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Westlake Legal Group > Constitutional Law

Doping charge angers Olympic curlers, but they admit there could be benefits

Westlake Legal Group doping-charge-angers-olympic-curlers-but-they-admit-there-could-be-benefits Doping charge angers Olympic curlers, but they admit there could be benefits
Westlake Legal Group AFP_10E390 Doping charge angers Olympic curlers, but they admit there could be benefits
Alexander Krushelnytsky, competing for Olympic Athletes from Russia, wields a broom during mixed doubles competition. He and his partner won a bronze medal. (Wang Zhao/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

The news of Alexander Krushelnytsky’s banishment spread fast Sunday night, bouncing from one athlete and official to the next. It came as a shock in some corners and a sad fulfillment of expectation in others. The process of sharing updates of a failed drug test has become commonplace at the Olympics, and those inside the sport tend to know first. “It’s such a tightknit community,” American Tyler George said. “That stuff gets around pretty quick.”

What made Sunday night strange was the sport: Krushelnytsky, of the Olympic Athletes from Russia, is a curler. He was sent home from the PyeongChang Olympics five days after winning a bronze medal in mixed doubles for failing a drug test, reportedly for the banned heart treatment meldonium. A ‘B’ sample confirmed the initial evidence, and a case will officially be opened, according to the CAS.

The curling world has not dealt with doping scandals before, but in reacting to Krushelnytsky’s failed test, it borrowed at least one emotion from other sports: Anger.

“It’s infuriating for the other athletes to know that this is going on, and they still get to compete,” Canadian assistant skip Marc Kennedy said. “Now you’ve got an athlete that says he was clean again and tests positive. It’s unbelievable, for every other clean athlete in the world.

“And we’re in a sport where obviously it doesn’t affect that much. It’s not going to make you a better athlete, to be honest. For those athletes in the other sports that have to put up with this all the time, it’s unbelievable that they’re even allowed to be here.”

Along with low-grade outrage over yet another Russian doping case and the International Olympic Committee’s decision to let Russians compete in the first place, the news prompted sport-specific sneers and jokes. A curler got busted? For what, too many Miller Lites? The implication of the barbs was obvious. Curling, as even Kennedy alluded to in his screed, is not a sport that requires strenuous physical exertion. Why would doping even matter? How could it possibly help?

At least one Russian even weaponized the sentiment as a defense. Asked about the failed test, OAR women’s coach Sergei Belanov said he did not believe it to be true, first by uttering three words: “No any benefit.”

But according to Olympic curlers and coaches, doping would give an athlete an edge when guiding stones and sweeping ice, particularly in mixed doubles, the discipline in which Krushelnytsky won bronze. The reason starts with a broom.

About two years ago, U.S. coach Phil Drobnick said, the materials in the brooms curlers use to direct stones started to become so advanced the complexion of the sport began to change. Curlers could direct stones with minimal effort, games could be decided based on which team had better brooms. Curling officials had never regulated brooms, but that changed. Every curler would use the same broom, and it would require strength to use it.

“So now, the best sweepers are the strongest and the guys that have the most endurance,” Drobnick said. “It’s a big change for our game.”

Increased endurance would matter most in mixed doubles, the event in which Krushelnytsky won bronze. In mixed doubles, which debuted at the Olympics this year, a man and woman comprise a two-curler team, unlike the foursomes that compete in the men’s and women’s events. Each player has to do twice the sweeping, including on the stone they threw themselves.

“To have that quick recovery and to be able to sweep again and again and again, it could definitely benefit you,” Kennedy said.

Curling has undergone a shift toward fitness, moving out of the days when a facsimile of an Olympic curling team could be plucked off four bar stools. In 2014, Canada won the Olympic gold medal with what Drobnick called, “one of the most physical fit teams in the world.” The victory convinced other countries they were ceding an edge by not embracing conditioning.

“Teams started emulating … them and making sure they’re ready to go,” Drobnick said.

The change can be seen in the physiques of top curlers. In PyeongChang, they have shown up with chiseled torsos and bulging biceps. Kennedy’s veins run up his arms like roads on a map. The male Japanese curlers have attracted particular attention from certain corners, it seems. Gone are beer bellies and twig arms.

“It’s changed huge,” Kennedy said. “You’re seeing younger, stronger, fitter. You’re just going to continue to see that over the next 20 years.”

Krushelnytsky tested positive for meldonium, a drug developed to treat coronary artery disease by increasing blood flow. Because that could enhance an athlete’s capacity for exercise, the World Anti-Doping Agency placed it on its list of banned substances in 2016. Tennis star Maria Sharapova received a two-year suspension when a drug test showed traces of meldonium. The drug is produced in Latvia, banned by the FDA and largely unavailable outside the Baltic states.

If Krushelnytsky’s case is confirmed, the IOC will likely prevent OAR from marching under the Russian flag in the Closing Ceremonies. (“Awesome,” Kennedy said.) He will have to give back the bronze medal, which he won with partner Anastasia Bryzgalova. While anger poured in some corners of the curling world, others felt sadness.

“I know them,” U.S. skip John Shuster said. “We play in the same mixed doubles tournaments as that team, and they’re good people. It’s hard to say. Obviously, stories like this happen. It’s just more, I feel bad for him and his partner and the situation. You just never really know. It’s unfortunate.

“I hope that he has the spirit of curling in his heart, like we all do. You don’t ever expect that’s going to happen.”

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The Oxfam scandal shows that, yes, nonprofits can behave badly. So why aren’t they overseen like for-profits?

Westlake Legal Group the-oxfam-scandal-shows-that-yes-nonprofits-can-behave-badly-so-why-arent-they-overseen-like-for-profits The Oxfam scandal shows that, yes, nonprofits can behave badly. So why aren’t they overseen like for-profits?
Westlake Legal Group Britain_Oxfam_Sex_Scandal_70143.jpg-b32b6 The Oxfam scandal shows that, yes, nonprofits can behave badly. So why aren’t they overseen like for-profits?
An Oxfam store in London. The British government is reviewing its relationship with the charity in the wake of sex allegations against some of the charity’s staff. (AP)

Last week, news media reported that Oxfam — well respected for its humanitarian work — had employed aid workers in Haiti who hired prostitutes. As the Haiti scandal has unfolded, new allegations have surfaced, including that other workers at U.K. charities had sexually abused teen volunteers, and that overseas staff traded humanitarian aid for sex. Moreover, Oxfam’s top management seems to have ignored warnings about what was going on.

Oxfam now faces an existentialist crisis. It has depleted its moral authority. Donations from individual donors have plummeted. Corporate support from Heathrow, the Co-Op Bank, Visa and M&S might be withdrawn. The U.K. government is threatening to withhold £32 million of annual support and the European Commission has made a similar threat regarding its £29m grants. Celebrity ambassadors like Minnie Driver and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have resigned.

Many other similar organizations have been accused of harboring sexual abusers as well. In 2017 alone, more than 120 workers in leading British charities including Save the Children, Christian Aid and the British Red Cross were accused of sexual abuse.

Why do nonprofits behave in unprincipled ways? Here’s the problem: many scholars and practitioners insist that nonprofits, and civil society groups in general, are principled actors, unlike greedy and instrumental for-profit firms, because their organizational purpose has virtue. In addition, because nonprofits cannot legally distribute profits (although some, like hospitals, might generate them), they do not face shareholder pressure to increase profits.

This presumption of virtue leads regulators and stakeholders to neglect issues of nonprofit governance and accountability. Compared to firms and governments, nonprofits face less scrutiny by outside stakeholders. This leads to poor governance, accountability shortfall and mission drift.

In part, these problems are compounded by how nonprofits raise funds. Nonprofits are supposed to be nongovernmental, a communitarian response to big government and big business. Scholars imagine them as local organizations raising funds from the community, subject to active local scrutiny. But most global nonprofits receive a significant portion of their funds from the government. Not surprisingly, nonprofits are focused on managing their political environment. Internal governance and effective service delivery become peripheral.

The nonprofit sector has expanded — in part funded by governments

A large number of nonprofits are locally rooted, staffed by volunteers and provide local public goods — food banks, homeless shelters and the like. But alongside, there are visible nonprofit “brands”  with a global presence and sizable budgets, staffs and bureaucracies. The global nonprofits substantially rely on funding from governments, intergovernmental organizations, private foundations and corporate sponsorship. In 2016, UK’s top 1 percent of charities accounted for about half of the sector’s £10 billion income.

Why do governments fund any nonprofit, local or global? After all, nonprofits are supposed to be nongovernmental. At the domestic level, starting in the 1980s, many Western democracies began relying on nonprofits to deliver public services in the Reagan-Thatcher approach to shrinking government. In the 1990s, both the Clinton-Gore initiative that was called “reinventing government” and Tony Blair’s New Labour ideology encouraged governments to outsource service provision to nonprofits. Some observers wrote about a nonprofit “associational revolution,” comparing this expansion to the 19th-century emergence of the modern nation-state.

At the international level, since the 1990s, global nonprofits have become an important vehicle for delivering foreign aid. When frustrated that foreign aid hasn’t promoted economic development and democracy, donors blame recipient countries’ governmental corruption. Of course, with the dominant notion that nonprofits are virtuous and above temptations, donors saw nonprofits as the appropriate aid contractors. In any case, involving nonprofits in aid delivery was a good political defense against the criticism that foreign aid is a waste of money. Whether nonprofits are more effective and efficient than state-run development agencies remains to be seen.

Where there’s little oversight, problems can flourish

Unfortunately, too much public trust leads authorities and citizens to invest too little in police patrols, regular institutional oversight. Lax regulatory oversight also means that it’s comparatively easy to start a nonprofit. This attracts bad apples. Some entrepreneurs start “briefcase nonprofits” that exist on paper only in order to corner governmental contracts without delivering real services.

The loose oversight over nonprofits allows even real charities to abuse public trust. Charity managers give themselves inflated salaries, use charity money for lavish lifestyles, expensive retreats and so on. One revealing example is the Wounded Warrior Project, a U.S. charity aimed at helping military veterans. Established after 9/11, this charity has raised more than a billion dollars to date. But as CBS News reported, the organization’s leaders have used charity funds for extravagant lifestyles and parties. By some accounts, the charity spends 40 to 50 percent of their resources on overhead — compared to other veterans’ charities that spend only 10 to 15 percent on overhead.

Most countries do not require nonprofits to file annual reports. The U.S. nonprofit sector is an exception; nonprofits are annually required to file Form 990 with details of their finances, activities and governance, which are made public. Yet very few Americans are aware of this requirement, and even fewer use it regularly to guide their charitable giving. To varying degrees, U.S. states have established their own charity regulations. Both the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general can investigate charity fraud, but they rarely do.

In contrast, the for-profit sector, working outside the presumption of virtue, is overseen by several layers of regulators, including private bodies such as the stock exchange. For-profit organizations are required to regularly disclose information on finances, governance and policies, information that is scrutinized by financial analysts and shared over television, blogs and newspapers.

Even beyond regulatory filings, however, shareholders can assess how firms are performing by tracking sales. If firms provide shoddy products, they will probably lose customers. Top CEOs get fired if the firm does not meet its quarterly sales targets. By contrast, nonprofits typically serve “customers” who cannot show their displeasure. Often they depend on a particular nonprofit and have no other place to turn to even if they are unhappy about the product. Donors cannot assess how well the nonprofit is doing based on customer feedback.

Is the Oxfam scandal the #MeToo moment for the nonprofit world?

As new nonprofit scandals emerge, it remains to be seen if Oxfam will become the #MeToo moment for this sector. Many nonprofits do useful work. The problem is that the presumption of virtue reduces institutional oversight, and managerial abuses follow. And because the virtue claim raises stakeholders’ expectations, scandals in one nonprofit can deplete the moral capital of the entire sector.

Global bureaucratized nonprofits need structures and rules like those in place for global firms. Nonprofit funding models should be reexamined. A government-funded nongovernmental sector makes little sense. A community-supported nonprofit sector is the closer approximation to the Tocquevillian ideal of the civic sector.

Nives Dolšak is professor and associate director, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs at University of Washington, Seattle.

Sirindah (Christianna) Parr is a doctoral student in political science at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Aseem Prakash is professor of political science and the Walker Family Professor for the College of Arts and Sciences at University of Washington, Seattle.

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To win ‘hearts and minds’ in Afghanistan, some aid programs worked better than others

Westlake Legal Group to-win-hearts-and-minds-in-afghanistan-some-aid-programs-worked-better-than-others To win 'hearts and minds' in Afghanistan, some aid programs worked better than others
Westlake Legal Group Afghanistan_Daily_Life_59308-37e7f To win 'hearts and minds' in Afghanistan, some aid programs worked better than others
Afghan youths look over the city of Kabul on Jan. 30, 2018. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

Budget crunchers are looking at all aspects of the fiscal 2019 White House budget, including how foreign assistance helps support U.S. security interests. Some of the $16.8 billion in the latest U.S. Agency for International Development budget, for instance, targets the agency’s  No. 1 programming issue: reducing conflict.

But what drives support for combatants in wartime? Governments, militaries and aid agencies have implemented dozens of economic interventions designed to win “hearts and minds” and reduce violence in settings as diverse as Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, Nigeria and Somalia. These interventions include livelihood training, employment programs, cash-for-work opportunities and, increasingly, unconditional cash transfers to specific populations.

The premise here is that poverty leaves communities and, in particular, youths vulnerable to insurgent recruitment. Employment and improved economic prospects, in theory, will help shift support away from insurgents, in favor of the government. And these programs raise the opportunity costs for participating in armed rebellion, which makes it harder for insurgents to recruit.

The United States has spent billions of dollars in Afghanistan and Iraq alone in the belief that these interventions effectively persuade individuals to resist insurgent appeals and support counterinsurgency efforts. Yet rigorous empirical evidence demonstrating the efficacy of these programs is scarce. What evidence does exist is mixed, at best.

Working with Kosuke Imai and Yang-Yang Zhou of Princeton University, we took up the challenge of experimentally evaluating the effectiveness of livelihood training and cash transfers to a vulnerable population in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Specifically, we examined the U.S.-funded Introducing New Vocational Education and Skills Training (INVEST) program. While the Mercy Corps-designed and -administered INVEST program did not set out explicitly to reduce violence, it provided a unique opportunity to look at the causal links between economic interventions and combatant support.

In the program, we randomly assigned 2,597 youths to receive three to six months of vocational training; a $75 cash transfer via cellphone; both; or none. We then measured changes in economic outcomes and support for the government and Taliban about two weeks after the conclusion of the program, and then again seven to nine months later. Here’s what we found:

1) Did the program improve economic prospects? Vocational training had a modest effect on an individual’s economic conditions, we found. By the seven- to nine-month mark, those with vocational training reported more cash earned and more days worked, compared with those without training. But cash transfers did little to increase economic activity. Those who received cash alongside the vocational training saw no additional effects of the cash beyond what the training provided when we checked back seven to nine months later.

2) What is the impact on support for combatants? Opportunity cost theory suggests that if people found their economic well-being improved, they would be less supportive of political violence. But we found surprisingly little connection between economic outcomes and changes in support for either the Afghan government or the Taliban militants. Vocational training also had no effect on relative support for these combatants, either immediately after the program or seven to nine months later.

This is a sobering finding, as these individuals benefited the most from the INVEST program. But their economic gains did not translate into greater pro-government sentiment. Cash transfers alone created a “boom/bust” cycle: Government surged after the cash was received, but then quickly faded and reversed itself after seven months. Indeed, individuals who had received cash were more supportive of the Taliban than those who did not receive cash by the second survey seven to nine months later. Moreover, these individuals were the most likely to express anger at their inability to find jobs and to believe that violence against the state was legitimate.

Here’s the good news: The group that received both vocational training and cash showed a relatively large 16.7 percent decrease in its willingness to engage in pro-Taliban actions by the seven-to-nine-month mark. Compared with the initial survey results, this group also recorded a large 20 percentage-point drop in their belief that use of violence against the state is legitimate; an increased belief in the performance of both the national and local government; and an increased belief that the government was responsive to the group’s needs.

3) What’s the reason for this pro-government effect among vocational training and cash recipients, but not the others? We think high-profile programs like INVEST use cash to signal that the government is being responsive to people’s immediate needs. From survey data, we saw that individuals spent their money on basic needs, such as housing and food. However, without additional support needed to turn the cash into a longer-term benefit, the effects don’t last.

That’s why the vocational training is important: It shows the government is also working to support people in the longer term. A lone signal generated from a single economic intervention may have little impact. Two signals, however — such as the vocational training combined with cash — may indicate to people that the government cares about their welfare and is taking steps to direct benefits their way. In this light, economic interventions become windows of opportunity for officials to update citizen beliefs about government responsiveness.

What do these findings tell us about what works? 

This is just one experiment, and we recognize that it may have its limitations. But we think policies that pair short- and long-term interventions may be the best option for shifting support for combatants. Providing young people with more discretionary money — the cash transfers — appeared to provide a short-term financial boost that helped them realize the potential of the longer-term vocational training intervention. The result was lower support for political violence.

Short-term interventions are fleeting; long-term interventions do not provide people the immediate benefits to address their current needs. Combining both signals an understanding of people’s needs. We know that people become involved in violence for both short-term (i.e., economic) and longer-term (i.e., ideology and grievances) reasons. These multidimensional interventions help address a range of reasons that individuals throw their support behind combatants in wartime.

Jason Lyall is associate professor of political science and director of the Political Violence FieldLab at Yale University. Follow him @jaylyall_red5.

Rebecca Wolfe is the director of evidence and influence at Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian and development organization, and a visiting scholar at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies and the Political Violence FieldLab at Yale University. Follow her @rebeccajwolfe.

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Philippine police arrest suspected Islamic State recruiter in Manila

Westlake Legal Group philippine-police-arrest-suspected-islamic-state-recruiter-in-manila Philippine police arrest suspected Islamic State recruiter in Manila
Westlake Legal Group philippine-police-arrest-suspected-islamic-state-recruiter-in-manila Philippine police arrest suspected Islamic State recruiter in Manila

Philippine authorities announced the arrest of a foreign national on Monday for allegedly recruiting local fighters for Islamic State-aligned insurgent groups.

The head of the Philippine National Police, Ronald dela Rosa, presented Fehmi Lassoued and his girlfriend, a Philippine national named Anabel Salipada, at a press conference and said they were arrested over the weekend on weapons and explosive charges.

The former once worked as a “commander” for the Islamic State in Syria and Turkey, he said, before entering the Philippines on a fake Tunisian passport in July 2016.

Philippine officials did not provide additional details about the case, or proof of ties to the so-called Islamic State. “A thorough investigation is now underway to determine the extent of their involvement with international and domestic threat groups,” Dela Rosa said. 

Asked by reporters for his side of the story, Lassoued, in handcuffs, said he denied the allegations. “Maybe I was in ISIS before,” he said, in halting English, before being led away.

There have been conflicting reports about his nationality, with some media describing him as Tunisian, while others Egyptian.

Philippine authorities last month arrested another foreign suspect, a Spanish national named Abdelkhakim Labidi Adib. He was described then as a possible supporter of Islamic State-aligned groups. 

Both arrests come just months Philippine troops pushed Islamic State-allied insurgents from the southern city of Marawi, ending a months-long siege. Witnesses to the Marawi conflict reported seeing foreign fighters on the ground, but the number of men and the nature of their involvement remains unclear. 

Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict and an expert on terrorism in Southeast Asia, said Lassoued’s arrest is a reminder that the role of foreign terror groups in the conflict is still not understood. 

“What this says is that there may have been a more important international component than the Philippines authorities have been willing to admit thus far,” she said. 

“While these arrests are being given a lot of publicity, it is still not clear that anybody has a good idea on how strong the pro-ISIS components are in the aftermath of Marawi,” she continued, using an acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as the Islamic State. “I think the Philippines has a real long-term problem on its hands.”

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Novartis’ 41-Year-Old CEO Steers Drug Maker Back to R&D

Westlake Legal Group novartis-41-year-old-ceo-steers-drug-maker-back-to-rd Novartis' 41-Year-Old CEO Steers Drug Maker Back to R&D PAID

Novartis AG NVS 0.27% has spent the past five years getting smaller. Its new chief executive has to decide soon how much more it will shrink.

Vasant Narasimhan, a 41-year-old Harvard-trained doctor, took the helm earlier this month at Novartis, the world’s No. 2 prescription-drug firm by sales after Pfizer Inc. Dr. Narasimhan has promised a technological revolution at Novartis to boost its drug-development pipeline. He inherits an empire that his predecessor spent most of his tenure pruning to focus more on its bread and butter—finding and developing new prescription drugs.

“We need to become a focused medicines company that’s powered by data science and digital technologies,” Dr. Narasimhan said in a recent interview.

Amid his larger ambitions for using new technology to boost a drugs push, Dr. Narasimhan faces looming decisions on whether to sell two big units: Novartis has said it would decide within 18 months whether to spin off its Alcon eyecare business, and it is reviewing the U.S. arm of its Sandoz generics business.

“Timing Alcon’s spinoff right and dealing with Sandoz could become a big headache for the new CEO and distract some of his attention from R&D,” UBS analyst Michael Leuchten said.

Dr. Narasimhan, an Indian-born U.S. citizen, joined Novartis in 2005 from consultancy McKinsey & Co., rose quickly through the Swiss drugmaker’s ranks and ultimately ran its prized research-and-development arm.

Now, as CEO, he is pushing a series of tech-based initiatives he says could jump-start the company’s drug pipeline. He wants to introduce artificial-intelligence to find new biomarkers, molecules that can help identify patients most likely to respond to a specific treatment and speed up clinical trials. Novartis also is working on devices including wearable sensors to capture real-time data during drug trials: New sensor technology it developed with Microsoft Corp. , for example, would help it monitor multiple-sclerosis symptoms in trials.

But before devoting his full attention to those initiatives, Dr. Narasimhan has to decide what to do about Alcon and Sandoz.

Novartis bought Alcon in two transactions starting 10 years ago for a total of more than $50 billion, and it has been a big disappointment—until recently. Sales growth has picked up, making any decision to shed the unit a much tougher call.

Dr. Narasimhan also is struggling with the Sandoz generics unit in the U.S. It has been a reliable money-spinner, but fourth-quarter revenue tumbled 17% in the U.S. last year, reflecting pricing weakness in generic drugs and raising questions about whether Novartis will part ways with the unit.

While Novartis has said it would continue to invest in Sandoz’s unit for biosimilar drugs—near-replicas of biologic drugs, which are made using living cells—it will need to take hard look at the rest of its portfolio in the U.S.

“We have to ask ourselves how we want to shape our U.S. presence in the future,” Dr. Narasimhan said. “It’s going to take some time for us to assess and come up with the right answer.”

Over the past decade, drug makers like Novartis, U.S. rival Pfizer and Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline PLC have invested billions of dollars diversifying into businesses like consumer health care—think toothpaste, pain killers—and vaccines, to help mitigate the loss of patent protection on some of their biggest-selling medicines.

Now, as some of these giants work their way through the bulk of those expirations, they are reversing course and refocusing again on high-risk, but high-margin, prescription drugs: Pfizer is selling its giant consumer health care business, and Glaxo, under its own new, young CEO, has promised to double down on the R&D pipeline.

Novartis says 2017 was a “landmark year for innovation.” It received 16 approvals for new drugs or for new indications for existing products—and it will be able to maintain that pace in 2018, a company spokesman said.

It falls to Dr. Narasimhan to keep the momentum going. He succeeds Joseph Jimenez, who as CEO dismantled the sprawling drug and health-care giant his predecessor had built. In 2014, he sold Novartis’s animal health unit. He spun off its consumer health-care business into an independent joint-venture and sold the company’s vaccine unit in 2015.

The down-sizing affected sales, shrinking them almost by a fifth over the past five years. Novartis stock has underperformed that peers, rising 41% over Mr. Jimenez’s eight-year tenure, compared with a rise of 130% over the same period for the S&P Global 1200 Health Care Index.

Last month, Novartis reported annual sales rose 1% for 2017—its first revenue increase in three years.

Write to Noemie Bisserbe at noemie.bisserbe@wsj.com

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AKP, MHP strike agreement on pre-election alliance legal package


Westlake Legal Group akp-mhp-strike-agreement-on-pre-election-alliance-legal-package AKP, MHP strike agreement on pre-election alliance legal package Legal

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have agreed on a 26-article legislative package that would pave the way for formal a pre-election alliance, following a face-to-face meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and MHP head Devlet Bahçeli.

The package is expected to be submitted to parliament on Feb. 21, parliament’s Constitutional Commission head Mustafa Şentop told reporters on Feb. 18.

“In the meeting the text was discussed and all aspects were clarified with full negotiation. After a few days of work on technical details, a 26-article legislative proposal will be submitted to the Parliamentary Speaker’s Office on Feb. 21,” Şentop said.

His comments came after Erdoğan and Bahçeli had a meeting to finalize a draft that formulates an alliance model for parliamentary and presidential elections due to be held in 2019.

The AKP and the MHP have been in partnership since the MHP initiated and gave full support to a controversial constitutional amendment bringing in an executive presidential system, which will grant sweeping powers to the president-elect.

The presidential election necessitates at least 50 percent of the votes for a president to be elected in the first round and the AKP’s polling at present estimates the party to be at around 40 to 45 percent.

Polls also indicate a drop in the MHP’s votes with Bahçeli’s support to constitutional change, which has been criticized by the opposition for paving the way for an even more authoritarian system in Turkey.

As current laws do not permit a formal pre-election alliance, a joint commission was formed by the AKP and the MHP to find a solution for the 2019 elections.

“In the text, there are measures about election alliances. We have lifted the provisions that prohibit such alliances and introduced basic regulations about how such an election alliance between parties can be made,” Şentop said.

The new legislation will maintain Turkey’s high 10 percent electoral threshold on parties entering parliament, while paving the way for the representation of party coalitions on ballot papers.

Ballot papers will reportedly include all parties so that voters can vote for the party of their choice, rather than voting for a single alliance or coalition together.

Şentop also claimed that the legislative change will focus on “election security” in order to “address all obstacles preventing the electorate from voting with its free will.”

It has been reported that the authorities of ballot box officials will be expanded for upcoming elections, granting them the authority to appeal to police forces during vote counts.

AKP, MHP, deal

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Photos: 2018 local deaths of note

Westlake Legal Group photos-2018-local-deaths-of-note Photos: 2018 local deaths of note Photo Galleries Local News local deaths local celebrities Latest News

See photos of local people who have died. They may be area politicians, people who made the news or local celebrities.

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For Noora Raty, a continental divide is the difference between bronze and gold

Westlake Legal Group for-noora-raty-a-continental-divide-is-the-difference-between-bronze-and-gold For Noora Raty, a continental divide is the difference between bronze and gold
Westlake Legal Group 2018-02-19T060709Z_2073472436_HP1EE2J0GZWXQ_RTRMADP_3_OLYMPICS-2018-ICEH-W-USA-FIN For Noora Raty, a continental divide is the difference between bronze and gold
Goalie Noora Raty of Finland is among the best in the world. (David W Cerny/Reuters)

When Noora Raty sprawled facedown on the ice Monday afternoon at Gangnung Hockey Centre, she clearly lamented the goal she had just allowed even though there was no shame in allowing it. This is the state of women’s hockey for the rest of the world, those who don’t wear the maple leaf of Canada or the stars and stripes of the United States. And it’s a shame.

Raty might be the best female goaltender in the world, though anyone who looked only at the scoresheet from the United States’ 5-0 drubbing of her Finland squad in the Olympic semifinal wouldn’t know it. She faced 157 shots in five games in these PyeongChang Games. Her prone position after the third U.S. goal might not have been frustration. It might have been pure exhaustion.

“As a goalie, you want to face a lot of shots,” Raty said, “and that’s what I’ve been getting.”

This is life on the outside of the Canada-U.S. women’s hockey axis, and it looks demoralizing. Canada was set to face the Olympic Athletes from Russia in a semifinal late Monday, and depending on who wins …

Oh, come on. We know who will win. It’ll be Canada in a romp. And that’ll set up the fifth gold-medal game between Canada and the United States in six women’s Olympic hockey tournaments. Set your watch to it.

Raty, though, represents the rare outsider who not only would fit in on either team but who knows, quite intimately, what separates those teams from everyone else. She played at the University of Minnesota, where she won back-to-back national championships and set an NCAA record by going 38-0 as a senior. She lives in Minnesota still. She (and her Finnish teammates) beat Canada, 1-0, to win the 2017 Nations Cup. She has the cred.

Westlake Legal Group 920314184 For Noora Raty, a continental divide is the difference between bronze and gold   Danielle Cameranesi and her American teammates celebrate her goal while Noora Raty looks on. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

But her story, it’s a struggle. The Americans are simultaneously a symbol of how far female sports have come in the United States. and how there are battles still ahead. To hear Raty tell it, that conversation has hardly even started in places like Finland.

“You can’t even compare,” Raty said. “There’s so much respect for hockey players in the U.S. You say you’re a hockey player, and you’re an Olympian, [people are] like, ‘Oh, that’s so cool,’ and they start asking questions.

“In Finland, you say you’re a hockey player, [it’s] like, ‘Get a real job.’”

Raty’s real job is “hockey player.” She plays professionally in China. In the summers, though, she trains and works out in Minnesota. Now, that entire state is an outlier in the United States in terms of pucks owned per capita and average age a kid gets on skates, which might be measured in months, not years. But the glimpse she gets into how young girls are raised not as skaters, but as hockey players, makes it easy for her to reflect on her home country.

“We have nothing like that in Finland,” Raty said. “There’s a lot of great coaches getting involved in girls’ hockey that can actually teach the game [in the U.S.], and I feel like all the good coaches in Finland, they go on the boys’ side.”

Whatever happens in the gold-medal game — Canada, with a win over Russia, will be going for its fifth straight gold — the most significant development in the women’s game over the past year is not a result from any sheet of ice anywhere in the world. It’s the victory the women of Team USA scored over USA Hockey. They threatened to boycott the world championships unless the sport’s governing body agreed to compensate them more in line with the men. They did not budge, and they won.

So when Hilary Knight, who will play in her third straight gold-medal game Thursday, makes a reference to “everything we’ve accomplished on and off the ice,” it rings true not only among the Americans, but around the world.

“I think it was great for the sport,” Raty said. “I like how they did it for the youth.”

But in using their leverage and advancing their sport, the Americans had a governing body against which to push and a public that generally backed them. In Finland, Raty has no such infrastructure to bargain with, and a public that would shrug its shoulders even if she did.

“I feel like in Finland, if you’re not making money out of sports, then [people believe] you should do something else,” she said. “In U.S., when you go after your dreams, people are cheering on. They have your back. They kind of think it’s cool that you’re ready to put your personal life — everything, your finances — on the side and go after your dreams.”

Raty’s dreams weren’t reachable Monday. The Americans’ first goal came just 2:25 into the game, the second late in the first period. From the outside, it appeared Raty had no shot at either. But she grew frustrated when the United States scored on back-to-back shots in the second. Never mind that the first was near the end of a 5-on-3 U.S. advantage, the next still on the power play.

“I had some troubles getting my hands working here,” she said. “I feel like I’m just opening up the space for the shooters.”

She can’t say this, but her teammates aren’t good enough to clamp down on those shooters. The final goal, this one from Dani Cameransesi, came after a play in which the Americans passed at will. Raty had no chance.

“Tonight, we beat one heck of a goalie,” U.S. Coach Robb Stauber said, “and one heck of a team.”

There’s a reason he listed the obstacles in that order. But what we have learned by watching this tournament — and taking into consideration what the American women did to advance the standing of their sport, by fighting so the next generation wouldn’t have to — is that the obstacles for female athletes around the world can still be significant. Title IX isn’t an international doctrine.

In an Olympic year, the women on the Finnish team gather once a month for a practice or two, Raty said. The Americans convened for months in Tampa in preparation. They are a team, in every sense.

“They can focus on playing hockey full time,” Raty said. “They are true pros here.”

After that final U.S. goal, Raty sat in the crease for a moment, beaten. She slapped one of her pads. And then she did the only thing she could. She got back up. She is an elite hockey talent playing in the most important tournament her sport has to offer.

But when she stood up, she couldn’t pull the rest of her team — or the rest of the world — up with her. Noora Raty and the Finns will play for the bronze on Wednesday, and she’ll do so knowing, better than most, the distance between that game and the match for gold the following night.

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Police: Excessive speed may have caused car to crash into home

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    Westlake Legal Group %22+e+%22 Police: Excessive speed may have caused car to crash into home

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    ‘This is freakin’ awesome’: After enduring big winds, snowboarders welcome big air

    Westlake Legal Group this-is-freakin-awesome-after-enduring-big-winds-snowboarders-welcome-big-air ‘This is freakin’ awesome’: After enduring big winds, snowboarders welcome big air
    Westlake Legal Group Rex_Snowboard_PyeongChang_2018_Oly_9421351BL ‘This is freakin’ awesome’: After enduring big winds, snowboarders welcome big air
    Anna Gasser of Austria executes a trick in big air qualifying Monday at Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre. Gasser had the top score of the day. (Guillaume Horcajuelo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

    There is a gripping simplicity to big air, the sublime new Winter Olympics event. As long as you are not the one launching toward the clouds and asking your body, more or less, to disassemble and reassemble before landing, it is so elementary to comprehend.

    The snowboarders ride down a big ramp onto a big jump, get big air, do their craziest trick and attempt to land like a snowflake floating to the ground. One takeoff, one stunt, one descent. Simple. Stylish. And absolutely awe-inspiring.

    It is dangerous, too, but like many winter sports, the athletes shrug at the risk. As big air made its Olympic debut with the women’s qualifier Monday, there was no need for concern because the snowboarders put on a show that participants and many longtime observers hailed as the greatest exhibition that women’s big air has ever seen.

    Nine of the 12 snowboarders who qualified for the final posted at least a score of 85.25 on the 100-point scale. Six scored 90 or higher. But the day wasn’t a stunning breakthrough simply because the judges gave high marks. It was more powerful to see the crowd, with many fans who are new to the sport, express wonder at every competitor’s trick. And it was most powerful to see the women, sensing it was a special moment and feeding off each other.

    To a snowboarding purist, competition is important, but entertaining is vital. There was no doubt that Monday provided 90 minutes of uninterrupted enjoyment. Big air was big fun.

    “This is freakin’ awesome,” said Jamie Anderson, who won her second straight slopestyle Olympic gold medal last week. “I’m so inspired by all the girls. This is definitely the most progressive big air event I’ve ever seen or been a part of.”

    Westlake Legal Group 920303110 ‘This is freakin’ awesome’: After enduring big winds, snowboarders welcome big air   Snowboarder Yuka Fujimora of Japan reacts after her jump during big air qualifying Monday at Alpensia Sky Jumping Centre. Fujimora finished second. (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

    Said Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand: “This is probably the heaviest comp women’s big air has ever had.”

    Said Laurie Blouin of Canada: “That was perfect.”

    The women needed perfection because, during the slopestyle finals last week, they endured the worst playing conditions at these Olympics. On a wicked windy day, they didn’t get to showcase women’s snowboarding. They were forced to survive. It was ugly. Only nine of 50 runs ended without a crash. The women, so confident that the PyeongChang Games would illustrate their sport’s growth, fumed because the event wasn’t postponed. The International Ski Federation left them to avert calamity, and the weather made it seem as if they hadn’t made any slopestyle progress. The latter was, in many ways, the worst thing the FIS could have done to them. It made them feel inferior to more established sports such as Alpine skiing, which has had several weather-related postponements. It made them feel worthless.

    The wind was so bad last week that Dutch snowboarder Cheryl Maas thought to herself after a practice run: “Please, put me down softly. I don’t really believe in God, but I am praying to someone up there. Don’t put me in a hospital.”

    Maas broke her neck in a pool accident last summer. During a big air competition, she once tried a 1080 spin, landed badly on an icy course, fell on her face and broke her nose and an eye socket. She considers her sport “not dangerous, but a calculated risk.” But as those winds lifted her at Phoenix Snow Park, she prayed like never before.

    That was slopestyle. On Monday morning at Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre, big air couldn’t have requested a better premiere. The 26 world-class snowboarders performed for two rounds during qualifying, zooming down a 160-foot ramp, vaulting off a launch ramp and elevating to thrill the crowd. Some jumped as high as 100 feet before trying 900 and 1080 spins and other tricks.

    Anna Gasser, the ever-daring artistic genius, finished first in the qualifying with a 98 score after unleashing some beautiful thing called a cab double-cork 1080. It was one of the most jaw-dropping feats of these Games. It’s usually a trick she would do to win a competition. On this day, she was so inspired that she had to use it in the qualifier.

    “With everyone riding so good, I think it just put me in the mind-set to be, like, ‘I want to show something, too,’” Gasser said. “The tricks were amazing. I was sitting up there, and I’m like, ‘This is so sick.’”

    Now, it’s clear how much women’s snowboarding has advanced. Gasser and Norwegian qualifier Silje Norendal sensed the snowboarders would make a statement when they talked Sunday night. During practice earlier that day, the conditions were similar to what they were Monday: no wind, warmer weather, good visibility. While preparing, the women were throwing down splendid runs. This was their chance.

    “This is going to be crazy,” they told each other.

    And it was crazy. And this being big air, it was easy to digest the significance of what was happening. It looked like they were traveling to space, dancing on the way down and landing like cats, unscathed, effortless.

    “Even if you don’t understand snowboarding, I think you can watch it and just enjoy what’s happening,” Norendal said. “You don’t really need to understand everything. You can just be like, ‘Oh, that looks cool.’ I think there were a lot of people here today that don’t necessarily know snowboarding that well, but they enjoyed what they were looking at and watching. So even if you fell — if you went big and you fell — they would still go like, ‘Wow.’ And I think that’s pretty cool because that’s all I want. I don’t really need people to understand what we do, but just enjoy it.”

    Enjoyment is a given. The only worry is whether Friday’s 12-woman final can be as thrilling as the qualifier.

    Snowboarders never seem worried about meeting expectations, however. They’re programmed to want to outdo themselves. They aren’t here merely to win medals. They’re here to perform. Protect them from gnarly winds, and they’ll show what they can do.

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