Government sets goal to inoculate all Australians by the end of the year as Labor slams lack of vaccine deals

Trade Minister Dan Tehan says the government is aiming to have all Australians vaccinated with at least one dose of a COVID-19 jab by the end of the year as he is set to travel to Europe on Wednesday “to ensure supply of the vaccine”.

The Morrison government is aiming to have all Australians inoculated with at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year.

But Trade Minister Dan Tehan says the world is still under the cloud of a pandemic and things can quickly change.

Last week the government’s vaccine program suffered a major set-back after health authorities recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine should only be given to people above 50 due to the risk of blood clotting.

It was the vaccine the government was relying heavily on, but it has since secured an additional 20 million Pfizer vaccine doses that will be shipped from abroad later in the year.

Federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan

“That is definitely the aim, that is the goal we have set trying to have all Australians have a dose by the end of the year,” Mr Tehan told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison had originally planned to have all Australians vaccinated by October.

“When you are dealing with a pandemic, there is a lot of unknowns and you have just got to make sure you set your goals and are prepared to adjust those as things occur,” Mr Tehan said.

‘Vaccine diplomacy’ trip

The minister is about to embark on a “vaccine diplomacy” trip to Europe from Wednesday.

He will speak with the European Union and his ministerial counterparts in France, Germany and Brussels.

“I will also be meeting the director-general of the World Trade Organization to talk about what we can do to ensure supply of the vaccine, not only for Australia but globally,” Mr Tehan said.

Pacific nations will soon have shots of coronavirus vaccine manufactured in Australia to distribute, with the Morrison government promising to export 10,000 doses a week.

The government says it’s going to put its domestically produced AstraZeneca product to good use in neighbouring countries, starting with hard-hit Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.

Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu will also begin to receive doses in the coming weeks.

In a joint statement, Health Minister Greg Hunt, Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja said: “Our region’s health security and economic recovery is intertwined with our own.”

The new advice on the AstraZeneca vaccine has forced a temporary halt to vaccinations on Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula and in the Torres Strait, where the northernmost island is just a few kilometres, or a short dinghy trip, from COVID-hit PNG.

People in those northern reaches who’ve had a first AstraZeneca jab with no adverse effects have been advised to go ahead with the second follow-up jab.

But the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service says it has no surety around plans for the over-50s, who are the majority of the region’s population.

“We are yet to receive information from the Commonwealth as to how and when the necessary doses of Pfizer might be delivered to regions such as ours in order to comply with the new vaccination recommendations,” the service said on the weekend.

‘Bad situation made far, far worse’

Shadow Minister for Health, Mark Butler expressed concern over the small number of vaccine deals Australia holds.

“What we were saying well back into last year was not simply based on our thoughts, but the expert advice that best practice was to have five or six deals on the table to ensure there were backups in the system,” Mr Butler told ABC’s Insiders Program.

“We are now in a very difficult situation, Australia was already way behind schedule in the vaccine rollout, not in the top 100 nations in the world.

“And a bad situation has been made far, far worse by these unforeseen events around the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

Mark Butler is the Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing.

Mark Butler is the Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing.

Department of Health Secretary, Professor Brendan Murphy has previously defended the government’s stance, saying they had decided to go with Pfizer over Moderna because of the company’s “capacity to deliver.” 

But Mr Butler says “as many options [as possible] should have been on the table.”

“I don’t think anyone has suggested that we should have gone with Moderna instead of Pfizer,” Shadow Minister Butler said.

“But what you see in the UK and in Europe, [is] that they are going with both.

“Moderna will be delivering 20 million vaccines to the UK, highly effective, state-of-the-art vaccine.”

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‘Hotel deals and house swaps’: Returning to the office after a sea or tree change

Did you move to the coast or country during COVID-19, but kept your job in the city? 

If so, the long commute may be about to bite, as more bosses demand their employees return to the office for at least a couple of days per week.

So, what’s a person to do – other than suck it up, or try to plead the case for continued remote working? 

For many, the answer is a combination of long drives or train travel, broken up by nights spent crashing in family or friends’ spare rooms. Others are making the most of largely empty hotels or Airbnbs in the city to nab cheap last-minute deals.  

Or in the case of Angus Smith, who moved from Melbourne to Barwon Heads earlier this year, catching the ferry back to the big smoke.

Angus Smith catches the 70-minute ferry to the Docklands before cycling to work along the Yarra. Photo: Supplied

While he and his partner used to spend most weekends in the coastal town prior to COVID-19, the Melbourne lockdowns sealed the decision to make a full-time sea change. 

“To be able to be locked out from friends, family and the surf beach was a bit much, and we thought we’re working remotely most of the time, so why not?” 

Smith, who works at an international humanitarian organisation, now throws his bike in the car for the scenic drive to Portarlington about twice a week, and catches the 70-minute ferry to the Docklands ($33 return), before cycling the last part of his journey along the Yarra River.

Angus says the commute is his favourite part of the day. Photo: Supplied

On the ferry ride in, he does some work, and on his return journey, enjoys a glass of wine.

“I thought it was going to be a horrible commute but it’s actually my favourite part of the day,” he says.

Many companies are taking a more flexible approach to working from home, or slowly easing employees back into office life. For example, this week the Victorian government announced a new flexible work policy that requires public servants to return to the office at least three days a week.

By law, employers can give directions to their employees to work their normal hours at their workplace (except if they’re on approved leave), according to a Fair Work Ombudsman spokesperson.

“An employee can’t refuse an employer’s direction to perform work if the direction is lawful and reasonable,” the spokesperson said.

Of course, when you work for yourself, there’s more opportunity to be flexible, even when many of your clients are still in the CBD. 

Last December Amber Daines and her family moved to Kariong on the Central Coast. Photo: Stephen Blake

That’s the case for business communications specialist Amber Daines. Last December, she and her family rented out their place in Gladesville, nine kilometres from Sydney’s CBD, to move to Kariong on the Central Coast.

But their move wasn’t really about the beach lifestyle. Rather, Daines’ eldest son had secured a spot at a sought-after sports college.

“We kind of all went, well COVID lets us work more flexibly, do we give it a couple of years and see how it goes?” says Daines. “A year ago I wouldn’t have even thought about it.”

She usually stays in a hotel for one to two nights each fortnight to meet her city clients, while her husband commutes more frequently to his full-time job and often stays with a friend.

Check Airbnb for cheap rooms. Photo: Peter Braig

“There are a lot of good deals at the moment,” says Daines, who always books hotels that offer free cancellations, just in case clients change meeting times. 

“During summer it was actually cheaper to stay in Sydney in a five-star hotel than to stay in an Airbnb on the Central Coast.”

Recently she stayed two nights for free, including parking, at a luxury hotel in Circular Quay, using points through American Express Travel.

Back in Victoria, sales manager and surfer Raphael Bieniara commutes to his Melbourne office two to three times a week, after moving from Elwood to Jan Juc last July. The drive takes about an hour and 20 minutes.

“I sometimes stay in Melbourne, so it’s a mix of both,” he says. “The commute I don’t mind, I’m listening to podcasts and I’m on the phone to customers.”

Bieniara says he has no regrets about the move – even with the much longer commute. “It was absolutely the right decision.”

How to find a cheap city crash pad

  • Check hotel websites and apps directly for a better price
  • Book a cheap private room on Airbnb
  • Dust off your Frequent Flyer points for a hotel stay
  • Find a youth hostel with barely any guests
  • Sign up to loyalty programs. For example, offers a free night for every 10 nights booked
  • Try for cheap deals and cash-back offers
  • Do a room trade with your city friends.

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Content Moderation Case Study: Decentralized Social Media Platform Mastodon Deals With An Influx Of Gab Users (2019)

from the decentralized-content-moderation-challenges dept

Summary: Formed as a more decentralized alternative to Twitter that allowed users to more directly moderate the content they wanted to see, Mastodon has experienced slow, but steady, growth since its inception in 2016.

Unlike other social media networks, Mastodon is built on open-source software and each “instance” (server node) of the network is operated by users. These separate “instances” can be connected with others via Mastodon’s interlinked “fediverse.” Or they can remain independent, creating a completely siloed version of Mastodon that has no connection with the service’s larger “fediverse.”

This puts a lot of power in the hands of the individuals who operate each instance: they can set their own rules, moderate content directly, and prevent anything the “instance” and its users find undesirable from appearing on their servers. But the larger “fediverse” — with its combined user base — poses moderation problems that can’t be handled as easily as those presenting themselves on independent “instances.” The connected “fediverse” allows instances to interact with each other, allowing unwanted content to appear on servers that are trying to steer clear of it.

That’s where Gab — another Twitter alternative — enters the picture. Gab has purposely courted users banned from other social media services. Consequently, the platform has developed a reputation for being a haven for hate speech, racists, and bigots of all varieties. This toxic collection of content/users led to both Apple and Google banning Gab’s app from their app stores.

Faced with this app ban, Gab began looking for options. It decided to create its own Mastodon instance. With its server now technically available to everyone in the Mastodon “fediverse,” those not explicitly blocking Gab’s “instance” could find Gab content available to its users — and also allow for Gab’s users to direct content to their own users. It also allowed Gab to utilize the many different existing Mastodon apps to sidestep the app bans handed down by Google and Apple.

Decisions to be made by Mastodon:

  • Should Gab (and its users) be banned from setting up “instances,” given that they likely violate the Mastodon Server Covenant?

  • Is it possible to moderate content across a large number of independent nodes?

  • Is this even an issue for Mastodon itself to deal with, given that the individuals running different servers can decide for themselves whether or not to allow federation with the Gab instance?

  • Given the open source and federated nature of Mastodon, would there reasonably be any way to stop Gab from using Mastodon?

Questions and policy implications to consider:

  • Will moderation efforts targeting the “fediverse” undercut the independence granted to “instance” owners?

  • Do attempts to attract more users create moderation friction when the newly-arriving users create content Mastodon was created to avoid?

  • If Mastodon continues to scale, will it always face challenges as certain instances are created to appeal to audiences that the rest of the “fediverse” is trying to avoid?

  • Can a federated system, in which unique instances choose not to federate with another instance, such as Gab, work as a form of “moderation-by-exclusion”?

Resolution: Mastodon’s founder, Eugen Rochko, refused to create a blanket ban on Gab, leaving it up to individual “instances” to decide whether or not to interact with the interlopers. As he explained to The Verge, a blanket ban would be almost impossible, given the decentralized nature of the service.

On the other hand, most “fediverse” members would be unlikely to have to deal with Gab or its users, considering the content contained in Gab’s “instance” routinely violates the Mastodon “covenant.” Violating these rules prevents instances from being listed by Mastodon itself, lowering the chances of other “instance” owners inadvertently adding toxic content and users to their server nodes. And Rochko himself encouraged users to preemptively block Gab’s “instance,” resulting in ever fewer users being affected by Gab’s attempted invasion of the Mastodon fediverse.

But running a decentralized system creates an entirely new set of moderation issues, which has turned Mastodon itself into a moderation target. Roughly a year after the Gab “invasion,” Google threatened to pull Mastodon-based apps from its store for promoting hate speech, after users tried to get around the Play Store ban by creating apps that pointed to Mastodon “instances” filled with hateful content. Google ultimately decided to leave Mastodon-based apps up, but appears ready to pull the trigger on a ban in future.

Originally posted to the Trust & Safety Foundation website.

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Filed Under: content moderation, decentralized, federated social media, instances
Companies: gab, mastodon

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19 Best Deals From Winter Clearance Sales (2021): Outdoor Apparel, Backpacks, and More

Now’s the best time to buy winter gear. The season might be winding down, but the savings are substantial. When I had to buy all my mountain climbing equipment as a budding mountain climber years ago, it was during the annual end-of-winter sales. Plan a few months ahead and you could save some serious money.  

Updated February 25: REI’s winter clearance sale is over, but many items remain on sale, and Backcountry’s and Moosejaw’s winter clearance sales are still going. I’ve crossed out some sold-out items, re-added some that have come back into stock, updated pricing, and added five new deals.

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Technical Gear Deals

Photograph: REI 

Need more ideas? Read our Best Fitness Trackers and Best Laptop Bags guides.

  • REI Flash 18 Pack for $20 ($20 off): Taking a big, bloated pack on a day hike is unnecessary suffering. For a quick “get outside” bag, the Flash 18 is one of our favorites because it’s lightweight and cheap, but has enough room for a rain jacket, lunch, sunscreen, and water.
  • Black Diamond Momentum Climbing Shoes for $70 ($25 off): These are a solid, non-aggressive climbing shoe good for novice climbers and those who, regardless of skill level, tackle certain types of smooth outdoor rock, such as granite slab. They’re some of the most comfortable sub-$100 climbing shoes I’ve worn. The women’s version is on sale for the same price.
  • REI Co-Op Multi Towel Lite for $5 ($5 off): You should have a couple of pack towels when you’re backpacking. Condensation and mist collect on the fabric of your backpack as the weather changes. To keep it from soaking into your fabric and weighing you down, it’s helpful to have a small towel handy to periodically wipe it down.
  • Mountain Hardwear Crag Wagon 35 for $142 ($78 off): If you do any outdoor climbing, you’ll need a pack big enough to haul everything. A regular, little ol’ daypack can work if you’re not carrying a full rack of gear, but it’s nicer to be able to put your helmet and climbing shoes inside instead of dangling them on the outside. This 35-liter pack will swallow all of it, and the front panel unzips to make loading and unloading easier than a top-opening pack.
  • Black Diamond Camalot C4 Package #4-6 for $297 ($32 off): If you want to start climbing trad or need to update your rack, you’re going to need cams. BD’s Camalot C4 series are the standard many of us use by which to judge the competition because of their long, continued existence and ubiquity at any trad route. The new generation is 10 percent lighter than the outgoing C4 cams.
  • Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles for $135 ($45 off): (Update: sold out) I’ve banged and abused carbon fiber Black Diamond trekking poles over some nasty trail rocks and they’ve held up well. The cork hand grips are cushiony and handle sweaty palms well. I’m not sure I’d want to go back to non-cork handles. Trekking poles are useful for stability and taking some of the strain off your legs and knees.
  • Garmin Forerunner 735XT Run-Bundle for $240 ($160 off): WIRED writer Adrienne So, who tests fitness trackers among other things, says this is a great deal. It includes an HRM-Run chest strap that measures your heart rate. The Forerunner 735XL has GPS, is water-resistant to 50 meters, and pairs with your Android or iOS smartphone.
  • Toaks Titanium Folding Spork for $6 ($3 off): If backpacking had a symbol, it’d be the titanium spork. Toaks is a solid manufacturer of titanium cookware. This folder weighs only 0.6 ounces and folds down nice and small in your pack.

Camp and Travel Deals

Photograph: Backcountry

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After chat with Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook, Treasurer thinks deals under media code are ‘very close’

Media organisations such as News Corp, Nine Entertainment and the ABC are “very close” to a potential windfall from tech giants under major media reform, according to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

But the move to force media companies and Facebook and Google to the negotiating table remains contentious, and Microsoft is seeking to exploit the opportunity.

Mr Frydenberg revealed he spoke with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday.

“I spoke to him just yesterday, and I have been speaking as recently as this morning as well as over the weekend with Sundar [Pichai], the head of Google,” he told AM.

“They are very focused on what’s happening here in Australia, but I sense they are also trying to reach deals, and that is welcome.”

On Friday, a Government-controlled Senate committee recommended the news media and digital platforms mandatory bargaining code be passed. The report included support from Labor and the Greens.

The code is designed to ensure media companies are fairly remunerated for the use of their content on search engines and social media platforms.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg believes deals between tech giants and media companies are close.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Google has been vocal in its opposition to the code, and has threatened to withdraw its search function from Australia.

Microsoft has seized on the potential opportunity, saying it would invest in its own search product to help fill the void.

But Google snapped back on Friday with a blog post from senior executive Kent Walker who sought to challenge some of Microsoft’s claims.

“Microsoft’s take on Australia’s proposed law is unsurprising — of course they’d be eager to impose an unworkable levy on a rival and increase their market share,” he said.

Google news product expands

Google’s News Showcase product launched in Australia two weeks ago and includes content from The Canberra Times, Crikey and The Conversation.

On Monday, Seven West Media, publisher of The West Australian, announced it had also signed up.

Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes said it was a “great outcome”.

“I’d like to thank Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Rod Sims, with particular recognition of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who has been instrumental in the outcome of this groundbreaking agreement,” he said.

He also congratulated Google “for taking a leadership position in Australia”. 

Local progress

Mr Frydenberg said there were “many eyes across the world” focused on the outcome of the Australian reforms, but he was optimistic.

After being left out of an initial draft, the ABC has now been included in the proposed code.

“This legislation is important, and it is our intention to pass it through Parliament,” Mr Frydenberg said.

The Government has flagged the code would be progressed in Parliament this week and, with support from Labor, its passage is expected to be straightforward.

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Sydney man Chan Han Choinpleads guilty to contravening UN sanctions over North Korea deals

On Wednesday, the jury was discharged after Mr Choi pleaded guilty to two charges on a new indictment – a formal document setting out the charges an accused person is facing.

Mr Choi pleaded guilty to engaging in conduct between August 5 and December 16, 2017, that contravened a UN sanction enforcement law, and engaging in conduct that contravened a sanction law in the same period. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.

“We’re very relieved. A far more rational array of charges are now facing Mr Choi,” his lawyer, Mark Davis, said outside court.

Chan Han Choi was arrested by Australian Federal Police in December 2017.Credit:Australian Federal Police

He said the most “sinister connotation” in the trial “is now gone”, in an apparent reference to an allegation of attempting to sell missiles to other jurisdictions.

“He’s rejecting the military sort of implication; he’s rejecting anything being supplied by him to North Korea completely,” Mr Davis said.

“He was in business previously when it was legal to be in business selling North Korean

. Now … he’s pleading guilty to breaching the embargoes that were put in place around North Korea for various products.

Chan Han Choi pleaded guilty to two charges.

Chan Han Choi pleaded guilty to two charges. Credit:Rhett Wyman

“We’re disputing missiles. It’s a sanctions breach, that’s what he’s pleading to, and on sentence there’s certain material that we wish to put forward in his defence as to why he did so and what his views on North Korea are.”

The new indictment, dated February 10, alleged Mr Choi provided a brokering service for the sale of arms, military equipment and coal from North Korea to other jurisdictions; and a brokering service for the sale of refined petroleum products to North Korea.

The parties will return to court on March 19 to set a date for Mr Choi’s sentencing hearing.

Crown Prosecutor Jennifer Single SC previously told jurors that none of the alleged transactions was successful but “that does not matter, on the Crown’s case”.

“What is important is the accused’s role in terms of those transactions and whether you are satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that he was involved in brokering those transactions,” she said.

She alleged Mr Choi told people he had connections to “Kim Jong-un, the [North Korean] Supreme Leader”.

Mr Choi’s defence counsel, Robert Webb, had told the jury the case rested on whether his client “is anything more than a bag of hot air”.

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Google scrambles to strike Australian media deals following Morrison, Frydenberg talks”


Multiple sources familiar with Google’s discussions that can’t speak publicly for confidentiality reasons, said the search giant approached multiple major outlets with offers for content following Mr Pichai’s meeting with Mr Morrison. Google has been speaking to a range of publishers such as News Corp, the ABC, Guardian Australia, Daily Mail Australia, and Nine Entertainment Co, which owns this masthead.

But provisions in the offers tabled to publishers as late as Friday, seen by the Herald and The Age, say the deals can be terminated if Google stops its search in Australia or if the new code makes the tech giant pay publishers for use of search. Other conditions allow Google to terminate its deal if any dispute over payment is managed through “final offer” arbitration, which is currently a key component of the code. The “final offer” mechanism, most prominently used to resolve Major League Baseball contract disputes, allows two parties to put forward a final offer to an arbitrator who decides which of the two figures is more appropriate.

There was a clause in Google’s contracts that were signed by small publishers mid-last year, but the latest provisions are far more explicit.

Under the proposed code, Google and Facebook will be forced into agreements to pay Australian news providers for the ability to display news content in newsfeeds and search results, or face fines of up to 10 per cent of annual revenues.


Google and Facebook both claim the code is “unworkable” and have threatened to cut off key parts of their services in Australia. Media outlets such as Nine (owner of this masthead), News Corp and Guardian Australia are urging the government to legislate the code.

Several news outlets have said Google is getting closer to offering the amount they want to be paid for news content, but many are sceptical about the intent of the deals.

They are concerned that Google is using Showcase and offering large sums as a way to avoid a precedent for paying for search and that they will be used as part of a public relations exercise. Other outlets say the money on the table is significantly below what they require to agree to it.

One source indicated the federal government had tried contacting news outlets encouraging them to strike deals with Google. Concerns about the proposals were raised to the federal government over the weekend.

“Since we launched Showcase last week, we’ve continued to have conversations with publishers large and small, these negotiations are commercial in confidence,” a Google spokesman said.

Mr Frydenberg’s office referred back to comments made by Mr Morrison last week, who said he was far more optimistic about Google’s future in Australia.

Google reversed plans to halt the launch of the news product last month, a decision which was directly related to a Senate Hearing where Senator Andrew Bragg criticised the product as a “pillar of smoke”.

The tech giant launched the product a day after a meeting with Mr Morrison, who said he felt more positive about their future in Australia. The launch came days after rival tech giant Microsoft declared it “fully” supported the code and pledged to invest in its search engine Bing to fill the void in the event Google exited the market.

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Chan Han Choi denies brokering missile deals with North Korea, had links to Kim Jong-un, Sydney court told

A man accused of brokering deals for North Korea, including missiles, has alleged he had connections to the country’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, a Sydney court has heard.

Chan Han Choi has pleaded not guilty to seven charges, including contravening United Nations sanctions and providing services to assist a weapons of mass destruction program.

The 62-year-old was born in South Korea, arrived in Australia in 1987 and became a citizen in 2000, the NSW Supreme Court heard today.

For about four months before his arrest in the Sydney suburb of Eastwood in December 2017, he was allegedly involved in brokering five transactions, including for coal, petrol and missiles.

The alleged transactions were both from and to North Korea.

Crown Prosecutor Jennifer Single SC told jurors there would be no eye witnesses, but rather the case would rely on documents, emails, intercepted phone calls and experts.

Ms Single foreshadowed evidence of Mr Choi alleging “connections” to Kim Jong-un.

“The accused has travelled to North Korea on at least seven occasions,” Ms Single said.

Despite his South Korean origin, Mr Choi had “extensive connections” to the country, she said.

“He has had a North Korean bank account … he regularly communicates with people who, on the Crown case, are from North Korea.”

Ms Single told jurors none of the alleged transactions were successful, but the fact that Mr Choi had “pulled the plug” before they succeeded was not relevant.

“That does not matter, on the Crown’s case,” she said.

“What is important is the accused’s role in terms of those transactions and whether you are satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that he was involved in brokering those transactions.”

The court heard there will be references in communication to “pine trees” and “the nursery” which the Crown alleges were coded language for missile technologies.

Defence barrister Robert Webb said his client held himself out to be a civil engineer but his communications amounted to nothing more than “just talk and hot air”.

He urged the jury to approach the case with an open mind and said some key matters that were in dispute included the question of intent.

“As the burden of proof is on the Crown, really the question is not ‘what on earth was he doing or trying to do’, but rather ‘did he intend to provide the prohibited or sanctioned services’,” Mr Webb said.

The trial, before Justice Christine Adamson, continues.

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With Concessions and Deals, China’s Leader Tries to Box Out Biden

A trade pact with 14 other Asian nations. A pledge to join other countries in reducing carbon emissions to fight global warming. Now, an investment agreement with the European Union.

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has in recent weeks made deals and pledges that he hopes will position his country as an indispensable global leader, even after its handling of the coronavirus and increased belligerence at home and abroad have damaged its international standing.

In doing so, he has underlined how difficult it will be for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to forge a united front with allies against China’s authoritarian policies and trade practices, a central focus of the new administration’s plan to compete with Beijing and check its rising power. The image of Mr. Xi joining Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Emmanuel Macron of France and other European leaders in a conference call on Wednesday to seal the deal with the European Union also amounted to a stinging rebuke of the Trump administration’s efforts to isolate China’s Communist Party state.

The deals show the leverage Mr. Xi has because of the strength of the Chinese economy, which is now the fastest-growing among major nations as the world continues to struggle with the pandemic.

Noah Barkin, a China expert in Berlin with the Rhodium Group, called the investment agreement in particular “a geopolitical coup for China.” Chinese companies already enjoyed greater access to European markets — a core complaint in Europe — so they won only modest openings in manufacturing and the growing market for renewable energies. The real achievement for China is diplomatic.

China had to make only modest concessions to overcome increasingly vocal concerns about China’s harshest policies, including the crackdown on Hong Kong and the mass detentions and forced labor of Uighurs in Xinjiang, the western Chinese region.

China agreed, at least on paper, to loosen many of the restrictions imposed on European companies working in China, open up China to European banks and observe international standards on forced labor. The question is whether the pledges can be enforced.

To China’s critics, Mr. Xi’s moves have been tactical — even cynical. Yet they have also proved successful to a degree that seemed impossible only a few months ago, when several European countries became more outspoken in opposing China.

“It would be wrong to see these Chinese concessions as a significant shift in policy,” Mr. Barkin said. “Over the past year, we have seen the party tighten its grip over the economy, double down on state-owned enterprises and launch a new push for self-reliance. That is the direction of policy that Xi has mapped out and it would be naïve to believe that this deal will change that.”

Instead, China has demonstrated once again that it pays little or no diplomatic cost for abuses that violate European values. The Europeans finalized the investment agreement, for example, a day after the European Union publicly criticized the harsh prison sentence handed down to a Chinese lawyer who reported on the initial coronavirus outbreak in the city of Wuhan.

Australia faced a similar trade-off in November when it signed up for the Asian trade pact, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, even as China waged a campaign of economic coercion against the country.

China’s vast economic and diplomatic influence, especially at this time of global crisis, means that countries feel they have little choice but to engage with it, regardless of their unease over the character of Mr. Xi’s hard-line rule. The Asian trade pact, for example, while limited in scope, covers more of humanity — 2.2 billion people — than any previous one.

“The values we all cherish in our Sunday sermons must be adhered to if we are not to fall victim to a new systemic rival,” said Reinhard Bütikofer, a German member of the European Parliament who has spoken out against the European investment agreement with China.

“I think the understanding is increasing,” he added, “but how to respond is not yet clear.”

China’s overtures will not end the anger over its repressive policies, including its documented use of forced labor. They could mollify China’s critics, though, by using the lure of commercial profit in a country whose economy has rebounded from the pandemic more robustly than others’ have.

That would also undercut Mr. Biden, who already must overcome four years of frustration in Europe over President Trump’s go-it-alone approach as he confronts China’s actions at home and abroad.

“I think now is a very good window for us,” said Wang Huiyao, president of the Center for China and Globalization, a think tank in Beijing. He said China could serve as a model and as a partner in cooperation, and suggested that Europe could play a moderating role between China and the United States.

“Everyone has seen China’s resilience, its vitality, tenacity and its stability, especially through its fight against the epidemic,” he said.

Mr. Xi, of course, has not acknowledged that any of China’s policies have eroded global trust. Nor have officials signaled any reconsideration of its core policies.

The country’s “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy, named after a pair of jingoistic action movies, shows no sign of relenting. Australia still faces China’s wrath, as does Canada over the detention of the chief financial officer of the Chinese technology giant Huawei at the behest of the United States.

“I think they have a selective approach to mending their image,” said Minxin Pei, a professor at Claremont McKenna College in California.

Over the long term, it remains to be seen how significantly China’s pacts and pledges will improve its international image, which plummeted this year because of its obfuscation over the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.

A survey by the Pew Research Center in October found that in 14 economically advanced countries, unfavorable attitudes toward China had reached their highest levels in more than a decade. A median of 78 percent of those surveyed said they had little or no confidence that Mr. Xi would do the right thing in world affairs. (One upside for Mr. Xi: 89 percent felt the same way about Mr. Trump.)

China’s economic recovery has nonetheless given Mr. Xi a diplomatic opening, and he has seized it. Mr. Xi’s pledges to accelerate China’s reduction of carbon emissions, which he began making in September, have won international plaudits, even if the government has yet to detail how it will wean itself from coal and other heavily polluting industries.

Around the same time, Mr. Xi showed renewed interest in wrapping up discussions for the European investment agreement, which had been dragging on for seven years. Only months before, a deal seemed all but dead amid rising animosity toward China in Europe. “Real differences exist, and we won’t paper over them,” Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, said in September.

A breakthrough came after the American presidential election. Mr. Trump showed disdain for America’s traditional allies in Europe and Asia, but Mr. Biden has pledged to galvanize a coalition to confront the economic, diplomatic and military challenges that China poses.

China clearly foresaw the potential threat.

Only two weeks after the election, China joined the 14 other Asian nations in signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. In early December, after phone calls with Ms. Merkel and Mr. Macron, Mr. Xi pushed to finish the investment agreement with the Europeans.

The prospect raised alarm, both in Europe and in the United States. Mr. Biden’s incoming national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, took to Twitter to hint strongly that Europe should first wait for consultations with the new administration — to no avail.

Critics said the deal would bind Europe’s economy even more closely with China’s, helping Beijing expand its economic might and deflect external pressure to open up its party-state-driven economy.

They said the agreement failed to do enough to address China’s abuses of human rights, including labor rights. The promise that negotiators extracted from China on that issue — to “make continued and sustained efforts” to ratify two international conventions on forced labor — assumes China will act in good faith. China, critics were quick to point out, has not kept all the promises it made when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

The investment agreement must be ratified by the European Parliament before it can take effect, and it faces signification opposition that could derail it. For now, Chinese officials have celebrated a deal that Mr. Xi called “balanced, high-standard and mutually beneficial.”

“The Chinese leadership is concerned about a trans-Atlantic front, a multinational front, against it, and it is willing to make, I think, tactical concessions to bring the Europeans on board,” Mr. Barkin of the Rhodium Group said. “They’ve been very smart about this.”

Claire Fu contributed research.

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