Joe Biden to reverse Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military


President Joe Biden will reverse Donald Trump‘s ban on transgender people serving in the military as early as Monday.

Biden could make the announcement when he meets with new Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the White House, according to reports.

Biden, Austin and Vice President Kamala Harris are to meet the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Monday morning. Any reversal would be done through an executive order. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said the ban would be lifted in the early days of the administration. LGBTQ activists called the policy cruel. 

It was announced by President Trump via Twitter in July 2017. 

The ban specifically blocks individuals who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria from serving, with limited exceptions. It also specifies that individuals without the condition can serve, but only if they do so according to the sex they were assigned at birth. 

It did not affect anyone who was already serving at the time, but affected new recruits. It is unknown how many new recruits were rejected, and although no military service member was discharged for being transgender, individuals who left voluntarily said they felt they had been forced out by the ban.  

President Joe Biden will reverse Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military and it could happen as early as Monday

Announcement may come when President Biden meets with his new Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, above Austin arrives for his first day on the job at the Pentagon on January 22

Announcement may come when President Biden meets with his new Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, above Austin arrives for his first day on the job at the Pentagon on January 22

Austin said at his Senate confirmation hearing last week that he supported repealing the ban.

‘I support the president’s plan or plan to overturn the ban,’ he said on Tuesday. ‘I truly believe … that if you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve. And, you can expect that I will support that throughout.’

The move to overturn the transgender ban is also the latest example of Biden using executive authority in his first days as president to dismantle Trump’s legacy, on key issues which Trump had made the center of his appeal.

His early actions include orders to overturn a Trump administration ban on travelers from several predominantly Muslim countries, stop construction of the wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, and launch an initiative to advance racial equity.

Republicans critical of Biden are likely to add it to the list of orders Biden has signed which will please the left, including another measure on transgender equality which will prevent school ‘bathroom bans’ and prevent transgender athletes from being told to compete in their birth sex. 

Biden is also scheduled to hold a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony on Monday at the White House for Austin, who became the nation’s first Black defense secretary.

It was unclear how quickly the Pentagon can put a new policy in effect, and whether it will take some time to work out details.

Until a few years ago service members could be discharged from the military for being transgender, but that changed during the Obama administration. 

In 2016, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that transgender people already serving in the military would be allowed to serve openly. 

And the military set July 1, 2017, as the date when transgender individuals would be allowed to enlist.

After Trump took office, however, his administration delayed the enlistment date and called for additional study to determine if allowing transgender individuals to serve would affect military readiness or effectiveness.

A few weeks later, Trump caught military leaders by surprise, tweeting that the government wouldn’t accept or allow transgender individuals to serve ‘in any capacity’ in the military. ‘Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,’ he wrote.

It took nearly two years, but after a lengthy and complicated legal battle and additional reviews, the Defense Department in April 2019 approved the new policy that fell short of an all-out ban but barred transgender troops and military recruits from transitioning to another sex and required most individuals to serve in their birth gender.

The ban specifically blocks individuals who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria from serving in the military with limited exceptions

The ban specifically blocks individuals who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria from serving in the military with limited exceptions

Lloyd Austin told senators at his confirmation hearing he supports lifting the ban

Lloyd Austin told senators at his confirmation hearing he supports lifting the ban

Under that policy, currently serving transgender troops and anyone who had signed an enlistment contract before the effective date could continue with plans for hormone treatments and gender transition if they had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

But after that date, no one with gender dysphoria who was taking hormones or has transitioned to another gender was allowed to enlist.

Troops that were already serving and were diagnosed with gender dysphoria were required to serve in their birth gender and were barred from taking hormones or getting transition surgery.

Under the Trump policy, a service member can be discharged based on a diagnosis of gender dysphoria if he or she is ‘unable or unwilling to adhere to all applicable standards, including the standards associated with his or her biological sex, or seeks transition to another gender.’ 

And it said troops must be formally counseled and given a chance to change their decision before the discharge is finalized.

As of 2019, an estimated 14,700 troops on active duty and in the Reserves identify as transgender, but not all seek treatment. Since July 2016, more than 1,500 service members were diagnosed with gender dysphoria; as of Feb. 1, 2019, there were 1,071 currently serving. 

According to the Pentagon, the department spent about $8 million on transgender care between 2016 and 2019. The military’s annual health care budget tops $50 billion.

All four service chiefs told Congress in 2018 that they had seen no discipline, morale or unit readiness problems with transgender troops serving openly in the military. But they also acknowledged that some commanders were spending a lot of time with transgender individuals who were working through medical requirements and other transition issues.

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Biden to lift Pentagon’s ban on transgender people serving in military


Trump put the ban in place that did not allow transgender people to serve.

New Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be on hand at the White House ceremony on Monday, where the executive order will be signed, said the individuals familiar with the matter.

“The ban will be officially lifted tomorrow,” said one of the individuals familiar with the signing of the executive order.

Biden had said during the presidential campaign that he favored repealing the ban.

In May 2020, Biden had said he would direct the Pentagon to let “transgender service members serve openly and free from discrimination in the military.”

“They can shoot as straight as anybody else can shoot,” he added.

At his confirmation hearing last week Austin had said he would support an effort to repeal the ban.

“I support the president’s plan to overturn the ban,” Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “If you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve, and you can expect that I will support that throughout.”

The White House and the Pentagon declined to comment on the executive order.

It is unclear how many transgender people serve in the military, though some advocacy groups have said it could be as high as 15,000 individuals.

In 2016, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced a policy that would allow transgender individuals to serve in the U.S. military openly.

But in July 2017, Trump issued a series of tweets that immediately banned such service.

The tweets blindsided Pentagon officials, including James Mattis, Trump’s first defense secretary.

He soon implemented reviews that led the Pentagon to re-institute a ban on open transgender service two years later.

The new policy required service members and those wishing to join the military to adhere to the standards associated with their biological sex.

Service members diagnosed with gender dysphoria, defined as “a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender … associated with clinically significant distress and impairment of functioning,” were no longer allowed to receive medical surgeries for gender transition unless they were currently in the process of receiving medical treatment.

Transgender individuals who had received hormones or medical surgery related to their transition were barred from joining the military, even if they could prove stability in their preferred gender.

ABC News’ Molly Nagle and Elizabeth McLaughlin contributed to this report.

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Muslim families hope to reunite following Biden’s travel ban repeal


Muslim Americans across the U.S. are celebrating President Biden’s day-1 reversal of former President Trump’s travel ban that targeted several Muslim-majority countries.

The big picture: The repeal of what many critics called the “Muslim ban” renews hope for thousands of families separated by Trump’s order.

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In the San Francisco Bay Area, Mina Mahdavi, a Campbell-based cybersecurity engineer, has renewed hopes that her mother, who lives in Iran, could spend time with her grandson, who was born months after Trump signed the ban, ABC7 reports.

In New York, Nashwan Mozeb, a bodega worker from Queens, hopes to see his wife, who is in war-torn Yemen. He’s been trying to bring her to the U.S. since 2016, according to The City.

  • “Every day I pray to God to get together because it’s too hard,” Mozeb told The City, saying he hopes his wife’s visa application will be approved quickly.

In Chicago, Jihad Al-Nabi, a Syrian refugee who works as a pastry chef, is hopeful he will be able to reunite with his family, he told ABC7 Chicago.

In Los Angeles, Mania Darbani called her mother, who is in Iran, on the night of Biden’s inauguration as they remembered his promise to repeal the ban, Reuters writes.

But, but, but: The coronavirus pandemic may prevent some families from gathering as travel and visa restrictions are in place.

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Rugby Union: Josaia Raisuqe referee lift celebration video, Fijian winger gets ban, National Rugby League (LNR)


Fijian winger Josaia Raisuqe, who lifted the referee to celebrate the final whistle in a French second division game, has been banned for five weeks, the National Rugby League (LNR) announced on Wednesday.

At the final whistle, as his team Nevers held on with 14 men to win 30-25 at Beziers on January 8, Raisuqe lifted the referee Laurent Milotte. The referee brandished the red card.

“At the end of the match, the first person I saw was the referee and I lifted him up,” Raisuqe told Midi Olympique newspaper. “It was awkward, but I didn’t want to hurt him! I was just happy.” A clip of the incident went viral on social networks.

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Winger red carded for WEIRD celebration

Winger red carded for WEIRD celebration

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Olympics: Japan to ban entry of foreign athletes during virus emergency



FILE PHOTO: Olympic rings, which were temporarily taken down in August for maintenance amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, are towed by a boat for reinstallation at the waterfront area at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo, Japan December 1, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

January 15, 2021

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will temporarily suspend exemptions allowing foreign athletes to train in the country ahead of the Summer Olympics, Kyodo News reported, as it closes its borders to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases just six months before the Games.

The suspension will last until Feb. 7, the scheduled end of the coronavirus state of emergency in the capital, Tokyo, and other major cities, Kyodo said, citing an unidentified source with knowledge of the matter.

Japan is grappling with record surges in coronavirus infections, prompting the government to tighten border controls and expand its state of emergency to cover more than half of the country’s population.

The pause of athlete exemptions would follow the government’s suspension this week of exemptions for business travellers.

The temporary ban will include non-resident foreign athletes and coaches with Japanese sports leagues including J-League soccer, which begins its season next month, and Nippon Professional Baseball, which opens spring training Feb. 1, Kyodo said.

Japanese athletes will be allowed to re-enter the country but must self-quarantine for 14 days, during which they cannot practice or compete, the report said.

(Reporting by Chris Gallagher. Editing by Gerry Doyle)



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Twitter boss backs Donald Trump ban but warns of ‘dangerous’ precedent



Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey says banning President Donald Trump from the social media platform after last week’s violence at the US Capitol was the “right decision,” but it sets a dangerous precedent.

San Francisco-based Twitter last week removed Mr Trump’s account, which had 88 million followers, citing the risk of further violence following the storming of the Capitol by supporters of the president.

While Mr Dorsey backed the decision on Twitter on Thursday, he said having to ban an account had “real and significant ramifications”.

“Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation,” Mr Dorsey said on Twitter. “They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning. And sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.”

The ban drew criticism from some Republicans who said it quelled the president’s right to free speech. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also warned through a spokesman that legislators, not private companies, should decide on potential curbs to free expression.

In his Twitter thread, Mr Dorsey said while he took no pride in the ban, “offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all”.

Even so, he added, “While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation.”

Twitter has introduced a series of measures in the past year such as labels, warnings and distribution restrictions to reduce the need for decisions about removing content entirely from the service.

Mr Dorsey has said he believes those measures can promote more fruitful, or “healthy”, conversations online and lessen the impact of bad behaviour.

The Twitter CEO said bans by social media companies on Mr Trump after last week’s violence were emboldened by each other’s actions even though they were not co-ordinated. But in the long term, the precedent set “will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet”.

Supporters of Mr Trump who has repeatedly made baseless claims challenging Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the November election, stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday, trying to halt the certification by Congress of Mr Biden’s Electoral College win.

On Wednesday, Mr Trump became the first president in US history to be impeached twice.



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Twitter, Facebook shares tumble as Trump ban stokes regulation fears


Shares of social media and other tech companies slid Monday, hit by fallout from the siege on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump.

Twitter’s stock ended the day down 6.4 per cent after the company on Friday permanently shut down Trump’s account, @realDonaldTrump, which had 89 million followers. The social network cited concerns the president would use it for “further incitement of violence.”

Trump supporters in Washington before the violence erupted at the Capitol.Credit:AP

Trump retorted that he’d be “building out our own platform in the near future. We will not be SILENCED!”

There is a growing risk for tech companies, especially those in social media, that Congress will attempt to collar them after last week’s rampage in Washington, D.C.

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Trump Ban Slams Twitter, Lilly Soars On Alzheimer’s News, Boeing Slips After 737 Crash| Investor’s Business Daily


Stock futures dug deeper into early losses Monday, as markets geared for a pause after a strong start to the year. Eli Lilly spiked on positive Alzheimer’s treatment news. Baidu rallied on an EV partnership with Volvo’s parent. Twitter stock tumbled after ejecting President DOnald Trump from the service on Friday.  Nvidia stock was an early leader on the IBD Leaderboard roster, while Boeing fell hard on the Dow Jones today, after a 737 crash in Indonesia.




X



Dow Jones futures dropped 0.9%, S&P 500 futures traded 0.8% below fair value. Nasdaq 100 futures were off 0.8%, with NetEase (NTES) and Lululemon Athletica (LULU) trading down more than 2% each at the bottom of the Nasdaq 100.

Stocks are due for a pullback after a powerful fourth quarter advance, followed by a rousing rally in the first week of 2021. The Nasdaq has signaled some mild overheating, suggesting it might be due for some consolidation.

MicroStrategy (MSTR), Twitter (TWTR) and Boeing (BA) traded low on the S&P 500. Eli Lilly (LLY) led the index, up 14.7% after an Alzheimer’s disease treatment showed positive phase 2 trial results. Biogen (BIIB) topped the Nasdaq, up 5.7%, possibly riding some of Eli Lilly’s updraft.

A couple of significant conferences, the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, both begin on Monday. Both will be fully virtual this year. Earnings season gets underway later in the week, with Taiwan Semiconductor (TSM) and Delta Air Lines (DAL) reported late Thursday, and Dow Jones stock JPMorgan (JPM) leading the kick off among big banks on Friday morning.

Stocks To Watch

Apple(AAPL) is extended from a 125.49 entry but has formed a handle with a 138.89 buy point. Tencent(TCEHY) is approaching an 81.45 buy point but could be buyable now as it has retaken its 50-day line and clears short-term resistance. Danaher(DHR) is nearing a 248.42 buy point from shallow cup base. Repligen(RGEN) is eyeing a 212.65 cup-base buy point but flashed an earlier buy signal when it bounced off the 10-week line. Chipotle(CMG) is back in buy range, above a handle entry of 1358.81 and a consolidation high offering a 1384.56 entry.


Five Stocks Flashing Buy Signals


Dow Jones Today: Boeing Falls On Indonesian Crash

Boeing (BA) shares fell hard in early trade, down nearly 4%, after Indonesian authorities reported a Boeing 737-500 aircraft crashed shortly after taking off from Jakarta. The Sriwijaya Air flight was reportedly carrying 62 persons and disappeared over the Java Sea. Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft had just begun their return to service in December, following a two-year worldwide grounding due to problems contributing to two fatal crashes that killed 346 persons in 2018 and 2019.

Boeing stock ended 2020 with a 33.5% loss, after rebounding 43.6% from its bear market low. Shares are still down 53% from their February 2019 peak.

Transition Of Power

Markets have an eye on still rapidly developing events in Washington, D.C., where the final nine days of Donald Trump’s presidency have the country teetering on an uncertain edge. There have been no briefings from the White House, the Pentagon, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Capitol Police since the attack by Trump supporters against Congress and federal lawmakers last Wednesday, providing little clarity for U.S. markets and businesses.


Stock Market ETF Strategy And How To Invest In The Current Uptrend


The President’s followers have pledged additional violence in the Capital amid demonstrations planned beginning Jan 16, ahead of the inauguration of incoming President Joe Biden. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has requested all permits for demonstrations be denied from Monday through Jan. 24, and that a “pre-disaster declaration” be issued to increase security surrounding the inauguration. House Democrats have pledged to initiate impeachment proceedings on Monday. Six persons died in relation to Wednesday’s attack, including two Capitol police officers. Capitol police Chief Steven Sund tendered his resignation on Thursday, with Assistant Chief Yogananda D. Pittman assuming control of the force — which is charged with protecting U.S. lawmakers, federal facilities and events — on Friday.

Twitter shares tumbled almost 8% after the microblogging site announced late Friday it would permanently suspend President Trump’s @realDonaldTrump account.  A blog post from the company said: “After close review of recent tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” All previous posts were removed.

Twitter stock had been trading in a buy range, after clearing a clearing a cup-base buy point at 53.03 in mid-December. Premarket action implied an open morfe than 8% below the buy point, which would trigger the automatic sell rule.

EV Makers: Nio Rallies, Tesla Slips

Electric vehicle manufacturers were center-screen on Monday’s radar, with China-based Nio (NIO) up sharply after unveiling a luxury sedan and new battery technology on Saturday. Nio stock broke out past a 57.30 cup base buy point on Friday. Shares were up more than 10% in early trade Monday.

Nio also announced a partnership with chipmaker Nvidia (NVDA), adopting Nvidia’s DRIVE Orin system as the nerve center for its automated driving technologies. Nvidia is an IBD 50 and IBD Leaderboard stock. JPMorgan raised its price target on Nio stock to 75, from, 50, based on Saturday’s announcements, maintaining its overweight rating.

Other EV makers were also optimistic in early trade. China-based Li Auto (LI) and Xpeng (XPEV) reversed early losses and gained around 2%. Tesla (TSLA), which has been flashing some climax run warning signs, dropped 1%.

Bitcoin Retreats, PayPal, MicroStrategy Take Hits

Bitcoin had pulled back sharply, down 17.4% on Monday, according to CoinDesk, after striking a high above $41,500 on Friday. The cryptocurrency was trading just below $33,200 early Monday.

Among bitcoin-related stocks, Marathon Patent Group (MARA) dived 16.5%. MicroStrategy (MSTR) tumbled 8%. PayPal Holdings (PYPL), an IBD Leaderboard listing, was pulled back 2% in early trade.

Coronavirus Vaccine Update, Gilead Sciences Guidance

Vaccine makers were relatively quiet early Monday, after the number of vaccinated Americans rose above 6.68 million on Friday, according to the latest update from the Centers For Disease Control. That was 30.2% of the 22.13 million doses so far distributed, up from an 18% rate on Dec. 30.

South Dakota and Nebraska were the states showing the highest rates of implementation, vaccinating more than 7,600 and 7,400 persons, respectively, out of 100,000 persons.

Biotech Gilead Sciences (GILD) rose 1.8% in early action, after updating guidance on demand for its remdesivir coronvirus treatment. The company pointed to 2020 sales of $24.3 billion to $24.35 billion, up from prior guidance of $23 billion to $23.5 billion. Excluding remdesivir, product sales for the year are expected to be $21.5 billion to $21.53 billion for the year. Gilead shares have been in a downtrend since May.

IBD 50/Leaderboard: Smith & Wesson, Nvidia

Smith & Wesson Brands (SWBI) rallied to the head of the IBD 50 list, up 5% early Monday. Shares of the firearms maker had soared 18% on Jan. 6, on news of the violence in Washington, D.C. That move sent the stock past a 22.50 buy point in a 17-week cup-with-handle base. A sharp pullback over the next two sessions left shares up 8.6% for the week, but more than 14% below the base’s buy point — beyond that 8% automatic sell rule threshold.

Nvidia stock jumped more than 2% Monday, after the Nio announcement. Nvidia shares are in a nine-week flat base with a 587.76 buy point, and have been struggling to regain support at their 10-week line since early November.

China Trade Ban To Take Effect

China-based stocks were generally under pressure early Monday, as a White House order banning investment in dozens of Chinese companies was set to go into effect. The order, aimed at blocking Beijing’s effort to use U.S. investors’ money toward modernizing its military, was signed in November and set to go into effect on Monday. The order affects only a few China-based companies that trade American Depositary Receipts on the NYSE, including China Mobile (CHL), China Unicom Hong Kong (CHU) and Cnooc (CEO).


IBD Live: A New Tool For Daily Stock Market Analysis


Baidu (BIDU) rallied 2% after confirming its electrical vehicle partnership with Geely Automobile Holdings (GELYY). The China-based automaker Geely manufactures a number of different brands, and acquired Sweden’s Volvo from Ford Motor (F) in 2009. Geely reported more than 1.3 million units sold in China in 2020.

Baidu will provide the AI gray matter, while Geely will provide the designs and manufacturing muscle in the partnership. Baidu stock is up 11% so far in January, following December’s 55.6% advance. Shares are 18% below their May 2018 peak.

Dow Jones Stocks: JPMorgan Near Buy Point

Caterpillar (CAT) was one of a group of blue chip names rallying through the fourth quarter, buoyed by a change in regulatory outlook and forecasts for improving global demand. Caterpillar stock rallied for seven days through Friday, clearing a 183.43 buy point in a three-weeks-tight pattern on Jan. 4. Shares were extended beyond buy range Friday, as the stock works on its 10th straight monthly advance.

Walt Disney (DIS) was the Dow’s fastest-moving stock during the fourth quarter, up 47.5% for the period. Shares have paused so far in January. However, a number of analysts have held their strong ratings and boosted price targets on the stock, expecting further expansion in the Disney+ streaming service this year, and suggesting pent-up demand for visits to Disney’s theme parks, as the vaccine-bolstered outlook improves for the second half of the year.

Disney stock is extended after breaking out in December above what IBD MarketSmith charts as a 153.41 buy point in a year-long base.

JPMorgan is also in a year-long base with earnings due on Friday. Shares ended trade on Friday less than 4% below the 141.20 buy point. JPMorgan stock ranks No. 4 in the Banks-Money Center industry group. Its year-long consolidation has left it with a weak Composite Rating of 72, but its relative strength rating has been advancing since September and is at a nine-month high.

Find Alan R. Elliott on Twitter @IBD_Aelliott

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France commit to championship despite threat of travel ban


However, Bernard Laporte, the president of the French Rugby Federation, insisted yesterday that the men’s Six Nations would go ahead as planned, with health protocols to combat the “English variant” of the virus in place.

“The Six Nations will be played – with health protocols imposed by the French government, adapted to the English variant of the virus,” said Laporte on French radio. “Like in the autumn, we will apply these new protocols. I am not worried. We do not foresee any other scenario other than us playing the Six Nations. In the autumn, the protocols worked well but, with this new strain, I am not sure what new protocols will be introduced. Regardless, rest assured that the Six Nations will go ahead. All will be fine.”

Six Nations officials are also optimistic that representations with the French government will prove successful despite concerns that the spread of the new variant of coronavirus across the Channel could lead to a deteriorating situation in France in the coming weeks.

“We are working hard to hold the tournament as scheduled in each country, with COVID protocols further reinforced from the October to November period that saw the successful conclusion of the Six Nations 2020 and the Autumn Nations Cup,” a Six Nations spokesperson said.

France, who are scheduled to open their campaign against Italy in Rome on February 6, are not due to host a match until the visit of Scotland on February 28 and do not visit the UK until March 13, when they play England.

If the French government does restrict France from participating, it opens up the prospect of a postponement, as sources have confirmed the championship will not proceed without their involvement. The British and Irish Lions, meanwhile, are set to visit South Africa for an eight-match tour beginning in July.

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Champions Cup officials were yesterday holding urgent talks with the Ligue Nationale de Rugby for definitive clarification about the participation of the Top 14 clubs ahead of the scheduled resumption of the competition this weekend after they were “invited” by the French government to cease cross-border competition.

The French sports ministry said it was “leaning towards the adoption of measures to restrict or even prohibit participation of French team sports clubs in matches including teams from the United Kingdom”.

The withdrawal of French clubs would lead to suspension of the tournament, with officials hoping to reschedule it for later in the season.

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Twitter’s decision to ban Donald Trump breaks open political divide in Australia


Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack has criticised Twitter for censoring US President Donald Trump, saying it shows double standards.

Social media giants have booted the President from their platforms, despite his prominent status and huge number of followers, after the riot at the US Capitol last week.

Twitter cited the “risk of further incitement of violence” and Mr Trump’s past breaches of the company’s rules as the reason for their decision.

But Mr McCormack — acting for Scott Morrison as Australian leader this week — disagreed with the decision.

“Well, I don’t believe in that sort of censorship,” he said.

“There’s been a lot of people who have said and done a lot of things on Twitter previously that haven’t received that sort of condemnation or indeed censorship, but again, I’m not one who believes in that sort of censorship.”

He said the decision was a matter for Twitter.

It follows comments over the weekend from Liberal backbencher Dave Sharma, who described the decision to ban Mr Trump as the “right decision on the facts”, but said he was uncomfortable with “the precedent of big tech making decisions about whose speech, and which remarks, are censored and suppressed.”

However, he later clarified he was not proposing a new body be established.

Social media use in spotlight

Coalition backbencher George Christensen has previously echoed Trump-ish views on his social media channels.

He and Liberal MP Craig Kelly have spread views that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for the coronavirus.

In November, during vote counting following the US election, around the time Twitter began tagging Mr Trump’s tweets with content warnings, Mr Christensen posted on Facebook:

“All they can do now is cheat. And that’s what the President’s now saying and Twitter is censoring.”

George Christensen amplified Donald Trump’s slogans during counting for the US election.(Facebook)

Later that month, he posted “I’m going to say it. Masks and lockdowns don’t work”, alongside an article he argued supported the point.

When asked whether Mr Christensen’s social media behaviour needed to be addressed, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Monday: “He is accountable to his own electorate, he’s a member of the Coalition, and he’s a good local member for his constituency.”

Mr Frydenberg’s comments appear to affirm the position articulated by Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week.

“Australia’s a free country,” Mr Morrison said when asked about Mr Christensen.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said it was “about time” social media companies banned Mr Trump and criticised the Prime Minister for failing to condemn Mr Christensen and others spreading mistruths on social media.

“It’s about time that people weren’t given a platform to spread hatred, to spread lies, which has had consequences for [other] people,” he said.

Mr Christensen is running a petition addressed to his Coalition colleague and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher that calls for laws to prevent social media companies from choosing what content to show on their platforms in Australia.

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