Despite CCTV evidence, no culprits have been identified in a host of previous incidents. In April, Absar Alam, a prominent commentator survived a shooting by an unknown gunman, and last year an established journalist, Matiullah Jan, was abducted for a number of hours by unidentified men. Many in Pakistan bitterly joke that “everyone knows” who such “unknown” figures really are. Leading TV anchor Hamid Mir, shot twice in 2014, told the BBC, “We are losing our freedom very fast”. After making a fiery speech at a protest last week, criticising the military and calling for an end to attacks on journalists, Mr Mir was taken off air.
The world’s largest beef supplier has been hit with a ransomware attack, threatening some of the U.S. meat supply.
The hack came less than four weeks after a similar one by Russian criminals against Colonial Pipeline, a major U.S. fuel supplier, prompted Colonial to shut down pipeline activity for five days and led to shortages at some gas stations.
JBS, one of the world’s largest international meat processors, was hacked Sunday, the company said in an email, forcing the company to take systems offline and stop work in North America and Australia.
The company maintains 11 beef processing facilities in Australia and 26 chicken processing plants in the U.S.
At least six JBS locations in the U.S. posted on their respective Facebook pages for workers to not come in Tuesday, an NBC review of their posts found.
One such post, from JBS’s beef processing plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, wrote: “Team member: This weekend our company was the target of a cyberattack that has impacted our IT systems. As a result, we will not operate tomorrow. ONLY MAINTENANCE AND SHIPPING ARE SCHEDULED TO WORK.”
JBS-owned Pilgrim’s Pride, one of the U.S.’s largest chicken producers, didn’t respond to request for comment. But at least one of its processing plants, in Arcadia, Wisconsin, canceled its night shift on Monday because of “IT issues,” according to a post on that location’s Facebook page.
The JBS facility in Greeley, Wisconsin, the largest beef processing plant in the U.S., shut down its two major shifts Tuesday, according to a spokesperson for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 union, which has nearly 3,000 members employed there.
“From what we know, only shipping and maintenance continue to work at the Greeley plant,” the spokesperson said.
The company told the White House on Sunday that it was a ransomware attack, principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday.
“The White House has offered assistance to JBS, and our team, and the Department of Agriculture, have spoken to their leadership several times in the last day,” Jean-Pierre said. “JBS notified the administration that the ransom demand came from a criminal organization, likely based in Russia. The White House is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter, and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals.”
Ransomware, an extremely lucrative type of cybercrime, is malicious software that lets hackers encrypt a victim’s files and demand a ransom to make them functional again. Sometimes, the hackers will steal and threaten to publish those files if their demands aren’t met.
Ransomware attacks have grown rapidly in recent years. Criminal hackers, often based countries like Russia where they are largely protected from U.S. law enforcement, have targeted practically every major industry to shake down victims for payment.
Allan Liska, a ransomware analyst at the cybersecurity company Recorded Future, said in a text message that about 40 food and beverage companies around the world have had confirmed ransomware attacks since May 2020.
Colonial’s hackers, an established ransomware gang called DarkSide, shut down its website amid international attention from that attack, but not before receiving a $4.4 million payment from Colonial.
Chad Hart, a professor at Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, said that the ransomware attack had already affected the cattle market.
“For consumers this probably means a little bit higher meat prices because you’re constraining the supply of meat,” he said.
JBS hasn’t announced an expected timeline to going back online. If it resumes normal operations within a few days, most people won’t see serious effects, Hart said. But if JBS’s plants are shut down long enough, it could lead to some farmers running out of room and having to euthanize their livestock, especially pigs and chickens, as happened in 2020 when meat processors shut down because of Covid-19 infections.
“If this goes beyond a week, you start to really worry about these animals building up on farm sites where they just don’t have the capacity to hold them,” Hart said.
New study by University of Wisconsin seeking answers and participants
ALEXANDRIA, VA-The Virginia High School League is endorsing a University of Wisconsin research study titled “The Impact of Restarting High School Sports on The Health of Adolescent Athletes.”
The study’s objective is to document the effects of participation in organized sports on the physical activity, quality of life, and mental health of adolescent athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous studies have found that the cancelation of school and sports in spring 2020 was associated with significant decreases in physical activity, quality of life, and mental health. The UW Health research team is seeking student-athletes to survey one year later to evaluate the impacts of restarting sport participation. Importantly, they are also interested in including athletes who both have and not been able to resume participation to assess the effects of sports for adolescents directly.
The survey asks high school athletes and adolescent club sport athletes between 13 and 18 years old to access and complete a short, anonymous online survey.
Participating athletes should receive permission from their parents. The survey asks a series of questions regarding current and former sport participation, physical activity level, anxiety, depression, and health-related quality of life.
This research project is approved by the University of Wisconsin Institutional Review Board and funded through a National Federation of High School Associations grant.
The direct link to the survey is also available here: https://uwmadison.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_a5EPmtGzgpoGokJ
The researchers’ goal is to acquire as many responses as possible from adolescents across the US to provide timely information to help inform ongoing discussions regarding the re-initiation and continuation of youth sports during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sara Daavettila from the University of North Carolina, Katarina Jokic of the University of Georgia, University of Virginia’s Emma Navarro and Estela Perez-Somarriba from the University of Miami are the four finalists for the Class of 2021 Honda Sport Award for Tennis as announced by Chris Voelz, Executive Director of THE Collegiate Women Sports Awards (CWSA).
The Honda Sport Award has been presented annually by the CWSA for the past 45 years to the top women athletes in 12 NCAA-sanctioned sports and signifies “the best of the best in collegiate athletics”. The winner of the sport award becomes a finalist for the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year and the prestigious 2021 Honda Cup which will be presented on a telecast on CBS Sports Network, on June 28, at 9 pm ET.
The tennis finalists were chosen by a combination of NCAA Championship finishes and national tennis rankings. The Honda Sport Award winner for Tennis will be announced later this week after voting by administrators from over 1,000 NCAA member schools. Each NCAA member institution has a vote.
Daavettila, a fifth-year senior from Williamson, Mich., was the top seed entering the 2021 NCAA Singles Championship and ranked as high as No. 1 in the ITA national rankings. She is the 2021 ACC Player of the year and a seven-time ITA All-America selection. With a career record of 149-35, she is currently second in program history with 149 career singles victories. She was the 2019 ITA Fall National Championship singles titlist and a member of three ITA National Team Indoor Championships.
A senior from Novi Grad, Bosnia, Jokic is a two-time Honda Award finalist and ranked as high as No. 1 in the ITA national rankings for two weeks this season. She is the 2021 SEC Player of the Year and only the second Bulldog to be SEC Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year in their career. She entered the 2021 NCAA Champions as a No. 4 seed in single and a 5-8 see in the NCAA Doubles Tournament.
Named the 2021 ACC Freshman of the Year, Navarro entered the 2021 NCAA Singles Championship as the No. 3 seed and went on to capture the 2021 NCAA Singles Championship. The freshman from Charleston, S.C., began her career by winning her first 14 singles matches and ranked as high as No. 1 in the ITA national rankings. She was a six-time ACC Freshman of the Week and a two-time ACC Player of the Week.
Perez-Somarriba, a fifth-year senior from Madrid, Spain, was the Class of 2019 Honda Award winner for tennis and a two-time Honda Award finalist. She is a four-time first-team All-ACC honoree and advanced to the 2021 NCAA Singles Championship title match finishing runner-up after capturing the title in 2019. She ranked as high as No. 1 in the ITA national rankings and is a four-time ITA All-American in singles.
The CWSA, celebrating its 45th anniversary year, has honored the nation’s top NCAA women athletes for their superior athletic skills, leadership, academic excellence and eagerness to participate in community service. Since commencing its partnership in 1986, Honda has provided more than $3.4 million in institutional grants to the universities of the award winners and nominees to support women’s athletics programs.
Peru on Monday almost tripled its official COVID-19 death toll to 180,764, following a government review, making it the country with the worst death rate per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Peru has been among the hardest hit Latin America countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, with its hospitals overcrowded with patients and demand for oxygen outstripping availability. Experts had long warned that the true death toll was being undercounted in official statistics.
The government said it will now update its death count, which stood at 69,342 as of Sunday, in part because of a lack of testing that made it difficult to confirm whether a person had died due to the virus or some other cause.
According to Johns Hopkins data, Hungary had the worst number of per capita COVID-19 deaths at about 300 per 100,000 people. With its updated death toll, Peru now stands at more than 500 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people.
“We think it is our duty to make public this updated information,” said Peru Prime Minister Violeta Bermudez during a news conference announcing the result of the review.
In Latin America, Brazil has the highest total death toll with more than 450,000 lives lost due to the pandemic. Based on population, however, Peru’s per capita death toll now more than doubles that of Brazil, according to the data.
Peru’s updated numbers are in line with so-called excess death figures, which researchers have used in Peru and other countries to measure possible undercounting during the pandemic.
Excess deaths measures the total number of deaths over a period of time and compares it with the same period pre-pandemic.
But Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Tuesday that bans transgender women from women’s sports in high school and college, a move that some lawmakers and LGBTQ advocates are calling heartless and discriminatory.
DeSantis’ action came on June 1, the first day of the month that is nationally recognized as Pride Month for the LGBTQ community. Communities across the nation, including in Florida, will host celebrations of LGBTQ accomplishments as well as reflect on the and remember those lost do to anti-LGBTQ hate crimes.
The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ advocacy group, said in a Tuesday tweet that it will be filing a lawsuit to “block this arbitrary, discriminatory ban.”
But proponents of the legislation claim that the intent is to ensure that cisgender women and girls — those who were assigned female at birth and continue to identify as such throughout their lifetime — do not lose out on scholarships and athletic opportunities, saying that transgender women will have a competitive advantage.
“Girls are gonna play girls sports and boys are going to play boys sports,” DeSantis said at a press conference Tuesday about the bill signing.
The press conference took place at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville and he was joined by several lawmakers. A wall of young student athletes stood behind DeSantis during the conference.
The legislation, called the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” bars athletes from participating in women’s sports teams if their original birth certificates categorize them as male. Meaning that transgender women cannot compete on the team that aligns with their gender identity.
The legislation does not draw the same line for those who were assigned female at birth, though.
“Athletic teams or sports designated for males, men, boys may be open to students of the female sex,” the language reads. This could allow transgender men to play on either men or women’s sports teams.
This legislation is a part of a national effort to regulate the lives of transgender people in the United States, and is one of several states to legislate transgender athletes in particular.
Equality Florida, a Florida-focused LGBTQ advocacy group, will host several rallies Tuesday evening in protest of DeSantis signing the bill, including in Orlando, Sarasota, and Bradenton, according to its website.
Sen. Shrevin Jones, a Democrat who represents parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, is one of Florida’s lawmakers who is a part of the LGBTQ community. He released a statement on the bill signing Tuesday.
“This is yet another hate-driven attack from the Governor and Republican legislators, and it’s insulting that they’ve staged this morning’s photo-op on the first day of Pride Month. At the end of the day, transgender kids are just kids,” Jones’s statement reads. “Most people don’t know what it’s like to be transgender or to be the parent of a transgender child, but we should all be able to agree that every Florida child deserves needs love and support, not aimless attacks from the legislature.”
Rep. Carlos Smith, a Democrat who represents part of Orange county noted in a Tuesday tweet that the Florida High School Athletics Association already has protocols to determine how transgender athletes participate in sports Florida. Smith also is part of the LGBTQ community.
“FHSAA has allowed trans kids to participate in FL since 2013 with ZERO problems,” Smith said, continuing to note that the legislation “fuels transphobia and puts vulnerable kids at risk for no good reason.”
Agriculture Nikki Fried, who is expected to run against DeSantis for governor in the 2022 election, tweeted Tuesday about the signing:
“By signing a heartless ban on transgender kids in sports, @GovRonDeSantis is marginalizing an entire community. Signing it on the first day of #Pride2021 is especially cruel. Florida should stand for inclusivity, equality, and liberty — not peddling hate for political points.”
While the bill language does not explicitly say that transgender student athletes will be banned from sports, transgender women and girls may not feel comfortable playing on a team with cisgender boys and could be subjected to bullying for being transgender.
The social climate and hostility towards transgender people could lead to fewer transgender students to pursue athletes if they are forced to play on a team which does not align with their identity.
The legislation signed by DeSantis was part of a charter school bill that was approved in the 2021 legislative session.
Lawmakers slipped the transgender athletes language into that charter bill to get the measure through the Legislature. Charter schools are nontraditional public schools that generally operate by private entities.
“The safety of the people cannot rely solely on the goodwill of governments.”
LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization has called for launching negotiations on an international treaty on pandemic preparedness and response to better ready the world for the next disease outbreak.
“This is an idea whose time has come,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysesus said Monday during the final day of the World Health Assembly in Geneva. “The safety of the world’s people cannot rely solely on the goodwill of governments.”
The theme of the weeklong World Health Assembly was “Ending this pandemic, preventing the next one.” Earlier in the day, health ministers from the WHO’s 194 member states agreed to study recommendations for sweeping reforms pitched by an independent panel of experts, who found various loopholes and crucial failures in the global response to COVID-19 in early 2020. The ministers will meet again on Nov. 29 to decide whether to begin negotiations on the pandemic treaty.
The WHO has come under fire for its handling of the pandemic, and Tedros said the United Nation’s global health arm faces a “serious challenge” to maintain its COVID-19 response “at the current level.”
“It all has to be funded,” he said. “[The] WHO cannot grow stronger without sustainable financing.”
In March, amid a lack of global coordination on COVID-19 and an ongoing jostle for vaccines, more than two dozen world leaders signed a letter calling for an international treaty or framework on pandemic preparedness and response to “dispel the temptations of isolationism and nationalism.” Notably, China, Russia and the United States did not sign the letter.
“Governments have no business regulating how many children people have. Rather than ‘optimising’ its birth policy, China should instead respect people’s life choices and end any invasive and punitive controls over people’s family planning decisions,” said the group’s China team head, Joshua Rosenzweig.
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Practice, qualifying, happy fans and a Hendrick Motorsports driver winning at Charlotte Motor Speedway: It doesn’t get much more normal than that in NASCAR these days.
“It just feels like we’re back,” car owner Rick Hendrick said Sunday night after his newest driver, Kyle Larson, won the Coca-Cola 600 for the team’s record-setting 269th NASCAR victory.
Marcus Smith, CEO and president of Speedway Motorsports and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway, said he spoke with so many spectators thrilled to watch a race in person, along with others who loved competing.
“They were thrilled to be back in what feels like a full-speed NASCAR race,” a smiling Smith said.
Slowly but surely in a sport built on speed, NASCAR is regaining its pre-pandemic ways. That was evident at Charlotte where the weekend routine looked like it did before the COVID-19 pandemic called for protective masks and contact tracing.
There was a familiar feel to qualifying on Saturday. And then there was the crowd, some 50,000 or so who filled the track.
“It’s just nice to actually qualify the way we used to qualify and have people around,” driver Ryan Newman said.
The protocols shifted earlier this month.
Teams were permitted to bring VIPs and sponsors to events starting at Darlington Raceway three weeks ago.
Charlotte was given the green light two weeks ago by state officials to have as many people as racetrack officials could bring in. That’s the case for races later this summer, too.
There are no limits on fans at 47,000-seat Sonoma Raceway, where NASCAR will stage a road race next week.
Nashville Speedway, the next track where practice and qualifying is scheduled ahead of a race, is sold out for the Ally 400 on June 20. (In between Sonoma and Nashville is the All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway on June 13.)
Those with tickets are eager to see what could shape up as a wild summer, with some of the biggest names in the sport trying to break through to victory lane.
Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, who combined for 16 victories in 2020, have yet to take a checkered flag with only 11 races left in the regular season. Hamlin leads in points on the strength of nine top-five finishes while Harvick sits in ninth place.
Kyle Busch, who finished third in the 600, was grateful to see people in the seats, even if they weren’t pulling for the two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion.
“When we first started coming back to these races fans were at, the boos were back and everything felt like it was getting back to normal,” Busch said. “It’s nice having them, and they enjoy coming back.”
Like Busch, Chase Elliott hadn’t won this season until the inaugural Texas Grand Prix in Austin earlier this month. The reigning NASCAR champion didn’t let the outside noise of his drought damage his focus.
“That’s how we’ve always approached our racing at the (No. 9) camp,” Elliott said.
“That’s how we’ll always do it. We’re just focused on the opinions and the people that matter to us.”
Elliott was also happy that things were familiar at Charlotte.
“We had a nice win last week, which is always good,” Elliott said. “I feel like we’ve been in a good place really the last two or three weeks before that.”
NASCAR shut down in March 2020 along with the rest of the sports world due to COVID-19. Some three months later, the sport took its first cautious steps — no fans in attendance — with races at Darlington and Charlotte.
Almost a year later, there was little evidence of masks or that anyone was worried about the coronavirus.
Tents and campers filled the open areas around the track. The large fan concession area also included a place for those who wished to get vaccinated.
As in the past, fans toured the pit area and cheered the military display that included artillery cannons and hovering helicopters.
“My mom always told me that absence makes the heart grow founder,” Smith said. “I think all those race fans were ready to get back to our NASCAR races and it showed today.”
Former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno, along with his friend and former band leader Kevin Eubanks, were the grand marshals and gave the command to start engines. Leno happily mixed with fans at the track after his time doing standup comedy was curtailed by the pandemic.
“These kind of fans are great, they’re polite, ‘Can I have a picture?’” Leno said. “They don’t forget. … They are fan fans.”
And they’re ready to watch NASCAR in person, just like normal.
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Arkansas was rewarded Monday for its dominant run through the Southeastern Conference, landing the No. 1 national seed in the NCAA baseball tournament.
The Razorbacks (46-10) won all 10 of their SEC series and wrapped up their first conference tournament championship on Sunday. After losing three straight games in March, the Hogs never lost consecutive games.
This is the third tournament in a row that Arkansas has been a top-eight national seed.
“It’s still really special just to sit there and see your name called,” coach Dave Van Horn said after his team gathered to watch the selection show. “Such a good season up to this point.”
The 64-team tournament opens Friday in 16 regionals. Winners advance to eight best-of-three super regionals. Those winners move on to the College World Series in Omaha.
The top eight national seeds are assured of hosting super regionals if they win their regionals.
The national seeds following Arkansas: Texas (42-15), Tennessee (45-16), Vanderbilt (40-15), Arizona (40-15), TCU (40-17), Mississippi State (40-15) and Texas Tech.
Texas has its highest national seed since it was No. 2 in 2010, and the program will be making its NCAA-best 60th appearance in the tournament.
Tennessee, at No. 3, is hosting a regional for the first time since 2005, the year the Volunteers last advanced to the CWS. There was a more relaxed vibe around the team on Monday compared with in 2019, when the Vols barely made the tournament with a losing SEC record.
“Guys are playing hacky sack two minutes before the (selection show) starts,” coach Tony Vitello said. “Really, after 30 minutes of the show or when we knew who we would play in Game 1, they kind of were ready to move on.”
Vanderbilt, making its SEC-best 15th straight tournament appearance, will be going for its third national championship since 2014 after winning the title two years ago. There was no tournament in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seeds nine through 16 are Stanford (33-14), Notre Dame (30-11), Old Dominion (42-14), Mississippi (41-19), East Carolina (41-15), Oregon (37-14), Florida (38-20) and Louisiana Tech (40-18).
The SEC led all conferences with nine teams in the field, followed by the ACC (8), Pac-12 (6), Big 12 and Conference USA (4) and Big Ten (3).
The last four teams selected were Alabama, Michigan, North Carolina and UC Santa Barbara. The first four out were Baylor, Pittsburgh, Georgia and Ball State.
Baylor would be first in line to replace any team that can’t play its regional because of failure to clear COVID-19 testing protocols.
Stetson athletic director Jeff Altier, the Division I Baseball Committee chairman, said varying scheduling strategies because of the pandemic made the task of selecting at-large teams extremely difficult.
Altier said the opinions of regional advisory committees weighed heavily in the decision-making. Typically the RPI, or rating percentage index, helps the committee decipher teams’ comparative strengths, but it wasn’t as useful this year because several conferences didn’t play outside their leagues.
“It was an incredibly difficult year,” Altier said. “Nobody experienced COVID before. We look at the RPI as a tremendous metric for us to help us evaluate, and in a year where you cannot play everybody across the conferences as typically you would do, it makes it difficult to choose.”
Other notes about the tournament:
— Old Dominion (42-14) is the top seed in the regional hosted by South Carolina. The Gamecocks are No. 2. Old Dominion did not submit a bid to host.
— Florida State (30-22) has the longest active streak of tournament appearances at 43.
— Big Ten regular-season champion Nebraska’s appearance in the Arkansas regional creates one of the top early storylines. Razorbacks coach Van Horn led the Cornhuskers to their first two CWS appearances in 2001-02, and current Nebraska coach Will Bolt was a middle infielder and captain on those teams.
— Presbyterian faces its old coach in Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin. The school gave Corbin his first head coaching job (1988-93).
— Fairfield (37-3) became the first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference team to earn an at-large bid. The Stags won 28 straight to open the season and finished the regular season 35-1. Their .925 winning percentage is the highest in Division I history.
— VCU (37-14) has the longest active winning streak at 21 games.
— Jacksonville (16-32) has the worst record in the field. The Dolphins went 3-15 in the ASUN Conference before winning the league tournament.
More AP College World Series coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/college-world-series
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press.