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Afghan women football players flown to UK with Kim Kardashian help

Members of Afghanistan’s women’s youth development football team arrived in Britain early Thursday after being flown from Pakistan with the help of a New York rabbi, a UK football club and Kim Kardashian.

A plane carrying more than 30 teenage players and their families, about 130 people in all, landed at Stansted Airport near London. The Afghans will spend 10 days in coronavirus quarantine before starting new lives in Britain.

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English Premier League club Leeds United has offered to support the players.

Britain and other countries evacuated thousands of Afghans in a rushed airlift as Kabul fell to Taliban militants in August. Many more people have since left overland for neighboring countries in hopes of traveling on to the West.

Women playing sports was seen as a political act of defiance against the Taliban, and hundreds of female athletes have left Afghanistan since the group returned to power and began curbing women’s education and freedoms.

“The Afghan female footballers are well-known figures in the country. Their lives were in great danger because of people in the country who opposed their activism and wanted to stop their sport and educational activities,” said Khalida Popal, a former captain of Afghanistan’s national women’s team who has spearheaded evacuation efforts for female athletes.

Australia evacuated the members of Afghanistan’s national women’s soccer team, and the youth girls’ team was resettled in Portugal.

Members of the development team, many of whom come from poor families in the country’s provinces, managed to reach Pakistan and eventually to secure UK visas. But they were left in limbo for weeks with no flight out of the country as the time limit on their Pakistani visas ticked down.

The team got help from the Tzedek Association, a nonprofit US group that previously helped the last known member of Kabul’s Jewish community leave Afghanistan.

The group’s founder, Rabbi Moshe Margaretten, has worked with reality TV star Kim Kardashian on criminal justice reform in the US. He reached out to her to help pay for a chartered plane to the UK.

“Maybe an hour later, after the Zoom call, I got a text message that Kim wants to fund the entire flight,” Margaretten said.

Kardashian’s spokeswoman confirmed that the star and her brand SKIMs had made the donation.

Read more:

Afghanistan girls football team given asylum in Portugal

Effort underway to rescue girls football team from Afghanistan

Taliban takeover shatters dreams of Afghan Paralympic athletes trapped in Kabul

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Nestle gets a third of sales from foods considered unhealthy, as per firm’s rating


Nestle SA said a third of its sales missed an independent definition of healthy as it applied a nutritional rating test across its port-folio.

The finding shows that Nestle has room to improve as it aims to be the top health and wellness food company. Nestle said Tuesday that according to the Health Star Rating system, 30 percent of the Swiss company’s portfolio is considered healthy and 35 percent unhealthy.

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The remainder comes from petfood, infant formula and medical nutrition products, which were not included as they’re designed to meet specific goals like helping kidney function.

With obesity a global health crisis in much of the developing world and on the rise in emerging market, food companies have been
under pressure to make their portfolios healthier and increase transparency. Investors have called on them report in accordance with independent government-approved measures of how nutritious their portfolios are, rather than their own internal met-rics, even though the industry has not settled on a single scale.

Big food companies like Kraft Heinz or Kellogg have so far resist-ed calls to report on independent nutrition metrics.

Nestle decided to use the HSR system, widely used in Australia and New Zealand, which rates products on a sale from half a star to five stars. A score of 3.5 stars or above is considered healthy.

More transparency

ShareAction, an investor campaign group which has been push-ing Nestle for more transparency, welcomed the new reporting, though urged the company to improve its ranking.

“As one of the biggest food and drink companies in the world, Nestle has an outsized influence on what people eat and drink,” said Holly Gabriel, a ShareAction campaigner. “What this disclosure worryingly shows is the company is still far too reliant on the sale of less healthy food and drink products.”

The ratings are based on the product’s energy, saturated fat, total sugars, sodium, protein, dietary fiber and fruit, vegetable, nut and legume content. Products like confectionery or salty sauces score lower on the scale, while low fat, low salt and sugar items includ-ing plain coffee and waters score higher.

The increased transparency helps investors understand how ex-posed companies are to efforts to curb obesity, for example through advertising bans. It also amplifies the pressure on companies to reformulate products to make them healthier.

While Nestle has room to improve, the majority of Nestle’s sales wouldn’t be in the cross-hairs of anti-junk food legislation because they are pet food or products like infant formula, or considered relatively healthy.

Rivals Danone and Unilever already report on their portfolios in accordance to the HSR. Unlike Nestle, Unilever has also set a tar-get that 85 percent of its nutrition and ice cream servings meet its own nutrition criteria by 2028.

Danone said that in 2021 about 90 percent of its products by sales volume got an HSR rating of 3.5 stars or above. Only 17 percent of Unilever’s nutrition and ice cream portfolio reached that stand-ard the same year.

Nestle has been reformulating products like Nesquik to contain less sugar in some markets, but Chief Executive Officer Mark Schneider told analysts earlier this year that reporting on nutrition does not mean the group would turn away from products like Kit-Kats and Smarties.

“We’re not interested in a target on how the healthier parts of the portfolio would outperform the other parts of the portfolio,” he said. “We want to succeed in both.”

Nestle said the study covered 97 percent of its revenue, excluding some products that aren’t foods or beverages as well as some recent acquisitions.

Read more: Nestle to hike food prices further in 2023: CEO

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‘Winnie the Pooh’ film pulled from Hong Kong cinemas, sparks censorship concerns


Public screenings of a slasher film that features Winnie the Pooh were scrapped abruptly in Hong Kong on Tuesday, sparking discussions over increasing censorship in the city.

Film distributor VII Pillars Entertainment announced on Facebook that the release of “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” on Thursday had been canceled with “great regret” in Hong Kong and neighboring Macao.

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In an email reply to The Associated Press, the distributor said it was notified by cinemas that they could not show the film as scheduled, but it didn’t know why. The cinema chains involved did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

For many residents, the Winnie the Pooh character is a playful taunt of China’s President Xi Jinping and Chinese censors in the past had briefly banned social media searches for the bear in the country. In 2018, the film “Christopher Robin,” also featuring Winnie the Pooh, was reportedly denied a release in China.

The film being pulled in Hong Kong has prompted concern on social media over the territory’s shrinking freedoms.

The movie was initially set to be shown in about 30 cinemas in Hong Kong, VII Pillars Entertainment wrote last week.

The Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration said it had approved the film and arrangements by local cinemas to screen approved films “are the commercial decisions of the cinemas concerned.” It refused to comment on such arrangements.

A screening initially scheduled for Tuesday night in one cinema was canceled due to “technical reasons,” the organizer said on Instagram.

Kenny Ng, a professor at Hong Kong Baptist University’s academy of film, refused to speculate on the reason behind the cancellation, but suggested the mechanism of silencing criticism appeared to be resorting to commercial decisions.

Hong Kong is a former British colony that returned to China’s rule in 1997, promising to retain its Western-style freedoms. But China imposed a national security law following massive pro-democracy protests in 2019, silencing or jailing many dissidents.

In 2021, the government tightened guidelines and authorized censors to ban films believed to have breached the sweeping law.

Ng said the city saw more cases of censorship over the last two years, mostly targeting non-commercial movies, such as independent short films.

“When there is a red line, then there are more taboos,” he said.

Read more:

Hong Kong rights activist Albert Ho arrested by national security police

Google suspends Chinese shopping app amid security concerns

Europe’s hopes for busy post-COVID summer dim as Chinese tourists stay away

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Asian art fair in Hong Kong aims to bounce back after COVID-19 years


The organizers of Art Basel Hong Kong, one of Asia’s leading contemporary art fairs, said on Tuesday they are bullish on art market prospects in the region, with China and Hong Kong now having lifted all COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
The annual fair, which also has iterations in Basel, Paris, and Miami Beach, runs from March 23-25 in Hong Kong.

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The number of galleries has increased to 177 this year from 130 in 2022, with 32 countries and territories across Asia, Europe, the Americas, and Africa participating.
“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the Asian art market has also remained resilient, with Greater China accounting for 20 percent of worldwide sales by value and ranking second as the second largest regional art market in the latest edition of the Art Basel,” Art Basel CEO Noah Horowitz told reporters.
Hong Kong attracted 56 million visitors in pre-pandemic 2019 but shops now sit vacant and Chinese visitors, who once propelled the city’s art market, have yet to return in droves.
Leading international galleries at Art Basel this year include Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth, Lehmann Maupin, Victoria Miro, Pace, Perrotin, White Cube and David Zwirner.
In a mall near the glitzy halls of Hong Kong’s harborfront convention center where Art Basel, the show has installed a 10-meter-tall inflatable sculpture of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun titled ‘Gravity’ by Los Angeles-based artist Awol Erizku.
Hong Kong’s government has welcomed the art fair as it strives to reinvigorate Hong Kong’s economy after a nearly three-year slump from factors including tough COVID-19 lockdowns, a closed border with China, and a security crackdown.
Hundreds of thousands of people have left the territory since June 2020, when a sweeping national security law was passed that has been used to curb freedoms and arrest scores of opposition democrats and shutter liberal media outlets.
Some Western governments have criticized the law as a tool of repression, but China asserts it brought stability after pro-democracy protests in 2019.
Art Basel said it had respected creative expression.
“We don’t have any censorship process in the show. We haven’t really changed the process of the show since 2013,” said Angelle Siyang-Le, the director Art Basel Hong Kong.

Read more: Saudi sculptor steps into limelight as religious curbs ease

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