Biden announces sanctions against Russia, Kremlin still weighing how to respond


Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Photo by ALEXEI DRUZHININ/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

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UPDATED 3:40 PM PT – Friday, April 16, 2021

The Biden administration said it’s expelling a number of Russian diplomats and imposing sanctions on several companies in response to actions it says the Kremlin made against the U.S.

According to reports, the sanctions were meant as punitive action against Moscow after Russia allegedly interfered in the 2020 presidential election. It also came in response to the massive SolarWinds hack blamed on Russian intelligence agencies.

“Today, I have approved several steps, including expulsion of several Russian officials as a consequence of their actions,” Joe Biden said. “I’ve also signed an executive order authorizing new measures, including sanctions, to address specific harmful actions that Russia has taken against U.S. interests.”

According to Joe Biden, the U.S. is not looking to escalate tensions with Russia, however, if Russia seeks to “violate the U.S., it will respond.”

“The United States is not looking to kick off a cycle of escalation and conflict with Russia,” Biden added. “We want a stable, predictable relationship and if Russia continues to interfere with our democracy, I’m prepared to take further action to respond.”

The sanctions expelled 10 Russian diplomats from the U.S. and targeted six Russian companies that supported cyber efforts in the SolarWinds hack. Thirty-two additional individuals and entities were also named and accused of trying to influence the election and spreading disinformation.

There is no evidence, however, that Russia or any other influence changed votes or manipulated the outcome of the election.

The White House did emphasize the sanctions were not in response to a report that claimed Russia had paid the Taliban to attack U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In response, the Kremlin condemned the sanctions, saying President Vladimir Putin had not yet decided what action he would take.

“Our approach regarding the sanctions can not change,” Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said. “We condemn any such aspirations of sanctions. We consider them illegal, and in any case, the principle of reciprocity is still in place — reciprocity in such a way that we can best ensure our own interests.”

Officials said they were upset the White House announced the sanctions just two days after Biden spoke with Putin. They emphasized the need for a summit and a desire to normalize relations.

Both Biden and the Kremlin said they were warned, however, that measures were coming.

Russian citizens said the relationship between the two countries is getting worse and added, dialogue between the two leaders is needed to find the roots of the conflict.

“We need to approach this issue diplomatically, to initiate meetings between the two heads of our states,” Moscow resident Evgeniy Chirkov said. “I’ve heard that Putin and Biden will be meeting on the neutral territory. So yes, to meet and to find compromises in the relationship between our countries.”

According to experts, Putin will consider the impact of the sanctions, but the action is not likely to cause him to make a 180 degree pivot in behavior.

MORE NEWS: Russia Announces Expulsion Of 10 U.S. Diplomats



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Scott Morrison announces withdrawal of Australian troops from Afghanistan



Prime Minister Scott Morrison became emotional as he read out a list of Australians killed in the war in Afghanistan and announced Australian troops would leave the country by September.

Mr Morrison said the 80 remaining troops would be withdrawn in line with the withdrawal of US troops as announced by President Joe Biden.

More than 39,000 Australians were deployed and 41 of them were killed during the decades-long conflict.

“The loss is great, the sacrifice immense ,the bravery and courage things we can speak of, but not know of personally,” Mr Morrison said.

“Many more were wounded, some physically, others mentally and we’ll be dealing with the scars, both mental and physical, of their service, for many, many years.”

Mr Morrison said the government would continue to support Afghanistan once the troops had left.

“Once again, we stand with them and the complex task of making peace that lies ahead for those people,” he said.

“Australia continues to support the negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

“We encourage both parties to commit to the peace process that so many Australians have died to provide for.”

More to come.

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Sharni Norder, AFLW and netball star, announces retirement after glittering cross-code career


Sharni Norder has called time on a decorated sporting career after announcing her AFLW retirement.

The 33-year-old Collingwood vice-captain spent three years in the AFLW following a distinguished netball career that included 46 caps for the Diamonds.

Norder (nee Layton), who ranks as one of Australia’s best cross-code athletes, bows out after Collingwood’s four-point AFLW preliminary final loss to Brisbane at the weekend.

“My journey to AFLW was different to netball,” she said.

“Rather than being the best player, I wanted to instil the values I had learned in the high-performance environment of netball and bring that experience to Collingwood’s women’s football program.”

Norder captained the Diamonds in 2017 and was a member of world championship-winning teams in 2011 and 2015.

Norder, then Sharni Layton, was a key pillar in the Diamonds’ defence for years.(

AAP: Scott Gelston

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Twice named international player of the year, Norder also played a starring role in the Diamonds’ team that claimed gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Norder played for six Australian netball franchises and retired from the sport in 2018 after 28 games for Collingwood.

She was soon drafted into Collingwood’s AFLW side and as a ruck played 23 games for the Magpies.

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Norder was honoured with AFLW All-Australian selection for her breakout year in 2020.

“Whilst I feel lucky that my body is strong, it is time for me to focus on other areas in life and spending time with loved ones, especially my husband Luke, and start building a life together away from the sporting arena,” Norder said.

AAP

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Scott Morrison announces Howard Springs coronavirus quarantine facility will increase capacity


The Northern Territory’s Howard Springs quarantine facility will soon be responsible for quarantining 15 per cent of all Australians returning on international repatriation flights.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Northern Territory’s Howard Springs quarantine facility would expand to accept 2,000 returned Australians a fortnight, up from 850.

Speaking after National Cabinet, Mr Morrison said the Commonwealth had entered into an agreement with the NT government to expand the workers’ camp.

“That will be done over the next few months,” he said.

“That is an important addition to the capacity of those quarantine facilities, to receive those return chartered flights that Australia has been putting in place for many, many months.”

After Mr Morrison’s announcement, Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner revealed the management of the facility would undergo a significant change — with the NT Government taking over both the domestic and international quarantine operations.

“The Territory government will assume management facility from the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth will continue to work hand in glove with us,” he said.

Mr Gunner said merging the domestic and international cohorts “is what the Australian government wanted us to move to [and] we are more than happy to take on that responsibility.”

Currently the NT Health department is responsible for domestic arrivals at the facility from interstate, while international arrivals are managed by the federally-funded National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre (NCCTRC).

Mr Gunner would not say how much extra money the Commonwealth was providing to fund the expansion.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner is standing in front of a microphone with a serious expression. Behind him is the Australian flag.
Michael Gunner says the NT Government will work to increase the cap on arrivals at the centre.(

ABC News: Michael Franchi

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Mr Gunner said this decision had been aided by a significant decrease in domestic travellers needing quarantine and that the change would not increase the risk of the virus getting out into the community.

“What we are moving towards is the same model, with many of the same people involved, but a clearer governance structure and clear certainty of who is accountable for what,” he said.

NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said police had long favoured consolidating operations into “a single governance model” and that the removal of federal oversight would not damage operations.

“The infection and control procedures that we have in place are world class and that is held equally in NT Health as it is with the NCCTRC,” he said.

Vista into the sun from a height looking over the fence at the reception and carpark of the village
The former mining workers’ village outside Darwin has been taking 850 arrivals a fortnight.(

ABC News: Michael Franchi

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“NCCTRC play an incredibly important service to the rest of the country and to international hotspots when they are called upon. We want to make sure that their ability respond is not dulled.”

Mr Gunner said the expansion of the facility would be a “huge logistical job” and that work would begin immediately.

“We have agreed to this expansion because we know Howard Springs can play a larger role for the nation without compromising the safety of Territorians.”

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Inside the Howard Springs quarantine facility

Mr Gunner said the workforce at the centre would need to increase from over 100 to 500.

“A recruitment drive will start this month, and new staff will start and be mobilised from May,” he said.

More than 4,600 international arrivals have quarantined at the Howard Springs quarantine facility since repatriation flights to the Northern Territory began on October 23.

The former workers’ village housed Australians evacuated from Wuhan and the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship before it began taking on Australians returning on federal government-organised repatriation flights.

The village was vacated in 2019 and was handed over to the NT government just before the pandemic hit.

There have been 67 positive COVID-19 cases identified at the facility since flights began last year.

There have been no cases of community transmission in the Territory, with all cases related to international or interstate travel.

Mr Gunner also confirmed that the vaccine roll-out in the Northern Territory was on track, with 1,840 frontline health workers inoculated so far and more than 2,200 vaccines delivered in total.

He said the NT government would receive its first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines next week and would begin administering doses immediately.

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North Queensland Cowboys captain Michael Morgan announces retirement due to shoulder injury


Morgan, who was born and raised in Townsville, played his entire NRL career with the Cowboys, racking up 168 games for the team.

He also represented Queensland 12 times in State of Origin and played 12 Tests for Australia.

“It’s been well documented, the problems I have had with my shoulder and I’m now at a point where I am unable to continue playing with it,” Morgan told a press conference in Townsville.

“I’ve had an amazing career, one that I could only dream of as a kid.

“I got to live out my childhood dream and play for the Cowboys 168 times.

“I felt honoured every time I got to put on a Cowboys jersey.”

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BBC presenter appears to fight back tears as she announces Philip’s death


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BC presenter Martine Croxall appeared to fight back tears as she broke the news of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh on air.

Her voice trembled as she said: “You’re watching BBC News. We have just received a statement from Buckingham Palace confirming that the Duke of Edinburgh has died.

Martine 2

“The statement says: ‘It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle’.”

She read the statement from the palace twice as the channel played archive footage of the senior royal.

Croxhall, who had been wearing a dark V-neck top with a long necklace, continued to narrate the footage while out of view.

When she was next seen on screen, she was wearing a black jacket and had removed her jewellery.

Croxall also appeared emotional and sombre as she spoke to royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell, who was on the phone.

Viewers praised her on Twitter with one writing: “Thank you for the way you handled that, absolutely perfect, obviously emotional but professional and pitched perfectly.”

Another wrote: “I’m not the biggest supporter of the BBC however your presentation of breaking the news today was fantastic. Well done for getting through the moment.”

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Prince Philip has died aged 99, Buckingham Palace announces



Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband of 73 years, had recently spent time in hospital with an infection.

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Wesley College principal sends letter apologising, announces call to action after sex assault claims


The principal of a prestigious Melbourne private school has “apologised unreservedly” after claims of sexual assault and harassment surfaced.

The allegations, which include incidents involving sexual assault, groping and sexism, were mentioned in a petition created by students at Wesley College in a bid to prompt the school to take urgent action.

It comes just days after some students were caught publicly denigrating women in a TikTok video on a bus on Monday – the same day as the nationwide March4Justice rallies, which called for equality and an end to violence against women.

On Friday, Wesley College principal Nick Evans issued a statement to parents and guardians, saying being devastated was not enough and there needed to be a “call to action”.

“I apologise unreservedly to those affected on behalf of the College. Sadly, and as I have observed over the past few days on several occasions, Wesley College is a microcosm of Australian society,” the letter read.

“We are not alone in this scourge. We must face it with honesty, courage and a willingness to confront hard truths.”

Evans also said for the remainder of the term there would be a roll out of processes dubbed their “call to action”.

This will be a “phase of deep listening” with lunchtime forums where students can discuss the culture, as well as engaging external psychologists to “advise and support students”.

“If any other members of the College have testimonies they wish to share, I would encourage them to come forward,” the letter said.

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Pay rise for dairy farmers as Fonterra announces $32m half-year Australian profit


Dairy farmers supplying dairy company Fonterra in Australia have today received a pay rise, coinciding with the company’s announcement of its interim financial results.

Suppliers will receive an extra 13 cents per kilogram of milk solids for the 2020/21 year, taking the company’s average farmgate milk price to $6.53/kgMS.

The company has also released its interim financial results today, showing a 17 per cent increase in normalised earnings before interest and tax of NZ$684 million ($A736 million).

Fonterra Australia managing director René Dedoncker said the results included a half-year profit of $32 million generated in Australia.

“Our debt is down, we’re back to paying an interim dividend, it’s all healthy so the business is very sound,” Mr Dedoncker said.

“That means it’s a very solid performance, it means our business is clearly making the right choices and it’s very stable and enables us to pay a competitive milk price.”

Overall, Fonterra’s half-yearly profit for the Asia Pacific region was $190 million.

“We’ve demonstrated that we’ve got momentum and the choices that we are making are working and it means we can honour a competitive milk price,” Mr Dedoncker said.

Fonterra said the milk price rise of 13c/kgMS announced this morning would be backdated to July 1 and paid to suppliers on April 15.

“(The step up) has been made possible because of the sharp rise in commodities over the last eight weeks,” Mr Dedoncker said.

In recent weeks, many other processors including Bega, Burra Foods and Saputo have lifted their opening milk prices by 10c/kgMS.

Bulla Foods announced a 10c/kgMS step-up in December.

However, Mr Dedoncker said it was important to look at where prices landed, rather than step-ups.

“If you look at all of the prices in the market, we’re in the mix. We don’t think it’s aggressive at all.

“We’ve earnt that in the way we’re trading, and we are sharing that with farmers today.”

However, Mr Dedoncker would not commit to the possibility of further step-ups in the coming months.

“We are just above the top end of the range that we set eight weeks ago and we think, there or thereabouts, that’s what the rest of the year looks like.

United Dairyfarmers of Victoria president Paul Mumford said it was imperative processors delivered every cent possible back to farmers in order to remain in the Australian supply chain long-term.

He said today’s announcement by Fonterra would deliver an extra $15,000 over 12 months to a Victorian dairy farmer milking the state average of 280 cows and producing 135,000kg milk solids.

“We’re seeing disappointing milk production data coming out of Victoria for one of the best season we’ve had — we know farmers are selling and getting out of dairying because, frankly, they’re tired,” Mr Mumford said.

“What I’m asking of the processors is that we have to have a buoyant dairy industry and they’re a key player.

Mr Mumford said the next challenge processors would face over the coming years was to take some of the risk away from dairy farmers, enabling the industry to grow and be more profitable.

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AFL announces 2021 grand final will be played in afternoon timeslot


The AFL has confirmed the 2021 grand final will return to its traditional afternoon start time.

The league said the grand final would begin at 2:30pm (AEST) on September 25 after the 2020 season decider, played at the Gabba in Brisbane, was contested in the evening.

The decision to play last year’s grand final at night time was made during the league’s coronavirus-disrupted season.

It was the first grand final to be played both at night and outside Victoria.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said he expected fans to welcome the move back to a day grand final.

“We know that season 2020 was a unique season, and by necessity, we had to make some exceptional decisions surrounding the competition including moving most teams to Queensland and moving the grand final and the start time for the first time in its history,” he said in a statement.

“The build-up and event in Queensland was a huge success.

“Our members and supporters were incredible in continuing to support their teams last year and they are wanting a season where they can return to some of the traditions and rituals around footy,

“Ultimately, the AFL Commission decided that while we will keep some of the unique components of the 2020 season, the prestige, nostalgia and atmosphere of the day grand final is something that people can look forward to.”

McLachlan said the AFL was hopeful the grand final could be contested in front of a full-capacity crowd at its traditional venue, the MCG.

“We still have a lot of work as a league and a community to get to the finish line, but I would love nothing more than to see 100,000 back at the MCG on the last Saturday in September,” he said.

Instead of a fully fledged night match, the AFL did consider the idea of a twilight grand final this year.

But a return to an afternoon slot is sure to please a large contingent of the league’s fans, who appreciate the tradition of a day match.

Richmond won its third premiership in four years by defeating Geelong under lights at the Gabba in Brisbane last October.

Coronavirus complications saw the bulk of last year’s schedule, including the entire finals series, played outside of Victoria.

ABC/AAP

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