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Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi may register his name as a trademark for sports equipment and clothing, the EU’s second highest court said, as he was famous enough to overcome phonetic similarities with Spanish bicycle clothing brand Massi.

The case reached the EU General Court after the Spanish brand successfully complained to the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).

The EUIPO said that Messi and Massi were almost identical visually and phonetically and some would find it difficult to the tell the two apart, but the court disagreed.

“Mr Messi is, in fact, a well-known public figure who can be seen on television and who is regularly discussed on television or on the radio,” the court said on Thursday.

Widely considered one of the world’s greatest soccer players, Lionel Messi, 30, scored his 600th professional goal last month and is the all-time highest scorer for both Barcelona and Argentina’s national team.

The court said that even though some people may not know Lionel Messi, this was unlikely to be the case for those buying sports equipment.

Massi can still appeal the decision at the EU Court of Justice.
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Deeba Jafri gives Hena Zuberi a kiss as they protest in front of Supreme Court on Wednesday as the court heard arguments over the Trump Administration's travel ban. TYRONE TURNER / WAMU

The U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority appeared poised to hand President Donald Trump a huge legal victory, signalling on Wednesday it was likely to uphold his contentious travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries.

Conservative justices including Chief Justice John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy, a frequent swing vote on the nine-member court, indicated during arguments in the high-profile case their unwillingness to second-guess Trump on the national security justifications offered for the policy.

Trump has said the ban is needed to protect the United States from attacks by Islamic militants.

The challengers, led by the state of Hawaii, have argued the policy was motivated by Trump’s enmity toward Muslims. Lower courts have ruled against each of the three versions put forward by Trump of the travel ban, concluding they violated federal immigration law and the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on the government favoring one religion over another.

But with five conservatives on the nine-member Supreme Court, Trump seemed likely to be on the winning side when the justices issue their ruling by the end of June.

“My only point is that if you look at what was done, it does not look at all like a Muslim ban,” Conservative Justice Samuel Alito said.

Some of the four liberal justices expressed sympathy toward Hawaii’s arguments, although it appeared possible at least one might eventually side with Trump.

Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” as a candidate, and the travel ban has been one of the most controversial policies of his presidency.

The current version, announced in September, prohibits entry into the United States of most people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. No one from those countries has carried out an attack in the United States.

The high court in June and December 2017 allowed two versions of the ban to take effect while court challenges ran their course. The justices had not until Wednesday heard arguments on the merits of the policy.

The challengers said the U.S. Congress historically has rejected nationality bans in immigration laws, and that Trump’s policy has circumvented that judgment.

Roberts questioned whether the president could be restricted from taking “any targeted action” on foreign policy emergencies, such air strikes in Syria, affecting Muslim countries.

“Does that mean he can’t because you would regard that as discrimination against a majority-Muslim country?” Roberts asked.

‘CONTINUING DISCRETION’

Kennedy, who sometimes joins the liberals in major rulings, pushed back on the notion pressed by the challengers that the ban was permanent, noting that the policy includes a requirement for reports every 180 days that could lead to the removal of a targeted country.

“That indicates there will be a reassessment,” Kennedy said, “and the president has continuing discretion.”

Trump’s conservative appointee to the court, Neil Gorsuch, suggested the lawsuits challenging the ban brought by Hawaii and others should not even have been considered by courts.

Trump’s hardline immigration policies have been a key part of his presidency. He also has moved to rescind protections for young immigrants sometimes called Dreamers brought into the United States illegally as children, acted against states and cities that protect illegal immigrants, intensified deportation efforts and pursued limits on legal immigration.

Trump administration lawyer Noel Francisco said comments the president made as a candidate should be off-limits from court scrutiny because he had not yet taken office.

Kennedy signaled courts should be able to review candidates’ words, giving the example of a local mayor who makes discriminatory statements and then two days after taking office acts on them.

“You would say that whatever he said in the campaign is irrelevant?” Kennedy asked Francisco.

Liberal Justices Elena Kagan and Justice Sonia Sotomayor pressed Francisco on what kind of campaign trail behavior could be considered by courts. Kagan asked whether a hypothetical “out-of-the-box,” vehemently anti-Semitic candidate would be subject to court review if upon taking office he announced policies targeting Israel.

But Kagan also acknowledged the administration’s concerns about courts judging national security decisions.

Chad was on the list of countries targeted by Trump that was announced in September, but he removed it on April 10. Iraq and Sudan were on earlier versions of the ban.

Venezuela and North Korea also were targeted in the current policy. Those restrictions were not challenged in court.

Travel ban opponents who attended the argument compared a potential ruling upholding Trump’s travel ban with the court’s heavily criticized 1944 decision that endorsed the internment of Japanese Americans during World War Two.

“I hope that as a country we will realize that would be shameful,” National Immigration Law Center Executive Director Marielena Hincapié said.
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U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein talks to reporters in Jakarta Indonesia February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Beawiharta

The U.N. human rights chief said he was allowed to visit a region in Ethiopia that has been roiled by protests and unrest for the past three years, after the previous administration turned down his request last year.

The visit by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein came three weeks after the Horn of Africa nation swore in new prime minister Abiy Ahmed, who has pledged reforms in the wake of state repression and violence.

In the Oromiya region that Zeid visited, hundreds of people have been killed in violence since 2015, triggered by demonstrations over land rights that broadened into calls for political freedoms.

In many instances, security forces opened fire on protesters, according to the United Nations.

The choice of 41-year-old Abiy by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is seen as an effort by the coalition, in power since 1991, to ease ethnic tensions and appeal to legions of disaffected youth, particularly in regions like Oromiya, where he is from.

Zeid said he met Abiy as well as traditional elders in Oromiya. He also met recently released opposition politicians and civil society activists during his visit this week.

“When I compare how only a few years ago, it would not have been conceivable that the human rights high commissioner undertakes a visit to Ethiopia,” he said in an interview.

“I (have) been given access in a way that I did not think was possible.”

The U.N. human rights office also signed an agreement to increase cooperation with the government, he said.

During his last visit to Ethiopia a year ago, Zeid urged the government to expand civic space and rights, and requested permission to investigate violence in Oromiya.

The government declined his request.

Since replacing Hailemariam Desalegn - who resigned in February amid unrest threatening the ruling coalition’s tight grip - Abiy has vowed “a new political beginning” including more democratic rights.

The country of 100 million people shares borders with volatile states including Somalia and Sudan. The government has long been accused by rights groups of using security concerns as an excuse to stifle dissent and the media.

Ethiopia’s 547-seat parliament does not have a single opposition member. Opposition parties accuse the EPRDF of rigging the 2015 election.

Abiy has spent his first weeks in office travelling the country, including to Oromiya and Amhara, another region where protests have taken place. Zeid said his office has requested access to Amhara.

Abiy has not lifted a six-month state of emergency announced by the ruling coalition the day after Hailemariam resigned in February. Analysts say this indicates the challenge he faces in promising reforms publicly while privately persuading the EPRDF to loosen its hold.

Zeid declined to comment on whether the state of emergency should be lifted.

But he said his recommendation to the previous government - “that it needed to open up” - “seems to be happening”.

“I think people believe there is cause for optimism,” he said.
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South Africa's Caster Semenya is a target of IAAF’s new gender rule.(AP)

South African Caster Semenya’s long and controversial reign as the queen of middle distance running looks set to be ended this year not by a track rival but by a new hyperandrogenism rule that will stop her from running 800 and 1500 metres races.

The IAAF will publish new rules on Thursday to prevent women with the condition, which produces higher than normal levels of testosterone and is deemed by the governing body to give them an unfair advantage, from running distances from 400m to the mile.

The International Association of Athletics Federations would allow them to compete at international level only if they took medication to reduce naturally occurring levels of testosterone.

Semenya, double Olympic and triple world champion over 800m and who completed the 800-1500 double at the Commonwealth Games this month, has always been a controversial figure in the sport as its authorities have sought a solution that respected her rights while also providing a “level playing field”.

The 27-year-old’s powerful physique and deep voice, followed by the revelations of her hyperandrogenism, left some rivals complaining that they faced an impossible and unfair challenge.

The IAAF’s previous attempts to regulate the issue fell foul of a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling in 2015 following an appeal on behalf of Indian athlete Dutee Chand, who had been banned from competing because of her testosterone levels.

The IAAF Council announced last month that following a review of available evidence it would revise its regulations, with the changes coming into force on Nov. 1.

“All testosterone, either naturally occurring or artificially inserted into the body, provides significant performance enhancements,” IAAF head Seb Coe said at the time, while also going out of his way to stress that nobody was suggesting Semenya had done anything wrong.

“We were asked by CAS to provide evidence of the magnitude of the advantage, which we now have,” he said.

FEMALE CLASSIFICATION

Media in the UK and South Africa on Wednesday published sections of the report ahead of its official release, revealing that the new hyperandrogenism regulations would include a separate female classification to be known as an Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development (DSD).

“Experts consulted by the IAAF have gathered and reviewed all of the published evidence and data, which indicates that increasing the level of circulating testosterone from the normal female range to the normal male range leads to increased muscle mass and strength and higher haemoglobin levels,” the report, which has not been seen by Reuters, is reported to have said.

“The result is these new regulations, which seek to facilitate the participation in the sport of athletes with DSDs on terms that preserve fair and meaningful competition in the female classification.

“The significant over-representation of DSD athletes in certain events, and their success in those events, provides further indirect but strong corroboration of the above.

“In addition, the IAAF has gathered observational data about the difference in performance levels of DSD athletes depending on whether or not their testosterone levels are suppressed.”

The IAAF’s medical advisors have suggested the advantage held by DSD athletes is far less pronounced in short sprints or longer distance endurance races, leaving the door open for Semenya to move up to 5,000 or 10,000 metres if she desires.

The South African began raising eyebrows when she won the world junior championships in 2008 and the senior world title the following year, with dramatic improvement in her times.

The IAAF made Semenya take a sexual verification test, which was initially kept secret but revealed by the media in 2009.

Since then virtually all of Semenya’s performances have been followed by questions about her sexual and physical status, but she has long stopped answering them.

Reuters on Wednesday sought Semenya’s response to the IAAF’s decision through her manager but he did not immediately reply.