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Korean coaches ‘stole tens of thousands’ from Olympic curling team

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South Korea’s “Garlic Girls” curling team were exploited by their coaches who stole tens of thousands of dollars of prize money from the Olympic medal-winners, the sports ministry said Thursday.

The curlers, who come from a town famous for garlic farming, were rank outsiders at South Korea’s Pyeongchang Games last year, but became a media sensation as they swept their way to Olympic silver.

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But last November they publicly accused their coaches of verbal abuse and intrusive control and claimed they had not received their prize money from previous competitions, prompting public outrage and a probe by the sports ministry.

The team claimed the coaches were running Korean curling like a family fiefdom: the husband of their head coach, Kim Min-jung, is a former national men’s team coach, while her father Kim Kyung-doo is a former vice president of the Korean Curling Federation (KCF).

Following a five-week investigation, the sports ministry said Thursday that the allegations made by the curlers were “mostly true”.

“It was confirmed that there was excessive control over privacy by the coaches… who strongly berated the athletes if they spoke with their previous coaches or athletes from other teams,” the ministry said, adding that the coaches censored gifts and fan letters.

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The curlers were not paid properly as the coaches had “mismanaged” around 94 million won (US$83,500) of the team’s income, it said.

They also embezzled around 30 million won, according to the ministry.

The probe also found that the coaches had evaded taxes and hired unqualified family members to work on the national team.

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The ministry said the case will be taken to the police.

The curlers are also known as “Team Kim” for their shared surname, and use food-based nicknames for ease of identification: the captain is Annie — a brand of yogurt — while Kim Yeong-mi is Pancake, Kim Kyeong-ae is Steak, Kim Seon-yeong is Sunny — as in “sunny side up” — and Kim Cho-hee is Chocho, a type of cookie.

The team’s giant-killing feats at the Olympics, despite limited funding, boosted the popularity of their little-known sport in South Korea.

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But despite their Olympic silver they failed to win the national trials in August, ruling them out of international competition and sending them plummeting down the world rankings as a result.


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Netanyahu cancels UN visit over post-poll ‘political context’

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cancelled his planned visit to the United Nations General Assembly due to the "political context" in Israel, sources in his office told AFP Wednesday.

Initial results from Tuesday's general election show Netanyahu's Likud party tied with the Blue and White alliance of his main challenger, former army chief Benny Gantz.

According to Israeli media, with more than 90 percent of ballots counted, Netanyahu's right-wing Likud had 31 seats, while Gantz's Blue and White took 32 places in Israel's 120-member parliament.

If the results hold, it will be a major setback for Netanyahu, who hoped to form a right-wing coalition similar to his current administration as he faces possible corruption charges in the weeks ahead.

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Whoopi Goldberg drops the hammer on Trump impeachment: ‘We’re a lawless country right now — open your eyes’

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"The View" host Whoopi Goldberg urged viewers to open their eyes to President Donald Trump's lawlessness -- and demand accountability.

The show's panelists discussed former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, which co-host Abby Huntsman denounced as a "total embarrassment for democracy," and Goldberg said it was even worse than that.

"Even if you start to impeach him, he's there for the next two years," said Goldberg, who was wearing a wig from her upcoming role in Stephen King's "The Stand." "It's going to take that long. Look how long it took to impeach (Bill) Clinton."

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Let me take you down: Strawberry Field opens to public

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Beatles fans can now take a trip through the childhood sanctuary of John Lennon that inspired the seminal song "Strawberry Fields Forever", with the former children's home opening its doors to the public.

Lennon used to climb over the fence from his aunt's house, where he grew up, and play with other children at the Strawberry Field orphanage.

Its importance in shaping Lennon's personality was laid bare in the classic 1967 psychedelic hit.

Around 60,000 fans flock each year to the site to have their photographs taken outside the famous red gates, but until now have never been allowed beyond.

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