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Professional Sports’ Comeback Gains Momentum, But For Some Leagues Cautiously : NPR

Kevin Harvick gets out of his car in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series auto race on Sunday.

Brynn Anderson/AP

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Brynn Anderson/AP

Kevin Harvick gets out of his car in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series auto race on Sunday.

Brynn Anderson/AP

The trickle of a pro sports comeback in this country is starting to happen, following widespread shutdowns due to the coronavirus outbreak.

NASCAR returned this past weekend. Mixed Martial Arts did the same earlier this month. Now the governors of two hard hit states — California and New York — are endorsing a return to professional play.

“Pro sports,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday, “in that first week or so of June, without spectators, and modifications, and very prescriptive conditions, can begin to move forward.”

There is a definite feeling of momentum for a sports restart. Fans have been hearing about potential reopening scenarios for baseball and basketball in particular.

But with the coronavirus still spreading, is there a need for caution?

Too many cases

If you ask Emory University epidemiologist Zach Binney, the short answer is yes.

“The truth is, in the U.S. right now, we still have a high burden of cases,” says Binney, who also writes and consults about sports injuries and athlete health. “It varies from area to area, but overall, we have a lot of sick people. That’s a problem [in professional sports], because it increases the likelihood of somebody in a league getting infected and then spreading it around the league, where you may be in sustained close contact with a lot of other folks. Teammates and people on other teams if you play in a contact sport.”

Another significant factor is testing for the coronavirus. There still isn’t enough in the U.S. and Binney says there needs to be more so sports leagues can, in good conscience, do the kind of rigorous screening they need to.

“If the general population and even first responders and health care workers don’t have the tests they need,” Binney says, “then it would raise severe ethical questions for a pro sports team to be testing their folks on a daily basis.”

NASCAR, for one is getting around this by not testing.

The return to stock car racing, at the famed Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, was notable for its numerous safety precautions. There were no fans in the grandstand and the number of support people at the track was limited.

But there wasn’t on-site testing. NASCAR officials said they were being sensitive to the country’s test shortage.

“These tests remain in short supply,” John Bobo, NASCAR’s vice president of racing operations, said late last month. “Getting results can take two to three days. Really those tests should be targeted for people most in need.”

Still, the lack of testing might’ve increased the risk for those at the race.

Violations and a promise to be better

At the UFC event in Jacksonville, Fla., earlier this month, there also were rigorous health and safety measures in place. Including testing. But there were violations of those measures, even after a fighter and two of his cornermen tested positive for the coronavirus and were removed from the event. Rules required social distancing, no touching or face-to-face post-match interviews. But after fighter Justin Gaethje slugged his way to victory, TV interviewer Joe Rogan stood next to him and shook one of Gaethje’s blood hands, saying “I don’t care.”

Asked about the violations, UFC president Dana White promised to “be better.”

Other leagues, plotting their returns, hope to avoid problems like these from the outset.

Recognizing an uncertain path

Last week, baseball commissioner Rob Manfred described MLB’s enormous set of proposed safety measures.

“They’re extraordinarily detailed,” Manfred told CNN. “They cover everything from how the players will travel, [flying] private charters, how those charters have to be cleaned; who has access to the ballpark, strict limits on number of people; tiering of employees so even those people who are in the ballpark will be isolated in general from the players. So we’ll hope that we’ll be able to convince them that it’s safe.”

It’s a daunting task to get this all ready for a projected June spring training and July start to the regular season. But epidemiologist Zach Binney thinks baseball, the NBA, pro hockey and soccer could return this summer. With restart plans that acknowledge the virus’s uncertain path.

“As long as you recognize that any plans that you’re making are provisional and you’re not completely locking yourself in and saying this is going to happen,” Binney says, “then I have absolutely no problem with anybody doing any planning.”

Money is part of the planning too.

Athletes in all sports face pay cuts in these interrupted seasons. Baseball players know it’s a bad look to squabble over finances right now with so many people hurting economically. But many players say owner’s proposed cuts are too much, especially if the athletes potentially are putting their health on the line by playing during a pandemic. Tampa Bay pitcher and 2018 Cy Young winner Blake Snell gave voice to player concerns on his Twitch Channel.

“I’m sorry if you guys think differently,” Snell said, “but the risk is way the hell higher and the amount of money I make is way lower, why would I think about doing that? So, in my head, I’m preparing for next season.”

To reopen or not

Leagues are not saying that, at this point, but most do face a tough choice in the coming weeks.

To reopen, or not.

Rob Manfred says if this season is permanently scuttled, baseball’s losses would approach $4 billion.

The financial cost across sports would be enormous. There’s an emotional cost too for fans.

“Sports for me are very much how I tell time,” says Sara Ziegler, sports editor for FiveThirtyEight. And right now is the time when pro hockey and basketball playoffs normally would be at full throttle.

“One of the sad things [would be] not seeing conclusions of some special seasons,” Ziegler says. “[NBA star] Lebron [James] making another run. Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and the [Milwaukee] Bucks having such a great year. It won’t look like that in the record books if we can’t finish it out.”

Every plan to restart play ultimately is at the mercy of the coronavirus and the country’s ability to bring it under control.

States are reopening and governors are speaking hopefully about pro sports coming back to keep us entertained.

But most sports leagues still have to weigh the possible consequences of a comeback so many want, but that can’t be too soon.

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News RT

Global energy demand will collapse again if coronavirus makes a comeback, IEA warns — RT Business News

A Second wave of Covid-19 cases is a major risk for the energy market, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned. The agency raised its outlook for oil demand, which will still see a record drop this year.

In its key monthly report published on Thursday, the Paris-based energy watchdog said it expects global oil demand to fall by 8.6 million barrels per day (bpd). That’s around 700,000 bpd more than the IEA said in its previous report.

“Major uncertainties remain. The biggest is whether governments can ease the lockdown measures without sparking a resurgence of Covid-19 outbreaks,” the report said.

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The IEA said the easing of coronavirus-related restrictions was helping demand in energy markets. It expects that the number of people living under some form of confinement measures would stand at 2.8 billion by the end of May – down from a recent peak of 4 billion.

It added that whether major oil producers stick to their commitments under OPEC+ agreement will also have a major impact on the future of the energy market. The output caps agreed by the bloc, alongside production cuts made by nations beyond it, will wipe out 12 million bpd from the oil market in May, according the IEA estimates. The agency added that the US would be the key single driver of supply reductions, cutting daily output by 2.8 million barrels compared with a year ago.

Read more

Egyptian billionaire: Buffett is wrong, oil will hit $100 within 18 months

As the year is still set to be the worst on record for oil demand, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol still doubts that the announced output cuts by major Gulf Arab producers would be enough to balance global markets as coronavirus lockdowns severely crippled demand.

“I am happy to see Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Kuwait – on top of their existing commitments – are now going to make further cuts. I do welcome them, whether or not this is enough, I do not think so,” he told reporters as cited by Reuters.

The closely-watched IEA outlook and a reported drop in US crude stocks boosted oil prices on Thursday. Futures for international benchmark Brent crude were up around three percent, trading slightly above $30 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) jumped more than two and a half percent to around $26 per barrel.

The IEA expectations are more optimistic that those of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) presented on Wednesday. Unlike fellow analysts at the IEA, OPEC worsened its forecast for this year. According to OPEC predictions, daily global oil demand is set to shrink by 9.07 million barrels in 2020, a deeper contraction than its previous forecast of 6.85 million barrels.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

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News Sputnik

Creation of Israel Deprived us of Property But Didn’t Kill Hope for Comeback, Says Oldest Gazan Refugee

While for Israelis 14 May will always be remembered as a day when a new nation was born, for Palestinians, it is remembered as a catastrophe, and is associated with expulsions, dire economic conditions, humiliation and the loss of property, the total cost of which stands at more than $50 billion.

Friday will mark 72 years since the Israeli declaration of independence in 1948. Palestinians call this day the Nakba, which translates as ‘catastrophe’ in English, a day when they remember the displacement of Palestinians that accompanied the establishment of Israel’s statehood. 

The war that followed shortly after the announcement led to an exodus of many Palestinians, whose population back then stood at approximately one and a half million people. Many fled fearing the battles and potential Jewish atrocities; others were allegedly expelled from their lands as they presented a threat to the new Jewish owners.

Although the number of Palestinian refugees is widely disputed, at least 600 thousand people are estimated to have been uprooted from their homes due to the raging war. More than one fifth of them left the newly established state altogether, immigrating to such countries as Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Iraq.

Fleeing for Their Lives

More than 200 thousand fled the conflict internally, moving with their families to the West Bank. Others — between 160 thousand and 190 thousand — opted for the Gaza Strip. Israel didn’t establish a presence in these regions until 1967.

Suleiman Abu Namous, a 110-year-old Palestinian from the Jabalia refugee camp, considered one of the biggest in the Strip, was one of them.

Born in 1910 in the southern city of Beer Sheba, where his family owned 25 dunams (more than six acres) of agricultural land, Abu Namous decided to flee as Israeli forces launched an offensive on the city in a bid to open a corridor from the Negev desert to the rest of Israel and in an attempt to disconnect the Egyptian army from its eastern wing.

“Several people from my family were killed as Israeli forces bombarded the town so my family decided to flee. We were travelling for four days on donkeys and camels until we arrived at Beit Hanoun in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, where we lived for three weeks until we moved to the Jabalia camp,” he recalls.

In Jabalia, he has been reliant on donations and the help of UNRWA, a United Nations agency that deals with Palestinian refugees and that provides them with housing and supplies three times a year.

Remembering Better Times

Now living in severe poverty, Abu Namous remembers the days when life was abundant and talks about that abundance with pain.

“My family had lands and a big farm that was prepared for harvesting when the battles erupted. Fleeing and leaving everything behind caused big financial losses from which we have never been able to recover.”

Abu Namous is not alone. According to estimates, the value of Palestinian property lost in 1947 to 1948 stands at $57.8 billion (in 1998 dollars). To date, Israel hasn’t compensated Palestinians for their loss.

“In 1975, during one of the times that I visited Beersheba while working in Israel, I was curious to see what was left of my property. Nothing resembled what we had left behind. Israelis build a kibbutz on my land and Palestinian farmers from my family were replaced with Jewish ones,” Abu Namous said.

No Going Back?

After the outbreak of the First Intifada in 1987, Israel tightened its control over territories with large Palestinian populations, revoking general exit orders that would permit Palestinians to move freely between Gaza, Israel and the West Bank and replacing them with individual ones that required paperwork and consumed time.

The second wave of violence that took place during the Popular Uprising of the 2000s exacerbated tensions even further, whereas Hamas’ seizure of power in Gaza and Israel’s subsequent blockade of the Strip made Abu Namous realise that going back to his land would remain a distant dream.

But he is not ready to give up. “I teach the younger generation that they must do everything in their power to restore what once belonged to us. It might take a lot of years but I am hopeful that the day will come.”

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News RT

Mike Tyson teases comeback as former champ demonstrates fearsome SPEED and POWER in Instagram montage (VIDEO) — RT Sport News

Former heavyweight champion of the world Mike Tyson has reminded fans why he was once the “Baddest Man on the Planet” as he teased a possible comeback by snarling and hammering at pads in a powerful Instagram montage.

The 53-year-old has been out of the ring for 15 years but has claimed he feels “unstoppable” after reportedly receiving a $1 million offer to make his comeback in Australia.

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Mike Tyson ‘could still kill someone with single punch,’ new trainer says as former champ looks in ferocious shape before comeback

Now the former champion has posted a video on his Instagram in which he rushes at new trainer Rafael Cordeiro, smashing the pads while weaving in and out as part of a preview that is certain to remind fans of the incredible power with which he recorded 44 knockouts during a 50-fight career.

“Anything is possible when you are smart about it,” wrote Tyson, again demonstrating how seriously he is taking his potential return. “Train smart.”

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Iron sharpening ‘Iron’: 53-year-old Mike Tyson shows off blistering SPEED and POWER ahead of rumored return to the ring (VIDEO)

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Dreaded comeback? Wuhan reports 5 new coronavirus cases, its highest surge in 2 MONTHS — RT World News

Original hotspot of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Chinese city of Wuhan, has reported five new indigenous cases as the number of infections across mainland China has slightly grown as well.

China reported seventeen new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday – three more than the day before. Of the newly-detected cases, seven are linked to overseas travel, and 10 are believed to be the result of local transmission.

In addition to five indigenous cases in Wuhan, three other came from Jilin province, one from Liaoning, northeastern Chinese province bordering North Korea, and another one from Heilongjiang province, bordering Russia.

While the figure might not sound that alarming, considering that China was adding thousands of cases mid-February, when it was going through the peak of the pandemic, it still marks the nation’s biggest jump in confirmed infections since April, 28.

The latest data from Wuhan, which just late April celebrated the recovery of the last patient with severe Covid-19, can be seen as a worrying sign as well since it the most significant increase in cases for the pandemic ground zero in two months.

Last time Wuhan reported more than five new cases in a single day (8) was on March 11.

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Making a comeback: Wuhan aglow as outbound travel ban lifted & residents flock to train stations (PHOTO, VIDEO)

However, it was not before the beginning of April when the last remaining travel restrictions imposed on the city, as it was fighting the outbreak, were lifted after 76 days of lockdown. Around the same time, Wuhan for the first time reported zero daily deaths from the disease.

Considering the steady drop in the number of new coronavirus patients, Beijing has gradually relaxed coronavirus measures across the country, on Thursday declaring the whole territory of China as ‘low risk” in terms of coronavirus.

Apart from Hubei, there has been a surge in infections in Shulan, in the northeastern Jilin province, where all of the new cases are believed to be traced to a single woman. Concerned about the possible second wave of the desease, local authorities raised the risk level from low to medium last week.

From the onset of the pandemic, China has reported a total of 82,918 cases, including 4,633 fatalities.

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Daily Beast News

ISIS Has Made a Terrifying Comeback in COVID-Plagued Iraq

GAZIANTEP, Turkey—Iraq is witnessing the biggest resurgence by the so-called Islamic State since the government officially declared victory over the organization on Dec. 7, 2017.

Beginning over the weekend, ISIS launched coordinated attacks on pro-Iranian militiamen in nearly two dozen areas across both the Sunni north and Shi’a south of the country. According to statistics cited by Iraqi government and pro-Iranian sources, 30 members of the Iraq security forces were killed and several dozen wounded. The real numbers are likely higher. 

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