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March 6-18
2021

UNITED STATES

Iditarod race rerouted due to coronavirus pandemic

The 2021 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska has been rerouted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of heading for Nome, the teams of mushers and their sled dogs will make an 860-mile loop that starts and ends in Willow. Their turn-around spot in the event trademarked The Last Great Race on Earth will be near the mining ghost town of Flat.

All mushers must test negative for the coronavirus before the race begins, and they will be tested again along the trail. Face masks and social distancing will be required at checkpoints.

The Iditarod ceremonial start is scheduled for March 6 in Anchorage, with a restart in Willow the next day.

There are 57 teams signed up to compete, including recent champions Pete Kaiser, Joar Leifseth Ulsom and Dallas Seavey. Norway’s Thomas Waerner is the defending champion. Waerner won the 2020 Iditarod in 9 days, 10 hours, 37 minutes and 47 seconds. It was his second Iditarod attempt, his first being in 2015 when he was named Rookie of the Year. Seavey, four times Iditarod champion, is back after a doping scandal took him out, and he will be chasing a record. Alaska Daily News reports that his return gives him a shot at what has so far proved to be an unbreakable record – Rick Swenson’s five victories.

#23676 WRITE THROUGH UPDATE FEB 7 TO REFLECT CHANGE OF DATE AND ROUTE

March 6-15
2021

NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand defends 36th America’s Cup in race of flying monohulls

Emirates Team New Zealand faces Italy’s Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team for the 36th America’s Cup. The Italian team scored an emphatic victory over Ben Ainslie’s INEOS Team UK in the best-of-13 Prada Cup final in February, winning 7-1. American Magic’s bid for the cup ended on Jan 17, when its yacht, Patriot, capsized and nearly sank during a race against the Italian team.

All the crews have been sailing futuristic AC75s monohull yachts, which Cup organizers describe as "designed to fly." They replace the foiling multihulls of the previous three America’s Cup races.

The trophy defender and the Challenger of Record win the right to set the agenda for the following Cup, so the New Zealanders and Italians made the key decisions for 2021.

Encyclopedia Britannica notes that the America’s Cup has often resulted in litigation, particularly over boat design. The controversial race of 1988, between the winning American 60-foot catamaran (multihull) and New Zealand’s 132-foot monohull had to be decided in the courts. It led to a redefinition of the rules governing future races.

According to Britannica, the America’s Cup was first offered as the Hundred Guinea Cup in 1851 by the Royal Yacht Squadron of Great Britain for a race around the Isle of Wight. The cup was won by the America, a 100-foot (30-metre) schooner from New York City, and subsequently it became known as the America’s Cup. The American winners of the cup donated it to the New York Yacht Club in 1857 for a perpetual international challenge competition.

#23671 Updated: FEB 22 TO REFLECT PRADA CUP RESULT

March 6
2021

IVORY COAST

Ivory Coast heads for legislative election on date opposition parties dislike

The resource-rich, coup-prone country elects its 255-seat National Assembly on a date that opposition parties say is too soon. They want more time to prepare for the vote. President Alassane Ouattara appears unlikely to yield on the date, opening the door to more unrest in the former French colony.

The previous National Assembly elections, held in 2016, saw the presidential coalition, the Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) win more than 50 per cent of the National Assembly seats.

So far, push back on the March date does not include boycotts. The two main opposition parties, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), the party of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, and the Ivory Coast Democratic Party (PDCI) have signaled that they will contest the election.

Presidential elections on Oct 31, 2020, which Ouattara won, were marred by unrest and an opposition boycott. His critics said that by bidding for a third term, he had sought to subvert two-term constitutional limits. Ouattara argued that a 2016 revision of the constitution reset his term counter to zero, allowing him to seek a third term.

The pre-and post-election violence claimed at least 85 lives, with around 500 injured, according to an official toll cited in Africa News. The bloodshed revived traumatic memories of the aftermath of disputed elections in 2010, which killed over 3,000 people. Ivory Coast’s opposition leader and former president, Henri Konan Bédié, has called for the release of all people who were arrested in protests held before and after the elections.

#23837 Published: February 11, 2021

March 7
2021

UNITED STATES

Harry and Meghan to give their side of "Megxit" in Oprah Winfrey interview

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, will appear on TV in the U.S. for what is billed as an "intimate" and "wide-ranging" interview with Oprah Winfrey about their experience of leaving the royal fold.

The interview will reportedly be re-edited following the couple’s latest rift with the royal family, in which they were stripped of their royal patronages following their decision not to return as working members of "The Firm."

Prince Harry and Meghan, who revealed in February that they are expecting their second child, announced their plans to step back from the royal family in January 2020.

One TV insider said CBS would like to re-shoot some of the interview to discuss the changes that have now taken place. A source told Britain’s Daily Mirror: "When the Duke and Duchess spoke, it was never envisaged they would have their patronages taken away. They didn’t see it coming and spoke as they still had roles to play."

Oprah with Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special, is scheduled to air at 8pm Eastern time. It will primarily focus on Meghan, exploring her experience of joining the royal family, before Harry joins them to discuss future plans.

The interview will do little to heal divisions with the rest of the royals, and will likely further strain relations between Harry and his brother, William.

U.S. chat show queen Winfrey is a personal friend of Meghan and attended the couple’s wedding at Windsor Castle in May 2018.

#23848 Published: February 23, 2021

March 8
2021

UNITED STATES

Hearing opens for a former police officer facing charges for death of George Floyd

Derek Chauvin’s trial opens in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The former Minneapolis police officer is seen in cellphone video kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for several minutes on May 25, 2020. Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, is heard repeatedly saying, "I can’t breathe." He was pronounced dead later in hospital. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder.

Three other former Minneapolis police officers, Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, are charged with aiding Chauvin. Their trial has been set for August.

The death of Floyd added fuel to the Black Lives Matter movement, which is a decentralized political and social movement protesting against incidents of police brutality and all racially-motivated violence. The weeks following Floyd’s death were marked by street protests.

The movement can be traced to 2013, when George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Florida, was acquitted. The black youth had been returning from a shop after buying sweets and iced tea. Zimmerman claimed the unarmed black teenager had looked suspicious.

#23667 Updated: 8 FEB TO SHOW TRIAL NOW IN TWO PARTS