Coronavirus latest: California lifts stay at home orders as hospitalisations drop


Valentina Romei in London

Global goods trade and industrial production returned to annual growth in November for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic but output this month is likely to be hit again in the face of lockdowns and shipping shortages.

The volume of world goods traded in November rose 1.5 per cent compared with the same month in 2019, a world trade monitor said on Monday.

These figures show the first annual expansion in 2020, when trade has been depressed by the pandemic-induced contraction in global demand. It follows a 1.4 per cent contraction in October and is up from a record drop of 17.5 per cent in May, the monitor published by the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, or CPB, showed.

The annual expansion was the result of trade rising 2.1 per cent in November compared with the previous month, accelerating from a 0.7 per cent rise in October, as advanced economies imported more, mainly from China, where export growth soared.

In November compared with the previous month, goods imports rose 3 per cent in the US and 1.9 per cent in the eurozone.

China reported falling month-on-month imports when adjusted for exchange rates and inflation, but a 5.6 per cent increase in exports as the country benefited from rising demand from advanced economies and as it shipped a large proportion of global traded pharmaceutical goods.

Global industrial production, also tracked by CPB, grew 0.1 per cent compared with November 2019, the first annual expansion since December 2019, before the pandemic struck.

Yet the rebound was largely concentrated in China, where industrial output rose in November to nearly 7 per cent above the level of November 2019. US figures showed industrial production depressed at 5.4 per cent below last year’s level, while in the eurozone output had nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

Global trade is expected to continue to expand in December, according to Markit IHS purchasing manager indices that showed a rising share of global businesses reporting rising exports orders.

However, in the new year, shipping constraints and new lockdowns in many advanced economies are expected to limit trade growth.

Shipping capacity constraints mean trade volumes “won’t be able to rise much further when countries open up again”, said Joanna Konings, senior economist, for international trade at ING.

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Biden signs string of COVID orders and vows ‘help is on the way’


President Joe Biden on Thursday served notice that America”s war on COVID-19 is under new command with a set of executive orders.

In doing so he promised an anxious nation progress in reducing infections.

At the same time, he tried to manage expectations in his second day in office, saying despite the best intentions “we’re going to face setbacks.”

He brushed off a reporter’s question on whether his goal of 100 million coronavirus shots in 100 days should be more ambitious, a point pressed by some public health experts.

The 10 orders signed by Biden are aimed at jump-starting his national COVID-19 strategy to increase vaccinations and testing, lay the groundwork for reopening schools and businesses, and immediately increase the use of masks — including a requirement that Americans mask up for travel.

One directive calls for addressing health care inequities in minority communities hard hit by the virus.

“We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and it will take months to turn this around,” Biden said at the White House.

US deaths have surged past 400,000, and he noted projections that they could reach 500,000 in a month.

But then, looking directly into the TV camera, Biden declared: “To a nation waiting for action, let me be clear on this point: Help is on the way.”

The new president has vowed to take far more aggressive measures to contain the virus than his predecessor, starting with stringent adherence to public health guidance.

A key difference is that under Biden, the federal government is assuming full responsibility for the COVID response. And instead of delegating major tasks to states, he is offering to help them with technical backup and federal money.

He faces steep obstacles, with the virus actively spreading in most states, vaccine shortages, slow progress on distribution and political uncertainty over whether congressional Republicans will help him pass a $1.9 trillion economic relief and COVID response package.

Adding to the challenges are virus mutations, particularly one that has emerged in South Africa, that may make vaccines somewhat less effective.

Dr Anthony Fauci told reporters at the White House briefing that “we are paying very close attention to it.” Biden’s plan includes an expansion of research capabilities to map out the genetic structure of new variants.

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Joe Biden Signs Executive Orders on COVID-19: The Atlantic Daily


Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.

President Joe Biden delivered his inaugural address to a field of flags. And it was before those 190,000-some flags—stand-ins to represent the Americans unable to attend in person—that he pledged to guide the country through a pandemic that’s claimed 400,000 lives in the United States alone.

The incoming administration wasted no time: Today, the president signed a batch of executive orders aimed at curbing the outbreak.

Biden inherits a country divided in many ways, one of the most profound of which is physical. Though COVID-19 cases appear to be easing ever so slightly, much work needs to be done before Americans can gather again.

Pandemic numbers are finally tiptoeing in the right direction.

Here’s the weekly update from our COVID Tracking Project: “We are seeing early indications that the rates of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are easing, though some areas are still reporting dangerously high case and hospitalization levels and wrenching death rates.”

Kids will likely be key to reaching herd immunity.

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Court finds house with 17 bedrooms and bathrooms not a family home and orders changes


The owner of a 17-bedroom waterfront mansion on the Sunshine Coast, which was operating as an illegal boarding house, has been ordered to make structural changes after failing to convince a judge that it was just another family home.

The three-storey building on Birtinya has en suites for every bedroom, kitchens on each floor, plus power and water meters for each room.

There are no bathrooms in shared areas, no master bedroom, and multiple laundries.

Rooms in the building were rented out for $220 a week for more than 12 months to March last year.

If fully occupied, it would amount to almost $15,000 a month in income.

Michael Ivan Gavin’s operation of the house breached the Sunshine Coast Regional Council’s planning rules and landed him in the Planning and Environment Court.

Judge Glen Cash ordered Mr Gavin to make changes to his property to make it harder to operate as accommodation in a residential area.

The required changes included the removal of certain doors, sinks and kitchen sites, but the ruling stopped short of demolishing parts of the house — a request put to the court by council.

A neighbour told the court there were about 15 people living in the building, causing parking havoc on the suburban street.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Owen Jacques)

Two plans, one house

In the ruling handed down in late December, Judge Cash found Mr Gavin was warned first by a private certifier, then by council officers, that the house must be used as a home, not paid accommodation.

Councillor Peter Cox said he was pleased with the decision and that the house “did not comply with the local area plan”.

Judge Cash described how Mr Gavin misled authorities with two different building plans — one reflected the true nature of the project, while the other was designed to deceive council officers.

Large house on edge of waterway with hospital in background
The Birtinya house has been listed online to rent, as a whole, for $1,250 a week.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Owen Jacques)

When building began in early 2018, it took just weeks for a council officer to raise concerns during an inspection, only to be told by Mr Gavin that it was a home and nothing more.

Mr Gavin moved into the house with his family for about two months in late 2018, before attempting to rent out the rooms individually as “private rooms” or “one-bedroom apartments”.

One neighbour told the court there were about 15 people living in the building, causing parking havoc on the suburban street.

‘Not an impressive witness’

Judge Cash said Mr Gavin “was not an impressive witness” when questioned by the court over the property.

“He was garrulous, unresponsive and, at times, mendacious,” Judge Cash wrote.

The Sunshine Coast Regional Council wanted the court to order the demolition of eight of the 17 bathrooms and for officers be able to inspect the site at any time with 24 hours’ notice.

The council said it wanted to ensure such a misuse of the property was not allowed to happen again.

The court rejected both requests.

However, Judge Cash warned any attempt to undo or disobey the changes could cost the owner — whether Mr Gavin or a future buyer — more than $600,000 in fines or two years’ prison.

The ABC has tried contacting the homeowner for a response to the ruling.

The Birtinya house, now with 16 bedrooms and 16 bathrooms, has been listed online to rent, as a whole, for $1,250 a week.

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Us President Donald Trump orders 244 statues for Garden of heroes, including Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney, Hannah Arendt, Woody Guthrie


A White House spokesman did not return a request for comment on Trump’s thinking behind picking Guthrie, who died in 1967.

Known for his left-wing sensibilities and influential style of songwriting, Guthrie penned Old Man Trump in 1950 after moving into the Beach Haven apartment complex in Gravesend, Brooklyn.

Woody Guthrie hated Donald Trump’s father and sang about his racist rental policies.

The complex was owned and operated by Trump’s late father, Fred Trump, and Guthrie said the real estate tycoon discriminated against Black New Yorkers by segregating his units along a “colour line”.

“I suppose Old Man Trump knows just how much racial hate he stirred up in the bloodpot of human hearts, when he drawed that colour line here at his Beach Haven family project,” reads the verse of the Guthrie tune.

Most of the other individuals on Trump’s list of “American heroes” are conservative stalwarts, such as late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Barry Goldwater. There are also some Founding Fathers on the list, including Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

But there are some other eyebrow-raising picks beyond Guthrie.

There were several entertainers, including Louis Armstrong, Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Charlton Heston, Alfred Hitchcock, Bob Hope, Elvis Presley and the host of game show Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek, who died in November 2020.

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Also on the list: political theorist Hannah Arendt, whose 1951 book The Origins of Totalitarianism enjoyed renewed sales in 2017 after Trump became President.

The site for Trump’s requested sculpture garden has yet to be determined.

When he first announced plans for the garden last summer, Trump painted it as a response to Black Lives Matter protesters, whom he claimed were waging a “merciless” war against “our national heritage” by tearing down some monuments honouring leaders of confederacy.

“These statues are not ours alone, to be discarded at the whim of those inflamed by fashionable political passions; they belong to generations that have come before us and to generations yet unborn,” Trump said in his statement about his original executive order on July 3. “My Administration will not abide an assault on our collective national memory. In the face of such acts of destruction, it is our responsibility as Americans to stand strong against this violence, and to peacefully transmit our great national story to future generations through newly commissioned monuments to American heroes.”

Here is the complete list:

Ansel Adams

John Adams

Samuel Adams

Muhammad Ali

Luis Walter Alvarez

Susan B. Anthony

Hannah Arendt

Louis Armstrong

Neil Armstrong

Crispus Attucks

John James Audubon

Lauren Bacall

Clara Barton

Todd Beamer

Alexander Graham Bell

Roy Benavidez

Ingrid Bergman

Irving Berlin

Humphrey Bogart

Daniel Boone

Norman Borlaug

William Bradford

Herb Brooks

Kobe Bryant

William F. Buckley, Jr.

Sitting Bull

Frank Capra

Andrew Carnegie

Charles Carroll

John Carroll

George Washington Carver

Johnny Cash

Joshua Chamberlain

Whittaker Chambers

Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman

Ray Charles

Julia Child

Gordon Chung-Hoon

William Clark

Henry Clay

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)

Roberto Clemente

Grover Cleveland

Red Cloud

William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody

Nat King Cole

Samuel Colt

Christopher Columbus

Calvin Coolidge

James Fenimore Cooper

Davy Crockett

Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.

Miles Davis

Dorothy Day

Joseph H. De Castro

Emily Dickinson

Walt Disney

William “Wild Bill” Donovan

Jimmy Doolittle

Desmond Doss

Frederick Douglass

Herbert Henry Dow

Katharine Drexel

Peter Drucker

Amelia Earhart

Thomas Edison

Jonathan Edwards

Albert Einstein

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Duke Ellington

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Medgar Evers

David Farragut

The Marquis de La Fayette

Mary Fields

Henry Ford

George Fox

Aretha Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

Milton Friedman

Robert Frost

Gabby Gabreski

Bernardo de Gálvez

Lou Gehrig

Theodor Seuss Geisel

Cass Gilbert

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

John Glenn

Barry Goldwater

Samuel Gompers

Alexander Goode

Carl Gorman

Billy Graham

Ulysses S. Grant

Nellie Gray

Nathanael Greene

Woody Guthrie

Nathan Hale

William Frederick “Bull” Halsey, Jr.

Alexander Hamilton

Ira Hayes

Hans Christian Heg

Ernest Hemingway

Patrick Henry

Charlton Heston

Alfred Hitchcock

Billie Holiday

Bob Hope

Johns Hopkins

Grace Hopper

Sam Houston

Whitney Houston

Julia Ward Howe

Edwin Hubble

Daniel Inouye

Andrew Jackson

Robert H. Jackson

Mary Jackson

John Jay

Thomas Jefferson

Steve Jobs

Katherine Johnson

Barbara Jordan

Chief Joseph

Elia Kazan

Helen Keller

John F. Kennedy

Francis Scott Key

Coretta Scott King

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Russell Kirk

Jeane Kirkpatrick

Henry Knox

Tadeusz Kościuszko

Harper Lee

Pierre Charles L’Enfant

Meriwether Lewis

Abraham Lincoln

Vince Lombardi

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Clare Boothe Luce

Douglas MacArthur

Dolley Madison

James Madison

George Marshall

Thurgood Marshall

William Mayo

Christa McAuliffe

William McKinley

Louise McManus

Herman Melville

Thomas Merton

George P. Mitchell

Maria Mitchell

William “Billy” Mitchell

Samuel Morse

Lucretia Mott

John Muir

Audie Murphy

Edward Murrow

John Neumann

Annie Oakley

Jesse Owens

Rosa Parks

George S. Patton, Jr.

Charles Willson Peale

William Penn

Oliver Hazard Perry

John J. Pershing

Edgar Allan Poe

Clark Poling

John Russell Pope

Elvis Presley

Jeannette Rankin

Ronald Reagan

Walter Reed

William Rehnquist

Paul Revere

Henry Hobson Richardson

Hyman Rickover

Sally Ride

Matthew Ridgway

Jackie Robinson

Norman Rockwell

Caesar Rodney

Eleanor Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt

Betsy Ross

Babe Ruth

Sacagawea

Jonas Salk

John Singer Sargent

Antonin Scalia

Norman Schwarzkopf

Junípero Serra

Elizabeth Ann Seton

Robert Gould Shaw

Fulton Sheen

Alan Shepard

Frank Sinatra

Margaret Chase Smith

Bessie Smith

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Jimmy Stewart

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Gilbert Stuart

Anne Sullivan

William Howard Taft

Maria Tallchief

Maxwell Taylor

Tecumseh

Kateri Tekakwitha

Shirley Temple

Nikola Tesla

Jefferson Thomas

Henry David Thoreau

Jim Thorpe

Augustus Tolton

Alex Trebek

Harry S. Truman

Sojourner Truth

Harriet Tubman

Dorothy Vaughan

C. T. Vivian

John von Neumann

Thomas Ustick Walter

Sam Walton

Booker T. Washington

George Washington

John Washington

John Wayne

Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Phillis Wheatley

Walt Whitman

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Roger Williams

John Winthrop

Frank Lloyd Wright

Orville Wright

Wilbur Wright

Alvin C. York

Cy Young

Lorenzo de Zavala

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Latest breaches of Public Health Orders – 16 News


Since the last review period, police have taken legal action against 16 people, including the director of a Pyrmont function venue, for breaches of the Public Health Act.

The charges include:

– About 1am yesterday (Thursday 7 January 2021), officers attached to Police Transport Command (PTC) approached a 47-year-old man allegedly performing a sexual act on a train near Parramatta Railway Station. As police went to arrest the man, one officer was bitten on the arm. Police managed to restrain the man and he was taken to Westmead hospital for assessment. Following his release from hospital, the man was taken to Parramatta Police Station, where he was charged with carry out sexual act with another without consent, assault police in execution of duty causing actual bodily harm, resist police and not wear fitted face covering in public transport. The man was refused bail and will appear at Parramatta Local Court today (Friday 8 January 2021).

– Officers from South Coast Police District were contacted after a man allegedly assaulted and spat on a security guard at a shopping centre at Nowra about 11am. Police were told the man threatened the guard and told him he had COVID before he was escorted from the centre. The man was arrested about 2.45pm and charged with common assault and not comply noticed direction re spitting/coughing – COVID-19. He was refused bail to appear at Wollongong Local Court today.

– Officers from The Hills Police Area Command were patrolling a shopping centre at Castle Hill about 12.30pm, when they approached a man, who was not wearing a mask as he wandered around the food court. The 39-year-old man refused to speak with police and allegedly pushed past the officers before a struggle ensued. He was subsequently arrested and charged with not wear fitted face covering in retail/business and resist officer in the execution of duty. He was granted conditional bail to appear at Parramatta Local Court on Wednesday 27 January 2021.

– About 2.30pm, officers from Blacktown Police Area Command were called to a shopping centre at Blacktown, following reports a man and a woman had been detained by security for shoplifting. The man allegedly fled prior to police arriving. Police attended and were told the man had fled before arresting the woman, who was in possession of clothing alleged to have been stolen from a store. The man was arrested a short time later at a nearby bus terminal. The 26-year-old man and 26-year-old woman were both charged with goods in custody, stealing, breach of bail and not wear fitted face mask. They were refused bail to appear at Parramatta Local Court today.

– Just after 9.20pm, officers from Mt Druitt responded to reports of a stealing from a store at a Mt Druitt shopping centre. After being given information by security, police approached a man, who was not wearing a face mask, and attempted to speak with him. The man allegedly removed a number of items from his jacket, dumping them on the ground and fled on foot with a bicycle. Officers ran after the man, catching up with him a short time later, and a struggle ensued. It’s alleged the man kicked and punched the officers and when a security guard came to assist, the man allegedly slapped him a number of times. The 48-year-old man was subdued and arrested, before being charged with assault officer in execution of duty, resist officer in execution of duty, larceny, resist person aiding officer, common assault and not wear fitted face covering in retail/business premises. He has been refused bail to appear at Parramatta Local Court today.

Police issued Penalty Infringement Notices (PINs) to nine people and one organisation. Details of the PINS issued include:

– Following an investigation by Sydney City Police regarding alleged breaches of the Public Health (COVID-19 Northern Beaches) Order 2020 at a wedding reception held at a licensed venue on Jones Bay Wharf on Sunday 27 December 2020, officers yesterday (Thursday 7 January 2021) issued a 28-year-old woman, who is a director of the venue, a $5000 PIN for not comply with noticed direction Section 7/8/9 of the Public Health Act. It brings the total number of infringements issued over the event to 22.

– About 11am, officers from Eastern Beaches Police Area Command were patrolling a shopping centre at Maroubra, when they were alerted that a man and a woman were not wearing masks, contrary to Public Health Order. Police spoke with the pair and reminded them of their obligations, however, they refused to comply with directions. They were each issued $200 PINs.

– About 2.10pm, officers from Nepean Police Area Command were patrolling St Marys Railway Station when they stopped a 52-year-old man not wearing a mask. Police spoke to the man and he was issued a $200 PIN.

– Officers attached to Fairfield City Police Area Command stopped and spoke to a 32-year-old man for not wearing a mask at Cabramatta Railway Station, about 1.50pm. The man refused to comply with directions and was issued a $200 PIN.

– As part of proactive patrols, officers from Eastern Suburbs Police Area Command stopped and spoke to a 39-year-old man, who was not wearing a correctly fitted mask at Bondi Junction Rail Interchange, about 3.30pm. The man refused to comply with orders to fit the mask across his mouth and was subsequently issued a $200 PIN.

– Just before 8.30am, officers from Police Transport Command (PTC) spoke to a 35-year-old man, who was not wearing a face mask and did not have a valid ticket. Checks revealed the man had been warned the day before about not wearing a mask. He was issued a $200 PIN and an infringement for fare evasion.

– About 4.10pm, officers from Inner West Police Area Command stopped and spoke to a 22-year-old Maroubra man who was not wearing a face mask at Newtown Railway Station. He was advised of his requirement under the Public Health Order and given a warning. Shortly after, the man made his way to the platform without a face mask. He was approached by police again and issued a $200 PIN.

– Officers from PTC were patrolling Campbelltown Railway Station about 3.20pm, when they spoke with a 41-year-old man, who was not wearing a mask. The man told police he didn’t own one and won’t wear one because it’s a joke. He was issued a $200 PIN and moved-on from the area.

– As part of proactive patrols of Katoomba, officers from Blue Mountains Police Area Command stopped and spoke to a 42-year-old man outside a home on Whinmoor Street. Checks revealed the man was from Newport – in the north-end of the Northern Beaches and had bail conditions not to be in Katoomba. He was subsequently charged with a breach of bail and will appear at Penrith Local Court today. He was also issued a $1000 PIN.

Police also issued more than 35 warnings across Greater Sydney to people not wearing masks yesterday.

Further, police were on hand at the Sydney Cricket Ground yesterday to monitor the behaviour of 8692 spectators on the opening day of the third Test between Australia and India. Venue staff and police were required to remind spectators of their obligations in relation to wearing a face mask, however, no infringements for COVID breaches were issued.

There were 11 people ejected by police; four young persons for bringing alcohol into the ground, one issued a criminal infringement notice for offensive language and bring alcohol into the ground; another man was fined for bringing alcohol into the ground, four intoxicated people were given banning orders for 12 months, and one man issued an infringement for failing to quit and re-enter licensed premises.

Police continue to appeal to the community to report suspected breaches of any ministerial direction or behaviour which may impact on the health and safety of the community.

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Lebanon orders three-week lockdown to fight virus spread



People wait to get tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Rafik Hariri University Hospital, in Beirut, Lebanon January 4, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

January 4, 2021

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon announced a full lockdown for three weeks, including a night curfew, to stem a rise in COVID-19 infections that threatens to overwhelm hospitals in a country already facing financial meltdown.

Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hasan said the lockdown would start on Thursday and run until Feb. 1, with further details on Tuesday on which sectors would be exempt.

The lockdown will include a curfew from 6 pm to 5 am.

“It has become clear that the pandemic challenge has reached a stage that is seriously threatening Lebanese lives as hospitals are not capable of providing beds,” Hasan told reporters after a meeting of the ministerial committee on COVID-19.

Lebanon registered 2,870 new infections on Sunday, bringing its total to 189,278 cases and 1,486 deaths since Feb. 21.

The new lockdown comes amid concerns over soaring unemployment, inflation and poverty.

Lebanon is facing a devastating financial crisis that has crashed the currency, paralysed banks, and frozen savers out of their deposits. Medical supplies have dwindled as dollars have grown scarce.

Intensive care units had previously reached critical capacity over the summer as the virus spread after a massive explosion at the docks wrecked swathes of Beirut, killed 200 people and destroyed several hospitals.

Adherence to social distancing and other preventive measures has been lax and there are now fears of a significant rise in cases after the Christmas and New Year holidays.

“It is a big problem. In the next ten days it will be very difficult and we are expecting death rates to increase as infections rise,” Mahmoud Hassoun, head of the critical care unit at Rafik Hariri hospital, told Reuters.

“We are nearly full now and we haven’t even seen the effect of the holiday period yet.”

(Reporting by Laila Bassam, Maha El Dahan and Alaa Kanaan; Editing by Giles Elgood)



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‘The president is waiting’. Leaked recording implicates Belarusian KGB in plotting murders abroad on Lukashenko’s orders




An alleged recording of Belarus’s former KGB chairman has revealed that the country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko (Alyaksandr Lukashenka), authorized political assassination operations abroad as recently as in 2012. The recording was published by the Brussels-based online newspaper EUObserver on Monday, January 4. Though it has yet to be authenticated, the tape notably includes a discussion of plans to murder journalist Pavel Sheremet, who was killed when a bomb exploded under his car in downtown Kyiv in 2016.

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Acting US defense secretary orders USS Nimitz to remain in Middle East, citing Iranian threat


The Department of Defense on Sunday said the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and its strike group will remain in the Middle East after Iran allegedly issued threats against President Trump and other U.S. government officials.

“Due to the recent threats issued by Iranian leaders against President Trump and other U.S. government officials, I have ordered the USS Nimitz to halt its routine redeployment,” Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller said in a statement. “The USS Nimitz will now remain on station in the U.S. Central Command area of operations. No one should doubt the resolve of the United States of America.”

FILE: The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz transits the Arabian Sea. 
(U.S. Navy via AP)

The announcement came after the Pentagon said it pulled the aircraft out of the region ahead of the one-year anniversary of the killing of Iran’s top military general, Qassem Soleimani.

The purported “de-escalatory signal” came after Iranian leaders threatened revenge against President Trump and military leaders for Soleimani’s death.

Speaking at a gathering to commemorate the anniversary of Soleimani’s killing, the head of Iran’s judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, said not to presume that President Trump, “who appeared as a murderer or ordered a murder, may be immune from justice being carried out.”

With just over three weeks left in Trump’s presidency, tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been on the rise. Last week the U.S. flew strategic B-52 bombers over Iran as a show of force that military officials said was intended to caution Iran against carrying out attacks against U.S. forces or interests.

SOLEIMANI ANNIVERSARY MARKED IN BAGHDAD WITH PROCESSION, CANDLELIGHT VIGIL

A week earlier, Trump warned Iran that it would be held responsible for attacks targeting Americans in Iraq, referring to an American military officer who told reporters that the U.S. had detected signs that Iran had made preparations for possible attacks on U.S. or allied targets in Iraq or elsewhere in the Mideast.

Trump recently cited “chatter” that Iran might strike. Days after a Dec. 20 rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad by Iranian-supported Shiite militia groups, Trump tweeted that Iran was on notice.

“Some friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over,” Trump wrote on Dec. 23. He added, “We hear chatter of additional attacks against Americans in Iraq.”

Because of the potential for escalation that could lead to a wider war, the U.S. has sought to deter Iran from additional attacks, having maintained a near-continuous aircraft carrier presence in the Persian Gulf region since the USS Abraham Lincoln was sent in May 2019 amid concerns that Iran was considering attacking U.S. interests in the region. The U.S. also sent additional land-based attack planes and reestablished a troop presence in Saudi Arabia.

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The Nimitz deployed from the U.S. in April and was due to return before the end of the year. In early December, its planned return was postponed, in part out of concerns about potential Iranian threats, and more recently it was ordered to provide support off the coast of Somalia for the movement of American forces out of the country.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Ombudsman orders SA Health to apologise for sharing Premier’s coronavirus live streams


South Australia’s health department has been told to apologise for sharing posts from Premier Steven Marshall’s Facebook page during the coronavirus pandemic.

An SA Ombudsman’s report, handed down earlier this month, found SA Health’s decision to “share” live-streamed press conferences from Mr Marshall’s Facebook page “promoted, or gave the appearance of promoting” the Liberal Party or the Premier.

SA Health first began live streaming press conferences about COVID-19 directly through its own Facebook page in March.

But in April and May, press conferences were on several occasions shared from Steven Marshall’s official MP Facebook page, which is a political site rather than an official Government one.

The page is also used to run political advertisements, with Facebook’s own tracker showing the Liberal Party has spent almost $30,000 targeting voters with messages since early August.

In his report, ombudsman Wayne Lines said the posts did not appear to have included any “party-political messaging”, and that the department shared the information “as a timely means of disseminating … material” while still upholding social distancing requirements in the State Administration Centre media room.

But Mr Lines also found the department “chose not to, or did not turn its mind to” sharing the information from an alternative source, such as a news organisation.

“The department does not appear to have policies that advise staff of the inappropriateness of party-political messaging, and that provide guidance to staff in considering whether social media content is appropriately apolitical, impartial and neutral,” he said.

“The department has not explicitly endorsed a political party or a politician… in these messages.

“Nonetheless … the requirement for an impartial and neutral public sector requires a more sophisticated understanding of the nature and effect of communications than the department has demonstrated here.”

A screenshot of a Facebook post of SA Health sharing a live stream from Steven Marshall’s page.(Supplied: SA Labor)

Mr Lines said some of SA Health’s social media use during the pandemic had been “wrong” under the terms of the Ombudsman Act.

“I am of the view that the department … has not acted in a manner that is ‘detached from political influence and the influence of partisan interests within the community’,” he said.

SA Health later shared live streams from media organisations, including ABC Adelaide.

“Press conferences were live streamed to our Facebook page by an SA Health camera operator, however the introduction of social distancing practices resulted in this not always being possible,” a department spokeswoman said.

“The press conferences were shared by SA Health to maximise timely information to the public regarding COVID-19.”

Premier says staff not involved

The Premier, who has almost 120,000 followers on Facebook, said he had not seen the ombudsman’s report but said it was “a matter for SA Health” as to whether it needed to review its social media policies.

SA Ombudsman Wayne Lines wearing a blue shirt and black jacket
Ombudsman Wayne Lines.(ABC News: Isabel Dayman)

Mr Marshall said his staff had “absolutely not” directed SA Health to share any posts from his own Facebook page.

Mr Marshall’s page is also used to run political advertisements, with Facebook’s own tracker showing the Liberal Party has spent almost $30,000 targeting voters with messages since early August.

Mr Lines said there was no evidence to suggest any of the Premier’s media advisers had asked SA Health to share the posts.

“Similarly, I do not have evidence that the department’s actions in this matter were part of a deliberate pattern of behaviour by the department to promote the Liberal Party,” he said.

Mr Lines said SA Health had already moved to change its approaches and had deleted several posts identified as inappropriate.

He recommended the department refrain from sharing “or otherwise using content from” the Steven Marshall Facebook account, “or any other politically affiliated social media account or website, on its own digital platforms”.

He also recommended social media policies and training procedures be updated, and that the department “publicly acknowledge and apologise for the … errors on its website and the SA Health Facebook account”.

The SA Health spokeswoman did not say if the department would apologise or not.

SA Health reported no new coronavirus cases in the state today.

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