Nigerian Powerlifter ‘devastated and broken’ after positive test

Nigeria’s Paralympic powerlifting champion Esther Oyema has told the BBC she is “hurt” after receiving a four-year ban for an anti-doping violation.

Oyema, 38, was last week given the ban by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) after returning an adverse analytical finding for the banned substance 19-norandrosterone.

The substance was found in a urine sample provided on 28 January 2019 after Oyema competed at the Lagos 2019 International Para Powerlifting Competition in Nigeria.

“It’s like I’m in a dream – I am devastated and broken,” Oyema told BBC Sport Africa.

“I feel very sad. I have always worked with passion. I am hurt.”

Esther Oyema
Oyema is a multiple champion across Olympic, Commonwealth and African events

19-norandrosterone is included on the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) 2019 Prohibited List under the class S1.1B Endogenous Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS) and their metabolites and isomers.

The IPC’s statement confirming the finding ruled that Oyema will be ineligible for competition for four years from 3 May 2019 to 2 May 2023.

She has also been stripped of the gold medal which she won in the women’s up to 55kg competition in Lagos, together with any points and prizes.

She will not be able to compete at the Paralympic games in Tokyo next year, where she was looking to add to the gold and silver medals she won at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games respectively.

“It hurts that I can’t compete in Tokyo. This is my passion,” Oyema said.

“I have been tested severally in international competitions and I have never tested positive.”

“I have always stayed clean. My teammates can testify to the fact that I have always been an advocate for competing clean.”

Oyema said her first response on being informed of the positive test was that it was “not possible.”

“I am a healthy athlete. I don’t do drugs,” she said.

After being informed of her positive test, Onyema said the case lingered, as she had no word from the IPC. But in early May 2020, she received a letter from the IPC stating that she failed to respond to their initial letter and thus incurred a ban.

“Two weeks ago, I received a letter from the International Olympic Committee. The letter stated that they had no response to their previous letter from the Nigerian Olympic committee or me and as a result will be imposing a ban on me.

“I told the IPC that I did not receive the first letter requesting for an interrogation and neither did the Nigerian Olympic Committee.

“I was told I had an option to appeal but I am surprised to now see the Paralympic Committee announcing that I have been banned.”

The IPC said it remains committed to a doping-free sporting environment at all levels as a signatory of the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC).

Twitter fact-checks Trump as US president cries vote meddling

Twitter has, for the first time, prompted readers to check the facts in tweets sent by US President Donald Trump, warning that his claims about mail-in ballots were false and had been debunked by fact -checkers.

The move marked a dramatic shift for the social network, Trump’s primary tool for getting an unfiltered version of his message out to his political base, after years of permissive policies around content on its platform.

The company has been tightening those policies in recent years amid criticism that its hands-off approach had allowed abuse, fake accounts and misinformation to thrive.

Trump lashed out at the company in response, accusing it – in a tweet – of interfering in the 2020 presidential election.

“Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” he said.

Trump, who has more than 80 million followers on Twitter, claimed in tweets earlier in the day that mail-in ballots would be “substantially fraudulent” and result in a “rigged election”. He also singled out the governor of California over the issue, although the state is not the only one to use mail-in ballots.

Hours later, Twitter posted a blue exclamation mark alert underneath those tweets, prompting readers to “get the facts about mail-in ballots” and directing them to a page with information aggregated by Twitter staffers about the claims.

A headline at the top of the page stated “Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud,” and was followed by a “what you need to know” section addressing three specific claims made in the tweets.

Trump posted the same text about mail-in ballots on his official Facebook page, where the post picked up 170,000 reactions and was shared 17,000 times.

Facebook’s policy is to remove content that misrepresents methods of voting or voter registration, but in this case, it left the post untouched.

“We believe that people should be able to have a robust debate about the electoral process, which is why we have crafted our policies to focus on misrepresentations that would interfere with the vote,” a Facebook spokesman told Reuters.

Misleading information

Twitter said the application of a fact-checking label to the president’s tweets was an extension of its new “misleading information” policy, introduced earlier this month to combat misinformation about the coronavirus.

It said at the time that it would later extend the COVID-19 policy to other types of disputed or misleading information.

Twitter, so far, has used its policies sparingly against important political figures, but has deleted tweets by the presidents of Brazil and Venezuela which it said violated its coronavirus rules.

The company’s alert on Trump’s mail-in ballot tweets came hours after it declined to take action on separate tweets Trump had sent about the 2001 death of a former congressional staff member for Joe Scarborough, after her widower asked the company to remove them for furthering false claims.

A Twitter spokesman told Reuters Trump’s mail-in ballot tweets were related to election integrity and therefore, subject to different treatment under its policies.

Asked about the Scarborough tweets, a Twitter spokeswoman said the company was expanding its products and policies to address such tweets more effectively in the future. She did not elaborate.


Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu Jamal

The Most Revolutionary Act

Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu Jamal

Directed by Stephen Vittoria (2012)

Film Review

This is a moving and beautifully made film about the journalistic career of Mumia Abu-Jamal, both before and after his 1981 incarceration. The film is narrated by a score of famous Black intellectuals, historians, writers, teachers, journalists, and activists. Prior to his arrest for the murder of Philadelphia cop Daniel Faulkner in 1981,* Mumia was a radio journalist for the NPR station at Temple University in Philadelphia. His interviews and news features were syndicated throughout the Delaware Valley. At the time of his arrest he was president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists.

Thanks to a trial plagued with legal irregularities, he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

In 1992, after ten years on death row, a Pacifica** journalist organized for him to do regular Live from Death Row commentaries mainly focused…

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The end of plastic? New plant-based bottles will degrade in a year

The Most Revolutionary Act

A worker sorts through plastic bottles at the recycling plant near Bangkok in Thailand.
A mound of plastic bottles at a recycling plant near Bangkok in Thailand. Around 300 million tonnes of plastic is made every year and most of it is not recycled. Photograph: Diego Azubel/EPA

Carlsberg and Coca-Cola back pioneering project to make ‘all-plant’ drinks bottles

Beer and soft drinks could soon be sipped from “all-plant” bottles under new plans to turn sustainably grown crops into plastic in partnership with major beverage makers.

A biochemicals company in the Netherlands hopes to kickstart investment in a pioneering project that hopes to make plastics from plant sugars rather than fossil fuels […]


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California May Soon Mandate Uber & Lyft Shift To Electric Vehicles

The Most Revolutionary Act

Uber Lyft

California wants more EVs for Uber and Lyft, and may have a plan to make that happen. People who drive for Uber and Lyft often heavily depend on that income, whether it is secondary or primary. The demand for these services has been much lower lately due to the current pandemic, which is hurting them.

For people like me, without a car, I used Uber often until the pandemic struck and I stayed home and started using Instacart to have my groceries delivered. I chose this method because just like with Uber and Lyft, these drivers depend on their tips and income.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, though, California believes now is the time for Uber and Lyft to get their act together environmentally. The state is planning to mandate a phased shift to electric vehicles for transportation network companies. In a public workshop held last week (via…

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Qatar makes COVID-19 app mandatory, experts question efficiency

Qatar is turning to technology to help contain the coronavirus.

Although the country has only seen 23 confirmed deaths to date, its infection rate remains stubbornly high, with more than 40,000 people infected amid a population of roughly 2.8 million.

The new Ehteraz app is seen by government officials as the latest salvo in its attempts to curb the transmission of the virus.

Starting late last week, citizens and residents have been required to have the Ehteraz contact-tracing app installed on mobile devices when leaving their homes, allowing the government to track if the user has been in touch with an infected person.

Not having the app installed could lead to a maximum fine of $55,000 or three years in prison.

But the announcement, days before the Eid al-Fitr holiday, led users to raise privacy concerns as the app requires access to files on the phone and permanent use of its GPS and Bluetooth for location tracking.

In response, a government spokesperson told Al Jazeera that user data would be safe and accessible only to health professionals.

The government has asserted that other agencies, such as law enforcement, cannot access personal data on the app, and any data collected would be deleted after two months.

“We confirm that all user data on Ehteraz app is completely confidential and is only accessible to relevant, specialised teams when necessary,” Qatar’s Director of the Public Health Department Dr Mohamed bin Hamad Al Thani said.

Amnesty International reported on Tuesday that they uncovered security vulnerabilities in the Ehteraz app, which have since been fixed after the rights group alerted the Qatari authorities.

Despite these assurances, the World Health Organization (WHO) and several independent studies have called the use of apps into doubt, with the WHO saying there is “only anecdotal evidence” they are effective, adding they should not replace manual contact tracing.

MIT Technology Review’s Tate Ryan-Mosley, who has created a database of government-backed COVID-19 apps, told Al Jazeera the idea of contact tracing is old, but that digital tracing, which started to gain traction during the Ebola outbreak, has not proven to be effective yet.

“What we’re seeing now is a type of tech solutionism, meaning that these new technologies are seen as a panacea to all issues,” Ryan-Mosley told Al Jazeera.

Another reason privacy experts call such apps into question is because they say the technology used is simply not that effective.

“These and other technologies like Bluetooth can be combined for better accuracy, but there’s no guarantee that a given phone can be located with six-foot precision at a given time,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), one of the world’s leading digital rights and privacy organisations, told Al Jazeera.

Even the creator of Bluetooth, the technology considered most useful for such apps, said recently that there are several downsides to using the technology, calling it “not accurate” enough.

Sensitive data

However, the government of Qatar has told local media: “The application enables the competent authorities to track the areas where this person was present since downloading the application until the moment of infection and thus all people or a large percentage of the people who mix with them can be known as long they are using the same application.”

Eva Blum-Dumontet, senior researcher at privacy organisation Privacy International, questioned why Ehteraz needs a phone number and personal identification number to work, while others countries put out apps that do not need that type of personal information.

“Any app that requires a personal ID number, especially when it is stored in a centralised database, is at risk of outside people getting access to these databases,” Blum-Dumontet said, also referring to Singapore’s app, which uses a similar database system containing contact information.

“ID numbers are often almost like biometric data, and you can’t change them easily. So if it’s out there after a leak or a hack, for example, consequences are a lot bigger,” she added.

A better way to do this, the EFF and others say, is using so-called “decentralised anonymised systems”, which collect the least amount of personal information, that is then only stored on the device and not in a central database.

MIT’s Ryan-Mosley added that making any app mandatory might not actually work.

“There’s research done that if a government makes something compulsory, like an app, for instance, the likelihood of people putting their trust in it is less,” she said, adding: “If people don’t trust them, they are going to be looking for workarounds, not using these apps in good faith.”

However, Qatari officials maintain that there is no reason for the public to distrust the app.

“Ehteraz will never undermine the privacy of the users, and the stored information will not be kept beyond two months before being deleted forever,” Dr Mohammed bin Hamad Al Thani said.