NY authorities stop wedding with up to 10,000 guests, citing coronavirus as reason


Authorities in New York quashed plans for a wedding that could have seen over 10,000 people gather in violation of COVID-19 measures, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

The Rockland County Sheriff”s Office made authorities aware of the huge wedding, which was scheduled for Monday in Williamsburg.

“We were told it was going to take place. We investigated and found that it might be true. There was a big wedding planned that would have violated the rules on gatherings,” Cuomo said at a press conference.

New York’s rules for stemming the spread of COVID-19 limit social gatherings to no more than 50 people. For religious events inside a church or temple, the limit is 33 per cent of its capacity.

Elizabeth Garvey, an adviser to Cuomo, told reporters that “more than 10,000 people planned to attend” the wedding.

“You can get married. You just can’t get a thousand people at your wedding. You get the same results at the end of the day. It’s also cheaper!” Cuomo said.

Local media reported the event was an Orthodox Jewish wedding.

New York was the epicentre of the US coronavirus outbreak back in spring, and the city has seen more than 23,800 related deaths.

It managed to bring the crisis under control through lockdowns, but in recent weeks the number of reported COVID-19 cases has risen.

Last week Cuomo ordered the closure of non-essential businesses in the worst-hit areas and limited the number of people who can be in places of worship to 10. Schools were also closed.

The governor said Saturday that these measures were already yielding results.



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South Africa withdraw from The Rugby Championship, citing welfare concern


“SANZAAR and Rugby Australia have bent over backwards to make the tournament happen and it would have been unfair on them and their partners and state government to delay a decision any longer,” Roux said in a statement.

“This is a hugely disappointing outcome for supporters and commercial partners but the on-going impacts of the pandemic in multiple dispensations mean we are unable to deliver a Springbok team without seriously compromising player welfare, apart from other logistical challenges.”

The Springboks’ confirmed absence will cost each of the four participating nations millions in broadcast revenue as the 12-game tournament will be cut to just six.

But South Africa are happy to rely on the potential windfall from next year’s British and Irish Lions series to prop up their bottom line.

Sources on both sides of the Tasman are now questioning whether South Africa were ever truly committed to this year’s TRC.

The South African government granted the Springboks approval to fly to Australia and take part in the six week tournament almost three weeks ago.

But Springboks high performance staff then insisted their players must have 500 minutes of domestic rugby under their belt before flying to Australia.

That request was granted by the three other participating nations and a proposal was put to the South Africans overnight but they had already made their decision.

The call to not take part in the tournament leaves South Africa’s future involvement in southern hemisphere rugby in serious doubt.

What was once one of the strongest relationships in world rugby – between Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – has now disintegrated to the point where it would not surprise if the World Cup champions now play all of their rugby in Europe.

South Africa’s Super Rugby teams have already revealed they will form part of Europe’s PRO14 competition in the coming years – and fired a shot at New Zealand on their way out.

SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos said in a statement: “COVID is just a gift that keeps on giving! Naturally, it is extremely disappointing that the Springboks, due to the continued complexities of operating in and around this COVID environment, cannot fully compete in the previously planned six-round Rugby Championship. That said this now presents us with a unique opportunity, in this our 25th year, to close off 2020 with a SANZAR Tri Nations Competition.

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“SANZAR recognises the challenges and adversity that the national unions have had to face this year due to the pandemic. It is a tribute to the Unions in how they have been able to adapt and, dependent on COVID restrictions, run domestic competitions with the exception of Argentina who has been impacted the hardest through their lock down. These short domestic tournaments, and in Argentina’s case no domestic competition, are not the normal lead into an international window, and while it has been a far from ideal preparation we look forward to an exciting and vibrant Tri-Nations tournament.”

Tri-Nations Match Schedule

October 31: Australia v New Zealand (ANZ Stadium, Sydney)

November 7: Australia v New Zealand (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane)

November 14: New Zealand v Argentina (Bankwest Stadium, Sydney)

November 21: Argentina v Australia (McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle)

November 28: Argentina v New Zealand (McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle)

December 5: Australia v Argentina (Bankwest Stadium, Sydney)

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Pakistan Bans TikTok, Citing Morals. Others Cite Politics.


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan has become the latest country to ban TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media platform, in a move that government critics said stemmed as much from politics as from allegations of immoral content.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority said in a statement on Friday that it was banning TikTok “in view of number of complaints from different segments of the society against immoral/indecent content.” It said it had already informed the company about complaints about its content, but TikTok’s administrators did not address their concerns.

The regulator said it was open to talks with the company “subject to a satisfactory mechanism by TikTok to moderate unlawful content.”

ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, said that it was committed to following the law and that it was in regular contact with Pakistani regulators. “We are hopeful to reach a conclusion that helps us serve the country’s vibrant and creative community online,” it said in a statement.

TikTok, with its lip-syncing teenagers and meme-heavy videos, has drawn criticism from governments around the world, for varying reasons.

The Trump administration has attempted to block the app, so far unsuccessfully, citing privacy concerns and the app’s Chinese ownership, allegations that ByteDance has disputed. India has banned the service along with other Chinese-owned apps amid rising tensions between New Delhi and Beijing.

TikTok has also faced occasional bans in places like Indonesia and Bangladesh over issues of public decency, as well as pressure in the United States and elsewhere over privacy and content given its base of young users.

On its face, Pakistan’s objections to TikTok center on the potential impact to society. Like users elsewhere, TikTok fans in Pakistan — about 20 million active monthly users, according to the government, citing the company’s figures — make videos ranging from do-it-yourself dance numbers to monologues about society, politics and daily life. Influencers also make money on the side. TikTok’s most popular star in Pakistan, Jannat Mirza, has accumulated 10 million followers with often soapy videos mostly about young romance.

But conservative Muslims in Pakistan have increasingly accused TikTok of testing acceptable social norms. They deemed memes and song adaptations as too suggestive and too risqué. Many people saw the content as lowbrow and vulgar. There were also growing complaints of underage delinquent behavior and display of illegal weapons.

Prime Minister Imran Khan — a former cricket star once famous for his flamboyant lifestyle who has become increasingly conservative since entering politics — criticized TikTok as promoting “obscenity and vulgarity.”

Ms. Mirza herself has called for regulating TikTok content and initially expressed support for a ban, though a local media report said she believed the ban should be lifted. She did not respond to a request for comment.

“Vulgar content exists on all platforms, but I would argue that the ratio might be slightly higher on TikTok,” said Saif Ali, digital account director at Empact Middle East, a marketing firm. “The whole platform is song and dance, so it was always going to ruffle feathers with conservatives.”

At the same time, critics see politics at work.

Political content has mushroomed on TikTok in recent months as the coronavirus has spread and the national and global economy have taken a hit. Political observers said that must rankle Mr. Khan and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or P.T.I.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority “has blocked TikTok not because of immoral content but because TikTokers are poking fun of the Great Leader,” Najam Sethi, one of the country’s most prominent journalists, said in a Twitter post, making an indirect reference to Mr. Khan.

Many analysts and journalists say that the ban served a dual purpose: mollifying conservatives and curbing criticism of Mr. Khan’s handling of the economy, rising inflation and tough stance toward political rivals.

“After the Covid-19 lockdown, Pakistanis going on TikTok doubled to over 20 million active users while economic hardship related to livelihood loss and inflation hit the lower-middle and working class hard,” said Habibullah Khan, the founder of Penumbra, a digital marketing agency based in Karachi. “These trends seem to have combined to cause a tipping point in public opinion that got picked up by TikTok algorithms.”

Since May, videos critical of the government started showing up on TikTok’s main feed, Habibullah Khan said.

The prime minister has blamed past leaders for Pakistan’s economic troubles and has implored the public to endure the tough times and wait for a better future. “You don’t have to panic,” Mr. Khan said during one speech.

In one TikTok video that was shared widely a few months ago, two users mocked Mr. Khan by saying that the time to panic had finally arrived.

Supporters of the opposition political party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz also started using the app to criticize the government. One such user, Saud Butt, a supporter of the ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, 1.2 million followers in a short time.

Government officials said the real issue was videos that they said sexualized underage girls.

“Had there been any political relevance of TikTok in Pakistan, there would have been a number of serious political commentators on the platform, influencing political discussions,” said Arslan Khalid, the prime minister’s point person on digital media.

“The claim that TikTok was banned due to political criticism is just frivolous,” he added.

Habibullah Khan said that TikTok videos had nevertheless undermined the majority party’s standing in Punjab, the country’s most populous and prosperous province, which determines the political fortunes of any political party in Pakistan.

“It’s hard to not conclude that the explosive growth,” he said, “and virality of such videos were at least one reason behind the ban.”



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Trump administration halts election security briefings for Congress, citing leaks


By Brad Heath

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States’ top intelligence office told lawmakers it will largely stop holding in-person briefings on election security, officials said on Saturday, signaling it does not trust lawmakers to keep the information secret.

President Donald Trump’s new director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, notified the House and Senate intelligence panels on Friday that it would send written reports instead, giving lawmakers less opportunity to press for details as the Nov. 3 election approaches. An official in Ratcliffe’s office, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was “concerned about unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information following recent briefings.”

The move drew a heated rejoinder from House Democrats, who have focused on foreign efforts to sway the presidential election in 2016 and again this year.

“This is a shocking abdication of its lawful responsibility to keep the Congress currently informed, and a betrayal of the public’s right to know how foreign powers are trying to subvert our democracy,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement on Saturday.

Ratcliffe’s office had offered to hold in-person briefings for the House and Senate oversight panels next month, even after concerns surfaced about leaks from previous meetings, a House committee official said. It later rescinded the offer.

The decision was first reported by CNN.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said this month that Russia, which orchestrated a hacking campaign to sway the 2016 election in Trump’s favor, was trying to “denigrate” Trump’s 2020 Democratic opponent, Joe Biden. And it said China and Iran were hoping Trump is not re-elected.

“For clarity and to protect sensitive intelligence from unauthorized disclosures, we will primarily do that through written finished intelligence products,” the ODNI official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ratcliffe, a close political ally of Trump, is a former member of the House intelligence panel and was a vocal defender of the president during investigations of Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election. He told senators during his confirmation hearing this year that “the intelligence I deliver will not be subject to outside influence.”

(Reporting by Brad Heath and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing by Mary Milliken and Matthew Lewis)



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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stepped down, citing declining health.


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stepped down, citing declining health.

The country’s longest serving leader announced his decision during a press conference this evening.

“I pull out all the stops for my job as a Prime Minister. I needed to fight against the disease and be treated and I was not really in a perfect state in terms of health condition and, still, I have to make political decisions, important ones,” Abe said.

“I cannot make any mistake in terms of the important position and decisions I make.”

Concerns about the 65-year-old’s chronic health issue intensified this month when he visited a Tokyo hospital two weeks in a row for unspecified health check-ups.

Abe confirmed in June a regular check-up showed a sign of the chronic bowel disease, ulcerative colitis. He had managed to control the disease for the last eight years.

However, his condition has worsened and he will now need to have continuous drug administration.  

“I go through treatment and I would like to regain my health again so that I can stand behind a new administration as a politician,” he said.

“For the people in Japan, I appreciate your support for about eight years.”

Abe admitted to struggling with his decision but said he “cannot make any mistake” when it comes to the country’s political future.

“The most significant challenge for us is the countermeasures against coronavirus. We have to avoid any obstacles when it comes to fighting against coronavirus,” he said.

“For the last month that was the only focus I had. I really struggled to make a decision. I see the downward trend in infection after July and, also, towards winter.

“The necessary measures have been put together and, therefore, under the new leadership, the challenges should be addressed and this is the only timing where the leadership changes should be happening.”

He did not specify when he would leave office.

In 2007, Abe abruptly resigned from his first stint in office due to his health.



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EU to restrict Hong Kong exports citing ‘grave concern’ over China security law


The European Union said it would limit exports of equipment and technologies to Hong Kong which could be used for surveillance in response to a security law being imposed on the country by China.

The EU said on Tuesday the new law was “a matter of grave concern” and eroded Hong Kong”s rights to freedom, which were supposed to be upheld under the terms of its handover from Britain to China until 2047.

Beijing’s security law was imposed on Hong Kong at the end of June. It criminalises terrorism, secession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces.

Many western countries criticise the law, saying it restricts freedoms and undermines the rule of law. But EU members have found it difficult to unite on a position with China, an important trading partner.

The series of measures announced by the EU was spearheaded by France and Germany.

“If we want to maintain our values and principles in dealing with powers like China, we Europeans have to speak with one voice,” said Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

“We now have a common toolbox,” he added.

The bloc said it would also hold off from any negotiations with Hong Kong and would bring in measures to support the population by granting visas and scholarships.

Hong Kong and Chinese government officials say the law is crucial for national security defences in the wake of anti-government protests over the past year.

The law would also create a national security agency in Hong Kong that could put law enforcement in the hands of Beijing.

Beijing on Tuesday announced the suspension of extradition treaties with Canada, Australia and Britain, after they suspended extradition treaties with Hong Kong over the new law.



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Ghislaine Maxwell seeks bail, citing coronavirus, and denies Jeffrey Epstein charges



FILE PHOTO: Ghislaine Maxwell, longtime associate of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, speaks at a news conference on oceans and sustainable development at the United Nations in New York, U.S. June 25, 2013 in this screengrab taken from United Nations TV file footage. UNTV/Handout via REUTERS

July 11, 2020

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime associate of late financier Jeffrey Epstein, on Friday forcefully denied charges she lured underage girls for him to sexually abuse and said she deserves bail, citing the risk she might contract the coronavirus in jail.

Maxwell, 58, filed her request in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, eight days after being arrested in New Hampshire, where authorities said she had been hiding at a sprawling property she bought while shielding her identity.

A spokesman for Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss in Manhattan declined to comment.

Maxwell has been housed since Monday at the Metropolitan Detention Center, a Brooklyn jail.

She said her detention there put her at “significant risk” of contracting the coronavirus, after 55 inmates and staff had tested positive for COVID-19 through June 30.

Maxwell faces six criminal charges, including four related to transporting minors for illegal sexual acts, and two for perjury in depositions about her role in Epstein’s abuses.

In Friday’s filing, Maxwell said she “vigorously denies the charges” and intends to fight them.

Her arraignment is on July 14, and prosecutors want her detained until trial. Maxwell is the daughter of the late British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell.

Epstein was found hanged last Aug. 10 in jail at age 66, in a death ruled a suicide.

He had before his arrest socialized over the years with many prominent people including Britain’s Prince Andrew, U.S. President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton.

MEDIA CRUSH

Maxwell’s proposed bail package includes a $5 million bond, the surrender of her passports, “stringent” travel restrictions, and home detention with electronic monitoring.

She said she will continue needing security guards to ensure her safety.

Maxwell also maintained she is not a flight risk, claiming to have remained in the United States since Epstein’s arrest.

She “did not flee, but rather left the public eye, for the entirely understandable purpose of protecting herself and those close to her from the crush of media and online attention and its very real harms,” the filing said.

Friday’s filing also raised several legal challenges to the indictment, including that Epstein’s 2007 nonprosecution agreement with the U.S. government covered “any potential co-conspirators.”

In seeking Maxwell’s continued detention, prosecutors called her an “extreme risk” of flight because of the possible long prison term, her wealth, her multiple passports and citizenships, and her having “absolutely no reason to stay.”

The case is U.S. v. Maxwell, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 20-cr-00330.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler, Noeleen Walder and Matthew Lewis)





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Glamorgan Spring Bay Mayor Debbie Wisby to resign citing ‘constant criticism’



The mayor of the controversy-laden Glamorgan Spring Bay Council on Tasmania’s east coast says she will resign effective immediately, citing the impact of “constant criticism” on her health and wellbeing.

Debbie Wisby was elected as mayor in the 2018 local government elections, after serving as a councillor during the council’s previous term.

In a statement, Cr Wisby said she was tendering her resignation with sadness.

“I have been worn down by constant criticism and lack of support from the Local Government Division,” she said.

Three weeks ago, Local Government Minister Mark Shelton issued a performance improvement direction for the council, over concerns it was in breach of the Local Government Act over rules surrounding financial asset management plans.

The council faces the prospect of sanctions.

Cr Wisby criticised the process used by the State Government to issue the performance improvement direction, and claimed the current council inherited a situation where many records mandated by the Local Government Act were either out-of-date, deficient or non-existent.

“The current council was faced with the task of correcting years of neglect,” she said.

“While council had no issue with the [performance improvement direction], it was very disappointing that the process was managed through a ministerial media release.

“This caused unnecessary and avoidable anxiety for community, staff and elected members — it was particularly stressful for those of us who had devoted so many hours to the task.”

Financial woes

Earlier this year, the council was forced to establish a Statement of Expectations governing how council members and employees should interact.

The council has experienced significant financial difficulties in recent times.

Last month, the council revealed it was expecting to record a deficit of $2.4 million in the 2020-21 financial year, and that it was likely to take council several years to reach a financially sustainable position.

Last year the council ran out of money to complete a pipeline to supply Tassal’s Okehampton bay salmon farm, and had to borrow additional funds.

The council has so far made $230,000 in loan repayments for that project, but it is unclear whether any of that money has been repaid to the council by Tassal under the arrangements for the infrastructure.

The Local Government Division and the Integrity Commission have both investigated issues at the council in the past few years.



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Cricket Australia abandons Dukes ball for Sheffield Shield citing lack of spinner development


Cricket Australia has put its Dukes ball experiment on ice, choosing to use Kookaburra all over the coming Sheffield Defend year as it seeks to help spinners build.

CA experienced used a Dukes ball in the next half of Defend seasons because 2016-17, seeking gamers to prepare for the very same pill they would come upon if chosen on an Ashes tour.

The ploy was just one of several items of the puzzle that served Australia keep the Ashes in 2019, a feat that no Australian group experienced achieved in England due to the fact 2001.

It is very likely the British ball will be utilized once more in Australia’s initial-class level of competition anytime attention shifts to the Ashes tour that is at the moment scheduled for 2023.

Australia retained the Ashes after the 2-2 draw in England.(AP: Kirsty Wigglesworth)

CA’s head of cricket functions Peter Roach pointed out “we see a definite opportunity to reintroduce the Dukes ball at some phase in the upcoming”, but for now CA will adhere with Kookaburra.

“The introduction of the Dukes ball has been a worthwhile exercising … we have been delighted with how the ball has performed when utilised in Australian disorders more than the earlier four seasons,” Roach said.

“We do, nevertheless, feel that reverting to 1 ball for 2020-21 will give the dependable examination of our players about a complete period that CA and the states are presently looking for.

“The Kookaburra is the ball used for intercontinental cricket in Australia and lots of pieces of the environment.”

Marnus Labuschagne leans back and plays a cut shot with a horizontal bat as Jonny Bairstow crouches behind him with gloves ready
Marnus Labuschagne had no difficulties with the Dukes ball in England in 2019.(AP: Rui Vieira)

Of the 12 Take a look at-taking part in nations, just England, Ireland and the West Indies use a Dukes ball in Check matches, with India by itself in utilizing the SG-model ball.

Roach included that spinners in the “Sheffield Shield have been actively playing a lot less of a position in new seasons, most notably in video games when the Dukes ball is in use”.

“We hope that the adjust to 1 ball with have a constructive benefit right here.”

AAP/ABC



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