Alexei Navalny’s daughter pleads for doctor to be allowed to visit as allies pledge new protests



He was arrested on his return to Russia at the start of the year, after recovering in Germany from a near-fatal nerve agent poisoning, and swiftly sentenced to two years in prison on charges relating to an embezzlement case dating back to 2014.

The opposition organised anti-Kremlin rallies across the country in response, sparking a violent crackdown from police and thousands of detentions, before deciding to pause the street protest movement.

“Right now he is being killed in a prison colony. We can’t wait any longer,” Navalny ally Leonid Volkov said as he announced further demonstrations in all major Russian cities for Wednesday evening, shortly after President Vladimir Putin gives his annual state of the nation address.

More than 450,000 people have already registered to take part in the events. While the number is shy of a previously announced target of half a million, the figure suggests that Wednesday could see the country’s biggest protests since the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago.

“Have you seen a person being killed with your own eyes? You have. You are seeing it now,” Mr Volkov said in a video released via the opposition leader’s YouTube channel on Sunday. 

“No matter how much you want to escape that thought, to change the topic – that does not change the fact that Alexei Navalny is being killed. Using terrible means. In front of all of us.” 

Doctors said that the levels of potassium in Mr Navalny’s blood were significantly higher than the level that usually requires medical intervention. “This means both impaired renal function and that serious heart problems can develop at any minute,” his personal doctor Anastasia Vasilyeva said in a statement.

Mr Navalny has tried to keep an upbeat tone in messages passed to his lawyers and posted on social media, in which he has joked about his routine in prison.

But he has also told of how prison guards wake him once an hour throughout the night, and of threats to put him in a straight-jacket and force-feed him if he does not end his hunger strike.

The EU said it would discuss Mr Navalny’s case at a meeting of foreign ministers on Monday, as French President Emmanuel Macron said it was time to draw “clear red lines” in relation to Russia, a shift away from his usual conciliatory tone. 

The EU said it was “deeply concerned” about Mr Navalny’s failing health, while a senior Biden administration official warned that Russia would face repercussions if he died.

“We have communicated to the Russian government that what happens to Mr Navalny in their custody is their responsibility and they will be held accountable by the international community,” Jake Sullivan, Joe Biden’s national security adviser, said on CNN’s State of the Union.

Both the EU and the US have sanctioned Moscow over its treatment of the opposition leader. 

Mr Navalny has long accused the Kremlin of orchestrating his poisoning, and last year appeared to trick an FSB agent into admitting details of the attempted killing during a sting call. 

Since his jailing, authorities have kept up pressure on the opposition movement, raiding his offices and placing a number of Mr Navalny’s key allies under house arrest. Last week, prosecutors moved to label his organisation an “extremist group”, meaning supporters could face lengthy jail terms. 



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More people to be allowed on public transport in NSW from Monday


More people will be allowed on public transport in NSW next week as coronavirus caps are increased.

From Monday, capacity on city services will increase to about 75 per cent and return to 100 per cent capacity on regional services.

Passengers are still encouraged to wear masks where social distancing can’t be guaranteed.
Trains in Sydney will take more passengers from Monday. (Nick Moir)

“Health advice now allows public transport services to increase capacity, which means people can now sit next to each other on their trip,” Minister for Regional Transport and Roads and Acting Minister for Transport and Roads Paul Toole said.

“We know the fight against COVID isn’t over, so we’ll keep green dots on services in case we need them again down the track.

“We’ve already started to see people returning to the network, and this announcement will give customers even more confidence to use our services in a COVID-safe way.”

Transport for NSW Chief Operating Officer Howard Collins said other measures such as extra cleaning will stay in place.

“We are still asking customers to plan ahead before they leave home, register their Opal card for contact tracing when needed and follow good hygiene practices including staying home if unwell,” Mr Collins said.

“Wearing a face mask is still an important part in limiting the spread of the virus if there is an outbreak, and remains strongly recommended on public transport, especially during those busier times on the network.”

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Victorian duck hunters allowed to bag more birds each day, prompting anger


Hunters will be able to shoot up to five ducks a day in Victoria when the restricted season begins on May 26. 

The Game Management Authority of Victoria (GMA) has upped the limit from two to five ducks a day, just six weeks before the season begins, after a new and “more accurate” survey of Victoria’s duck population found there were fewer than two-and-a-half million ducks around the state, which was more than previous estimates. 

But the new population data does not change the reduced length of the season, which is down to 20 days from the usual 80. 

The GMA said it brought in experienced wildlife consultants last November to conduct the count. 

Chief executive of the GMA Graeme Ford said helicopter surveys of 650 water bodies in Victoria provided data for the new figure. 

Mr Ford said this method was more accurate because it estimated actual duck numbers, rather than an abundance index based on trends over time. 

“We’ve had it reviewed by an expert who’s experienced in his field as well and they’ve come back and told us it’s a gold standard in biological research,” Mr Ford said. 

Birdlife Australia member Jack Winterbottom said questions remain about whether the new survey is more accurate. 

Previous restrictions on duck hunting, including the 2021 season, have been based on the Eastern Australian Waterbird Survey. 

President of the Victorian Duck Hunting Association Dan Straube said the new method was a more realistic picture of duck populations.

“The waterfowl survey is over three states over eastern Australia, and in the Victorian situation they only do two out of the 10 passes,” he said. 

Mr Straube says all the rules for the season should be based on the new data, not just bag limits. 

“We applaud them for their study, but we still have questions about why it took so long to present this document and shows that the considerations process back in February really wasn’t based on [the best] data,” he said. 

He says that would involve lengthening the season, and upping the bag limit to 10. 

Despite higher duck numbers, Mr Winterbottom said Birdlife Australia wants the practice banned, like in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia. 

“A bird is a bird, end of story,” Mr Winterbottom said.

“In terms of things like socioeconomic impacts and tradition and culture, it’s only a white man’s tradition to shoot ducks, it’s certainly not a longstanding one.”

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Big Brother is coming: ‘Vaccine passport can not be allowed to gain momentum’



Sky News host Alan Jones says the idea of a vaccine passport “cannot be allowed to gain momentum” stating in the last 15 months, we have seen an “extraordinary erosion of our fundamental freedoms”.

“There is loose talk which can’t be allowed to become anything more than that about vaccine passports,” he said.

“In other words, you can’t get on a plane, you can’t shop, you can’t go where you want to go unless you have proof of vaccination.

“I have warned since the beginning of all of this against the massive erosions of our freedoms. In many ways, we are all too busy trying to get on with our lives.

“If people in a certain precinct are unvaccinated, could they be declared a risk to public health? Could this be the extension of the vaccine passport idea? And where do our basic freedoms stand in relation to this?

“We have seen, in the last 15 months, an extraordinary erosion of fundamental freedoms. We learned early on in life, once bitten, twice shy. Beware lest big brother comes after us again. Vaccine passports; no.”

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No Discrimination Talk Allowed – WSJ


Normally anyone who raises an instance of race discrimination will find a sympathetic ear in California Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu. But not Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. During a House Judiciary hearing Thursday about diversity on the federal bench, Mr. Kirsanow dared to mention Harvard’s treatment of Asian-American applicants—and an angry Rep. Lieu quickly moved to silence him.

“Stop bringing in irrelevant issues, there are more Asian Americans at these Ivy Leagues than in the federal judiciary—they’re unrepresented. These are different issues happening,” he snapped at Mr. Kirsanow, and we mean snapped.

Mr. Kirsanow had brought up Harvard’s admissions in the course of agreeing that Asian-Americans are underrepresented in the judiciary. His point is that a disproportionate number of federal judges come from elite schools such as Harvard, so the more Asian-Americans who are kept out of that pipeline, the fewer will end up on the federal bench. Mr. Lieu also claimed that Mr. Kirsanow mentioned Harvard to distract from the issue of discrimination. But the Congressman’s overheated reaction suggests the truth is the opposite.

Amid all the concerns about rising anti-Asian bias, Mr. Lieu and progressives are desperate to squelch any debate about discrimination against well-qualified Asian-Americans by leading universities. They don’t want Americans to know that the left favors discrimination by race when it suits their political purposes.

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RESTRICTION ROLL BACK: Standing up indoors in NSW venues allowed from today


St Patrick’s Day festivities across New South Wales today will resemble pre-COVID times after revelers were given the green light to stand up indoors while in Sydney venues.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian vowed to lift the restriction three weeks ago after allowing standing up outdoors at pubs.

The news comes with a very strict warning from state officials who said the new freedoms could be wound back at any time if there is an outbreak.

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Bigger weddings, funerals allowed in Queensland as COVID-19 restrictions ease from today


It’s been a tough time for Queenslanders eager to tie the knot with their beloved or say goodbye to a loved one who has died.

This means you could fit 200 people into a 100 square metre venue, but if you had 201 people then you would need a venue with 402 square metres of space.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says she hopes these changes will make a huge difference.

“I know that’s going to mean a lot, especially to our regional communities where there might be someone special from their community who has passed away,” Ms Palaszczuk said on Friday.

“We know many people who have large weddings as well and this is wonderful news.

“Those easing of restrictions mean basically they’re almost back to normal.”

At the weekend, Queensland Health renewed calls for people to wear their masks in airports and on flights, after three recently positive cases travelled through Brisbane Airport.

“It is absolutely critical everyone follows the rules and wears a mask if they’ve got plans to travel,” Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young said.

“Not only can you be fined $200 on the spot [if you do not follow the rules], it is a safety precaution for you and for the people around you.

“It could be the difference between catching COVID-19 or not.”

The government usually provides updates on a monthly basis, on or around the end of the month.

Basted on that pattern, you can expect an update in three to four weeks.

Ms Palaszczuk told a press conference on Sunday there was only one new case of COVID-19 in hotel quarantine in Queensland, 24 active cases, and 4,110 tests had been carried out.

Meanwhile, the AstraZeneca vaccine has arrived in Queensland, with vaccine hubs to open today in Bundaberg and Logan. Frontline health care workers, quarantine workers and residents in care facilities will be at the front of the queue.

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NSW restrictions eased for schools; parents allowed back on grounds


Parents will be allowed on school grounds from Monday and will be able to attend sporting events, the NSW government said on Friday.

Limits on singing and chanting in schools will also be lifted, and social events can proceed as long as there is enough room for adults to follow COVID-safe practices.

Parents will be allowed on school grounds from Monday.Credit:Kate Geraghty

Education Minister Sarah Mitchell thanked communities for their patience.

“We are grateful to parents, teachers and principals who have worked tirelessly to keep school communities safe during the pandemic and ensure students continue to receive a high-quality education,” Ms Mitchell said.

Parents have been frustrated by inconsistent rules between schools – some allowed parents to sports carnivals, for example, while others didn’t – and have been asking why they cannot enter school grounds when there has not been a new case of coronavirus in NSW for more than a month.

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NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the rollout of the vaccine allowed restrictions to be eased.

“However, the pandemic is not over yet,” he said. “We still need principals, teachers, parents and students to continue to follow the health advice while at the same time enabling parents to support their children’s studies.”

From Monday, parents can enter school grounds but must maintain physical distancing. They can also attend sporting events. There will be no limits on singing groups, in-class repetition and chanting.

Dance classes, formals and social events can proceed, as long as venue restrictions are adhered to. Parents can keep gathering for P&C meetings.

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South Australian public servants allowed to get COVID-19 vaccination while on the clock


Public sector workers in South Australia will be able to attend COVID-19 vaccination appointments during paid work hours under a new provision by the state government.

Under the new provision published by the commissioner for public sector employment, public sector workers can attend scheduled COVID-19 vaccination appointments during their normal work hours, including travel time.

They will also have access to their paid sick leave entitlements if they experience an adverse reaction.

The provision also includes that employees who have used up all of their sick leave can potentially access special leave with pay.

Treasurer Rob Lucas said ensuring the timely delivery of the vaccines was a priority.

“The government is doing all we can to support those public sector workers who choose to have the COVID-19 vaccination when their turn comes,” he said.

“These new provisions will ensure they are not out of pocket while doing so.”

About 14,000 people have stayed in Adelaide’s medi-hotels since March last year.(ABC News: Michael Clements)

SA waiting on $6 million in medi-hotel bills

Meanwhile, the state government has issued about $10 million worth of medi-hotel bills since the pandemic began.

The state’s COVID-19 response select committee held a public hearing on Thursday.

Lynne Cowan, deputy chief executive of SA Health, told the hearing 14,000 people have stayed in South Australia’s medi-hotels since March last year.

“These include around 12,200 people arriving to Australia from overseas, 1,500 people arriving from interstate during periods where there have been interstate outbreaks and 400 local people who have been close contacts,” she said.

Ms Cowan said $3.6 million of the invoices issued had been paid.

“That doesn’t mean all of those are overdue, some of them are actually recent bills,” she said.

“There will be people who have had payment options as part of that process.”

She said payment exemptions had also been granted in some circumstances.

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Emily Kirkpatrick told the hearing that close contacts were not charged when they were required to stay in medi-hotels.

“There is no specific financial arrangement that we have within the medi-hotel operational structure for individuals who are placed as close contacts,” she said.

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State easing restrictions from Friday February 26; 50 people allowed in a house, 30 on a wedding dancefloor


New South Wales will ease coronavirus restrictions this week, increasing the number of people allowed at a house and bringing wedding dancefloors back.
Today marks 38 days of no community transmission in NSW, extending the state’s longest run of zero local cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

From midnight on Friday, people in NSW will be able to have 50 guests at a private gathering.

“Make sure no-one comes into your house with symptoms who has not been tested and told they can leave their house,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

“Make sure there is good ventilation, good distancing.

“Please be careful if you are taking up this opportunity.”

A maximum of 30 people will be allowed on the dancefloor at any one time at weddings.

People will also be able to stand up while having a drink at outdoor venues.

“From March 17 if everything goes well, in three weeks’ time, you will be able to stand up and have a drink indoors as well as outdoors,” Ms Berejiklian said.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian urged anyone taking up the chance to have 50 people over to do so safely. (Kate Geraghty)

Despite the easing of restrictions in NSW in coming days, health authorities have urged people to enjoy their freedom safely.

“NSW is in a very good position but we know that is very volatile,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“We have to be as vigilant as ever.

“We have to make sure we do not become complacent, that we stick to the COVID restrictions and rules to make sure that all of us stay protected.”

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant urged everyone to remain diligent with the use of the QR code system.

“While we are putting an incredible protections at our borders, and rolling out vaccine to our border workers and quarantine workers is the highest priority, the risk of an event where we get that transmission is still ever present,” she said.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the easing of restrictions was welcome news for businesses hit hard during the lockdown period.

“I think we are on track to be dealing well with not just the health response but the economy being open and providing people the freedom to live their lives,” he said.

Ms Berejiklian said the government would look at relaxing restrictions further once a greater number of people working in the hotel quarantine system have been vaccinated.

“What we are trying to do is reduce the risk of superspreader event,” she said.

“We didn’t have community transmission before the Northern Beaches cluster either but it snuck out of the hotel quarantine system and that’s our biggest risk.

“Once people in the quarantine system are vaccinated that reduces the risk of the virus getting out which is why timing is so critical for us.”

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