Feb 5, 2019

The secret plan to sabotage the 2022 World Cup

The 2022 World Cup will be the first one played on Arab soil. It will also break with tradition and be held in the winter, as opposed to the summer, given the searing temperatures in host nation Qatar. This has made the tournament a hot-button topic in the soccer world for years.

Why it matters: But in the 19 months since Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. led a blockade of Qatar as a result of a long-running political dispute, the World Cup has become something else entirely: "a proxy in the broader geopolitical dispute transfixing the Gulf," the NYT's James Montague and Tariq Panja write.

What's happening: The goal of Qatar's political enemies is to sabotage the tournament or, at the very least, to humble Qatar by forcing it to share the event with them.

Details: When leaked emails belonging to U.A.E. Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef al-Otaiba became public in 2017, they revealed a wide-ranging plan financed by the U.A.E. to use "American journalists and think tanks to reposition Qatar and its World Cup in a negative light."

  • One of the main orchestrators of this ongoing information war is Cornerstone Global Associates, a little-known consulting firm based in London.

The big picture: "The dispute has added a new dimension to a specialized industry in which consultants and other insiders can earn millions of dollars for their efforts to shift public opinion in favor of the nations that finance them, or against those countries' rivals," write Montague and Panja.

  • In other words, this is a story of media manipulation, leaked documents, propaganda, shifting allegiances, bribe money and whispered secrets — and the 2022 World Cup is at the very center of it.

Go deeper: A series of leaks revealed professional soccer's darkest secrets

Go deeper

Trump slams Dems as GOP sues California over mail-out ballot plan

California Gov. Gavin Newsom during a February news conference in Sacramento, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President Trump accused Democrats of trying "Rig" November's general election as Republican groups filed a lawsuit against California Sunday in an attempt to stop Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) from mailing ballots to all registered voters.

Driving the news: Newsom signed an executive order this month in response to the coronavirus pandemic ensuring that all registered voters in the state receive a mail-in ballot.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 5,383,582 — Total deaths: 344,077 — Total recoveries — 2,158,031Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 1,640,972 — Total deaths: 97,679 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,195Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Federal judge strikes down Florida law requiring felons to pay fines before voting

Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: oe Raedle/Getty Images

A federal judge on Sunday ruled that a Florida law requiring convicted felons to pay all court fines and fees before registering to vote is unconstitutional.

Why it matters: The ruling, which will likely be appealed by state Republicans, would clear the way for hundreds of thousands of ex-felons in Florida to register to vote ahead of November's election.