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When Brittney Griner's wife Biden calls, Paul Whelan's family has to keep waiting

Paul Whelan's family is still awaiting a call from the President, three and a half years after the Michigan businessman was imprisoned in Russia. (Author: Gardener)

Paul Whelan'sWhen is Paul Whelan's turn for a presidential call, letter, or prisoner swap? This is what his family wants to know as the Michigan businessman's incarceration in Russia extends beyond 3½ years and they are watching as other families whose loved ones are also incarcerated there are having talks with the President and, in Trevor Reed's case, being brought home to safety be at a prisoner exchange. "It's hard to express how heartbreaking it can be to be part of the family of a wrongfully incarcerated person," said Whelan's twin brother, David Whelan. “A phone call from anyone in government to show they care can be a huge morale boost to help you maintain your advocacy and support for your loved one. More: State Department urged Paul Whelan's family to 'make more noise' to win release from Russia More: Paul Whelan's sister fights for hearing after Trevor Reed's release is the longest-served of the three high-profile Americans who were unjustly imprisoned in Russia, according to the US government. He was arrested in Russia in the summer of 2019 and accused of assaulting an officer after a night of drinking. Reed, however, denied the claims shortly after Reed's family spoke to President Joe Biden in late March, swapping him for convicted Russian drug trafficker Konstantin Yaroshenko in a surprise prisoner swap. WNBA star Brittney Griner was arrested in February and pleaded guilty to drug-related charges on Thursday. Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, spoke with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday and received reassurances from them that Brittney Griner's case remains a priority. Although the Whelan family has repeatedly requested a similar meeting with the president, it never took place, Whelan's sister, Elizabeth Whelan, said. While speaking with Biden was a "great win" for the Griner family, Elizabeth Whelan said it was also personally troubling given how long she's been trying to arrange a conversation with the president about her brother. "What got under my skin was the uneven attention the White House paid to families who were wrongfully imprisoned," she told the Free Press. "Who thought it was a good idea to make one call and not two? More: Surprise US prisoner swap with Russia for Trevor Reed tough on Paul Whelan family More: War in Ukraine could block talks to release Paul Whelan, a Michigan man jailed in Russia Elizabeth Whelan said she had asked four times to become to meet with Biden, and did email the President's Chief of Staff to request a meeting. When Donald Trump was President, she also sent him letters asking to speak about Paul's imprisonment. "I haven't requested that very publicly because I'd really rather see a process that works that gets my brother home as soon as possible and allows us to celebrate his homecoming with the President, rather than wasting Biden's valuable time with individual requests." consume. But is that so? What will it take to bring Paul home?" asked Elizabeth Whelan. (S. Government) and that government is working to bring our brother home to Michigan. And I continue to caution those who will be listening that it is It's Russia, not Biden, holding Paul hostage and not letting him go." Paul Whelan, now 52, ​​was arrested and charged with espionage while he was in Moscow for a friend's wedding. Whelan and his family insist he was framed and has since been unjustly jailed. Whelan was found guilty in a closed court hearing and sentenced to 16 years in a labor camp. "He lost about 20% of his weight as of December 2018," David Whelan told the Free Press. He also underwent surgery to repair a hernia while incarcerated in Russia and spends most of his day sewing buttonholes on prison uniforms after incarceration in the prison camp and has been "up and down" lately. let him go through this assignment al,” she said. Paul Whelan, second from left, was arrested and charged with espionage in Moscow. He speaks with a journalist as he is escorted to a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, by officers of the Russian Federal Security Service on Friday, August 23, 2019. When the Biden administration negotiated the prisoner swap for Reed but didn't include Whelan in the swap, the family was devastated. David Whelan wrote at the time: "Trevor is free. Paul remains a hostage. Is President Biden's failure to bring Paul home an admission that some cases are too hard to solve? And how does a family know that their loved one's case is too difficult, a hostage too far out of reach?" The Free Press asked the US State Department on Thursday whether Whelan's freedom now depends on what happens in Griner's case A spokesman didn't answer the question, but referred Freie Presse to a tweet by Secretary of State Antony Blinken posted on Thursday, which read in part: "We will not back down until Brittney, Paul Whelan and other wrongly imprisoned Americans." reunited are your loved ones." [email protected] officials again attended the trial of Brittney Griner today and presented her with a letter from President Biden. We will not back down until Brittney, Paul Whelan and every other wrongly imprisoned American are reunited with their loved ones. — Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) July 7, 2022 More: Accused spy Paul Whelan wouldn't be the first American deployed by Russians More: Paul Whelan and his family fight a year after he was accused of spying in Russia. Blinken spoke to the Whelan family on June 22, and David Whelan said he reassured Whelaners that "any unlawful detentions remain a priority. The South American government allocates various resources, including a phone call from the President." David Whelan added, "That can be hard to cope with as a family member. And not because you begrudge another family the resources or even their joy when their loved one is exonerated and yours is not." In our case, it was a meeting with President Biden, did that mean Trevor Reed was exonerated? The S. administration is inconsistent on how they allocate their resources, what is a family supposed to do? What does it mean when requests to meet or speak with the President are ignored?” In a statement emailed to the Free Press, National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said Biden was also concerned about Whelan's case must ensure the release of Paul Whalen as soon as possible, as well as the release of Brittney Griner and other US citizens who are in Russia and nd are being unjustly arrested or held hostage around the world," Watson said. "We will continue to be in regular contact with Paul's family and with other families of Americans who have been held hostage abroad or wrongfully imprisoned to provide support and assistance and to update them on efforts to free their loved ones In addition, the president's special envoy for hostage affairs and White House staffers spoke to Elizabeth Whelan Wednesday afternoon and has a bi-weekly phone call with her to update efforts to get his release, an administration spokesman told the Free Press. Still, Elizabeth Whelan said she won't stop asking for more until her brother gets home. "I am fully committed not only to ensuring that my brother Paul is released and removed from Russia by any means necessary, but also that there is a better overall process for dealing with unlawful detention," she said. "The Biden administration has been great at communicating with families on many levels, but in general we need to know more about what's going on behind the scenes lest we always explode in public! S. Government) to share information so we don't have to resort to public requests to meet with the President." "I want to see a system that focuses on dealing with the bad guys who are holding our citizens hostage and our loved ones to bring home instead of berating the President. But an uneven level of attention angers families who are already at their wits' end and ultimately distracts from addressing the core issues needed to stop this vile practice." This article originally appeared in Detroit Free Press: As Brittney Griner's wife gets Biden call , Paul Whelan's family will have to keep waiting

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Trevor Reed speaks about Russia's jailing of Brittney Griner, Paul Whelan

As American basketball star Brittney Griner remains imprisoned in Russia, Trevor Reed said he knows her grim reality all too well. (Author: Gardener)

Brittney GrinerAs American basketball star Brittney Griner remains imprisoned in Russia, Trevor Reed said he knows her grim reality all too well. "They don't like Americans and they don't try to hide it," Reed, 30, told ABC News in an interview aired on Good Morning America Friday. S. Marine veteran was imprisoned in Russia for almost three years. Texas native Reed was arrested in Moscow in the summer of 2019 while visiting his Russian girlfriend. He was found guilty by a Russian court in mid-2020 and sentenced to nine years in a camp. "The conditions there are pretty awful," Reed said. Reed was eventually freed on April 27 as part of a prisoner swap agreed between the United States and Russia. "The real fear you have, having that weight on you all the time, is that you could be there forever," he said. MORE: Trevor Reed talks about surviving nearly 3 years in a Russian prison Griner, who plays professional basketball for Phoenix Mercury, returned to Russia to play in the offseason when she was based at Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow was arrested February 17 after being accused of having vape cartridges containing hash oil, which is illegal in the country. On Thursday, the two-time Olympic champion pleaded guilty to drug possession charges on the second day of her trial in a Russian court. Griner, 31, also told the court that she had "no intention" of violating Russian law, adding that she was in a hurry to pack and didn't want to leave the cartridges in her bag. If convicted, Griner faces up to 10 years in Russian prison and the right to appeal. S. Citizen and former Marine Trevor Reed stands in a cage of the accused during a court hearing in Moscow, Russia, March 11, 2020. The S. government has classified Griner's case as "wrongfully detained," meaning Washington will work more aggressively to negotiate her release even if the lawsuit goes against her, according to the US State Department. The White House said in a statement Wednesday that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris called Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, to discuss efforts to get her released. MORE: Brittney Griner says she is guilty in Russian court and vape cartridges were accidentally in her luggage MORE: Brittney Griner says she is guilty in Russian court and vape cartridges were accidentally in her luggage Griner personally had Biden in a handwritten Letter received received by the White House on Monday as Americans celebrated Independence Day. In the letter, she asked Biden to help her and other American prisoners escape from Russia. "Sitting here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey or any accomplishments, I fear that I may be here forever," Griner wrote to the president. The S. Marine and Michigan-based corporate security officer has been jailed in Russia since his December 2018 arrest on espionage charges alleged by both him and the US government. Whelan, 52, was excluded from the April prisoner swap that led to Reed's release. American professional basketball player Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing in Khimki, near Moscow, Russia, July 7, 2022. American professional basketball player Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing in Khimki near Moscow, Russia on July 7, 2022. Reed said the Biden administration is "not doing enough" to free Griner and Whelan. "I hope that President Biden and his administration will do everything they can to get both Brittney and Paul out of Russia and they will do so immediately," he told ABC News. "Because every day that they sit here waiting to make a decision is another day that Paul and Brittney suffer." Reed noted that freeing Whelan "has to be the top priority there, simply because of the fact that he was there the longest". He also criticized the Biden administration for contacting Griner's family but not Whelan's. "They called Brittney's family and I'm very upset that they did. I think that's a step in the right direction," Reed said. "But at the same time they haven't contacted Paul Whelan's family and he's been there longer than I have been in Russia." MORE: "Why was Paul left behind?" Whelan's family questions after Trevor Reed's release During a Thursday news briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to say whether Biden has plans to call Whelan's family, telling reporters she hadn't had a call to "Announcement or preview." But she described regular contact between the Biden administration and the Whelans. She added, "We will do everything we can to bring Brittney Griner home safely and also make sure that." we'll bring Paul Whelan back home too."

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We can do better, Mr. Biden. Bring Brittney Griner home.

Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug-related offenses in Russia after serving more than four months in prison. She faces ten years in prison. (Author: Gardener)

BidenBrittney Griner should have played a home game against the New York Liberty on Thursday. The Texas high school, Baylor and WNBA basketball legend would have left the arena hand-in-hand with wife Cherrelle afterward and gone home for a late dinner. But Griner hasn't been home for a long time. Griner, 31, has just pleaded guilty to drug offenses in Russia and has become a political pawn in a dangerous chicken game between Russia and the United States. The 0.7 grams of THC discovered in their luggage more than four months ago could land them in prison for five to 10 years, while in America the same offense could result in a small fine, if any. If anything, Griner only guilty of poor judgment by staying in a political hotbed longer than she should have. That is, unless President Joe Biden can figure out a way to get them home from the negotiating table. The government has already labeled Griner as wrongly imprisoned, which could get you two quarters a can of diet coke in Moscow. Griner actually wrote a handwritten letter to the President last week, giving us a glimpse of the horror she's encountering while locked up so far from home. "Please do everything you can to bring us home. I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! I'm grateful for anything you can do at this moment to bring me home.” Griner is a legend in her sport, but one can't help but wonder if a better-known male athlete is still on the other side of the world would be jailed for a relatively small amount of drugs. Can you imagine Tom Brady languishing in a Russian prison for more than a few days? Would our government be sitting on their hands if LeBron James or Tiger Woods were pathetically filmed in handcuffs walking through a Russian courtroom? Griner is a wife, mother, daughter and teammate. Her Mercury teammates have included her in all team activities in her absence, held rallies in her honor and worn Free BG shirts all season. The WNBA even gave her a special spot on their upcoming All-Star Game list. Phoenix Mercury star Diana Taurasi wears a "We are BG 42" jersey in honor of teammate Brittney Griner ahead of the home game in May. Taurasi and Griner played together for several seasons in Russia. Cherrelle spoke to Biden this week, and we hope -- that's all we have at this point -- that a resolution is reached as soon as possible, which could mean a prisoner swap, Griner for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, and possibly others . Griner is on Mount Rushmore of the top women basketball players playing high school ball in Texas right there with Brownfields Sheryl Swoopes, Duncanvilles Tamika Catchings, Tomballs Nneka Ogwumike and San Antonios Clarissa Davis. My acquaintance with Griner came before the 2009 UIL State Class 5A Girls Basketball Tournament. Video clips of a Houston women's 6ft 8 dunking machine made the rounds on YouTube and helped build the tournament. Once Houston Nimitz qualified for the state, I quickly decided to call her for an interview. Griner didn't give many interviews at the time, but I was able to reach her father through a family friend. After interviewing him for about 10 minutes, I asked to speak to Griner, who was soft-spoken but personable. Upon arriving at the Erwin Center for Nimitz's semifinal match against Pflugerville, it quickly became clear that this was not your average girls' state tournament. Never before have the mezzanine areas been open due to ticket demand, but the combination of a future WNBA star competing against a local team made these $12 tickets a hot bargain. Twenty years after San Antonio Cole center Shaquille O'Neal went down in the annals of Texas' greatest players to come through Austin, a female Shaq put her own stamp on the action. More: Erwin Center High School Title Memories: Shaq, the Dynasty, and a Pure Thriller The two had chatted at a Rockets game earlier that season, and O'Neal, who was then playing with the Phoenix Suns, said Griner that he was watching her YouTube videos. BG, who had attended the state tournament with her father two years earlier, put on a pregame show with some edge-rattling dunks, including a two-handed throwdown from the glass. The oohs and ahs quickly turned to boos when officers showed up, meaning "no more dunks" in Texas high school basketball circles. I didn't think of it at the time, but when has a UIL Texas umpire ever been booed for disrupting the dunk line in a girls game? First time for everything. She broke the state tournament's 31-year single-game scoring record of 44 points by setting a record with 19 of 21 field goal attempts. The nearly 9,000 in attendance left the arena that day knowing that we had witnessed the arrival of something great to come. We had never seen anyone like Griner before. Luckily for us, she attended Baylor, where we saw her develop into arguably the most physically dominant center in women's basketball history. It's a poor choice of words, but the ball is literally in Russia's hands. Griner played five seasons for the UMMC Ekaterinburg organization in Russia and had an annual salary of $1 million. Since WNBA players don't earn large salaries here at home, they supplement their income abroad. Griner made herself a wealthy woman in basketball, and her endorsement deals added to an impressive portfolio. The video images of her walking through the Russian courtyard are both heartbreaking and annoying. Starpower isn't meant to dictate the level of response, but it feels like America hasn't done enough when it comes to handling the Brittney Griner case. This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Golden: We can do better, Mr. Biden. Bring Brittney Griner home.

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Brittney Griner says she's guilty of accidentally bringing vape cartridges with you

Brittney Griner says she is guilty in a Russian court and vape cartridges were accidentally in her luggage. (Author: Gardener)

Brittney GrinerWNBA star Brittney Griner said she would "plead guilty" to drug charges in a Russian court on Thursday morning, saying the vape cartridges containing hash oil were unintentionally in her luggage. Griner said she was guilty when asked if she wanted to testify. ABC News was present in the courtroom during the hearing. Griner added that she had "no intention" of violating Russian law, adding that she was in a hurry and didn't want to leave the cartridges in her bag. Griner is scheduled to appear in court on July 14, on the third day of her trial. The WNBA star's trial, which is taking place in Khimki -- a Moscow suburb -- began last Friday, more than 4 1/2 months after Griner was arrested. Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was visiting Russia to play basketball during the offseason when she was arrested at Sheremetyevo International Airport on February 17 after being accused of having vape cartridges containing hash oil, which is illegal in the country . Her legal team told ABC News in a statement Thursday that her "guilty" plea was informed through a conversation with her Russian attorneys. She decided to take full responsibility for her actions, knowing that she is a role model for many people," the statement said. "Given the nature of her case, the insignificant amount of substance, and the personality and history of BG's positive contributions to global and Russian sport, the defense hopes that the lawsuit will be considered a mitigating circumstance by the court and that there will be no harsh conviction." The South American government on May 3 classified Griner's case as "wrongfully detained," meaning the U.S. will work more aggressively to negotiate her release even if the lawsuit is against her, the State Department said. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday that Griner's guilty plea will have "no impact" on negotiations to bring her home to the United States. "We're going to do everything we can to make sure we bring Brittney Griner home and make sure we bring Paul Whelan home too," Jean-Pierre said. National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson claimed in a statement that Griner was "unjustly imprisoned" and being held "under unbearable circumstances. Loved ones as soon as possible," Watson said. "We will continue this work to secure his release of Brittney, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other US citizens who are being unjustly detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world," she added. S. Embassy and two representatives of Russian and foreign media were in Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a tweet Thursday that U.S. officials attending the trial delivered a letter from President Joe Biden to Griner in response to a letter the WNBA star sent earlier this week wrote to the President asking for his help: "We will not back down until Brittney, Paul Whelan and everyone else wrongfully imprisoned Am erican are reunited with their loved ones,” Blinken wrote. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris called Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, to discuss efforts to get the WNBA star released, the White House said. "The President called Cherelle to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney's release as soon as possible, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other US citizens who are being unjustly detained or arrested in Russia and around the world being held hostage," White told House in a statement released Wednesday. WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a hearing in Khimki, just outside Moscow, on July 1, 2022. The call came months after Cherelle Griner publicly expressed interest in speaking to Biden about her wife's case during a May interview with "Good Morning America" ​​co-host Robin Roberts. She's a political pawn," Cherelle Griner said in May. The first witness at Griner's trial last Friday was a customs officer who was at the airport when she was arrested. Griner's attorney Alexander Boykov declined to comment "on the details of the case and the charges," telling reporters outside the courtroom last Friday, adding that it's too early, according to The AP. Russia's invasion of Ukraine began a week after Griner was arrested. Griner, who plays for Phoenix Mercury, reached out personally in a handwritten letter to Biden received by the White House on Monday, urging the President to help her escape from Russia: "While I'm sitting here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey or other accomplishments, I fear that I may be here forever," Griner wrote to the President. Biden shared a draft of the letter she wrote to Birttney Griner with Cherelle Griner during her call, the White Ho uses. Cherelle Griner said in a message posted to her Instagram account on Wednesday that she was "grateful" for the call she received from Biden and Harris and vowed to keep speaking out until her wife reunites be home "While I will remain concerned and blunt until she returns home, I feel confident in knowing that the President read my wife's letter and took the time to respond. He means the world to my whole family and my wife," she wrote. “Please continue to pray for my family and all other families of those wrongly imprisoned as our pain remains active until our loved ones are brought home. Let's continue to use our voices to call the names of all those wrongly imprisoned and to support the administration as they do today, whatever it takes to bring them home." Jean-Pierre told ABC's Rachel Scott that Biden said he was "deeply moved" by Griner's letter to him this week, but would still not say what the president wrote in his reply.Calls for Brittney Griner's release escalated following the release last month of US Navy veteran Trevor Reed, who was freed from a Russian prison as part of a prisoner swap.Former Marine Paul Whelan has also been imprisoned in Russia since 2019. Reed's family met with Biden after protesting outside the White House, but despite their best efforts, Whelan's family has not yet met Biden met or spoke to him directly Jean-Pierre said just yesterday White House officials were on a call with Elizabeth Wh Elan, a special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, who also received calls from Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to offer support and "reaffirm the president's commitment to bringing Paul home." When asked by ABC News , on how the White House can reassure Whelan's family that he is not forgotten, Jean-Pierre said the administration wanted to "assure" the Whelan and Griner families that Biden would use "all the means at our disposal" to get them home bring to . But we are committed to making sure they all get home safely," she said.

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When Brittney Griner's wife Biden calls, Paul Whelan's family has to keep waiting

Paul Whelan's family is still awaiting a call from the President, three and a half years after the Michigan businessman was imprisoned in Russia. (Author: Gardener)

Paul Whelan'sWhen is Paul Whelan's turn for a presidential call, letter, or prisoner swap? This is what his family wants to know as the Michigan businessman's incarceration in Russia extends beyond 3½ years and they are watching as other families whose loved ones are also incarcerated there are having talks with the President and, in Trevor Reed's case, being brought home to safety be at a prisoner exchange. "It's hard to express how heartbreaking it can be to be part of the family of a wrongfully incarcerated person," said Whelan's twin brother, David Whelan. “A phone call from anyone in government to show they care can be a huge morale boost to help you maintain your advocacy and support for your loved one. More: State Department urged Paul Whelan's family to 'make more noise' to win release from Russia More: Paul Whelan's sister fights for hearing after Trevor Reed's release is the longest-served of the three high-profile Americans who were unjustly imprisoned in Russia, according to the US government. He was arrested in Russia in the summer of 2019 and accused of assaulting an officer after a night of drinking. Reed, however, denied the claims shortly after Reed's family spoke to President Joe Biden in late March, swapping him for convicted Russian drug trafficker Konstantin Yaroshenko in a surprise prisoner swap. WNBA star Brittney Griner was arrested in February and pleaded guilty to drug-related charges on Thursday. Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, spoke with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday and received reassurances from them that Brittney Griner's case remains a priority. Although the Whelan family has repeatedly requested a similar meeting with the president, it never took place, Whelan's sister, Elizabeth Whelan, said. While speaking with Biden was a "great win" for the Griner family, Elizabeth Whelan said it was also personally troubling given how long she's been trying to arrange a conversation with the president about her brother. "What got under my skin was the uneven attention the White House paid to families who were wrongfully imprisoned," she told the Free Press. "Who thought it was a good idea to make one call and not two? More: Surprise US prisoner swap with Russia for Trevor Reed tough on Paul Whelan family More: War in Ukraine could block talks to release Paul Whelan, a Michigan man jailed in Russia Elizabeth Whelan said she had asked four times to become to meet with Biden, and did email the President's Chief of Staff to request a meeting. When Donald Trump was President, she also sent him letters asking to speak about Paul's imprisonment. "I haven't requested that very publicly because I'd really rather see a process that works that gets my brother home as soon as possible and allows us to celebrate his homecoming with the President, rather than wasting Biden's valuable time with individual requests." consume. But is that so? What will it take to bring Paul home?" asked Elizabeth Whelan. (S. Government) and that government is working to bring our brother home to Michigan. And I continue to caution those who will be listening that it is It's Russia, not Biden, holding Paul hostage and not letting him go." Paul Whelan, now 52, ​​was arrested and charged with espionage while he was in Moscow for a friend's wedding. Whelan and his family insist he was framed and has since been unjustly jailed. Whelan was found guilty in a closed court hearing and sentenced to 16 years in a labor camp. "He lost about 20% of his weight as of December 2018," David Whelan told the Free Press. He also underwent surgery to repair a hernia while incarcerated in Russia and spends most of his day sewing buttonholes on prison uniforms after incarceration in the prison camp and has been "up and down" lately. let him go through this assignment al,” she said. Paul Whelan, second from left, was arrested and charged with espionage in Moscow. He speaks with a journalist as he is escorted to a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, by officers of the Russian Federal Security Service on Friday, August 23, 2019. When the Biden administration negotiated the prisoner swap for Reed but didn't include Whelan in the swap, the family was devastated. David Whelan wrote at the time: "Trevor is free. Paul remains a hostage. Is President Biden's failure to bring Paul home an admission that some cases are too hard to solve? And how does a family know that their loved one's case is too difficult, a hostage too far out of reach?" The Free Press asked the US State Department on Thursday whether Whelan's freedom now depends on what happens in Griner's case A spokesman didn't answer the question, but referred Freie Presse to a tweet by Secretary of State Antony Blinken posted on Thursday, which read in part: "We will not back down until Brittney, Paul Whelan and other wrongly imprisoned Americans." reunited are your loved ones." [email protected] officials again attended the trial of Brittney Griner today and presented her with a letter from President Biden. We will not back down until Brittney, Paul Whelan and every other wrongly imprisoned American are reunited with their loved ones. — Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) July 7, 2022 More: Accused spy Paul Whelan wouldn't be the first American deployed by Russians More: Paul Whelan and his family fight a year after he was accused of spying in Russia. Blinken spoke to the Whelan family on June 22, and David Whelan said he reassured Whelaners that "any unlawful detentions remain a priority. The South American government allocates various resources, including a phone call from the President." David Whelan added, "That can be hard to cope with as a family member. And not because you begrudge another family the resources or even their joy when their loved one is exonerated and yours is not." In our case, it was a meeting with President Biden, did that mean Trevor Reed was exonerated? The S. administration is inconsistent on how they allocate their resources, what is a family supposed to do? What does it mean when requests to meet or speak with the President are ignored?” In a statement emailed to the Free Press, National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said Biden was also concerned about Whelan's case must ensure the release of Paul Whalen as soon as possible, as well as the release of Brittney Griner and other US citizens who are in Russia and nd are being unjustly arrested or held hostage around the world," Watson said. "We will continue to be in regular contact with Paul's family and with other families of Americans who have been held hostage abroad or wrongfully imprisoned to provide support and assistance and to update them on efforts to free their loved ones In addition, the president's special envoy for hostage affairs and White House staffers spoke to Elizabeth Whelan Wednesday afternoon and has a bi-weekly phone call with her to update efforts to get his release, an administration spokesman told the Free Press. Still, Elizabeth Whelan said she won't stop asking for more until her brother gets home. "I am fully committed not only to ensuring that my brother Paul is released and removed from Russia by any means necessary, but also that there is a better overall process for dealing with unlawful detention," she said. "The Biden administration has been great at communicating with families on many levels, but in general we need to know more about what's going on behind the scenes lest we always explode in public! S. Government) to share information so we don't have to resort to public requests to meet with the President." "I want to see a system that focuses on dealing with the bad guys who are holding our citizens hostage and our loved ones to bring home instead of berating the President. But an uneven level of attention angers families who are already at their wits' end and ultimately distracts from addressing the core issues needed to stop this vile practice." This article originally appeared in Detroit Free Press: As Brittney Griner's wife gets Biden call , Paul Whelan's family will have to keep waiting

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Brittney Griner says she is guilty in a Russian court and vape cartridges were accidentally in her luggage

Brittney Griner says she is guilty in a Russian court and vape cartridges were accidentally in her luggage. (Author: Gardener)

Brittney GrinerWNBA star Brittney Griner said she would "plead guilty" to drug charges in a Russian court on Thursday morning, saying the vape cartridges containing hash oil were unintentionally in her luggage. Griner said she was guilty when asked if she wanted to testify. ABC News was present in the courtroom during the hearing. Griner added that she had "no intention" of violating Russian law, adding that she was in a hurry and didn't want to leave the cartridges in her bag. Griner is scheduled to appear in court on July 14, on the third day of her trial. The WNBA star's trial, which is taking place in Khimki -- a Moscow suburb -- began last Friday, more than 4 1/2 months after Griner was arrested. Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was visiting Russia to play basketball during the offseason when she was arrested at Sheremetyevo International Airport on February 17 after being accused of having vape cartridges containing hash oil, which is illegal in the country . Her legal team told ABC News in a statement Thursday that her "guilty" plea was informed through a conversation with her Russian attorneys. She decided to take full responsibility for her actions, knowing that she is a role model for many people," the statement said. "Given the nature of her case, the insignificant amount of substance, and the personality and history of BG's positive contributions to global and Russian sport, the defense hopes that the lawsuit will be considered a mitigating circumstance by the court and that there will be no harsh conviction." The South American government on May 3 classified Griner's case as "wrongfully detained," meaning the U.S. will work more aggressively to negotiate her release even if the lawsuit is against her, the State Department said. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday that Griner's guilty plea will have "no impact" on negotiations to bring her home to the United States. "We're going to do everything we can to make sure we bring Brittney Griner home and make sure we bring Paul Whelan home too," Jean-Pierre said. National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson claimed in a statement that Griner was "unjustly imprisoned" and being held "under unbearable circumstances. Loved ones as soon as possible," Watson said. "We will continue this work to secure his release of Brittney, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other US citizens who are being unjustly detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world," she added. S. Embassy and two representatives of Russian and foreign media were in Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a tweet Thursday that U.S. officials attending the trial delivered a letter from President Joe Biden to Griner in response to a letter the WNBA star sent earlier this week wrote to the President asking for his help: "We will not back down until Brittney, Paul Whelan and everyone else wrongfully imprisoned Am erican are reunited with their loved ones,” Blinken wrote. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris called Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, to discuss efforts to get the WNBA star released, the White House said. "The President called Cherelle to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney's release as soon as possible, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other US citizens who are being unjustly detained or arrested in Russia and around the world being held hostage," White told House in a statement released Wednesday. The call came months after Cherelle Griner publicly expressed interest in speaking to Biden about her wife's case in a May interview with Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts. She's a political pawn," Cherelle Griner said in May. The first witness at Griner's trial last Friday was a customs officer who was at the airport when she was arrested. Griner's attorney Alexander Boykov declined to comment "on the details of the case and the charges," telling reporters outside the courtroom last Friday, adding that it's too early, according to The AP. Russia's invasion of Ukraine began a week after Griner was arrested. Griner, who plays for Phoenix Mercury, reached out personally in a handwritten letter to Biden received by the White House on Monday, urging the President to help her escape from Russia: "While I'm sitting here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey or other accomplishments, I fear that I may be here forever," Griner wrote to the President. Biden shared a draft of the letter she wrote to Birttney Griner with Cherelle Griner during her call, the White Ho uses. Cherelle Griner said in a message posted to her Instagram account on Wednesday that she was "grateful" for the call she received from Biden and Harris and vowed to keep speaking out until her wife reunites be home "While I will remain concerned and blunt until she returns home, I feel confident in knowing that the President read my wife's letter and took the time to respond. He means the world to my whole family and my wife," she wrote. “Please continue to pray for my family and all other families of those wrongly imprisoned as our pain remains active until our loved ones are brought home. Let's continue to use our voices to call the names of all those wrongly imprisoned and to support the administration as they do today, whatever it takes to bring them home." Jean-Pierre told ABC's Rachel Scott that Biden said he was "deeply moved" by Griner's letter to him this week, but would still not say what the president wrote in his reply.Calls for Brittney Griner's release escalated following the release last month of US Navy veteran Trevor Reed, who was freed from a Russian prison as part of a prisoner swap.Former Marine Paul Whelan has also been imprisoned in Russia since 2019. Reed's family met with Biden after protesting outside the White House, but despite their best efforts, Whelan's family has not yet met Biden met or spoke to him directly Jean-Pierre said just yesterday White House officials were on a call with Elizabeth Wh Elan, a special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, who also received calls from Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to offer support and "reaffirm the president's commitment to bringing Paul home." When asked by ABC News , on how the White House can reassure Whelan's family that he is not forgotten, Jean-Pierre said the administration wanted to "assure" the Whelan and Griner families that Biden would use "all the means at our disposal" to get them home bring to . But we are committed to making sure they all get home safely," she said.

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Nadal retires with hamstring tear

Rafael Nadal withdrew from Wimbledon on Thursday, a day before he was due to play Nick Kyrgios in the semifinals due to a torn abdominal muscle. (Author: Gardener)

Rafael NadalWIMBLEDON, England -- Rafael Nadal pulled out of Wimbledon on Thursday, a day before he was due to play Nick Kyrgios in the semifinals because of a torn abdominal muscle. It is the first time since 1931 that a man has been eliminated from the oldest Grand Slam tournament before a semifinal or final. "I made my decision because I don't think I can win two games under these circumstances," Nadal said at a press conference at the All England Club. The 22-time major champion occasionally sighed while answering questions in English and then Spanish for a total of more than 20 minutes. Nadal said trying to continue competing could aggravate the injury. The only other time in his career that Nadal gave an opponent a walkthrough by withdrawing from a Grand Slam tournament before a match was at the 2016 French Open when he suffered a left injury before the third round wrist pulled back. The 40th Kyrgios, a 27-year-old from Australia, advanced to his first major tournament title shot and becomes the first unseeded men's finalist at Wimbledon since Mark Philippoussis, who lost to Roger Federer in 2003. Kyrgios will face either three-time defending champion and No.1 seeded Novak Djokovic or No.9 Cam Norrie of Great Britain for Sunday's championship; their semifinals will be played today. Second-seeded Nadal, a 36-year-old Spaniard, is 19-0 in the 2022 Grand Slam, including trophies at the Australian Open in January and the French Open in June. This put him halfway to a Grand Slam in a calendar year for the first time in his career. Nadal has been suffering from an abdominal muscle for about a week and the pain became almost unbearable in the first set of his 4 hours 21 minutes fifth-set tiebreak win over Taylor Fritz in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. After that match, Nadal said he was considering retiring before it was over - and couldn't be sure if he felt well enough to play again on Friday. On Thursday's day off, Nadal went to the All England Club for a light training session. Satisfied for the most part with hitting forehands and backhands, Nadal attempted a few serves - the part of his game that revealed the most obvious inability to play at full power and which he said caused Fritz the most discomfort. Those Thursday practice serves were generally not performed with the body twisting effort he normally uses by Nadal's standards. "I've been thinking about the decision all day," said Nadal. It's not far from what happened to Nadal at Roland Garros, where he received repeated injections to numb the chronic pain in his left foot and insisted he had no idea when he could reach the point , when he can no longer go to court. He tried a new treatment after leaving Paris and it worked well enough, Nadal said, for him to walk without limping. His level of play in five games on the Wimbledon lawn was such that he believed he could win a third title at the tournament after 2008 and 2010. "I don't want to go out there, not be competitive enough to play at the level I need to play to reach my goal," he said. Nadal said he thought he might take a month off. The last Grand Slam Tournament of the Year, the U

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Elon Musk has a solution to solving a global crisis

Tesla's billionaire CEO worries about a shrinking world population as he sets out to conquer Mars. (Author: Gardener)

TeslaThe CEO of Tesla (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc. Report, which has become one of the most influential voices on the planet, has warned of what he believes to be the most serious global threat: the decline in the world's population, and especially in the rich countries. “Unless something fundamental changes at the level of the human birth rate. But that, by the way, is the single greatest threat to civilization right now, in my opinion," Musk, 51, said during a virtual appearance at the recent All-In conference held in Miami on May 16. To back up his claim and warning, the tech tycoon has been publishing news articles for several weeks, focusing on the ongoing population declines in Japan, Hong Kong, China, South Korea and Italy and the declining birth rate in the US. "The last two years have been a demographic disaster," Musk wrote on Twitter on June 14, speaking about the US. The post brought back a tweet from May in which he was already concerned about the declining birth rate in the US. "The US birth rate has been below minimum for about 50 years," Musk tweeted at the time. A recent study predicts that the world population will peak at 9.7 billion in 2064 before falling to 8.8 billion in 2100. But if we follow the curve of the world population growth rate, demographers say the population would be declining around 2060. The annual growth rate of world population was 2.1% in the 1970s. The serial entrepreneur — he founded rocket developer SpaceX, infrastructure provider Boring Co. and medical technology company Neuralink — says one way to solve this big problem is to have kids and celebrate humanity. "I mean, I'm doing my part haha," Musk said in another tweet on June 14. On a personal level, too, the billionaire appears to be following his own advice: He added a welcome seventh child, a girl named Y, to his family late last year with Canadian singer Grimes. But we have to think he didn't stop there, as the charismatic CEO appears to confirm a report from Insider that says he has two other children, twins, with a senior Neuralink executive, Shivon Zilis. According to insiders, in April Musk and the executive asked a Texas judge to change the children's names to reflect their two last names. "I'm doing my best to help the underpopulation crisis," Musk tweeted on July 7, a few hours after the insider article was published. "A collapsing birth rate is by far the greatest danger facing civilization." Five minutes later, he posted a second tweet that read, "Mark my words, unfortunately they're true." That news was followed by more tweets, including one celebrating large families. "Far too many people are under the illusion that the earth is overpopulated when the birthrate trend is so obviously heading towards a population collapse," Musk said in another tweet. The twins bring Musk's offspring to nine. In fact, the billionaire already has two children, Y and X, with Grimes. Musk and Wilson lost their first child, Nevada, to sudden infant death syndrome at just 10 weeks old. The billionaire's tweets about having a large family were met with comments on social media from users believing he can afford to have as many children as he wants because he is rich. But the billionaire had expected this criticism weeks ago. no The richer you are, the fewer children you have; The more educated you are, the fewer children you have," he said in May. The expansion of his family and concerns about the declining world population come as Musk looks to conquer other planets, particularly Mars, with his exploration company SpaceX. "The population of Mars is still zero people!" Musk reiterated in a July 7 tweet.

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Injured Nadal from Wimbledon; Kyrgios advances to the final

Rafael Nadal withdrew from Wimbledon a day before his actual appearance in the semi-finals due to a torn abdominal muscle (Author: Gardener)

WimbledonRafael Nadal has withdrawn a day before his scheduled Wimbledon semi-final appearance with a torn abdominal muscle Rafael Nadal has withdrawn a day before his scheduled Wimbledon semi-final appearance with a torn abdominal muscle WIMBLEDON, England -- Rafael Nadal retired on Thursday due to a torn abdominal muscle returned from Wimbledon a day before he was due to face Nick Kyrgios in the semifinals. It is the first time since 1931 that a man has been eliminated from the oldest Grand Slam tournament before a semifinal or final. "I made my decision because I don't think I can win two games under these circumstances," Nadal said at a press conference at the All England Club. The 22-time major champion occasionally sighed while answering questions in English and then Spanish for a total of more than 20 minutes. Nadal said trying to continue competing could aggravate the injury. The only other time in his career that Nadal gave an opponent a walkthrough by withdrawing from a Grand Slam tournament before a match was at the 2016 French Open when he suffered a left injury before the third round wrist pulled back. The 40th Kyrgios, a 27-year-old from Australia, advanced to his first major tournament title shot and becomes the first unseeded men's finalist at Wimbledon since Mark Philippoussis, who lost to Roger Federer in 2003. Kyrgios will face either three-time defending champion and No.1 seeded Novak Djokovic or No.9 Cam Norrie of Great Britain for Sunday's championship; their semifinals will be played on Friday. Second-seeded Nadal, a 36-year-old Spaniard, is 19-0 in the 2022 Grand Slam, including trophies at the Australian Open in January and the French Open in June. This put him halfway to a Grand Slam in a calendar year for the first time in his career. Nadal has been suffering from an abdominal muscle for about a week and the pain became almost unbearable in the first set of his 4 hours 21 minutes fifth-set tiebreak win over Taylor Fritz in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. After that match, Nadal said he was considering retiring before it was over - and couldn't be sure if he would feel well enough to play again on Friday. On Thursday's day off, Nadal went to the All England Club for a light training session. Satisfied for the most part with hitting forehands and backhands, Nadal attempted a few serves - the part of his game that revealed the most obvious inability to play at full power and which he said caused Fritz the most discomfort. Those training serves on Thursday were generally not tapped by Nadal's standards with the body twisting effort he normally expends. "I've been thinking all day about the decision to make," said Nadal. It's not far from what happened to Nadal at Roland Garros, where he repeatedly took injections to numb the chronic pain in his left foot and insisted he had no idea when he'd get the point could reach where he can no longer go onto the pitch. After leaving Paris, he tried a new treatment and it worked well enough, Nadal said, for him to walk without a limp. His level of play after five games on Wimbledon's lawn was such that he believed he could win a third title at the tournament after 2008 and 2010. "I don't want to go out there, not be competitive enough to play at the level that I need to play to achieve my goal," he said. Nadal said he thinks he could sideline about a month. The last Grand Slam tournament of the year, the U.

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WNBA star Brittney Griner pleads guilty to drug-related offenses in Russian court

Basketball star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug-related offenses in a Moscow court on Thursday, which faces up to 10 years in prison (Author: Gardener)

Brittney GrinerAmerican basketball star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges in a Moscow court on Thursday, her lawyers said, and faced up to 10 years in prison as her family and friends stepped up their demands for U. Griner, 31, who was killed in February arrested at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport after Russian authorities said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in their luggage. Griner's attorney, Alexander Boikov, told reporters after Thursday's courtroom hearing that the basketball star admitted the vape canisters belonged to her but unintentionally brought them to Russia. He said that Griner was a "responsible person" in response to a question about why she decided to plead guilty. "Given her personality, she's a role model for a lot of people, for a lot of young people - she just thinks she should be responsible for her actions," her other lawyer, Maria Blagovolina, told reporters. In a statement, her attorneys added that because of the "insignificant" amount of substance found and because of Griner's "positive contributions to global and Russian sport, the defense hopes the lawsuit will be considered a mitigating circumstance by the court rather than a harsh sentence." Griner's next hearing is scheduled for next Thursday. Her last court appearance comes after President Joe Biden attempted to reassure Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, that he was working to secure her release as soon as possible. Griner wrote an emotional letter to the President this week, asking him to take her home. S. Embassy officials who attended the trial were able to speak with Griner and delivered a letter from Biden: "We will not back down until Brittney, Paul Whelan and all of our wrongfully imprisoned Americans are reunited with their loved ones," he said. In a statement, she said: "As we have said, we believe that the Russian Federation is unfairly detaining Brittney Griner in intolerable circumstances. S.'s government continues to work aggressively and is pursuing all options to get her safely home to her family, friends and loved ones as soon as possible. We will continue this work to secure the release of Brittney, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other US citizens who are being unjustly detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world,” said in a tweet following the hearing Whelan's twin, David, he hopes "Griner's guilty plea will hasten the end of the injustice she is witnessing. Russia will not work to send her home until there is a conviction and verdict.” S. Embassy in Moscow said after the hearing that she could speak to Griner in the courtroom and Griner said she was eating well. "She can read books and is doing well given the circumstances," Rood said in a statement. Griner's arrest came just days before Russia's invasion of Ukraine began and has highlighted the shattered relations between Washington and Moscow. The Kremlin has been accused of using Griner as a political pawn, while the Biden administration said she was "wrongly imprisoned". Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied holding Griner hostage. Griner, a 6-foot-9 native of Houston, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a center for the Phoenix Mercury, who played for a Russian basketball team in the WNBA's offseason. Russian criminal law experts say Griner faces at least five years in prison on the charges, but her decision to admit her guilt may have been made to mitigate the 10-year maximum sentence. Her attorneys could also argue that she earns less than the mandatory five years, said William E. Butler, author of "Russian Law and Legal Institutions" and a professor at Penn State Dickinson Law. "The conviction here is crucial now," Butler said, adding that "the question will be whether there are reasons to give her less than five." In a statement released to NBC News later Thursday, Griner's attorneys said they expect the trial to end in early August and hope for a light sentence. "Given the nature of their case, the insignificant amount of BG's substance and personality, and history of positive contributions to global and Russian sport, the defense hopes the lawsuit will be considered by the court as a mitigating circumstance and that there will be no aggravated sentence ", the statement said. Since her trial began, her family, friends and co-workers have been increasing their calls for the U. Her team held a rally in support of her in Phoenix on Wednesday, while Rev. Al Sharpton called on Biden and Blinken Tuesday to arrange for him and a group of faith leaders to meet Griner in Russia. The White House said Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris called Cherelle Griner Wednesday to reassure her that the president was working to secure Griner's release. He also read her a draft of the letter he was sending Griner, according to the White House call readout. It came after Griner said in the handwritten letter addressed to Biden this week that she was afraid of being in Russian prison forever and implored him to do whatever he could to bring her home. Officials have said they are working behind the scenes to free her. So far, Washington has not officially commented on possible prisoner swaps, despite speculation in Russian state media in May that Griner could be swapped for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year sentence, U.S. news NBC News can't agree with those reports confirm. Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that "advertising and hype" in the media and online about Americans detained in Russia is hampering Moscow-US interaction on prisoner exchanges, according to the state-run Tass news agency. Ahead of Griner's guilty plea, Deputy State Department spokesman Alexey Zaitsev said Wednesday that she was arrested for "a serious criminal offense corroborated by indisputable evidence." But he said she is free to appeal and ask for clemency. Regarding a possible prisoner exchange, Zaitsev said the court must first reach a verdict, which he estimates could take at least a month. "Brittney is an example of being brave," her attorneys said in Thursday's statement.

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