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Archive for February, 2022

Guns overtake car crashes as leading cause of US trauma-related deaths, study says

The study found that suicides accounted for most of the deaths by firearms.

New studies bring BA.2 variant into sharper focus

On the heels of concerning new lab and animal experiments suggesting that BA.2 may be capable of causing more severe disease than the original Omicron strain, two new studies are helping to show how well human immunity is defending against this strain in the real world.

BA.2 is about 30% more transmissible than the original Omicron variant, BA.1, according to early studies from the UK and Denmark, and it is now causing about 1 in 5 Covid-19 cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
Even as Covid-19 cases have been dropping around the world, the relative proportion of cases caused by BA.2 has been increasing. It is outcompeting the original Omicron strain in at least 43 countries, prompting fears of another devastating pandemic wave.
As Omicron cases fall, doctors anxiously await possible surge of dangerous child complication MIS-C
“As of now, I don’t think that we need to sound a global alarm. But I do think that we need to pay attention to BA.2 because it does appear to have a growth advantage over BA.1,” says Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
Like the BA.1 strain, BA.2 also has features that help it escape some immunity from vaccines and from most monoclonal antibody treatments, though recent boosters improve personal protection and antiviral pills are still expected to work against this subvariant.
Now new studies are providing some reassurance that while BA.2 may overtake its genetically distant cousin, it won’t likely lead to greater numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.
“The situation that we’re seeing on the ground, and I get this from talking to a number of my red wing shoes colleagues who actually do the genomic surveillance, is BA.2 is kind of creeping up in terms of numbers, but it’s not the meteoric rise that we saw with BA.1,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.
That’s because in many countries like the US, UK, and Denmark, BA.2 has hit speed bumps left in its wake by BA.1, which was already very contagious.
“It’s so soon after that initial BA.1 peak that you have a lot of people who were either vaccinated or boosted … [or] got Omicron, and so right now all of those people will have relatively high titers of antibodies, neutralizing antibodies that will protect against infection,” Rasmussen says.
The new studies are preprints, which means they were posted to an online library of medical research before being reviewed by outside experts and published in medical journals.

No increase in hospitalizations

The first new study comes from South Africa, where BA.2 grew rapidly, rising from 27% to 86% of new Covid-19 infections over the course of a single week in February. Researchers looked at cases tied to more than 95,000 positive Covid-19 tests. Among these, roughly equal proportions of people were hospitalized for their infections — roughly 3.6% of people who had presumed BA.2 infections compared to 3.4% of those with signs infections caused by BA.1.
After researchers accounted for things that might influence a person’s risk of severe disease, such as older age, they found no difference in the risk for hospitalization between people infected by BA.1 and those infected by BA.2. Roughly one-quarter of people hospitalized with both BA.1 and BA.2 infections were fully vaccinated.
As BA.2 subvariant of Omicron rises, lab studies point to signs of severity
Those findings echo hospitalization studies from Denmark, where BA.2 is also the predominant cause of Covid-19 infections.
The lead researcher on the South African studyDr. Nicole Wolter, says that while it’s difficult to say how the South African experience with this variant may translate to other countries, what they’re seeing from BA.2 after their fourth wave isn’t a second peak, but a longer tail.
“We have seen an extended wave which has currently plateaued at a higher level than we have seen in previous inter-wave periods,” Wolter wrote in an email to CNN. “This may however also be influenced by schools thorogood boots opening following the December holiday period and a general relaxing of restrictions,” wrote Wolter, who is a principal medical scientist at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg.
Though cases have stayed at a high level, and most are now caused by BA.2, hospitalizations have continued to decline.

What about reinfection risk?

The second new study, from Denmark’s Statens Serum Institut — the country’s equivalent to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — looked at the risk of reinfection with BA.2 after recovery from a Covid-19 infection caused by other recent variants, including Delta and BA.1.
A fourth Covid-19 shot might be recommended this fall, as officials 'continually' look at emerging data
The study found that people who’ve recently had a Covid-19 infection caused by Omicron or Delta can be reinfected by the emerging BA.2 subvariant, but such cases appear to be uncommon, afflict mostly those who are unvaccinated and result in mostly mild infections.
BA.2 is currently the dominant cause of Covid-19 in Denmark. It overtook BA.1 during the second week of January there.
To look at reinfection risk, researchers combed through more than 140,000 viral genomes that were sequenced from infections during the period when Omicron became dominant (late November to mid-February 2022) to find people who had a new positive test 20 to 60 days after a previous one.
They found a total of 263 reinfections, with 190 of those caused by the BA.2 variant. In 140 cases, the person was reinfected by BA.2 after an infection caused by the Delta variant. There were 47 cases where people were first infected by BA.1 (the original Omicron variant) followed by the BA.2 subvariant.
Researchers then did a more in-depth analysis of those 47 reinfections where BA.2 followed BA.1. Most oofos shoes of the individuals who were reinfected were young — 30 were under age 20. None of the reinfected individuals was over age 40 and nearly all — 42 of the 47 individuals — were unvaccinated.
For the most part, reinfections were mild; 28 people had no symptoms or mild symptoms. Five people experienced symptoms that were characterized as moderate, akin to flu-like symptoms. There were no hospitalizations or deaths reported among reinfected individuals.
The study shows that “reinfection can happen with people who recently recovered from BA;1, but it’s pretty rare. And in all those cases, it wasn’t severe,” says Rasmussen, who reviewed the study but was not involved in the research.
What that means she says is that while BA.2 reinfection is a risk, it is a small risk relative to the entire population, and “that recent immune boost caused by either boosters, or recent Omicron infection is largely going to protect most of the population against it,” she said.

Sex appeal meets sharp tailoring at Nensi Dojaka’s London Fashion Week show

Even if you’ve never heard the name Nensi Dojaka, it’s likely you’ll have seen her super-sexy approach to womenswear circulating on social media: slinky mesh tops and subversive LBDs that look like hosiery on first glance.
Championed by an impressive roster of fashion favorites, including Bella Hadid, Hailey Bieber, Zendaya and Emily Ratajkowski, the 28-year-old Albanian designer has quickly gained a cult following after winning two of the industry’s most prestigious accolades: The LVMH Prize and swarovski jewelry the British Fashion Council’s Foundation Award for emerging talent.
The excitement surrounding Dojaka’s Autumn-Winter 2022 show at London Fashion Week — only her second ever solo catwalk — was palpable. Business of Fashion dubbed the event “one of the week’s most anticipated runways,” and that was borne out by the hoards of editors, influencers and British “It” models who braved London’s red weather storm alert on Saturday to attend.
Chunky silver jewelery and strappy sandals completed each look.
Chunky silver jewelery and strappy sandals completed each look.
And Dojaka did not disappoint, debuting a stream of barely-there garments designed with almost architectural precision. In the mix were perfectly placed cut-outs and panels of mesh tailored like a second skin, all held together by strands so delicate they were more floss than spaghetti-straps — proving Dojaka’s clothes are as much about expert engineering as they are sex appeal.
Bolder colors were added this season, including this dusty raspberry hue.
Bolder colors were added this season, including this dusty raspberry hue.
Alongside signature pieces that first gained Dojaka acclaim during her fashion week debut last September — flirty mini-dresses and key-holed jumpsuits — stood more substantial looks: Padded jackets cropped and cinched at the waist (the designer’s first foray into outerwear) and oversized suit jackets with cigarette-cut trousers in gray, cream and raspberry.
Seductive mini dresses were made from heavier materials like velvet for the Autumn-Winter collection.
Seductive mini dresses were made from heavier materials like velvet for the Autumn-Winter collection.
“I just wanted to see this girl more in her daywear, you know?” Dojaka said later backstage. “I wanted to introduce a red wing shoes wider (picture) of what this woman can be.” This is, of course, Dojaka’s version of daywear, where boxy tailored jackets are shrugged over matching mesh balcony bras in looks fit for a show of someone with a degree in lingerie design.
Dojaka digressed from her typical monochrome palette to include two sequined looks.
Dojaka digressed from her typical monochrome palette to include two sequined looks.
The presentation embraced all body types, too — as more and more designers are — with the appearance of plus-size model Paloma Elsesser and a pregnant Maggie Maurer (who used the catwalk to reveal the happy news) helping showcase a broader definition of desirability.
Dojaka fashioned two cropped puffer jackets with dangling straps for a deconstructed finish.
Dojaka fashioned two cropped puffer jackets with dangling straps for a deconstructed finish.
Dojaka’s ascension comes at a time when fashion is falling back in love with the sartorially salacious (case in point: the unstoppable rise of the Miu Miu ultra-miniskirt that has been worn by almost every A-lister, including Hunter Schafer and Nicole Kidman). But she said she doesn’t feel thrown by industry expectations.
“I think in terms of pressure, (this show) was better,” Dojaka told CNN moments after the raucous applause from the runway finally waned.
“I felt it more the first time,” she added, shaking either from residual nerves or the adrenaline of having pulled it off. “Now, I know more what I am doing.”

Channing Tatum deems training for ‘Magic Mike 3’ as ‘unhealthy’

Channing Tatum (center) in one of the  "Magic Mike" films.

Biden says Russia is beginning an ‘invasion of Ukraine’ as he unveils sanctions on Moscow

President Joe Biden described events now underway in Ukraine as “the beginning of a Russian invasion” as he unveiled tough new sanctions to punish Moscow on Tuesday.

He laid out what he called a “first tranche” of US sanctions against Russia for its moves, including on two large financial institutions, Russian sovereign debt and Russian elites and their family members. He said the moves would effectively “cut off Russia’s government from Western finance.”
Biden also announced he was moving additional troops and equipment to “strengthen” US allies in the Baltic nations on NATO’s eastern flank, but made clear they would not be there to “fight Russia.”
The President held out the possibility that diplomacy could still defuse the crisis, red wing shoes and said the US would remain open to talking with Russia and its partners to avert all-out war. “The United States and our allies and partners remain open to diplomacy, if it is serious,” he said. “When all is said and done, we’re going to judge Russia by its actions, not its words.”
Still, Biden made plain his view that Putin was launching a bid to fundamentally redraw borders in Europe, violating international laws and putting pressure on the West to respond.
“Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belonged to his neighbors? This is a flagrant violation of international law and demands a firm response from the international community,” Biden said.
Western nations impose sanctions and cut off key pipeline with Russia after Putin orders troops into Ukraine's breakaway regions
Biden said Putin’s remarks a day earlier were “setting up a rationale to take more territory by force, in my view.”
Biden’s description of a Russian invasion in Ukraine immediately ups the stakes for his response. He and other senior officials have vowed to impose severe economic consequences if Russian troops cross into Ukraine, including on members of Putin’s inner-circle and Russian financial institutions.
The steps Biden announced Tuesday did not amount to the full scope of that response. Biden is reserving some of his toughest measures, hoping to use them should Putin wage the type of bloody and sustained attack US officials have been warning about for weeks.
Tuesday’s sanctions are “only the sharp edge of the pain we can inflict,” a senior US administration official said after Biden’s remarks, suggesting the President is ready to go much further should an invasion of Ukraine escalate.
“This is the beginning of an invasion, and therefore this is the beginning of our response,” the official said.

Biden pledges to limit the impact on US gas prices

Biden pledged his administration was using “every tool at our disposal” to limit the effect of sanctions on domestic gas prices, acknowledging that Americans will likely see rising prices at the pump in the coming months.
“As I said last week, defending freedom will have costs, for us as well and here at home,” Biden said. “We need to be honest about that. But as we do this, I’m going to take robust action to make sure the pain of our sanctions thorogood boots is targeted at the Russian economy, not ours.”
The administration began describing events in eastern Ukraine as an “invasion” earlier Tuesday after assessing the situation on the ground there, according to administration officials.
The White House declined to provide specific intelligence that might further explain the shift in tone.
“We think this is, yes, the beginning of an invasion, Russia’s latest invasion into Ukraine,” US principal deputy national security adviser Jon Finer said in an interview on CNN’s “New Day,” adding the sanctions imposed Monday were the merely the “beginning” of the US response.
Putin's next moves are critical for Ukraine -- and Americans
“An invasion is an invasion and that is what is underway,” Finer said. “I am calling it an invasion.”
Another top US official, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, told the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Russia’s actions “are the beginning of the latest Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
“They are utterly unprovoked and unjustified,” Sherman said. “Moscow calls these troops ‘peacekeepers,’ but we all know this is a lie.”
That was further than US officials were willing to go on Monday evening, and reflected the growing sense among Biden’s team that a fuller assault on Ukrainian territory would begin shortly. Officials said continued signs of Russian aggression overnight led to a change in tone.
Still, Finer noted Russian troops have been operating in the two separatist regions since 2014, when Russia initiated an incursion into Ukraine, and suggested the latest steps taken by Moscow were an extension of that.
“I think ‘latest’ is important here,” Finer said. “An invasion is an invasion, and that is what is underway, but Russia has been invading Ukraine since 2014.”
There are substantial numbers of Russian troops close to the borders with the newly recognized republics. But CNN has not seen social media video nor satellite imagery showing newly arrived Russian units inside either of the separatist-held regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.

US still believes Putin may launch a fuller invasion

The US continues to assess it is still possible Putin moves ahead with a fuller invasion, and Western officials are being vigilant for additional indicators, according to two US officials briefed on the assessment. There may be window of dry weather, making it easier for the Russians to move heavy equipment, along with cloud cover that could help obscure movements. Still, one of the officials acknowledged “we don’t know what his next move will be.”
The developments were unfolding as Putin ordered Russian troops into two separatist-held regions of Eastern Ukraine after declaring them independent. Biden, responding in the hours after Putin signed the orders, issued a narrow set of restrictions limiting financial activity in the two regions.
As he was readying Tuesday’s announcement, the US was coordinating with allies in Europe in the hopes of averting a full-scale war. Earlier, Germany said it was halting certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, a step US leaders had been pressing for as the crisis heats up.
Germany halts Nord Stream 2 and Russia responds with a stark warning
“With regard to the latest developments, we need to reassess the situation also with regard to Nord Stream 2. It sounds very technocratic but it is the necessary administrative step in order to stop certification of the pipeline,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in Berlin.
The 750-mile pipeline was completed in September but has not yet received final certification from German regulators. Without that, natural gas cannot flow through the Baltic Sea pipeline from Russia to Germany.
The United Kingdom said Tuesday it was slapping sanctions on five Russian banks and three wealthy individuals following Putin’s decision to recognize two separatist republics.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the sanctions in a statement to oofos shoes the UK parliament on Tuesday, saying Putin was “establishing the pretext for full scale invasion” of Ukraine.
The European Union was also preparing a first package of sanctions against Russia on Tuesday, its top official said in a joint statement on Tuesday. The package will contain proposals targeting those involved in the “illegal decision” to recognize two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine and banks that are “financing Russian military and other operations in those territories.” Those sanctions will also limit Russian state and government to access the EU’s capital and financial markets.
Putin's speech was shocking to many, but not to people in Kyiv

The Winter Olympics don’t really represent the world: Costs, climate and quotas keep the majority off the podium

At 38, Benjamin Alexander became Jamaica’s first ever alpine skier to compete in the Winter Olympics — just six years after he first strapped on skis.

In his first few years in the sport, skiing with friends, he attracted a lot of attention.
“Being the only Black representative in the group, even though I am only half-Black and being of Jamaican heritage, people kept throwing jokes, sideways jokes at me about ‘Cool Runnings,’ the Jamaican bobsled team and, ‘You should go to the Olympics,'” Alexander told CNN Sport.
Benjamin Alexander represented Jamaica in alpine skiing -- a first for the island nation.

Although the Summer Games are often heralded as a melting pot — 11,417 athletes from 206 countries and regions across 33 sports participated in Tokyo 2020 — the Winter Games are nowhere near as diverse, with 91 delegations taking part at Beijing 2022.
That’s five times more than the number of teams represented in the first Winter Games in Chamonix, France in 1924.
But athletes from Africa, South Asia, as well as those from smaller island nations still find themselves olukai shoes struggling to qualify for competition in the Winter Olympics due to warmer climates, the prohibitively high cost of equipment, lack of infrastructure and limited opportunities to practice and compete.
And one athlete and his coaches that CNN interviewed for this story warn that continental quota systems that allowed countries and regions with smaller Winter Olympic delegations the opportunity to establish and expand in sliding sports in PyeongChang 2018 were scrapped ahead of Beijing, with a knock-on effect on African countries.

A push for diversity, with limited success

More countries are making their debut in the Winter Olympics.
Saudi Arabia and Haiti each sent an alpine skier to Beijing while Nigeria and Eritrea competed in the Winter Games for the second time after making their debut in PyeongChang 2018. In fact, eight African countries sent athletes to South Korea four years ago, a record number.
But just five African countries participated in this year’s Games, where the medal tables were dominated by athletes from Europe, North America and Asia.
European and North American dominance in the Winter Games can in part be explained by the fact that their climates, where ice and snow are more plentiful, lend themselves to winter sports.
But climate isn’t the only factor affecting Olympic participation — when it comes to representation at the Winter Games, there is also a huge gap between wealthier and poorer nations.
At PyeongChang 2018, no athlete from Africa, Central or South America won a medal, while Norway — one of the world’s wealthiest countries but with a population of just about five million — topped the medal table as it did at Beijing 2022.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) says it “aims to make success at the Games achievable by everyone.”
It allocates a “substantial portion” of profit from the Games to athletes and coaches through individual National Olympic Committees (NOCs) as part of the Olympic Solidarity Plan to help “athletes and coaches from countries with the greatest financial need.”
Some 429 athletes from 80 NOCs were awarded scholarships ahead of Beijing to “support qualification efforts,” according to the IOC. But European athletes nabbed nearly 69% of 429 scholarships awarded by the IOC before the Beijing Games. African athletes took home around 4% of those 429 scholarships.
Only NOCs “whose athletes had a proven winter sports track record” had access to the program, the IOC said.
Meanwhile, 236 athletes (139 men and 97 women) who received these individual athlete scholarships eventually qualified to take part in the Games.
Athletes in Europe benefited the most from these scholarships, receiving more than $5 million. Athletes in Asia received $955,003, the Americas $944,917, Oceania got $441,000 and Africa $177,000.

European athletes received most funding from Olympic scholarships ahead of 2022 Winter Games

Of the $7.5 million in scholarships issued ahead of Beijing 2022, athletes from Europe collectively received more than $5 million while athletes in Africa received just $177,000, according to the 2017-2020 IOC Olympic Solidarity report.

Olympic Scholarships for athletes allocated to National Olympic Committee (NOC) ahead of Beijing 2022

Scholarships make up just a part of Olympic Solidarity assistance programs designed jointly by the IOC and NOCs, which also direct funds — derived from Olympic revenue — towards training of coaches, sports administrators and promoting the Olympic values, according to the IOC.
CNN has reached out to the IOC for a further breakdown of funding.

Racial diversity not reflected

On a national level, the composition of delegations often isn’t very racially diverse.
“There have been Black medalists from the US and Canada and from Germany. I don’t know of any other Black medalists except for those three countries,” Olympic historian Bill Mallon told CNN Sport.
Black athletes have proven crucial to Team USA’s Olympic and Paralympic success in the Summer Games.
But even as Black athletes won medals at Beijing — speedskater Erin Jackson brought home gold, while bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor became the most decorated Black athlete in Winter Olympics history — White athletes still made up the majority of Team USA at the Games this year.
Prior to Beijing, the US has only had around 25 Black hey dude representatives on all of their various Winter Olympic teams, with over half of them in bobsledding, according to Mallon.
In 1988, Debi Thomas became Team USA’s first Black Olympic Winter medalist, winning bronze in the ladies’ figure skating competition, and Vonetta Flowers became the first Black athlete to ever win gold in the Winter Games, when she drove to victory in the two-woman bobsled with Jill Bakken in 2002.
Hockey player Jarome Iginla became the first Black man to win gold at the same Games when Canada triumphed over the US.
Four years later, speedskater Shani Davis became the first African American athlete to win an individual gold medal in Turin, Italy.
Overall, there have been a relatively small number of Black figure skaters, and they have rarely excelled at the Olympic level. Though she demonstrated technical excellence in her routines, Black French skater Surya Bonaly never won an Olympic medal.
Surya Bonaly of France performs a backflip in her free skate routine in the women's Olympic figure skating in Nagano on February 20, 1998.

Bonaly performed a one-bladed backflip at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics — an illegal move that was perceived as an act of defiance to the judges — which she landed on one foot.
That move is still illegal and has never been tried since in an Olympic competition.
“They want to keep the girls pretty, in a special way,” Bonaly told CNN Sport as she reflected on her career. Though now, according to Bonaly, “people are changing and trying to challenge themselves, and try to have more personality in their own style. And that’s good. And it’s more accepted.”
Bonaly added: “Now, back then … you only came from one mold, one way.”
Black athletes are now prevalent in sliding sports: African American women comprise a majority of America’s Olympic bobsled team.
Nathan Chen skates during the Men's Free Skating program at Beijing 2022 on February 10, 2022.

Asian American athletes, including figure skater Nathan Chen and snowboarder Chloe Kim, have also had a commanding presence at this year’s Games.
Four of the six Team USA singles figure skaters were Asian American: Karen Chen, Nathan Chen, Alysa Liu and Vincent Zhou. Madison Chock competed in the ice dancing event, while Abby Roque was the first Indigenous women’s hockey player in US team history.

Pay to play economics

Experts say that economics — not just talent — plays a huge part in whether athletes are able to participate in the Olympics.
“That notion of economics is very key because we’re looking at sports such as skiing, bobsledding, figure skating — and that equipment alone costs so much,” Akilah Carter-Francique, executive director of the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change at San Jose State University told CNN Sport.
“Pay to play is not accessible to anyone but people with money,” Shireen Ahmed, senior contributor with CBC Sports, told CNN.
“It becomes not just a racialized issue, it’s a class issue, and those red wing boots two things go hand-in-hand. Not everybody’s going to be a working-class hero,” she said.
With stories of parents remortgaging their homes, working long hours and reducing expenses to facilitate their children’s Olympic dreams, it comes as no surprise that financial barriers in winter sports can be prohibitive.
Ghana’s first skeleton Olympian Akwasi Frimpong told CNN Sport that competing at an elite level costs around $250,000 a year, which would pay for a dedicated full-time sliding coach, a push coach, a strength and conditioning coach, physical therapist, a mechanic, sliding equipment, hotel, air travel, ground transportation and food.
“This does not include also having a family and a mortgage to pay,” he said, adding that sliding sports athletes would expect to pay $80,000 to compete in smaller, non-Olympic events, outside of the Olympic season.
Jamaica’s first Olympic alpine skier Alexander told CNN: “I’m competing with people that have been skiing since the age of two, ski racing since the age of four, and their parents have put $50,000 a year into their improvements while they were young.”
“And now, their national ski federation or local club is putting in $150,000-250,000 a year for their advancement,” he said.
In 2020, 58% of nearly 500 athletes surveyed by the athletes’ rights group Global Athlete said they did not consider themselves financially stable.
The athletes who participated in the survey hailed from 48 countries. 44% were actively competing with sport as their primary profession and 31% of the athletes were Olympians.
Shiva Keshavan, a six-time Olympian and India’s only Olympic competitor in luge in the 2018 Winter Games told CNN that European delegations, which have a better system of recruitment and employment for athletes, dominate Olympic winter sports.
“Athletes that come from developing sport nations generally have more of a challenge because you don’t have the systems in place that enable a successful career.
“Often, athletes are having to deal with training with less, with worse equipment or having to do their own logistics and, sometimes, without a coach,” he added.
Many elite skiers, snowboarders and ice skaters take expensive private lessons, hire coaches or attend private schools to facilitate their training as they’re growing up.
Bode Miller — the most decorated US Olympic skier, with one gold, three silver and two bronze medals — attended Carrabassett Valley Academy in Maine on a scholarship and said in 2021 that he “wouldn’t have been able to go if not for generous people in my small town of Franconia.”
Parents with means can expect to pay as much as $64,050 to send their children to the academy, which boasts that it has “earned more Olympic medals for skiing and snowboarding than some small countries.”
Privately educated athletes constituted 30.3% of athletes who participated in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, according to a 2017 study published in the journal Public Health.
The study analyzed sociodemographic data for all athletes representing Canada, the US, Great Britain and Australia in Sochi. 94.9% of winter athletes were White.
“If your parents ski, almost certainly, you will ski,” Alexander told CNN.
“If we look at minorities in America or in England, most of them are first- or second-generation immigrants, so they don’t have as much disposable income as their White counterparts,” Alexander said.
Adding that he doesn’t think” winter sports are racist at all,” Alexander says diversity will continue to grow in winter sports.
“I just think that as more and more minorities get equal treatment, get equal pay, and as more and more minorities spread out from urban centers by virtue of technology … then I believe the tide will turn.”
In a statement sent to CNN, the IOC said it “fully supports diversity and inclusion in the Olympic Games, as well as clear and fair qualification systems that apply equally to all athletes wishing to qualify for the Olympic Games.”
“We have to strike a balance between attracting the best athletes in the world and universality,” it added.
“Some sports in all reality are more accessible,” James Macleod, IOC Director of Olympic Solidarity and National Olympic Committees Relations told CNN Sport, referencing running the 100 meters.
“But you can’t sail a sailing boat tomorrow, unless you’ve got access to one, or ride a horse or ski down a mountain. And there’s factors in that that are socio-economic, that are political, that are climate driven,” he said.
“And that’s not something that us at the IOC are going to change.
“All sports have different levels of access,” Macleod said, adding that this is something the international federations of each sport “tries to look at.”
The IOC said that qualification systems are developed and put in place by international federations “to ensure a fair and credible process for athletes to qualify for the Olympic Games according to their sports’ structures and priorities.”
“Collectively, the qualification systems allow diversity at the Olympic Winter Games, however, this is not necessarily reflected at each discipline level in every sport,” it added.

Infrastructure challenges

Winter sports infrastructure is well established in some parts of Asia — notably in Japan, South Korea and China. But it remains an “unexplored market” in India, Keshavan said.
“For India, a country that has a lot more natural resources for winter sports, compared to China, or Japan or Korea because of the Himalayan Mountain range, it is a big opportunity.
“We don’t really have the kind of infrastructure: ski resorts, big sports facilities,” he said.
This year, a single athlete, Mohammad Arif Khan, represented India’s nearly 1.4 billion people, having qualified in the slalom and giant slalom events.
Khan finished 45th in the giant slalom. India has never won a medal at the Winter Games and does not have a prominent winter sports federation, Keshavan told CNN Sport.
Shiva Keshavan of India reacts following run 3 during the Luge Men's Singles on day two of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

“Of course, it is more difficult for athletes from these countries to train at an elite level because you need access to a certain standard of ice quality which is maintained. You need to have modified slopes, you need to have certain equipment,” he said.
“Skiers from India and Pakistan, even all over Southeast Asia, Oceania, have to travel and go to Europe for training,” he added.
Athletes and politicians alike are hopeful that South Asia will become a winter sports destination: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan recently expressed optimism that the northern city of Skardu would turn into a world winter sports destination in years to come.
Frimpong, the Olympian from Ghana, told CNN that people don’t necessarily see the lack of diversity in winter sports as illogical because many countries get little to no snow.
“But that doesn’t matter,” he explained. For six months of the year, skeleton athletes can train in pushing the sled, he said.
“You can do most of that in your own country in Africa. We do track and field training, we do weightlifting, I’ll be able to test for three, four months at a time in areas where there are tracks. It’s not like it’s impossible,” he said.
“Infrastructure is not something that the IOC invests in,” Macleod told CNN adding: “That’s within the remit of the national government.”
“Often, when we have this discussion about African participation and in winter sports, the reality is that within African countries, there is not the infrastructure,” Macleod said.
“We as the IOC are not going to start building ice rinks across Africa — that is not something that is in our mission. That has to come through the national governments, but the programs that we offer are grassroots and talent identification programs,” he added.
“Each of the 206 National Olympic Committees in the world has different priorities. When a NOC looks at our programs or looks at their own development opportunities, they will say, ‘Actually, we’re not going to invest in winter sports because that’s not a priority for us.’
“‘We’re going to invest in athletics, rowing or whatever.’ And they will always have to make that choice of where they’re going to put their funding and what programs from our side they’re going to apply for,” he said.
“We put at the disposal of our stakeholders — whether it’s NOCs or the IFs (international federations) — a range of opportunities, but we are not going to go into a country and say this has got to be your priority. They are going to decide on their own priorities,” he said.

Representation matters

Carter-Francique told CNN that while the Olympics is billed as an opportunity for all to participate, this is not reflected in delegations’ final offerings.
“For many, the key to involvement in a particular sport is seeing yourself,” she added.
In winter sports especially, there are a lack of development programs to encourage underserved communities to participate, said Carter-Francique.
“If you don’t see yourself as a representative in that space, the likelihood that you would push to try to enter a space and be the first or be the only is one that not many people would do,” she added.
Some sports, like soccer, basketball, and even tennis, are more accessible because training facilities and equipment can be cheaper, Carter-Francique said.
“But the opportunity to access a ski resort, a figure skating rink, a bobsled facility — and have the bobsled — is very limited in general,” she added.
Ahmed also points to an absence of Muslim representation in the Winter Olympics, which is contrary to the Summer Games.
“We see a general trend in … Summer Games — you’ve got Central Asian athletes doing a lot of weightlifting. You’ve got Middle Eastern women doing judo, judokas, or karate, artists and athletes,” Ahmed added.

Ditching continental quotas a step backwards for inclusion

Frimpong and Nigeria’s Simidele Adeagbo became the first African skeleton racers to compete at PyeongChang 2018 following the introduction of the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation’s (IBSF) continental quota system.
But the IBSF and the IOC opted to revoke the continental quota for the Beijing Games — something coaches had warned would deliver a “crushing blow” to African athletes hoping to participate in winter sports.
Coaches Brian McDonald and Zach Lund warned the IOC in a December 30, 2021 email seen by CNN that “inequitable quotas that didn’t take into account the massive hurdles African athletes must clear in order to train and aspire to be Winter Olympians.
“The dream of so many Africans to watch and be inspired by fellow Africans competing in the Winter Olympic Games will bear long-lasting fruit for Olympic sport,” they wrote.
Akwasi Frimpong of Ghana starts his men's skeleton training session at the Olympic Sliding Centre, during the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 12, 2018.

Simidele Adeagbo of Nigeria reacts as she finishes a run during the Women's Skeleton on day eight of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 17, 2018.

“An exclusion will be a crushing blow to African athletes who worked so hard and who dared to dream what once seemed impossible,” they added in the email.
The quota for sliding sports was removed ahead of Beijing — a decision which directly affected Frimpong.
“Giving an athlete a quota place, which is not according to the qualification criteria, would consequently imply the exclusion of another athlete qualified in the current qualification system,” an IOC representative told Frimpong’s coaches in a January 12 email seen by CNN.
“I qualified as Ghana’s first skeleton Olympian, and the first Black male skeleton athlete ever in history at the Olympic Games, both in the world as well as for Africa,” Frimpong told CNN.
Frimpong was 99th in world rankings ahead of PyeongChang and qualified through the quota system.
“Now, I am 36 points higher than I was, which means I am 63 on the world ranking. I needed to be in the top 60 which is the prerequisite to qualify for this Olympic Games — to be able to qualify outright,” he told CNN.
On December 29, hoping to compete in three final races and obtain enough points to make the top 60, Frimpong tested positive for Covid-19 and was unable to compete. He did not qualify for the Winter Olympics.
Frimpong said his pre-Covid rating meant “I could possibly almost qualify outright, meaning that I am as good — maybe not as good as the gold medalist or the top 10 Europeans or whatsoever — but I’m good enough to be in the world class sport that is dominated by Europeans, westerners.”
Frimpong said his coaches emailed the IOC asking them to reinstate a continental quota for all winter sports “for qualified African athletes who can safely compete.”
“We’re not asking them to take away a spot from any other nations, we’re not asking them to give us a free way, or a free card.
“But if there are African athletes in winter sports that are close to qualifying, which means they are competitive and qualified and can safely compete, that quota should be in place until there’s enough African athletes,” he added.
In a statement sent to CNN, the IBSF confirmed that the continental quota spot was not included in the Olympic Qualification System for Beijing 2022.
“To address Emerging Nations and their needs, the IBSF established a wider Development Program which focused as mentioned on Emerging Nations but equally on gender equity in supporting athletes on their qualification pathway to the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022,” the organization said in a statement.
No athlete representing an African NOC has ever won a medal.
“We were looking forward to seeing more and more Africans compete in 2022. And now it’s less than half, or at least half of what it was in 2018, so it’s disappointing. The message is clear that inclusiveness is not a priority,” Frimpong added.
But there is hope — even if only for a select few athletes.
American bobsledder Meyers Taylor’s bronze in the two-woman bobsled on Saturday gave the 37-year-old her fifth Olympic medal as she surpassed Davis’ four. Meyers Taylor is now the most decorated woman Olympic bobsledder ever.
When asked about passing Davis’ record saying, she said: “That is overwhelming. It’s so crazy to hear that stat and to know that I’m part of a legacy that’s bigger than me. Hopefully, it just encourages more and more Black athletes to come out to winter sports and not just Black athletes, winter sports for everybody.
“We want everybody to come out regardless of the color of your skin. We want winter sports to be for everybody, regardless of race, regardless of socio-economic class. I think the more diversity we have, the stronger our sport can be.
“So, hopefully, this is just the start of more and more people coming out and trying winter sports.”

Solar eruption captured in an unprecedented image

The Solar Orbiter spacecraft, operated by NASA and the European Space Agency, captured a giant solar eruption on February 15. This is the largest solar prominence eruption ever observed in a single image together with the full solar disc.

US says it has credible information about Russian ‘kill list’ in potential Ukraine invasion

The US has written to the top United Nations human rights official that it has “credible information” that Russian forces are identifying Ukrainians “to be killed or sent to camps” if it further invades Ukraine and occupies it.

“Disturbing information recently obtained by the United States that indicates that human rights violations and abuses in the aftermath of a further invasion are being planned,” Ambassador Bathsheba Nell Crocker, the US Representative to the Office of the United Nations hey dude and Other International Organizations in Geneva, alleges in a letter to Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“These acts, which in past Russian operations have included targeted killings, kidnappings/forced disappearances, unjust detentions, and the use of torture, would likely target those who oppose Russian actions, including Russian and Belarusian dissidents in exile in Ukraine, journalists and anti-corruption activists, and vulnerable populations such as religious and ethnic minorities and LGBTQI+ persons,” reads the letter, which was first reported by The Washington Post and obtained by CNN.
“Specifically, we have credible information that indicates Russian forces are creating lists of identified Ukrainians to be killed or sent to camps following a military occupation. We also have credible information that Russian forces will likely use lethal measures to disperse peaceful protests or otherwise counter peaceful exercises of perceived resistance from civilian populations,” the letter says.
The letter did not say how the US obtained the information. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed that it received the message.
Crocker added that the aim for sharing this information with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights was to give “an early warning that a further Russian invasion of Ukraine may create a human rights catastrophe.” She said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised these concerns to the Security Council on February 17. “In particular, he stated that the United States has information that indicates Russia will target specific groups of Ukrainians,” Crocker added.
The Kremlin on Monday denied the claim regarding a kill list and called it “absolute fiction.”
“This is an absolute hoax, this is a lie,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told CNN. Pressed on if he is aware of the existence of such a list, Peskov said, “I know that this is absolute fiction, there is no such list, it is fake news.”
CNN reported on Friday that multiple US and western government officials confirmed to CNN that the US has intelligence that Russia has drawn up lists of current political figures that it would target for removal in the event it invades Ukraine and topples the current government in Kyiv.
Sources familiar with the intelligence said the target lists are red wing boots part of Russian planning to replace the current administration in Kyiv with a more Russia-friendly government, bolstering a previous disclosure by the British government identifying pro-Moscow figures it said Russia planned to install.
The most likely outcome for those politicians and public figures whom Moscow has targeted to be ousted in the event Kyiv falls, these sources said to CNN, is jail or assassination.
CNN has not seen the underlying intelligence intercepts or the documents that name the targets or the purported collaborators and their supposed positions in a pro-Russia administration.
Blinken said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” over the weekend that the US would continue supporting Ukrainians if there is an invasion and a Ukrainian insurgency is left to fight.
“(President Joe Biden) said that we will, in the event of an invasion, double down on our support for Ukraine, and that means in terms of security assistance, economic assistance, diplomatic assistance, political assistance, humanitarian assistance, you name it,” Blinken said.

Putin orders troops into pro-Russian regions of eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered troops into separatist-held parts of eastern Ukraine in what the Kremlin called a “peacekeeping” mission, just hours after he signed decrees recognizing the independence of the Moscow-backed regions.

It is unclear if Russian troop movements marked the beginning of an invasion of Ukraine that Western leaders have warned about for weeks. But multiple US and Western officials warned Monday’s move could serve as the opening salvo of a larger military operation targeting the country.
In a fiery speech on Monday night, Putin hoka shoes for women blasted Kyiv’s growing security ties with the West, and in lengthy remarks about the history of the USSR and the formation of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic, appeared to cast doubt on Ukraine’s right to self-determination.
“Ukraine has never had traditions of its own statehood,” he said, calling the eastern part of the country “ancient Russian lands.”
The decrees signed by Putin conveyed Moscow’s official recognition over two breakaway territories in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine — the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic (DPR and LPR). The decrees recognized them as independent states, and guaranteed their security with Russian troops. The decrees said that Russian so-called peacekeeping forces would be deployed in the regions.
A senior US administration official said the speech was meant to “justify war” to the Russian people and that it amounted to “an attack on the very idea of a sovereign and independent Ukraine” using “a number of false claims” meant to justify military action.
“The human costs of a further Russian invasion and occupation will be devastating,” the official said.
Separatists in eastern Ukraine have long had substantial backing from the Kremlin, with the US, NATO and Ukrainian officials saying Moscow supplies them with advisory support and intelligence, and embeds its own officers in their ranks. Russia has always denied having its own troops on the ground.
Moscow has also distributed hundreds of thousands of Russian passports to people in Donbas in recent years, with Putin attempting to establish facts on the ground by naturalizing Ukrainians as Russian citizens. Kyiv and the West maintain that the region is part of Ukrainian territory, although the Ukranian government asserts the two regions have been in effect Russian-occupied since 2014, when the conflict in eastern Ukraine began.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Putin’s decision to recognize the breakaway regions “a clear attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty” and said US President Joe Biden would sign an executive order prohibiting “all new investment, trade and financing by US persons to, from, and in hoka shoes the so-called ‘Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.”
Biden said last month that “if any assembled Russian units move across Ukrainian border, that is an invasion. But it will be met with severe and coordinated economic response that I’ve discussed in detail with our allies, as well as laid out very clearly for President Putin.”
Earlier on Monday, Putin held a highly choreographed televised meeting with his top officials, accusing Kyiv of carrying out acts of aggression.
Putin also accused the West of threats and blackmail during the previously unscheduled convening of the Russian security council that, in unusually theatrical setting, was shown on television.
The broadcast aired just hours after the White House announced that US President Joe Biden agreed “in principle” to French-brokered talks with Putin as long as Russia does not further invade Ukraine. The Kremlin said earlier on Monday that there were “no concrete plans” for a meeting.
Speaking about the possibility of talks with Biden, Putin — who held two lengthy phone calls with the French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday — hinted he was skeptical.
The latest on the Ukraine-Russia crisis
“Yesterday I spoke with the French President on two occasions, with the second call lasting until 2:00 a.m. or so. He assured me that the American position has changed somewhat. But when I asked what these changes are, he, unfortunately, could not say.” Putin said.
He then referred to remarks made on Sunday by Blinken, who stressed once again that the issue of Ukraine’s membership in NATO is “an issue for Ukraine and for NATO.”
Assurances that Ukraine would not be admitted to NATO in the future are one of the central demands made by the Kremlin.
With his top officials assembled in front of him at the extraordinary meeting of the security council, Putin appeared following claims made by the Russian military earlier on Monday that troops and border guards engaged in a clash with a “sabotage and reconnaissance group from the territory of Ukraine” inside Russian territory.
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the Security Council on Monday.

“Russia has always tried to resolve all conflicts by peaceful means. Nevertheless, the Kyiv authorities conducted two punitive operations in these territories [Donetsk and Luhansk], and it seems that we are now witnessing an escalation for the third time,” Putin said, without further elaborating or providing specifics.
CNN has not independently verified olukai shoes reports of a clash inside Russia’s territory. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba denied a clash occurred, saying on Twitter, “I categorically refute the disinformation of the Russian Federation.”
Kuleba said Ukraine “did not attack Donetsk, Luhansk, did not send saboteurs or armored personnel carriers across the border, did not fire on the territory of the Russian Federation or the checkpoint at the border, did not commit sabotage, does not plan such actions.”
Russia blows past another off ramp in the Ukraine crisis
The increase in combative language from Putin came as tensions grew once again in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Joint Forces Operation said it recorded 32 ceasefire violations as of 4 p.m. local time, a number that was roughly in line with those over the weekend.
New satellite images showed intensified activity among Russian units close to Ukraine’s north-eastern border and the Ukrainian Defense ministry said it recorded dozens of ceasefire violations on Sunday.
Defense minister Oleksii Reznikov said Monday that Ukraine was not seeing any withdrawal of Russian forces from positions close to the border.
And in a further escalation, Belarusian officials announced Sunday that joint Russian military exercises in Belarus that were slated to end over the weekend would continue, implying that Russian forces may extend their stay.

Why Olympic figure skaters don’t get dizzy

Top figure skaters spin at such unbelievably fast speeds — as many as six revolutions per second — that it can make even spectators feel a little woozy.

Curious viewers of the Beijing Winter Olympics want to know why. “How do figure skaters not get dizzy?” has been one of the top Google searches over the past week.
So how do these athletes pull off such head-spinning moves without toppling over?
As skating events continue in Beijing this week — the women’s free skate program airs Thursday night on NBC and Peacock — we turned to experts for answers.
Do figure skaters get dizzy?
Not so much, because they’ve learned how to minimize it.
Although they occasionally tumble upon landing, figure skaters mostly spin through the air without losing olukai shoes their balance. That’s because they have conditioned their bodies and brains to quash that dizzying feeling, experts say.
American figure skater Mirai Nagasu, who won a bronze medal at the Winter Olympics in South Korea in 2018, says she feels the rotations but has learned how to recenter her focus over the years.
“I think we have a learned ability against the momentum that hits us while we’re spinning,” she says.
US Olympic medalist Mirai Nagasu  skates at Bryant Park in New York City.

Kathleen Cullen, a professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University, has a more scientific answer. She studies the vestibular system, which is responsible for our sense of balance and motion, and says spinning without stumbling from dizziness is an art perfected over time.
At the start of their careers, skaters and other athletes feel dizzy when they spin around, Cullen says. But ultimately, they train their brains to better interpret that feeling.
“There’s a really profound fundamental thing that happens in the brain of people like hey dude dancers or skaters over lots and lots of practice. And that’s basically a change in the way the brain is processing information,” Cullen says.
“When you spin around, you’re activating the semicircular canals, rotation sensors. They’re filled with fluid and they’re sensing your rotation. But when you stop, the fluid has inertia and it tends to continue to move. They actually get a false sensation of movement.”
Over years of training, figure skaters’ brains have adapted and learned to ignore this error, she says.
“This is done over time with each practice session, day by day, as the brain compares its expectations with what it is actually pulling in from its sensory receptors.”
Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of Team USA skate on day 10 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games on February 14, 2022.

In short, Cullen says, most people feel like the world’s still whirling even after they stop spinning. But Olympians, and skaters in particular, generally do not because their brains have changed to suppress the feeling.
Athletes also learn ways to reduce their dizziness. For example, focusing on a fixed reference or stationary object minimizes dizziness and loss of balance.
“Ballet dancers often whip their head around during each turn to fixate a visual reference. Similarly, at the end of the spin, athletes will fixate their eyes at a specific spot on the wall to provide a fixed reference,” Cullen says.
Figure skater Zhu Yi of China competes in the women's short program at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

The brain and the inner ear are in constant communication with the body and one another to achieve balance, says Brigid Dwyer, an assistant professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine.
“For most people, however, dizziness is only a potential issue during faster and more forceful activities,” Dwyer says. “Amazingly, when needed, our brains can be red wing boots prompted over time to better handle the dizzying tasks we encounter.”
Here are some other common Google search queries about figure skating:
Why do some figure skaters wear tights over their boots?
Nagasu says it all comes down to personal choice.
Some people wear tights over their boots if their boots are scuffed up, she says. Others, like Courtney Hicks, a gold medalist at the 2013 US International Figure Skating Classic, say wearing tights over boots helps elongate the look of their legs.
But trends have changed in recent years, with a lot of skaters opting to wear tights that show off their boots, Nagasu says.
Courtney Hicks of the US performs during a women's singles free skating event in Nagano, Japan, in November 2015.

What’s the ‘kiss and cry’ area?
After their program, figure skaters wait for their scores at the aptly named “kiss and cry” rinkside area. Here, spectators get a glimpse of the athletes at one of their most tense moments.
Many figure skaters celebrate with kisses with their coaches — although not so much in the pandemic, as they are often masked — or dissolve into tears of disappointment.
“It’s supposed to be a pun. You either give kisses over how happy your score is or it’s so bad you literally cry,” Nagasu says.
Kaori Sakamoto of Team Japan reacts after hearing her score during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Why do some figure skaters wear gloves?
Skaters can easily take a tumble. And slapping the ice at high velocity is no fun.
“Ice can be rough when you’re falling, especially when you’re factoring the height at which we fall from and the momentum from our rotations,” Nagasu says.
Gloves also keep the skaters’ hands warm during the competition.
In a highly competitive sport where the tiniest advantage can make a difference, many athletes are leaving nothing to chance.