s concerned about the impact COVID-19 will have on attendance.

In a Twitter thread Friday, she responded to a headline about her plans to miss the summit.

“Of course I would love to attend…But not unless everyone can take part on the same terms. Right now many countries are vaccinating healthy young people, often at the expense of risk groups and front line workers (mainly from global south, as usual…),” she wrote.

“Inequality and climate injustice is already the heart of the climate crisis. If people can’t be vaccinated and travel to be represented equally that’s undemocratic and would worsen the problem.”

“Vaccine nationalism won’t solve the pandemic. Global problems need global solutions,” the teen continued.

Thunberg went on to say that if the summit is delayed, it doesn’t mean urgent action should too.

“We don’t have to wait for conferences nor anyone or anything else to dramatically start reducing our emissions. Solidarity and action can start today,” she added before noting that digital alternatives for the conference would also be insufficient.

“High speed internet connection and access to computers is extremely unequal in the world. In that case we would lack representation from those whose voices need to be heard the most when it comes to the climate crisis,” she wrote.

Data on Global Vaccine Distribution Efforts

According to The Washington Post, nearly 20% of people in the United States are now vaccinated, but many other countries are unlikely to hit that same metric by the end of the year, even with international assistance through the Covax program.

Current projections predict it could be years before developing countries distribute enough doses to come close to herd immunity, which scientists say requires inoculating around 70-80% of a population.

Since rollouts began late last year, enough shots have been distributed to fully vaccinate about 5% of the world’s population, but The Post reported that the vast majority have been administered in wealthy and Western countries.

Around 40% of vaccines have been given in 27 wealthy nations that include only 11% of the world’s population, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

That’s pretty concerning because scientists also warn that the longer the virus continues to circulate widely, the more chances it will have to change and potentially develop vaccine resistance.

Thunberg’s comments are a blow for U.K. organizers, who have already postponed the conference once from last November because of the pandemic. Even now, there has been speculation that it could be delayed again this year.

Thunberg would not play a formal role at the conference but her decision not to attend is a significant symbolic moment.

At COP25, the young climate change activist gave a headline speech and she typically attends major climate events of this nature. On top of that, reports say this summit was slated to be one of the most consequential climate conferences since the 2015 Paris accord.

On the agenda for this year’s conference discussions were country-level plans for cutting carbon emissions, along with progress on the Paris agreement and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

See what others are saying: (Insider) (CNBC) (The Washington Post)

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