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Sepp Blatter calls Hope Solo’s grope claims ‘absurd’

Solo is on the US women's soccer team and has won gold at the Olympics twice In 2013 she presen..

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  • Solo is on the US women's soccer team and has won gold at the Olympics twice
  • In 2013 she presented the prestigious Ballon d'Or to a teammate with Blatter
  • But just before they went on stage, she said, he 'grabbed my a**'
  • He has now swung back against the statements, calling them 'absurd'
  • Blatter has a long history of questionable remarks and is accused of corruption

By James Wilkinson For Dailymail.com

Published: 08:23 EST, 11 November 2017 | Updated: 08:23 EST, 11 November 2017

The former president of the world's premiere soccer organization has denied claims that he 'grabbed' US star player Hope Solo's buttocks before a major awards show.

On Friday Hope Solo, the 36-year-old two-time Olympic gold medalist, told a Portuguese newspaper that Sepp Blatter, 81, groped her before they were to present one of the prestigious Ballon d'Or Awards in 2013.

But on Saturday, Blatter – who has a history of sexist remarks and has been accused of corruption – told AFP that the claim was 'absurd'.

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Hope Solo (left) says that Sepp Blatter (right) grabbed her 'a**' just before this awards ceremony in 2013. Blatter says that the claims are 'absurd'

Hope Solo (left) says that Sepp Blatter (right) grabbed her 'a**' just before this awards ceremony in 2013. Blatter says that the claims are 'absurd'

Solo, a two-time gold winner at the Olympics, and said she was left 'in shock' by the Fifa president's alleged gropeSolo, a two-time gold winner at the Olympics, and said she was left 'in shock' by the Fifa president's alleged grope

Solo, a two-time gold winner at the Olympics, and said she was left 'in shock' by the Fifa president's alleged grope

The player told Portuguese paper Tribuna Expresso that she was at the awards ceremony to present the female player of the year award to USA teammate Abby Wambach.

Blatter, who resigned from Fifa in 2015 amid a bribery scandal, grabbed her 'right before I went on stage,' she alleged.

Representatives of the former Fifa president were quick to deny the claim telling newspapers: 'This allegation is ridiculous.'

She later elaborated on the claim to The Guardian, saying: 'I was in shock and completely thrown off.

'I had to quickly pull myself together to present my team-mate with the biggest award of her career and celebrate with her in that moment, so I completely shifted my focus to Abby.'

Footage from the night shows Solo seemingly stuttering over her words – possibly through anger or discomfort – and glancing repeatedly at Blatter.

Solo - seen presenting the female player of the year award to Abby Wambach - said she had to swallow her anger and press on so as not to spoil her friend's big momentSolo - seen presenting the female player of the year award to Abby Wambach - said she had to swallow her anger and press on so as not to spoil her friend's big moment

Solo – seen presenting the female player of the year award to Abby Wambach – said she had to swallow her anger and press on so as not to spoil her friend's big moment

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Solo told Expresso that she'd never brought up the issue before because usually 'I speak out directly [with people] when things like that happen.

'In other cases, for instance, I've told my teammates: "Don't ever f**king touch me! Don't do it". It has been in the showers, it's been in the locker room… I usually speak directly with the person.

'In the case of Sepp Blatter, I went on the stage, I was nervous for the presentation… It was the Ballon D'Or I was presenting.

'After that I didn't see him, and that was kind of bad. I didn't get to tell him directly "Don't ever touch me!" That's the way I've always handled things. Directly.'

Solo added that she had seen sexual harassment in sports 'throughout my entire career.'

'And I wish more female athletes would speak out about their own experiences,' she said. 'It's rampant, it's not just in Hollywood, it's probably all over the place.'

Blatter has been accused of making sexist remarks for decades.

In 2004, Blatter proposed that the practical mid-thigh shorts worn by female soccer players should be replaced with hotpants to boost interest in the game.

'Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball,' he said.

Blatter is seen here talking to Solo in 2011, two years before the alleged groping. He has a history of making sexist remarks to female Fifa executivesBlatter is seen here talking to Solo in 2011, two years before the alleged groping. He has a history of making sexist remarks to female Fifa executives

Blatter is seen here talking to Solo in 2011, two years before the alleged groping. He has a history of making sexist remarks to female Fifa executives

He continued: 'They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball.

'That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?'

Female players from around the globe spoke out against Blatter's remarks, with some noting that female players do not, in fact, play with a lighter ball.

In 2013, he referred to a female candidate for the executive committee of Fifa 'good, and good looking'.

And soon after that, while addressing the female members of the committee, he said: 'Are there ladies in the room? Say something! You are always speaking at home, now you can speak here.'

Blatter became Fifa's president in 1998; in the years following, the organization allegedly engaged in money laundering and took bribes to decide the location of the World Cup.

He was ousted in June 2015 after Fifa's ethics committee found him guilty of accepting an improper two million Swiss franc ($2.1 million) payment from Michel Platini, then chief of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).

Blatter was banned from the sport in December 2016 for eight years, later reduced to six.

Solo is seen here playing in 2016. In 2004, Blatter suggested switching the practical shorts like the ones worn here for 'tighter shorts' like 'they do in volleyball'Solo is seen here playing in 2016. In 2004, Blatter suggested switching the practical shorts like the ones worn here for 'tighter shorts' like 'they do in volleyball'

Solo is seen here playing in 2016. In 2004, Blatter suggested switching the practical shorts like the ones worn here for 'tighter shorts' like 'they do in volleyball'

He was not indicted in a US-led investigation, unlike 42 other Fifa officials, 24 of whom have pleaded guilty, and three of whom went to trial on Monday.

On October 16, Solo joined in the #MeToo hashtag campaign, designed to highlight the breadth of sexual harassment occurring to women across society.

In an Instagram post, she said: 'For the past few days, I have been thinking about all the uncomfortable situations myself and/or my teammates have experienced throughout the years with trainers, doctors, coaches, executives and even teammates.'

'From inappropriate comments, unwanted advances and grabs of the ass to coaches and GMs and even press officers speaking about players "t*ts" and physical appearance, sexual harassment is rampant in the sports world,' she continued.

'I always felt I'd "handled it" and stood up for myself in those situations, but there were never any consequences for the perpetrators. That needs to change.

'Silence will not change the world!'

Solo has been a professional footballer since 2003. On June 21, 2014, she was charged with two misdemeanor counts of assault against her half-sister and nephew.

The soccer player said she had been defending herself from her six-foot-nine-inch nephew.

She sat out one game and in January 2015 the charges were dropped due to the alleged victims' lack of cooperation with police.

But the charges were reinstated on appeal in October 2016; it's not known when a trial might begin.

In October, Solo posted this message on Instagram, alongside a longer message talking about the sexual harassment she had felt in her careerIn October, Solo posted this message on Instagram, alongside a longer message talking about the sexual harassment she had felt in her career

In October, Solo posted this message on Instagram, alongside a longer message talking about the sexual harassment she had felt in her career

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Australia: Scott Morrison saga casts scrutiny on Queen’s representative

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In the past fortnight, Australia has been gripped by revelations that former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison secretly appointed himself to several additional ministries.

The move has been labelled a “power grab” by his successor as prime minister, and Mr Morrison has been scolded by many – even his own colleagues.

But the scandal has also dragged Australia’s governor-general into the fray – sparking one of the biggest controversies involving the Queen’s representative in Australia in 50 years.

So does Governor-General David Hurley have questions to answer, or is he just collateral damage?

‘Just paperwork’

Governors-general have fulfilled the practical duties as Australia’s head of state since the country’s 1901 federation.

Candidates for the role were initially chosen by the monarch but are now recommended by the Australian government.

The job is largely ceremonial – a governor-general in almost every circumstance must act on the advice of the government of the day. But conventions allow them the right to “encourage” and “warn” politicians.

Key duties include signing bills into law, issuing writs for elections, and swearing in ministers.

Mr Hurley has run into trouble on the latter. At Mr Morrison’s request, he swore the prime minister in as joint minister for health in March 2020, in case the existing minister became incapacitated by Covid.

Over the next 14 months, he also signed off Mr Morrison as an additional minister in the finance, treasury, home affairs and resources portfolios.

Mr Morrison already had ministerial powers, so Mr Hurley was basically just giving him authority over extra departments.

It’s a request the governor-general “would not have any kind of power to override or reject”, constitutional law professor Anne Twomey tells the BBC.

“This wasn’t even a meeting between the prime minister and the governor-general, it was just paperwork.”

But Mr Morrison’s appointments were not publicly announced, disclosed to the parliament, or even communicated to most of the ministers he was job-sharing with.

Australia’s solicitor-general found Mr Morrison’s actions were not illegal but had “fundamentally undermined” responsible government.

But the governor-general had done the right thing, the solicitor-general said in his advice this week.

It would have been “a clear breach” for him to refuse the prime minister, regardless of whether he knew the appointments would be kept secret, Stephen Donaghue said.

Critics push for investigation

Ultimately, Mr Hurley had to sign off on Mr Morrison’s requests, but critics say he could have counselled him against it and he could have publicised it himself.

But representatives for the governor-general say these types of appointments – giving ministers the right to administer other departments – are not unusual.

And it falls to the government of the day to decide if they should be announced to the public. They often opt not to.

Mr Hurley himself announcing the appointments would be unprecedented. He had “no reason to believe that appointments would not be communicated”, his spokesperson said.

Emeritus professor Jenny Hocking finds the suggestion Mr Hurley didn’t know the ministries had been kept secret “ridiculous”.

“The last of these bizarre, duplicated ministry appointments… were made more than a year after the first, so clearly by then the governor-general did know that they weren’t being made public,” she says.

“I don’t agree for a moment that the governor-general has a lot of things on his plate and might not have noticed.”

The historian says it’s one of the biggest controversies surrounding a governor-general since John Kerr caused a constitutional crisis by sacking Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.

Prof Hocking famously fought for transparency around that matter – waging a lengthy and costly legal battle that culminated in the release of Mr Kerr’s correspondence with the Queen.

And she says the same transparency is needed here.

The Australian public need to know whether Mr Hurley counselled the prime minister against the moves, and why he didn’t disclose them

The government has already announced an inquiry into Mr Morrison’s actions, but she wants it to look at the governor-general and his office too.

“If the inquiry is to find out what happened in order to fix what happened, it would be extremely problematic to leave out a key part of that equation.”

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – Mr Morrison’s predecessor – has also voiced support for an inquiry.

“Something has gone seriously wrong at Government House,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“It is the passive compliance along the chain… that did undermine our constitution and our democracy… that troubles me the most. This is how tyranny gets under way.”

PM defends governor-general

Prof Twomey says the criticism of Mr Hurley is unfair – there’s was no “conspiracy” on his part to keep things secret.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable for anyone to expect that he could have guessed that the prime minister was keeping things secret from his own ministers, for example.

“Nobody really thought that was a possibility until about two weeks ago.”

Even if he had taken the unprecedented step to publicise the appointments or to reject Mr Morrison’s request, he’d have been criticised, she says.

“There’d be even more people saying ‘how outrageous!'” she says. “The role of governor-general is awkward because people are going to attack you either way.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also defended Mr Hurley, saying he was just doing his job.

“I have no intention of undertaking any criticism of [him].”

A role fit for purpose?

Prof Hocking says it’s a timely moment to look at the role of the governor-general more broadly.

She points out it’s possible the Queen may have been informed about Mr Morrison’s extra ministries when Australia’s parliament and people were not.

“It does raise questions about whether this is fit for purpose, as we have for decades been a fully independent nation, but we still have… ‘the relics of colonialism’ alive and well.”

Momentum for a fresh referendum on an Australian republic has been growing and advocates have seized on the controversy.

“The idea that the Queen and her representative can be relied upon to uphold our system of government has been debunked once and for all,” the Australian Republic Movement’s Sandy Biar says.

“It’s time we had an Australian head of state, chosen by Australians and accountable to them to safeguard and uphold Australia’s constitution.”

But Prof Twomey says republicans are “clutching at straws” – under their proposals, the head of state would also have been bound to follow the prime minister’s advice.

“It wouldn’t result in any changes that would have made one iota of difference.”

 

Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-62683210

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Australia election: PM Morrison’s security team in car crash in Tasmania

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A car carrying the Australian prime minister’s security team has crashed in Tasmania during an election campaign visit.

Four police officers were taken to hospital with “non-life threatening injuries” after the car and another vehicle collided, authorities said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was not in the car, but the accident prompted him to cancel the rest of his campaign events on Thursday.

The other driver involved was not hurt.

Tasmania Police said initial investigations suggested the second car had “collided with the rear of the police vehicle, while attempting to merge”. It caused the unmarked security vehicle to roll off the road.

The two Tasmania Police officers and two Australian Federal Police officers were conscious when taken to hospital for medical assessment, the prime minister’s office said.

“Family members of the officers have been contacted and are being kept informed of their condition,” a statement said.

“The PM is always extremely grateful for the protection provided by his security team and extends his best wishes for their recovery and to their families.”

Australians go to the polls on 21 May. Mr Morrison – prime minister since 2018 – is hoping to win his conservative coalition’s fourth term in office.

Polls suggest the opposition Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, is favoured to win. However, Mr Morrison defied similar polling to claim victory at the last election in 2019.

Mr Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition holds 76 seats in the House of Representatives – the minimum needed to retain power.

Political observers say the cost of living, climate change, trust in political leaders, and national security will be among key issues in the campaign.

In recent weeks, the prime minister has faced accusations of being a bully and once sabotaging a rival’s career by suggesting the man’s Lebanese heritage made him less electable. Mr Morrison has denied the allegations.

Mr Albanese stumbled into his own controversy this week when he failed to recall the nation’s unemployment or interest rates.

Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-61103987

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Sydney airport warns delays could last weeks on third day of travel chaos

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Long queues at Sydney airport’s domestic terminals have continued for a third day, with some passengers missing international connections, as the airport warns delays resulting from a surge in travellers and a shortfall in security staff could continue for weeks.

Chaotic scenes were reported in the departure halls as early as 4.30am on Saturday, with some frustrated travellers, many of whom heeded the pleas of airport chiefs to arrive at least two hours before their domestic flight was due to take off, claiming only one security line was operating.

While the queues that formed early on Saturday are understood to have cleared later in the morning, the airport apologised to affected travellers.

“Traffic numbers are picking up and the close contact rules are making it hard to fill shifts and staff the airport. We appreciate your patience,” Sydney airport said on its Twitter account.

A wave of families travelling as the term two school holidays begin this weekend, combined with close contact rules that are understood to be taking out about 20% of security shifts in any given day, are driving the problem.

Certis, the company that Sydney airport contracts for its security operations, is desperately trying to recruit personnel, while the airport has reallocated back office, IT and retail workers to the departure hall to comb queues so they can prioritise passengers at risk of missing their flight.

“We are working around the clock to resolve these issues and have teams in the terminals bringing passengers forward in order of priority,” a Sydney airport spokesperson said.

He added that the airport is “anticipating it will [be] busy right through the school holiday period and peak over the Easter and Anzac Day weekends, in some cases at 90% of pre-Covid passenger levels”.

“We’re deeply grateful to passengers for their ongoing patience and we’re sorry to everyone who has been inconvenienced,” the spokesperson said. “We would also like to thank passengers for getting to the airport early and treating staff and each other with kindness and respect.”

The Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce was forced to clarify comments he made on Friday that passengers were “not match fit” and that those forgetting to remove laptops and aerosols from their bags at the security check contributing to the delays.

“Just to be clear, I’m not ‘blaming’ passengers,” Joyce said. “Of course it’s not their fault,” he said.

Qantas shed thousands of staff during the pandemic, and outsourced ground crews in a decision that was challenged in court.

On Saturday, Qantas also apologised to a Melbourne family left stranded in Sydney, after domestic flight delays caused them to miss an international trip.

Javiera Martinez, her partner Daniel Capurro and their three children were supposed to be flying to Chile on Friday to visit relatives they had not seen in three years.

But after their 8am Qantas flight from Melbourne was delayed by half an hour, baggage handling and airport transfer delays in Sydney meant they couldn’t make their 11.30am LATAM Airlines flight to Santiago.

Martinez said the airline’s procedures at the airport were chaotic.

“We think Qantas didn’t behave appropriately. I got berated by the person at the counter – they never apologised, they never assumed any responsibility at all,” she said. “It was a rude conversation. We have been mistreated badly I would say.”

The PCR tests they need to travel have now expired and they will have to take them again as they wait for seats on the next flight to Santiago from Sunday.

The airline has apologised and paid for a night’s accommodation in Sydney.

“We sincerely apologise that the family missed their connecting flight on another airline due to delays moving through Sydney airport on Friday,” a Qantas spokesperson said.

The family is among many affected by hold ups amid the busiest travel period in two years, with Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports warning passengers to arrive two hours before domestic flights.

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