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US politicians have announced they will look into Ticketmaster’s dominance after the company endured the wrath of Taylor Swift over its handling of sales for her highly-anticipated tour.

Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee said a competition subcommittee would examine “lack of competition in the ticketing industry”.

High fees, problems with Ticketmaster’s website and cancellations show it “does not face any pressure to continually innovate and improve”, said Ms Klobuchar.

Swift said last week that it was “excruciating” to see what people endured as they tried to get tickets for her upcoming US shows – her first tour since 2018.

Fans said they waited hours and were repeatedly kicked off the website on Thursday, with Ticketmaster cancelling Friday’s sale due to “extraordinarily high demands” and “insufficient” tickets.

Those issues came a few days after the site had again crashed under heavy demand during a presale.

Ticketmaster said more than 3.5 million people had registered for the general sale and that it had planned to allow 1.5 million to participate, with the rest going on a waiting list.

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However, it said “bots” – automated requests – and demand from those who hadn’t previously registered had swamped its website with 3.5 billion system requests – four times its previous peak.

“I’m not going to make excuses for anyone because we asked them, multiple times, if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could,” Swift said on Instagram.

She said she was “p***** off” and was looking at how things could be improved.

Ticketmaster, which dominates the US ticketing industry, has for years left fans and artists frustrated by hidden fees, soaring costs, and limited ticket availability due to presales.

Ms Klobuchar wrote to the firm’s boss last week and suggested Ticketmaster and sister company LiveNation – which promotes events and runs venues – were abusing their position and were insulated from the competition typical in other sectors.

She and Utah senator Mike Lee upped the ante on Tuesday by announcing plans for a special hearing.

“When there is no competition to incentivise better services and fair prices, we all suffer the consequences,” said Ms Klobuchar, who leads the Senate subcommittee on competition and consumer rights.

“American consumers deserve the benefit of competition in every market, from grocery chains to concert venues,” added Mr Lee.

The hearing date and witnesses are still to be confirmed.

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US sportswriter Grant Wahl dies while covering World Cup game in Qatar

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US sportswriter Grant Wahl dies while covering World Cup game in Qatar

An American sportswriter has died while covering the World Cup in Qatar, his family and US Soccer have said.

Grant Wahl, a former Sports Illustrated journalist who later moved to Substack, died while reporting the match between Argentina and the Netherlands, according to NPR.

US reporters sitting near him said he fell back in his seat during extra time, in a part of the stadium reserved for journalists.

They had called for assistance and, while emergency services responded very quickly, they were later told that Mr Wahl – believed to be 49 – had died.

No further details have been released about his death.

His wife Dr Celine Gounder thanked those who had “reached out tonight”, but added on Twitter: “I’m in complete shock”.

Mr Wahl said last month that he was briefly detained when he tried to enter a World Cup stadium in Qatar while wearing a rainbow shirt in support of the LGBTQ community.

More from World

Same-sex relations are illegal in Qatar.

Detained for wearing rainbow shirt

He said on Twitter that he was detained for 25 minutes for wearing the shirt, with security guards “forcibly” taking his phone and demanding that he remove the shirt before going into the stadium.

He said he had refused.

Read more:
Muslim nations proposed World Cup armband to raise awareness of Islamophobia
England and Wales decide not to wear OneLove armband at World Cup after FIFA threat

Mr Wahl also wrote on Monday that he had visited a hospital in Qatar, saying: “My body finally broke down on me – three weeks of little sleep, high stress and lots of work can do that to you.

“What had been a cold over the last 10 days turned into something more severe on the night of the USA-Netherlands game, and I could feel my upper chest take on a new level of pressure and discomfort.

“I didn’t have COVID (I test regularly here), but I went into the medical clinic at the main media centre today, and they said I probably have bronchitis.

“They gave me a course of antibiotics and some heavy-duty cough syrup, and I’m already feeling a bit better just a few hours later. But still: No bueno.”

US ‘engaged with senior Qatari officials’

US State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted late on Friday: “We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Grant Wahl and send our condolences to his family, with whom we have been in close communication.

“We are engaged with senior Qatari officials to see to it that his family’s wishes are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible.”

US Soccer said: “The entire US soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl.

“Fans of soccer and journalism of the highest quality knew we could always count on Grant to deliver insightful and entertaining stories about our game and its major protagonists: teams, players, coaches and the many personalities that make soccer unlike any sport.

“Here in the United States, Grant’s passion for soccer and commitment to elevating its profile across our sporting landscape played a major role in helping to drive interest in, and respect for, our beautiful game.

“As important, Grant’s belief in the power of the game to advance human rights was, and will remain, an inspiration to all.

“Grant made soccer his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with us.”

A spokesman for the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) said: “We are deeply saddened by the death of the US journalist Grant Wahl.

“Grant was known for his enormous love of football and was in Qatar to cover his eighth FIFA World Cup.

“He fell ill in the Lusail Stadium media tribune, during last night’s quarter-final match between Argentina v Netherlands.

“He received immediate emergency medical treatment on site, which continued as he was transferred by ambulance to Hamad General Hospital.

“We offer our deepest condolences to Grant’s family, friends and his many close colleagues in the media.”

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Brittney Griner arrives back in US after prisoner swap with Russian ‘Merchant of Death’ Viktor Bout

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Brittney Griner arrives back in US after prisoner swap with Russian 'Merchant of Death' Viktor Bout

US basketball star Brittney Griner has arrived back in America after being freed in a prisoner swap with convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death”.

The 32-year-old WNBA star was flown to San Antonio, Texas.

US special presidential envoy, Roger D. Carstens, said: “So happy to have Brittney back on US soil. Welcome home BG!”

Ms Griner was detained in February when customs agents said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

She had pleaded guilty at her trial saying she used the cartridges to relieve pain from sports injuries and had made an “honest mistake”.

Nevertheless, a Russian court sentenced her to nine years in prison in August.

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Griner’s wife: ‘Family is whole today’

US President Joe Biden said Ms Griner had been held under “intolerable circumstances” and been through a “terrible ordeal”.

More on Brittney Griner

Ms Griner “represents the best of America”, he added.

President Biden insisted the US has not forgotten about Paul Whelan, a former US marine who remains in Russian custody.

A senior US official said the administration tried everything they could to get Mr Whelan out, but “they are treating him differently. They say he is an espionage case. They said the choice was either one [Griner] or none”.

He did not refer to the price the US paid for Ms Griner’s liberty – the release of convicted arms dealer Bout.

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Joe Biden says Brittney Griner ‘lost months of her life’

Bout could land public role now he’s home and dry

Victor Bout has been top of the list of citizens Russia wants back for quite some time. He was jailed in 2012 for 25 years on arms dealing charges after two decades spent selling Soviet-era weaponry to rebels, warlords and dictators.

The Taliban, al Qaeda and Charles Taylor’s regime in Liberia were all reportedly on his client roster.

His life was immortalised in the 2005 Hollywood film Lord of War, starring Nicolas Cage. Russia has always declared him innocent and that the case against him was fabricated.

Selling arms at that level tends not to happen without some kind of relationship with Russian security services, which may also be why Russia was so keen to get him home.

“Bout’s personality was demonised,” Russian lawmaker Maria Butina told me back in August after the US secretary of state said it was ready to strike a deal to get Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan back. “I believe he’s like an evil Russian for the Americans, a bogeyman,” she said.

Butina herself spent 15 months in US detention after she was convicted of acting as an unregistered foreign agent. Now she has a seat in the parliament.

Russia has a tendency to give public positions to people wanted by the West. Don’t be surprised if Bout finds himself with a similar role now he’s finally made it home.

Ms Griner’s wife Cherelle said she was “overwhelmed with emotions” after going through “one of the darkest moments of my life”.

“So today my family is whole, but as you all are aware, there’s so many other families who are not whole.”

The Griner-Bout swap took place at Abu Dhabi airport, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“The Russian citizen has been returned to his homeland,” it said in a statement.

Pressure on Washington over Griner case

For almost two decades, Bout was one of the world’s most notorious arms dealers, selling weaponry to rogue states, rebel groups and murderous warlords in Africa, Asia, and South America.

Ever since his capture in an elaborate US sting, the Russian state has been keen to bring him back.

President Biden’s agreement to release Bout highlights the escalating pressure that his administration has faced to bring Ms Griner home, particularly after the recent conclusion of her criminal case and her subsequent transfer to a penal colony.

Ms Griner’s detention was widely condemned by campaigners, including former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who said he was planning to fly to Russia in a bid to free the US basketball player.

The Texan-born athlete revealed her fears that she could be in prison “forever” in a letter to President Biden on US Independence Day.

She wrote: “As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever.

“On the 4 July, our family normally honours the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War veteran.

“It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”

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Brittney Griner arrives back in US after prisoner swap with Russian ‘Merchant of Death’ Viktor Bout

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on

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Brittney Griner arrives back in US after prisoner swap with Russian 'Merchant of Death' Viktor Bout

US basketball star Brittney Griner has arrived back in America after being freed in a prisoner swap with convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death”.

The 32-year-old WNBA star was flown to San Antonio, Texas.

US special presidential envoy, Roger D. Carstens, said: “So happy to have Brittney back on US soil. Welcome home BG!”

Ms Griner was detained in February when customs agents said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

She had pleaded guilty at her trial saying she used the cartridges to relieve pain from sports injuries and had made an “honest mistake”.

Nevertheless, a Russian court sentenced her to nine years in prison in August.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Griner’s wife: ‘Family is whole today’

US President Joe Biden said Ms Griner had been held under “intolerable circumstances” and been through a “terrible ordeal”.

More on Brittney Griner

Ms Griner “represents the best of America”, he added.

President Biden insisted the US has not forgotten about Paul Whelan, a former US marine who remains in Russian custody.

A senior US official said the administration tried everything they could to get Mr Whelan out, but “they are treating him differently. They say he is an espionage case. They said the choice was either one [Griner] or none”.

He did not refer to the price the US paid for Ms Griner’s liberty – the release of convicted arms dealer Bout.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Joe Biden says Brittney Griner ‘lost months of her life’

Bout could land public role now he’s home and dry

Victor Bout has been top of the list of citizens Russia wants back for quite some time. He was jailed in 2012 for 25 years on arms dealing charges after two decades spent selling Soviet-era weaponry to rebels, warlords and dictators.

The Taliban, al Qaeda and Charles Taylor’s regime in Liberia were all reportedly on his client roster.

His life was immortalised in the 2005 Hollywood film Lord of War, starring Nicolas Cage. Russia has always declared him innocent and that the case against him was fabricated.

Selling arms at that level tends not to happen without some kind of relationship with Russian security services, which may also be why Russia was so keen to get him home.

“Bout’s personality was demonised,” Russian lawmaker Maria Butina told me back in August after the US secretary of state said it was ready to strike a deal to get Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan back. “I believe he’s like an evil Russian for the Americans, a bogeyman,” she said.

Butina herself spent 15 months in US detention after she was convicted of acting as an unregistered foreign agent. Now she has a seat in the parliament.

Russia has a tendency to give public positions to people wanted by the West. Don’t be surprised if Bout finds himself with a similar role now he’s finally made it home.

Ms Griner’s wife Cherelle said she was “overwhelmed with emotions” after going through “one of the darkest moments of my life”.

“So today my family is whole, but as you all are aware, there’s so many other families who are not whole.”

The Griner-Bout swap took place at Abu Dhabi airport, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“The Russian citizen has been returned to his homeland,” it said in a statement.

Pressure on Washington over Griner case

For almost two decades, Bout was one of the world’s most notorious arms dealers, selling weaponry to rogue states, rebel groups and murderous warlords in Africa, Asia, and South America.

Ever since his capture in an elaborate US sting, the Russian state has been keen to bring him back.

President Biden’s agreement to release Bout highlights the escalating pressure that his administration has faced to bring Ms Griner home, particularly after the recent conclusion of her criminal case and her subsequent transfer to a penal colony.

Ms Griner’s detention was widely condemned by campaigners, including former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who said he was planning to fly to Russia in a bid to free the US basketball player.

The Texan-born athlete revealed her fears that she could be in prison “forever” in a letter to President Biden on US Independence Day.

She wrote: “As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever.

“On the 4 July, our family normally honours the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War veteran.

“It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”

Continue Reading

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