COVID-19: Lockdown party host answers door to police in dressing gown… and fake eyelashes | UK News


A woman hosting a party in breach of coronavirus rules answered the door to police in her dressing gown – only to be caught out by her earrings and fake eyelashes.

Bodycam video footage shows officers knock on the door of the property in Kings Norton, Birmingham at 12.30am on Friday.

They were called to the scene after reports that a house party inside was being live streamed on social media, West Midlands Police said.

A woman is seen answering the door in a white dressing gown after turning out all the lights and turning the music down.

Despite trying to pretend nothing is happening, one officer asks her: “Do you usually wear earrings to bed?”

Another jokes: “Do you always sleep in tights?”

After pointing out she was also wearing fake eyelashes, the officers entered the property to find at least 14 people inside.

“Hello everyone, home time, unless you want a COVID fine,” one is heard saying in the clip.

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Officers found at least 14 people inside the property in Kings Norton, Birmingham. Pic: West Midlands Police

Some guests were allowed to leave the property as they agreed to go home, but three were arrested after two officers were assaulted.

Attending illegal gatherings during the coronavirus lockdown carries a fine of between £200 and £10,000.

In separate footage from the Erdington area of Birmingham the same evening, bodycam video shows officers breaking up a party of more than 50 people.

Pic: West Midlands Police
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Another party in the Erdington area of Birmingham had more than 50 guests inside. Pic: West Midlands Police

They were called to the scene after reports came in of several people arriving in taxis.

When they went inside they found the room had been soundproofed and was kitted out with a DJ, alcohol and Class A drugs.

Around 50 people were fined and the suspected organiser was arrested after refusing to give their details.

Pic: West Midlands Police
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Police also found Class A drugs at the premises in Erdington. Pic: West Midlands Police

They now face a £10,000 fine.

Assistant Chief Constable Chris Todd said: “Our officers don’t get any enjoyment out of spoiling people’s fun. They are simply trying to keep people safe and reduce the spread of the virus.

“Where one person might be asymptomatic with the virus, the next might become seriously ill or worse.

Pic: West Midlands Police
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Officers found the room had been soundproofed. Pic: West Midlands Police

“People who go to these events need to know that they could be spreading the disease without knowing it, or even picking it up while they are out and then bringing it home to loved ones.

“These breaches are likely to prolong the duration of this pandemic for everyone.”

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Yemen conflict: UN report demands answers about deadly airstrike investigated by Sky News | World News


The United Nations has today demanded more answers about an airstrike on a family home in Yemen which a Sky News investigation highlighted last September.

The Sky team travelled to the remote village of Washah near the Yemeni-Saudi border where 12 members of the Mujali family lived, to examine the area and talk to multiple eyewitnesses as well as survivors of the 12 July 2020 attack.

Nine people died on that day – all women and children. There were only three survivors – a young mother who was breastfeeding her baby son and a teenage boy.

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A Sky News investigation has pieced together the harrowing final few moments before a family was massacred in northern Yemen.

The evidence has finally led to the Saudi-led coalition admitting for the first time it made a mistake and the missile did not hit its intended military target – nearly 800m away from the Mujali family home in a completely separate area called Beit al Qateeb – because of “bad weather”.

Amid allegations it is a possible war crime and demands for justice for the Mujali family, a UN report on Friday into the airstrike, which has largely drawn on the Sky team’s detailed reporting of the incident, says the house “is in an isolated position in a rural area, thus the chances of hitting the house by accident appear to be low”.

UN investigators have written to Saudi Arabia asking for more information about the incident and are awaiting a reply.

One of the three survivors, Nora Ali Muse'ad Mujali, told Sky News she was breastfeeding her baby when the bomb landed
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One of the three survivors, Nora Ali Muse’ad Mujali, told Sky News she was breastfeeding her baby when the bomb landed
Yemen
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The third survivor was a teenager boy. Ghazi spent nearly two months in hospital recovering from his burns and shrapnel wounds and learning to walk again

Under international humanitarian law military commanders and those responsible for planning and executing decisions regarding attacks must “take all feasible precautions to avoid, and in any event to minimise, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects”, the report continues.

“This includes all necessary verification of the material, aircraft and explosive devices to be used, as well as meteorologic conditions at the time and location of the attack,” it adds.

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Andrew Webster answers the big questions facing rugby league this season


Nevertheless, the intoxicating scent of rugby league is never far away. We can already sense the draaaahma.

These are the burning issues for the season ahead, as I exclusively see it.

Can Mitchell Pearce bounce back?

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I spoke to the Knights halfback the day it emerged his wedding had been called off because he sent some lewd/racy/flirty text messages to a female club staffer.

(One day, they will invent a breathalyser for mobile phones and it will be the greatest invention of all time).

Pearce was furious that a very private matter had become very public.

He denied to me then that he’d lost the support of his teammates, that he’d had it out with Lachlan Fitzgibbon (who is good friends with the staffer’s boyfriend) and he was concentrating on winning back his partner.

He was also adamant he could remain as captain. Then, last week, he stood down.

I’ve covered more Pearce scandals than I care to remember — from the incident involving the girl in the yellow dress to him having simulated sex with a poodle-cross – and he’s bounced back from all of them.

You can see what will happen here. Pearce will stay sober and focused throughout the rest of the year, steering the Knights to the finals.

Then the club will really have to make a hard decision: re-sign him or let him go?

The future of NSW and Roosters captain Boyd Cordner is uncertain.Credit:Getty

How long before Boyd Cordner plays again?

The Roosters captain was seen sipping water at Pearce’s buck’s party in early December, talking up the possibility of playing again despite a serious run of concussions.

When he was concussed in Origin I — before controversially returning to the field — some at the club wanted him to sit out the season. Some have been concerned we’ll never see him play again.

My mail is the Roosters are pushing for the NSW captain to sit out 12 matches before his return.

Only time will tell how that affects his selection for the Blues, but it will be an emotional moment when we see him take the field again — provided he’s been given medical clearance by the NRL.

Cameron Smith: what’s doing?

For a bloke who is apparently unpopular with the fans, he sure can sell a book. Almost 60,000 copies of his autobiography moved off the shelves in the lead-up to Christmas.

It remains to be seen, though, if there’s one more chapter to write.

Will the 37-year-old join the Titans or Broncos or just retire, as many predict? Answer: no idea.

According to his management, he also has no idea because he’s undecided about whether he wants to keep playing.

Will there be another chapter to Cameron Smith's playing career?

Will there be another chapter to Cameron Smith’s playing career?Credit:Getty

You can bet the competitive sinews within Smith want him to keep playing.

The Titans keep denying they’ve talked to him, although more than a few people have told me club boss Mal Meninga is cagey when the subject is raised.

Given Smith’s penchant for waiting until the last minute to do anything, expect an announcement a few minutes before kick-off in Thursday night footy.

Will the rule changes turn the game into touch football?

Let’s hope not.

The game turned into a point-scoring frenzy last year after the return to one referee and introduction of the six-to-go rule.

Sure it was entertaining, but the shock announcement late last year of further rule changes to make the game “faster, more free-flowing, entertaining and unpredictable” worries me.

I am predicting Wayne Bennett’s side will win it this year. You heard it here first — unless, of course, it doesn’t happen.

“Defence” is not an evil word. The game’s custodians should be mindful of keeping the balance right.

No team will benefit from the faster game as much as South Sydney with the speedy pinballs of Damien Cook and Cody Walker running wild.

They were unlucky to not reach the grand final last year. I am predicting Wayne Bennett’s side will win it this year.

You heard it here first — unless, of course, it doesn’t happen.

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Which coaches are under the most pressure?

Brad Arthur needs to reach a grand final or serious questions will be asked if a change is needed for Parramatta to win the premiership many were predicting in May last year.

Michael Maguire has re-signed for another two seasons at the Wests Tigers, but if they don’t reach a finals series soon I fear for the mental health of their fans, especially the sober ones.

After getting knocked back for head-coaching jobs at several clubs over the past 10 years, Kevin Walters finally gets his chance at the club he loves most — the Broncos — to show us if he can actually coach.

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China – COVID-19 vaccine: Answers to frequently asked questions


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Science has all the answers but what about the questions?


“Amazing, isn’t it, that since the time COVID-19 press briefings began a year ago, science has delivered several vaccines whilst our media gurus still haven’t found a way to make their questions to premiers and prime ministers audible to viewers!” says Peter Skinner of Beecroft.

A brief request from Peter Edwards of Burradoo: “Can the PM please also fix ‘girt’?”

“With the Vatican having difficulties transferring money, may I suggest they change to Papal,” offers (Saint) Peter Miniutti of Ashbury. And that’s a three-Pete!

Librarians (C8) do have a sense of humour. Barry Galbraith of Cranebrook called his local library to make an appointment, so as to avoid overcrowding and to be COVID-safe. “They told me that they were fully booked.” Evan Bailey of Glebe adds that they “are also novel lovers”.

Anne Russell of Matraville (and a host of others) advises Dave Horsfall (C8) that “the Brits never did change to kilometres. Their signposts remain in miles and the London Marathon remains 26.2 miles long.” Keeping his response measured, Jack Dikian of Mosman says: “Britain’s love for a pint ensured that the imperial pint stayed 20 per cent larger than anywhere else in the world throughout what must have been the thirsty work of Brexit negotiations.”

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Still no answers over prisoner’s broad daylight escape



On the one month anniversary of the incident, in which a prisoner escaped from the Adelaide Remand Centre by bending window louvres in the kitchen area, before scaling down a wall in rope made from pants and a T-shirt, the Opposition has called for answers.
Jason Burdon, 33, was apprehended and arrested, a day and a half after his daring escape, that had occurred just before 10am on December 2 2020.He was apprehended after SA Police called in STAR Group officers and a helicopter, and followed the car to an Eden Hills property where Burdon allegedly rammed a police car while trying to escape.He was arrested at the scene and taken to hospital for minor injuries, while no officers were injured.

Opposition correctional services spokesman Lee Odenwalder said South Australians deserved to know how a dangerous prisoner was able to so easily escape from the privatised facility.“We need to know what went wrong so we can prevent another escape in the future,” Mr Odenwalder said.“We know that the private company Serco has slashed jobs at the Adelaide Remand Centre.“How was this prisoner was left alone long enough to plan and execute his escape?“Has the Minister made any operational changes, or addressed any of the staffing shortages since the escape?”Police Minster Vincent Tarzia said he was continuing to get updates from the Department of Correctional Services with “thorough and comprehensive investigations” continuing.“I have met with Serco on a number of occasions including with the CEO of Serco Asia Pacific,” Mr Tarzia said.“Serco is under no illusion of the Government’s expectations.”Serco, the company tasked with keeping Adelaide Remand Centre secure, could be fined $100,000 after the Houdini-style escape.



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Fruit growers search for answers as second Riverland fruit fly outbreak in eight days declared


Fruit producers in South Australia’s Riverland region are scrambling to meet strict product quarantine rules, with a second outbreak of Queensland fruit fly declared in the region inside eight days.

Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) confirmed late yesterday fruit fly larvae had been found in fruit from a backyard apricot tree in Monash.

A 1.5km outbreak area has been set up around Monash and Glossop, while a further 15km exclusion zone has also been established where varying fruit movement restrictions apply until at least March 22.

It comes after another outbreak was declared at nearby Renmark West on December 23, although PIRSA is treating each incident as separate.

The two outbreaks mean there are 33 localities across the Riverland now facing restrictions on fruit movement, with product needing to be treated before it leaves a property.

South Australia is the only mainland state which is considered fruit fly free, despite the two new Riverland outbreaks and eight separate Mediterranean fruit fly outbreaks ongoing in metropolitan Adelaide.

Stone fruit, grape harvests under threat

South Australia’s horticulture industry is worth $1.3 billion and the Riverland is the state’s largest fruit-producing area.

In addition, the Riverland produces 30.6 per cent of Australia’s annual wine crush and more than 950 growers operate in the region, with vintage beginning early in the new year.

John Koutouzis operates a vineyard at Berri affected by both outbreaks and says authorities need to do more to support the fruit industry.

“It’s a time of year where you’ve got to get your fruit off the trees, but at the moment we’ve pretty much been asked to stop if you’re sending fruit within South Australia,” he said.

“People are scared they’re going to lose their fruit, it’s going to drop to the ground, they’re not going to get the opportunity to pick it and they’re not going to get the opportunity to sell it to local markets in Adelaide.

An outbreak zone has been declared around where the larvae were found at Monash and a larger quarantine zone has also been created around both outbreaks.(Supplied: Department Of Primary Industries And Regions)

Stopping spread top priority

PIRSA Biosecurity Executive Director Nathan Rhodes said the department would continue to work with industry throughout the outbreak to allow as much fruit movement as possible, but added ensuring fruit fly did not spread to other parts of the state was PIRSA’s first priority.

Treatment options available for producers include cold treatments and fumigation, both of which need to be paid for by growers.

“We’re working very closely with growers to work out what demand there is for the various treatments in the Riverland and ensuring there is that capacity available to deal with, for example, the stone fruit that’s currently being picked now and needs to be moved quickly,” he said.

“We won’t be providing the treatments in that context, but we’ll certainly ensure there is the capacity there if commercial fumigation providers would like to become accredited by PIRSA to provide those treatments.”

Positive signs from initial outbreak

PIRSA is one week into its efforts to control the Renmark West outbreak and is yet to find more fruit fly nearby the first infected property.

Mr Rhodes said finding fruit fly inside backyard fruit trees — which sparked both outbreaks — wasn’t unusual, as they were usually not as well maintained as commercial orchards.

“We don’t have any reason to believe the two (outbreaks) are linked. At the moment they are significantly separated in terms of the natural dispersion distance of Queensland fruit fly,” Mr Rhodes said.



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Electoral post-mortem offers more questions than answers for Labor


There’s creativity as well as sincerity. Each chapter kicks off from the imagined point of view of the defeated leader and, for the most part, marrying-up footy metaphors for team selection, fan bases and a campaign finance “salary cap” works well.

But the footy comparisons cut both ways. Whether it’s Insiders or The Sunday Footy Show, in sport and in politics there is a narrow but vital gap between informed insight and industry cliche, between identifying the fundamentals and stating the obvious. When How to Win an Election lands on the right side of this divide, it’s a punchy and well-argued outline of what drives a successful campaign. When it doesn’t, it’s more of a naive wish-list than a useful blueprint.

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“The 10” as Wallace labels her commandments for victory are well-intentioned, no question. But there’s a maddening sense of unreality about much of the advice. If, as Wallace says, staffers are her book’s target audience, I imagine many of them will read it darkly muttering a less-printable version of ‘‘Gee, if I only had thought of that’’.

It’s all so simple, you see. The leader should be popular and charismatic, a deep thinker with a flair for the dramatic. The frontbench should be a veritable Ocean’s Eleven of diverse political and policy skills. The ads should be brilliant. The social media should be sharp. Polling should be excellent. Staffers should be dedicated but dispassionate. Influential journalists should be won over through the merits of argument and, failing that, force of personality. The agenda should produce only winners, capable of national appeal and regional tailoring. And so on.

Following the original 10 commandments rapidly appears more realistic and more achievable.
Of course, there is plenty of criticism in the book that is more than fair. If the 2019 Labor campaign had been perfect, I’d be writing speeches for the Prime Minister not reading books about why we lost. Yet I can’t help but feel that all the emphasis Wallace places on producing the perfect theoretical combination of leader, team, policy and message doesn’t leave enough room for big problems beyond the party’s immediate control.

What should Labor have done about Clive Palmer’s $80 million spend on ads attacking Bill Shorten? Wallace says we should have (somehow) forced the Coalition to pass tougher laws on campaign finance after the 2016 election. What about Adani and Bob Brown’s convoy? We needed to spend more time in Queensland and “find a way through”. How do we defuse a viral campaign such as the “death tax” scare? Avoid policies that can be misrepresented by your opponents.

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For all the warnings in this book about the dangers of fighting the last war, there’s a real risk of these same weapons being turned on Labor again in communities that will decide the next election and this would have been a better book if it gave more time and attention to these questions.

This book was written before a global pandemic upended so much of what we took for normal life. Even so, it still seems strangely removed from the bigger questions confronting every major party in every mature democracy. How do you persuade and inform in a polarised and fractured media market? How do you gain the interest and win the trust of a disillusioned country? How do you convince people that politics makes a difference and their vote is valuable? Because surely in order to win an election, you must first convince people that elections still matter.

How to Win an Election doesn’t hold all the answers for Labor, what book could? But it does pose some of the right questions. If this book gets key people thinking about new ways to win, then Wallace will have helped deliver on her title’s promise.

James Newton was speechwriter and a senior adviser to former Labor leader Bill Shorten.



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The New Covid Strain in the UK: Questions and Answers


In recent days, the world has watched with curiosity and growing alarm as scientists in the U.K. have described a newly identified variant of the coronavirus that appears to be more contagious than, and genetically distinct from, more established variants. Initial studies of the new variant prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to tighten restrictions over Christmas, and spurred officials in the Netherlands, Germany and other European countries to ban travel from the U.K.

The new variant is now the focus of intense debate and analysis. Here’s some of what scientists have learned so far.

No. It’s just one variation among many that have arisen as the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has spread around the world. Mutations arise as the virus replicates, and this variant — known as B.1.1.7 — has acquired its own distinctive set of them.

The variant came to the attention of researchers in December, when it began to turn up more frequently in samples from parts of southern England. It turned out to have been collected from patients as early as September.

When researchers took a close look at its genome, they were struck by the relatively large number of mutations — 23, all told — that it had acquired. Most mutations that arise in the coronavirus are either harmful to the virus or have no effect one way or another. But a number of the mutations in B.1.1.7 looked as if they could potentially affect how the virus spread.

It appears so. In preliminary work, researchers in the U.K. have found that the virus is spreading quickly in parts of southern England, displacing a crowded field of other variants that have been circulating for months.

However, a virus lineage becoming more common is not proof that it spreads faster than others. It could grow more widespread simply through luck. For instance, a variant might start out in the middle of a crowded city, where transmission is easy, allowing it to make more copies of itself.

Still, the epidemiological evidence gathered so far from England does seem to suggest that this variant is very good at spreading. In places where it has become more common, the overall number of coronavirus cases is spiking. Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, estimates that the variant has an increased transmission rate of 50 to 70 percent compared to other variants in the United Kingdom.

Some scientists have raised the possibility that the increase in transmission is at least partly the result of how it infects children. Normally, children are less likely than teenagers or adults to get infected or pass on the virus. But the new strain may make children “as equally susceptible as adults,” said Wendy Barclay, government adviser and virologist at Imperial College London.

To confirm that the variant truly is more contagious, researchers are now running laboratory experiments on it, observing up close how it infects cells.

Researchers have already used such experiments to investigate a mutant that arose earlier in the pandemic, called 614G. That variant proved to be more transmissible than its predecessors, studies in cell culture and animals found.

But disciplined containment measures worked just as well against 614G as other variants. The same is likely true for B.1.1.7. “According to what we already know, it does not alter the effectiveness of social distancing, face masks, hand washing, hand sanitizers and ventilation,” Dr. Muge Cevik, an infectious disease specialist at the University of St. Andrews School of Medicine, said on Twitter.

There is no strong evidence that it does, at least not yet. But there is reason to take the possibility seriously. In South Africa, another lineage of the coronavirus has gained one particular mutation that is also found in B.1.1.7. This variant is spreading quickly through coastal areas of South Africa. And in preliminary studies, doctors there have found that people infected with this variant carry a heightened viral load — a higher concentration of the virus in their upper respiratory tract. In many viral diseases, this is associated with more severe symptoms.

That is now a question of intense debate. One possibility is that the variant gained its array of new mutations inside a special set of hosts.

In a typical infection, people pick up the coronavirus and become infectious for a few days before showing symptoms. The virus then becomes less abundant in the body as the immune system marshals a defense. Unless patients suffer a serious case of Covid-19, they typically clear the virus completely in a few weeks at most.

But sometimes the virus infects people with weak immune systems. In their bodies, the virus can thrive for months. Case studies on these immunocompromised people have shown that the virus can accumulate a large number of mutations as it replicates in their bodies for a long period of time.

Over time, researchers have found, natural selection can favor mutant viruses that can evade the immune system. Researchers have also suggested that the evolution of the variant might have been additionally driven by medicine given to such patients. Some mutants might be able to withstand drugs such as monoclonal antibodies.

Other scientists have suggested that the virus could have gained new mutations by spreading through an animal population, like minks, before re-entering the human population. Such “animal reservoirs” have become a focus of intense interest as more animal infections have been detected.

Not yet, as far as anyone knows. But that does not mean it hasn’t already reached the United States. British scientists have established a much stronger system to monitor coronaviruses for new mutations. It’s conceivable that someone traveling from the United Kingdom has brought it with them. Now that the world knows to look for the variant, it may turn up in more countries.

No. Most experts doubt that it will have any great impact on vaccines, although it’s not yet possible to rule out any effect.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized two vaccines, one from Moderna and the other from Pfizer and BioNTech. Both vaccines create immunity to the coronavirus by teaching our immune systems to make antibodies to a protein that sits on the surface of the virus, called spike. The spike protein latches onto cells and opens a passageway inside. Antibodies produced in response to the vaccines stick to the tip of the spike. The result: The viruses can’t get inside.

It is conceivable that a mutation to a coronavirus could change the shape of its spike proteins, making it harder for the antibodies to gain a tight grip on them. And B.1.1.7’s mutations include eight in the spike gene. But our immune systems can produce a range of antibodies against a single viral protein, making it less likely that viruses can easily escape their attack. Right now, experts don’t think that the variant will be able to evade vaccines. To confirm that, researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research are analyzing the changes to the structure of its spike protein.

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the head scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed, the federal effort to deliver a vaccine to the American public, said that the new variant reported in Britain was unlikely to affect the efficacy of a vaccine.

At some point — “some day, somewhere” — a variant of the virus may make the current vaccine ineffective, he said, but the chance of that happening with this vaccine is very low. Nevertheless, he said, “we have to remain absolutely vigilant.”

But Kristian Andersen, a virologist at Scripps Research Institute, thinks it is too early to dismiss the risk to vaccines. If the U.K. variant evolved to evade the immune system in immunocompromised patients, those adaptations might help it avoid vaccines. The vaccines would not become useless, but they would become less effective. Fortunately, experiments are underway to test that possibility.

“We don’t know, but we’ll know soon,” Dr. Andersen said.

Benjamin Mueller and Katie Thomas contributed reporting to this article

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